Ukraine confusion continues
Ukraine is planning on shifting its "philosophy of co-operation with the European Union", hinting that membership is the country's final aim following Yushchenko's victory in the re-run presidential elections.
Could all that noise about a Yushchenko victory meaning a shift to the West actually be true after all? Well, considering the election results haven't been confirmed yet (or even published - they will be appearing in Ukrainian papers tomorrow), it's a bit early to say.
It may depend on who is chosen as Prime Minister: "The contest has narrowed to three main candidates: Yulia Tymoshenko, the charming but fiery former "gas princess" who helped lead the Orange Revolution protests in November and December; Petro Poroshenko, the softly-spoken "chocolate prince" whose television channel brought the protests into the homes of millions of Ukrainians; and Olexander Zinchenko, Mr Yushchenko's campaign manager." (In case of Financial Times Subscriptions kicking in, I'll post the whole article in a comment - interesting stuff.)
However, the byword for freedom and truth that is Pravda today has a nice big headline: "Russian politician Grigori Yavlinsky to become Ukrainian prime minister". Not to worry, though, if you read the article this turns out to be largely spin, based on a report in The Russian Courier yesterday: "Yavlinsky, the newspaper wrote, has good chances to take the position because he is equally alienated from all political and economic clans of Ukraine."
In fact, despite being Russian Yavlinsky may not be too bad - he may even be an ideal choice to placate Putin. If he believes all the stuff he claims in this interview, the Russian could well work: "Freedom, human rights, and dignity. We will advocate independence of courts and legislative authorities, reduction of administrative clout with elections on all levels. We will speak against the merger of powers-that-be and businesses. It is this merger that resulted in the conflict between YUKOS and the regime. We will also advocate a political agreement but in the form of a law, not an accord. On the one hand, we will advocate an amnesty to capitals and fortunes made in the course of privatization in the 1990's. On the other, we want transparency of funding of political parties, establishment of a transparent political process, adoption of the law on lobbying within the framework of participation of major businesses in politics."
Either way, it seems as though Yushchenko and Putin will have a chance to chat in a week's time, so maybe they can get all friendly again. Although after this week's humiliating forced climb-down over pensions (which, though not significant in terms of cash for the old dears nonetheless shows Putin can be beat on home turf), Putin may not be in the mood to be friendly - he just ripped off Kazakhstan fairly effectively, pinching some prime gas fields in exchange for a bit of spare land.
So then - which way is Ukraine going to go - EU or Russia? Or will Yushchenko live up to expectations and manage to balance gracefully in between the two powers, getting the best of both worlds?
Once again, we'll have to wait and see...