Ukraine president turns his back on turmoil, heads for China

KIEV Mon Dec 2, 2013 5:05pm EST

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich (R) arrives for a family photo during the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius November 29, 2013. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich (R) arrives for a family photo during the EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius November 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ints Kalnins

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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is set to head for China on Tuesday, leaving a country plunged into crisis by his decision to forego a free trade deal with Europe under pressure from Russia.

With pro-Europe demonstrators blockading the government's main building in Kiev, their allies in parliament called for a vote of no confidence in the cabinet on Tuesday over what they say is a lurch back towards Soviet-style rule from Moscow.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the government could not perform its basic functions which could affect the payment of pensions and salaries.

"This has all the signs of a coup d'etat. This is a very serious matter," Interfax news agency quoted him telling the ambassadors of the European Union, United States and Canada.

He accused his opponents of planning to seize parliament, but the opposition said it was just planning to picket deputies before the debate.

"Some will picket outside of the cabinet of ministers, others will picket outside parliament, and we are voting for the resignation of the criminal government of Azarov," far-right nationalist leader Oleh Tyahnybok said on Interfax news agency.

Even if the vote were to go ahead, it was unlikely to muster enough support to pass since the opposition parties have far fewer deputies than the 226 needed.

In Kiev's Independence Square protesters, set up tented camps in preparation for a long campaign against Yanukovich's last-minute decision to reject the free trade deal, which had been due to be signed on Friday.

The security forces clashed with protesters over the weekend, but the area around parliament was quiet on Monday evening and activists from heavyweight boxing champion-turned- opposition-politician Vitaly Klitschko's party Udar (Punch) said they planned to send only a few people there on Tuesday.

On Monday, demonstrators halted traffic and called a general strike, seeking to force Yanukovich from office after about 35,000 people demonstrated at the weekend, the most since the pro-democracy "Orange Revolution" of nine years ago.

Ukraine's currency and bonds came under pressure, along with share prices, and the central bank was forced to assure people their savings were safe.

The United States said violence by the authorities against protesters on Saturday was unacceptable that reports of media representatives being targeted were "disturbing".

DEBT FEARS

With temperatures dropping well below zero, the numbers of protesters have dropped sharply, and Yanukovich clearly felt the security situation was under control when he announced he would stick to a plan to travel on Tuesday to China, from which he is seeking loans and investment to avert a debt crisis.

The security forces report to the interior minister, who is a loyal lieutenant of Yanukovich and a close friend of his son.

But some felt leaving was unwise nevertheless.

"It is a very bad time to go abroad. The president's absence may make talks with the opposition much more difficult," said Ukrainian political analyst Gleb Vyshlinsky.

Russia wants to draw Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union and prevent it drawing closer to the EU, a move that would signal a historic shift towards the West and away from Kiev's former Soviet masters in Moscow.

But the tug-of-war between Brussels and Moscow for influence in Ukraine has so far done little to alleviate its looming debt crisis and the China visit will involve the signing of at least 20 economic and trade agreements.

"Yanukovich is trying to show that the European Union and Russia are not the only possible partners for Ukraine," said Volodymyr Fesenko of Ukraine's Penta think-tank.

However, he said Beijing may now demand assurances over Ukraine's political and economic stability, adding: "Ukraine is unlikely to secure direct financial aid (from China)."

Beijing has already provided the former Soviet republic with loans worth $10 billion, but the government must find more than $17 billion in 2014 to meet gas bills and debt repayments.

(Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk; writing by Philippa Fletcher; editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Comments (7)
f00 wrote:
Hip young Ukes itching for “freedom,” i.e., your nation being flooded by the sewage of the Third World after the EU has pried open your borders.

After a few thousand rapes and murders by feral Somalis and Nigerians, being “dominated” by white Russkies won’t look all that bad.

Dec 02, 2013 8:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Cassiopian wrote:
It is dismaying to see Ukraine returning to the Russian fold and all that it represents – autocracy, serial human rights violations, monumental corruption, and failed economic policies. There is little future Eastward for the Ukrainians. Russia has the profile of a developing country economy, importing high-tech goods and machinery and exporting commodities and oil. It is an ageing society experiencing a demographic nightmare. And it is ironic that while young educated Russians are heading for the exits and trying to escape,the Ukrainians are passing them on their way into this failed society with its abysmal leadership and increasing xenophobia.

Dec 02, 2013 9:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
f00 wrote:
“Xenophobia” is necessary for racial/ethnic survival.

As long as Ukraine stays white, it has a future. EU member states sign up for eventual white extinction.

Dec 02, 2013 10:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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