In a recent interview, the Chechen leader, a close Kremlin ally, said, “Georgia, South Ossetia, Ukraine—all this will go on and on. This is a private disease in Russia. Why do we must always suffer if we can eliminate this problem? We are a great country; we have it all, military technology. We must attack.”
Words aside, it is clear that the victory of pro-Russia Yanukovich is seen by many as a move towards Ukraine’s subordination to the Russian Federation. This is especially the case among Ukrainian nationalists and the country’s political opposition who are clearly irritated by the presence of a hawk like Kadyrov.
Indeed, Medvedev’s visit marks a rather quick readjustment in bilateral Russian-Ukrainian relations following the replacement of pro-Western Yushenko by Yanukovich.
Although no energy deal is scheduled for this visit, the attention of the international community will focus on how the two countries deal with gas, mergers and new projects like the South Stream pipeline, areas in which the gap between the two sides was rapidly narrowed.
At the same time, Ukraine wants to be Russia’s partner, not its subordinate. President Yanukovich has excluded for now a proposal to merge Russia’s Gazprom with Ukraine’s Naftogaz (as suggested by Russian Prime Minister Putin), suggesting instead a consortium with Russia and the European Union to upgrade Ukraine’s pipelines.
Yet the merger idea is not dead. Indeed, Moscow is not likely to accommodate the Ukrainian leader. Gazprom has in fact reiterated its support for the South Stream pipeline (which bypasses the Ukraine), and any improvement in Ukrainian pipelines will not change the mind of the Russian energy giant.
In the end, the efforts by the new Ukrainian administration to show the European Union and its domestic opposition that closer ties with Moscow are not that important, many people think that a change of course has already been made.