Ukraine turns away from Europe, starts dreaming of Russia

The policy of the European integration has been Ukraine's key issue for several years

Russia has apparently become the central theme of the presidential election in Ukraine. The Ukrainian prime minister, one of the main candidacies for the position of the president, Viktor Yanukovich, stated yesterday that an agreement had been achieved with the Russian colleague, Mikhail Fradkov, to cancel the decision, which said that the citizens of the two states must use foreign passports to travel between Russia and Ukraine. It was decided to cancel the decision from January 1st of 2005.

The Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper said that another candidacy running for the post of the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yuschenko, set out his disagreement with the introduction of the so-called foreign passport entry regime that Russia initiated. “If I am elected president, I will cancel the decision during my first day at the office. I am sure that Russian officials will support it,” said he. However, it is not clear, which decision in particular Yuschenko intends to withdraw – the one that was made by the Russian or by the Ukrainian foreign ministry.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, the policy of the European integration has been Ukraine's key issue for several years. Ukrainian officials and public figures have been trying to persuade common Ukrainians of the need to promote Ukraine towards the European Union. This point of view could be seen in the statements from President Leonid Kuchma, leaders of public organizations, politicians of the opposition, etc. However, very few people raised the issue of the Europe's opinion regarding Ukraine's perspectives in the European Union.

However, Ukrainian politicians' viewpoints started changing during the presidential campaign. The European issue went into the background as the voting day (October 31) approached: the nominees started talking about their sympathies for Russia. Viktor Yuschenko, for example, told reporters about his dreams of “Russian birch trees.” The “Russian factor” reached its climax on September 27th, when Viktor Yanukovich released a statement about the need to introduce dual citizenships in Ukraine. It is noteworthy that the politician has never opposed the issue of the European integration against the cooperation with Russia.

Russia's stance on the matter can be seen from Vladimir Putin's statement that he released on Saturday, during the meeting with the Ukrainian president and the prime minister: “We will treat any choice of the Ukrainian nation with respect, although we are not indifferent about it, of course.” It seems that there is no reason for Ukrainian politicians to criticize the Russian administration for its interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Yet, it looks like someone is trying to provoke Putin to action. “Russia has never had and will never have any thought-out strategy in Ukraine,” the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper wrote.

The precisely-formulated political aim to remove obstacles in the relations with Russia, the economic policy of the Ukrainian government and the promise to raise the status of the Russian language in Ukraine have already brought their results. According to one of the latest opinion polls, conducted by the International sociological institute in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovich's rating is five percent higher than his close competitor's. Over 34 percent of Ukrainians said that they would vote for Yanukovich and 31 percent would vote for Yuschenko.

A lot of spin doctors believe that Yanukovich's rating will probably rise, although Yuschenko's electoral source is more or less definite now. The situation is to become clear in three weeks.

Roman Melnikov

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Author`s name Olga Savka