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Instability haunts Ukraine 20 years after independence

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 24.08.2011 08:54
On the 20th anniversary of Ukraine's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, a former president of Poland has told Polish Radio that the nation still lags behind in developing modern, democratic institutions.

Ukraine parliament: photo Jurij Skoblenko

Alexander Kwasniewski, president of Poland from 1995 to 2005, says that independence for Ukraine as a nation of 52 million people was “without historical precedent” when it was declared on 24 August 1991 as the Soviet Union was in the process of disintegrating.

"If we look at previous periods of Ukrainian statehood, this was only a few months after the end of World War I and then for a long time, nothing," he told Polish Radio's IAR news agency.

"Ukraine is still building sovereignty, state institutions, and democracy. Unlike Poland, it emerged from the Soviet Union. So Ukrainians carry much heavier baggage [from the past] and less experience [than Poles]. The quality of performance is therefore less than in Poland," assesses Aleksander Kwasniewski.

Authorities have banned any demonstrations today connected with Independence Day except the officially sanctioned ceremonies.

Disappointment with widespread corruption has become a feature of political life in the country, two decades after breaking away from the Soviet Union.

A recent opinion poll found that 61 percent of Ukrainians feel that public life has worsened since 1991.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, however, feels that this year could be a turning point for the state's EU aspirations.

"If the negotiations for an 'Association Agreement' status are completed with the European Union then this is a fundamental step towards the EU.”

Break away

The declaration of independence taken by Kiev 20 years ago was backed by 90 percent of voters in the referendum that followed in December 1991.

The following day Poland was first country to recognise Ukraine as an independent state.

The Soviet Union formally collapsed on 25 December that year when President Gorbachev resigned.

Currently, problems still dog politics in the country. Former prime minister Yulia Tymnoshenko is on trial over a gas deal with Russia made in 2008 despite suffering from a serious illness.

Authorities have refused to release the co-leader of the Orange Revolution of 2004/5 to attend the ceremonies today.

The US and EU have expressed concern that the trial may have political motives behind the trial.

The current president, Viktor Yanukovich has packed his cabinet with local cronies from the east of the country where he has his power base. Many of these cannot even speak Ukrainian but communicate in public in Russian.

President Yanukovich, who was deposed as head of state during the Orange Revolution, returned to power last year promising a middle way between western structures and Russia. (pg)

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