- Last Friday DID pondered who would stand up to Vladimir Putin’s meddling in Ukraine, and the answer came quickly: Ukrainians. Since then, events moved at warp speed as the opposition stepped up the pressure with its newfound parliamentary majority. President Yanukovich left Kiev on Saturday, while former prime minister Tymoshenko was released. Yanukovich, who unsuccessfully tried to leave the country, said parliament’s vote to remove him and set elections to May 25 amounts to a coup (video with English subtitles). Olexander Turchynov, a close ally of Tymoshenko, was appointed interim president. This is not necessarily the change protesters are looking for.
- The Ukrainian parliament didn’t stop at that, with constitutional rollbacks and executive appointments to boot. Anders Aslund at the Peterson Institute for International Economics explains that Yanukovich’s support collapsed. On Monday the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a warrant to arrest Yanukovich on murder charges. For now the Russian government is not recognizing Ukraine’s new de facto government as legitimate, unlike the US, EU and UN. Russia’s envoy didn’t co-sign Friday’s agreement, and Russia has withdrawn its ambassador.
- With Ukraine close to default, the EU is saying they’re ready to provide financial assistance once a new government is in place, and Russia is pointing to the IMF, implying they won’t proceed with the bailout they had agreed to with Yanukovich. Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance has restricted government payments to wages and is seeking $35B of assistance. Any help the IMF and EU will offer will come with reform strings attached.
- What now? The Financial Times weighs in on why Ukraine and its future matter so much. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Polish American who was President Carter’s national security adviser, thinks Russia should be offered a ‘Finland option.’ Mikheil Saakashvili, until recently the president of Georgia, thinks Western help can not only lead to a democratic Ukraine, but also open minds in Russia.
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