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100 Days of Change: Yanukovych's Policy Reversals

Viktor Yanukovych celebrates his election as president on February 5.
Viktor Yanukovych celebrates his election as president on February 5.
As Ukraine prepares to take stock of what has transpired in the first 100 days of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service director Irena Chalupa looks at 10 key policy reversals Yanukovych has put in place that take Ukraine off the path to Western integration in favor of a new, Moscow-friendly orientation.

1. No to NATO Membership, Yes to Nonalignment

Yanukovych and his foreign minister, Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, announced simultaneously that NATO membership was no longer a policy aim for Ukraine. This brought to an abrupt end a policy goal embraced by not only by the last president, Viktor Yushchenko, but former President Leonid Kuchma, who made Euro-Atlantic integration a priority for the country as far back as 1996. The Ukrainian parliament this week also approved in a first reading a bill cementing Ukraine's new status as a nonaligned state.

2. Changing the Constitution Without Due Process

The Ukrainian Constitution previously called for the formation of a coalition by parties and blocs. Yanukovych's Party of Regions -- with the help of more than a dozen deputies from the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and Yushchenko's Our Ukraine faction -- have pushed through a law that allows coalitions to be formed with individual deputies. Asked if this could ever get past the Constitutional Court, a Party of Regions lawmaker told RFE/RL, "We've reached an agreement with the Constitutional Court." The court rejected the opposition's challenges to the new law and said it did not violate the constitution.

3. The Russian Black Sea Fleet Stays in Sevastopol for 30 More Years

The fleet's lease on its base in the Crimean port city had been due to expire in 2017, and Yushchenko had made clear it would not be renewed. Yanukovych, by contrast, has signed a new deal that ensures the Russian fleet will remain on Ukrainian territory until at least 2042.

4. The Famine of 1932-33 Was Not 'Genocide'

The Ukrainian Holodomor, the Kremlin-orchestrated famine that claimed the lives of some 10 million Ukrainians in 1932-33, was not genocide, Yanukovych declared before the Council of Europe. Instead, it is a "shared tragedy" that affected all the people of the Soviet Union. Recognition of the famine as genocide was a cornerstone of the Yushchenko presidency; the Ukrainian parliament enacted a law to that effect in November 2006. Yanukovych's education minister, Dmytro Tabachnyk, has now called for rewriting Ukrainian history books to remove any reference to the Holodomor as a genocide.

5. Scheduled Elections Don't Matter

Local elections due to take place on May 30 were postponed, violating the election schedule as dictated by the constitution and existing legislation.

6. The Russian Language Gets Stronger

While Yanukovych has said that Ukrainian should remain the only state language, Russian is becoming the de facto state language and the language of government. The country's new prime minister, Mykola Azarov, is an ethnic Russian who does not know Ukrainian. Using an interpretation of a European treaty enacted to protect regional and minority languages, the new government has reinforced the status of Russian. Crimea's parliament has also enacted a law calling for passports issued on the peninsula to be in Russian. (Ukraine's most recent census, in 2001, indicated that 67 percent of the population considered Ukrainian their native language; 32 percent said Russian.)

7. National Honors Revoked

Roman Shukhevych was a Ukrainian political and military leader and commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Stepan Bandera was one of the leaders of Ukrainian national movement in western Ukraine, and headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Both men were vilified in Soviet propaganda portraying them as enemies of the state and bourgeois nationalists. But Yushchenko rehabilitated both men, bestowing them with posthumous Hero of Ukraine status by presidential decree. Yanukovych has since stripped both men of those honors.

8. Russian FSB Agents Allowed to Return to Crimea

Through the efforts of the Ukrainian Security Service and Yushchenko, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives working as staff of the Black Sea Fleet were asked to leave Ukrainian territory. Yanukovych has allowed them to return.

9. Ukraine's Economy Reorients from West to East

Yanukovych has promised more Russian investment and is poised to oversee the union of Russian gas behemoth Gazprom with Ukraine's state gas company, Naftogaz. Ukraine's airplane industry, its nuclear sector, and other strategic enterprises are also up for takeover by Russian companies and businessmen. Recently the efforts of Ukraine's richest man, Party of Regions legislator and Yanukovych backer Renat Akhmetov, to purchase a steel plant in Zaporizhzhya were rebuffed in favor of a Russian company. His $50 million deposit was returned to him without explanation and the company promptly sold to a Russian corporation. Akhmetov has taken the matter to a London court.

10. More Big Brother, More Police Brutality

Members of Ukrainian security services have called on university deans and rectors, requesting them to sign letters in support of the new education minister. Public demonstrations and protests have been broken up; people have been beaten and taken into custody. The roundups are sometimes conducted by police, sometimes by thugs, as was the case recently in Kharkiv, where environmentalists peacefully protesting the planned construction of a major road were rounded up, beaten, and taken in for detention.