The race for Ukraine’s Presidency is hotting up. With the incumbent serial Kremlin-offender Viktor Yushchenko flagging with ratings of just 3%, it seems that battle has truly commenced between Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych. Russia-Ukraine relations have considerably suffered under Yushchenko’s leadership – will Tymoshenko, the other, (lest it be forgot) architect of the Orange Revolution, be West or East-leaning? RFE/RL quotes her as suggesting that whilst involvement with Europe will be prioritized, warmer Russia relations may be on the cards:
I’m sure that our relations with the Russian Federation can be equal and respectable, open and honest, without ambiguities.
Or is she planning an altogether different kind of homage to Russia? Yevgeny Kiselyov in the Moscow Times wonders if ‘she’ (as the Prime Minister is enigmatically described on her campaign posters) harbors neo-Putinesque ambitions for running Ukraine:
Asparadoxical as it might seem, many of the same people who during theOrange Revolution five years ago stood for days in downtown Kiev,protesting the falsified election results favoring Yanukovych andcalled for the new, fair elections today, see a January victory forYanukovych as the best and last chance to stop Tymoshenko fromachieving absolute control over the country. Many people who arepersonally acquainted with Tymoshenko are convinced that if she winsthe elections, she will try to establish an authoritarian regime alongthe lines of the one built by Vladimir Putin. Some even contend thatTymoshenko openly admires Putin as a politician and wants to copy hispolicies. Many suspect that she would like to set strict loyalty ruleswith Ukraine’s oligarchs, similar to the ones set by Putin after formerYukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested and jailed, and to put thecountry’s main media outlets — especially major television stations –under government control.