Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Round Two

Demonstrators are on the steets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, as the country plunges into a constitutional crisis. But unlike the Orange Revolution that brought the pro-western Viktor Yushchenko to the presidency in 2004, this time it's supporters of his rival, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, who are angrily gathering to protest.

Mr Yanukovych has been spoiling for another fight ever since he finished as the loser from those heady days a little over two years ago. He's been steadily gaining more power as the coalition that brought Mr Yushchenko to power gradually splits apart, himself becoming prime minister. He's apparently been breaking the country's constitution by luring politicians over from Mr Yushchenko's side, which has prompted his rival to announce a snap election.

This Orange Revolution Round Two doesn't look like having much practical impact outside Ukraine's borders, or at least not yet. Were the country to become unstable and slip close to a civil war, then we might have cause to worry about the pipeline that takes energy from Russia through Ukraine to the EU, but there's no sign of things getting that bad. However, countries will be watching closely, with Russia hoping Mr Yanukovych emerges on top, and just about everyone else looking to Mr Yushchenko. In his struggle with the west for influence over the old Soviet bloc, Russia's Vladimir Putin would like all the important friends he can get.

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