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Power Grab

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March 12, 2010, 12:04 a.m. | Ukraine — by John Marone

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, right, greets Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in parliament on March 11.
© AP

After a quick March 11 parliamentary session, the president is in charge of nearly everything now. After changing the rules in what critics call an unconstitutional way, President Viktor Yanukovych moved fast to control government. He has a 235-member ruling majority in parliament, a loyal prime minister and control of other powerful posts. Is this good or bad for the nation? Goodbye, gridlock government. Hello, steamroller government.

Viktor Yanukovych needed little more than two weeks in power to consolidate control over parliament, get his top choice as prime minister and to assemble a new Cabinet of Ministers – albeit in a manner critics called unconstitutional.

There’s nary an oppositionist in the bunch, which looks like a reunion of aides from former President Leonid Kuchma’s corrupt, authoritarian reign from 1994-2005.

Those opposed are relegated to backbenchers in the 450-member Verhkovna Rada. A safe majority of 235 members are now Yanukovych allies – a collection of his Party of Regions, the Communist Party and the bloc of parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn.

To put them over the top, these three parties recruited 16 deputies from other factions to form the ruling coalition that promptly approved longtime Yanukovych ally and technocrat Mykola Azarov as prime minister.

The investor reaction was instant and positive: Ukrainian markets surged in expectation of a new era of political stability sorely lacking under Western crusader Viktor Yushchenko, the former president whose chaotic five-year term kept him from being re-elected.

In fact, the new ruling majority in parliament is called the Reform and Stability Coalition.

How much of either the new government delivers is an open question.

Azarov, known as a firm proponent of closer economic integration with Russia, also had a reputation as Kuchma’s hatchet man when he headed the State Tax Administration.

Adherence to constitutional niceties doesn’t appear to be high on the list of priorities for the new government.

Yanukovych’s triumph on March 11 was made possible after the new president – inaugurated only on Feb. 25 – signed a law allowing him to form a coalition by recruiting individual lawmakers. Never mind, apparently, that the Constitution stipulates that ruling majorities can be formed only from entire political factions, not individuals.

Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost the Feb. 7 presidential runoff by 3.5 percent, called the move “unconstitutional.” In a YouTube video posted on her website, Tymoshenko said: “There will be an illegal coalition, an illegal cabinet and there will be no legitimate authority in Ukraine. It is a pity Yanukovych has chosen to begin his presidency this way.”

Both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych have asked the country’s highly discredited Constitutional Court to rule on the legitimacy of the new coalition.

Political analyst Kost Bondarenko, director of the Gorshenin Institute in Kyiv, said no ruling by the Constitutional Court could turn back the clock. “By the time the court gets around to the issue, the new prime minister and coalition will be firmly in place,” Bondarenko said.

Legal experts have questioned the independence and competence of the Constitutional Court since it agreed in 2004 that Kuchma was eligible to run for a third term. The court’s reputation was further damaged in 2007, when Yushchenko fired four of the 18 justices for questioning his right to disband parliament and call snap elections.

Law enforcement authorities at the time investigated at least one of the justices, Suzanna Stanik, on corruption allegations. The lack of respect for the Constitutional Court is symptomatic of a judicial system that is widely seen as dispensing rulings and verdicts for hire – or in deference to ruling politicians.

By that score, Yanukovych should have few legal troubles. Moreover, the new president controls all the powerful law enforcement bodies – the prosecutor’s office, the Interior Ministry and the State Security Service or SBU.

Additionally, the Party of Regions led by Azarov has recently increased its influence with members of the Constitutional Court, according to Serhiy Taran, director of the International Democracy Institute.

“Yanukovych and Azarov are obviously hoping for a watered down ruling from the court legitimizing what they’ve done,” Taran said.

Vadym Karasiov, head of the Global Strategies Institute, said: “The president seeks to recreate a strong from-top-to-down system of government” last seen when Kuchma was president, “instead of ruling by forming consensus” between political and business elites.

So if democracy advocates and rule-of-law junkies are dismayed by the political turn of events, Ukraine’s financial markets have taken a more sanguine view. A mini-bull market is under way.

“Ukrainian equity and bond prices have risen sharply over the past week, continuing their post-presidential elections rally fueled by investor expectations about a quick transition of power to the new administration that culminated in the appointment of a new government on March 11, or a mere two weeks after Viktor Yanukovych was inaugurated as president,” reads a report by Kyiv-based investment bank Dragon Capital.

The Kyiv Post-Dragon index, which tracks the performance of Ukraine’s 20 most liquid stocks, has risen almost 31 percent since the second round of the elections on Feb. 7 and surged 48 percent since the beginning of the year, reaching its highest level since September 2008, according to Dragon.

Ukrainian sovereign Eurobond yields, which move inversely to prices, have dropped to below 8 percent from as high as 15 percent at the end of 2009, with the shorter-term sovereign bonds maturing in 2011 and 2013 trading near their par level for the first time in years.

“Meanwhile, rating agency Fitch Ratings said Ukraine might see its credit ratings upgraded in the second half of 2010 if a parliamentary majority behind President Viktor Yanukovych passed a realistic budget and agrees it with the International Monetary Fund in order to resume the fund’s lending program,” the report continues.

Azarov made cooperation with the IMF and passage of a workable 2010 budget his priorities. “2010 will be a year of stabilization,” he pledged.

Peter Vanhecke, chief executive officer for Renaissance Capital in Ukraine, Belarus and Central and Eastern Europe, said the market is betting on the kind of stability that cooperation among parliament, the cabinet and the presidency – as well as better relations between Russia and Ukraine – will bring.

“Most of the steps that have been taken are what people before would have seen as the best possible scenario – formation of a new government without elections and a new president with an aligned government,” Vanhecke said.

As for the constitutionally questionable means used by Yanukovych to create this scenario, Vanhecke doesn’t foresee any waves from the market.

“Politically, there are some questions about the method used to establish this coalition. [But] I think that the market and European observers are willing to turn a blind eye, because the overriding aim is stability. If it’s not too blatant in violation of too many rules, it’s probably something that people will accept. Most outside observers always felt that Ukraine’s constitutional system had too many flaws anyway,” he said.

On the other hand, serious concerns remain, even among investors.

“Stability is kind of the bandage that covers the wound, but does not heal the underlying disease. They need to improve the economic environment, re-engage with the IMF and adopt a lot of unpopular but necessary reforms,” Vanhecke said.

In addition to Soviet vintage Azarov, the new government is also heavily dominated by Yanukovych’s millionaire-billionaire backers, or their close representatives. It includes Deputy Prime Minister Borys Kolesnikov, close to Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov; Energy Minister Yury Boyko, who is close to controversial billionaire Dmytro Firtash (co-owner of former natural gas importer RosUkrEnergo), and media mogul-turned-spy chief Valery Khoroshkovsky.

Despite their Kuchma-era experience, they have a lot to prove.

“The big question is do they have the political will to do so. I am relatively hopeful and a sign that brings hope is that reformer Sergiy Tigipko has accepted a government position [as deputy prime minister],” Vanhecke said.


Kyiv Post staff writers John Marone and Peter Byrne can be reached at marone@kyivpost.comand byrne@kyivpost.com.
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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 12:36 a.m.    

"I am relatively hopeful and a sign that brings hope is that reformer Sergiy Tigipko has accepted a government position" [as deputy

More likely he's just no reformer and as corrupt as the rest of the government that he's no accepted a position in despite the way it was set up.

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 12:40 a.m.    

'rule-of-law junkies&quot;

Is that what you think about the rule of law - something like cocaine or heroine? Better get weaned off it?

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 12:57 a.m.    

I'm curious about the photo. I thought Women's Day was March 8th?

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 2:11 a.m.    

Is this the face of a new dictator? Hope he has smart backers as he isn't smart enough himself!!

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 2:55 a.m.    

Imbeciles as a matter of course will remain imbeciles. The dictator does not have to be smart. He probably does not even realise that he is a dictator. Akhmetov and the Donetsk mafia will tell the little president what to do. America's Bush has been replaced by a puppet version equivalent in Ukraine. The only problem is that in America the voters could eventually vote him out democratically. In Ukraine the politics are changing so that you will not be able to throw him out. The politics of corruption!!

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 5:27 a.m.    

Unfortunately there is a lot of truth in what you say.

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 5:47 a.m.    

Pity the Ukrainian people who will have to suffer once again.

May God help you !

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 2:18 a.m.    

ukraine now run by a dictator. enough said.

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 2:49 a.m.    

Stupid voters have now got themselves the devil they deserve. As far as eastern Ukraine is concerned they have never been able to think for themselves. The media has always shown only one side of the story. Now the west will find out the hard way what soviet style repression, taking away free speech, eliminating unfriendly journalists, closing down unfriendly newspapers, replacing heads of government organisations with Russian lackeys from Donetsk. Yes Ukrainians... the path to Russian autocracy is coming your way

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 3:48 a.m.    

The presidential system has and will continue to fail Ukraine. Previously they claimed that the president had no power when in fact the present has way too much power.

Whist I believe that the current governing coalition is unconstitutional and that the Constitutional Court will have no alternative but to rule against the formation of the new government, Yanukovych and his Party have bought time to put in place a number of actions and policies. If the government is later declared unconstitutional then this will work in Yanukovych favour.

Yanukovych has acted quickly and with precision. His actions are calculated and designed well in advance and Yushchenko team have played an important role in it all.

Yanukovych government will be successful in that the president will not be seeking to undermine the government by misusing and abusing presidential authority as Yushchenko did.

The notion of forming a Government with a majority of the Parliaments support versus the Imperative mandate provisions is difficult to explain or justify.

He will also have a valid argument to implement constitutional reform removing the so called imperative mandate provisions which were always going to be a problem. (See the Venice Commission report on Ukraine's Imperative Mandate)

Fresh parliamentary elections will only deliver him more power and legitimacy. Party of regions will consolidate its mandate whilst the opposition and in particular Our Ukraine will lose support and the upper hand.

We can expect that contingency plans are in place for a possible October Parliamentary election. in which case Tigipko will end u0p holding the balance of power and will be in a position to join Party of Regions in a even stronger coalition government the only limitation being he still does not have enough support to amend the Constitution.

Ideally Ukraine should act to remove power for the president and install a full parliamentary system of governance in line with other European states. Sadly this opportunity may have also been lost.

I expect Yanukoych will be inn for the long term and will be reelected for a second term of office. Only time will tell if this is for the good of Ukraine. I doubt he could be as bad as Yushchenko, who would have to be the worst president in Ukraine's history. bets option still is to remove the president form power and reform the parliament making it more accountable, democratic and representative.

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 5:04 p.m.    

Wake up dreamer! We are now in the hands of criminals and things will only get worse!The devil has finally arrived!

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 5:29 a.m.    

I wonder what the people who were saying that Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych were all the same and failed to go to vote are thinking now?

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 7:06 a.m.    

They are the biomass that constitutes ignorant voters all around the world. It is always sad to see so many wasted votes and even in countries where voting is compulsory you have the dead meat floating into polling booths just to get their name signed off. Let's face it every country has its percentage (sometimes very large) of inert bodies which contribute nothing to the democratic process if and when it exists

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 7:01 a.m.    

He should make the fool Yushchenko Hero of (his) Ukraine

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 10:16 a.m.    

back to Kuchma time! Masoch was really born in Ukraine: Kievians have elected twice Kosmos and Ukrainians choosed again corruption and oligarch power!

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 10:21 a.m.    

Please. You diaspora people are simply idiots and Russophobic. Get a life you stupid nimrods!

IF anyhing is going to get done in Ukraine, UNLIKE THE PAST 5 YEARS, then its best to have a loyal group around you. What's the difference when in USA, the party controlling the White House also controls Congress?

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 11:23 a.m.    

It does not make any difference for Ukraine who is in charge.

If all power belongs to one group it just makes it easier for them to loot the country.

The difference to the USA or other western nations is that in the west polititians and big business steal 15% though corruption.

In Ukraine an Russia it is 75%.

Apart from 2 or 3 shiny main streets of big cities here people will not see any imporvement but continue living on 1960ies level.

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 8:15 p.m.    

but very very on the border

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 11:21 p.m.    

But still in Europe !

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 10:02 p.m.    

america had not seen any improvement eiter,

50 million people will lose their homes soon, can not pay mortgage, no jobs only minimum wage and only part time

the only improvements americans had seen is taxes and military spending going up, jobs going to asia and down the drain.

if russia, india, china stops lending america billions a month, the usa goes down, faster than the titanic,,,

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 11:18 a.m.    

Why always compare Ukraine to the USA? Europe is the continent Ukraine is situated in....

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 10:04 p.m.    

why america is attackin ukraine,,, ukraine wants to join euro, not american nato so america can force ukraine to attack russia

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 1:48 p.m.    

what about the fact that the usa government fly planes into their own buildings, implode the buildings with explosives, killing their own citizens and then blaming it on a bunch of cave-dwellers??? is it better that the ussr only because your government are better media-managers?????

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 10:36 p.m.    

I have a vested interest in ukraine as my girlfriend is from and still lives there. Personaly I think all politicians are a bunch of cheating, lying chumps but some are worse than others. Ukraine has spent to many centuries under oppresion from foreign powers and fully deserves to be a free and independent nation. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko may not have been the peoples choice but either one would have been better than this power hungry, kremlin backed, moskow yes man that has and will take you for a royal #*+@ing. I have been to Ukraine and I would love to come back but I can just about bank on the fact that yanukovych will bring back the soviet era or atleast make it feel that way. And besides who in there right minds would vote a former thief who served time in prison to a government position. I mean &quot; REALLY &quot; are you that desperate. Just like here in America, people wanted change and they got it, now they are really gonna get it, in the rear! And so will Ukraine!!!!!

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 5:12 p.m.    

Precisely what most foreigners visiting Ukraine would think. I too am visiting Ukraine and I really feel for the people who didn't vote for that Kremlin idiot! In an instant, Ukraine has turned back the clock 5 years to the Kuchma era.Powerful government posts are distributed between bandits and thieves,some of them have been forgiven for their past bad behaviours and their criminal cases dropped.I just heard today that progress made to eliminate corruption in the education system is under threat, the new minister wants to reverse it back to the old system where parents have to bribe teachers for their kids education.How sick is that! Those who thrive on the evils of corruption are laughing all the way to the bank!And those who voted for the devil can sit and rot for the next 5 years!!!

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 9:47 p.m.    

u wrote both comments and agreed with your stupidity,,

its sad hollywood turned u down but really give up on your novels of political satires as u have no talent.

all your reasonings are so obvious u r a fake pooper

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 10:59 a.m.    

Well as too many of your comments i might correct you that Yanukovych was also imprisoned for violence and sexual assult (it was rape but he married her to stop this) They have the power where with the former govenment os Yulia and co of the orange revolution they didnt have enough control and both where power hungry and seemed more intent on fighting each other than doing anything about the country and people there...Yanukovych is more biased towards Russia,,,maybe this could be a good thing,,,,a half way platform between russia and europe,,,do they need Nato a cold war defunct idea thats not really useful anymore,,,,,after all Nato was for the use of protection against the ussr by single states.....well the ussr doesnt exist anymore and Russia would now days prefer to let europe and co buy its products and its energy than mass military might on its borders....I visit Ukraine nearly once a month and have spent a lot of time there so can comment on it with insight and feelings I have many friends there including a fiancee. Most ordinary citizens do not hold out much hope for any politician making anything better for them they just hope they wont make it worse...As to the new ministers there seems an awful lot of them when a government is supposed to be streamlining and reducing costs,,,,especially deputies and such are they really needed...or is it returning to the grab grab grab all we can of the Kuchma era again as many of those now in power served under him...only time will tell...lets give him a chance to do what he says but watch him closely....

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 9:52 p.m.    

now tell us all the crimes u had done and magnify them as much as u had done to januk..

then again, a pimp like u has no morals, what would u know abouut crime, when protecting a fascist regime that kills and mames over ttwo million iraqis?

get off your cocaine dose and start investigating yourself

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 1:45 p.m.    

Jimmy, just wait until you find out that your 'girlfriend' is screwing around with other guys 'while she is still in ukraine', you will quickly change your tune. such a freakin' sucker!!

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 9:49 p.m.    

jimmy has no ukrainian girlfriend but an american boyfriend

and ths comment of yours is by jimmy the fibby as well

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Anonymous March 15, 2010, 4:05 p.m.    

Idiots gets personal when the truth is exposed. Tell them more Jimmy, and let the fools choke themselves!!!

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Anonymous March 12, 2010, 11:20 p.m.    

Well said Jimmy.

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Anonymous March 13, 2010, 9:44 p.m.    

There could be no change in america as the whole political arena is centrally controlled, all players in both party sing from the same hym book.

In ukraine the change is tangible, as russia liberated Ukraine from the American occupiers..who staged a coup 5 years ago and got 5 % vote for their agent this time around, when the ballots were more closely watched.

u have a ukrainian girlfriend and both coutntries have corrupt politicians so ukraine should have stayed with the american coup puppet agents/////

u sound like u r reading from the cia handbook of propaganda machines...

none of your words have any credibility

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Anonymous March 14, 2010, 2:28 p.m.    

They all came foe the war in Georgia, Guest | Today at 12:29

About 30 years ago, the soviet Empire began to crumble, as its economy, and the ecomies of its alies, were no longer able and willing to supports its vast military force, so it run out of fuel, and stopped. The last eefort they had mage, trying to revive the military machine, was Afghanistan, where overwhelming american support from Pakistan Iran and Saudi Arabia, had dealt a death blow to the Soviet Military Might They had withdrawn from Eastern europe, and the deal with nato was, no nato forces will replace withdrawing Soviet/Warsaw Pact forces. America watched as its arch enemy crumbled wthout a fight, and got deflated like a huge bloon. Then the US decided to exploit the power vaccum, and went on a rampaging war, to declare itself the world's only super power.

The check and balance the Soviets had provided, was gone. europe was stunned, and it quickly wanted to defend itself from American dictatorship, by forming a common Union, and Military alliance, outside of Nato. The USA came to prevent that, by initiating a war in yugoslavia, to give it an excuse to keep its forces in Europe, to keep Europe under American threat and occupation.

The rest is history,,,Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a dozen other wars,, as a result of USA no longer had any visible balancing Power.

Then the USA attacked with Israel, Ukraine and Georgian forcs, the Russians, as Bush was desperate to test a weak Russia, and Isreal saw Russia, its only enemy and obstacle in taking over the entire west bank and gaza.

The joint attack on russia by the US and its odd allies, resulted in the first drastic crucial humiliation of the out of control USA military adventurism.

No longer did America looked like a world's only super power, but a deafeted inflated paper tiger.

The Georgian war revealed America's/Nato's alliances' reluctance to finance america's wars of insaity, and cracks on its military might began to appear very rapidly.

The defeat of US forces in Georgia was followed by a financial meltdown of the global economy,, no one can deny the end of America's rain as the only super power was quikly coming to an end.

It costed the US andd the world's economy $20 trillion dollars, to keep america's wars of insanity going,,,$20 trillion, and nothing to show for, except George Bush Jr had made $300 billion in oil money..whilt the netire world lost 0 trillion.

100 years ago America turned the light on in the world, wiith its industrial and technological innovations. The later generations with silver spoons in their mouth, were told to achieve it all via creative visulisations, and if that dont work, use agression, force, brutality, terror...

The US will go back to be a creative force in the world for progressive positive rsults, as it has a good track record of doing that.

In case of Iran, we have heard the same nonsence from Israel over Ieaq. that was an entrapment by Israel, to discredit the west.

Israel must be brought to compliance with modern International standards and norms, and disarmed to prevent it from continuing terrorizing and inflicting holocaust on its neighbours.

Israel pauses much more danger to the world than Iran does. Iran had not attacked any nation n the last 30 years, but Israel had not have a year, without comitting war or war crimes..in the last 30 years..

The people of Isreal wants peace, better working conditions, better wages, not simply a goverment who can only produce wars after wars.

In Ukraine, the the imperialistic expansionism of America ends....

The USA must use all its agents, energy, cia, fbi, irs, and what have you, to improve the standards of living of the american people, and not simply oppress them, suspending their human rights and use them as guilty tax payers, as it had been the case since the Soviet Union fell.

The world wants a strong Russian empire, as it lived a lot better, richer, finer life, when Russia was providing a check, so America will not turn out to be another Hitler,,,

In this, Ukraine is an important contributor to the world's peace!!!

Link Answer Flag

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Anonymous March 15, 2010, 4:21 p.m.    

It's obvious that some mentally retarted Russian is trying to provoke trouble here.He's obviously making a fool of himself with his anti-American garbage. Believe me fool, all youre doing is showing the world how ugly you Russians are.Get real and start talking about real issues that needs to be dealt with. For instance, that little Hitler you call PUTIN!you know the idiot who wants to run the world? You Russians are fools, the world will never trust you!

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