Sunday, June 8, 2014

Poroshenko, Ukraine's rescuer

June 8 (BBC News Ukraine). Chocolate mogul, government minister, opposition leader - Ukraine's new leader, Petro Poroshenko, has worked in a number of capacities, and has at one point or another been associated with a various political movements, including that of his deposed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. But the role he assumed on Saturday, when he took the oath of office for the presidency, is the most serious so far: rescuer of Ukraine. Mr Poroshenko has taken the reins of power at perhaps the most critical moment in Ukraine's 23-year post-independence history. Anti-government protests forced the previous President, Viktor Yanukovych, to flee the country in February. Then, Russia annexed Ukraine's southern region of Crimea. And now, pro-Moscow insurgents are waging a separatist struggle against government forces in the country's eastern regions. Besides this, he must steady a teetering economy and restore faith in the country's leadership, since many Ukrainians, especially in the east, view the government with suspicion, or outright hostility. And last, but definitely not least, Mr Poroshenko must somehow re-establish working relations with Russia - the country's giant neighbour with whom it shares deep cultural, historical, linguistic and economic ties. With all these considerable challenges in mind, Ukrainians from all regions, as well as a large international audience, listened with heightened attention to Mr Poroshenko's first presidential speech. There was much in it to please supporters of the February revolution and Ukrainian unity - as was demonstrated by the enthusiastic approval that greeted some of his statements. "Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian," was one of his top applause lines. "This is what I told [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin yesterday in Normandy." And they welcomed his defiant words to the pro-Russian separatists, quoting the Gospel of Matthew - in a slightly different context - that "those who take the sword, shall perish by the sword". But ultimately, it is not Mr Poroshenko's supporters whom he must convince, but his opponents and those Ukrainians who may be sitting on the fence. While the separatists steadfastly reject Kiev reasserting its power in the country's east, there are large portions of the population there who might be persuaded to believe that Mr Poroshenko will in fact defend their interests. 

The first meeting between Mr Poroshenko and Mr Putin took place on the sidelines of the D-Day commemorations in France