East and West economies clash in Ukrainian protests

Anti-government protesters rally on Independence Square on December 7, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. 

Anti-government protesters practice techniques to maintain a line against police on December 7, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia.

Protests continue in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in response to President Yanukovych’s refusal to join his country with the European Union.

The outrage comes over the perceived favoritism to the Eastern part of the country where ties to Russia are stronger and jobs are relatively easy to be had. Meanwhile, in the Western side of the Ukraine, many have left for other European countries to look for work says Anastasiya Zanuda, a reporter for the BBC based in Kiev. 

"Since we have over one third of our foreign trade based on Russia, it’s important to keep good ties with Russians. On the other hand, we have one third of our foreign trade based on the European Union."

Well before Yanukovych refused to move forward Ukraine’s membership in the EU, multinational businesses had started to pull out of the country. Zanuda says, "I personally know three or four persons who lost their jobs this year because foreign companies, sick and tired of paying bribes to tax inspectors, left the country."

Those who remain in the Ukraine are left to deal with a difficult economy. Zanuda sites inflation as one example -- officially, the Ukraine has no inflation. But if she tried to get a loan at a bank, she says she’d be paying about 25 percent in interest.

She’s skeptical  that Yanukovych made his decision solely on the economic health of the country.

"If he really thought of the economy and of the consequences, probably he would think twice of this decision of not signing the agreement with the European Union."

Though the protests were sparked by an economic decision, Zanuda says that’s not the only reason the protests have continued. "This protest is not for Western money or cheaper gas from Russia or cheaper bread. It’s a protest for hope."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Anti-government protesters practice techniques to maintain a line against police on December 7, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine. Thousands of people have been protesting against the government since a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia.

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