My brother has a small Chinese vase standing on his mantle – an antique that tells us something about Russia‘s centuries-old techniques for imposing its will on weaker neighbours.
The vase is a small remnant of what had been a much grander set of pottery originally given to Russia’s Catherine the Great by the Chinese emperor, and then handed to my ancestor, Szczesny Potocki, in return for his services. Read more
Crimea and a cash shortage take centre stage in Ukraine
Viktor Yanukovich has fled the scene of last week’s brutal crackdown on protests, but Ukraine still faces real danger from separatist tensions that could spiral into violence and the threat of financial meltdown. Ben Hall is joined over the phone by Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor, in Kiev, and Kathrin Hille, Moscow bureau chief, to discuss Russia’s sabre-rattling, pro-Russian sentiment in Crimea and whether western capitals can come up with a financial lifeline for Ukraine.
By Gideon Rachman
Amid the tragedy, euphoria and confusion in Ukraine, the risks of renewed confrontation between Russia and the west are rising. An east-west struggle over the fate of Ukraine would be a tragedy for the country – increasing the risks of civil war and partition. But while a brutal arm-wrestling match between the Kremlin and the west – with Ukraine as the prize – is a distinct possibility, it is absolutely not in the interests of Russia or the west. On the contrary, the Russians, Europeans and Americans have a common interest in preserving Ukraine as a unified country that avoids civil war and bankruptcy.
Anti-government protesters in Independence Square (Getty)
Tomorrow, the EU will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the violence in Ukraine. It seems inevitable it will impose targeted sanctions aimed at the Ukrainian leadership, to signal disgust at the violence used against demonstrators. Up until now, the EU has resisted imposing sanctions because it was still hoping to achieve a negotiated solution with President Viktor Yanukovich. It now seems likely that the Ukrainian president will be deemed a political pariah.
The need for an urgent reaction is understandable. But, beyond that, it is not yet evident that the crisis in Ukraine will do anything to clarify the EU and the US’s strategic goals in Ukraine. Until that happens, policy is likely to be ad hoc and reactive. The difficulty is that western leaders have several goals – some of which are contradictory. They need to decide which of them are most important, and also which of them are achievable. Read more
Protesters in Kiev's Independence Square, Dec 2013 (Getty)
November 22 2004 In Ukraine’s second round election, the Central Electoral Commission declares pro-Russian incumbent Viktor Yanukovich the winner. Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the opposition decries widespread voter fraud and electoral irregularities.
November 23 2004 An estimated 500,000 protestors assemble in Kiev’s Independence Square. The Orange Revolution is born. Ukraine’s Supreme Court suspends publication of the election results pending an investigation.
December 8 2004 Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the elections, a December re-run of the disputed presidential election is announced. Protesters scale down their demonstration and government employees return to work. Read more
The tug of war over the future of Ukraine
Ukraine finds itself caught between Russia and the EU ahead of a summit next week in Vilnius, where the country’s president Viktor Yanukovich will have the opportunity to sign a major free trade deal and political association agreement with the EU. Russia has intensified pressure on the country recently not to sign the deal in favour of joining a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief to explain how the situation is likely to develop.