A Burglar as President

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A Burglar as President

The 2010 Presidential Election

The failure of the Orange Revolution will be analyzed by economists, historians, and political scientists for a long time to come. As some observers point out, the problem was not even the fractious nature of the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko tandem, or that they never became allies throughout their political cohabitation, seeing each other as rivals rather than comrades-in-arms. The problem is that these two could not change the political system in Ukraine, uproot authoritarianism and corruption (it strengthened under Yushchenko), change the hold of the oligarchy over political parties. The Girl in Kherson Viktor Yanukovych, who replaced Yushchenko, made a sharp return toward the Kuchma period. As Volodymyr Chemerys, one of the leaders of the “Ukraine without Kuchma” movement, noted, “Ukraine has remained stuck with Kuchma, only he has a different surname – Yanukovych.”

Kherson, Ukraine - War with Russia
Kherson, Ukraine – War with Russia

Yushchenko took part in the Presidential Elections, though he polled a dismal 3 percent in pre-election surveys. Everyone wanted to try their hand, and 15 men and 3 women were officially entered on the ballot, whereas 40 candidates were excluded. Ten candidates were independents, the others were party members. At 50, the average age of the candidates was relatively young.

It didn’t matter. The real contest was between Prime Minister Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych. The latter’s popularity was so formidable by now that he did not need a pre-election alliance with his rivals’ parties. He was careful, however, to clarify that he was not against coalitions as such in parliamentary elections to ensure that he would be able to engineer a pro-Presidential majority in the Verkhovna Rada.105

 

What about NATO and the EU? Analysis of the candidates’ programs, by civic thinktank “Women’s Alternatives”, showed that most of the candidates had no clear foreign policy for the country and ranged from a union with Russia to accession to NATO.106 Tymoshenko and Yushchenko saw Ukraine as part of the European Union, while Yanukovych favored a neutral status, but at the same time believed that it was necessary to restore friendly relations with Russia and the CIS countries, while seeking membership in the G20 (somewhat of a stretch given Ukraine’s GDP ranking below 50 in the world). Only one of the Presidential contenders, the head of the Ukrainian People’s Party (UPP), Yuri Kostenko, advocated the need for Ukraine’s accession to NATO. At the same time all candidates were united in saying that the main direction – whatever it was – of foreign policy should finally be decided.

Practically all candidates included in their programs fighting unemployment, increasing the country’s birth rate, quality health services, a social safety net… But none detailed how they were going to achieve these noble goals. Of course, the programs of the candidates also paid a lot of attention to the issues of education and science, the only difference being that the candidates for the highest state office could not decide for themselves whether to join the European system of higher education in Ukraine or to defend the national one. They were united in the need to create modern facilities in educational institutions, knowing full well that there was no money for this.

Many of the candidates studiously avoided the elephant in the room: the status of Crimea and the Russian Black Sea Fleet which had been based in Sevastopol for the past two centuries, with a section based in Odessa. Only Yushchenko addressed it head on and thought that the Russian Fleet had to leave Sevastopol after 2017.

Incumbent President Yushchenko had promised that elections would be democratic and that he would not deploy state resources for his candidacy, which is why many billboards throughout the country carried pictures not so much of him as of Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. The first round of the Presidential Elections was exemplary, without the usual vitriol poured on the heads of candidates and without violating election rules: the candidates had equal opportunities not only on TV but also on the public squares of Ukrainian cities. Joao Soares, special coordinator of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE, an organization closely aligned with the EU) observation mission, said that “these elections were very good. They were high quality elections. According to him, the current electoral process was “a step forward compared to the previous elections. Along with that, Soares stated that the election campaign was calm and organized and the apprehensions of mass falsifications were not justified.107

 

The official count of the first round showed that Yanukovych had 35.32 percent (slightly more than 8.5 million votes) and Tymoshenko 25 percent (slightly more than 6 million voters). The incumbent President Yushchenko took a modest fifth place with 5.45 percent. His result, as compared to other Presidents, was the lowest on record.108

 

Unlike the first round, the run-off between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko was fierce and brutal. Both tried to enlist support from other parties,109 but Yanukovych got 48.95 percent (12,481,268 voters) and Tymoshenko won 45.47 percent (11 593 340 voters).110 He had won by a handsome margin.111 Unusually, the ballot also had an “Against All of Them” choice, which polled more than 1 million voters. In the first round of voting, wishing to take votes away from Tymoshenko, one of the Presidential candidates – Vasyl Humenyuk had changed his last name to “Against All of Them”. It made little difference in that round as he got only 0,16 percent (a little over 40,000 votes). In the second round he urged his supporters to vote for Yanukovych.112

 

Immediately after the announcement of the official results,113 Russia, Belarus, Poland, the United States and Kazakhstan were the first to congratulate Yanukovych. Perhaps for the first time in history a convicted burglar was elected to be a nation’s head of state.

The inauguration took place on February 25, 2010. Unlike previous ceremonies, only Kuchma was present. Neither Yushchenko, nor Tymoshenko, nor the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk attended the ceremony, demonstrating to the world their disappointment with the results. Yanukovych, on the other hand, zealously took control of the unfettered Presidential power Yushchenko had created in the image of Putin. His first task was not governing, but the destruction of the political power of his Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

 

 

Yulia Tymoshenko’s court case

 

 

Yanukovych skillfully removed the party of the Rada’s Speaker from Tymoshenko and Yushchenko’s coalition by promising to keep him in the post. The Speaker’s party duly joined Yanukovych’s new coalition called “Stability and Reforms” (dubbed by journalists “the coalition of carcasses”). Having lost her majority in parliament, Tymoshenko understood that her days as Prime Minister were numbered.114 President Yanukovych repeatedly urged her to resign and join the opposition, but Lady Y was not going to go without a fight.

On March 3, 2010, the Verkhovna Rada passed a vote of no confidence in Tymoshenko’s government by 243 votes (including seven deputies from her own party). Still, she did not resign and on March 11, 2010, parliament dismissed her government with 237 votes.

With control over the government as well, the real persecution of Tymoshenko, began. As early as April 28, the new Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated in parliament that “the actions of Tymoshenko’s government caused 100 billion hryvnia of damage to the state, and therefore Tymoshenko and her officials should be held criminally responsible.”115 Immediately after the May holidays, the Attorney General reinstated a criminal case from 2004 that Kuchma had suspended, in which she was accused of “attempting to bribe” (based on a video-recorded conversation between Tymoshenko and a judge) in order to influence the decision of the judge who handled the case of her father-in-law Gennady Tymoshenko and the CFO of gas company UESU.116 At the same time, the government decided to audit the activities of Tymoshenko’s 2007-2010 government.117

 

Using the case against Tymoshenko as a smokescreen, Yanukovych also executed a paper palace-revolution Under the cryptic cover of the “Tymoshenko case”, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine reviewed Yushchenko’s amendments in a closed session on September 30, 2010, and declared unconstitutional the “Law on Amendments to the Constitution” of 2004 because of the “violation of the procedure of its consideration and adoption”. The court returned Ukraine to the sweeping Presidential powers with which Kuchma had controlled Ukraine.

After Ukraine’s elections were over, the Control and Revision Office announced the completion of an audit of the government.118 Tymoshenko was charged with embezzlement of 320 million euros received under the Kyoto Protocol, by which her government redirected carbon funds received to plug a gap in Ukraine’s pension fund instead of reforesting as the Protocol stipulated. In 2009, the Tymoshenko government had signed several agreements with Japanese and Spanish government agencies and corporations to sell Ukraine-owned greenhouse gas emission quotas totaling 319.9 million euros, which became the source of funding for a special state budget fund to finance projects aimed at reducing emissions or increasing greenhouse gas absorption in the country. However, the amount received was paid into Ukraine’s pension fund to pay pensions, as well as to cover the operating costs of a number of state institutions.

On December 2, 2010, Tymoshenko was summoned to the Attorney General for the first time and was charged. On December 30, the interrogation continued for 12 hours. She denied all accusations against her.119

 

In January 2011 she was facing a new accusation – of buying at the end of 2009 thousands of Opel Combos for the needs of rural medicine. The purchase was not covered by the state budget. At the same time, Attorney General Viktor Pshonka said that he did not accuse Tymoshenko of stealing money or causing damage, but only of misuse of budget funds, abuse of power, violation of budget legislation and abuse of office.

Tymoshenko countered that this Kyoto money had been paid in December 2010 when her government had already resigned. It appeared that the money had in fact been misappropriated by Azarov’s government under Yanukovych.120

 

The European Parliament expressed concern about “the growing selective prosecution of political opposition leaders in Ukraine… especially in the case of Tymoshenko” and stressed “the importance of guaranteeing maximum transparency in investigations, prosecutions and courts” and warned “against any use of criminal law as a tool to achieve political goals”. The crisis around the Kyoto Protocol led to a United Nations investigation, which sent its experts to Ukraine.

On May 24, 2011, on the day of the international holiday of Slavonic literature and culture, Tymoshenko was “invited” to the Attorney General’s office to be indicted and arrested. Having been informed of this, Tymoshenko in turn “invited” the ambassadors of leading European states and the United States, as well as the ambassador of the European Union, who expressed their protest over Tymoshenko’s illegal detention. Many foreign diplomats demanded personal meetings with Pshonka and President Yanukovych. A number of European and US statesmen also personally called Yanukovych in connection with Tymoshenko’s planned arrest, voicing their concern. Yanukovych decided to back down and instead of charging Tymoshenko, the criminal cases were closed.

However, it was just a short reprieve. New criminal cases against Tymoshenko followed. First of all, they remembered the gas agreement with Russia, signed by her government in 2009. Prompted by Yanukovych’s party, the Verkhovna Rada set up an ad hoc investigative commission to investigate “indications of treason of Ukraine’s economic”. A month later, on April 11, the commission published a report accusing Tymoshenko of falsifying directives on gas agreements during negotiations with Russia, accusing her of “betraying Ukraine’s national interests,” signing “onerous for Ukraine agreements” and colluding in favor of Russia when signing gas contracts.

On the same day, the Attorney General launched a criminal case against Tymoshenko “for abuse of power and official authority when signing the gas contracts”. Tymoshenko was charged with inflicting $195 million in damages as a result of the consequences for state-owned Naftogaz. Tymoshenko’s charges were supported by Firtash (as expected), the co-owner of RUE, and former President Yushchenko (not expected at all), as well as Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the “Front for Change” party, who stated that “Tymoshenko worked for Russia,” “betrayed Ukraine a year before Yanukovych,” and “is pulling us into bondage to Moscow.”121

 

The ad hoc parliamentary commission investigating Tymoshenko’s government also brought up a 300 million debt of UESU owed to the Russian Defense Ministry which was never paid off. From this the commission concluded that Tymoshenko had spent this money on her Presidential campaign in exchange for the gas contracts she had signed. At the same time, Azarov’s government stated that Ukraine would not pay off the UESU debt to Russia.122

 

Tymoshenko’s trial over the “gas affair” began in the Kyiv Pechersky Court on June 24, 2011. The judge for the case was appointed personally by Yanukovych without senior judicial scrutiny. It was a grievous violation of Ukrainian due process, if not unambiguous evidence of collusion between the President and the court in charge of Tymoshenko’s case. The day before, a crowd of thousands of the former Prime Minister’s supporters, Rada deputies and representatives of international organizations gathered in front of the court building.123

 

On July 22, prosecutors read Tymoshenko’s indictment, which was clearly prepared in a rush and contained numerous mistakes. Tymoshenko denied all accusations against her. The interrogation of witnesses, including ministers, officials, deputies and even ex-President Yushchenko, began. The judge also allowed two representatives of Tymoshenko’s defense to speak. However, the witnesses for the prosecution testified in Tymoshenko’s favor. Because of this, the live broadcast of the trial was stopped – parliamentary deputies who remained there filmed the proceedings on their cell phones.

Many of the witnesses invited by the prosecution testified that the gas agreements signed by Tymoshenko did not harm the state because the price was fair, taking into account the gas discount that the former Prime Minister had achieved and against the cost of buying gas from gas held in Ukraine’s storage facilities.124 Oleh Dubyna, the former head of Naftogaz, who also acted as a witness, pointed out that Russia deliberately raised the price of gas so that the problem of the “gas agreements” would turn from economic to political.

Because of her frequent arguments with the judge and Tymoshenko’s remarks during witness statements, the judge repeatedly ordered Tymoshenko out of the courtroom, and on August 5 she was arrested “for systemic violations” and for “obstructing the questioning of witnesses”. It happened on the same day that Prime Minister Azarov appeared in court as a witness.

 

According to Tymoshenko, she was arrested because of her uncomfortable questions regarding Azarov’s corrupt relations with RUE and his son’s business that benefited from Ukraine’s state budget. Tymoshenko’s arrest could also be explained by the fact that during this period many “prosecution witnesses”, in particular former Deputy Attorney General Tatyana Kornyakova and former Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan, began to give testimony that exonerated Tymoshenko, which clearly did not please the “show masters” of the hearings.

Tymoshenko’s arrest caused a wave of indignation among the protesters, who were gathered outside the court building and tried to break into the building through the backdoor. However, riot police managed to take Tymoshenko to the Lukyanivska detention center in Kyiv.

 

What was going on? Tymoshenko believed that Yanukovych was planning to kill her. Therefore, after her arrest, she issued a statement to that effect: “I want to state that I have no inclination of committing suicide. They should not try to repeat what they did with Kirpa and Kravchenko. I will never end my life by suicide.”

 

Another international scandal erupted. The European Union, the US and leaders of a number of countries expressed their concern about what had happened and demanded the immediate release of Tymoshenko. Even the Putin’s Foreign Minister issued a statement that all the agreements between the two countries were concluded in accordance with national legislation in both countries, international law and the orders of the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine.

The public awaited Yushchenko’s speech spellbound. His testimony evoked opposite reactions: “joyful” among supporters of the regime, and negative – among supporters of Tymoshenko. Yushchenko claimed that Tymoshenko had concealed from him the real gas price and that he did not summon Naftogaz CEO Dubyna to leave Moscow without signing the new gas contract. Meanwhile, numerous eyewitness accounts testified to the contrary. The Russians also confirmed that they understood the negotiations were terminated on Yushchenko’s instruction. Yushchenko’s testimony in court underlined the position defended by Firtash’s RUE, although Yushchenko himself denied any involvement in this company in court.

When Tymoshenko’s supporters were leaving the courtroom, they threw eggs at Yushchenko’s car chanting “Shame on you!” The “Committee against Dictatorship”, which consisted of eleven opposition parties, demanded that his party cancel Yushchenko’s honorary chairmanship, while Tymoshenko, in a show of indignation, refused to question him, noting only that she did not agree with his testimony.

A short break was announced in the trial in September 2011 “to get acquainted with the materials of the case”. Political analysts believed it was linked to the negotiations between Ukraine and the EU over the preparation of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union, which was taking place at the time. The European Commission had set as one of the conditions for such a signing “an end to the persecution of the opposition” and, in particular, of Tymoshenko. This point was one of the important requirements of the EU for the political leadership of Ukraine during the entire negotiation process of the country’s associate membership.

It made no difference. On October 11, 2011, a court found Tymoshenko guilty under Part 3 Article 365 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (abuse of power and corruption) and sentenced her to seven years in prison with a ban on holding public office for three years after serving her sentence. This would neutralize her politically for at least ten years and deny her any chance of running as his opponent in 2015.

The court also allowed the civil claim of Naftogaz, which personally claimed from Tymoshenko compensation for $189.5 million in losses incurred as a result of signing the agreements in January 2009. Tymoshenko commented that she was not being sued for signing the agreements, but for eliminating RUE from its profitable role as intermediary. Yanukovych responded by calling Tymoshenko’s arrest an “unfortunate incident” that hindered Ukraine’s European integration, and failed to mention that the sentence was read out by the judge he had appointed.

 

 

The Kharkiv Agreements of 2010

 

 

With Tymoshenko behind bars, Yanukovych turned his attention to foreign policy. On April 21, 2010, without any discussion with the Ukrainian parliament or the public, Yanukovych signed the so-called Kharkiv agreements with (nominal) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which established a radical change in the legal status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Kharkiv was not chosen as the place for signing the agreements by accident. The people of Kharkiv refer to their city as the “capital of Ukrainian-Russian relations” because of the regular summits between both states held there. Located in Yanukovych’s eastern power base, it was an important symbolic choice.

Negotiations covered a wide range of issues, but the main ones were gas deliveries to Ukraine and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. In fact, the price Yanukovych agreed was identical to the one that was agreed upon in 2009 by Tymoshenko.125 But Tymoshenko had insisted on linking the gas price to the price of Russian gas transit through Ukraine – an increase in the price of gas led to an automatic increase in its transit price. This clause was absent from Yanukovych’s Kharkiv Agreements. Ukraine’s Treasury was worse off.126 There were no major changes to the general agreement signed by Tymoshenko in 2009.127 But in exchange for minor commercial concessions in the gas contract, Yanukovych bowed to important strategic concessions to the Black Sea Fleet, despite Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which states that “foreign military bases may not be stationed on Ukrainian territory”. Putin’s long-standing investment in Yanukovich was paying off.

All previous Presidents of Ukraine, with the belated exception of Yushchenko, had turned a blind eye to this clause in exchange for advantageous Ukrainian-Russian gas agreements. When Yushchenko said in his Presidential re-election program that on May 28, 2017, when the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease expired, all of its deployment facilities (and there were over 4,600) were to be relocated to Russian territory, he brought up a costly point for Putin. This relocation would have cost the Russian Treasury about $10 billion. Ukraine received from Russia $100 million annually in rent for basing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. It could have stayed in Crimea for another 100 years for $10 billion.

Yanukovych agreed that the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol was to be extended for another 25 years, until 2042, and that Russia was to be allowed to modernize its fleet from Soviet times. Strategically the Russian Black Sea Fleet was severely limited in tonnage due to Turkey’s restrictions on the passage of military vessels through the Dardanelles. Russia was unable to secure its strategic advantage in the Black Sea region as NATO naval bases were located in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey while the US Sixth Fleet controlled the Mediterranean Sea. The planned purchase by Russia of two of the latest Mistral helicopter carriers from France did not significantly change the overall balance of power.

Within a week of extending the lease of the Black Sea Fleet, both parliaments ratified it. In Russia no one paid any attention, but in Kyiv drama unfolded. Opposition deputies blocked the rostrum, egged the Speaker and prevented a debate of the ratification. Some deputies started throwing smoke bombs, turning the parliament’s session hall into what looked like battlefield. It made no difference. Yanukovych’s party controlled the Rada and the Kharkiv agreements were ratified by a majority vote on April 27. The opposition covered their seats with the blue-and-yellow banner of Ukraine and left the session hall in protest.

The criminal prosecution of political opponents affected not only Yulia Tymoshenko and Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, but also Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn, Defense Minister Valeriy Ivashchenko, deputy Ihor Markov, former deputy head of Naftogaz Ihor Didenko, former Chairman of the Customs Service Anatoliy Makarenko and many others. Yanukovych even took a swing at former President Leonid Kuchma, who was accused of being involved in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, which allowed Yanukovych to strike fear of reprisals in Kuchma and the entire entourage of the former President.

 

 

Yanukovych’s duplication of Putin’s “vertical of power”

 

 

Like many of his predecessors, Yanukovych began by reducing the civil service. He even intended to reduce his own Secretariat by 20 percent. Restyling it as the “Presidential Office”, he appointed as his Chief of Staff the oligarch Serhiy Lyovochkin, who owned a portfolio of foreign companies and a number of valuable minority stakes in Ukrainian enterprises.128 Lyovochkin had “supported” Yanukovych when he was governor of the Donetsk Region, assistant to President Kuchma, and Prime Minister under Yushchenko. Now he was Ukraine’s second most powerful man.129

 

Interestingly, Yanukovych made it clear that Ukrainian would remain the only state language in contradiction to his pre-election promise to make Russian the second state language. But he underlined that that Ukraine would adhere strictly to the European Charter for Regional Languages and in 2012, the Verkhovna Rada passed a law on regional languages, which was essentially a cover for legalizing Russian as a local official language in Crimea and the south-east. An attempt by settled minorities (Romanians, Poles, Bulgarians, and others) to use this law to give their languages also the status of regional languages failed.

By the end of his first year, Yanukovych reduced the number of business areas subject to regulation, from 66 to 43. The procedure for obtaining permits was simplified for investment activity, although this did not lead to an “rush” of foreign investors into Ukraine. Yanukovych cancelled compulsory military service, inserting a professional army in its place, without setting it up, however, as combat ready reducing Ukraine’s defensive power.

On the eve of the New Year 2011, despite vociferous protests of small and medium entrepreneurs, a new tax code was adopted. While on the face of it providing for a threefold reduction of local taxes, it did not change the tax burden for domestic producers. On the contrary, small and medium-size businesses became even more indebted to authorities, with whom they had to share their revenues. But Ukraine became a paradise for its billionaires connected with power. All the major companies with close ties to the President and his entourage flourished. After Yanukovych’s first year in power, the number of Ukrainian oligarchs mushroomed from 8 to 21. Together they were worth $58 billion, or roughly $20 billion more than the entire Ukrainian national budget.

Determined to avoid Yushchenko’s mistakes, Yanukovych began creating his own “vertical” power base cutting through Ukraine’s state hierarchies, closely mirroring Vladimir Putin’s path to absolute power after his election in 2000.130 He replaced the country’s regional governors and administrators. All the government enforcement ministers and judges of the Constitutional Court, who were appointed under Presidential prerogative, were replaced. Having stealthily annulled Yushchenko’s 2004 changes to the Constitution,131 Yanukovych introduced censorship of the mass media, and oligarchs from his closest circle became the owners of the largest media outlets. The opposition could only chronicle the establishment of the President’s autocratic system and helplessly protest against his usurpation of state power.

Under the guise of a crusade against corruption, Yanukovych and his entourage adopted a system of raiding businesses from both their political rivals and their own allies. European OSCE experts documented over 50 cases of business deals by Yanukovych’s circle using corrupt law enforcement agencies, courts, prosecutors, tax inspectors, and ministers. Owners were forced to hand over half of their shares, or even saw their entire business taken away through the courts. According to the Anti-Raiders Union of Entrepreneurs of Ukraine, at least 7000 Ukrainian companies were targeted by Yanukovych’s “family” across the whole of Ukraine.

One reason for these raids was to raise $1.5 billion for Yanukovych’s 2015 re-election campaign and bribing 15 million voters at a rate of $100 per vote. Here’s how Andrey Semididko, chairman of the Anti-Raiders Union, described the system, “The raiders operated with simple methods. First, find a profitable company. Then initiate an inspection by the tax [authorities] and, based on its results, start a criminal case. On the basis of the case file, they would make an assessment and the raiders would approach the owners of the company with an offer. Usually there were only a few choices: they could pay a “tribute” of 30-50 percent of the company’s profit or give up ownership rights. In this case either part of the company was taken offshore, or the changes in the owners were simply not registered – that is, in law the owners remained the same, but de facto there was a secret ownership change”.132 In fact, the local officials involved would frequently increase “the tribute” in their favor.133 Over three years, for example, more than $50 million was taken under a tax case from vodka company Nemiroff by shell companies close to the President.

The Presidential term of “proffesor” Yanukovych will be remembered not only for his lack of economic reforms and water-treading between the European Union or a Customs Union with Russia, but also for his slow speech and numerous stylistic gaffes. He referred to the famous Russian poetess Anna Akhmatova as Anna Akhmetova (Rinat Akhmetov is his godfather), and the famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov as a Ukrainian poet. He believed that the famous Slavic scholar Gulak-Artemovsky was from the Donbas city of Artemovsk. He divided Eurasia into Asia and Eurasia, and speaking to the inhabitants of Kropyvnytskyi he called them residents of Chernihiv. He called Slovakia “Slovenia” and confused Iran with uranium. When negotiating with the President of Turkmenistan he stated that Ukraine had always been on friendly terms with Kazakhstan.

Yanukovych’s power “vertical” copied from Putin’s Russia seemed to guarantee law and order in the country, and Yanukovych’s repeated verbal escapades amused those with enough sense of humor to laugh at the newly minted dictator.

Was Yanukovych meanwhile handing over to his sponsor in the Kremlin? Known for his pro-Russian stance, Yanukovych, the newly minted billionaire businessman and President, suddenly abandoned the idea of a union between Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and on April 1, 2010, he announced that “the strategic direction of Ukrainian foreign policy is integration with the European Union”. It was counter-balanced by the abolishment of the interdepartmental commission on preparation of Ukraine for joining NATO and Ukraine’s National Center on Euro-Atlantic Integration, established in 2006 by Yushchenko. In July 2010 he signed into law the abandonment of seeking membership of NATO, and announced Ukraine’s non-aligned status.

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