Ukraine news from around the world

Here is the latest news digest from around the world on Ukraine:

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From the BBC:

‘Failure of perestroika’ in Ukraine – Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union described the events in Ukraine as being caused by a “failure of perestroika”. AP reports that Gorbachev said on Sunday that the crisis in Ukraine stems from the government’s failure to act democratically.

Speaking in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, he said, “Ultimately this is the result of the failure of the government to act democratically.” He added that the root cause of the unrest in Ukraine was an “interruption of perestroika,” referring to his reform policies, and of the democratic process there.

Gorbachev, 82, was the last leader of the Soviet Union, and the reforms he put in place helped lead to the fall of Communism. After becoming the Soviet leader in March 1985, he pursued the policies of using “glasnost” or openness, and “perestroika” or restructuring. While his intent had been only reform, the policies brought about democratic changes that eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War, but he has little influence in today’s Russia. Recently he has become increasingly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In December 2011, Gorbachev urged then-Prime Minister Putin to step down as tens of thousands of protesters demanded free elections and an end to Putin’s rule.

From the Moscow Times:

Putin Faces Tough Choices Over UkrainePresident Vladimir Putin faces a decision over Ukraine that is likely to shape his political legacy as well as the future of Russia’s western neighbor, trapped in an East-West battle that has echoes of the Cold War.President Viktor Yanukovich’s loss of power deprives Putin of an ally vital to his hopes of keeping Ukraine, the cradle of Russian civilization, in what he sees as Russia’s orbit.

His hopes of building a huge trading bloc, grouping as many former Soviet republics as possible to challenge the economic might of China and the U.S., could be in tatters. But making a stand over Ukraine, or getting drawn into a new bidding war with the European Union to win sway over the cash-strapped country, would be risky.

Moscow can ill-afford to improve the $15 billion financial bailout package it offered in December. But more forceful measures, such as taking over mainly Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine, would risk triggering a more serious conflict.

Putin is saying nothing for now in public, although he has spoken by phone to U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was especially keen to stay silent before the end of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

But the protesters on Independence Square in central Kiev are waiting anxiously to see what he does. “We all know Putin likes to meddle,” said Alexei Tsitulski, a 25-year-old protester from the Crimea.

From the Guardian:

Moscow delivered a damning indictment of post-revolutionary Ukraine on Monday, denouncing alleged discrimination of the ethnic Russian minority, accusing the west of sponsoring a takeover of the country by “terrorists” and “extremists”, and clashing with Washington over plans for early elections in May.

“Russia is extremely concerned about the situation in Ukraine,” said a foreign ministry statement, which followed the highest-level reaction from Moscow so far to the collapse of Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency. Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister and former president, accused the post-Yanukovych authorities and parliament of lacking legitimacy.

“If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government,” Medvedev said. “Some of our foreign, western partners think otherwise, considering them to be legitimate authorities. I do not know which constitution, which laws they were reading, but it seems to me it is an aberration … Something that is essentially the result of a mutiny is called legitimate.”

The blistering language from Moscow, the first real response to the crisis from Ukraine’s neighbour and former overlord, collided with western attempts to keep the Russians onside for the looming challenge of establishing a stable, inclusive government and coming up with a multibillion-dollar rescue to try to stabilise an economy in freefall.

The new interim leaders of Ukraine said the country needed $35bn (£21bn) over the next two years and fast action on a bailout, as Moscow signalled its was freezing its $15bn in cheap loans – the package offered in November when Yanukovych triggered the uprising by turning to Russia and away from the European Union.

The Russian foreign ministry statement pressed all the buttons that will have the west and Kiev alarmed about ethnic and religious strife fracturing the country in two. It complained that ethnic Russian rights were already being violated after the parliament rescinded the status of Russian as a second language.

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