Australian Outlook

Issues Brief

27 May 2014
Colin Chapman

Ukrainians have backed industrialist Petro Poroshenko to get their country out of the mess it is in, but the oligarch – affectionately known as ‘Mr Chocolate’ or ‘The Chocolate King’ – did not get the nationwide mandate he sought in order to unite the nation. That is because pro-Russian separatists severely disrupted voting in Ukraine’s south-eastern industrial heartland.

After he won a clear majority, avoiding a second round run-off, Poroshenko was asked whether he would first visit EU capitals or Moscow. He replied “to Donbass”, the name given to Ukraine’s industrial eastern region where armed militants have already seized government buildings and declared independence. The Financial Times reports that the militants have already surrounded the Donetsk home of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, and threatened to put him ‘on trial’.

Two other reports are worthy of note. Some reporting of last week’s $400 billion gas supply deal between Russia and China suggested that it would limit the impact of any sanctions on Russia and restrict the supply of Russian gas to Ukraine and the European Union. A cogent analysis by Agence France Presse disproves this, for several reasons, describing the deal as symbolic. Also interesting is that BP, which has been bruised by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, chose the date of the Ukraine election to confirm it would develop Russia’s shale reserves with state oil company, Rosneft, despite US sanctions.

Meanwhile Australia’s future king is facing an awkward moment when he encounters Putin at a meeting in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in WWII. The Prince of Wales reportedly compared Putin’s actions in Crimea with those of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Putin seems unfazed, mildly describing the prince’s action as ‘not royal’.

An Iranian billionaire has been executed in Tehran for his part in a $2.6 billion bank scam. And in China, a mining tycoon has been sentenced to death as leader of an organised crime syndicate.

European Parliament elections do not usually attract much international attention, but the recent outcomes leave many nervous as the extreme right seem to have been rewarded in several countries, while the UK Independence Party maintains its threat to Prime Minister David Cameron’s fragile coalition.