Ukraine. The March parliamentary elections were
criticized by foreign observers, who testified about
irregularities. However, the election was a success for
former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who was forced to
resign after a vote of no confidence the year before.
Countryaah website, Yushchenko's newly formed electoral union, the right-wing
liberal and nationalist Our Ukraine, received just over 23%
of the vote. Communist Party and President Leonid Kuchmas
For a united Ukraine each took about 20%, while the
Socialist Party and Julija Tymoshenko's blocs each got about
7% of the vote.
The election results were interpreted as supporting
Viktor Yushchenko's reform policy, which was voted down in
the former parliament. However, many independent members had
been elected and neither government nor opposition succeeded
in creating a clear majority.
President Kuchma announced in May that Ukraine had
decided to apply for membership in the NATO military
alliance. The request was made to NATO's Secretary General
when he visited Ukraine in July to mark the fifth
anniversary of the country's accession to NATO's Partnership
for Peace program. However, the NATO commander explained
that much reform work remains for Ukraine before it can join
the military alliance.
In July, 83 people were killed and about 115 injured when
a fighter plane crashed and caught fire in the midst of a
spectator mass at an aerial display in Lviv in western
Ukraine. President Kuchma dismissed the Air Force commander
and commander-in-chief. The defense minister also resigned
and the president banned future military aviation
Police said in August that they had arrested a suspect
for the murder of regime-critical journalist Georgij
Gongadze in 2000. The opposition has long accused President
Kuchma of ordering the murder. At the two-year commemoration
of Gongadze's disappearance in September, the opposition
launched new demonstrations against Kuchma demanding his
departure. In Kiev, over 15,000 people gathered and protests
were held in several cities. The campaign was led by former
Deputy Prime Minister Julija Tymoshenko, who demanded
national court for Kuchma. Former Prime Minister Viktor
Yushchenko also joined the protests. Police stormed a tent
camp that protesters set up outside the presidential office.
Many were arrested, but the protests continued, among other
things. by about 50 members of parliament going on hunger
strike. According to an opinion poll, 70% of the population
wanted Kuchma to step down.
Another journalist was found dead in the fall. The
government's finance minister was suspected of being
involved in the death.
The pressure on the president increased with accusations
from the US that Ukraine sold the advanced radar system
Koltjuga to Iraq and that Kuchma personally approved the
deal. The US stopped its assistance to Ukraine, which denied
the allegations and in October, US and British experts
admitted an investigation into the alleged radar deal. The
head of the coal-fired plant was killed in a car accident
earlier this year, shortly before a parliamentary commission
announced that it had received information on illegal arms
sales to Iraq.
In the fall, some of the opposition members went to the
government side, which, just over six months after the
election, managed to create a majority with 231 of
Parliament's 449 seats. But in November, Kuchma surprisingly
dismissed Prime Minister Anatoly Kinach and replaced him
with Viktor Yanukovich, who until then had been governor of
the Donetsk region. Parliament approved Yanukovich, but the
opposition boycotted the vote.
In May 2007, Prime Minister Tymoshenko published an
article in the journal Foreign Affairs. The article
called "Containing Russia" created a diplomatic crisis with
the big neighbor in the east.
In 2008, Georgia's attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia,
and Russia's subsequent invasion, however, created a deep
political conflict between the president and the prime
minister. While the president condemned Russia's
intervention in the conflict, Tymoshenko was more reluctant.
The president's chief of staff went so far as to call her a
traitor. Tymoshenko's party now agreed with the opposition
to curtail the president's power, prompting the president to
pull his party out of the coalition with Tymoshenko and
print re-election in October. The election was eventually
postponed indefinitely, and instead Tymoshenko formed a new
government coalition, replacing the presidential party with
the largest opposition party: the Regions Party. Thus they
managed to divide the forces behind the "orange revolution"
and did not meet again.
During 2009, anti-Russian rhetoric grew in the Ukrainian
government and in August, Russian President Medvedev
declared that Russia could not cooperate with Ukraine with
the political composition of parliament and its anti-Russian
policy. Ukraine responded again by criticizing Russia's
The February 2010 presidential election was won by Viktor
Yanukovych, who in the second round received 48.95% of the
vote, while Yulia Tymochenko got 45.47%. In the first round,
he had gained 35.32% while Tymochenko got 25.05%. The
political scene from before the "orange revolution" in 2005
was thus restored. Yanukovych received predominant support
in the country's eastern part, while Tymochenko picked up
his support in the western part.
After the election, Yanukovych resigned as leader of his
party, the Party of Regions, and the new president, Mykola
Azarov, took over the prime minister's post in March after
Tymochenko was toppled by a vote of no confidence.
In April 2010, Ukraine signed an agreement with Russia to
extend Russia's base facilities on the Black Sea for another
25 years, while Russia lowered the price of gas sold to
Ukraine by 30%. At the same time, Ukraine hopes that the
annual Russian shutdowns of gas supplies in the coldest
months will stop. Deliveries have been stopped when Ukraine
has been unable to pay for the gas.
In April 2010, Yanukovych attended the Nuclear Security
Summit in Washington, where he agreed to abandon Ukraine's $
90 high-enriched uranium stock, while downgrading the
country's experimental reactors from using high-enriched
uranium to using low-enriched uranium.
In December 2010, the President initiated a series of
administrative reforms with the perspective of reducing the
number of public servants through decentralization of public
institutions. He also stated that the fight against
corruption in the public domain was a high priority.
In late 2011, the president reduced pensions to the
Chernobyl rescue workers, smaller businessmen and veretans
of the Afghanistan war in the 1980s. The cuts triggered
violent demonstrations in Kiev in October-November.