A recent detailed article in the prestigious 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' entitled "Revenge of the oligarchs" describes how two of the top three leading lights of the Orange Revolution, Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, are now subjects of political repression. [The third, Viktor Yushchenko sold his soul years ago.]
Lutsenko, who has been in jail for over half a year, is paying a particularly high price for 'crossing' two of Ukraine's biggest oligarchs when he was minister of the interior.
According to Konrad Schuller, the author of the the article, the current leadership of Ukraine wants to intimidate the opposition in the country and create a climate of fear.
Schuller writes that shortly after the Orange Revolution, oligarchs who came to dominate the Ukrainian economy following battles over the redistribution of property and assets in the 1990's, frequently with the help of guns and explosives, were terrified that they would be brought to justice for their alleged criminal behaviour. One of them, the current Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Kolesnikov, spent several months behind bars, and Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, one of the president's main sponsors, was forced to watch as armoured vehicles enter the grounds of his residence while police searched the premises.
Without doubt, articles such as this one and this one in western media, and the ever more strident concern expressed by leading European and North American politicians about the criminal cases against Tymoshenko and Lutsenko are causing significant harm to Ukraine's image; but by naming the two oligarchs, the FAZ article could potentially harm their individual businesses too.
It would be reasonable to surmise it is the 'gas people' in Yanukovych's circle that are driving the prosecution cases against Tymoshenko rather that the 'metallurgist' faction; but it could be the latter who could suffer most if free trade agreements are delayed/cancelled, or foreign direct investments curtailed.
Last Friday the German ambassador Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth attended the 'Alice in Wonderland' pre-trial hearing of the case against Yulia Tymoshenko in person. He listened in bafflement as the judge and defendant argued for over an hour as to whether Tymoshenko should stand when addressing the court, as demanded by the young judge. Eventually Tymoshenko was thrown out of the courtroom for refusing to do so.
Yanukovych and his team must have weighted up the benefits and possible damage that would be caused when they made the decision to embark on these criminal cases against Tymoshenko and Lutsenko, but once started there is no turning back..and rifts inside the ruling party could be widening too. Maybe it seemed a good idea at the time, but most likely they were just following the gangsters' iron rule: never give your enemies a second chance...
p.s. French newspapers are asking questions about Yanukovych's palatial Mezhyhirya residence with its 70 vehicle garage, 350,000 Euro bathroom, helicopter hangar, etc. etc.