By Simon Basketter
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Ukraine – phoney war continues as savage cuts and price rises push up poverty

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Issue 2397

The West and Russia are continuing their phoney war over Ukraine.

Russia laid out its vision for the future of Ukraine, demanding greater autonomy for pro-Russian regions as part of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Ukraine’s government condemned the proposals as a thinly veiled demand for “complete capitulation”.

Talks between Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, failed to produce much. 

Nor did a Nato summit.

As clocks in Crimea moved two hours forward to Moscow time, US officials tacitly admitted that Ukraine’s hopes of reclaiming the region were all but lost.

In Ukraine, the presidential election race shifted when former boxer Vitali Klitschko pulled out. 

He has thrown his weight behind Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate magnate.

Polls had shown 25 percent support for Poroshenko, 9 percent for Klitschko and just over 8 percent for former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Klitschko’s move has damaged Tymoshenko’s hopes further.

John Kerry insisted that Russian forces must withdraw to the positions they held on 1 March.

So on Monday of this week some 500 Russian troops moved or retreated, depending on your point of view. 


Yet it is entirely unclear how many troops Russia has on the Ukrainian border. 

The US claims 40,000 while Ukraine says 100,000. Some Western journalists have had difficulty finding many at all. Russia says it has 10,000.

The military manoeuvres were matched by diplomatic ones. 

As Russia promised that Crimea would be a tax haven and enterprise zone, Barack Obama promised help for Ukraine.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week announced an aid package of up to 18 billion euros for Ukraine’s capital Kiev. Three billion of this is for immediate release.

This follows a European Union bailout last month.

But ordinary people face a standard set of austerity measures to pay off the funds.

The cuts are starting fast. Gas tariffs are set to double for households and rise by 40 percent for industry. Transport fares and electricity prices will rise.

Some five million people are already unable to pay for utilities in Ukraine—or 1.4 million families. 

Current prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk predicted that higher tariffs and the cuts demanded by the IMF will push the number of poor families up to four million.

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