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20 July, 2012  ▪  Heorhiy Hryshchenko

A No-Win Situation

The no-win situation in which Mr. Yanukovych finds himself is becoming ever more apparent, while every new effort to prove that this is not the case, has the opposite effect.

In all likelihood, the Presidential Administration viewed the meeting between Putin and Yanukovych in Yalta, in the context of the evident isolation of the latter on the part of the West, as an opportunity to prove that the blind alley, into which it has blundered and led the country into, is not actually so blind. What happened was the complete opposite. Mr. Yanukovych who was supposedly offended by the Europeans, saying that they were not ready for “equal partnership”, was also demonstratively humiliated by Vladimir Putin.

Putin was deliberately over four hours late for the meeting. Even with his own governors, the President of the RF is far more punctual. In addition, the meeting itself appeared not to bring any results for Mr. Yanukovych. In spite of the attempt to save face with statements about “more than ten signed agreements”, in truth, the issue is limited to either documents of minor importance, or the latest portion of declarations about intent. For example, a protocol was signed on the introduction of changes to the agreement on cooperation in the area of the certification of research and research-educational personnel at higher educational institutions, dated 21 June 2002, memorandums on cooperation in the fight against terrorism and cooperation in the Antarctic, an agreement on interaction in the prevention of emergency situations, fires and the liquidation of their consequences in populated areas where Russian Black Sea Fleet facilities are located, as well as cooperation in the area of air search and rescue. However, no agreement was reached on any of the problem directions of bilateral relations that are of benefit to Ukraine.

The Presidents signed a joint statement on the delimitation of maritime space of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, as well as in the Strait of Kerch. However, according to Mr. Putin, “the essence of the document lies in preparing our colleagues for bringing this work to a logical conclusion – the signing of a relevant agreement.” Nothing more, at which, the terms are not determined. However Russian interests are provided for, as is the rejection of Ukrainian interests by Mr. Yanukovych. More specifically, the document stresses the intent of the parties to ensure the development of the Kerch – Yeni-Kale navigation canal, which belongs to Ukraine, by establishing a Russian-Ukrainian joint venture, and in return, Moscow is ready to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over the Island of Tuzla, which, even without this, is part of Ukraine. There is also a similar situation with the memorandum on integration and cooperation signed by the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine and the Rosatom Corporation, which can only lead to the already existing virtually exclusive Ukraine of on the Russian Federation in the area of nuclear energy. They also agreed to continue negotiations on the functioning and continued stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, on the territory of which the Kremlin is expressing great interest in updating its armaments.

Of course, one of the formal aspects of the Yalta meeting that has not been formally mentioned, albeit clearly seen, was the recent passing of the language law by the pro-government majority in the Verkhovna Rada. On the eve of the negotiations, this was viewed as one of the possible key arguments of the Ukrainian party for the conclusion of an unflattering deal with the “Russian language in Ukraine in exchange for a decrease in the price of gas” version. However, this version has not succeeded, at least, not so far. Mr. Putin was adamant, and said nothing, other than what he personally, Gazprom and the pro-Russian mass media had previously stated. Once again, he repeated to Mr. Yanukovych, that although no-one was forcing Ukraine to join the Customs Union, any kind of reduction in the price of gas can only be addressed after entry into this organization, in passing, expressing the following consideration: “The later someone becomes a member of any organization, the more complex, if possible, it is to revise its constitutional documents in the interests of the new member.”

Having also been rebuffed in its East-oriented foreign policy, Mr. Yanukovych repeated as a mantra, that “the course towards Euro-integration remains an invariable priority of Ukraine’s foreign policy,” although actual steps in relations with the EU do not confirm this. On the other hand, immediately after the meeting with Mr. Yanukovych, which produced no results and was indicative of Vladimir Putin’s lack of respect towards his partner, the Russian President visited the estate of his close friend, Viktor Medvedchuk, whose relations with Mr. Yanukovych have always been strained and who is now actively conducting an advertising campaign, directed towards the pro-Russian electorate, and at the same time, is ever more critical of the political repression being conducted by the Ukrainian government. Having said this, it is impossible not to mention the ultimatum supposedly made by Putin in the autumn of 2011 during a meeting with the Ukrainian president: “Either you are friends with us, or the electorate is not friends with you.” The no-win situation in which Mr. Yanukovych finds himself is becoming ever more apparent, while every new effort to prove that this is not the case, has the opposite effect.

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