Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

New Ukraine leader unveils pro-Russia policies

Ukraine's emerging new leader, Viktor Yanukovych, at the weekend began the process of rebuilding the country's relations with Russia, despite an ongoing challenge to his recent election victory.

Speaking on Russian TV on Saturday (13 February), Mr Yanukovych rolled out a number of pro-Russian defence policies.

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  • Mr Yanukovych: "We need to return to the friendly way our relations were conducted in the past" (Photo: Wikipedia)

He said Nato integration will be taken off Ukraine's political agenda; that he will support Moscow's plan to create a post-Nato European security treaty and that he is open to letting the Russian navy keep its base in Crimea beyond 2017.

"Over the past five years, relations between Russia and Ukraine have been troubled, and decisions have been postponed or passed over. We need to return to the friendly way our relations were conducted in the past, and work together for the good of both countries," Mr Yanukovych said.

On the energy front, he renewed a call to create a Russian-led consortium to take ownership of Ukraine's gas transit pipeline network, a key strategic asset.

The proposal would see Russian state-owned firm Gazprom take one third of shares, European companies such as E.ON Ruhrgas and Gaz de France partition another third and the Ukrainian government keep the last portion.

The move would most likely spell the end of Brussels' efforts to bring Ukraine's gas sector in line with EU norms, as enshrined in a March 2009 EU-Ukraine pact and in Ukraine's commitments toward the European Energy Community.

One of Mr Yanukovych's campaign promises was also to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, regions in the Caucasus claimed by Georgia and currently under Russian influence. But he has kept quiet on the issue for now.

Mr Yanukovych was seen by opponents as a Kremlin stooge when he was dethroned by the Orange Revolution in 2004, with the Orange leaders vowing to take the country into the EU and Nato but making limited progress in both areas.

The Yanukovych policy statements come despite an ongoing challenge to the new presidency by Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The country's Central Election Commission on Sunday confirmed that she lost the vote one week ago by 3.5 percent, or 888,000 ballots. International powers, including the EU, have called the election free and fair.

Ms Tymoshenko on Saturday broke her post-election silence and vowed to contest the result in court, however.

"Yanukovych is not our president, and he will never become the legitimately elected president," she said on Ukrainian TV, amid allegations of fraud in the Yanukovych stronghold districts of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Ms Tymoshenko said she will not call for street protests in Kiev, in a move leading some observers to say that her objective is merely to salvage her reputation rather than to overturn the result.

"I believe she is saving face," one EU diplomat told this website.

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