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

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Opposition leaders promise that when the Rada returns from its May Day recess next Monday, they will raise hell inside the parliament and on the streets. They warn that Ukraine's fragile democracy could follow the country's economy down the Russian path, and Yanukovich could create a Putin-style authoritarian regime in Kiev.

"This is a totalitarian merger of Russia and Ukraine, and it's all being decided behind closed doors with no public discussion," says Olga Bodnar, a parliamentary deputy with Ms. Tymoshenko's bloc. "What Yanukovich is doing does not coincide with the desires of the Ukrainian people; he is acting as if he were president of one part of the country and not the whole of Ukraine. When parliament reopens, you will see the opposition's response."

Moscow isn't surprised

In Moscow, where many people regarded Ukraine's pro-West fling under Mr. Yushchenko as a strange aberration from what they see as Ukraine's natural destiny within Russia's orbit, some analysts are predicting many more surprises to come.

"I think we are headed toward a full-fledged strategic union between Russia and Ukraine," says Kirill Frolov, a Ukraine expert with the Kremlin-backed Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. "Five years of anti-Russian propaganda [under Yushchenko] obviously had no effect on Ukraine's population, who clearly see their future together with Russia. There is only one explanation for why Yanukovich is able to accomplish these big changes so fast: he enjoys massive public support."

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