Ukraina - under Russian threat
After independence following the break-up of Soviet Union in 1991, Europe's next largest state has had an unstable government. The power struggle the last years between the leader of the "Orange Revolution", president Viktor Jusjtjenko and Julia Tymosjenko, present Premier Minister, has led to that necessary reforms have not been impemented. Close to three million of the population are working abroad.
S:t Mikael's kathedral, Kiev
Like the majority, the russian speaking minority of 17% is positive towards EU membership but this can be accomplished not earlier than 2020 due to lack of reforms. Corruption is ripe and economic and political interests are tightly intertwined. For example is Premier Tymosjenko one of Ukraine's richest business women. President Jusjtjenko strongly pursues NATO-membership but enjoys low support among the population, especially in this question. His chances in the coming presidential election this year (2009) are considered slim.
Ukraine's army has for several years been organized and trained according to NATO-standards and certain units have passed the lowest standards level. Ukraine has participated in several NATO-led exercises and operations.
But a Ukrainian NATO-membership is perceived as a threat by it's mighty eastern neighbour and Russia exerts huge pressure. Russia last year even threatened to direct nuclear missiles at it's neighbour if Ukraine became a full member of NATO and recently stopped deliveries of natural gas due to the large unpaid sum Ukraine ows for earlier deliveries. Through Ukraine EU gets about 25% of it's gas deliveries.
Another point of conflict between Ukraine and Russia is in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been stationed here since the end of the 1700's.The lease ends 2017 and Ukraine has clearly stated that it will not be renewed. But a majority of the population are Russian speaking and the Soviet nostalgia lingers on in Sevastopol.
Many, according to opinion polls, up to 40%, favour unification with Russia and Russia has doled out up to 30 000 passports in the Crimea the last ten years.
Leading Russian politicians have declared that Russia has "special interests" in Ukraine and uses langauge that shows their disrespect of Ukraine's sovereignity.
For all those in Sevastopol who are economically dependent of the Russian naval base, waiting for 2001 is felt like "an axe hanging over their heads". NATO has tried to alleviate the consequences by offering retraining courses for many naval officers. But what is mostly needed to avoid an escalating and open conflict is a constructive dialogue between Ukraine and Russia.
Copyright: Lennart Berggren / Axiom Film 2009