Saturday, May 31, 2008

Out on her own

If you can understand Ukrainian, watch Yulia Tymoshenko's formidable performance on the TRK 'Ukraina' TV channel last night here

No wonder enemies are so fearful of her.

Friday, May 30, 2008

'Lucky' Lutsenko does a runner?

According to an article in 'Oboz', Ukrainian interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko and head of the NS part of the NU-NS parliamentary bloc has hastily left for the Republic of Moldova, fearing arrest.

The visit was organized at the last minute for the minister, but it was not planned and was not co-ordinated with the Moldavian side. Neither the embassy of Moldova in Ukraine, nor the embassy of Ukraine in Moldova knew anything about it.

'Oboz' claims Lutsenko decided to leave the territory of Ukraine because the seriousness of the crimes of which he is accused is such that they could lead to his detention while he is under investigation.

In all probability Lutsenko will not return to Ukraine at the end of his visit to Moldova, and will attempt to organize an official or unofficial trip to other country.

Lutsenko's lawyers are checking the possibility of requesting asylum in one of Ukraine's neighbouring countries as a result of alleged persecution of the interior minister by the President's secretariat and its head, Viktor Baloha.

Two former Ukrainian interior ministers Vasyl Tsushko, and Mykola Bilokon have previously sought refuge on Russian territory, and another, Yuri Kravchenko, "committed suicide", bang, bang.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yush pulls one PoR sleeve while Yulka pulls other sleeve

In an interview in the latest 'Russian Newsweek', PM Yulia Tymoshenko admits co-operating with Party of Regions on voting through a new Constitution in parliament [which would turn Ukraine into a parliamentary republic].

BYuT and PoR would have to vote together for this to be achieved. Currently PoR have 175 parliamentary deputies, BYuT 156, NUNS 72, Communists 27 and Lytvyn's block 27.

"Qu: But why are you still working on the new constitution [project] but are not introducing it in parliament?

Because we as yet are not sure of sufficient support of two thirds of parliament. But we are conducting constant consultations in regard to this.

Qu: Even with Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions?

Yes, and with them also.

Qu: Through mediators?

No, directly; as with all other fractions in parliament. And as soon as we feel we have 300 votes of support, we will immediately submit a new Constitution [in parliament]."

The 'Russian Newsweek' article claims that BYuT and PoR have secretly collaborated in writing a draft version of the Ukrainian Constitution, and a mutually agreed new version is all but ready.

Tymoshenko recently said, "I consider a parliamentary form of government will finally bring order and everything will be as in Germany. There will be a Chancellor and there will be order." On what will happen with the head of state, she remarks, "the president remains and countrywide elections for the presidency remain, but with reduced powers, as in Poland."

[The interview itself is posted on Tymoshenko's official website too.]

President Yushchenko, on the other hand, needs Party of Regions for his broad coalition project..which would drive Tymoshenko back into opposition. When Yushchenko was asked by journalists last Sunday for whom he was voting in Kyiv's mayoral elections, he replied: " My affections have changed somewhat, because I'm convinced the processes that have taken place in Kyiv lead us to change our assessment and our approaches to those political forces who even a few years ago where popular and synchronous with the feelings of people. So, its changed somewhat, but I voted with my conscience."

Not much of an endorsement for the orange candidates then..

p.s. The appointment of the former executive director of controversial gas-trading company RosUkrEnergo, and also Gazprom board member, Konstantin Chuychenko, as an aide to the Russian president and head of the audit directorate of the presidential secretariat indicatesthat RosUkrEnergo is "not just an appendage to theRussian authorities but is the authorities", according Vitaliy Portnikov writing in 'Kontrakty'. He warns that politicians who want to establish a "transparent scheme" for gas deliveriesto Ukraine should now recognize that they are fighting against the Kremlin, and it is not clear that this is a fight Ukraine can win. [Thanks Peter]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bad day for BYuT

Leonid Chernovetsky, by obtaining about 36% of votes cast, has won a handsome victory in the Kyiv mayoral elections. His two nearest opponents, BYuT's Oleksandr Turchynov and boxer Vitaliy Klychko received about 18% each. There's no two ways about this - for Yulia Tymoshenko and for BYuT, who forced the early elections, the result is a major set-back. There will, no doubt, be much political gloating in the Chernovetsky camp.

Other 'democratic' candidates faired badly too, and it looks as if the PoR candidate will barely achieve 3% of the votes.

As to the future of Ukraine's national politics, one commentator says, " is important on how Party of Regions [now] conducts itself. If it decides it is necessary to support Yushchenko in order to 'finish off' Tymoshenko, they could be next [in power]. If it makes the right choice, by Autumn we will have political stability."

Last Friday Yulia Tymoshenko attended a heads of CIS conference in Minsk and had a meeting with Russian premier Vladimir Putin. There are reports she may agree to Russia's Black Sea fleet continuing to use its naval base on the Crimean peninsula after 2017, and may 'back pedal' on Ukraine's entry into NATO in exchange for Putin's support in the next presidential elections in Ukraine. This was part of a discussion on an acceptable price for Russian gas...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lutsenko expects Tymoshenko to be sacked soon

Interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko [who is also head of the Narodna Samooborona faction of the NU-NS block], in a Radio interview yesterday, claimed that on May 30th the National Security and Defence Council will pass a resolution on the the unsatisfactory perfomance of the government. Members of the government have been invited by Council Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova to attend the NSDC meeting on that date.

"On the 30th, whether the government will turn up or not, obviously, they plan to deliver a verdict on the unsatisfactory performance of the government. After this, in parliament, they will vote for its resignation. Taking into account Baloha's group of troublemakers, who have about 15 votes inside NUNS, they can vote it through," stated Lutsenko.

"Tymoshenko will become acting Head of Government, we all will become an acting government, and after this, probably a new coalition will be formed," he suggested.

Lutsenko made similar claims again in a Channel 5 TV interview. Depending on the results of today's politically important Kyiv mayoral and city council elections, a reformation of the VR ruling coalition could take place.

"Final consultations are taking place right now, and next week [a non session week for parliament] will be used to prepare the 'shyrka' [broad coalition]. A internal political take-over is being prepared in parliament. They want to give back power to shadows from the past."

A couple of days ago, at a public meeting, Tymoshenko and Lutsenko jointly declared they had agreed that the BYuT candidate for Kyiv mayor, Oleksandr Turchynov, was the sole BYuT/NUNS candidate for mayor. Today head of NUNS political council, Vyacheslav Kyryenko denied this.

"This is the personal opinion of Yuriy Vitaliyovych, which, unfortunately will not help unite the democrats in Kyiv. Having come to the polling stations on Sunday, voters will see that the number of candidates on their ballot slips have not changed, and the current city head is being opposed by a whole number of candidates from the democratic forces," explained Kyrylenko.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General, on 26th May, is intending to dismiss Lutsenko, according to head of the parliamentary commission for tackling organized crime and corruption, NU deputy Hennadiy Moskal. He claims that the president's secretariat is behind this.

A confused picture, to say the least.

In elections since the O.R. BYuT has consistently performed above expectations. If this trend continues in today's voting in Kyiv LEvko thinks the current administration should be safe for a while yet. But if they don't..big battles for power, and maybe a constitutional crisis lie ahead. The problem for Yushchenko is that the pro-presidential NU-NS project is coming apart at the seams. The NS portion, lead by Lutsenko is all but detached already, and lesser partners, e.g. former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk's 'Narodnyi Rukh Ukrainy', are drifting closer to BYuT too.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tymoshenko to go in June?

Today the staid 'Ekonomicheskie Izvestia' [EI] ran this story:

[President's] Secretariat has devised a new format for the coalition

Yulia Tymoshenko's government could be forced to resign by a resolution of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), whose next session could take place on May 30th, according to a source close to the Security Council leadership.

The basis for the resignation could be the new version of the law on the Cabinet of Ministers, according to which the government is obliged to comply with any decision of the NSDC and activated by Presidential Decree. Yesterday the NSDC Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova reported that the main topic of the May 30th Council session will be the activity of government, adding that this was at the initiation of Viktor Yushchenko.

Also in some mass media outlets there has appeared information yesterday, that the government coulk be sacked already today. The premier would be replaced by VR speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk, with Bohatyryova taking over his current post. According to EI, the source for this information was one a Party of Regions people's deputy who is close to Viktor Yanukovych.

But NSDC deputy secretary Andriy Pyshnyi told EI that the Security Council does not have sufficient authority to make a decision on the resignation of government. "On May 30th we will examine the state of the domestic market and there will, possibly be proposed a question on the control of execution of decisions of the NSDC," said Pyshnyi.

PoR people's deputy Vasyl Khara considers that Viktor Yushchenko cannot yet force Tymoshenko's resignation. “Yushchenko does not have a realistic mechanism for this - in parliament he has insufficient votes,” stated Khara. He considers that there will not be a direct proposal from the President at the next session of the NSDC demanding the resignation of the premier: “There will be only open and comprehensive evaluation of Tymoshenko's activities in order to create a situation, where the President no longer owes Tymoshenko anything". The Deputy emphasized that the parliamentary forces will not begin to undertake any active actions until after May 25th - the day of the pre-term Kyiv mayoral and city council elections.

Another PoR People's deputy Vladislav Lukyanov thinks the resignation of government could occur during the first 10 days of June. 'DerzhKomStat' will publish data on the rates of inflation in May by June 6th or 7th. It will be politically justifiable to force the government to resign precisely after this publication,” stated Lukyanov.

One additional path to the resignation of government could be the reformation of the BYuT/NUNS coalition. Yesterday Yulia Tymoshenko spoke of attempts by the President's secretariat to force the 'People's Self-defence' (NS) to support the creation of a wide coalition. She described the actions of Presidential secretariat officials directed against VR deputy Davyd Zhvaniya. The Prosecutor General Olexander Medvedko, on the basis of a letter from deputy head of the secretariat Ihor Pukshin, referred a request to the Svyatoshinskiy regional court in Kiev demanding they re-examine the granting of Ukrainian citizenship to Zhvaniya. [Update: a criminal case has now been opened against Zhvaniya, who was of course, one of Yushchenko's closest allies during the OR].

The Secretariat wants to be the third participant in the coalition, Viktor Baloha through his seven loyal Nasha Ukraina deputies, wants to hold the decisive vote, according to deputy chairman of the NUNS fraction, Taras Stetskiv. The People's Self defense group had already requested the President sacks Baloha. But Taras Stetskiv added that a joint statement from BYuT and NUNS demanding Viktor Baloha's resignation "has thus far not yet been prepared”.

p.s. Today it was PoR's turn to block the working of the VR.
Update: The blocking of parliament stymied the deal struck between coalition partners NUNS and BYuT to support the sacking of Valentyna Semenyuk [who according to president Yushchenko, is still head of the State Property Fund] in exchange for BYuT dropping their proposal to form a temporary special commission to investigate changes to the Constitution. Semenyuk at the SPF has been a major obstruction to PM Tymoshenko's privatization plans.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Looming broad coalition?

PM Tymoshenko and her government have suffered several set-backs in recent days. The Odessa Portside Plant privatisation sale, so important to Tymoshenko, will not now take place. Inflation is running at over 1.5% per month. BYuT will will not perform as well as hoped in Sunday's Kyiv mayoral and city council elections.

And now there is talk of 'Regiony' conducting talks about formation of a broad [PoR/NUNS] parliamentary coalition.

Here's a bit from a '4post article':

The process of drawing out the nomination procedure for the PoR candidate for the post of first deputy chairman of the VR may indicate that negotiations on the formation of a broad [PoR/NUNS] coalition are taking place.

According to BYuT VR deputy Volodymyr Filenko, PoR will not make a selection for the post of the first deputy VR chairman, until a broad coalition is formed. The 'nardep' claimed this broad coalition is to be formed after the pre-term mayoral elections in Kyiv have taken place next Sunday.

“The longer the process of nomination for election to the post of vice-speaker is dragged out, the more real this plan becomes,” he said.

Filenko also noted that, according to previous information, after the formation of the broad coalition takes place, a PoR representative will take up the position of VR chairman, and a technical candidate [anyone but Yanukovych?] will become prime minister.

"An oligarchic plot headed by the president is being hatched against his own nation and BYuT," says Filenko.

Bungs in Odessa Portside Plant pipework?

The [postponed] 'privatization' of the Odessa Portside Plant has been a running major source of conflict between PM Tymoshenko and President Yushchenko. Last Friday the National Security and Defence Council delivered a humiliating blow, forcing Tymoshenko to back down and delay the sale which was planned for today, until further notice.

Mustafa Nayem, in an excellent article in 'Ukrainska Pravda' provides background to the twists and turns of the entire saga.

Below is just a brief portion:

"Over the four years following the events that took place on the Maidan, both Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko have several times changed their views on the merits of selling off the Odessa Portside [chemical] Plant.

Yushchenko's position has swung according to the firmness of his relations with the government of the day. He has twice expressed his full support for selling the plant: first time in July 2005, before his relations with Tymoshenko drastically deteriorated, and then in January 2006 when his loyal ally Yuriy Yekhanurov was in charge of the government.

But Yushchenko has also categorically rejected the possibility of selling off of the plant, first after sacking Tymoshenko in 2005, then on the eve of the 2007 parliamentary elections, when the Yanukovych administration were trying to sell it off.

'Regionaly', who are now criticising the Tymoshenko government for attempting to replenish state coffers by privatizing the OPP, are in a state of amnesia and reluctant to mention that a year ago it was they that were trying to do the same.

Tymoshenko's path to her current position on the privatization of the OPP is equally tortuous. Having previously initiated submission of the OPP onto the list of objects to be privatized, in 2007 she appealed to Yushchenko in person demanding that he prevent Yanukovych from selling the plant. The leader of BYuT insisted that the plant cannot be split away from the portside trans-shipment facilities [perevalka], even though today her government itself is proposing sale of both the plant and the trans-shipment facilities together."

[Bung - a British slang term, used to refer to a bribe, inducement or incentive in business.]

Sunday, May 18, 2008


As I mentioned in my previous blog, the US Vanco Energy Company, with which Yanukovych's government signed an agreement to develop the Kerch section of the Black sea shelf in 2007, has a Ukrainian financial partner - the Donbas fuel and energy company DTEK, controlled to multi-millionaire Rinat Akhmetov. Nothing necessarily wrong with this.

But apart from Akhmetov, Vanco's Black sea project will be financed also by Shadowlight Investments Ltd owned by Russian businessman Eugene Novitskiy, and a certain Integrum Technologies Ltd. The latter is allegedly a subsidiary of an undisclosed Austrian investment holding. Some allege it could be a cover for 'Gazprom' .

When Minister of the Environment Heorhiy Filipchuk is asked by 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' who is behind Intergrum, and whether it is the president's brother Petro Yushchenko, or the Klyuev brothers [senior Party of Regions figures] who were behind the company, he replies that he had had no official confirmation of this.

Filipchuk's ministry had recently withdrawn Vanco's hydrocarbon exploration and extraction licence. This will, no doubt be challenged or ignored. But shouldn't Ukraine's citizens know with whom they could be sharing the country's hydrocarbon wealth?

It took many months for the people behind the infamous RosUkrEnergo to reveal themselves. President Yushchenko flatly denied knowing who they were. Hopefully Integrum's backers will not be so shy.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Vanco's bankers?

In recent days PM Tymoshenko has repeatedly claimed that when president Yushchenko 'blessed' a deal giving US petroleum company Vanco Energy the green light to commence oil and gas projects in the Black sea off the Crimean coast, it was a betrayal of national interests would amount to a 'RosUkrEnergo-2'.

She has publicly asserted that Vanco’s Ukrainian off-shoot, Vanco Prekerchensa Ltd., is an offshore structure registered to four girls, and that the company has only token assets of 12,000 hryven [about $6,000].

According to an item in 'Ukrainska Pravda', Vanco’s senior vice president Jeffrey Mitchell revealed today that Vanco's partner in its Kerch shelf project is DTEK, part of Rinat Akhmetov's SCM financial-industrial group. Vanco are the 'technical boys', while DTEK are the financial investor in the project.

Tymoshenko is enemy #1 for the Donetsk oligarchs, the biggest of whom is Akhmetov. She is trying to sink the recent Dniproenergo deal which enabled Akhmetov's group to significantly increase their oblenergo holdings. The deal had allegedly been 'approved' by the president, perhaps as a 'pay-off' for PoR agreeing to participate in last Autumn's elections after Yushchenko had contentiously dismissed the Verhkovna Rada last April.

Akhmetov, is allegedly "interested in a second term of office for Yushchenko". One of his close allies, Boris Kolesnikov, is known to be quite chummy with head of the pres's secretariat, Viktor Baloha. Another, Raisa Bohatyryova, is secretary of the powerful National Security and Defence Council.

However, some other PoR big-shots, including Andriy Klyuev are not against some co-operation with BYuT on matters of Constitutional reform, while others consider recent events in the VR to be the 'death-throes' of the democratic coalition.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No quick resolution of current political crisis in sight

After yesterday's stormy events in the VR, [see Tymoshenko's impromptu press briefing providing an explanation for BYuT's behaviour here] a meeting between the president, premier, VR speaker, and leaders of the parliamentary fractions took place today (Wednesday), but produced no result or compromise.

Leader of the Communist fraction, Petro Symonenko said, "The president did not make any suggestions at all about what measures can be adopted to stabilize the situation. Discussions did not take place constructively, but in actual fact were [just] arguments between members of the coalition."

PoR VR deputy Oleksandr Yefremov said, "The principal reason, in my opinion for BYuT's blocking [of parliament] is the removal of Semenyuk [head of the State Property Fund, whom Tymoshenko's government has replaced with one of their own - Andriy Portnov.] BYuT want to gain access to the sale of particularly tempting state enterprises - 'UkrTelekom', and Odessa Portside Plant."

Portnov himself is adamant that he will not obey Yushchenko's edicts, adding that the sale of the OPP will take place on 20th May via open procedures, "Irrespective of the declarations of the closed stock company of Valentyna Petrivna [Semenyuk] and Viktor Andriyovych [Yushchenko]."

"Despite the hysterics of highly placed officials," three prospective investors have already paid in a deposit for the OPP, claimed Portnov.

Tonight Tymoshenko took part in a public meeting supporting BYuT's candidate in Kyiv's mayoral elections, Oleksandr Turchynov. Her anti-Yushchenko rhetoric continues unabated.

Yesterday president Yushchenko failed to address the Ukrainian parliament and held a press briefing in one of the parliament's corridors. At his side were his press secretary Iryna Vannikova, National Security and Defence Council secretary, Raisa Bohatyryova, and... Valentyna Semenyuk.. [The good, the bad, and the ugly? or maybe 'Vitya's Angels'..only joking..only joking..]

Yushchenko flew off to Great Britain later this afternoon, having given an interview to the BBC and to the British Sky news. A transcript is to appear on BBC websites.

Blocking of parliament by PoR for many days earlier this year only harmed their political standing...BYuT will be aware of this, so LEvko's hunch is that some kind of compromise will be made soon, but the bad blood will remain.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rescuing a revolution

On Tuesday BYuT blocked the working of the Ukrainian parliament [VR] and prevented President Yushchenko from making a state-of-the-nation speech, plunging the country into yet another crisis. Opposition Party of Regions deputy Nestor Shufrich considers that had BYuT not blocked parliament, then PoR would have. [Maybe they can come to some form of alternating shift-sharing arrangement..]

Seriously though, I reproduce this piece, in full, from the latest 'Moscow Times', before it goes to 'subscribers only':

Rescuing a Revolution By Elmar Brok, Jas Gawronski and Charles Tannock

There is no more depressing sight in politics than a leader who, desperate to cling to power, ruins his country in the process. By his recent actions, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko now looks like he has joined the long list of rulers who have sacrificed their country's future simply to prolong their misrule.

Yushchenko's recent moves in both politics and economics suggest that his instinct for self-preservation knows no limits. Once a proud supporter of the free market and the man who banished hyperinflation in Ukraine in the 1990s, Yushchenko has in recent weeks vetoed -- sometimes on flimsy grounds and sometimes for no stated reason at all -- a series of vital privatizations. He blocked the sale of regional energy companies, for example, because he claims that their privatization will threaten the country's "national security," though it is corrupt and incompetent state management of these companies that is threatening Ukraine's security by making it vulnerable to energy cutoffs.

Yushchenko seems motivated only by a desire to damage his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, whom he perceives as the biggest threat to his re-election in 2010. To undermine the Tymoshenko Cabinet even more, Ukraine's Central Bank, under the leadership of a presidential crony, is pursuing a policy that is importing high inflation. When confronted about this, Volodymyr Stelmakh, the bank's governor, is said to have told Tymoshenko that his policies would destroy her government before they broke the back of the economy.

In politics, too, Yushchenko is playing with fire, having lost the support of most of Our Ukraine, the party he created. Since his victory in 2004, Yushchenko's popularity ratings have plummeted to about 8 percent. As a result, the party has been reduced to junior-partner status in Tymoshenko's coalition government.

Instead of trying to recover support by pursuing the reforms and privatizations that he promised during the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko is planning to take the few members of Our Ukraine that he still controls and forge a strategic alliance with the Party of the Regions, the very party that opposed the country's turn to democracy and an open society. To clinch this deal, the Party of the Regions would dump their unelectable leader, Viktor Yanukovych, as their presidential candidate and adopt Yushchenko as their standard-bearer.

Yushchenko has only himself to blame for his political predicament. His decision in 2006 to bring Yanukovych out of the wilderness and back into the premiership was an act from which he has never recovered. Only when Yanukovych sought to use the parliament to strip the president of his powers did Yushchenko summon the will to fight back, dismissing Yanukovych's government and calling for a special election last year. That election, however, was won by Tymoshenko, who has parlayed her return to power into a commanding lead in the polls for the coming presidential election.

Throttling Ukraine's economy and political system need not have been Yushchenko's legacy. After he came to power in 2005 on a huge wave of popular support, he started off well. The economy was growing, and he and Tymoshenko began to tackle the country's black hole of corruption. Moreover, he seemed genuinely committed to reconciliation between the country's Russian-speaking east and Ukrainian-speaking west. Throughout his presidency, he has overseen fair elections and a free and vibrant press.

But Yushchenko's chronic dithering and poor political judgment consistently undermine his fundamental democratic credentials. Sadly, he now appears poised to make another serious political miscalculation, because he is backing a radical constitutional reform aimed at creating a purely presidential system. That proposal has no chance of success in the parliament. Yushchenko sought to circumvent the parliament by way of a national referendum, but the Constitutional Court has ruled that only the parliament may determine how constitutional reform is to occur.

Although Yushchenko seems unable to save himself politically, Europe can help both him and Ukraine's democracy. Tymoshenko is prepared to offer Yushchenko a compromise that Europe's leaders should urge him to accept. Her proposals for constitutional reform would make Ukraine a pure parliamentary republic, while retaining a president as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Yushchenko can yet secure an honorable place in history if, instead of undermining and obstructing Tymoshenko at every turn, he supports her anti-corruption initiatives and constitutional reform, the latter aimed at bringing the country's political system closer to Europe's parliamentary democracies as well as to facilitate the country's European integration.

Given that Yushchenko has almost no chance of winning the next presidential election, Tymoshenko has made him a generous offer. If accepted, it promises Ukraine, which aspires to European Union membership and is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU, the stable, effective and democratic government that it needs. Europe's leaders, who helped broker a peaceful and democratic end to the Orange Revolution, should once again help Kiev avoid political deadlock.

Elmar Brok, Jas Gawronski and Charles Tannock are members of the EU parliament [well-meaning friends of Ukraine..LEvko]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

will the mice play?

The pro-PoR 'Segodnya' goes with some speculation on what will happen in parliament on Tuesday.

Here are some loosely translated portions:

Either Yushchenko's power will be decimated, or Yanukovych will be made premier

BYuT prepares to make Ukraine a parliamentary republic - 'Regiony' still pondering..

After relative calm in Ukraine's political arena during the May holidays, the country's leading parliamentary parties are again returning to battle in the next session of the Supreme Council [VR] which restarts on Tuesday. The key issue for parliament will be constitutional reform.

VR deputies [nardepy] from both Party of Regions and BYuT both say they have preliminary projects for changes in the fundamental. At the moment there are no understandings between them, even on joint voting on the creation of a constitution committee in the VR, to say nothing of joint voting on the Constitution itself.

On the eve of May 9th, BYuT revealed the outlines of its version of the fundamental law. It's basic theme - the power of the President is to be reduced to zero. "The President loses the right to assign governors," said BYuT 'nardep' Valeriy Pisarenko, one of the authors of the draft project."The President will lose the right to block the activity of the organs of executive power. Formation of the KabMin will be the exclusive right of the ruling parliamentary coalition, moreover it will not have to co-ordinate the candidature of premier with the President. Furthermore, the President will not have the right to submit to parliament his candidatures for the post of the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs, as presently”.

Former PoR minister of justice Alexander Lavrinovich informed 'Segodnya' that the Constitution text proposed by the Regionaly, to be submitted for consideration by the VR, is not yet ready, although he let it be known that PoR is also disposed to reducing the authorities of the President, and to enlarging the rights of local self-government and elected regional authorities.

One of the leaders of PoR, deputy Sergey Lyovochkin, added that in 'Regional's' constitution the Russian language will be provided the status of second state language, as well as non aligned status for Ukraine. (Pisarenko told 'Segodnya' that thus far, BYuT are not ready to discuss introduction of these two critical items into their version of the Constitution).

Lyovochkin assured 'Segodnya', that they do not have any agreements with Tymoshenko about any joint project. As far as the creation of special commission in parliament to examine changes to the Constitution together with BYuT is concerned, there is no common opinion fomed yet. 'Segodnya's' source in PoR indicates that the party will not support the creation of this commission, if the President speaks out against it. But one prominent 'Regional', Andrey Klyuev, considers that in any event this commission must be created.

Apparently for this reason, deputies have decided not to introduce the question of the commission into the VR agenda. More negotiation is required on this.

The absence of a united position between PoR and BYuT with respect to proposed changes in the Constitution can be explained by the games they are both playing with the President.

A source from 'Regiony' said, "At the moment the party is disposed to discuss with the President the possibility of forming a wide parliamentary coalition, with Yanukovych as PM, so the party will not support the anti-presidential projects of BYuT, particularly as the President, in particular conversations, has let it be known that he was prepared to make specific concessions on the question of the Russian language in the project of fundamental law”.

BYuT has thus far only increased its anti-presidential rhetoric; however, their nearest political ally - the leader of "People Self-Defence", Yuriy Lutsenko, has outlined a scheme of possible compromise between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko. Yesterday Interior Minister Lutsenko stated that he proposed the following to the President: He dismisses the head his secretariat Viktor Baloha, ceases 'destructive activity' against the government, and BYuT, in response, places aside its changes in Constitution. Lutsenko explained that that Yushchenko thus far has rejected this proposal, but who knows what could happen in the future.

Yushchenko was in Lithuania today, and is supposed to be in Israel and Great Britain later this week.

'While the cat's away, the mice will play'...English saying..

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tymoshenko's bluff?

Premier Tymoshenko's personal website runs a posting entitled: "Yulia Tymoshenko is expecting to submit a project of changes to the Constitution next week." It quotes her as saying: "I really expect that next week changes may be submitted to parliament on the basis of a consolidated majority in the VR [parliament]."

'Gazeta po Kiyevski' have provided quick analysis on her declaration:

BYuT leader stakes all - it cannot be excluded that she is bluffing, and that there are not the 300 votes in parliament required to change the Constitution.

The premier is possibly simply frightening the president that she will reduce his powers if he proves to be intractable.

Prime minister Yulia Timoshenko has unexpectedly declared that next week in parliament she may introduce changes to the Constitution. And she hopes that for this purpose, a constitutional majority of 300 votes will be collected. Rumours of unofficial negotiations between BYuT and the opposition may be shown to be true. The purpose of these arrangements, is, clearly, the transfer of powers between the government, the president and parliament.

Political scientist Konstantin Bondarenko assumes the leader of BYuT's statement indicates that she is already aware of the results of these secret negotiations.

Others do not agree: while the Constitution project has not received public support and all political forces have not approved it, statements about 300 votes is mere political spin or bluff, they say. Tymoshenko simply wishes to score political points over the president.
Blackmail or not, next week parliament returns to work after the May holidays.

'Gazeta po Kiyevski's sources reveal that events may pan out very quickly: the bill is to be sent to the Constitutional Court and the current VR session is to accept it in the first reading. BYuT will demand the president quickly puts forward any proposed ammendments. "We will consider all proposals, introduced to parliament," said BYuT deputy Valery Pisarenko. "We propose cardinal changes be made on how power is distributed. They will concern parliament, the president, Constitutional Court, the Central Electoral Committee, and the Office of Public Prosecutor. It will be the reformation of the country to a parliamentary republic. And the opposition will acquire the right to form governing bodies in parliament and to supervise executive authority. The president will no longer have powers to influence the economy. He will not be able to block the work of the government. The president will remain the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of citizens. Governors will finally be subordinate to the Cabinet of Ministers. The president will be only able to send them greeting cards on Holy days. He will not have any relation to executive authorities, and appointments in the system of executive authority will be made with the participation of the prime-minister," said the BYuT deputy.

Pisarenko added the president can make proposals, but doubts, that Yushchenko could gain even 100 votes of support. Optimistic forecasters in BYuT suggest that by the autumn the country could already be living under the new Constitution.

But in the Party of Regions, on whose support Tymoshenko is counting, no-one has yet confirmed these arrangements.

"Perhaps, conceptually in the things BYuT proposes it is possible to say, that they can be supported," said 'Regional' Yuriy Miroshnichenko. "We have our own project; we too have prepared systemic changes intended to finalise political reform, the liquidation of two centers of influence on executive authority, and guaranteeing real local self-government."

The pro-presidential fraction, NUNS, meanwhile does not have a uniform position on these initiatives. In the opinion of NUNS deputy Yuriy Karmazin, a minimum of a year is required for the process of modification of the fundamental law of the land, so therefore it is hardly possible to expect any amendments to the Constitution already during this VR session.

Even though the compromise of 2004, when many changes to the Constitution were brought about in one packet, is still too memorable, this was result of political arrangements at the time of the orange revolution.

LEvko wonders if this is just a bit of 'tit-for-tat'. Some days ago Tymoshenko postponed an official visit to Sweden because of the tense political situation in Ukraine. Later next week Yushchenko is to be in Great Britain on an official visit. He is to meet members of the Royal family and top politicians, and also address a prestigious gathering. Maybe Yulka is just trying to spoil his trip..

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bad day for oranges

If the Kyiv mayoral elections were to take place right now, Leonid Chernovetsky would receive 36-41% of the vote, Vitaliy Klychko 20-24%, BYuT's candidate Aleksandr Turchynov 10-15%, and PoR's Vasyl Horbal' 2.4-4.5%.

BYuT are wondering how they can extracate themselves from the mess, having forced through the early mayoral elections in the first place. If Turchynov steps aside to increase the chances of another 'democratic' candidate succeeding, then it will be a humiliation for the high profile deputy PM Turchynov, and also for BYuT. But if he remains a candidate and receives only 10% or so of the votes, and loopy Chenovetsky wins, this will be and even greater humiliation.

Yesterday President Yushchenko appointed several political 'big-beasts' to serve on the supervisory council of the Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University. Amongs their number was disgraced former President Leonid Danylovych Kuchma.

Chairman of the council is to be Volodymyr Lytvyn - head of his own 20-seat parliamentary block. He is widely known as an academic plagiarist.

I wonder what the students make of all of this..

Monday, May 05, 2008

Lull before the storm

'Obozrevatel' today carries this story entitled "Tymoshenko proposes non agression pact to Baloha" which I've loosely paraphrased: [also in Ukrainian here]

On Saturday 3rd May Yulia Tymoshenko met head of President Yushchenko's secretariat, Viktor Baloha. Their informal meeting was called to broker a truce between the KabMin and the Secretariat, which has in recent weeks subjected the PM and her cabinet to non stop criticism and invective. [Tymoshenko has vigorously responded to these too.]

Both sides agreed that their confrontation was not beneficial or effective for either side, but nevertheless the secretariat intends to continue to actively interfere in economic processes initiated by the Tymoshenko government. Neither the details nor the format of their agreement are clear, but the contours of the new political compromise have been revealed to 'Obozrevatel' from sources close to the PM.

Tymoshenko will tone-down her criticism of the President and cancel her plans to take control of the State Property Fund. Joint agreement is to be made on a suitable candidate for the SPF head, and the PM is to end the sackings of unwanted state administration departments and mayors of major cities.

From his side, Baloha confirmed that he will stop seeking to displace the PM, for the time being. The president promised to support the operation of the ruling BYuT/NUNS coalition, and rein in his criticism of the government on the high levels of inflation.

Importantly, both sides agreed on a common approach in the Kyiv mayoral and city council elections, even though they were unable to agree on a joint [BYuT/NUNS] candidate for the post of mayor.

However, 'Oboz' considers the "non aggression pact" is merely a 'lull before the storm', and is useful to both sides exclusively from the point of view of tactics. Most probably, until the end of the summer or the start of autumn, both sides will dampen down the conflict which has raged for the last 4 months, and will be working on their possible political strategies for the future.

Right now a crisis is harmful because of the economic problems facing the country, Both PM and President are afraid to go into attack mode, and consider it better, with an eye to the future, to take up defensive positions.

LEvko considers that the ceasefire should last..oh, at least for a week...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Tymoshenko's three-pronged attack

A few days ago EDM posted an excellent account of the showdown between President and PM over the State Property Fund [SPF] and the sale of the important Odessa Portside Plant [OPP].

An article in "4Post" website provides more detail. Here are some loosely translated portions:

The sharp attack of Yulia Tymoshenko on the State Property Fund could be the prologue for fresh elections. The leader of BYuT must soon determine for what post in the state administration system is it worthwhile fighting for at full power.

Bids from potential buyers of the Odessa Portside Plant have to be submitted to the SPF by 12th May. In actual fact the anti-monopoly committee will not accept any submissions after May 5th, so this is the real cut-off day for bids from investors. On May 20th the sale of the OPP is scheduled to take place in the grand hall of cabinet of ministers. It will be recorded and broadcast on television, as with the "Krivorozhstal' auction. This information appeared in the latest SPF bulletin "Vidomosti Pryvatizatsii', but the edition was declared as a fake and forgery by sacked former SPF head Valentyna Semenyuk-Samsonenko.

The Kabmin is ignoring all the President's Decrees on the question of the privatization of this strategic plant, which has become pivotal in determining who is master [hospodar] of the country.

A meeting is to take place on May 6th of all leaders of regional SPF departments within walls of the Kabmin under the direction of Andrey Portnov, who was appointed head of the SPF by Tymoshenko to replace Valentyna Semenyuk, even though Yushchenko demanded she remains in place. [The SPF office has been described as a layered cake - floors 1,3,5 occupied by Portnov's people, and floors 2,4,6 occupied by Semenyuk's people]. Tymoshenko has warned that if the regional SPF heads do not turn up, their oblast governors will be held responsible, and BYuT will demand they be sacked. [They are, of course, now appointed by the Pres.] The premier has, for a while had serious pretensions to the heads of oblast administrations because the government, in spite of the law, has had no influence over their designation. Official letters from Tymoshenko to President Yushchenko have been leaked to the press requesting that the practice of designation of governors by him be ended.

What is clear is that Tymoshenko is engaging in as many battles as possible with the president.It is far from certain that the planned 20th May sale of OPP will take place - the president's secretariat on Bank Street have a team of pragmatic lawyers too, who will initiate judicial actions advantageous for themselves. The legal tangle may mean that the income from OPP's privatization may fall well short of that which was expected.

In the course of the struggle for the SPF Tymoshenko is again setting the pace of the political process, demonstrating that protracted delays are not for her. During January of this year the PM began compensation repayments to the depositors of Oshchadbank, and in April demonstrated a determination to obtain additional financial resources for continuing her dynamic social policy.

Recent events show that BYuT has rolled out offensives in three directions: a fight to ammend the Constitution, to establish of control over the SPF enabling replenishment of state coffers, and to win pre-term Kyiv mayoral and council elections. Fighting battles on three fronts is a difficult business. The leader of BYuT's absence of military education, may mean she is not aware of the danger of fighting on several fronts. Or maybe Tymoshenko is simply striving to find the most suitable configuration for a decisive attack.

The leader OF BYuT cannot allow herself to enter protracted battles with Viktor Yushchenko which could harm her ratings, hence her blitzkrieg tactics. All the crises enumerated above: the stand-off over the SPF, voting for the Kyiv mayor and city council, and perspectives for the transformation of Ukraine into a parliamentary republic - must be resolved already during May. Then Tymoshenko can determine the direction of her main attack in her fight to gain widest possible powers.