Since Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine’s presidency in 2010, many observers have expressed concern about Ukraine’s democratic development, including the government’s use of the courts to neutralize oppositionMoreSince Viktor Yanukovych defeated Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to win Ukraine’s presidency in 2010, many observers have expressed concern about Ukraine’s democratic development, including the government’s use of the courts to neutralize opposition leaders, including Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2011.
International observers criticized Ukraine’s October 2012 parliamentary elections as falling short of international standards.The global economic crisis hit Ukraine hard. Ukraine’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15% in 2009. The economy began to recover in 2010, but has hit another slowdown since 2012, due to the Eurozone crisis, which has reduced demand for Ukraine’s exports. Ukraine has long-standing problems in attracting foreign investment, in part due to rampant corruption and other shortcomings in the rule of law.
Living standards for many Ukrainians remain low, leading to a sharp drop in Yanukovych’s popularity when compared to the start of his term. However, Ukraine’s next presidential elections are not due until 2015.President Yanukovych has pursued closer ties with Russia, especially in the economic sphere. A major focus of his policy has been to seek reduced prices for natural gas supplies from Moscow, or failing that, to diversify Ukraine’s sources of supply. Ukraine has so far fended off Russian pressure to sell it control of its gas pipeline system and join Russia-led political and economic integration structures.Yanukovych has said that EU integration is a key priority for Ukraine, but EU criticism of what it views as the politically motivated conviction and imprisonment of Tymoshenko and others has delayed the signature of a long-awaited association agreement with the EU, which includes a free trade agreement.
Yanukovych has made clear that his country is not seeking NATO membership, but is continuing to cooperate with NATO, including the holding of joint military exercises.The Obama Administration has worked to “reset” relations with Russia, but has warned that it will not accept any country’s assertion of a sphere of influence, a reminder of U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. The Administration has focused on helping Ukraine rid itself of its supplies of highly enriched uranium, assisting Ukraine with the clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear site, and diversifying Ukraine’s sources of energy, including advice on developing Ukraine’s shale gas reserves.
Administration officials have expressed serious concerns about regression in Ukraine’s democratic development since Yanukovych took power, including in such areas as media freedoms and selective prosecution of the government’s political opponents.Legislation was introduced in the 112th Congress and 113th Congress calling for Tymoshenko and other victims of politically motivated prosecutions to be released from prison.
One of them, a modified version of S.Res. 466, was passed by the Senate on September 21, 2012. Among other provisions, it called for sanctions against Ukrainian leaders responsible for selective prosecutions.The Obama Administration requested $95.271 million in U.S. aid for Ukraine for FY2014. Among other purposes, U.S. aid is used to bolster the safety of the Chernobyl nuclear facility- improve governance and increase the accountability and effectiveness of the justice system- help Ukraine fight its HIV/AIDS crisis (which is the most severe in the region)- improve interoperability with U.S.
and NATO forces- and help Ukraine deal with serious problems with trafficking in persons and cybercrime.