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    Ukraine in Freefall One Year After Euromaidan: Political Experts

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    Political experts from Moscow and Kiev agree that Ukraine's prospects for economic self-sufficiency and cooperation with the West are blurry.

    MOSCOW, November 20 (Sputnik) — Ukraine's prospects for economic self-sufficiency and cooperation with the West are blurry one year after the start of the fateful protests on Kiev's central Maidan square, which pushed the country back by a century, political experts from Moscow and Kiev agree.

    "The ghost of Nazism used to walk around Europe, now it walks around Ukraine," Director General of the Centre for Political Information Alexei Mukhin told journalists on Thursday.

    "Ukraine is returning to where it was before 1917, it has gone back 100 years. It cannot rely on internal forces. The country that is aiming for the European Union and EU values is becoming radioactive. Working with it — for both Russian and Ukrainian partners — is becoming extremely difficult," he said.

    The first in the series of anti-government demonstrations demanding Ukraine's integration with Europe took place in the capital's Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, on November 21, 2013.

    One year later, the country has lost part of its territory – Crimea, a market for its goods – Russia, its budget reserves and thousands of people are still fighting in the southeast, and it still lacks social and territorial stability.

    "Maidan has brought oligarchs to power. The society doesn't seem to understand that they are not only losing social security, but also territory. Even Ukraine's supposed friends, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, are starting to voice claims over Ukrainian territories," Mukhin said.

    Ukraine's Western neighbors have expressed concern over their ethnic groups living on Ukraine's territory, but have not formally suggested returning those areas under their rule.

    Kiev uses gas issues for PR

    After Crimea separated from Ukraine and rejoined Russia in March and Ukraine's southeastern regions proclaimed their independence, Kiev launched a military operation to fight the independence supporters, leading to months of violent clashes and thousands of casualties.

    The country's economy began to falter as Moscow cut trade with Kiev, and Russia's gas exporter Gazprom switched to a prepayment system with Ukraine's state oil and gas company Naftogaz in June due to a debt that at the tie exceeded $5 billion.

    "Ukraine has moved much further [away] from Europe in the past year, and it has not come closer to Russia either…. The country is at war, the economy is falling into the abyss, the authorities are trying to save Naftogaz and force local companies to buy from it," said Konstantin Simonov, director of Russia's National Energy Security Fund.

    According to Simonov, Kiev's disagreement over gas prices with Russia was an ineffective publicity stunt.

    "Ukraine is always trying to refuse Russian gas, but that leaves towns without heat ahead of winter. It ends up using Russian gas, but instead of buying it directly from Russia at the border, it buys it from Norway, for example. That is a grandiose PR move, but has little effect for Ukraine," he said.

    Ukraine — a headache for Europe

    Kiev is yet to pay off the second tranche of $1.6 billion of its debt to Moscow by the year's end, but it has run out of money, even counting the funds provided by Europe, Simonov said.

    "The situation will be very difficult. If Ukraine does not resume Russian gas supplies, it will have to steal it. That would be a nasty situation," he said.

    "Ukraine is a headache for Europe at its border," Simonov added.

    With the failing economy, a nearly 100-percent currency devaluation, and a $10-billion drop in foreign investment in the past year, Ukraine has not benefited from the political changes of the past year, Ukrainian political analyst Oleksandr Okhrimenko said.

    He did not exclude an economic come back a year or two from now, however.

    "There is nothing to be proud of economically so far. The forex market has dropped to the levels of the '90s, we have to start anew. But faith in the future persists," Okhrimenko, president of the Ukrainian analytical center, said.

    "[Euromaidan] has not succeeded so far economically. But 2015 will be calmer, and 2016 will be even better. Then, we'll be able to say if Euromaidan has succeeded," he said.

    As disappointment persists among the general public, who expected an economic uplift right after Maidan, many Ukrainians are traveling to Europe in search of work, including to Poland, and potentially to Spain and Portugal. Europe has also been lending funds to Kiev, including for paying off the gas debt to Russia.

    Meanwhile, the country that previously relied on Russia as the main market for its machinery is now refocusing to actively develop its agriculture and establish trade ties with India, China and Egypt.

    But for Ukrainian political expert Viktor Pirozhenko, the move won't be enough to save Ukraine, where he said things will get worse before they get better.

    "Ukraine had the chance to become a strong country after the fall of the Soviet Union, the likes of European counties. But it is currently going in the opposite direction… There should not be any illusions about Ukraine, things will only get worse," Pirozhenko stated.

    Related:

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