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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 05:57 GMT
European press review

As the political crisis in Ukraine deepens with no sign of a compromise over the disputed election, editorial columns across the continent are focused on what the turn of events mean for Europe and what EU leaders should say to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the EU-Russia summit on Thursday.

Whereas many Western European papers are critical of Moscow's stance, sympathy for the opposition in Ukraine is evident in some Russian commentaries.

Standoff over Ukraine?

As Russian and European leaders prepare to meet in The Hague for the EU-Russia summit, the leading French daily Le Monde says that Europe "could well have done without this new bone of contention" with Russia.

The possible destabilization of Ukraine could compromise the ever-deteriorating relationship between Russia and the EU
El Pais

"The European Union," it warns, "risks finding itself facing a choice it would like to avoid: Should it nurture its relationship with Moscow or support democracy in Kiev?"

"The possible destabilisation of Ukraine," Spain's El Pais says, "could terminally compromise the ever-deteriorating relationship" between Russia and the European Union.

"Despite their need for one another," the paper says, "there is growing distrust between Moscow and Brussels..."

"The peaceful resolution of the crisis", it concludes, "must include the recognition that you cannot impose a fraudulently elected president on a nation".

Back in France, a commentary in Le Nouvel Observateur likens the mass protests in Ukraine to last year's "Rose Revolution" in Georgia and Prague's "velvet" variety of 1989.

If the Ukrainian democracy movement presumes that America is a selfless friend then it is just as wrong as Yanukovych voters are about Putin
Frankfurter Rundschau

"But we are bound to fear," it warns, "that the West... may be in no hurry to rush to the aid of the Ukrainian democrats for fear of upsetting (Russian President) Vladimir Putin."

In Germany, the Frankfurter Rundschau argues both Russia and America are trying to use divisions in Ukraine for their own ends.

It believes that Washington's interest in Ukraine must be seen in the context of a bid to limit Russia's influence.

"If the Ukrainian democracy movement presumes that America is a selfless friend," the paper says, "then it is just as wrong as Yanukovych voters are about Putin."

It warns that the confrontation "flaring up" between the United States and Russia is dangerous for the whole of Europe.

In the Czech Republic Pravo highlights the outside world's stakes in the crisis with the headline, "Fraught nerves over Ukraine".

The paper notes Vladimir Putin's unease about the support from abroad for the Ukrainian opposition, which, in the paper's opinion, the Russian president seems to see "as yet another attempt to contain Russia, especially after the Baltic countries joined Nato".

Suggestions for a resolution

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung says the official election result cannot be allowed to stand.

"There must be a recount or, even better, the presidential election should be repeated."

There can be no alternative to a review of the election, a recount and, if appropriate, a repetition
Der Standard

It argues that otherwise neither Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych nor opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko would have the required legitimacy.

Ukraine, it argues, "needs a president who builds bridges - and with whom everybody can live".

In Austria, Der Standard agrees that "there can be no alternative to a review of the election, a recount and, if appropriate, a repetition".

Has Gerhard Schroeder got an orange tie? If so, today is the day when he should wear it
Der Tagesspiegel

"The power struggle in the Ukraine after last Sunday's presidential election, which was obviously manipulated, is a European issue and an issue which concerns the future of US-Russian relations," it asserts.

Germany's Der Tagesspiegel proposes a sartorial protest.

The paper urges Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to use the Ukrainian opposition's colour, orange, to convey his views to the Russian president on the occasion of the EU-Russia summit.

"Has Gerhard Schroeder got an orange tie? If so, today is the day when he should wear it."

As the paper sees it, President Putin is defending fraud. "Schroeder must not go along with this, nor must he defend or quietly tolerate it," it urges.

In Ukraine itself

A commentary in Kiev's Den argues that "the very fact that, despite the social tension, not a single drop of blood has been shed... is proof that a revolution has happened in Ukraine".

"It is a revolution in the minds of the people, who have realized that democracy is in their hands" and that they are "the source and the driving force of the civil society being built in this country".

"What we are seeing in Kiev now," another commentary in the same daily declares, "is the venting of feelings of civic humiliation and popular distrust of the authorities accumulated over decades."

"Parliament failed to adopt any decision on the post-election situation the day before yesterday," Ukrayina Moloda notes.

"Thus, just as opposition representatives stated yesterday, the only source of power in this case is the people."

The view from Russia

The protest movement in Ukraine is not without sympathy in Russia.

Well done, Ukrainians! We have nothing to teach you
Nezavisimaya Gazeta commentary

In Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a commentary says that Ukrainian society is "much more mature" than its Russian neighbour.

"One of the reasons is that Ukrainians... manage to do what Russians keep failing to achieve, which is to combine nationalism with the aspiration to freedom."

Whoever wins in Ukraine, Russia has already lost
Novaya Gazeta commentary

"Well done, Ukrainians!" the writer exclaims. "We have nothing to teach you."

A Novaya Gazeta commentary points out that Ukrainians, despite being "the butt of countless mean-spirited (Russian) jokes", are giving "the advanced Russians" an example of "supreme personal responsibility, when your individual quiet voice determines both your own future and that of your country".

"The Ukrainians have shown the Russians an example of real elections..."

Another writer in the same paper concludes that "Whoever wins in Ukraine, Russia has already lost".

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: a neo-Soviet remake

France's Liberation says that the events in Ukraine, if turned into a film, "would have Russian subtitles, a neo-Stalinist set design" and the title of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

The "Ugly", the paper explains, is outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, who protects "Bad" Yanukovych who "cheated at the polls", while "Good" Viktor Yushchenko "exposes the swindle and claims the hidden treasure (of power) for the good people who acclaim him".

"May we expect a happy ending?" it wonders, "a compromise to save the face of the Bad and the Ugly... while responding to the Ukrainians' aspirations to democracy?"

This "is looking increasingly unlikely", the paper fears, because "the man in Moscow is more fond of bad and ugly people than of democrats".

"Europe," it urges, "must make it clear to Putin this very day that if the Bad and the Ugly continue to misbehave, it will boycott his very poor neo-Soviet (movie) remake."

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.


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