Mr Yushchenko, who is favourite to win the restaged presidential election, suggested a four-point plan for EU membership under which Ukraine should be acknowledged to be a market economy, join the World Trade Organisation, become an associate member of the EU, and finally a full member.
Mr Yushchenko’s European orientation has been seen in Moscow as hostile to Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, backed Viktor Yanukovich, Mr Yushchenko’s election rival. However, Mr Putin on Friday gave surprisingly strong support to Ukraine’s EU membership hopes. According to the Itar-Tass news agency, he said: “If Ukraine wants to enter the EU, and the EU wants to admit it, that can only make us happy.”
Mr Putin’s comments could signal that Russia is backing away from Mr Yanukovich. Mr Yushchenko said he expected to win more than 60 per cent in the new poll, compared with the 46.7 per cent attributed to him after the November 21 vote.
The EU has so far rejected Ukraine’s proposal toset membership as even a long-term goal.
In potentially provocative comments, Mr Yushchenko said Ukraine’s democratic changes could affect Russia, because “millions of Russians [had] seen how you can defend your political – and not just political – interests”.
Yushchenko’s playing to win. The type and amount of pressure he’s under is beyond my imagining; on Wednesday, Dr. Korpan, who had said that very same day that Yushchenko had been poisoned, gave a second press conference stating that it was too early to confirm he had been poisoned, but that poison couldn’t be ruled out. Obviously, few are willing to take on Putin.
Meanwhile, in Russia, speaking of Putin, The Economist has the story (see next post)