Thursday, May 31, 2007

Unexpected end to Tsushko's turbulent week..

This rather melodramatic story appeared in today's "Hazeta po Kiyevski".
As usual I've loosely translated or paraphrased portions:

"Minister of Internal Affairs Vasyl Tsushko, who was at the eye of the political storm at the Prosecutor-General's office last week, has had a heart attack. Rumors immediately circulated that the minister was poisoned by a substance which triggered the attack. Tsushko has told his attorney, Tatiana Montyan, that he himself believes this.

Apparently, on 26th May the Party of Regions issued a press release which warned about a plan of 'physical destruction' of Vasyl Tsushko. On 27 th May the minister's health sharply deteriorated and he was placed into the MIA hospital where his life was saved by 'timely surgical intervention'.

Why was there an attempt to hide all this from the media? Tatiana Montyan asserts that Tsushko hoped to somehow extracate himself from his predicament - and only yesterday, when his condition further deteriorated, did he agree to go public with this information.

Tsushko's untimely exit from the stage is advantageous to all participants in the political process; for the pro-presidential supporters, because the coalition is deprived of a trusty 'sylovyk' manager, for the coalition, because Tsushko has shown himself to be too independenty minded , and for the Socialists his demise provides pre-election PR about the [attempted] murder of an honest minister.

Tatiana Montyan said,"I spoke with him on Saturday at midnight... Then Tsushko rang again on Monday evening and said, "Tan'ka, greetings, I'm in the MIA hospital". I arrived there, and found him half-dead state - he could hardly speak. There was uninvited visitor in the ward - in the opinion of minister, he came just to check how soon Tsushko would die. Tsushko said that he felt terrible - and added that he was absolutely confident as to who his poisoner was. He gave me surname of this person - and said that if he did not survive, I should reveal the information about who poisoned him, but if he survives, then he will do this himself...

At Tuesday lunchtime I received a message from Tsushko's mobile 'phone with a request to comment on situation independently, at my own discretion, because he state was so serious that they forbade him even to talk. But yesterday in the morning I got an SMS message with the same content: "Think yourself what to do, I'm in bad shape"...
I warn the "friends of the poisoners" - I have already told my husband and lots of other people Tsushko's version of events, so to poison me too would be thoughtless. But I do not lose hope that he will be able to survive."

In December 2006, Tshusko told 'Gazeta po Kiyevski' that several years ago - when he was the governor of Odessa region - the Mafia mercilessly 'dealt with' his father-in-law. Moreover, just before the first arrival of the President Yushchenko in Odessa region in 2005, someone pulled up the monument on the grave of his father-in-law.

In the past year, exactly a month after the designation Tsushko as minister of internal affairs there were telephone threats to the life of his closest family, allegedly for the political activity of Vasyl Petrovych."

LEvko says Ukrainian politics does indeed often resemble 'buffoon-like brinkmanship'.
But there are sinister undercurrents not far under the surface. Any number of unexplained deaths and assassination attempts on highly placed politicians and businessmen over the last decade and a half [including that of a former Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Kravchenko who committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head in March 2005] give citizens a queasy feeling, suggesting stories like the one above cannot be completely discounted..

Update: Tetyana Montyan repeated in a TV broadcast that: "He [Tsushko] knows who poisoned him and why."

She will "reveal this version" if he does not live," adding, "He was half-dead on Monday. I saw him with my own eyes." A possible poisoning is being investigated.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Will 151 deputies give up their seat in VR?

Yuliya Tymoshenko today accused the ruling coalition of earmarking $120m to buy-off opposition deputies in order that they do not tear up their VR mandates.

If a sufficient number of BYuT and NU opposition deputies do not follow their party leaders' orders to give up their mandates, Yushchenko will not be able to call for fresh elections on September 30th, as agreed with Yanukovych early Sunday morning.

The VR cannot constitutionally function if less than 2/3 of deputies, i.e. 300 deputies hold a mandate.

When asked by journalists, both Tymoshenko, and NU head Vyacheslav Kyrylenko claimed they do have sufficient declarations signed by their respective deputies to exceed the 151 figure, but LEvko thought their replies did not ring absolutely true.

As usual, Tymoshenko did not provide a shred of evidence for her assertion that: "Today they have issued $120m from their budget, which is being offered to those deputies who have written a declaration on giving up their mandate, in order they take them back."

A gloating PoR deputy, Vasyl Hrytsak teased, "If they ask us kindly, then we will help them and find 30 - 40 PoR so that they [the opposition] go from parliament. If they don't want to work, but don't have the 151 votes, we will find them these votes. I know why they have a problem: a place on the BYuT list cost $5-7m, but this was for five years...Some deputies are demanding a refund, and only then will they leave the fraction."

LEvko suspects there is some arm-twisting going on right now..
Could all turn out to be a 'pshik'..

Monday, May 28, 2007

Is the crisis really over?

A commenter asks, "Is the crisis really over?"

An article in 'Ukr. Pravda' exposes some of the problems that the Ukraine now face in order to extricate themselves from the current political crisis.

151+ deputies have to tear up their VR mandates for matters to proceed [see previous posting] This is not be so straightforward because deputies who may not appear on any new election lists would be reluctant to do such a thing. This mechanism could now be used in future by any disgruntled opposition, of whatever colour, as blackmail to dissolve parliament - obviously not a good thing.

The article outlines a scenario for resolution of the crisis:

29th May Yushchenko cancels his ukaz[s] dissolving the VR.

The opposition returns to the VR and supports the passing of necesary new laws. NU and BYuT then stage party conferences annulling their VR mandates, on 30th May.

After this it will be necessary to adhere to the current constitution whereby the president has to issue another ukaz on fresh elections at least 60 days before they are to take place, i.e. this 3rd ukaz has to be issued by 2nd August.

In other words for the period July-August politicians could well be in a state of limbo, waiting for the pres to call fresh elections - and much could happen to disrupt the smooth sequence of planned events. Non signatories to yesterday's agreements could well figure in any disruptive acts.

A case in point is the uncertainty over who is the Prosecutor-General. The president says it's now Shemchuk. The coalition are sticking with Piskun. [who now says that he is leaving PoR]

There are problems with three Constitutional Court judges who Yushchenko 'dismissed' and over whom charges of alleged corruption hang heavy.

And Yushchenko wants to punish Minister of Interal Affairs Tsushko for leading Friday's clumsy raid on the Prosecutor-General's office. The president's recent utterances indicate he considers this a matter of some gravity..

LEvko thinks 30th September elections can be by no means guaranteed.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Text of agreement on early VR elections

President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and Speaker Oleksandr Moroz on Sunday morning signed their joint statement to defuse Ukraine's political crisis.

Full text in English here.

BBC Ukrainian make an interesting point:

The joint statement includes this: "The sides have agreed to....3. accept that this election will be held to implement the President’s decree based on paragraph 2 of article 82 of the Constitution of Ukraine"

Paragraph 2 article 82 says: "The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is competent on the condition that no less than two-thirds of its constitutional composition has been elected."

In the president's April 2nd ukaz #264 dismissing the VR, article 82 was not mentioned at all. Nor was it mentioned in subsequent ukaz #355. So it looks as if the PM and VR speaker have not recognised the grounds stated in the president's ukazes as being sufficient for early elections to be called.

151+ VR [opposition?] deputies have now to rip up their mandates..something they could have done many weeks ago, thus avoiding many of the problems of the last few weeks..

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Piskun deal

I can’t believe the bad decisions coming from Yuschenko and his office. I don’t know if it’s his own counsel he keeps or if he is getting advice from somewhere else, but that whole Piskun problem shows an amazing ability to create a major issue out of what really is a minor deal.

It looks to me like Yuschenko wanted Piskun out so he could get someone in to investigate the Constitutional Court judges for corruption. That would nullify any decision they might make not in his favor. Get someone in and take care of the judges. Easy work. Piskun wouldn’t do it though so Piskun is out. But Piskun would never have done it so it was only very narrow thinking that put him in as PG in the first place. Bad, bad, bad decision there, very bad. I wonder what little short term benefit, what ten minute tactical advantage resulted from that little jewel?

Yanukovych may be wondering how bad it looks for the Berkut to be storming public offices but it looked to me on TV as if the forces of light were trying to stave off a play for power by the President and his crew. And I am a naïve supporter of his, one maybe of the last. Piskun was sacked as LEvko noted with a pretty weak argument by the president’s man. It was a technical argument: Piskun failed to resign his position.

Piskun’s response, delivered on the spot on TV? “I did resign!” Who wins here? Piskun. He was forceful and energetic and looked sufficiently surprised. The president’s man looked like a functionary and the argument was just too technical for words. It came over with the same force that coming and saying he should have signed his name in black ink would have done.

The president’s follow up? He made the same technical argument for dismissal. He added though ominously that there were people trying to seize power and they no doubt are but that is the same argument Yanuk and Co. have been making. How would the people choose between the two?

Yank and Co. just look more credible here. They make the argument that there is a seizure of power going on and Yuschenko obliges by firing the PG because he didn’t sign the right form. It looks like a play for power starting with the PG. And if his opponents link it up to the Constitutional Court, saying that he wants to find someone who will take members of that court down, then a lot of people will be in favor of sending the Berkut to a lot of other places than the PG’s office. Maybe even, disastrously, to Bankova Street. (President’s offices.)

It’s just so badly handled by the president and his staff, so very badly handled. He should have done what he has failed to do his whole presidency: make the case for it. If Piskun was not doing his job, the president should make the case for dismissal based on that. It would help if it were tied into the constitution to give it some heft and to make his position consistent, but he should have made the case on those grounds. He either thinks that the rightness of a thing is obvious to all who see it or he is just another Ukrainian political functionary who doesn’t have to explain nuttin’ to nobody. I prefer the first but entertain the second as a possibility.

And what would have been hurt if he had ignored Piskun? PG have a tendency to not do anything anyway about what goes on here. Why not just ignore him and make his case with what he has? He could take on any decision of the court with what he has now, a lot of allegations about corruption among the judges. To want the PG to take on the CC is too much of a shortcut.

But this has been the story of his presidency. So many bungled or missed opportunities; so much involvement in small things that the big ones come around and bite him. He needs better advice or a willingness to take it or both.

Yanukovych, on the other hand, has had very good advice and he has taken it. His little speech about the seizure of power had some sound bite quotes in it and made me think of the American advisors he has had. Not that Ukrainians aren’t sophisticated enough to provide that kind of advice—they are. But the sound bite quality of some of his speech sounded so American spin-doctorish to me.

He has taken the advice he has been given and his public persona is better for it. He comes across as more statesmanlike than he did--there isn’t any thug about him like there was before. Problem is that what is going on underneath it all is much the same as was going on underneath it all before.

But you gotta admire the quality of the advice and the ability to take it from the man and his people. Unfortunately, it won’t result in what’s best for the country.

It’s quite depressing really.

Deepening crisis, but 'sylovyi variant' suits hardly anyone

As I write, Yu, Ya, Yuliya, Moroz and National Security and Defence Council secretary Ivan Plyushch are meeting to discuss the deepening political crisis.

A good summary of today's events from 'Gazeta po Kiyevski':

Yushchenko has had a busy day. First, the SBU [security service of Ukraine] are focussing their attention on Minister of the Interior Tsushko and on the acting Constitutional Court chairman Pshenychniy [whom Yush 'sacked' and Prosecutor-General Piskun refused to 'nail']. According to newly appointed P-G Shemchuk, SBU has opened a criminal case against Tsushko for the sanctioning of yesterday's assault on the P-G building by special units of the ministry of the interior. Psenychniy received a summons to attend the SBU for questioning [but threw a sickie]. Decision making in the CC is paralysed in any case, because of the absence of quorum. Eight judges loyal to the president are still 'sick' in hospital.

Yushchenko conducted two strategic conferences at which [it seems] he secured indirect support of the 'sylovyky' i.e. the army and SBU. The president also tried to neutralize the Ministry of Internal Affairs' power resources, which seem to be loyal to the ruling coalition, by issuing an ukaz subordinating MIA troops tho himself.

Furthermore, the President met with the heads of the State oblast adminstrations who also confirmed that they will carry out all of the President's Decrees.

NSDC secretary Ivan Plyushch announced that a state of emergency would be declared if this was required, and Yushchenko issued an ukaz whereby all the state oblast governors were to be incorporated into the NSDC.

It can be surmised therefore that Yushchenko is prepared to initiate serious political solutions, but does not want to take personal responsibility for such serious actions himself.
The ruling coalition has not been idle either, and made a tactical substitution. They appointed a new vice-premier minister on questions of national security and defence - Volodymyr Radchenko has been replaced by a steady ex-minister of defence, from the days of Kuchma, General Oleksandr Kuzmuk [see photo - he looks tough]. Kuzmuk has significant influence in the army circles; he may not be able to pull the army over to the side of coalition, but could ensure they stay neutral.

Deputies from the coalition, and 'Berkut' special units continue to block the building of the Prosecutor-General, and in the VR preparations are taking place to begin procedures to impeach the President. According to constitution, "Regionaly" would require 300 votes to do this, which they do not possess right now.

LEvko thinks that at the moment much of all this is muscle flexing and posturing - a war of nerves, but the longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be ratchet back the tension. East and west parts of the country are becoming polarized and are moving further apart

Everyone is aware that 'sylovyi variant' of events would suit only a few hawks in PoR, the Communist party, and Moroz, whose socialist party will probably be wiped out in any fresh elections. Continuing conflict hinders closer ties with Europe, and would suit the Kremlin. No mainstream Ukrainian politician or big businessman wants such an outcome.

Yesterday's power seizure of the P-G's offices by 'Berkut' troops led by Tsushko was no doubt approved by Yanukovych, but he was probably shocked to see how clumsily it all turned out and how bad it looked on TV. Some reports say that Socialist Tshusko was in contact with Moroz while the entire storming of the P-G's offices was taking place, and it was deliberately engineered by them to disrupt negotiations between the premier and the President.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Turbulent day in Kyiv

A turbulent day today in Kyiv as the political crisis grows with sacking and subsequent defiance of Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun [photo from 'Ukr.Pravda]

A video of the sacking, rather limply delivered by NSDC secretary Plyusch, Piskun's response, and the storming of the P-G's office by 'Berkut' special forces and the Minister of the Interior Vasyl Tsushko, who threatened to arrest anyone getting in his way, here . SBU officials were not allowed to enter the building. PoR fraction leader Raisa Bohatyryova and Communist leader Petro Symonenko turned up for company too.

Later the new deputy head of the NSDC Oleksandr Turchynov and acting head of the SBU Valentyn Nalyvaychenko were at first refused entry into the building of the P-G, but were later admitted.

Piskun left the P-G's office 'clutching two icons', saddened "not by his sacking, but what what happening in this civilized country". Hardly convincing..

Meanwhile PoR Parliamentary Deputy Taras Chornovil said that the Security Service of Ukraine has sent several busloads of Alfa troops in the direction of the Prosecutor-General’s Office.

Yushchenko called Tsuskho's behaviour 'criminal' and characterised the situation in the country as "a creeping seizure of power - a silent state revolution."

He also said that the ruling coalition has broken agreements, and is dragging out matters on fixing the date for early elections.

Minister of Defence Anatoliy Hrytsenko warned in a local TV broadcast that the army could be used in the event of forcible resistance.

And PM Yanukovych in an appeal said, "Isn't Viktor Andriyevych living according to the principles of dictator Franco - for friends - everything, for enemies - the law?"

Yesterday the State guard had blocked the Constitutional court and had hindered some of the judges dismissed by the president when entering the building. so maybe there is a bit of 'tit-for-tat' going on.

Piskun had attended a football match with Yanukovych and Akhmetov Wednesday.

LEvko say this serves Yush right for appointing such a devious and discredited man as Piskun to the position of P-G yet again. There are now two unsustainable, parallel power 'verticals' in the country. The two Viktors have to get together and take some heat out of the situation, or things could conceivably, perhaps for the first time since the start of this political crisis on April 2nd, spin out of control..

As I write, Yush is meeting his 'sylovyky'. Presidential adviser Taras Stetskiv states that a decision will made which will ensure full working of the new 'HenProkuror', Viktor Shemchuk. "One chance remains for Yanukovych - to sit down tomorrow at the negotiation table and sign under the date of the early VR election," explained Stetskiv. He noted that there has been no telephone calls or any contact between the pres. and premier.

PoR 'mouthpiece' Taras Chornovil says 30,000 'Maidan-arbeiters' are on their way to Kyiv and that, "there is information, after today's annihilation of the HenProkuratura, the president may go for liquidation of the Cabinet of Ministers.."
My impression is that Yush may not be bluffing..

Blog expansion

Commenter David had a very good suggestion—let some others join in as contributors to the blog. This is something I have been thinking about for a couple of weeks. (How did he know?) And maybe it's time to act on it.

David suggested the commenter who signs in as “elmer” and one with the initials “IIU.” If either of you would like to contribute, contact me.

I would also like to know if the person who made this anonymous comment (the first one) and this one (the second) might be interested.

We could provide a pseudonym if you would like.

There would be some rules though that anybody wanting to contribute here would have to abide by. We can talk about those by email.

Anyway, if this appeals to any of you, you can contact me at foreignnotes at hotmail dot com.

Justice(s) denied?

I looks like the two Constitutional court judges ( see here for Stanik) dismissed by Yuschenko tried to find a court that would reinstate them. Their claim was that Yuschenko had no right to dismiss them. (Why wouldn’t they assume it’s a political question whether he has the power?)

According to the news last night, the two judges first went to a court in Pechersk region. That judge refused. They went to a second court and that judge ruled that the dismissal was appropriate. Maybe there is hope in some of these lower judges?

No loyalty or principles in Ukrainian politics

The president has been busy again today. He appointed Oleksandr Turchynov [see photo] as first deputy secretary of the Naional Security and Defence Council, [NSDC], and also fired head of State Security Service Department, Petro Plyuta.

Plyuta had been Yush's long-time loyal bodyguard before and during the OR. A while ago he recalled his adventures during this period in an interview [in English] in which he spoke of the assassination attempts on Yushchenko's life.

Turchynov is Yuliya Tymoshenko's most loyal confidante; he was #2 on the March 2006 BYuT VR election list.

Presidential administration head Viktor Baloha's comment on Turchinov's appointment to NSDC deputy secretary position was: "Oleksandr Turchynov has an intensified sense of detecting danger to the country. This quality will help him in his work in the NSDC."

On 15th September 2005 Turchynov gave a sensational press conference having resigned from his position as head of the SBU [security service of Ukraine] This was during the huge 'bust up' amongst the orange forces which led to Yuliya Tymoshenko being sacked as prime minister by Yushchenko. The orange forces have never fully recovered since.

During the press conference he recounted his attempts to 'sort out' the dreadful corruption in RosUkrEnergo, the secretive monopolistic importer of Russian and Turkmenistan gas.

"I had several discussions with Mr Tretyakov [a closed presidential aide], who, referring to the president, told me that I should immediately stop destabilizing the energy sector, which the SBU was [supposedly] doing...I didn't take this seriously... but after this I had a discussion with president Viktor Andriyevych himself who accused me of persecuting his boys, and that the SBU are working against his team...I received a ban preventing me investigating questions surrounding Naftogaz [further], and told not to push my nose there. But I did not follow the president's order, and the SBU continued to look into these questions. Furthermore all the materials were collected which prove criminality in these schemes."

Perhaps this is what Baloha meant when speaking of detecting danger to the State.

PoR and the Communists have vigorously reacted to Turchynov's appointment, who they perceive as an attack dog. 'Gazeta po Kiyevski' interpret his appointment as 'a last chance for the coalition'.

LEvko thinks that whenever things begin to get really hot, Yush calls upon Yulka [or in this case her right-hand man] to do the 'heavy lifting'.

Ukrainian politics is so unpredictable. Colleagues are betrayed, become bitter enemies, then months later, are back in favour again. Who knows who will 'pal up' with who next. Or who will be dumped.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tymoshenko suspects treachery

BYuT's website posts an announcement today: 'BYuT is disturbed that the negotiation process between the main political participants have moved deeply into the lobbies [kuluary]' - in other words they are deeply concerned that Yu and Ya are going to 'shaft' Yulka yet again.

'Gazeta po Kiyevski' has a story today amplifying this theme:

"Tymoshenko's people are sure the President and premier have secretly agreed to form a coalition"

BYuT frankly do not trust Yushchenko. In their opinion, the guarantor of the constitution and the premier are settling the last details of the PoR/NU coalition in the new parliament.

According to unofficial information, Yuliya Tymoshenko this morning visited the President's secretariat, even though Yushchenko departed for the Cherkasy region today .

'Lady Yu' probably decided to talk things over personally with Presidential secretariat head Viktor Baloha, and to learn what the President and premier had secretly talked about yesterday for more than 5 hours.

Tymoshenko is nervous, because she has few levers to influence the negotiation process [on the snap elections]. Frankly speaking, she is 'out of the loop' - all she can do it wait for the tactical impacts.

Tymoshenko has recently abstained from making comments about the President negotiating with Yanukovych, and about the creation of a coalition in the future parliament in exchange for agreement on autumn elections. It was only yesterday, after the secretive encounter betweenYushchenko and Yanukovych, that lady Yu finally recorded her position. "If required, I am sure that the President will set the central election committee to work, and the President will set the Procurator General's office to work. Either he, the guarantor of the constitution, will do everything necessary for this, or the country will simply be taken into captivity, once and for all. " stated Tymoshenko when lobbying for summer elections.

Furthermore, at today's press conference Yuliya Tymoshenko was higly critical of the actions of working group preparing the early elections. In her opinion, the purpose of group was to drag out matters. "Postponement of elections to the autumn will be a complete defeat for Ukraine," she said.

Finally Tymoshenko called for an end of the negotiations with the coalition. "Our force calls for an end to any negotiations, be they negotiations of the working group, or of the President and prime minister. These negotiations are leading the matters into a blind alley," stated Tymoshenko.

Even more frank were remarks may by ВYuT VR vice- speaker Mykola Tomenko: "The probability of creating a coalition with the participation of Our Ukraine and Party of Regions is very high. This is not only the position of [new NSDC secretary] Plyushch, but is also [indicated by] the context of negotiations on Bank Street [pres's secretariat]. This, and the behaviour of the people close to Yushchenko, and key "Regionaly", noted Tomenko to 'Gazeta po Kiyevski'.

According to him, the President should be honest and say: yes, we are conducting negotiations with Yanukovych - and there will be a coalition.

Tymoshenko has few levers of influence on the negotiation process on Bank Street. It cannot be excluded that there are negotiations going on between BYuT and PoR either, in particular on the question of impeachment of the President. Or on increasing the minimum percentage threshold in the VR early elections. But these are radical step which Tymoshenko would be unlikely to take.

PoR still quite fancy the idea of a PoR/NU coalition.

Tymoshenko is demanding to meet with the president as soon as possible.

Even the 'Donbass' newspaper complains of the secret deal-making between the two Viktors; and predicts that there may be an announcement from Yush on the 'successful resolution of the crisis' together with a date of the re-elections, by 24th May, when the president attends a two-day summit of central European country leaders which is being held in Brno, in the Czech republic.
Yesterday 'Obozrevatel' posted a transcript and audio recording of an eavesdropped conversation between Yushchenko and his good friend Georgian president 'Misha' Saakashvili.

LEvko's impression is that the conversation is so polite and gentlemanly, compared with those recorded by Melnychenko in Kuchma's office, that the two presidents were probably aware of the possiblity that their conversation could be being 'tapped'. Yush talks of 'Viktor Fyodorovich'.. and no swear words..

There is no doubt recordings of many more conversations stashed away somewhere.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Third ukaz being prepared?

Since issuing his April 2nd ukaz dismissing the VR, the new, more macho president Yushchenko has to a large extent dictated the pace of events. Negotiations between members of the working group trying to finalise details for the snap VR elections have run into the ground. Tymoshenko and Moroz have been bystanders. Speculation is beginning to emerge that the president may issue a third ukaz.

Today's 'Gazeta po-Kiyevski' has this:

Yushchenko's revenge - the president is being pushed into issuing a third ukaz on early elections

Below are some portions:

"President Yushchenko is being compelled to demonstrate again that he is not a dove but a hawk. Yesterday's "revolution" in the Constitutional Court completely destroyed the fragile agreements between the premier and the President. The re-assignment of judge Pshenychnyi as the head of the CC, having been discharged by the President, has finally demonstrated that the CC is under the control of "Regionaly" and is ready to pass the necessary decision when ordered.

Premier Yanukovych feels that he is now in the 'driving seat' in the negotiations with the President. But the 'new-look' Yushchenko could spring a few surprises for "Regiony". Within the next few days we could see the third President's Decree ordering early elections in July, which would be conducted with the strictest of measures.

The next, and possibly, final encounter between Yushchenko and Yanukovych will take place in the next day or two..Yushchenko cannot play for time much longer, constantly deferring to the working group which is searching for a compromise, as this counters his image as the possessor of "a strong hand". But Viktor Fedorovych will arrive at 'Bank Street' [the pres's secretariat] with the CC trump up his sleeve. Two possible versions of events are possible.

Yushchenko as dove.

The President agrees to Yanukovych's main demand - elections in Autumn. In this case the working group preparing re-elections will arrive at a compromise. However, judging by recent events, this is highly improbable. Neither Viktor wants to give way. As Yushchenko stated yesterday, "Early elections will take place, and this will be the key solution of this discussion. These elections will not be in October."

Yanukovych, from his side, in the recent days has begun to ramp up pressure - the 'revolution' in the CC, reanimation of Maidan euphoria, upping his rhetoric to the 'aggressive' position, exiting Bank Street through the back entrance, etc.

Neither of these two political players trust the other. Before signing the next ukaz on conducting of the re-elections, the President will require guarantees from Yanukovych which the hawks in Regiony are not inclined to give.

Yushchenko as hawk.

A third ukaz on conducting early elections during July is issued, which will include strict guidelines on the way the election campaign is to be conducted - even without the participation of Party of Regions. Money for the elections will be found by obtaining loans, even if the Kabmin does not issue funds. Certainly, such early re-elections will not reflect the true preferences of the electorate, but they will cause "Regionaly" much anxiety. And such elections will hardly be recognized as being legitimate both at home and abroad.

If a compromise is not achieved within the next few days between the President and premier, then the situation could change elsewhere too. The pro-president judges remaining in the CC could all resign. If their associates do not accept this - then the President could discharge them by ukaz, so paralysing the activity of the CC. And newly-appointed Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun may have to 'deliver', having been given his old job back by Yushchenko, possibly, by applying preventive half-measures against Kabmin. But it is most unlikely that he will sanction the arrest of the head of Minfin - Ministry of Finance Azarov or of premier Yanukovych for sabotaging the elections.
Sensing such a possibility, Piskun has been 'taken ill' [in the best Ukrainian tradition], and has gone in hospital. "

Friday, May 18, 2007

Undemocratic leaders

Party of Regions official site has posted a piece by one of their VR deputies, Leonid Kozhara which claims, 'The collapse of a second foreign visit by the president of Ukraine is a signal that European leaders have no wish to associate with the undemocratic leader of Ukraine.'

Today Yush was supposed to be in London to meet PM Tony Blair, [who recently announced his decision to stand down from office]; and to address a meeting with top businessmen arranged by the 'Financial Times' as well as to open an exhibition on the 75th anniversary of the great 1932/3 famine in Ukraine - the Holodomor.

Kozhara's posting quotes portions of an article in today's British 'Independent' newspaper, but it's better, for the sake of objectivity to read it in full.

Here it is:

Ukrainian president left in departure lounge by Blair By Oliver Duff Published: 17 May 2007 *

Tony Blair is so busy leaving "the crowds wanting more... [being] the star who won't even play the last encore" - to quote the leaked words of his own No 10 advisers, who last year suggested his victory tour of the nation and appearances on 'Blue Peter', 'Songs of Praise,' etc [popular British TV programs]- that he has committed a grave diplomatic snub (something else for Gordon to sort out). [Gordon Brown is Blair's probable successor]

The Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, the poisoned leader of Ukraine's 2004 "Orange Revolution", was expecting to meet our outgoing Prime Minister today for tea, nibbles and a nice photocall to boost his "democratic" credentials.

Unfortunately, Our Tone is in Washington saying goodbye to George Dubya - and appears to have forgotten to tell Yushchenko not to bother coming.

"Due to an unavoidable change in the British Prime Minister's foreign travel plans," says a Ukrainian Embassy official, "the British and Ukrainian sides have agreed to postpone a working visit of the President of Ukraine to the United Kingdom on [16 and] 17 May."

An "unavoidable change"? Blair has known for weeks that he was off to Washington; you don't just rock up in America and drop by the White House. Yet a Ukrainian diplomatic source tells me that No 10 only called Yushchenko to tell him not to bother catching his flight at the weekend."The President was going to meet Blair but Blair cancelled on Monday - very late," mutters the diplomat. "We have postponed it for an indefinite time. We consider this very unfortunate."

LEvko doesn't blame PoR for putting their own spin on this story and making political capital out of Yushchenko's discomfort - this is part of the 'rough-and-tumble' of politics.

But is Kozhara really suggesting that Blair 'invited himself' to Washington to meet his old pal George Bush at the last moment in order to avoid meeting Yushchenko?

Oh, and European politicians associate with the the most morally dubious and undesirable of leaders if it suits their national interest - as do Ukrainian leaders..

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Death by car

There has been an argument here that the security services develop an expertise in a particular way of getting rid of people. And it here it has been said that car accidents is the expertise the SBU developed when it was KGB. That’s why there’s suspicion when some prominent someone like Chornovil dies in one.

There seems to be a spate of more now. The problem is that some have survived. The thinking is that if it is the security services, what with their expertise and all, they wouldn’t survive. That may just overestimate what human beings in any organization are actually capable of—the KGB were not the superhuman adversaries they were made out to be in the West. But it is something to think about.

And it could be the risks certain drivers take on the road. As a rule, the better the car, the more reckless the driver will be on the road here. We were almost run off the road by a Mercedes a few weeks back. I can’t resist doing something when they come up behind me with headlights flashing and honking. So I waved at the dark windows as they or he passed—and it is always a he. That was taken as a challenge to his prerogatives and so the driver cut me off in my lane and slammed on the brakes in front of me. Took me some real maneuvering to avoid an accident. But they get away with this sort of thing because they know the price they have to pay to get them off. And they can pay it.

There is an exception to this rule—taxis. Taxis are the absolute worst drivers on the road here. They will do anything—anything-- when they drive. And they get away with it too because they can pay the fee when stopped by the police.

One taxi I rode in once ran a red light. The police were there and flagged him down. He reached over me to the glove box and pulled out about ten dollars in local currency. When the officer came up to the window and saluted, the driver handed over his license and registration along with the money. The officer looked at all the documents, took the money, saluted the driver again calling him by name and telling him to have a nice day. All over in a few seconds. No muss, no fuss. With that kind of thing though there is no incentive not to drive like they do.

So which is it? Who knows but it will all probably be blamed on bad driving no matter which it is.

I will say this though as an addendum: There is an elite here part of whom will do anything to get what they want. Anything. And they will never be prosecuted for it because they most often have access. When they don't have access, they have the kind of money it takes to get access or for people to lose things like evidence or records or memories or anything else. And in this kind of system, that is all it takes.

Plyushch the peacemaker

Some 'background' and analysis from 'Dyelovaya Stolitsa':

In 1991 Plyushch became VR speaker because he had the confidence of two seemingly irreconcilable camps in parliament - the democrats, and the Communist- industrial "group of 239". Since then, Ivan Plyushch is considered by some as the most influential "peacemaker" in the Ukrainian politics. In 1999, at the moment of crisis between the right parliamentary opposition and the pro-Kuchma majority, it was Plyushch that proposed to then President Leonid Kuchma that he appoint Viktor Yushchenko as head of the National Bank of Ukraine; and again in the summer of 2004 it was Plyushch that spoke of the necessity of uniting the two Viktors - Yanukovych and Yushchenko.

According to 'Dyelovaya Stolitsa', Vitaliy Hayduk's resignation may have been provoked by the Russian owner of the "Gazmetall" corporation, one of the largest ferrous metallurgical holdings in Russia. Hayduk and Taruta's Industrial Union of Donbass [IUD] are presently conducting negotiations on combining with the Russia's Gazmetall corporation owned by Alisher Usmanov and Vasiliy Anisimov. The Russian oligarchs' business is to some extent dependent on the Kremlin's blessing, and they have repeatedly been questioned about why they are 'hob-knobbing' with opponents of Viktor Yanukovych.

[I have posted previously on the Industrial Union of Donbass/Gazmetall link up.]

The article continues:

"The appearance of Ivan Plyushch in the office of the secretary of the National Security and Defence Council indicates a change in Viktor Yushchenko's position with respect to the election campaign. If, previously, the elections were considered by the head of state to be a complex and difficult test for PoR, then now they could be a punishment for BYuT. For PoR, autumn elections are more favourable - by then the effects of substantial increases in wages and pensions planned for June should be felt.

Support for Tymoshenko is faltering because of an increase in the ratings of the other "orange" leader - Viktor Yushchenko. The dismissal of parliament allowed Our Ukraine to noticeably increase its popularity - a recent OP shows NU has increased its support from 7 to 14% whilst BYuT's ratings have dropped from 27 to 20%.

Compromise between the two Viktors has to be reached - and Ivan Stepanovych Plyushch may be just the man to help achieve this. VR elections during the second-half of September could be such a compromise.

It could turn out the main benficiaries of the VR elections may well be not those who most demanded them, i.e. Tymoshenko and BYuT, but President Yushchenko and PoR.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mysterious accidents?

BYuT VR deputy and veteran anti-corruption fighter Hryhoriy Omelchenko was badly injured when he was knocked down in an automobile 'accident' in Kyiv today. On 1st April, BYuT VR deputy Andriy Shkil, a close aide of Yuliya Tymoshenko, was also involved in a car crash and badly injured.

And several days ago, on May 9th, PoR deputy Anatoliy Antemyuk was killed in a car smash.

These incidents may well have been the result of the reckless devil-may-care attitude many 'nouveau-riche' Ukrainians have to traffic regulations. But another recent incident still leaves a lingering unease.

On Saturday 1st of May, Major-General Oleh Chornousenko was killed in a car smash reminiscent of the one in which Vyacheslav Chornovil was killed. It involved his top-of-the-range Toyota 'Avalon' saloon, and a ZIL-130 truck, near the city of Rivne.

In 2005 - 2006 Chornousenko had been head of the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] in Kyiv, but was sacked by Yushchenko almost exactly a year ago. He had also been head of security of 'Nasha Ukraina'.

According to 'Stolichnye Novosti', the crash in Rivne has been investigated by a local prosecutor only, who concluded that Chornousenko himself was responsible for the accident. Rather oddly, no other, more senior investigators took part in the investigation, despite the victim's high rank.

The reason for Chernousenko's sudden death may have been because he knew too many secrets, in particular about the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, according to 'S.N.'

During the 2004 election campaign Chornousenko supervised 'Our Ukraine's' security service so, he certainly would be familiar with the details of the dioxin poisoning of the future of the head of the state.

Former SBU chief Ihor Smeshko, who was present at the infamous 'last supper' with Yushchenko and Volodymyr Satsyuk, himself has declared that it was Chornousenko rather that Chervonenko who was in charge of Yuschenko's security, and that Chornousenko consulted directly at that time with SBU general Olexander Skibinetsky, who was one of Smesko's advisers.

The 'S.N.' article suggests Chornousenko became a threat to Yushchenko after he had been dismissed by the president - there was no guarantee that general Chornousenko would not go over to the white-blue camp and 'spill the beans' on the dioxin poisoning.

Coincidentally, Rinat Akhmetov's 'Segodnya' runs an interview with Volodymyr Satsyuk, at who's dacha the fateful supper took place, and also has a piece on Yushchenko's illness and stay at the Rudolfinerhaus clinic. He claims Yushchenko fell ill after his visit to Vienna...

Tomorrow, 16th May Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun, minister of internal affairs Vasyl Tsushko, and acting head of the SBU, are to provide details to the VR on statements by Presidential Secretariat spokesman for questions on the activities of the law-enforcement agencies, Valeriy Heletey, about possible assasination attempts on leading Ukrainian politicians [Some anti-crisis coalition members called Heletey's declarations 'a provocation.']

There's surely lots of muddying of the waters going on here. Nevertheless, there have been too many 'accidents' involving the country's rulers in recent times to be mere co-incidence. Or maybe not?

One thing is certain - participation in top-level politics in Ukraine carries risks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All LEvko

By the way, I have ghostwritten none of LEvko's postings. It has been all him for the past almost year. And he deserves thanks for that too from all of us interested in Ukraine.

Not the same court

A commenter asks if it wasn’t some other court that ruled on the election in the OR rather than the constitutional court. The answer is that it was a different court so I got it wrong.

So it isn’t the same court, but I will say that it’s really the judiciary as a whole that doesn’t come off looking all that well. The election decision by the Supreme Court was a declaration of independence of sorts by at least some judges. And that independence should have been defended then and continued to be defended now fiercely by the rest of them. It hasn’t been though. With the judiciary, it’s business as usual. And the Stanik stuff and the two judges talking nonsense about political questions just serves to tar them all further.

A couple of years back, when we lived in Kiev, our apartment complex was looking to set up a western style homeowner’s association. There was a lot of opposition to it for reasons that we won’t get into. But I remember one woman purported to be a lawyer who kept waving a paper she said was a decision of a court invalidating a homeowner’s association in the same area. For her and for some others, that carried the argument against.

Problem with it is that I could have come up with any number of decisions saying the exact opposite. All I needed to do was to find the right person who could get access or who knew the right person who could get access, meet the requirement whatever that was and voila! In other words, as a matter of law it meant nothing.

It did though seem that with the OR what the judiciary did or at least a portion of them did meant something and that they wanted it to mean something, that is, they wanted to stand up and do what they were supposed to do. It doesn’t look that way now and no one who has a stake in it is saying anything about it. That’s a pity.

Plyushch speaks

Interesting interview with newly-appointed National Security and Defence Council Secretary, Ivan Plyushch, in "Kommersant-Ukraina", entitled 'Party of Regions, Our Ukraine" and BYuT are obliged to participate in a broad coalition'.

Plyushch says that he agreed to be Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council [RadBez] only with the approval of Yushchenko, Yanukovych, and Tymoshenko -they all supported his candidature. Yanuk claimed that he proposed Plyushch for the position half a year ago, and even sent him a congratulatory telegram after his appointment.

He is asked if his predecessor Vitaliy Hayduk left because he did not want to 'take radical steps'; and whether he was prepared to take such steps. He replies that no one has proposed taking radical steps. "If I am now secretary NSDC, then I will be guided by the fact that Yushchenko has himself said: 'I will never to use force!. And after yesterday's prolonged conversation between Viktor Andreevich, Viktor Fedorovich and Azarov, I can assure you, that this is an axiom, which does not require proof."

"I consider countries, in which no one political force gains 50 percent of votes in an election, are condemned to form wide coalitions. Today it is understood 'even to an elephant' that PoR, NU and BYuT are obliged to participate in a broad coalition."

He thinks a snap election will take place 60 days after tomorrow, the last day for parties to submit their candidate lists according to the law, so 15th July is looking good. "The fate of Ukraine lies with the two Viktors..the sooner they agree the sooner we will all win."

Tymoshenko says BYuT would go with 15th July, but would rather go into opposition than join any wide-base coalition.

Glimmers of a deal coming together?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A political question?

I don’t know what the agreement (or almost agreement or non-agreement) over elections will do to the issue before the Constitutional Court but it is interesting that two judges a couple of weeks made comments in a hearing that the issue of the president’s ukaze was a political question. (A place to start for info. on political questions is here a place to start only mind you.)

Defining it as a political question would be a way to duck the whole issue, which is probably what some want to do. By that reasoning, however, any constitutional issue would be a political question. But here the question is does the president have the power under the Constitution to dismiss Parliament. It goes to whether he has the power in the first place.

But it just might be a way for some judges caught in the crossfire to avoid the entire problem. We could say what we think about it a lot more pointedly, but let’s just put it this way: to duck the issue in this manner will not add to the reputation of these judges or to the reputation of the court. It would be too transparent.

It’s a pity really. That court could have been a respected institution what with the way it handled itself during the OR. They could have been the one institution left standing with any credibility right now. But with all the tinkering, all the allegations of corruption leveled at it and the dodging and weaving they seem to be doing, any credibility it had has disappeared. They now have none. Just add one more to the list.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hayduk out..Plyushch in at NSDC

In yet another unexpected turn of events, on Saturday Yushchenko accepted the resignation of Vitaliy Hayduk and dismissed him as secretary of the powerful National Security and Defence council. He immediately appointed the veteran politician Ivan Plyushch [see photo] in his place. Plyushch had been VR speaker in the turbulent early years of Ukrainian independence 1991 - 1994, and then again during Kuchma's presidency in 2000-2002.
When some of today's cabinet ministers and leading PoR lights were running criminal rackets in Donbas or 'metal bashing' in factories, this man was working with the country's leaders to solidify the newly-created Ukrainian state. He is considered though, a 'grand-coalition' man.

Some say he is almost a father figure to the president - a cultural adviser without a power base of his own, who will probably more reliably carry out the president's wishes if the pres. chooses to take a more radical and decisive line to solve the current political crisis. He had provided Yush with critical support during the O.R. but had not received any position of high office as reward...until now.

Hayduk is a Donbas man through and through, co-owner of one of Ukraine's largest financial industrial groups IUD. It was allegedly he and his business rival, PoR financial sponsor and SCM owner Rinat Akhmetov who fixed the initial deal on 4th May when Yu and Ya unexpectedly came out and agreed in principle to hold early VR elections. Hayduk also has good relations with Yanukovych - they know one another well from their days together in the Donetsk oblast, so his resignation could make it more difficult for an agreement to be struck.

There had been friction between the Pres's secretariat and the NSDC in recent days. Last Thursday Yushchenko issued an ultimatum to the working group members formed by the various VR fractions - either come to an agreement in the near future on the snap VR elections, or he will gather the NSDC, which 'will provide answers to the given questions.' LEvko thinks maybe this was a step too far for Hayduk.

Since the O.R., the NSDC secretary's position has been held by Poroshenko, Rybachuk, Kinakh, Horbulin [acting secretary] and Hayduk. Wonder how long Plyushch [who looks like an extra from a Hollywood biblical epic] will last?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spectre of assassination

Chief of the Presidential Secretariat's service responsible for matters concerning the activities of the law-enforcement agencies, Valeriy Heletey, today melodramatically announced that assassination attempts against Yuliya Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Davyd Zhvaniya are being considered by 'certain forces', as a means to destabilize society.

Heletey said there are documents confirming this in the hands of the pres's secretariat. They will now be handed over to the security service - the SBU.

The alleged 'hit' against Tymoshenko was being prepared by 'criminal circles' linked to several 'radically directed political forces'. He complained that 'kriminalni avtorytety'are returning to Ukraine after a long absence, having received guarantees from 'certain politicians'.

These stories have been knocking around the net for a while now. Several days ago the pro-presidential 'Ukraina Moloda', whose editor is an old chum of the pres's, ran a story entited, "No politician - no crisis?"

Apparently a conversation between two men whose voices are very similar to those of Yanukovych and Andriy Klyuev took place, during which the 'physical removal' of Presidential Secretariat head Viktor Baloha, and leading opposition politician Yuriy Lutsenko was discussed. One says, "I forsee no other solution - Send for Shuvalov." The SBU source claims that Shuvalov is to bring four hired assassins with him to Ukraine.

Lutsenko himself said in an interview today that he is aware that he may well be the target of a hit.

This is all very vague and might all be 'black PR'. But in Ukraine such rumours cannot be disregarded entirely...

As someone dryly observed in the VR several months ago: "To reach the top in Ukrainian politics it helps if you've spent time in prison, or have been the target of an assassination...or both.."

Too near the truth to be truly funny..

Message to the diaspora

Minister of Foreign affairs Arseniy Yatsenyuk, [see photo] usually though of as pro-orange, has been visiting Canada.
When addressing a diaspora meeting he emphasized: "If there is a need to make certain political compromise, the we need to do it. You might like this or not, but Party of Regions today represent 35% of the Ukrainian population. Aren't they Ukrainians too? [Some of those present shouted out "No!] They are also Ukrainians, they are our people, people of our big country, and I appeal to all of you to understand this!"

Agreement of early elections remains unclear.

Even 'back-bench' PoR deputies, when asked how long before some kind of decision is made, have no idea. "Believe us, for the first time in quite a few years we are unable to make any kind of prognosis. Honestly, we do not know."

The president and the PM, [and Akhmetov and Hayduk behind the curtains], struck the initial deal last Friday. But now there are just too many troublesome partners in the working group.

E.g. Moroz, who is fighting for his political life, will be required in his role as parliamentary speaker when the VR is recalled to formalize Yu and Ya's agreements. [Yu in particular would like to VR to self-dismiss as this would make further discussion irrelevant whether his two ukazes to dissolve parliament were constitutional, ..LEvko]

Lutsenko and his National self-defence party want assurances from NU that they will not form a coalition with PoR. In the light of the events of last year, I guess this is unlikely. It also drives PoR into the arms of the Communists and the 'Vitrenkivtsi'

It's too much to hope the Ukrainian diaspora took note of bright eyed and bushy tailed Yatsenyuk's 'home truths'. [He looks very young doesn't he?]

Thursday, May 10, 2007


While it may be hard to determine a winner in the presidential ukaze unpleasantness, as LEvko rightly warns, it is hard for me not to see a loser in this—Moroz. He may be planning to go into the elections with PR but it is hard to see what PR gets for the effort. They needed him once because he brought with him some votes to the Verkhovna Rada. Do they need him now? Right now his party, the Socialists, have dropped off the radar. If the vote took place today, the Socialists would not be in the VR. So he would bring nothing to this election that PR needs. Would they put him on the PR party election roll? For what purpose?

Seems to me, Moroz is on his way out.

Couldn’t happen to a better man. He decimated his own party so he could be head man of the VR. Might as well have been a dung heap.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The piano-players

Some photos here of lower-order VR deputies brazenly pressing voting buttons on behalf of most of their colleagues who couldn't be bothered to turn up for work yesterday .

Democracy at work?

Everything 'noromalno' i.e. messy

It's just a few days after last Friday's agreement and squabbling has already broken out.

Yushchenko, at a press conference in Vinnitsa today, admitted there is a possibility that the political agreements made by him and Yanukovych could be broken.

He considers that the early elections to the VR will take place, but any dragging out matters would mean the political understandings already achieved will be lost. He emphasized that decision on the early elections are made by the President, not members of parliament.

Yanukovych admitted that setting the date for the elections, "was the most complex question."

The opposition are not happy with the format of the working group discussions.

Lutsenko's 'Narodna Samooborona' are demanding a public guarantee from NU on non-entry into PR-SPU coalition.

Narodna Samooborona wants to sign public a document with the democratic forces on the non-creation of coalition with the Party of Regions and Socialist Party of Ukraine, adding that at the moment these parties are not ready to give it such guarantees. They obviously think that the PoR/NU coalition is a possibility.

But NU leader Vyacheslav Kirilenko declared that after the parliamentary elections, the only coalition for them would be a coalition of democratic forces, and there would be no place for PoR amonst participants in such a coalition.

Only PoR VR fraction leader Raisa Bohatyryova sounded optimistic: "We made this step together with the president so that the opposition no longer dictate to him; [and in order to] tear away the president, as leader of the whole country, from the opposition. So that the president understands that the partnership with one of the powerful and strategic Ukrainian political parties, the one party of industrial Ukraine, the party of the industrial East, is predestined to be successful."

Leading PoR mouthpiece Taras Chornovil considers that most of the problems will be solved when the president and PM get together again in 2 or 3 days.

Everything 'noromalno' then.

Elections before, or after the summer holidays? - a tricky question. Yush has dug in for June or July, and PoR have already made concessions by putting simultaneous Presidential elections on the 'back-burner', so are unlikely to make more..Will the 'wheels drop off' this attempt to solve the crisis? [sorry for the bad attack of mixed metaphors]

p.s. Yesterday former president Kuchma made a rare public appearance together with former president Kravchuk and other 'prominenti', and took part in a public discussion: "Achieving stable development for Ukraine by overcoming the political crisis"

Coincidentally, I stumbled on this well-researched blog posting on Kuchma's corrupt involvement in one of Ukraine's most successful and profitable businesses - Kyivstar..

Makes you think...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Power of the media

Yush has reason to be grateful to Ukrainian investigative journos. By peeping into letter boxes, following leads, and publicizing leaked documents, they revealed Constitutional Court judge Syuzanna Stanik's 76-year old mum had recently become the owner of real estate valued many millions of dollars, raising suspicions that her daughter had been bribed. This media story, and the re-appointment of Svyatoslav Piskun as Prosecutor-General by the president, changed the course of events in the Ukrainian politics these last few days.

The ruling coalition realized that any decision by the CC on the validity of president Yushchenko's ukaz(s) to dismiss the VR was a 'dead duck' Perhaps for the first time in Ukraine, the media has had a decisive impact on day-to-day politics.

But it may be erroneous to declare that Yanukovych and PoR have been forced to cave in to Yushchenko's demands and agree to early elections. Anyone who has followed political events over the years knows how obstinate, devious and calculating all participants of political negotions are. Ukrainian politics is a zero-sum game - nothing is conceded without some kind of pay-off.

PoR know well that after the elections Tymoshenko will demand the PM's chair in any orange coalition cabinet - something that Yushchenko time and again has found to be unacceptable.

Tymoshenko is insisting already that BYuT will not be part any orange election 'mega-bloc'.

And Yanukovych made it clear today that his ideal coalition would be a PoR/NU. The Socialists, and Communists, [for whom such declarations must be painful], and possibly disgruntled PoR deputies who could be pushed off their party election list, could all sabotage the working group's efforts in the VR to arrange the snap election. For PoR in particular, the later the elections are held, the better.

One recent OP has PoR at 30%, BYut at 17%, NU at 9%, Lutsenko's bloc at 3.9%, Commies at 3.7%,

Another has PoR at 35.5%, BYuT 19.6%. NU 12.9%, Commies 4.2%, Lutsenko's bloc 3.7%.This would produce a VR as in the diagram below, i.e. a possible slender 'blue and white' majority comprising PoR 210 seats and Communists 25.

LEvko thinks such numbers could well produce the resonably stable PoR/NU coalition many big businessmen desire, even if, say, a third to a half of NU's projected 77 deputies defect to a BYuT-led opposition. The clincher would be PoR's supporting Yushchenko for president in [possibly] early presidential elections in 2008. But much can happen in-between - and all could even unravel as soon as this week..

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Whose hands of the levers of power?

According to Sonya Koshkina in an article in 'Obozrevatel':

"The fate of the snap elections was determined not by Yanukovych or Yushchenko, but by Akhmetov and Hayduk. [see photo]. The chair of the KabMin [Yanuk] has been promised the premiership if PoR creates a new coalition with NU; and in return the Head of The State [Yush] will be supported by "Regiony" when he stands for second term of office. Moroz and Tymoshenko will rally and work together against this."

I've loosely translation some bits:

"The leader of BYuT has only partly achieved her aim - probable early elections. But personally, for her, this only has value if she obtains the post of PM . No "secret agreement" between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko has been signed on this. Moreover, she knows the the deal concluded by Yu and Ya [on Friday] was sealed because Yushchenko promised to appoint Yanukovych PM if he wins the election, and then forms a PoR/NU coalition. [In the event PoR do not get an absolute majority..]

The ideologists behind this concept are the "New Donetskyites" headed by Rinat Akhmetov. They "pushed" for this idea a year ago after the March 2006 VR elections and the 'grand coalitionade' that followed, when Victor Fedorovich, reluctantly and 'with gritted porcelain teeth', agreed to become VR speaker under a Yuriy Yekhanurov premiership.

A second attempt to realize this plan will now help cement the country together, and also tie 'the arms and the legs" of the key political players with numerous mutual commitments.

As a "reciprocal courtesy" Yanukovych has been reminded of the undertaking of last August by PoR to help Yushchenko achieve a second presidential term in office.

It is clear that the [recent] encounters beween the two Viktors were very brief - too short to physically work out such major solutions. The key agreements were reached the day before by Hayduk and Akhmetov - Yushchenko and Yanukovych only formalized them. Thus, the country's two main politicans again were shown to be pawns in the game of the two main businessmen. (with their own taciturn agreement)."

Koshkina claims that BYuT will not appear in the VR sessional hall on Tuesday [when details on the snap election have to be tied up], and what is more - Tymoshenko and Moroz, for their own mutual interest, may conclude a "secret agreement" in order to sabotage the preparation for early elections. The agreement will run until San Sanych [Moroz] obtains a guarantee of entry into the new parliament, or Yulia Volodymyrivna is guaranteed the premiership. Otherwise their joint efforts will be applied "to play for time" and delay the snap election.

LEvko says there is much devious wheeling and dealing to be done before the early VR elections. All the main players are looking to land on their feet. PoR's forceful demands for early or joint VR/presidential elections seem to have been shelved for now, so there may be some truth in Koshkina's speculation.

Find out more about Hayduk and Yush's new project which was dreamt up last autumn here

Saturday, May 05, 2007

He who laughs last..

President Viktor Yuschenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych today reached agreement on organization of early parliamentary elections.

"The most important thing in our agreement is that we have made a fundamental decision on organization of early parliamentary elections," said Yushchenko.

But LEvko says this does not necessarily mean Viktor Yushchenko is out-maneuvering the anti-crisis coalition and the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Almost 50% Of Ukrainians polled By Sofia Center condemn Yuschenko's decision to dissolve the V.Rada.

This is bad news for NU and BYuT - there will be a price to pay for forcing early elections which half of the electorate consider unnecessary.

Today Yushchenko also appointed a second new judge to the Constitutional Court - Vasyl Kostytskiy [see photo - would you trust this man?]. The ukaz is posted on the presidential website.
Kostytskiy is a former pro-Kuchmist SDPU(o) party VR deputy, and a deputy head of the state judicial administration.

In the first Yanukovych administration he was deputy finance minister. He later headed the state mortgage board where he "loyally carried out Kuchma/Medvedchuk's policies," and was sacked in November 2005 following a financial scandal. The talk was that only several hundred thousand dollars were involved.. peanuts really.

Piskun - Havrysh - Kostytskiy...Yush sure knows how to pick 'em - come back Syuzanna Stanik..all is forgiven. Its the few 'bad apples' like these who give the remaining five per cent of judges a bad name..

Friday, May 04, 2007

Havrysh appointed as CC judge

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has surprised everyone again today by appointing Stepan Havrysh [see photo] as a Constitutional Court judge. The text of the decree is posted at the official web site of the President.

Havrysh is a doctor of legal sciences, honored lawyer of Ukraine,and member of the Supreme Council of Justice. He heads the “All-Ukrainian Union “Center” political party. At the2006 VR election, he balloted on the list of “Ne Tak!” opposition bloc, which bombed badly.

He was the pro-Kuchma parliamentary majority co-ordinator in the VR, a former VR Vice-Speaker, and a former CC court judge. Stepan Havrysh had represented Viktor Yanukovych's interests in the Supreme court during the OR, and in the Central Election Commission. He was is aligned with the Social-Democratic Party [united] and was regarded as one of Yanukovych's most loyal allies.

A clue as to why he may have been selected by Yush. is provided by an interview he gave at the end of March in which he suggested that the Constitutional Court be disbanded.

In his opinion, the CC was incapable of operating properly, and in more than 8 months had not delivered one decision.

"The CC is incapable of carrying out its duties in a professional manner. The CC must realize, that it will today either become political hostage and be politicized, and it will bear responsibility for its political solutions, " he noted.

Havrysh said, "The best solution for this situation is the court's resignation, and formation of a new court."

He added that the court can only be dissolved by an act of self-dissolution, because there is no defined procedure for early resignation, with exception of violation of oath of office [which is what Yush used in his ukases to sack two CC judges recently]

Havrysh considers that the CC must be bi-cameral, and be empowered to examine complaints of citizens about violations of constitutional rights and freedoms.

He noted that the judges must be assigned by the President and parliament only, with over 300 deputies voting, so that the opposition also participate in the process.

"Judges must not be the representatives of the political majority. Or else we will soon arrive at a situation where the entire judicial system and all organs of authority which are appointed by parliament, will, one way or another, belong to the political majority," he said.

Havrysh pointed out that decisions made by the CC are unique in Ukraine, because they cannot be challenged or protested by anyone, i.e. they have even more power even than the constitution, which can be altered by parliament.

"Under these conditions the CC's responsibility for its decisions is very special. Possibly this is the reason why the CC has not made any rulings until now," he noted in the interview.

The VR ruling coalition have responded to Havysh's appointment by refusing to accept it. A spokesman said on TV tonight: "I emphasize Mr Havrysh is not a CC judge."

LEvko thinks that PoR are getting a bit worried. Havrysh and new P-G Svyatoslav Piskun are 'big beasts' in Ukrainian politics and very useful allies for the pres. Some say Yush is a 'new man' since April 2nd.
Just as an aside, is the same Havrysh who, as co-ordinator of the pro-government parliamentary coalition, and following the infamous egg-throwing incident in Ivano-Frankivsk during the OR presidential election campaign, said "Yanukovych was hit by an egg in his temple and collapsed from a "pain shock"?
Video footage showed the egg had struck Yanuk in his substantial abdomen.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yush strikes again..

Yushchenko has today, by an ukaz, replaced former Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Medvedko in the National Security and Defence Council with the recently-appointed Svyatoslav Piskun .

He has also kicked out supreme court of Ukraine head, Vasyl Oponenko, from the NSDC.

BTW, Vasyl Tsushko, the minister of internal affairs is a member of the NSDC too - maybe he can air his views and fears there. [see previous posting]

Update: Apparently Oponenko had requested he be dropped from the SCDC..[jumped before being pushed?]

Tsushko requests protection from Yu, Ya, and Moroz

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Vasyl Tsushko, [see photo from Unian] has today written to the President of Ukraine, the Prime Minister, and the VR speaker, warning of preparations by some 'state authority officials', and separate political forces, to discredit of leadership of the MIA.

In the letter, he warns that: "these..will be in the form of accusations of an opaque and corrupt nature, directed at the leading figures [of the MIA]. In particular, publications are being prepared about alleged bribe-taking by the leaders of the organs of the MIA".

"The Ministry of Internal Affairs sees this as a preparation by certain political forces to prevent the MIA from fulfilling its responsibilities - the MIA is probably the only power ministry today which can ensure stability and tranquillity in the state," emphasizes internal affairs minister Tsushko.

In his opinion, "The purpose of the organizers is to destabilize the situation in the country, including by the destruction of the principles of legality of the actions of the organs of internal affairs".

"Today not all political forces are attracted by MIA policy, directed toward the non-admission of provocations or use of force on the streets of Kyiv and in the country, between the supporters of parliamentary coalition and opposition..".

Rather curious...Ukraine's 'top cop' bleating in this way..seems to me that he is another that is being pulled in all directions..or is it the Piskun effect again?
In January Tsushko replaced the chiefs of police in half of Ukraine's oblasts and in Kyiv and Sevastopol with a number of his own 'mean-looking dudes', after discussions with Yanuk, so why the worry?
p.s. the 'over the top' Yanuk-Moroz-Symonenko appeal I mentioned yesterday, can now be read in English on Yanuk's official site here. Save this 'goody two-shoes' trio from the despotic and brutal tyrant Yushchenko!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stanik sacked..and Yanuk's response..

Today president Yushchenko sacked Constitutional Court judge Syuzanna Stanik (see photo) about whom I have posted previously. It's the Piskun effect..

I've translated parts of an instant response to Stanik's sacking, signed by VR coalition leaders Yanuk. Moroz, and Symonenko, and addressed to: 'The Ukrainian nation, PACE [council of Europe], the EU, all international organisations, and ambassadors acredited in Ukraine', from Yanuk's official website:

"Viktor Yushchenko by his anti-constitutional acts is pushing Ukraine along the road to anarchy and chaos...

We are convinced that the president is realizing an anti-constitutional rebellion. The next step of the president could be an ukaz ordering tanks onto the streets..

The actions of the president of Ukraine are becoming dangerous for the state and the nation. Ukraine is threatened by legal disorder and civil war.

We appeal to the Council of Europe with a call to support us in our demand against the return of authoritarianism in Ukraine. We call upon the world to remind president Yushchenko about democratic principles, about the supremacy of law, and that Ukraine should remain a region of peace and stability in the centre of Europe."

Quite melodramatic..Will kompromat against Stanik be now produced?

Have the coalition, in the words of George Bush, misunderestimated Yushchenko?