Ukrainian Interior Ministry personnel block pro-EU demonstrators near the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kiev, December 20.
(photo credit: GLEB GARANICH / REUTERS)
KIEV’S EUROPEAN Square (the renamed Independence Square) was roiling with anger
and confusion in the frozen late afternoon of December 17. Word had just come
through of the deal between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his
Russian counterpart, Vladmir Putin, to cut gas prices and purchase Ukrainian
government bonds.Putin had apparently outflanked the protesters, who
were demanding Yanukovych’s resignation and new elections. Having pressured the
government of Ukraine not to sign the Association Agreement with the European
Union, the Russian leader made a counter offer of his own: Russia would slash
the price Ukraine would pay for gas by a third; and Moscow would also acquire
$15 billion in Ukraine bonds. The offer was a generous one, but it was clear
that its rationale was not economic in nature. Moscow was willing to pay
whatever price was necessary to keep Ukraine in the fold.