[Update: See 20th April TV interview with Yulia Tymoshenko, mentioned below, here. ]
Here's a rough translation of 'Segodnya's' report on PoR's party congress on Saturday:
Yanukovych reminded about traitors at the congress
Ex-premier re-elected leader of party, but delegates grumble about deals with Oranges.
A photo in the article is headed "Leader and his assembly. Congress preserves existing balance of forces in the PoR.
Saturday's PoR congress was wrapped in a halo of mystery. Up to two days prior to its start, the press were not being allowed to attend - providing fertile ground for rumours. These suggested, for example, that at the congress, a power struggle would take place between Yanukovych's men, and the so-called business- wing of party (Boris Kolesnikov and Rinat Akhmetov). Others joked that there was simply not enough money for the journalists' buffet.
However, 'Segodnya's' correspondent did manage to be attend the congress - and did not witness to any major inner-party conflict; but an air of tension was apparent.
Yanukovych began by outlining briefly the sense of political drift in the country - crisis inside the ruling coalition, a totally incapable government, the country in a trap. The leader of the party predicted either early elections, or a transformation of the goverment coalition. "Ukraine will never become a flourishing state, until a coalition is created that is capable of governing the state. And I am certain that the creation of this coalition is not possible without the Party of Regions," said Yanukovych.
Furthermore, the entire congress voted unanimously for the re-election of Viktor Fedorovich as leader of party (only one person abstained from voting - Yanukovych itself). The leader was visibly moved by the confidence shown in him, and, it seemed to our correspondent that he even shed a tear.
No substantial changes in the party leadership took place. Because Yanukovych was given several leading posts (in particular, head of the politsovyet), he will possibly even strengthen his influence on the party. However the composition of his deputies and of the politsovyet indicates the balance of forces between the various groups in the party (Yanukovych's people, the old guard of Azarov and Rybak, and the business-wing) has been maintained.
Bohatyryova [now secretary of the National Security and Defence Council] has not been excluded from the party. Moreover, she has been admitted into the politsovyet, which in principle is logical, taking into account the words of Yanukovych about reforming the ruling coalition - the NSDC secretary would be not a bad assistant for him.
The only harsh statements at the congress came during the appearance of the head of the Luhansk Oblast' Council, Valeriy Golenko. He branded "traitors in the party, those elected on PoR tickets as mayor of Severodonetsk but who were against conducting the party congress in the city on the orders of the secretariat of the President". He did not name names, but it was evident that he had in mind Bohatyryeva).
Golenko also condemned the intentions of part of the PoR leadership to enter, under any circumstances, into a ruling coalition with Yushchenko, and called for the rot to be cleared out from party. His appearance was accompanied by enthusiastic ovations. "We are tired of these compromises. "Why do our leaders always step back? Always hob-knobbing with the oranges," grumbled delegates in the hall unhappily.
Yanukovych tried to react to these moods in the lower ranks of the party. He stated that during May he would concern himself with a 'chystka' of the party, but did not name those who would be cleared out or why.
PoR affirmed a new program at the congress. Its cornerstones are to be state status of the Russian language (maintining the principle "two languages, one nation"), non aligned status for Ukraine (i.e. no NATO), and parliamentary-presidential form of administration (i.e. "no increase in the authority of the President"). Oh, and according to Yanukovych, PoR also supports membership of Ukraine in the European Union.
In a TV interview today Yulia Tymoshenko declared that she is not thinking of resigning as PM, but is not excluding the possibility of early parliamentary elections again this Autumn either. She also believes that after the Easter break, parliament will approve constitutional changes.
"I am convinced that after the Easter holidays our parliament will gather and vote, in its first reading, for changes in the Constitution, which are needed by the country today, more than any other reforms," she said, explaining that she has in mind transfer to a parliamentary system of administration for the country. She cited Germany as an example. "I consider that Constitutional reform will put and end to such chaos [that exists in the country]."
The overlap of policies declared by Tymoshenko and PoR must be a cause of concern for the President.
p.s. Some photos of PoR's 11th Congress held on Saturday in Kyiv. Whatever anyone thinks, this was the party that gained the most votes in last Autumn's parliamentary elections, and now forms the official party of opposition. What a contrast with Russia, where the opposition are nowhere. For all of its shortcomings, Ukrainian politics remain dynamic, and unpredicatable.