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You're reading: Hidden Europe Magazine: Ukraine deserves much more

Following the failed coup in Moscow a week earlier, the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev (effectively the parliament of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic) slipped quietly out of the Soviet fold on 24 August 1991. The declaration of independence was ratified in a referendum three months later.

Over the last twenty years, the Verkhovna Rada has hardly covered itself in glory, earning a reputation as one of Europe’s more unruly parliaments. Procedings have on several occasions degenerated into brawls, with parliamentary delegates having to be treated for injuries inflicted by rival factions.

Earlier this month, Yulia Tymoshenko, who has served two spells as Prime Minister of Ukraine, was arrested and she now languishes in prison. Tymoshenko was of course one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution in 2004, her distinctive braided hair and sharp political acumen symbolising a fresh start for a rapidly changing Ukraine. Political opponents of Tymoshenko now charge her with illegally agreeing a contract to purchase natural gas from Russia, the terms of which were hardly favourable to Ukraine. Her supporters say that this is no more than political payback time, as the men who ousted her from office last year now struggle to clip her political wings.

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