The most recent survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre, conducted from over 2,000 respondents in all regions of Ukraine between 29 September and 4 October, i.e. prior to the conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on 11 October, indicates that the approval rate of President Viktor Yanukovych is falling. Only 10% of those surveyed “fully support” his policies, compared to 14.3% for Tymoshenko, 11.9% for Arsenii Yatsenyuk, and 10.2% for boxing champion Vitalii Klychko (better known in the Western media as Vitali Klitschko). Other politicians are to be found even further down the list, including Serhii Tigipko and Anatolii Grytsenko with 5.8% each, Dmytro Tabachnyk at 2.6%, and former president Viktor Yushchenko at 1.5%.
Those who answered “I do not support” showed negative ratings for both Tymoshenko (56.7%) and Yanukovych (54.6%), as well as for Yushchenko (80.4%). Not a single figure had a high rating in “fully support” than in “do not support,” suggesting the disillusionment of the electorate with the current crop of leaders (Zerkalo Nedeli, 18 Oct). Another poll also shows that more residents of Ukraine prefer integration with the European Union than the Russian-led Customs Union, particularly in the western regions where 76.9% support Euro-integration compared to only 6.2% who favor joining the “Common Economic Space” with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Overall 43.7% of those polled support integration with the EU and 30.5% the Customs Union, both relatively high figures. Support for the former is highest among young people between 18 and 29, and lowest among those over 60. Those who favor the Customs Union offer a reverse generational demography, with backing highest among those over 50 and lowest among those 18-29 years of age (news.zn.ua, 25 Oct).
The behavior of the ruling administration continues to elicit concern both inside and outside Ukraine. Following the postponement of a scheduled visit of Yanukovych to Brussels, the European Parliament expressed regrets that the European Commission and Yanukovych would not have the chance to reestablish “a constructive dialogue” that could have resulted in an Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. The European Parliament “deplored” the sentencing of Tymoshenko to seven years in jail, noting that the law by which she was convicted dates back to Soviet times, and other laws do not conform to EU standards (Interfax Ukrainy, 27 Oct). The scheduled EU-Ukraine summit in December may deal with some of these issues. In general the EU response to the sentencing of Tymoshenko was relatively mild, perhaps because the Eastern Partnership group, which recently gathered in Warsaw, is preoccupied with the situation in neighboring Belarus, which was notably excluded from its decisions and about which a separate statement was issued by the Joint Declaration on 29-30 September (Council of the European Union, press release, 30 Sept).
However, little seems to improve as far as Ukraine’s ruling group is concerned. In late October, there appeared a report from Mariupol that employees of the giant Azovstal’ and the Illich Corporation, both of which are owned by tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, were being forced to take out membership in the Party of Regions. Employees were given two forms, one for membership in the PR and the other about payment of membership dues and asked to return the forms to the heads of their sections. Membership dues were said to be 1 UAH monthly for workers, 3 for engineers, 5 for senior foremen, and 10 for the head of the shop floor. Azovstal’ employs over 15,000 people, so the annual amount collected would be around 250,000 UAH annually, or double the budget of the Mariupol branch of the Party of Regions. Those who are reluctant to join could also be punished by deprivation of “bonuses” that account for as much as 40% of regular salaries. The report also indicated that those who were unwilling to join the PR and pay such dues could lose their jobs through reorganization of branches of the company. There were similar stories from Zaporizhzhya and Kharkiv, and in the latter city similar pressure was placed on students of the Skovoroda University (Ukrains’ka Pravda, Oct 26).