Thursday, June 29, 2006

Law-abiding PR?

PR leader Viktor Yanukovych, in an address 'to the Ukrainian nation' today declared, .."the so-called orange coalition is striving to seize power by any means, ignoring state laws and will of the people...we will block the work of the Ukrainian parliament until the oranges agree to live and act according to the law and state constitution. I know you will stand shoulder to shoulder with us, [and] when necessary will support our deeds with actions of national insubordination."

'Pora' are taking this 'preparation for mass provocations' seriously. PR's desire to support the rule of law is touching, but out of character, Yanukovych himself spend 3 1/2 years in prison for violent crimes, in his youth.

PR include many 'shady customers' amongst their deputies, including Serhiy Kivalov, who was Central Electoral Commission chief during the 2004 Presidential elections. They had some trouble adding up the numbers at that time. [Just an excuse to post this photo.]

In the March 2006 elections PR received 32.12% of the vote, even though many of its leaders and spokesmen now glibly speak of representing 'half of Ukraine'.

In fact many of the demands PR are making do not have sound validity, but are based on ambiguities in the VR rules.

I suspect the orange coalition members are not too bothered by PR's parliamentary sit-in because it deflects attention from splits and disagreements within their own ranks. For a change, it is PR that are stalling work in the VR, and it now gives the oranges time to try and get their own 'ducks in a row' again.

Some reports claim that there could be up to several dozen orange deputies whose vote, [for whatever reason..bribes, blackmail..] is not reliable - they could well vote against their respective parties official line, especially in any secret voting. If this is the case, then it is very bad news indeed for the oranges, who at best can only muster a majority of 17 in the VR after the March elections.

But if PR's campaign of disruption produces some kind of 'grand coalition', I guess everyone [including Tymoshenko as in this photograph from 'Ukr Pravda'] will be counting names on lists, deciding who is dependable and who is not, and wondering who can be persuaded to defect.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Toys being thrown in the nursery again..

The Orange coalitionists have confirmed that they will propose Yuliya Tymoshenko for PM, and Petro Poroshenko for parliamentary [VR] speaker. They have decided that voting will take place 'in a packet', i.e. the two positions to be voted for, openly and simultaneously.

Because there are dissenters who could 'go wobbly', particularly amongst the Socialist ranks, an open 'packet' vote is the most likely method of providing sucess. There are serious doubts, however, whether the 'packet vote' is constitutional, even though it has been used in the past. By coincidence today is a national holiday - Constitution Day.

The new VR comprises Party of Regions 186, Communists 21, Socialists 33, BYuT 129, NSNU 81; the Orange majority of 17 was always going to be vulnerable to attack by means fair and foul.

Voting is supposed to be taking place tomorrow, but PR have been staging a 'sit-in' for the last two days, preventing the VR from functioning. They threaten to remain there until the VR is dissolved, and are demanding that the two posts are voted for separately by means of a secret vote. [So increasing the chances of bribed or otherwise 'nobbled*' orange deputies pressing the 'correct' button? For what other purpose would democratically elected representatives demand a secret vote?]

PR are demanding their man Viktor Yanukovych, hardly the most quick-witted or articulate of men, be proposed for the VR speaker's job even though he has been very shy in the VR in recent weeks - other members of his party have been addressing the VR on behalf of his party. He would however, bring to the position, a useful pair of fists.

Leading 'BYuT'ivets', Mykola Tomenko, says a slush fund of $250Million has been set up to ensure Yanukovych is elected VR speaker.

Stories are circulating that 17 Socialists will not vote for Tymoshenko for PM, and 2 don't fancy Poroshenko as VR speaker. Those in the ranks of NSNU who wanted a 'grand coalition from the start could probably be easily be bought off, and, no doubt some in BYuT would even vote for a 'glove puppet' rather than Poroshenko for speaker.

On a lesser note, Tymoshenko has accused PR of turning the VR into a rubbish dump. "Rubbish, bottles, cans, cigarette butts, discarded all over the VR. They should maintain an appropriate level of 'kultura,'" she complained. An hour later PR 'leaderine' Raisa Bohatyrova invited journalists into the VR to demonstrate that Tymoshenko's accusations were groundless, [maybe having gone round with a brush, a mop, and bucket..]

All in all, another fine mess..

*nobble - to drug or otherwise disable an opponent's racehorse before a race. Engish slang]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Singing from the same hymn-sheet..

President Viktor Yushchenko and the three pro-Western Orange parties that will form the new government in Ukraine are all supporting the re-negotiation of natural gas agreements with Russia, according to Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's chief of staff. He said Yulia Tymoshenko, who will most-likely become prime minister, will have to move quickly on the re-negotiations.

Now today Anatoliy Kinakh, a former PM, former National Security and Defense chief, and currently one of the prime contenders for Parliamentary speaker, is also supporting Tymoshenko's demands to review Russian-Ukrainian gas agreements. He considers the 4th January deal to be imperfect, because it was made 'practically under 'force-majeure' conditions.

He said, "[We need to] enter a concrete negotiation process both in the Kyiv-Moscow-Ashkabad triangle, include the EU..[and] move to transparent relations with the Russian Federation."

When asked, "If Russia does not agree, what then?" He said, "We need to strive to gain access to the resource of central Asian natural gas." Kinakh has frequently been critical of Tymoshenko in the past, but not now, on this matter.

Fuel-Energy Minister of Ukraine Ivan Plachkov intents to leave for Ashkabat on June 27 to conduct talks on restoring the direct supplies of Turkmen gas, now that now President Niyazov has put the cat amongst the pigeons.

Today's Russian edition of "Newsweek" includes an interview with Tymoshenko. Quote: " I'm convinced: the three countries [Ukraine, Russia, Turkmenistan] and their state organizations [Naftogaz, Gazprom, Turkmennaftegaz] should conclude their deal directly. Without any interpreters, shadowy or half-shadowy intermediaries."

Some background to all of this here.

A quote: ..a hastily fashioned agreement between Russia and Ukraine on 4 January revealed the growing importance of Central Asian gas to Russia. Subsequent talks between top-level Russian negotiators, including President Vladimir Putin, and the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan drove the point home -- Central Asia's gas reserves are now poised to play a decisive role not only in the region's relations with Russia, but in Eurasian geopolitics as well.

Russia's rising appetite for Central Asian gas is a direct result of the shifting fortunes of Gazprom, the state-run Russian company that controls lucrative exports. The company's total gas production has flatlined at around 550 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year. With major fields yielding less as they age, Gazprom has chosen to maintain its all-important gas balance by purchasing gas on the side -- from independent producers in Russia and from Russia's Central Asian neighbors -- instead of investing in the lengthy and costly development of untapped Arctic fields, former Deputy Energy Minister Vladimir Milov explained in a 26 December article in "Novaya gazeta."

Maintaining the gas balance is crucial because Gazprom needs to keep up both domestic shipments, which serve to preserve social stability and subsidize the Russian economy, and exports, which produce profits. Faced with declining yields at home and rising demand across the board, Gazprom is looking south to make up the difference

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gas on the front burner again..

It looks as if the Orange coalition is back in business. Even though Yuliya Tymoshenko has not formally been appointed PM, she has immediately commented on the most important matter in hand - gas.

"Kyiv, June 22 (Interfax-Ukraine) - BYuT Leader Yulia Tymoshenko will insist on the revision of all agreements on gas supplies to Ukraine if she becomes premier. "All issues relating to supplies of natural gas to Ukraine require a more thorough revision and correction today, and certainly, all new contracts with Russia and Turkmenistan need to be built on a friendly basis," Tymoshenko told journalists on Thursday in reply to a question from Interfax-Ukraine."

Addressing parliament Tuesday, she warned that for the first time, the vast gas reservoirs located on Ukrainian territory are empty, and the current chaos in the gas sphere could lead to the collapse of the country.

Tymoshenko is deeply hostile to the complex deal reached with Russia whereby Ukraine purchases large quantities of vital Russian and Turkmen gas. The deal involves opaque intermediary companies which skim-off billions of dollars for the benefit of ruling elites both in Russia and Ukraine, to the detriment of the citizens in both countries.

In 2005 Tymoshenko's 'second-in-command' and Ukraine's security services chief Oleksandr Turchynov, was getting close to uncovering involvement of some of Mr. Yushchenko's associates in massive fraud in the Ukraine's gas procurement. These frauds originated from the days of President Kuchma and were not dealt with when Yushchenko became President, as promised during the Orange election campaign during Autumn 2004. This was a major reason for Yushchenko dismissing Tymoshenko and her government last September.

After the EU/US SUMMIT June 21, in Vienna attended by George Bush, EU Commission President Jose Barroso, Javier Solana et. al. its final declaration included the following:

"Ukraine has made remarkable progress in democratic and economic reforms. Building on the March 2006 elections, we will support Ukraine’s development as a democratic, prosperous and secure country. We will help Ukraine pursue economic reforms, combat corruption and reform the energy sector."

EU observers at Russian/Ukrainian gas negotiations would be useful for all parties, because vital pipelines which pass through Ukraine supply 25% of Europe' total natural gas requirements, and 80% of Russia's gas exports to Europe pass through Ukraine. It would be in Ukraine's interest to 'start the ball rolling' before the G8 summit in July, where the reliability of Russia as a supplier of hydrocarbon fuels will be a dominant topic.

Tymoshenko PM

The print news is reporting that the ice flow has broken up and a new Orange government has been formed. Tymoshenko is Prime Minister and Poroshenko Speaker.

Makes me wonder why the heavy discussions with PR over the weekend. Maybe they got something on the other posts but it looks like Tymoshenko's group caved on nothing. So why the negotiations with PR? Maybe they got something else for the deal, a something else that is never a good thing for the country? Perhaps a new business will now appear in the natural gas constellation, a new business set up to distribute some more swag. I say this with my tongue in cheek, but only half there.

Anyway, at least there's a government. (Maybe I should add, "if the reports are true.)

Refreshed orange?

Well it looks like the Oranges are back in business - but the partners still don't trust one another. Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz says that if the deal is not 'closed' Thursday, all bets are off and his party becomes a free agent again. NSNU's Bezsmertniy wanted to delay until Friday..

And Petro Poroshenko, Tymoshenko's biggest enemy in NSNU, is to be nominated for the VR speaker's job. She accused him may times of sabotaging her work when she was PM - they loathe one another.

Now Anatoliy Kinakh, a former PM whose Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Ukraine forms a portion of NSNU, also wants the speaker's job. Although he has been critical of Tymoshenko in the past, his appointment in the VR would be more acceptable to Tymoshenko. When Tymoshenko was returning to her seat after addressing the VR today, Kinakh gave her the 'thumbs-up' as if to say, 'Good speech, Yulka..' [Photo from 'Ukrainska Pravda']

There is a sober realization by all partners that it's going to be really tough to hold things together, even for a few months. There wasn't really much 'fizz' amongst the orange deputies in the VR today despite the ostensibly successful agreement between its leaders.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ukrainian roulette?

The realization that a grand parliamentary coalition is now likely has spurred deputies in Western Ukrainian, strongly pro-Yushchenko oblasts and cities to issue statements that they are 'deeply disturbed about the general direction of the country's development' and do not accept 'unnatural political alliances'.

They say that they 'will not allow the trust of the nation, so forcibly demonstrated at the Maidan, to be broken'.

I thought the air of resignation in both Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz's, and Yuliya Tymoshenko's rather sarcastic address to parliament [VR] today gave the impression that they consider 'the game is up' in their talks with NSNU - whatever they agree to, NSNU then keep 'moving the goalposts'. NSNU leaders, many of whom form their business wing, are determined to assemble a 'grand coalition' - NSNU's Roman Bezsmertnyi called it a 'stabilization coalition' today.

According to the rules, the successfully assembled coalition proposes for approval to the president their nomination for PM, and those ministers that are nominated by parliament. At first sight it would appear that any coalition must be formed by fractions who together make up a majority, because as I wrote earlier, 'changing horses' midstream is not permitted. However it seems that there is some 'wriggle room' - if a VR deputy does not leave his faction voluntarily, but is expelled, he still retains his voting mandate on an 'individual basis'. I guess there are party organizers 'phoning around possible defectors, making up lists of deputies, and adding up the numbers right now.

If a ruling coalition is not formed by the 25th June, the president has the power, but is not bound, to call for fresh elections.

A few weeks ago Yushchenko controversially stated that he would refuse to approve the Verkhovna Rada's Prime-Minister nomination until the VR attests the judges of the Constitutional Court. [Just another minor complication maybe everyone's forgotten about.]

Yanukovych has declared that if by tomorrow a parliamentary majority is not formed, his party will initiate a motion to elect a VR speaker and is counting on the votes of 'conscientious politicians' to form an 'anti-crisis' coalition. He says they have enough votes [with defectors from other parties] to do this. Lots more 'fun and games' in prospect..NSNU as a political force could be in deep trouble..

Just as I am finishing writing, this piece below has popped up on 'Ukrainska Pravda':


During the meeting with [President] Viktor Yushchenko, final office sharing issues, which were a stumbling block for the creation of the Orange team, were settled.This information was reported to Ukrayinska Pravda (UP) by an informed source.
This means that the creation of a coalition including BYuT, “Our Ukraine”, and the Socialist party (SPU), would be announced in the Parliament on Wednesday.

The roulette wheel is slowing down. But where will the little ball land - on red or on black? On orange, or on blue?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Less than three years ago...

"On 31st October 2003 the Our Ukraine bloc led by Viktor Yushchenko failed to hold a congress of democratic forces in Donetsk as planned. After arriving in Donetsk that day, Yushchenko and his supporters were confronted by hostile crowds at the airport and in downtown Donetsk in what looked like a highly coordinated effort to prevent the Our Ukraine gathering and to fan anti-Yushchenko sentiment in the city.

The entire city was adorned with billboards showing Yushchenko in a Nazi uniform extending his hand in a Nazi salute and calling for the "purity of the nation." Some 1,500 mainly young and drunk people filled the planned venue and effectively prevented Our Ukraine from holding the congress. Neither the police nor officers of the Security Service did anything to stop them.

According to many Ukrainian publications, including the "Ukrayinska pravda" website and the "Grani" weekly, the plan of "countermeasures" against Yushchenko in Donetsk was coordinated by Donetsk Oblast Council head Borys Kolesnykov, Donetsk Oblast Governor Anatoliy Bliznyuk, and Donetsk Oblast Deputy Governor Vasyl Dzharta. The entire "anti-Yushchenko operation" was also allegedly supported by Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest oligarch, whom many call the "real boss" of Donetsk and the backbone of the Donetsk clan."

Yushchenko and his supporters were 'run out of town' - just like in the wild-west.

A detailed report of what happened which includes the quotes above, is here.

Today Kolesnykov is at #10 on PRU's list of parliamentary deputies, and is also one of PRU's chief negotiators in current NSNU-PRU coalition talks.
Dzharty is #22 on PRU's list of parliamentary deputies.
Akhmetov is at 'lucky' #7 on PRU's list of parliamentary deputies.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sooner or later, PRU 'on the up'

Presently it is, apparently, 'consulations' on parliamentary {VR} coalition that are taking place between NSNU and PRU. While at the same time, 'negotiations' are proceeding between the leaders of three orange parties BYuT, NSNU, and SPU.

This maybe indicate that an orange coalition is still the more likely. The process has to be 'done and dusted' by 25th June, otherwise the President has the power to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections. He is, however, unlikely to do this because his own party's ratings, [NSNU] have declined even further since the March elections, and there is a realistic possibility that Yanukovych's PRU could gain an absolute majority in any follow-up elections, some observers claiming NSNU's vote could drop to 5%.

Alternatively, a short-term 'pseudo-coalition' could be formed to temporarily save the President from the humiliation of dissolving the VR.

Or acting PM Yuriy Yekhanurov and his cabinet could continue 'limping on' for some time. But without a functioning parliament, the country would remain in a state of political stasis.

Today SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz issued a strongly worded rebuttal, challenging accusations made by President Yushchenko on Friday when he berated Moroz for demanding the position of VR speaker for himself.

He complains, "Appointments at all levels [of government] over the last year and a half have taken place according to the canons of the previous government, and not according to professional principles. This is evidenced by the woeful state of affairs, e.g. in the oil and gas sphere, and in most sectors of the law-enforcement systems*."

And his statement closes, "I again must sadly note that the 'ideals of the Maidan', which were shown to be close to the Ukrainian nation, have not yet become the leading principle of action for the new authorities. Most people in the government still don't understand that Ukrainians succeeded in gathering together [at the Maidan], in order, in the words of a classic, 'to kill the dragon inside.' If the authorities do not come to their senses, the citizens will not suffer quietly for another 10 years." Much undisguised bitterness in the orange camp then, with little sign of rapprochement.

Even at this late stage, it's 50:50 as to which coalition combination will be realized..

The time wasted by the orange forces has benefitted PRU. They know that any orange coalition is unlikely to hold together for long, so sooner or later their moment will come. And, bolstered by disenchanted defectors, a coalition led by themselves would probably be more robust and stable.

PRU claim that some deputies defecting from other parties have secretly pledged them their support, so they have the numbers already, but because of rather unclear rules forbidding deputies to 'change horses in mid-stream', they cannot submit their candidate to be voted into office in the VR. Officially, if a deputy switches from one fraction to another, he supposedly automatically forfeits his mandate.

*Last September Yushchenko fired PM Yuliya Tymoshenko and her entire cabinet, sensationally blowing apart the orange coalition brought together for the 2004 Presidential elections, after her #2, Oleksandr Turchynov, who was head of the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] at the time, was close to exposing corruption involving persons close to the President, in the field of gas procurement. They had allegedly continued running scams previously operated by members of the Kuchma regime. I have blogged previously about the current state of the SBU.

Monday update: NSNU have completed their 'consultations' with PRU and are ready to proceed with 'negotiations', according to one of NSNU's top negotiators, Roman Zvarych.

When asked to comment about progress between the three orange coalition partners, he replied, "There are differences which are sufficiently serious that they could become a barrier." But he did go on to say that if discussions start with PRU, then certain differences could arise, particulary concerning questions of NATO and [Russian] language [status].

Saturday, June 17, 2006

NSNU and PR tango

It looks like it's going to be NSNU and PR. At least all the signs point that way. The heads of NSNU and PR have been ensconced away in negotiations today and there appears to be some movement on the NATO thing, at least if one senior member of PR can be believed. ("Our people will probably forget NATO, but they won't forget wages and pensions...")

I don't know how Our Ukraine is figuring this. Any uniting with PR will be seen as a complete abandonment of Maidan--maybe even a repudiation. "They spit in the faces of teh people who stood on the Maidan" would be the feeling. And they will suffer politically from it. That seems clear. But five years is a long time in politics and maybe they feel the people will forget that little side trip and who knows? If things shape up, maybe people will. The problem is that it will take a lot of will for things to shape up because that means reform and taking on corruption. It is hard for me to see that that is a part of the PR platform and it is looking like it is not on the agenda of some parties in Our Ukraine either.

Or do they think they can remain in power other ways? If that is true, the Orange Revolution will have purchased nothing. It will have been a brief interlude on the way to getting back to business as usual. I hope this isn't the case. Kuchma is beginning to look pretty good, though.

The real irony is that a NSNU/PR coalition will make Ukraine look more stable to the outside, that is, to investors and others. That can be a good thing but only if there is the kind of reform I don't think this crowd is seriously considering. I hope I'm wrong, but it would mean a guy like Yanukovych and his crowd suddenly seeing that the way they have done business in the past is either wrong, morally, or that it doesn't get them what they want. I don't see them finding religion on that issue at all and doing business the way they do it always gets them what they want.

The one problem it does solve is to enfranchise one half of the country. It will bring east Ukraine into the government. And that isn't a bad idea. The problem is at what cost and will there be any effective bridging of the divide? On the second, I don't think this is on anyone's agenda either. And the cost looks like it might be too high.

By the way, this might be one reason why Yuschenko is distancing himself from NSNU. Do they believe he is the head of the party? I don't believe they think they owe him anything. As a matter of fact, he might have been a drag on the party in the elections from their point of view. So are they really listening to him anyway? He preserves some credibility by distancing himself.

It is interesting that someone paint-bombed NSNU's headquarters today. The color of the paint? Blue. That is political speech, no?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Aimless drifting..

Yushchenko's NSNU say they will sign a coalition agreement with Party of Regions of Ukraine as long as three conditions are met :

  • PRU reject federalism
  • PRU reject decisions providing Russian language regional status
  • PRU reject the assertion that Ukraine is 'NATO-free territory'
An NSNU source says bilateral "consultations" are taking place, but considers "calling them negotiations, [is] simply laughable." However, the source considers the positions of PRU and the Socialist Party of Ukraine 'very close'.

In the March parliamentary elections PRU received more than twice the number of votes than NSNU, and have 186 deputies to NSNU's 81. Surely it is PRU that should be dictating the terms, not NSNU? The Russian language issue in particular was a big plank in PRU's election campaign, and they really 'played up' the recent business with NATO troops in Crimea to embarrass Yushchenko, so there's a huge gap to bridge over before an NSNU-PRU deal can be agreed.

The tone of resignation in yesterday's addresses by Yuliya Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Moroz to parliament seemed to indicate that they considered their lengthy negotiations with NSNU were at an end. But President Yushchenko today still claimed he supports the creation of a democratic orange coalition. "The political forces that were victorious in democratic elections should carry out their mission and find mutual understanding within the framework of negotiations on formation of a coalition," he told journalists.

He added, that although he was not a participant in negotiations, "I shall do everything that needs to be done, in order that a democratic coalition takes place in Ukraine."

More of this on pressa's website in English here.

Does anyone really know anymore what he really wants or in what direction he is heading?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Events moving quickly now..

NSNU have not negotiating in good faith and are not interested in any orange parliamentary coalition. They have 'put a little cross on it', as they say in Ukraine. Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz today made a big sacrifice and backed down from his long-standing demand to be proposed VR speaker, proposing only that all leading positions, from deputy of regional administrations to Prosecutor General, be distributed proportionally between the three orange coalition members .

But Anatoliy Kinakh, on behalf of NSNU, says this is still not acceptable. They are looking for 'new partners' which can only mean Yanukovych's PR, to join a grand coalition - something Yekhanurov and some others from NSNU, particularly its 'business wing' wanted from the start.

Even though NSNU have been exposed as a bunch of 'time-wasters', do they really believe that PR, the largest bloc in the new VR, who have now started a serious 'general mobilization', are going to play second fiddle to them and the President?

PR leading member Raisa Bohatyrova claimed yesterday that already 25 members from the orange forces have defected and will support PR. So, together with the Communists, they already have 231 out of 450 parliamentary votes 'in the bag', she gloated. They feel they now have the 'momentum'.

One pro-NSNU newspaper, sourcing Stanislav Byelkovsky quoted in a Latvian periodical, claims Tymoshenko is doing 'behind the scenes' deals with PR financial sponsor and VR deputy, Rinat Akhmetov. In exchange for supporting Tymoshenko's candidature for PM, Akhmetov would be allowed to add Ukraine's largest telecom company, Ukrtelekom [one of the last juicy morsels left for privatization] to his business empire. Although some NSNU deputies would not support Tymoshenko's candidature for PM, possibly 30 - 35 PR deputies would, claims Byelkovsky.

This may be just a 'spoiler', but I suspect there may be a lot of this kind of desparate jockeying by newly-elected deputies, and 'buying off' of votes going on, but ultimately PR will demand the lion's share of the top jobs in any grand coalition. Will NSNU and the President be prepared for the eventual humiliation? Amazingly, it seems that having Tymoshenko PM and Moroz VR speaker would have been an even more unpalatable scenario for them. It's like watching a train crash in slow motion..

I wonder if Yekhnurov and the rest of the NSNU negotiators will 'mess' PRU about as much a they did BYuT and the Socialists.

VR, meeting today for the first time in a while, have 'clocked off' early too, to watch events from WMschaft in Germany. A good result will put everyone in a better frame of mind.

Will they do it?

I have been busy, busy, busy with some deadlines that I am up against. But LEvko, as always, has kept everyone updated on the latest information about forming the government--or not forming it. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen. But with the indications we have right now, it doesn't look so good.

Our Ukraine says it is now free to find another coalition partner. The only other parties out there are the communists with their just over 3% and Party of the Regions. So which one do you think they mean?

If they don't form a government, Yuschenko will have to dissolve Parliament and that means new elections. If that happens, Our Ukraine will be sunk. Three things can happen at this point if they re-vote and all of them are bad. People will either stay home because they're fed up with it all, which favors the parties with true believers, BYuT and PR; or they will show up and vote for some other party because their fed up with it all; or they will show up and punish Our Ukraine-- because they are fed up with it all. The point is that people are fed up with it all. And they are mostly fed up with Our Ukraine. So they had better avoid a new vote.

Why won't there be a fourth option, a groundswell of support for Our Ukraine if there's a vote? Because people are fed up with it all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Moroz comments on Coalition crisis

BBC Ukrainian service interviewed Oleksandr Moroz today after NSNU's decision to abandon further discussions on creation of an Orange parliamentary coalition, blaming the Socialists for the impasse.


"Notice that for a month the entire battle hinged on NSNU's inability to agree to Yuliya Tymoshenko's candidature for the position of PM. Now they say that a coalition cannot be worked out because of the Socialists. In truth, it's not about me or the Socialists. It's because they [NSNU] cannot agree amongst themselves."

"Everything will be realized for the benefit of persons from business structures who call themselves supporters of NSNU, and who have for long been conducting negotiations with PR with the aim of creating a coalition without us [Socialists], without BYuT, and so on.

Then he throws down a challenge: "Go ahead create it, [ a PR-NSNU coalition] don't make a secret of it..

When asked how will he act if the democratic coalition talks end in failure, [in this case is the expression 'democratic alliance' an oxymoron?] he replies, "We will go into opposition."

When asked how he rated the chances of an orange coalition being created, compared with a coalition formed by PR and only part of the orange forces, he replies, "I think 50 - 50".

Saturday, June 10, 2006

'Wheels dropping off' Orange Coalition?

The NSNU press secretary stated today that the "coalition negotiations [between BYuT, NSNU and Socialists] have ceased." The stumbling block has been Moroz's nomination for VR speaker - NSNU are demanding this position is filled by one of their own people.

In a subsequent press conference Tymoshenko appealed to NSNU to resume talks, adding, "Those political forces which toppled the orange coalition the first time round, are toppling it for a second time right now."

She told journalists, without naming names, that "big money" lies behind this development, and that the impasse over VR speaker nomination, "is just an pre-planned excuse, in order to form a coalition having a different format."

When asked if this means that NSNU have been staging coalition talks with PR, she said, "I am convinced that a parallel process has gone on."

In today's radio address President Yushchenko washed his hands of the entire matter. "I consider that a politician who lays claim to the position of PM, should take responsibility for creation of the coalition...this is [normal] European practice."

He explained that he is not interfering int the process of coalition building because, "he does not want the coalition to be formed under pressure," and agreed that "BYuT who obtained 22% of the votes should choose the position of PM or VR speaker, NSNU, who obtained 14%, 'bagsies*' the second position, and the SPU 'bagsies' the third position.

So Tymoshenko has to sort out the mess - if the 'wheels drop off' the democratic coalition, it will be her fault. Not for the first time she will be 'nevistka' - daughter-in-law. [According to a Ukrainian saying, all domestic family problems and disputes are blamed on 'nevistka'.]
*see previous post.

Monday Update: [From Ukrainska Pravda]

translated by Eugene Ivantsov , 12.06.2006, 12:55

Our Ukraine believes coalition with BYuT and SPU has no future, says Our Ukraine statement presented by its press service on Monday.
"Because of categorical statements made by SPU regarding speaker’s office Our Ukraine considers further negotiations unpromising," says the statement.
"Our Ukraine is sorry for the personal ambitions of SPU leader ruined negotiations."
"We believe such step is irresponsible to the people of Ukraine," reads the statement.

Coalition negotiations frozen by Moroz ..

So its out in the open - Yuriy Yekhanurov, NSNU's main negotiator, admitted today that the formation of the democratic coalition has stalled because the Socialists, the third largest participant in the coalition, insist their leader, Oleksandr Moroz be allocated the VR speaker's job.

As the second-largest participant in the democratic coalition, NSNU's first pick was for the VR speaker position too.

The largest participant, BYuT naturally bagsied* the PM's job.

They are all meeting tomorrow at noon to decide what to do. "The Socialists have driven the negotiations into dead end,"complained Yekhanurov.

*Bags. verb, often used by English children. To claim as one's own due to being the first to make such a claim. E.g."Bags I go first," or "We bagsy Crimea."{Informal}

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Unforeseen finale to Coalition formation?

Today President Yushchenko was in Holland on an official visit - he enjoys trips abroad where receptions are friendly. Meanwhile, back at home, the Ukrainian Parliament [VR] announced another adjournment , this time to 14th June. Our Ukraine, BYuT, and SPU voted together to carry the motion, by the thinnest of majorities - 227 out of 435 deputies present.

The President, at a press conference in the Hague advised the parties trying to form the democratic coalition, to consider results of the March 26th elections when discussing allocation of government posts, which has been the main obstacle so far and main reason for delay in forming a coalition. “This would be the best way to show they respect the will of the people, as well as the best principle to share posts in the government and parliament..I think this principle has been disregarded.” Yushchenko often makes rather vague and verbose comments such as these, but maybe it's as close as he will get to saying he would agree to Tymoshenko being PM.

He had a meeting the day before with the top players forming the democratic coalition - Yuriy Yekhanurov, Roman Bezsmertny, Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Moroz, and they "managed to bridge many of differences,” he added.

Interesting piece in 'Ukr Pravda' today which says the main stumbling block preventing formation of the democratic coalition seems to be the Socialists' demands that their leader Oleksandr Moroz be appointed VR speaker.

His party are 'digging in' for this nomination - but NSNU insist on a 'counterweight' to Yuliya T for this position.' Moroz apparently is under great pressure from his party to demand the speaker's job [his last chance to achieve a high position in government]. They are telling Moroz they are indifferent in which coalition he is to gain this position ..

Article ends, "The feeling arises, that the dragging out of the process may lead to an unforeseen finale. As everyone is aware, the closure of the VR session greatly insulted the Party of Regions, who again remain outside of the process. It cannot be excluded that PR & the Communists, who are already arranging a meeting of deputies under the name of 'Stability in Ukraine', are organizing a transfer of parliament to the 'Ukrainskyi Dim'. Then there will be two alternatives: either PR will agitate or 'buy-off' a few deputies for their own majority, and form the govt. they want, or President Yushchenko, in order to avoid a velvet revolution in parliament, will have to cobble together a broad coalition with all of the predicted consequences."

It is absolutely obvious that results of the March 26th elections should be considered - now, even the President has said it.

Note: The new VR comprises PR 186, Communists 21, Socialists 33, BYuT 129, NSNU 81 Putting PR & KPU together provides 207 votes - 19 short of an absolute majority. If some of the Socialists were tempted or 'bought off,' some BYuT deputies would probably cross over too.

The 'Stability in Ukraine' group is a new inter-fractional group with 37 deputies from all five policial forces entering parliament, at the moment. According to Anatoliy Kinakh, the members are highly qualified leaders of top enterprises. Kinakh says that it is not an alternative to VR majority..."[but that] its work will be directed, so that on the basis of constructive co-operation with the president, coalition govt, to form rules of game for development of the economy."

Are they thugs?

One commenter here suggests that I implied the protestors in Crimea were thugs and criminals by suggesting they might have gone on a looting spree.

That was all tongue and cheek. How could "dozens" of people, instead of hundreds or thousands as in Paris, go on a looting spree? And when they ran out of songs? Did they sing any? That is a phenomenon of the US, gather around to protest and sing about overcoming or no more this or that.

I posted it that way because it was funny to me the idea of "dozens" of Ukrainians linking their arms around the port (how do "dozens" do that effectively) then going on a looting spree when they ran out of songs. That is a funny thing to me and still is. And I would think with the kind of sense of humor Ukrainians have, it would be funny to them too.

In any event, I might post something else here that is funny to me. I could label it but I probably won't. Just so you know.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Soccer and politics

So the likelyhood that PRU will form part of the government coalition is receding.

Anti-NATO demonstrations in Crimea, and the elevation in some eastern oblasts and cities of the Russian language to the status of regional language are dominating the news. And in Moscow there's been renewed talk of Crimea being returned to Russia.

Is it naive to consider these matters are connected?

Is this a new strategy by PRU to seize power in the country by some kind of coup d'etat, or as a last resort, a forced splitting of Ukraine, as one observer suggests?

In the next few days Ukraine's bid to win soccer's World Cup in Germany, arguably the biggest sporting event in the world, begins. For the first time Ukraine qualified for the finals, and has several world-class players, so could do well.

Russia has failed to qualify.

Ukrainians across the country, both in the east and the west, whatever their political affiliations, will be 'glued' to their televisions, cheering on their national team.

Over many decades, it has been clear that success in this tournament by a country's nation team, has had a marked influence on the economy and 'feel-good' factor of that country.

E.g. West Germany's success and victory in the 1954 finals provided a historical turning point, helping restore that country's prestige after WW2. Victory for the England team playing at home in the 1966 finals, was a major factor helping the then government, which basked in the reflected glory of its national team, to be re-elected at the next general elections.

Sporting events in Germany over the next few weeks, apart from diverting attention from serious problems and challenges at home, will have an influence events in Ukraine. Success will be a boost for the President. However, success has many fathers, failure is an orphan..

Sensational revelations about SBU..

Last September Oleksandr Turchynov resigned as head of the Ukrainian Security Services, [SBU] on the day PM Yuliya Tyomoshenko and her cabinet had been sacked by President Yushchenko. He was quickly replaced by Ihor Drizhchanyi who promised, when introduced by Yushchenko, to 'spare no effort' to make the Security Service a modern, efficient body, which will serve the nation's interests.

Turchynov, in a press conference following his resignation, said he had been closing in on persons close to President Yushchenko linked to corruption in the gas industry, but was told to 'back off' by Yushchenko himself.

A few days ago, on 1st June, "Ukrayina Moloda" a Ukrainian daily edited by presidential adviser Mykhaylo Doroshenko, published a sensational article "Ihor Drizhchanyi leases out Security Service of Ukraine to serve the Clans and Moscow".

A quote: "Athough it is unpleasant to admit, but after the victory of Maidan democracy the SBU has gradually slid away from state control. But worse, in such a situation, clans and even [those from] abroad are striving to control Volodymyrska St, [SBU headquarters] and not state officials." The article state that by those from abroad they clearly mean 'Moscow'.

[There is a summary in the current AUR #706 here, but the original lengthy original article is well worth reading because the revelations are so startling.]

Just one revelation: The current 'gray cardinal' in the SBU, Volodymyr Radchenko, who headed the SBU in the days of Kuchma and is now an adviser to Drizhchanyi, allegedly sold a portion of land adjacent the SBU main building in Kyiv to 'king of Donbas' Rinat Akhmetov to provide the Donbas elite with luxury penthouses and apartments. Some in the Donbas-based PRU wanted Radchenko as their candidate in the 2004 Presidential elections - a 'Ukrainian Putin', rather than twice-jailed Yanukovych.

Because the breadth and seriousness of the allegations in the article are so great, and 'Ukraina Moloda' so close to the President, this story will 'run and run'.

ps Check out British 'Independent' here for story on the business in Feodosiya/

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Arrogant Putin

In a recent press conference, Vladimir Putin replied in the following manner to a question by a German press agency chief who asked him about deteriorating relations in the sphere of energy supplies between the Russian Federation and its partners, and also about Russia's refusing western countries access to its gas deposits:

"Our western friends supported the Orange events in Ukraine. That which is going on all of this time, we can can [all] see brilliantly - there's lots of problems. If you support that which is going on there, then you will have to pay [for it]. Why should we pay?"

"Why should German consumers pay $250 for Th.c.m. of gas, when in Ukraine they pay $50? If you want to make gifts, then pay for them. Why should we pay?"

Not very statesmanlike comments considering last March's Parliamentary elections were considered by everyone as being the fairest in Ukraine's history -totally free of foreign interference.

From 1985 to 1990 the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany, in what he himself acknowledges was a minor position.

ps Not much reaction to events in Feodosiya by parties forming the 'democratic coalition, so far. NATO must be a dirty word in Ukraine.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Chernomyrdin weighs in

Just when I said it was about money, I find that the Russian ambassador to Ukraine says it about geopolitics. So which is it?

Probably both.

Kremlin at it again? A turning worm

Is the Kremlin raising gas prices as of July 1st to prevent the ascension of Yulia to the premiership? That is one of the explanations for why Moscow is raising the gas price right now asserted in an article from RFE/RL. I suppose the argument is that if Yulia is PM she'll tear up the agreement made in January, which she has said she will do and that is not good for the Kremlin. But will raising the price of gas prevent that from happening?

The argument would have to go something like this: We'll raise the price on them to show them we can do it any time we want to. Knowing that, they will be careful not to choose someone who'll just make us want to do it again. That means no Yulia.

That doesn't follow too well to be even the kind of thinking the Kremlin might come up with.

I think we're beyond that sort of thing. They are raising the price because they can do it. Are they looking for anything in return like pressuring Ukraine to return to the fold? I don't think so. I think it's a question now of maximizing profits. Gazprom is looking to make a public offering and I think they are wanting to make it look as good as they can. It's simply a question of profitability and money and the fact that they can get it by raising the rates. And Ukraine has been so ham-handed at any kind of response I think the Kremlin thinks it can weather any kind of criticism that might come of it. And they very well might be able to. We'll see.

Putin has to keep two sets of people happy, the clans in the Kremlin and the people. He keeps the clans happy by giving them businesses. He keeps the people happy by keeping the economy humming and maintaining stability. Gazprom is crony run and may be the place Putin ends up after he leaves office. Making sure it's doing well benefits the cronies and the economy (and may ensure it is a real power base for his use later.) That means one stone for helping to keep two birds happy--or something like that.

The price of natural gas has gone up 50% for residential uses. There has been some reaction but not much. But that is a real signficant rise in the price. And raising the price further might mean real economic problems ahead. And it will mean hardship for a number of people.

A lot of people here cannot afford to live as things stand now. If the cost of living goes up because of the rise in price of natural gas, that might just push these people over the edge. What will they do then?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Russia, Crimea and NATO

The State Duma of the Russian Federation intends to ask the government about the possibility of Crimea being returned to Russia. Several days ago a majority of Duma’s members backed the corresponding protocol message to the Duma Committees on the International Affairs and CIS.

Even the Communist Party of Ukraine have condemned this move. Russia's periodic trouble-making over Crimea is counter-productive and mainly for domestic consumption. conducted [an admittedly non scientific] straw poll recently, asking readers: 'How should Ukraine react to the State Duma's wish to take back Crimea?' Out of 679 votes cast, only 2.8% said return Crimea; 35% said take back former Kievan Rus' lands, and 22% said apply all efforts, up to the use of military action; 17% said use diplomatic efforts to maintain Ukraine's integrity; and 12% said take no notice.

It's about time Putin made his position clear on this matter, preferably before the G8 summit.

Meanwhile Party of Regions have indicated that they are not anti-NATO, and want "to do the same as Russia, i.e. without direct entry into NATO, to seriously deepen Ukraine's co-operation [with the alliance]; but membership would have to be decided only after a referendum on the matter," according to PR press service, quoting Taras Chornovil, one of the party's 'leading lights'. The referendum could take place, "no sooner than in two or three year's time." These statements have maybe been timed to cover embarrassment over the demonstrations against the US vessel in Feodosiya recently, about which Scott has recently written. A majority of Ukrainians are against full NATO membership at the moment.

Update: Today the Russian State Duma has retracted questions about possible union between Crimea and Russia. It was all a mistake and a misunderstanding, according to Chairman of the interparliamentary Committee for co-operation between Federal assemblies and the Ukrainian VR Konstyantin Zatulin.

Anti-NATO demonstrations

There were some demonstrations in the Crimea a few days back when an American naval ship moored at a port down there to drop off some supplies for a NATO exercise to be held somewhere around that area. These demonstrations were filled with anti-NATO protestors and they were large enough to make the national news.

How large were they? "Dozens" of demonstrators participated. Dozens? Soudns kind of sparse doesn't it? Yet it made teh national news. Couldn't have been more than a couple of dozen people there to sings songs of freedom and overcoming and linking arms to surround that symbol of , what? Western expansionism? Yet yet it made the national news. Sounds like what passes for an unbiased view of what is newsworthy at US news outlets.

I'm surprised they didn't go on a looting spree after they ran out of songs.

There's something about it here.

The mayor and apartments

It has been noted in the press here that Chernovetsky has given up his mayor’s paycheck for it to be used to buy apartments for Kiev citizens who don’t have them. That’s a nice gesture though it will probably not amount to much given the rise in apartment prices here in the past couple of years. I don’t think the mayor gets paid all that much relatively speaking so it will be a drop in the bucket.

The other problem is that there are over 100,000 people on the government’s list to get apartments. A couple of years back we went down to the local government agency that dealt with that in the area where we lived then and saw the list. It was in the lobby, that is, the hallway leading off from the front door. (There are no lobbies here in government buildings, just hallways.) I don’t know how many names were on that list but it stretched along a long wall. There were probably a couple of thousand names on it.

But the thing we saw that didn’t look promising was that some of them had been on that list since the 1960s. This is not a good sign. It is likely that they have been passed over by other, (cough) better connected apartment-less people, but that still isn’t a good sign.

Chernovetsky says that some of those on these lists are not there legitimately. And he might be right. But in one of his weekly town hall meetings in the front of the city council building on Kreschatyk downtown a couple of weeks ago, there were a large number of people there asking for help. The number one request: Get me an apartment.

One woman at that meeting said she is living in a one room apartment with her son and his family. That puts her in the kitchen. She told Chernovetsky she sleeps in the kitchen and he, seeing that she was an older woman, suggested that she could be taken to a senior center. There were places there. It may have seemed to him a reasonable thing to say—it does solve a problem-- but it sounded heartless.

It was after that meeting that he said he would forgo his mayor’s salary so that it could be used to buy apartments. Maybe the scope of the problem sunk in afterward. But it may take his Praveks Bank earnings to make any real dent in it.