Crisis may open up revolutionary road for Ukraine

The credit crunch has left no corner of the globe untouched, but few places are suffering more than Ukraine, where the economy is on the brink. Some media describe the mood as pre-revolutionary.

Unemployment is growing fast while even the $16 billion loan from the IMF has not helped avert the slump.

Unlike other eastern European countries, Ukraine hasn’t got an EU lifeline.

The number of unemployed dramatically increased by 50 per cent in January alone. The country’s industry, and as a result, its exports, are suffering most.

“Industry has suffered immensely, and millions in towns which depend on work at factories are left without the means for survival,” said Yulia Tyshenko from the Centre of Independent Political Research.

New revolution ahead?

In recent months Ukraine has witnessed dozens of protests. Bakers, doctors, car owners – practically anyone you could think of has been on strike. People queued up in banks to demand easier loans.

Kiev’s famous Independence Square is again adorned with political slogans. One banners reads: “We’re against everyone”.

A rare scene for what used to be an epicentre of the Orange Revolution: there are no different political forces taking part in the protests – only ordinary people who are demanding a complete change in the political landscape in Ukraine.

“We want to inform other people and get them to participate in a mass act of civil protest,” explained Atylla Dovzhenko from Get Usih (Against Everyone). “One aimed at changing the political elite in the country. We hope to gather at least 30 000 people”.

United for loan

In November Kiev was granted a $16 billion loan by the IMF. Ukraine has already called for a quarter of it.

But when it asked for more the tranche was halted – according to the IMF, that was because of the political infighting between President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.

But according to Yulia Tyshenko, the IMF didn’t relate it directly to political instability.

“It said it was because the government didn’t pass the necessary legislation for the loan to be delivered. And generally speaking, the reason is constant tension between the president and the prime minister,” she said.

The two leaders started to show some solidarity when the talk of losing IMF help came up. Experts think the money may arrive sooner or later. But they still believe a default could be announced any moment even with the loan.