Daily Israel Report

Ukraine: Yanukovych Caught Between EU, Russia

Protests continue in Ukraine as Opposition leaders call to oust President; government caught in tug-of-war between Russia, EU.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/4/2014, 11:35 AM

President Viktor Yanukovych returned from a four-day sick leave Monday and faces a tough situation, the New York Times notes. The Opposition has been pushing for Yanukovych to be removed from power.

A parliamentary session was called Tuesday to discuss weakening the Presidential powers and the possibility of early elections. 

Yanukovych, in the meantime, continues to call for restraint. "The vandalism that we are seeing during the seizures of government buildings, the calls that we are hearing, they remind us of course of old history lessons," he stated. "We do not want them to be repeated." 

TIME released a special piece on Monday focusing on the extent of Russia's economic pressures on Ukraine to withstand the protesters' demands and maintain loyalty to the former seat of the Soviet Union.

According to the report, Russian officials froze the $15 billion economic aid package offered to Ukraine when the unrest began in December as a means of maintaining its economic, political, and cultural hold on the embattled country. 

The effect has been drastic. Currency plummeted, investors fled, and concerns are high that the Ukrainian economy could collapse entirely. 

According to the New York Times, the US and the EU are deeply involved in efforts to provide an aid package for Ukraine which would release the conflicted country from the diplomatic crisis. The package would include increased contact between Ukrainian officials and the Western powers.

Officials claim the move is being offered now because the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia provide a distraction for Russian President Vladimir Putin - and a window of opportunity for Ukraine to hammer out its relationship with the West without being under Russian pressure. 

Putin suspended an economic aid package to the embattled country last Wednesday, in a move many see as a sign of displeasure with Yanukovych's decision to talk with pro-EU Opposition leaders. America and the EU could fill in that economic need, officials say. 

The EU denies claims that the move constitutes competition against Russia. 

“We are not going to a bidding competition of who pays more for a signature from Ukraine, because we believe that this is the path that most Ukrainians prefer,” Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the EU's executive branch, said in Brussels Monday. “They want to come closer to the European Union, and certainly we are ready to support that."