Ukraine celebrated it’s 19th anniversary of independence today, below are some news stories coming out of the wire:
Yanukovich said the former Soviet republic needed a new, stable political system led by a "strong president" to guide it through potentially painful structural reforms.
"In order to achieve this we need to reform the constitution thoroughly," he said in a televised speech on Ukraine’s Independence Day.
Ukraine curbed presidential powers in favour of parliament through constitutional amendments introduced in 2004 when pro-Western politician Viktor Yushchenko came to power after the "Orange Revolution" street demonstrations.
The curbs, promoted by Yanukovich’s supporters at the time, limited Yushchenko’s effectiveness as president and set up confrontation with parliament and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The dispute ultimately contributed to his downfall in an election earlier this year.
Yanukovich supporters now say his hand should be strengthened so he can push through unpopular reforms such as raising household gas prices and slimming down the bloated pension system.
Many of the reforms have been undertaken at the behest of the International Monetary Fund which has extended a new $15 billion stand-by arrangement to Ukraine to help stabilise its economy.
How can Presidential powers be relinquished for pro-Western President Yushchenko, and then be asked to be returned for pro-Russian President Yanukovych. In addition to that he wants the Constitution reformed (gutted) for a Chinese style one-party government that eliminates the opposition and leaves the door wide open for a return to Communism – on the 19th anniversary of the country’s independence!
Meanwhile a Kharkiv reporter critical about authorities has been missing and feared dead for two weeks now, as freedom of the press, speech and to organize have been under attack under this regime.
As Ukraine marks its Independence Day on August 24, one analyst says Kyiv’s greatest accomplishment since independence has been "survival." But he adds that survival is not good enough.
Andrew Wilson, the author of books like "The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation" and "Ukraine’s Orange Revolution" and a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, talks to RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service correspondent Maryana Drach about the high and low points of the country’s 19 years of statehood.
RFE/RL: According to the latest opinion surveys, 45 percent of Ukrainians have doubts about whether Ukraine is truly an independent state. What is your view?
Andrew Wilson: In some ways, I might be one of them… Its economy has actually been in trouble recently, and with so many sectors falling under Russian influence, there is a question mark about how economically independent Ukraine really is.
RFE/RL: What is the biggest achievement by Ukraine during the last 19 years?
A Putin/Beijing Model
RFE/RL: In which direction do you think Ukraine is being taking by the new president, Viktor Yanukovych?
Wilson: … Clearly, Yanukovych would like to establish some kind of Putin-like soft authoritarianism. The other is the kind of spread of the Beijing consensus. At the moment, regime officials talk about European choice, but also talk about order and learning from the Chinese model.
So there are some signals that that means soft authoritarianism could become a growing trend in the future. But in both cases, this will be a test of the long-standing academic theory that Ukraine is not Russia. We all remember the title of President [Leonid] Kuchma’s famous book ["Ukraine Is Not Russia"]…
RFE/RL: You said that Ukraine could have achieved much more during the last 19 years. What is the European Union’s responsibility for the fact that Ukraine hasn’t done more?
Wilson: At some specific historical periods, the EU could have done more. Most obviously, in the kind of short window of opportunity between the Orange Revolution and the defeat of the European constitution in the referendums in Holland and France in 2005, the EU could certainly have reacted more to the signals of change given by the Orange Revolution — the hope for further change…
Congratulations, and happy Independence Day to all Ukrainians. This August 24th, you celebrate 19 years of independence for Ukraine, and you honor the democratic values that not only Ukrainians, but also Americans, share.
In the coming year, our Strategic Partnership will enhance cooperation between our countries across a broad range of issues were we are already working — trade, investment, economic growth, energy cooperation, political dialogue, the rule of law, regional security, and territorial integrity. We will also explore ways to expand our people-to-people exchanges.
The United States has stood by Ukraine and the people of Ukraine since Independence, and we will continue to support you as you work to achieve the full benefits of democracy and all of the blessings that go with it.
Update: The BBC’s picture of the day:
KievKyiv youngsters play under an enormous Ukrainian national flag as they celebrate State Flag Day, a national holiday on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day.