I’ve been keeping a loose eye on Ukraine ever since liveblogging the Orange Revolution back in November/December 2004 (starting from a position of complete ignorance about the country, let alone the events taking place – but since when did ignorance stop a blogger from having an opinion?).
But, to be honest, the chaos of those uncertain days – with various supporters of rival candidates taking to the streets, rumours of Russian involvement, talk of assassination attempts and threats of military coups – meant that I never really got my head around Ukrainian politics.
The only thing I did come out of the “Orange Revolution” with was a sense that, despite appearances, neither side was quite as it appeared, and that for non-expert commentators to try to simplify the spat as between pro-Western and pro-Russian groupings was as misleading as it was trite. I even started questioning the received wisdom that Orange leader Viktor Yuschenko was some kind of wonderful, democratic hero as the “Revolution” was at its height, so stereotypically perfect a revolutionary did he appear, and so unanimous was his Western support.
Well, in the last couple of years it seems my doubts had some justification, as all the promise of the Orange Revolution seems to have evaporated – although not necessarily for the reasons I first feared. Crisis after crisis has hit Yushchenko’s various coalitions, as the old supporters of the movement that brought him to power have splintered off into opposition, and he’s ended up teaming up with the very people the Orange Revolution was designed to boot out of office, and whom were accused at the revolution’s height of being behind the alleged plot to assassinate him.
With the country’s political scene split three ways between Yuschenko loyalists, supporters of fellow former Orange revolutionary Yulia Tymoshenko, and those of the chap the Orange Revolution was launched to get rid of, Viktor Yanukovich (not to mention all the sub-sections and cross-overs between the three main groupings, and all the other parties involved, like parliamentary Chairman Oleksander Moroz’s Socialists), it appears that no one in Ukraine has quite the popular support that is necessary to form a stable government. The outcome is practically impossible to predict.
All that does seem certain is that such instability on the EU’s eastern frontier is a constant worry. With Europe increasingly reliant on Russian energy supplies, and Ukraine being one of the major routes for Russian gas to reach the EU, a stable, sensibly-run Ukraine is essential. If the country goes the route of other unstable, resource-rich former socialist states – like Belarus to its north or the nutty dictatorships of Central Asia – then the EU as a whole could be in serious trouble.
Update: As vaguely suspected, Yushchenko’s dissolved parliament and called a snap election. There have been vague reports of riot police on the streets of Kiev in case the rival groups of supporters get tetchy, but so far – despite discontent all round – there have been no signs of violence.
Interesting to hear BBC News 24 still explaining this as a clash between “pro-Western” and “pro-Russian” groups, though. Just a tad simplistic from Auntie, that…
Tuesday update: Foreign Notes is back with more – including the intriguing news that parliament has threatened the press with prosecution if it prints the president’s pronouncement…