Mon, May 07, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Ukraine faces disastrous own goal as Euro 2012 boycott looms

European leaders threaten to turn their backs on the prestigious soccer tournament over the treatment of Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko

By Luke Harding  /  The Guardian, KIEV

Speaking on Thursday, Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Oleg Voloshin accused Germany of adopting “Cold War tactics.”

“Our position is very simple. Euro 2012 is about football, not politics. It’s impossible to solve any political issues through boycotting sporting events,” he said.

Speaking on Thursday, Putin — who returns to the presidency today — echoed this sentiment.

“I think that under no circumstances should one mix politics, business and other issues with sports,” Putin said, according to Itar-Tass news agency.

Ultimately, though, the row is not about soccer, but Ukraine’s geopolitical destiny. Do its current rulers want to adopt European values? Or is the aim of Yanukovych, an old-school apparatchik hewn from tough Soviet clay, to create his own mini-version of Putinism? The second option is more tricky than it might seem, given that Ukraine is currently in the grip of a major economic crisis, lacks Russia’s abundant oil and gas reserves and is painfully dependent on foreign loans.

It is also a question about identity: Are Ukrainians central Europeans, like the Poles, or more closely aligned with Russians?

According to Haran, Ukraine was still doing pretty well, especially if you compared it with its dismal eastern neighbors. There was a lot to be proud of, he said.

“We are a democratic country compared to other post-Soviet states. We have no inter-ethnic conflicts and we’re the birthplace of Christianity in this part of the world,” he said.

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