Sunday, April 27, 2008

What the future will bring...

Speculation from an article entitled: "Will they 'nail' the president?" [a play on the word 'prybyut', i.e. PoR and BYuT] in the authoratative "Dzerkalo Tyzhnya" weekly:

"The parliamentary constitution committee will be created in the middle of May. By the end of the month the new Fundamental Law project will have received the appropriate verdict from the Constitutional Court and it will have been initially approved by a majority in the highest legislative body in the land [i.e. parliament]. During September the modernized version of this fundamental document of state will have received absolute support in the VR, and will be judicially valid. After this, most probably, extraordinary Presidential elections, parliament elections , and elections for the organs of local administration, and, possibly, urban heads will take place.

The number of politicians, who consider a such a scenario completely realistic, is increasing with each day. The guarantee of its success is the union of two most influential political forces - Party of Regions and BYuT..."

But first, the Kyiv city council and mayoral elections on May 25th..

Saturday, April 26, 2008

PM and Pres clash over SPF

On Friday morning PM Tymoshenko unexpectedly entered the State Property Fund [SPF] building, together with BYuT deputy Andriy Portnov. With the aid of a 'bull-horn' she gathered all of the staff together in the conference hall and introduced them to their new boss, Portnov. Journalists who wanted to interview Portnov were physically prevented from doing so, on the orders of the 'former' SPF head Valentyna Semeniuk-Samsonenko.

PM Yulia Tymoshenko's official website reports that she has instructed acting chairman of the SPF, Portnov to ignore President's decrees of 25 April 2008 on the management of the SPF and on terminating the privatization competition for the huge "Odessa Portside [chemical] Plant", which could bring in over $1Bn to state coffers.

Tymoshenko stated,"In actual fact rulings on these edicts have been made by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine and Kyiv Administrative court of law.. therefore the numbers of edicts on these matters and dates of their release have no value."

The President had stopped, by ukaz, a resolution of the government to change the management of the SPF, and blocked a Kabmin decision on the conditions for conducting a privatization competition for the Odessa Portside Plant. On 17 April, 2008, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine delivered a ruling that his actions were unconstitutional. According to Ukrainian law, resolutions of Constitutional Court are final, and cannot be challenged.

On 24th April the Kyiv Administrative Court, guided by the Constitutional Court decision, also anulled an additional Presidential ukaz on the restoration of Valentina Semenyuk-Samsonenko to her post as head of the SPF, and ruled illegal all decisions by the Fund blocking the privatization of the Odessa Portside Plant.

Tymoshenko emphasized: "The duties of the SPF are entrusted to Andriy Portnov, and he must do everything to finally end the wide-scale corruption in the Fund and organize honest privatizations with transparent procedures. Privatization must be carried out in the interests of the working collectives and the country."

Naturally, all this has caused a 'hell of a stink'.

The Prosecutor-General's office have now got involved and have condemned the KabMin's decision to 'boot out' Semenyuk. They have also challenged the conditions for privatizing the Odessa Portside Plant.

KabMin have riposted and dismissed the P-G's statements, and they are collecting signatures to initiate the dismissal of the P-G Oleksandr Medvedko. He is to be invited to the KabMin meeting after the long Easter break to explain himself. Portnov, wants to ask the P-G, "Why has he actually become head of the land and privatizational mafia."
He also wants to know from Medvedko and Semenyuk: "Why were the premises of the State Tax Administration sold, and why was no-one locked up in prison for this? And why were the premises of the State Company 'Nadra Ukrainy sold?"

Semenyuk has now stuffed the SPF official stamps 'into her knickers', and called this morning's events a "raiders' seizure." Her Socialist party boss Oleksandr Moroz is missing all of the action because he is in Moscow attending a minor Russian party conference.

I have posted several times previously here and here on the running battle for control of the State Property Fund.

Tymoshenko and her government desperately need funds from quick privatizations to help stem soaring inflation, as described in today's 'FT'.

p.s. LEvko wishes everyone a Happy Orthodox Easter...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Presidential power under major threat

Speaking at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg several days ago, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said:

"The time has come to demarcate the functions of the authorities and make Ukraine a traditional parliamentary republic, as is characteristic of most European states. This model has an advantage over all other monopolistic systems of authority." Ms Tymoshenko stressed that this did not mean the removal of the presidential post, but rather a rebalancing of authority in line with best principles of European democracy.
The premier told journalists, "We have set ourselves the goal to conduct constitutional reforms by the end of this year." She continued to say that Ukraine will ask for assistance from the Venice Commission and PACE member states to help draft the necessary reforms. "Early elections, were not enough to prevent this imbalance," said Ms Tymoshenko, the time has come to alter the constitution and put an end to this tension because the people deserve better from their leaders. We should work together in harmony."

Similar thoughts were expressed by the head of BYuT in a TV interview over the weekend.

An article in '4Post' explains that in order to understand what has been going in in Ukrainian politics recently, it is useful to compare the words of the chief participants with their deeds:

On 17th April Viktor Yanukovych declared: "Hopes that we will initiate [call for] the resignation of the government, are vain". This was rather surprising as it followed a barrage of hostile statements by Yanukovych's companions-in-arms: that Yulia Tymoshenko's government had dragged down the economy and that the only way out of the crisis would be to remove her team from the country's levers of economic control.

It has to be remembered that both PoR and BYuT have sufficient numbers of VR deputies to cause the collapse of parliament if either were to walk out 'en bloc', forcing new elections.

It has been long widely assumed that the president's secretariat had done a deal with the "Akhmetov" wing of PoR on the creation of "wide" coalition based on a NUNS-PoR link-up, but probably without Viktor Yanukovych at the helm.

[PoR reluctantly accepted Yushchenko's constitutionally dubious dismissal of parliament just over a year ago, on the promise that a "wide"PoR-NUNS coalition would be formed after the early elections. Yushchenko has failed to deliver, and as other's have said in the past: "This organization does not tolerate failure"...hence their wish to clip the president's wings once and for all.]

In the medium term, Tymoshenko is betting that she can win any possible extraordinary parliamentary elections, rather than the next presidential elections in late 2009. This is indicated by BYuT's [secret?] deal with PoR: both parties, by the end of 2008, would vote through a new version of the Ukrainian Constitution in which the President would be reduced to a 'English queen' role, with all the levers of power located in the hands of prime minister.

According to '4Post's' sources in both BYuT and PoR, both parties have honestly told one other that there are no hidden traps in the deal, and that they will co-operate only on the question of adoption of a new constitution. After this they will be opponents again, fighting for power - with victory to the stronger.

Some PoR deputies have made similar declarations, quite openly, to other journalists too.

This PoR-BYuT deal puts the presidential secretariat in a difficult position, since any move may have negative consequences. Provoking Tymoshenko's resignation from the post of premier would make impossible for a new constitution to be adopted this year, but would make her hot favourite for the President's chair in a couple of year's time, when she would retain Yushchenko's considerable powers.

But now, if the president stands idly by, his power as President will be mercilessly reduced, and either Tymoshenko or Yanukovych will be the dominant politica figure in the land.

For the president to make a deal with Ukraine's richest businessman, Rinat Akhmetov, would not resolve the president's dilemma. Akhmetov is smart enough a businessman not to place all of his eggs into one basket, and he will align himself with whoever has the greater chance of gaining absolute power.

Monday, April 21, 2008

PoR congress and Yulka on TV

[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.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Back to business again

Now the NATO Bucharest summit has ended and Ukraine's NATO entry put onto the back-burner, PoR will quieten down the rhetoric on this issue.

Today's 'Segodnya' runs a story entitled:

"Source reveals 'Regionaly' could reject anti-NATO slogans"

At the congress of the Party of Regions, which takes place tomorrow, 19th April, according to the weekly "Kommentarii" which quotes sources in the party, a new version of the party program may be presented which will no longer contains key anti-NATO and 'language' declarations.

The preparation of the program was apparently supervised by VR deputy Boris Kolesnikov, and it's claimed that the inner-party group of PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych were completely cut out of the process.

The new party program is to be "a mix of the best political ideas and Christian- democratic values".

Furthermore, according to "Kommentarii", the group of party reformers headed by Kolesnikov will also present at the congress their own project of statutes for the party, which will limit the power of the party leader.

At the same time, alternative proposed statutes may be presented, which, on the contrary, would strengthen the role of the leader of party.

"Segodnya" is owned by companies linked to Rinat Akhmetov, whilst the source it quotes, "Kommentarii', is linked to the rival 'Industrial Union of Donbas', run by Serhiy Taruta and Vitaliy Hayduk.

For all of the squabbles and endless disputes associated with Ukrainian politics, the country's largest financial industrial groups are highly pragmatic, and more powerful that is often realized.

Yesterday Yushchenko spend a pleasant day in Dontesk meeting Akhmetov at the new Shakhtar stadium currently under construction. It will be used in the major Euro 2012 soccer tournamnent.

According to 'Segodnya' they also 'drove off together at high speed' with Yush behind the wheel of a Mercedes to Akhmetov's residence, where they spent about 3 'unofficial' hours together [discussing a new grand coalition, and the Supreme Court's ruling on Dniproenergo maybe? ]

Minister of the Interior Yuriy Lutsenko was in Donetsk too, where he embraced Akhmetov and greeted Kolesnikov, for whom he has prepared an award to be picked up in Kyiv.
Just after the Orange Revolution, Kolesnikov was 'banged up' in prison by Lutenko for several months, and Akhmetov's offices were 'busted' and surrounded by armoured vehicles...

'Segodnya' also runs this story on Yushchenko's views on NATO:

Yushchenko at long last honestly acknowledges that no-one in NATO wants us

Ukraine today "does not pose a threat to anyone", declares the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko.

He spoke of this yesterday in Donetsk at the all-Ukrainian conference, "With love and care for children".

On the question of the entrance of Ukraine into NATO, he noted: "I want to say honestly - there's more [there] that don't want us, than want us", and added: "This is a policy for Ukraine, and not against anyone. We pose not one new threat to anyone, not one threat."
The President explained that 14 years ago, Ukraine gave up its nuclear warheads and became a non nuclear power - "This was a global act, we made a colossal contribution to world safety".

"We should have a foundation of international safety, this is the right of our country, the right our people", emphasized Yushchenko. "Security can only be ensured by means of a mechanism of collective guarantee", but the President stressed, that he "would not want this to split Ukrainian society".

"We aren't talking today about entry, or not (into NATO). We are talking now about our intensive relations, nothing more," said the Head of State. "And then, when the moment arrives, we will give an answer in a most democratic manner - do we want to go in, or not." "But here I want to emphasize - we are a sovereign state, and sovereign means a state which does not avail itself of prompts from one, another, or from a third side... We are unique, wise nation, that is not more stupid than another European nation," concluded Yushchenko.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BYuT drops bombshell..

'Segodnya' has just reported that BYuT press service have released a declaration containing an ultimatum to President Yushchenko.

The story entitled:

"Official declaration of BYuT : Yushchenko - enemy of the people"

accuses the President and his secretariat of :

total ruination of all initiatives of the democratic government,

of blocking all anti-corruption programs of the government,

of creating panic and hysteria on inflation,

of halting civilized privatization,

of taking into their hands shadow schemes in the gas sphere,

of providing cover for the corrupt leadership of the State Property Fund,

and of consolidating around him leaders of clans and financial-industrial groups who want to return to power,

and of disgracing the Ukrainian state.

BYuT appeals to the president to stop his anti-Ukrainian activity and ruination of any chance of democratic development of the country. BYuT state there is only one civilized solution - accepting changes to the Constitution in parliament..

More later on this major development...

p.s. Ukraine's leaders may want to check out this new book by a former British Foreign Secretary:

"Most political leaders become mentally or physically incapable of sound judgment and lose their grip on reality, argues David Owen in a new book. Elizabeth Grice talks to the former doctor and politician....

Disfunction at the top

Segodnya runs a punchy piece on the turmoil inside the parliamentary coalition, together with a telling photograph. I've done a rough translation:

BYuT Dismisses Baloha - Baloha dismisses ministers

The crisis in the coalition continues. Tymoshenko and "Regiony" take on the Constitution.

The ruling coalition teeters on the edge of collapse. BYuT and NUNS gathered on Monday in order to resolve their differences - but they failed.

The reason for the current crisis in relations between the orange parties was the intention of BYuT, together with "Regiony", to jointly create a Temporary Special Commission on the introduction of changes to the Constitution. NUNS interpreted this treachery - "Byutovtsi" were going behind the back of their partner in the coalition and negotiating with "Donetski", not about trivial matters, but about reducing the powers of the President in fundamental law. "Nasheukraintsy" even warned that the unity of coalition was hanging by a thread.

On Monday BYuT seemingly stepped back from the brink and declared that it would not vote on Tuesday for the Temporary Special Commission. But BYuT 'NarDep' Andriy Shkil' yesterday stated that in any event, the commission would be created, perhaps just a little later.

Curiously, also on Monday, deputies from BYuT, and part of NUNS fraction, in particular representatives from "People's Self-defence", proposed a motion that the President sack the head of his secretariat Viktor Baloha and his deputy Ihor Pukshin. But Andriy Shkil' revealed that NUNS categorically refused even to put the motion to a vote.

Yesterday Baloha himself spoke of dismissals too, but not of his own. The head of Presidential Secretariat demanded the resignation of representatives of the economic bloc of the KabMin (assigned on BYuT's quota) because it was they that were responsible for inflation reaching unprecedented heights.

On Tuesday both BYuT and NUNS claimed that they had found surprising unanimity on the question of conducting the Kyiv mayoral elections in two rounds (which would guarantee the defeat of the current mayor Chernovetsky). "When we voted at our coalition meeting on this question, there was no-one against this, and no-one abstained, so a decision was made that we would support this bill. "To prevent talk of some in NUNS not voting, I could say that the document would be supported by the Litvin bloc, so there would have been sufficient votes in any event," said mayoral candidate from NU, Mykola Katerynchuk.

At first 'Regionaly' collected around the VR platform in order to prevent the coalition voting for this law, but later reconsidered. "The President himself is against this law and against mayoral elections in stages. Even if they gather sufficient votes in order to pass the law, the President will not sign it off. Yushchenko still controls a large part of his fraction, and I think, the law will not be accepted," said PoR 'NarDep' Mikhail Chechetov.

Deputy PM Oleksandr Turchynov responded brusquely to Baloha's demands: "Again we do not accept the subsequent portion of dirt that pours from the walls of the President's Secretariat this week. We consider it beneath our dignity to give an assessment to this Bank Street intellect." [The pres's secretariat is located on Bank Street]

LEvko considers that changes to the Constitution would need to be supported by over 300 votes in the 450 seat parliament, or by a majority of citizens in any referendum, so an all-party commission on Constitutional reform doesn't seem to be too crazy an idea..

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

RUE stays, UGE goes, almost everyone happy

In a 15 minute interview on TV channel 1+1 yesterday, a rather tired-looking PM Tymoshenko revealed that RosUkrEnergo, at the insistence of the Russian authorities and Gazprom, will remain the monopolistic supplier of imported gas for a while after all, but: "RUE will not enter Ukraine - they will hand over gas to Ukrainian state gas company 'Naftohaz Ukrainy' on Russian territory."

'', in an article entitled "RosUkrEnergo forever", today explains that this arrangement probably suits everyone right now, except for Viktor Yushchenko - his sponsor, Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash, will lose a major part of his 'cut' from RUE. Here are several portions of the article:

"The preservation of RUE is an obvious concession by Ukraine; Tymoshenko repeatedly spoke of the intention to completely eliminate intermediaries fron the gas supply chain. But the elimination of [secondary intermediary] 'UkrHazEnerho' is a victory for the prime-minister, and has ensured the bulk of industrial gas deliveries in Ukraine are via 'Naftohaz', which is overseen by her protege Oleh Dubina.

The present situation, according to political scientist Dmitriy Abzalov, suits everyone. Gazprom retains the intermediary and has also received a significant portion of the Ukrainian market, i.e. 7.5 Bcm of gas p.a.

"Presently RUE directs a portion of gas to Europe at European prices, and the profit made allows it to subsidize Ukraine, supplying gas at a reduced price. Without the intermediary, this will not occur, " said Abzalov.

But the victim will be Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, who received most of his income from the activities of UkrHazEnerho.

"Having eliminated this company [RUE], Tymoshenko has killed two birds with one stone: she has diverted the lion's share of supply of gas to Naftohaz Ukrainy, and has knocked away financial support from under her main political rival, Viktor Yushchenko," says Abzalov.

Firtash is linked to Yushchenko, as evidenced by the fact that Firtash has a joint account with the wife of the Ukrainian president in one of the banks. Firtash was until recently the main financial resource for Yushchenko. Now, according to the political scientist, financial problems have sprung up for the businessman, and correspondingly, the position of the Ukrainian president has been weakened. "I believe, that the question of the final elimination of RUE will put on 'the back burner' by Tymoshenko, it is not convenient for her the remove the intermediary right now," considers Abzalov."

p.s. NUNS leader Vyacheslav Kyrylenko declared tonight, after a meeting with coalition partners, that the fate of the democratic coalition will be saved, if on Tuesday, the BYuT fraction in the VR does not vote with PoR and the Communists in favour of the project to create a temporary special commission on introduction of changes to the Constitution.

Could be trouble ahead..

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pres miffed again at BYuT

Head of the "Yedynyi Tsentr" party, Ihor Kril [who, with head of Presidential secretariat Viktor Baloha, is associated with a possible new political initiative based around President Yushchenko], has accused BYuT of co-operating with PoR and of threatening the existence of the coalition of democratic forces.

Kril claims he had received information from a BYuTivets that BYuT will be unanimously supporting PoR 'attack dog' and former 'Kuchmivets' Nestor Shufrich for first deputy parliamentary speaker. According to Kril, the whole country will receive an example of BYuT voting with PoR, "which will bear witness to the fact of close co-operation between the 'hearts' and the team that created lawlessness in the late Kuchma period. The lobbying by BYuT of Shufrich will be vividly confirmed - he is an activist widely known as the linkman between Tymoshenko and Medvedchuk."

Kril also accused BYuT of co-operating with PoR in forming a special parliamentary constitutional commission to look into President Yushchenko's proposed constitutional changes. "This cynical consipiracy between BYuT and PoR can be considered as nothing else than an open and demonstrative betrayal, a deception of the electorate, and a denial of democratic views." [The special constitutional commission comprises 29 deputies - 11 from PoR and 10 from BYuT. So it is not unreasonable to consider there will be a built-in majority against any Presidential initiatives to expand his powers.]

And a member of the VR BYuT fraction has responded to deputy head of President's secretariat, Ihor Pukshin's allegations that representatives from BYuT had proposed to him early Kyiv elections be scrapped. He called Pushkin's statements 'hysteria', and countered by claiming it was the President's secretariat that has sent lawyers to court to determine the legitimacy of parliamentary resolution on early mayoral elections for Kyiv.

LEvko recalls that after the orange revolution it was always the President that toyed with the idea of forming a grand coalition with PoR, leaving BYuT on the doorstep. Now BYuT and PoR are sniffing each anothers' ****, the Pres doesn't like it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Presidential mud slinger at it again..

The battle between the President's secretariat and PM Tymoshenko is gaining revs.

The official Presidential site today carries this:

Yulia Tymoshenko is consciously bringing down the coalition and going for open conflict with the President - Victor Baloha

The head of the secretariat of the President of the Ukraine, Viktor Baloha, considers that decisions of cabinet of ministers on land reform, and the ever more obvious co-operation between BYuT and the oppositional PoR unequivocally testify that the leader of BYuT is on a path to destroy the parliamentary majority, and to enter open conflict with the President, Viktor Yushchenko.

"The undisguised mercenary, coursely pragmatic, actions of Yulia Tymoshenko's team are concealed by beautiful pathos-arousing phrases about unity, democracy and the struggle against corruption. However, in reality, political and business schemes are being hatched which are intended to provide a monopolisitic position for BYuT and its leadership in the political arena, in authority, and in the economy. Shady deals are being conducted comprising secret agreements, that are intended to ensure administrative and financial power for this political force. An entire arsenal of means has been set into motion, often of a dubious nature from point of view of law and morals," says Baloha.

The posting on the official site goes on:

"The idea for supporting a united candidate for the Kyiv mayoral elections has failed precisely because of the egoistic position of BYuT." The 'white-hearts', for incomprehensible reasons, are convinced that it is they who have the widest support in the capital, and that their candidate will obtain the greatest number of Kyivan votes. The opinions of their other partners from the democratic camp were not even taken into consideration.

Therefore the entire fault for failing to agree on a united democratic candidate lies squarely on them.

At the same time ByuT actively proposes a politechnological route - mayoral elections in two rounds. Thus, they want to impose a rudimentary Soviet model of local authority elections that does not exist anywhere in the democratic world. In order to achieve its corporate goal BYuT is prepared to cast our country decades into the past.

Baloga declares that the "Tymoshenkivtsy" have recently voted together with the deputies from Party of Regions on the 'unconstitutional' law "On the cabinet of ministers" and on the law on state tender purchasing, which, according to Baloha, preserves criminal mechanisms, enabling theft of billions of hryven of state funds.

Frequently BYuT's partners have been the Communists, who, by no means for unselfish motives, have helped to pass the necessary resolutions. Deputies from BYuT voted for the yesterday's parlimentary overturning of the President's ruling - which in the essence proposes that Constitutional Court judges stained by corruption remain in office. It have became obvious, how deeply slogans of struggle against corruption differ from actual practice."

Together with Party of Regions, BYuT he wants to create and head a parliamentary commission for revising the Constitution. They have provocatively disregarded sharp protests of their NUNS partner in the democratic coalition. "In their desire to control even the fundamental laws of the land BYuT is prepared to enter every kind, of even distorted, union, even with those, who until they rose to power they mercilessly criticized.

"There is nothing surprising in the fact that the Kabmin has taken the decision they did on auctions for the sale of land, and that prime minister speaks about existence of a land Mafia. It is possible to assume that the leader of government simply wants to head this Mafia herself...

All very heavy stuff..

Tymoshenko, in response to Baloha's tirades, at a press conference today said: "No other format of coaltion is acceptable to us, apart from that which already exists. The existing coalition - this is a long-endured result. I value the unity of the coalition and will not allow any individual persons to destroy it."

[Note: As things stand there will be only one round in the Kyiv mayoral elections, so there is a significant possibility that a candidate, such as current disgraced mayor Chernovetsky, remains in power because opposition votes will have been divided up into small portions between remaining candidates. However BYuT are demanding that tomorrow a bill is debated in the VR on conducting mayoral elections over two rounds, which would greatly improve the chance of a BYuT or NUNS supported candidate winning, even though the President and NUNS are against this.]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Who is orange candidate for Kyiv mayor?

Pre-term majoral and local government elections will take place in Kyiv at the end of May. No agreed joint candidate has been chosen yet to stand on behalf of the orange forces, but the boxer Vitaliy Klychko has put his name forward, and Oleksandr Turchynov's name has been 'pencilled in' also. Turchynov is currently deputy PM, and one of Yulia Tymoshenko's closest associates.

'Kommentarii' highlights the 'wheeling and dealing' and intrigues around who the orange nominee could be, if indeed a unified candidate can be found.

Yulia Tymoshenko and ByuT are ready to support Vitaliy Klychko, if the President agrees to their program of government, and also concedes on cadre changes in the State Property Fund, Securities and Stock Market Commission, and in the Anti-Monopoly Committee [i.e. so she can get her way on privatizations]. BYuT are intending to nominate their candidate on 11th April.

BYuT calculate that they will obtain a majority in the Kyiv city council independent of other partners anyway, so they will have control over any mayor that is not 'theirs' in any case. There are many important 'businessmen' trying to ensure that their man, whoever it may be, emerges victorious to provide a 'krysha' for their money-making schemes in Kyiv.

'Ekonomicheskie Izvestia' reports BYuT have referred gas disputes between the President and the government for resolution by the Constitutional Court.

VR deputy Andriy Portnov, one of BYuT's legal experts, and 52 of his BYuT colleagues have turned to the Constitutional Court to assess the fundamental law of some of the President Viktor Yushchenko's recent decrees on questions of "measures for the guarantee of stable functioning and development of the market for natural gas". In other words, to resolve who is really to be in charge of negotiations with Russia and Gazprom in these matters.

Portnov stated: "It is important to determine the differentiation of authority, [and] the distribution of authority, including [those associated] with resolution of gas questions," adding, "There is no politics here".

The words of the deputy are not persuasive against the background of continuous bickering since the beginning of the year between the Kabmin and the President's secretariat on the resolution of key state problems, not only on questions of gas, but also in the privatization and judicial system spheres.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Grey cardinal not yet finished..

A recent article in 'Ekonomicheskie Izvestia' explains that even though President Yushchenko has criticized Tymoshenko's administration for employing associates of head of President Kuchma's administration, and Kuchma's main fixer, Viktor Medvedchuk, the latter still has a significant role to play in Ukrainian politics:

"Yushchenko taking away Medvedchuk from Tymoshenko

Regular contact between head of the Presidential secretariat, Viktor Baloha, and Viktor Medvedchuk, according to information obtained by 'E-Izvestia', has led to Bank Street [presidential administration] trying to pull away Medvedchuk from the orbit of influence of Yulia Tymoshenko and bring him into the orbit of Viktor Yushchenko. This was one of the reasons for the Head of The State's letter of criticism written to the premier.

In the letter, Yushchenko demanded Tymoshenko dismiss people, who have connections with the former Head of the President's Administration, Medvedchuk: i.e. deputy head of the Customs service Taras Kozak, first deputy head of the State Agency on questions of provision of effective use of energy resources, Oleksandr Parshin, first Deputy Minister of regional development and building, Oleksiy Ishchenko, and adviser to the premier, Oleksandr Zadorozhniy.

The first area of co-operation between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Medvedchuk could be the fight for the mayor of Kyiv's chair, according to sources close to BYuT's leadership.

Also Mr. Medvedchuk's closeness with the outgoing and future Presidents of Russia could help Yushchenko significantly improve personal dialogue with the Kremlin.

Party of Regions deputy Vasyl Khara agrees with this scenario and considers the demand of the President to expel Medvedchuk's people from executive power to be politically motivated: "Yushchenko implies that it is necessary to expel from Kabmin of all those who are not in the sphere of the influence of the President. He already considers the country to be his own property, and his contacts with the premier by letter look ridiculous".

This view is supported by his political opponent, BYuT deputy Valentyn Zubov. "The country needs professionals and it is unimportant to what political force they are affiliated," he said. "As to how Yulia Tymoshenko will react to this, it's better to ask her".

However, in the SDPU(o) party they consider that the demand of the President to discharge people close to Victor Medvedchuk to be the result of a failure of NATO members to accept Ukraine's Membership Action Plan in Bucharest. At the moment of failure, the President again mentioned Viktor Medvedchuk, "in connection with resolution of gas disputes with Russia". According to information, the former leader of SDPU(o) organized the 12th February Moscow meeting between Viktor Yushchenko and Vladimir Putin, during which the Presidents reached agreements on questions of gas."

p.s. "Baloha (according to some sources) considers his namesake and former fellow SDPU(o) member Medvedchuk to be his teacher and tries to mimic his style." 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' 15th December 2007

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Battle renewed..

I've loosely translated this from the latest 'Segodnya' newspaper:

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko: the ceasefire has ended

After the NATO summit there is talk again about the resignation of the government.

The latest NATO summit ended on Friday in Bucharest, where a decision on Ukraine's Membership Action Plan was postponed until December. Those opposed to Ukraine's entrance into NATO celebrate this as a victory (Europe has at long last noted that half of the country is against the alliance), while supporters can comfort themselves by thought that the member nations of the alliance expressed support, in principle, for accepting Kyiv into NATO.

Meanwhile politicians and political observers consider that after the President's secretariat having taken a small time-out before and during the NATO summit in order to create the appearance of political stability, will now commence the next phase of the stand-off between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko. The battle between them will now be renewed.

The first signal has already been given: the President recently severely criticized the premier over cadre policy. He wrote a letter to Tymoshenko, because people close to the odious Victor Medvedchuk [the ex-head of Leonid Kuchma's administration] have appeared in government. In reply Tymoshenko stated that, as premier, she chooses her team herself, and advised him not to conduct witch hunts.

Her closening ties with such people will inevitably provoke a reaction from more radically orientated NUNS deputies. But the president's criticism may be part of a wider plan intended to strengthen his own position in NUNS, to force Tymoshenko's resignation, and to unite NU with 'Regiony'. Experts do not, however, expect any major developments until after the May 25th Kyiv elections because her departure before then would only increase BYuT's ratings.

But at least two factors indicate that moves against Tymoshenko will take place in the next few months. First, sociologists have observed a noticeable drop in confidence and trust amongst the electorate in the premier and BYuT. If this tendency continues in the next month, then "Regiony" will no longer fear early elections [dosrochki]. They can attempt to force the resignation of government irrespective whether this will result in the reformation of the ruling coalition, or fresh parliamentary elections.

Secondly, in the opinion of experts, inflation will peak around April or May. By the autumn the price of some products could even fall somewhat, if there is a good harvest. The latter will have a positive affect on the Ukrainian economy as a whole. The situation in the world markets for steel, grain and chemicals (Ukraine's main export) is more than favorable because of the drop in the value of the US dollar w.r.t the Euro. Ukraine's exporters will obtain a significant increase in the incomes in the national currency [which is tied to the dollar]. National budget incomes will increase - very useful because in the September- November period increases in social payments are planned.
So there are no significant reasons for the enemies of Tymoshenko to drag out any attempt to force her resignation.

In public, BYuT members still downplay any possibility of the ruling BYuT-NUNS coalition being reformed any time soon, calling the latest spat between the President and PM just another family squabble.

LEvko considers continued efforts by the Tymoshenko government to undo previous privatizations, thus hitting the pockets of Ukraine's richest oligarchs, such as 'Segodnya's owner Rinat Akhmetov, will also increase the chances of her enemies ganging up against her.

May 25th is not so long away now, and the Kyiv election results will help Ukraine's politicians decide what to do next..

p.s. One of the reasons for Medvedchuk crawling out of the woodwork, explained last year in 'Ukrainska Pravda':

"There is another scenario for Medvedchuk’s return to power. However, this scenario does not depend on him but rather on the presidential election in Russia.

In 2003, Mr. Medvedchuk declared he would be the main lobbyist of Russian interests in Ukraine. In 2004, these relations were formalized. Mr. Medvedchuk’s daughter was baptized in Kazan Sobor by President Putin and the First Vice PM Dmitriy Medvedev’s wife.

In the event Mr. Medvedev becomes Mr. Putin successor Viktor Medvedchuk will try to become the main mediator between Kyiv and Moscow. Currently, he simply helps out in Moscow."

Friday, April 04, 2008

All change on Stanik again..

President Yushchenko has today annulled a March 2004 ukaz of his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma, appointing Syuzanna Stanik a Constitutional Court judge, on a technical point of order.

Yesterday he reinstated her after sacking her in May 2007.

I suppose this means she is now not a CC judge after all... or maybe she has just got stuck in the revolving door entrance to the Constitutional Court building... or maybe the President's secretary got the dates on the ukazes muddled up...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Good day to bury a dirty deed

President Yushchenko, perhaps using President Bush's visit and the Bucharest NATO bash as cover, today restored the disgraceful Syuzanna Stanik to her previous post as a Constitutional Court judge, by Presidential ukaz.

Scandals involving alleged bribe-taking swirled around the dreadful Stanik [see photo] throughout last summer. I posted on these matters several times.

She has in the past even administered a 'judicial slap' or two to opponents when required.

One can only assume that in order for her to return to the CC, she must have handed in her broomstick and black pointy hat, and sworn complete loyalty to the pres. Ironic... considering that he had sacked her as head of the the Constitutional Court last May for breaking her oath of office. What a fool the man is..

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Privatization battles to come

Last week the State Property Fund threatened to suspend the planned privatization of several state-owned companies by the Tymoshenko government.

This from 'Kyiv Post':

"The Ukrainian government, led by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, planned in its 2008 state budget to raise about $1.8 billion in revenue by privatizing strategic state-owned companies such as Ukrtelekom, Turboatom, six oblenergos and the Odesa Portside Plant, whose tender was planned for early May.

With the Fund led by Valentyna Semeniuk, a presidential ally, the announcement [to suspend the privatizations] is viewed by political observers as the latest obstacle thrown by President Viktor Yushchenko in the path of Tymoshenko, who is looking for funds for her ambitious social spending programs.

The situation is “rather serious” and Tymoshenko might not be able to raise the financial resources necessary for her social spending programs since “the Secretariat is ready to fight this issue until the very end,” said Mykhailo Pohrebinskiy, director of the Center of Political and Conflict Studies in Kyiv, which is financed by its private clients.

Ever since the Cabinet of Ministers dismissed Semeniuk on Feb. 6, accusing her of corruption, and tried to replace her with Tymoshenko ally Andriy Portnov, the Fund has been a key battleground in an ongoing struggle between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. The next day, Yushchenko vetoed the Cabinet’s decision to dismiss Semeniuk..."

Last week, Tymoshenko declared: "..privatization has been brought to a stop...I don't want to say which people are ruining privatization." She threatened that: "if the process continues, I, as premier, will name names, show documents and name the interests of people who are sabotaging privatization."

Today 'Ukrainska Pravda' publishes leaked documents from the head of the President's secretariat, Viktor Baloha, to Tymoshenko, which explain her outburst last week.

U.P. reveals the causes for the President/Prime minister conflict, are centred on the privatization of three enterprises: Turboatom, Dniproenergo, and and the Krivorih ore enrichment plant.

The President wants to retain the loyalty of Socialist Valentyna Semenyuk [for reasons I explained in an earlier posting].

Turboatom, in the last few years has been run under the patronage of the Socialists. Its long-time boss entered parliament in the 2006 elections on the Socialists' list. The new head of the company is a former Socialist leader in Kharkiv, and was appointed by Semenyuk, rather than by existing shareholders. There are suspicions that he may have been using a bank, with which he is associated, to handle company funds at reduced interest rates.

Also, Russian businessman Konsyantin Grigorishin is interested in gaining control of Turboatom; and it so happens that he is on good terms with Ukraine's Communists. Because of the paper-thin orange majority in the VR, Tymoshenko needs the the Communists - they have supported her once already, when calling for early mayoral elections in Kyiv. With assistance from the Communists she will be able cover for any possible votes lost in the VR due to renegade Balohaistas.

The President and his secretariat are against privatization of four electicity generating companies, and Dniproenergo in particular. This may be because Rinat Akhmetov obtained a fair chunk of the the company last year as a reward for supporting early VR elections.

The Kryvorih ore enrichment plant, during Yuriy Yekhanurov's stint as PM, was earmarked to be a JV shared between Russian oligarchs Alisher Usmanov, Vadim Novinksy, and Rinat Akhmetov, who were to complete the plant's construction and bring it to order. Serhiy Taruta and other business rivals of Akhmetov convinced Yushchenko to to scrap this idea at that time, and now the President has other ideas again.

The head of the State property fund, Valentyna Semenyuk, is supporting the secretariat, citing rulings of the State anti-monopoly committee which is chaired by PoR parliamentary deputy Oleksiy Kostusyev. U.P. reveals that a mutiny has taken place in the State property fund and many of its managers have switched their allegiance to Tymoshenko and will carry out directives from the KabMin, whilst some still remain loyal to Semenyuk.

There does not seem to be much 'wriggle room' available for compromise between the president's office and the KabMin right now.