By AMANDA PROSCIA
Capital News Service
LANSING — The victory of pro-European parties in the recent election in Ukraine is inspiring hope among Michigan’s Ukrainian residents that the country will eventually become a member of the European Union.
The Communist Party won’t have a seat in the new parliament for the first time since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.
“The results are a strong statement,” said Vera Andrushkiw of Troy and vice president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Although Andrushkiw said she’s pleased with the election outcome, she fears Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reaction in eastern Ukraine.
Her major worry is Russian troops invading Ukraine’s port of Mariupol, which would provide easier transit to Russian-occupied Crimea, Andrushkiw said.
She said that she hopes the major world powers will be more eager to help Ukraine in its conflict with Russia now that the election results demonstrate a pro-European attitude among the public.
Andrushkiw said that before Ukraine receives assistance from European countries, it has to reduce the high level of corruption within the country.
According to the EU, it granted Ukraine “preferred status” for trade in June, but becoming a member of the EU is a more complex procedure.
Myroslava Stefaniuk of Warren said she wishes Ukraine will become an “integral part of Europe” as the result of the historic election.
Stefaniuk said she was pleased with the results but wanted a larger margin of victory for the People’s Front party.
She also said that she hopes the results encourage military assistance to Ukraine because EU economic sanctions against Russia “are not enough.”
Both Andrushkiw and Stefaniuk came to the U.S. as children with their families after fleeing western Ukraine. They had spent several years in displaced persons camps before immigrating to the U.S.
Matthew Pauly , a history professor at Michigan State University specializing in Eastern European and Russian studies, said the election results “confirm a pro-EU orientation of the majority of the population in Ukraine.”
Although the results have inspired Ukrainian-Michigan residents, Pauly called it “unlikely that EU membership will be offered to Ukraine anytime soon” because of economic corruption and the uncertain situation in eastern Ukraine.
“Ukraine must still accomplish much to root out corruption and ensure rule of law before any accession to the EU will be considered,” Pauly said.
Although EU membership isn’t guaranteed or even anticipated at this point, Pauly said the important outcome of this election is that the Communist Party “does not have the right of a veto in this choice,” should it arise.
Pauly said that Putin will most likely “prop up the separatist governments in southeastern Ukraine to destabilize the new parliament,” justifying Andrushkiw’s fears.
The Russian government has announced plans to back the results of the Nov. 2 elections in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Both areas are separatist-controlled.
Andrushkiw, Stefaniuk and Pauly all credit Putin’s aggression in eastern Ukraine with causing pro-European support among the citizens.
Despite the political, economic and military uncertainties, Andrushkiw said she remains optimistic about Ukraine possibly becoming part of the EU, “slowly but surely, slowly but surely.”
By AMANDA PROSCIA