Ukraine in Turmoil After Leaders Reject Major E.U. Deal

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from The New York Times,

For the second time in a decade, Ukraine is in turmoil, with tens of thousands of protesters in recent days loudly demanding that the country shake off its post-Soviet identity and move once and for all into the orbit of a more prosperous Europe.

They exploded in anger last week when their leaders, buckling under pressure from Moscow, said they would walk away from a deal that many here, especially the young, see as a vital step in escaping the clutches of the Kremlin and joining fellow ex-satellite countries of Eastern Europe on a path to modernization and greater wealth.

At stake here is not just the fate of a free-trade pact but whether the hardball tactics of Russia, willing to use every bit of economic muscle — including trade threats and its stranglehold on energy supplies — to exert blunt force in negotiations, will prevail over the national aspirations of millions of people.

The effort to draw in Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics is also crucial to Europe, which has invested heavily in it and can ill afford a humiliating defeat at a time when its stature is already being called into doubt by the continuing economic strains within the euro zone.

Calls for Europe to answer the Kremlin’s threats of retaliatory sanctions against Ukraine with sanctions against Russia are raising the prospect of a bitter trade war that could complicate numerous efforts by Western powers to cooperate with Russia on security matters.

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