UKRAINE’S President Viktor Yushchenko was engaged in desperate talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday in Kazakhstan trying to get a better deal for supplies of gas.
On Tuesday, the gas crisis in the Ukraine led to the Parliament sacking Yushchenko’s government of Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov. A vote of no confidence was supported by 250 parliamentary deputies, rejected by 50 and 103 did not take sides.
One of the largest groups of deputies to vote to sack the government was that of the ‘Party of the Regions’, headed by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich. In December 2004, he was ousted as the elected President through the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’, headed by Yushchenko, an intervention organised and funded by United States and European Union imperialists.
Following Tuesday’s vote, Ukraine has been thrown into a huge constitutional crisis, with no recognised legally legitimate government.
Under an agreement reached during the crisis provoked by Yushchenko’s ‘Orange’ coup, it was agreed that Parliament would have increasing powers, with the President losing the right to appoint the government and Parliament gaining the right to dismiss it. But, at present, nobody can appoint a new government. This came into effect on January 1, 2006.
What sparked the no confidence vote in Parliament was the deal reached between Russia’s Gazprom company and Yushchenko’s government, after gas supplies were cut off at the beginning of the year.
At the end of last year, Gazprom, with the backing of Putin, demanded that the Ukraine pay the same price for gas as the EU. This meant an increase in price from $50 per thousand cubic metres to $230. Yushchenko’s government refused to pay the increase and Gazprom cut off supplies.
After the gas cut-off, an agreement was reached between the Ukrainian government and Gazprom that $230 would be paid for Russian gas, but that it would be supplied by an intermediary company which would mix it with cheaper gas from Central Asian republics and Ukraine would be charged $95.
What enraged parliamentary deputies was that the details of the deal were shrouded in secrecy and it emerged that the gas price agreement only lasted six months and the price is not fixed after that.
These economic, constitutional and political crises of the ‘Orange’ regime have come together forcing a further disintegration of this pro-imperialist coalition, headed by Yushchenko, who came out of the right-wing of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy.
When he came to power, in December 2004, Yushchenko boasted that he would privatise large chunks of the Ukrainian economy and seek membership of the EU and NATO. Yet in the recent gas crisis, the US and EU did nothing and yesterday Yushchenko was closeted with Putin in a desperate attempt to maintain Ukraine’s cheap gas supplies from Russia.
The counter-revolutionary ‘Orange’ regime is breaking up.
On the one hand, it is being smashed up by the resistance of the working class to rocketing prices and the activities of corrupt capitalist oligarchs, spawned by the Stalinist bureaucracy.
On the other hand, it is being hit by the continuing strength of decisive elements of the nationalised and integrated economy of the Soviet Union, ushered in by the October Revolution of 1917.
Under these conditions the Ukrainian working class, particularly the big battalions of workers in the east and south of the country, are mobilising for the March election to inflict a defeat of Yushchenko’s ‘Our Ukraine’ and all the fragments of the ‘Orange’ coalition.
Yanukovich’s ‘Party of the Regions’ is expected to gain increased support in the general election, especially since he is seen as an ally of Russia.
These are the conditions under which the Soviet section of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the Workers Revolutionary League, will continue to grow, having been in the forefront of the fight against the ‘Orange’ counter-revolution.
More and more workers will be turning to the WRL for leadership in the struggle for a political revolution to smash the Stalinist bureaucracy, expropriate the capitalist oligarchs it has sponsored and carry out the revolutionary re-constitution of the Soviet Union.