by Michael Hammerschlag

tymoshenko on trial for                     KYIV POST - Nov 9

Despite success in ramming through Euro 2012 preparations, Pres. Yanukovich has shown astounding incompetence in allowing the Tymoshenko persecution to proceed to a guilty verdict, then metastasize to other ancient charges. It seems the powers that be want to bury her, like Khodorkovsky, and begs the question if the whole purpose was to paint Ukraine in a box with one exit: to Russia.

Western powers should have come down on the leadership much harder when Tymoshenko's charges or arrest started- travel bans, account freezes, etc: maybe this madness could have been nipped in the bud. In a standard Soviet nonsense prosecution, she was charged with doing her job, something that couldn't be a crime anywhere in the civilized world. To recap, the world price of gas is set by a 6 month delay of oil prices, which were at record highs in July 2008: Yulia had nothing to do with it, and Ukraine had a gun to its head after the Jan 2009 shutoff.

It is deeply ironic that she was charged with treason- defined as betraying one's country- particularly to a foreign power. Some examples of treason were: say, the Oedipal Bush-neocon plot to invade Iraq, which benefited no one but war profiteer VP Cheney, killed 300-400,000, including 5000 Americans, crippled and maimed 32,000; injured 200,000; or the insane impeachment of Pres. Clinton after a 6 year witchhunt, just as Al Qaida was coalescing into a fearsome terrorist threat.... or here, the incredible throwing of the RusUkrEnergo suit by the present government in the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal. Getting rid of this astoundingly corrupt firm was probably the best thing Tymoshenko did, no matter what the motive.

First the Government fired the American law firm defending the state against the parasitical company, which rakes a billion-odd dollars a year off the top of the Russian gas supply, returning 50% as a kickback to Gazprom and 50% to Firtash + Co.. Then they just threw the case, failing to defend it, so the Swedish Court robotically ordered a 12 bil M3 , $3.2 bil judgment against NaftoGaz, which it doesn't have. What it does have is the pipelines that still handle 80% of Russian transit gas to the West, which Russia desperately wants to buy.

Tymoshenko supporter at Kreschatuk protestIf this happens, chances are good that Ukraine will effectively lose its sovereignty, like poor Belarus, now utterly dependent on Russia, which could conceivably want to station troops on the pipelines to prevent “terrorism”. The POR also canceled incipient deals with Westinghouse for nuclear fuel and reactors and settled on Russia as the sole supplier (nuclear provides 50% of Ukraine's electricity)- leaving them with an energy stranglehold over Ukraine.

That's a pretty good definition of treason.

Having a Prime Minister whose primary allegiance is to a foreign power is another deeply suspect situation.

Much has been written how angry Russia is with the prosecution of Tymoshenko cause it lays the groundwork for reneging on the admittedly atrocious gas deal. But after a recent Yanukovich-Medvedev meeting in Donetsk, the little Bear was evidently mollified by the President's probable explanation: “If you want us back in your orbit, Tymoshenko has to be crushed.”

After a teaser of changing the law to legalize the charges against her (rather than just instructing the young show-trial judge to find her innocent), they came down with a sledgehammer. The blizzard of new charges actually may have some basis in fact (though participation in the 1996 murder plot against Shcherban seems designed to smear her with the West, and no evidence is trustworthy 15 years later)- few big biznismeni here haven't diverted millions, but tellingly the ridiculous initial charges were designed to prove that we can vaporize any critic without valid cause. If you imprison the only powerful opposition leader, you erase any pretense of democracy- entirely unnecessary since the POR has achieved a total monopoly on power anyway- with iron control of the Rada, Courts, Election Commission, Security Ministries, Police, and TV networks.

But if the plan was to throw Ukraine's lot in with Russia- Tymoshenko and her party were serious roadblocks. Joining the CIS Free Trade Union and reevaluating the Russian led Customs Union are ominous signs- with all roads to Europe seemingly blocked and the Greek-Portugese-Italian-Spanish Euro debt crisis still threatening to shatter the EU. Trade Minister Kliuyev has bragged that Ukraine will get a big break on 2012 gas prices- the fruits of fealty.

Ukraine is fading fast as an issue that anyone in the EU cares about- the window is slamming shut, or as the US Ambassador said, “Ukraine is at a crossroads”. Yushchenko's virulent hatred of Yulia and multiple betrayals directly led to Yanukovich's election, so exhausting the public with the feud that truly widespread protests against Ukraine's totalitarian backsliding are dubious.
Tymoshenko supporter at Kreschatuk St. protest - Copyright2011 Michael Hammerschlag

Even with imprisoned Tymoshenko's noble appeal to the EU to not cancel cooperation on her behalf, after the radical Yuliectomy, the EU probably won't ratifying the Free Trade and Partnership Agreements; and the IMF, World Bank, EBRD probably won't dispense more money unless Ukraine jacks up subsidized gas prices (doubtful with coming elections, the mission just left again without any commitment). Pressure on the hryvna will prove irresistible very soon, with up to $55 billion of loan repayments due in the next year- maybe 9.5-10 hrv/$ by December.

So after 20 years of fluctuating independence, it seems all roads again lead to Moscow, and Papa Putin is sitting pretty. He will save Ukraine.

You don't know how lucky you are-re...  back in the USSR - Beatles 1969

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Michael Hammerschlag’s ( articles have appeared in the NYT, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, CJR; Moscow News, Tribune, Times + Guardian; and Kiev Weekly + Business Ukraine. He has spent 3 years in Ukraine and 2½ in Russia.