Ukraine Pulls Back From The Brink

KIEV, Ukraine -- The political peace deal struck in Ukraine in last-minute talks between Viktor Yushchenko, the president, and his bitter rival Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister, comes as a welcome relief.

(L-R) Speaker of the Parliament Olexander Moroz, President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich answer questions during a press-conference in Kiev.

Their long-running conflict last week reached the point of violence, with officials loyal to Mr Yushchenko occupying the public prosecutor’s office and Mr Yanukovich’s men breaking windows and doors to retake the building.

It seemed only a matter of time before somebody was killed.

However, the agreement to settle the dispute by holding parliamentary elections in late September will not, on its own, resolve Ukraine’s deep-rooted divisions.

The country is doomed to further instability, unless its leaders work much harder at developing a genuine national consensus.

It will be difficult.

When Mr Yushchenko triumphed in the Orange Revolution in 2004 he appeared to have won broad support for a pro-European Union democracy, with an open economy and pragmatic ties with Russia.

But the settlement that ended the Orange Revolution involved transferring power from the presidency to parliament.

When Mr Yanukovich bounced back in the 2006 election, thanks to his Russian-speaking support in the east, Mr Yushchenko was wrong-footed.

Until this year, the conciliatory president was on the defensive, to the despair of his supporters.

But in April he finally put his foot down, and ordered new elections.

Mr Yanukovich resisted, precipitating last week’s confrontation.

The trouble is that elections will do little to change the power balance between the two sides.

Mr Yanukovich will almost certainly return as head of the largest party, followed by the fiery Yulia Tymoshenko, Mr Yushchenko’s erstwhile Orange Revolution ally.

The president may well end up holding the balance of power, and they will be forced to sit down and negotiate.

The outlines of a compromise exist.

Most Ukrainians back closer ties with the EU, but they also have doubts about joining Nato.

Almost all agree Russia will continue to play a big role in Ukraine, above all in energy, although they are divided about the merits of Moscow’s influence.

As a buffer zone, the country cannot afford to tip too far towards Russia or the west.

One thing must be clear, however: all parties must respect the legacy of the Orange Revolution, which has created a more democratic political world.

Any attempt to resolve political conflicts through non-democratic, let alone violent, means would split the country irrevocably

Source: Financial Times