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Ukraine-Russia relations: Why Kiev made a dramatic U-turn back toward Moscow

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In March, Yanukovich quietly shut down a government commission that had been preparing the country for eventual membership in NATO, removing that controversial option from Ukraine's to-do list. Last month he met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and signed a deal to extend Moscow's lease on the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet is headquartered, for 25 years. In exchange, Ukraine will get a 30 percent discount on imported Russian gas.

Infuriated by the deal, Ukrainian opposition deputies hurled eggs and smoke bombs inside the parliament while thousands of protesters shouted their dismay in the streets outside. But a newly created and unexpectedly strong pro-Yanukovich coalition in the 450-seat parliament, known as the Supreme Rada, ensured the bargain was ratified by a healthy 10-vote margin.

And in the past week or so Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has fired off a series of dramatic military proposals. If accepted, they will reintegrate Ukrainian and Russian elements of the former Soviet military-industrial economy that were sundered two decades ago by the Soviet collapse – including the nuclear power establishment, the aviation industry, and Mr. Putin's personal favorite: energy pipeline networks.

Opposition decries 'totalitarian merger'

Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost the presidential polls narrowly to Yanukovich, told the Russian newspaper Kommersant this week that the moves are part of a Putin-authored plan to "liquidate Ukraine."

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