Friday, Dec 09, 2016
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Calm in Ukraine

President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital; elections are set for May 25

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Yanukovych

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Ukraine may be achieving relative normalcy after three months of increasingly violent protests in the capital, Kiev, and elsewhere in the country, which claimed at least 82 victims last week.

President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital, and is sought on charges that he oversaw mass killings of civilian demonstrators. Elections are set for May 25.

The parliament, which continued to function during the unrest, has elected its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, acting president. He is putting together a government of national unity. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the best known of Mr. Yanukovych’s imprisoned opponents, has been released.

Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Mr. Yanukovych and might have thought of intervening militarily in Ukraine to save his protege in office. But he has made no such move.

American officials urged Mr. Yanukovych to step down. President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, warned Mr. Putin on American television — although not by name — not to intervene in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

Worrisome problems remain. Mr. Putin was relieving Ukraine’s disastrous financial situation with $15 billion in loans and energy subsidies. Now, though, Russia is withholding that aid.

Ukraine’s external debt is estimated at $73 billion, all of it due within 12 to 18 months. The country needs $35 billion right away to avoid default. The European Union is promising to help, but doesn’t normally move quickly.

Perhaps even more dangerous, Ukraine remains divided between its west, which seeks membership in the European Union, and its east, which wants it to continue to cleave to Russia. The country might split, although Ukrainians’ sense of national identity seems likely to preclude such an undesirable development.

President Obama passed up the opportunity to talk with Mr. Putin at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But he needs to stay in close touch with his Russian counterpart on the subject of Ukraine, to prevent it from becoming a sore point between the two countries.

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