Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Ukrainian System of Government:
Presidential Representative Democratic Republic

In Ukraine executive power is exercised by the Cabinet and legislative power is vested in the Parliament (Verkhovna Rada). One scholar has described Ukraine's political system as "weak, fractured, highly personal and ideologically vacuous while the judiciary and media fail to hold politicians to account." A former Ukrainian President was allegedly poisoned during the 2004 Presidential election (though, perhaps tellingly, whether the poisoning even occurred has been a subject of great dispute among his associates) and a former Prime Minister was convicted and jailed after leaving office, allegedly due to political motives by her enemies.

Ukrainian politics has also been categorized as "over-centralised"; this is both a legacy of the Soviet system and resulting from fears of separatism ("Ukraine" means "borderland," and the south and east of the country lean towards the East and Russia while the rest of the country leans towards the West).

Click here for List of Ukrainian Political Parties

In late 2013, large-scale protests against the Ukrainian government were sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to abandon plans to sign an association agreement with the European Union and instead strike a deal with neighboring Russia. The deal included a $15 billion bailout of the Ukrainian government (which was on the verge of bankruptcy) and sharp cuts in natural gas prices (Ukraine and many other European countries depend on Russian gas).

The Presidents of both Ukraine and Russia downplayed the prospect of Ukraine joining the Moscow-dominated Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia (seen by the US and others as an attempt to reestablish Russian domination of the former Soviet Union), but early 2014 protests in Ukraine were large and strong enough to prompt an offer of the post of Prime Minster to the opposition (among other concessions).

That offer by Yanukovych was promptly and roundly rejected, and the conflict continued to escalate, leading to the downfall of Yanukovych and the setting up of a new government within a few days. Yanukovych fled to Russia, and is wanted in Ukraine for the killing of protesters.

Meanwhile, Russia has occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula (part of Russia until "gifted" to Ukraine during Soviet rule), and a Russian-orchestrated March 2014 referendum in that territory to join the Russian Federation reportedly passed with more than 95% of the vote...



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