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Ukraine

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Index
  1. Ukraine Main Page
  2. An Independent Nation
  3. A Struggling Economy and a Troubled Government
  4. Gas Causes an Energy Crisis
  5. Several Rounds of Elections and Another Gas Crisis
  6. Ally of Former Prime Minister Jailed
  7. 2012 Language Bill and New Election
  8. Massive Protests Call for Yanukovich's Resignation
  9. Yanukovich Flees Capital
  10. Russian Troops Sent to Crimea
  11. Putin Announces Annexation of Crimea
  12. Unrest Spreads to Other Eastern Cities
  13. Referendums on Autonomy Held in Other Eastern Regions
  14. Billionaire Businessman Wins Presidential Election
  15. Passenger Jet Crashes in Eastern Ukraine
  16. Offensive by Ukrainian Military Results in Gains; Rebels, Government Agree on Cease-Fire
A Struggling Economy and a Troubled Government

The Russian financial crisis in fall 1998 led to severe problems for the Ukrainian economy, which is dependent on Russia for 40% of its foreign trade. Ukraine remains saddled with its Soviet-era economy, and most of its major industries are still under state control. Corruption is rampant, and as a result, Western investors have shown only minimal interest. The election of the reform-minded Viktor Yushchenko as prime minister in Dec. 1999, however, was greeted with optimism by the West. He was also highly popular among Ukrainians. But in April 2001, he was dismissed in a no-confidence vote engineered by Communist hard-liners and Ukrainian big business.

Violent demonstrations rocked Ukraine in the winter of 2001, with protesters demanding the resignation and impeachment of authoritarian president Leonid Kuchma. Critics accused Kuchma of involvement in the murder of a journalist critical of government corruption. Kuchma was recorded on tape urging that the journalist be disposed of.

In 2004, Kuchma announced he would be retiring. A presidential election pitted Viktor Yushchenko, the former reformist prime minister, against Viktor Yanukovich, the current prime minister and Kuchma's chosen successor. The campaign was an especially dirty one. Yushchenko was nearly fatally poisoned with dioxin and had to be hospitalized for several weeks shortly before the election. His doctors predicted that the poisoning will affect his health for years to come. In the Nov. 21 runoff election, Prime Minister Yanukovich received 49.5% of the vote and Yushchenko 46.5%. International monitors declared the elections massively fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko's supporters took to the streets of the capital and other cities in protest, and what became known as the Orange Revolution (after Yushchenko's signature campaign color) continued full strength over the next two weeks. On Dec. 3, the supreme court invalidated the election results. On Dec. 8, parliament voted in favor of an overhaul of Ukraine's political system, amending the constitution to reform election laws and transferring some presidential powers to the parliament. In the final presidential runoff on Dec. 26, Yushchenko won 52% of the vote to Yanukovich's 44.2%. On Jan. 23, 2005, Viktor Yushchenko was sworn in. Fellow reformist Yulia Timoshenko became the prime minister. But within the year Yushchenko's reformist reputation was tarnished by his administration's infighting and allegations of corruption. He fired Prime Minster Timoshenko and her entire cabinet in Aug. 2005. The crisis shook the public's belief in the Orange Revolution, and Yushchenko's continued inattentiveness to governmental corruption has further disillusioned the public.

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