Editorial: baiting the Ukranian bear

Tim Haïdar


"There is no more independence in politics than there is in jail"
Will Rogers (1879– 1935)

The week after the annexation of Crimea and reabsorption into the Russian Federation a fait accompli, the interim Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, informed his fellow countrymen of a stark reality.

Months of infighting – both figurative and physical – resulting in the ouster of three-time president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian regime, has left the punch-drunk Eastern European republic with a throbbing energy headache.

In a television address broadcast to the shattered nation, Yatsenyuk announced that gas and heating prices would be "gradually increased" in the coming years. This steady rise, in fact, equates to a 182 per cent price hike through 2017 as the cost of imported Russian gas is set to skyrocket by 495 per cent from the current $84 to an expected $500.

Yatsenyuk also declared that the Ukrainian central bank would be limiting purchases to 15,000 hryvnia ($1300) per person per day. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the average monthly wage for a working Ukrainian is $686, so this is unlikely to be a burden to most of the country’s 44.6 million inhabitants.

As North and South Korea exchange fire over their disputed western sea border, the possibilities of a hot war between nuclear-armed nemeses is a sword of Damocles that few would want to contemplate.

For Ukrainians, however, the cold war that looms is a clear and present danger for both politicians and citizens alike. Rapid increases in the cost of living recently brought down Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led regime in Egypt, plunging the country into a cycle of violence that culminated in the seizure of power by the country’s military.

Yatsenyuk’s All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" party may well suffer the same fate when the cost of basic creature comforts like cooking for a family and heating a home become untenable for the ordinary Ukrainian. Prodding the Russian Bear may be akin to taunting the jailor from inside a cell….