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Foreign Press on Ukraine

13.12.2013 | Vasyl Artemenko

Professional for the second round is the title of an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel which argues that European conservatives led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel are placing their bets on Vitaliy Klitschko as the leading opposition figure and the main rival to pro-Russian forces for the presidential election scheduled for 2015. In the first round of the fight for Ukraine, Vladimir Putin won by a TKO (i.e. refusal of Kyiv to sign the Association Agreement with EU), but in the second round Europe is preparing to put in the ring the stronger Klitschko, who unlike the majority of Ukrainian politicians, has a clean reputation and, judging from everything, is not corrupted, writes Der Spiegel.

The renowned American columnist Charles Krauthammer criticizes in the Washington Post U.S. foreign policy, which he argues is abandoning its allies. The talk is about the Middle East, where Washington has decided to strike an agreement with Iran and is refusing to openly support the opponents of the Syrian Assad regime, and the Far East, where China wants to expand its air space at the expense of maritime territories of Japan and South Korea, and Ukraine. Ukraine is not just the largest European country; its the linchpin for Vladimir Putins dream of a revived imperial Russia, hegemonic in its neighborhood and rolling back the quarter-century advancement of a Europe whole and free bequeathed by Americas victory in the Cold War. The U.S. response is almost imperceptible. Why not outbid Putin? Were talking about a $10 bn to $15 bn package from Western economies with more than $30 trillion in GDP to alter the strategic balance between a free Europe and an aggressively authoritarian Russia and prevent a barely solvent Russian kleptocracy living off of oil, gas and vodka from blackmailing its way to regional hegemony.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst writes in the National Interest magazine that it would have been crazy for the government to resort to violence once more, while the opposition must understand that it does not control the Verkhovna Rada and it is not supported by the whole country. That is why the opposition should not try to achieve the presidents impeachment, but to go after more realistic goals: the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, removal of obstacles for Klitschkos participation in the next presidential election and sign the Association Agreement with the EU. Yanukovych may have authoritarian tendencies, but he can be pragmatic. He certainly understands that his position is much weaker now than it was two weeks ago, and he must find a politically acceptable way to clear the streets of his capital. So, things he might not have countenanced earlier are now possible. The opposing parties may need a mediator to help them reach an understanding. It is a welcome sight to see former leaders in the post-Soviet space serving as non-partisan wisemen for the good of their country. This is a made-in-Ukraine crisis, argues Herbst.

Professor Dominique Arel from the University of Ottawa believes that the difference between the current situation and 2004 is that the level of mobilization of protesters is lower (with the exception of Sundays demonstrations) and that the opposition then had a single candidate in Viktor Yushchenko. Now, there are three leaders of the protest movement Klitschko, Yatsenyuk and Tyahnybok. At the 2012 elections, they gained legitimacy, but did not achieve particular success. Serious opinion polls show a regional split in terms of popular attitudes towards Europe. Due to the difficult economic situation, the country remains vulnerable to Russias pressure. Whats next? The government will likely bet on a fight to the end in its conflict with the opposition and the upcoming Christmas holidays, during which it is not customary to protest in Eastern Europe, writes the professor in the French newspaper Le Figaro.

Germanys Die Welt writes about a new provocation in the center of Kyiv (information as of December 10 when the issue went to print) and points to the reaction of the U.S. and EU. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is concerned with reports of an attack on the headquarters of the largest opposition party (Batkivshchyna) by the police. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on President Yanukovych to enter into dialog and de-escalate the conflict sooner.

Russias Komsomolskaya Pravda predicts the possible split of Ukraine. The Maidan conflict in Kyiv could lead not only to paralysis of the government, but to the split of the country into two and possibly three parts. There are actually two variants of the split. The tough one will be accompanied by a chain reaction of violence around the country. The soft one is that the center of the government will be moved to another large city, presumably Kharkiv. The opposition will create a provisional government in Kyiv and there will be a chaotic split of the administrative and financial system. After some time, there may appear three mini-states on the territory of contemporary Ukraine: Eastern, Central and Western Ukraine. As a result, Kyiv may become a bone of contention a border city like Berlin, which in the Soviet years was divided into the capital of GDR and the separate enclave of West Berlin.

Novaya Gazeta is among the few Russian press outlets that sympathize with the Ukrainian opposition. In the vicinity of Maidan I found a tent camp of the Party of Regions, writes correspondent Pavel Kanygin. An alternative maidan organized by supporters of Viktor Yanukovych in Mariyinskiy Park resembles Moscows Poklonnaya Gora up to the smallest details. Over the sullen looks of state employees from the east and unemployed Kyivans there are flags of United Russia, I mean the Party of Regions, of course. These are mainly sullen men, older than 40, or young guys aged 20 inside the small camp they boringly walk between their tents and the field kitchen. From the outside, the pro-government maidan looks like a fold for criminals, particularly since you cannot go inside the camp where several tough guys dressed in civilian clothing check your pass. According to Novaya Gazeta, the government supporters are paid UAH 250 per day.

Also, ARI.RU (Agency of Russian Information), the website of Russian national democrats, sympathizes with Maidan. They particularly liked the overthrow of the occult statue of Lenin. Some progressive people amongst the protesters made the right decision and threw down something that had to be removed to rid the country of its Soviet past in the first place namely, the monument to Lenin. The monument, as any Kyivan will tell you, is not a simple one, but one of the main ones in Ukraine. It is made of the same material as Lenins mausoleum in Moscow and, as one should easily guess, not by accident. Scientifcally, the stone is known as Karelia quartzite. It is being reported that the mineral is so rare that it cannot even be found in Karelia. In truth, this Karelia quartzite is from Babylon, because it was brought to the USSR from Iraq specifically for the construction of the ziggurat in the Messopotamian valley. ARI considers the Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow to be an occult object.

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