Ukraine is undergoing a major domestic political shakeup as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich reshuffles key political, economic and security figures and moves loyalists into important positions while attempting to balance the country’s powerful oligarch class. This shift is significant as it affects several major ongoing and interrelated trends in Ukraine — natural gas negotiations with Russia, the country’s wider economic situation and an attempted balance in foreign policy orientation between Russia and the West. These processes will only intensify as Yanukovich continues trying to consolidate his power base, especially with parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year.
Ukraine has undergone a major political shift in recent years, especially as it has transitioned from the Western-oriented administration of former President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in 2005 following the Orange Revolution and ruled for five years, to the current administration of President Viktor Yanukovich, who took office in 2010. Yanukovich has reversed many of the previous government’s pro-Western policies, most notably by making NATO membership for Ukraine illegal and extending the lease of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Ukrainian territory. But the most dramatic change in the country has been domestic, as chaotic and often paralyzed politics characterized by the struggle between Yushchenko and former Prime Minister (and presidential contender) Yulia Timoshenko have given way to a more consolidated and centralized presidency under Yanukovich.