Friday, December 28, 2007

Everything changes, nothing changes

The normally BYuT-leaning 'Gazeta po Kievski', in an article today says that contrary to election promises, the new administration will increase money and perks alocated to VR deputies and ministers.

Below are portions of the article:

2008 Tymoshenko budget will "gild" [VR] deputies and Yushchenko - Cynicism of the year: privileges and wages of VIP-officials will "stretch" us for 1,6 billion hryven

The fanfares of the early elections have barely died down with their cloying promises, as Ukrainian policians cynically deceive us yet again. "One law for all,", so earnestly promised from television screens by "orange" politicians, will not be. No-one intends to abolish any privileges (especially - financial) from the deputies. Yet again this was eloquently confirmed by the proposed budget being prepared by Yulia Tymoshenko's KabMin. The document provides a multimillion INCREASE in the money provided for the maintenance of deputies, kabmin 'big-knobs', and the President and his secretariat! In the exchange - a paltry maximum several hundred kopecks increase in our pensions and wages.

It is interesting that, desiring to financially sweeten life of the establishment, lady Yu has even outdone 'Regional' ex-minister of finances Mykola Azarov, who had written the previous draft version of the 2008 budget.

The article provides lots of details of the proposed 2008 budget, and includes a table of "how the authorities' appetites have grown in a year:" 2007 budget - 1.23 Bn hryven; Azarov's projected budget for 2008 - 1.46 Bn hryven; Tymoshenko's projected budget for 2008 - 1.64 Bn hryven.

The article concludes by asking its readers if they are still awaiting the cancellation of the parliamentary immunity.

{Thanks Peter}

Clever PR work from pres's spin-doctors

I'm still trying to assess the importance of Raisa Bohatyryova's appointment as secretary of the National Security and Defence Council. It has to be remembered she is [for how long?] #2 on PoR's election list for September's VR early elections - a big beast indeed.

Ukrainska Pravda write: "It has become clear that if you have powerful support in certain circles in the party you can openly disagree with Yanukovych, and conduct your own game, ignoring the threats. Moreover, the hints of expulsion of Bohatyryova from the party, bear witness to the weakness of the 'Regionaly' leadership."

Bohatyryova may even possibly be setting up her own party. and there has been some speculation in the Russian media [subsequently denied] that Akhmetov may be moving away from PoR.

Yushchenko conducted an end-of-year assessment press conference, in which questions were put to him from viewers and from other quarters. A transcript and several good photographs are provided by Glavred here

LEvko thought the event appeared very well stage-managed by the presidential admin. to show Yush as obvious top banana in the country. Yush looks relaxed, and presidential, [maybe even regal?] seated on a raised platform. The leading players from the newly-elected government, including Tymoshenko, and PoR turncoat Raisa Bohatyryova, were seated on the front row to look like 'second stringers - Bohatyryova clearly on display like a star player, newly-purchased by a soccer team - the whole scene set up to show viewers Yushchenko in clear command. Sitting with them was head of the presidential secretariat Viktor Baloha - a spin-doctor civil servant with a dubious past. Yulka T must have felt well humiliated.

Brief video clip here

As usual, his boring, droning delivery was just not engaging enough though. He should get himself a voice coach. When Margaret Thatcher became British prime minister her PR advisers felt that her voice was irritatingly high-pitched, and that she spoke too fast. A top-class voice coach was quickly brought in. After some analysis, she was taught how best to use her voice, particularly when appearing on TV. For may years she used to perform a voice-training exercise - in order to speak more from 'the back of the throat' she had to repeat the phrase 'um-koka-goka-woka, um-koka-goka-woka' 100 times every day. It's a little-known fact this was the true key to her success..True..[only half-joking]

ps. Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately I cannot alter the favourites or any other details of the foreignnotes site - only Scott - whose blog this is, can do this. I can heartily recommend 'Ukrainiania' though - the video clips posted often say more about the political scene that individual articles..Maybe more on this later..

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Glum Yanuk

Yesterday I mentioned "Obozrevatel" journalist Tatyana Chornovil's questioning of Viktor Yanukovych at a press conference, about his shady appropriation of state property and land on which his swanky new private residence is being constructed.

Today Unian run this:

Tymoshenko takes back residence put together by Yanukovych

Today Yulia Tymoshenko announced at a press briefing that the Kabmin has altered the resolution to transfer the [government] "Mezhyhirya" residence, which is currently occupied by former premier Viktor Yanukovych, to the assets of the state company "Nadra Ukrainy". [This was part of a scam enabling Yanukovych to build a swanky new residence for himself, complete with 'mini-zoo', greenhouses for growing bananas, a dredged waterway, deepened moorings, a private road to a hunting forest etc. etc. on the grounds of a government dacha. This gross abuse of power, involving well over 100 hectares of prime residential land was exposed by Tatyana Chornovil. Details in my posting from last August here]

Tymoshenko expressed confidence that at each session of government it would abolish the illegal decisions taken by the previous KabMin.

"Having cancelled the resolution, we have returned 140 hectares of land back to the state. This is "Mezhyhirya," said Tymoshenko.

"After we've worked for a month on revisions, no lobbyist resolution will be left from the Yanukovych government's [time in office]. Everything will be cancelled, and after this their illegality will be proven in courts of law."

She also confirmed that in the event that any of Yanukovych's team appeals to courts of law to challenge the new KabMin's decisions, they would request state prosecutors to open criminal cases against the 'corruptioneers'. "So I think it's possible there won't even be anybody who will appeal to the courts."

No wonder Yanik looked glum when questioned by Tatyana Chornovil the other day. I wonder if he has tried his old prison clothes for fit in recent times. He knows pres. will save his bacon though.

p.s. Tatyana Chornovil's latest article is entitled "Tymoshenko pays off her sponsors".

Here are the opening paragraphs:

The last three appointments of the [current] KabMin have become the most scandalous and odious. The structure that controls the most valuable asset in the land - the gas transit system, i.e. state company "Naftohaz Ukrainy" is to be headed by yesterday's 'Kuchmist' Oleh Dubina.

The structure which feeds the budget with cash, i.e. the tax collection administration, is to be headed by Tymoshenko's sponsor and co-owner of 'BrokBusinessBank' and also kum [godparent] of the president, Serhiy Buryak.

And finally, the customs service, which is also a fundamental source of income for the budget, is to be headed by the mysterious Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, whom opponents suspect of being an agent of Russian oligarchs in Ukraine..

The fearless Chornovil certainly does not pull her punches does she..

Permanent friends and permanent enemies

On Sunday 23rd December, Yulia Tymoshenko went to Donetsk to meet the families of miners killed in the recent dreadful disaster at the Zasyadko mine. She also met the mine's management, and attended a conference dealing with consequences of the disaster.

Here's a portion of "Donbass" newspaper's report of the visit, which was her first as newly-elected prime minister:

"There was no secret surrounding the strategic aim of visit to the mine by the premier. Moving on from the parliamentary elections, Ukraine's politicians have begun to prepare for the next presidential elections. The time has come to form new unions and to fight for the sympathies of voters in the eastern regions. The visit to the Zasyad'ko mine by Tymoshenko had two aims with possible two results. The first aim was to make personal contact with the people and to make generous promises and expose the shortcomings in the handling of the disaster by previous government. The second aim was to determine the fate of Yefim Zvyagilskiy [a veteran Ukrainian politician, the mine's boss, and currently a PoR parliamentary deputy]. He would either be the victim of premier's anger - an example of the ruthlessness and fairmindedness of the new authority, or he would convince Tymoshenko of his usefulness and would become an ally - a counterweight to that part of PoR which is actively friendly with the President's secretariat.

From a political point of view, the result of the visit became clear at the meeting with the working collective. "I want to give many thanks to Yefim Leonovich [Zvyagilskiy] here in front of everyone, for what he has done for the mine," said Tymoshenko. So they have come to an understanding - a new political alliance has been created. Because Yefim Zvyagilskiy, is not a so-called "old Donetskiite", by himself. He is part of a group that includes Volodymyr Rybak, Mykola Azarov, and Viktor Yanukovych. So interesting prospects are opening up before Yulia Volodymyrivna and her new friends..."

Raisa Bohatyryova's possible appointment as secretary of the National Security and Defence Council [see previous blog] may also be a sign of shifting of political tectonic plates.

Ukrainiana has an excellent posting on Tymoshenko's visit - and also a revealing video clip of Yanukovych's bumbling response to a probing question from one of Ukraine's best and bravest investigative journalists - Tetyana Chornovil. I love the glimpse of 'kiss my ass' in Tetyana Chornovil's eyes as she's chewing gum, when Yanik confronts her in the lobby at the end of the clip.

I have previously written blogs on the investigative newspaper articles exposing the major abuse of power scandal with which she confronts Yanukovych in the video clip - I urge readers to visit this link and remind themselves just how greedy the guys at the top of the muck heap really are. [Thank goodness there are people like Tetyana Chornovil around in Ukraine - they are the ones who deserve the medals, not the Kolesnikov's and Kivalov's etc.]

The ground may just be beginning to crumble under Yanukovych's feet.

"We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests." Benjamin Disraeli [British PM in Victorian times]

Monday, December 24, 2007

Not all singing from the same hymn-sheet

Earlier today President Yushchenko appointed Raisa Bohatyryova Secretary [i.e. co-ordinating chairman] of the powerful National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine

Her appointment was confirmed on PoR's official website.

Bohatyryova, one of PoR's top bananas, is close to Rinat Akhmetov. Soon after, one of PoR's 'talking heads' Anna Herman said: “We positively appreciated this appointment. Raisa Bohatyryova is smart and reasonable person. She can do much for overcoming split of the country.” According to Herman, Bohatyryova is experienced and balanced politician. “We knew about this appointment already in the morning and are glad about it. This appointment proves once more that the President is geared up for unity of the country.”

But later in the day, Akhmetov's "Segodnya' claimed Yanukovych was hinting PoR may forbid Bohatyryova to accept the NSDC post, adding that she did not give her agreement to the appointment. The leader of PoR declared that: "We made a decision to go into opposition, and this it does not envisage our participation in the management of the state. We cannot head state institutions which will realize programs that do not coincide with our view of Ukraine's perspectives."

"Our position, our aims and our strategy do not give to us the political right to accept any part in the management of state institutions and to agree to any posts," emphasized Yanukovych. He added that the commentaries of the individual members of the party of regions are the personal opinion of those, who voiced them."

This is also carried on PoR's website.

PoR don't quite know where they are going at the moment - see my previous blog.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Problems in PoR

LEvko considers that the PoR bloc has behaved rather timidly and ineffectively lately. They failed, rather unexpectedly, to persuade any NUNS, or perhaps BYuT deputies to abstain in recent voting, with the notable exception of Ivan Plyushch, and so left the door open for the new Tymoshenko-led administration to be formed. Their 175 deputies could, of course close down the Verkhovna Rada at any time by tearing up their parliamentary deputy mandates, thus following the precedent set by the orange opposition in the previous VR convocation, but their smarter members are aware that their main selling points - compenent management of the economy, and good relations with Russia, were not sufficient to provide victory in the recent VR re-elections. In short, they realize they need some new ideas. Frightening the Ukrainian electorate with the 'orange plague' is not enough.

Many PoR members, quite reasonably, live in the hope of a rapid collapse of the new wafer-thin VR 'democratic' majority. Neverthess it is becoming apparent that all is not well in their ranks. They did not even manage to persuade the two minor blocs in the VR - the Communists and Lytvyn's bloc, to co-operate with them when voting on procedural matters last week.

Below are some portions of an article I've loosely translated, entitled "Yanukovych did not grease [his] "oppositional skis", from the latest edition of the excellent 'Kommentarii' weekly:

"Besides an ideological crisis, PoR is enduring a serious crisis of decentralization where disorder and swings of opinion reign. Among the "Regionaly" there is no unanimous opinion on a question very important for them right now: on the law about the opposition. An additional signal which testifies to internal confusion in the party, is the fact that before voting, the voting cards of their VR deputies [nardepov] are gathered and pooled together, in other words they suffer the same misfortune as the 'oranges' - mutual distrust.

Centralized decision making is in no better shape. Victor Yanukovych is still considered the party's formal leader, but long absences 'from the captain's bridge' reveals that in PoR they are still considering whether he should hand over the reins of administration. Many, even among PoR members, consider Yanukovych too clumsy and inexperienced a parliamentary politician to be an effective leader of the opposition. Viktor Fedorovich of course, does not think this, and is already forming a shadow government.

It is no secret that Rinat Akhmetov and his closest companion-in-arms Boris Kolesnikov envisage Raisa Bohatyryova, not Viktor Yanukovych, as leader of the 'blue and white' opposition. Akhmetov has his own vision of oppositional activity. Judging by everything, Akhmetov is well disposed to constructive collaboration with the President, with whom has recently become closer. Viktor Yushchenko can protect Akhmetov from the "reprivatisational" attacks of Yulia Tymoshenko. Akhmetov would like to hold "white and blue" opposition in his pocket and if necessary deal with the President with the votes of his companions-in-arms. Other businessmen in PoR hold differing views. Thus, the Party of Regions faction could become a source from where the "democrats" could draw situational deserters.

There is the third category of "Regionalov", which do not desire to be a "pocket" opposition, but also do not see Viktor Yanukovych as an effective leader of the opposition. They include Nestor Shufrich, who fancies himself as opposition leader. He possesses all the necessary attributes, including long-standing experience as a parliamentarian and public politician, and he appeals to the "regionaly" electorate. In principle, if the "old guards" and "young turks" in PoR arrive achieve consensus, then Nestor Ivanovich could have a chance to become a compromise figure and occupy the post of PoR leader. However, many in the party have not thus far even comprehended the existence of the problem of the absence of a united leader.

An article from the British "Guardian" newspaper on Putin allegedly acquiring billions of dollars assets during his stint as President of Russia, and the resultant factional infighting in the Kremlin, has provoked a response. The story could well 'have legs'

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tymoshenko hits ground running

Newly elected prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko addressed the nation in a TV broadcast tonight. She pledged that within the next few days parliamentary immunity and privileges will be abolished, and management of the law-enforcement and controlling organs will be changed.

"We will certainly not try to shift responsibility for the situation in the country on our predecessors under any circumstances. These are not our methods. The acting government must bear responsibility for situation in the country," she said.

The new government has already begun an all-Ukrainian anti-corruption investigation into "the doubtful operations of the previous authority...We should know clearly what mischief they've caused, I guarantee, that we will check out each spent kopeck, each tender, each licence, each illegal act of privatization. Let no one be in any doubt - it will be necessary to answer for all the shady, illegal matters." she declared.

Furthermore, Tymoshenko added that all ministers and officials that have just been appointed to positions of authority will also have to pass the anticorruption investigation too. We will not have "our" protected politicians and officials. My prime ministerial ethic is simple and understandable: he who wants to work, will work, he who wants to steal will be held to account. That's it - no other alternatives exist," she stated.

Tymoshenko pledged to carry out all her pre-election promises. "We will build European-standard roads and housing accessible for each person. We will return savings and will abolish conscription into the army. We are capable of becoming members of the WTO, of conducting Euro-2012 in a worthy manner, and, possibly, even winning it. Nothing will prevent us from constructing harmonious, friendly relations with our neighbours, and with all strong and powerful states," emphasized Tymoshenko.

She said it is necessary to clear the road to new investments and enterprise, to pass new tax laws with lower and simplified taxes, to ruthlessly crush corruption, and finally introduce fair wages and pensions.

She said she will not permit anyone to destroy the unity between the President of Ukraine, the government and the democratic coalition in parliament.

The head of government issued a call all political forces to end squabbles, to end the blocking and fights in parliament, the war of compromising materials and mutual insults. "We do not need big scandals, we need a big Ukraine," she added.


Lytvyn's bloc and the Communists will not be joining Party of Regions in any shadow opposition government.

Communist leader Petro Symonenko said, "I am categorically against it."
Lytvyn's comment was, "There will be nothing in this shadow government apart from talking."

PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych had previously declared his intentions plans to create such a shadow government.


In response to Vladimir Putin's recent assertions of anti-Russian attitudes in Ukraine [see previous blog] the head of the Donetsk oblast state administration, Volodymyr Logvinenko, emphasized that the Russian-speaking population of his oblast, which comprise over 80% of the total, has not experienced any such pressure. "I don't have any examples of this," he declared.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

All the fault of uncle Sam

The current issue of 'Time' magazine has a rather sinister photograph of Vladimir Putin on the front cover - he has been chosen as their Person of the Year.

Below is a portion of a lengthy interview that their journalists conducted with the Russian leader. He is talking of Ukraine :

We do understand the difficulties of our partners. For 15 years, we were selling them energy resources way below the market prices subsidized to the tune of $3 billion to $5 billion a year for Ukraine. This cannot last forever. The Europeans are always criticizing us. They want us to introduce international pricing standards. Otherwise, they say, our enterprises would enjoy an unfair advantage over European enterprises. So within the country we should sell at world prices while to our neighbors we should sell below the world prices? This is discrimination.

Let's be frank and speak directly and call a spade a spade. What I'm about to say is not aggressive in any way, but I urge you to be frank. The United States somehow decided that part of the political elite in Ukraine is pro-American and part is pro-Russian, and they decided to support the ones they consider pro-American, the so-called orange coalition. Well, O.K., you decided to support them. Do as you please, although we don't believe it's right. Of course, they have people with different outlooks there and with different political tastes, but as I've already mentioned, if a politician wants to be popular, he or she must protect the national interests first of all, be Ukrainian nationalists in the good sense of this word. And they are. They are not pro-Russians. They are not pro-Europeans. They are not pro-Americans. They are all pro-Ukrainians, but somehow Americans divided them all into pro- this or that. We believe that is a mistake. Let them settle their issues themselves. Everything that's been done there is unconstitutional, which has created distrust among various political groups and citizens, thus undermining Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and economy. That's what the United States has done and is doing in Ukraine and in Georgia. What we say is, leave them alone, without choosing sides.

When everyone saw that destabilization was under way in Ukraine, they tried to force Russia to subsidize the Ukrainian economy at our expense. Why? If you want to support someone, you pay for it. Nobody wants to pay. In this room, I once discussed this with a European politician and I said, you pay for it, and he replied, am I an idiot? Well, I'm not an idiot either. One has to look at the real problem. We should not be guided by generalities, and the situation prevailing there is very dangerous in my view. Everything must be done to consolidate society, consolidate the country. Strategically, it would be right that the pro-Russian, pro-Western groups would unite and think about the future of their own country and create such a power structure that would only further consolidate the nation rather than divide it among the Westerners, Southerners or Easterners, or whatever.

What is happening now is a movement toward further destruction, which is a pity because Ukraine is very close to us and because almost half of the population have either friends or relatives in Russia. There are 17 million ethnic Russians there, officially. Almost 100% of the people consider Russian as their mother tongue. [Note: Some opinion polls indicate that as few as about 25% of Ukrainians consider Russian their mother tongue.]

TIME: Do you think Ukraine will ever again become part of Russia?

PUTIN: Of course not. We don't want it. We do not want to include anyone into Russia again because for us it would only bring an additional economic burden. We want to realize our national competitive advantage in the world economy. We can only speak of economic integration. It's quite useless to try to force upon anyone new state structures without the will of the relevant people. In the modern world, it's not even necessary. Look at Europe, where national borders are no longer as important as they used to be.

In the interview, Putin also conveniently 'forgot' that in the 1st December 1991 Ukrainian referendum, over 84% of Ukrainians voted for independence. Here's what he said to 'Time':

"What did the collapse of the Soviet Union mean? Twenty-five million Soviet citizens who were ethnic Russians found themselves beyond the borders of new Russia. Nobody gave thought to them. Twenty-five million would make up a major European nation. Before taking a decision, one should consult the population. Do you want to live separate from the state you live in now? I'm confident that if we were to hold a referendum in many of the former Soviet republics, the vast majority would say no. But nobody asked them."

p.s. "The people who cast the votes don't decide an election, the people who count the votes do".. Joseph Stalin....


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tymoshenko cracks whip already

Today the BYut-NUNS coalition elected Tymoshenko prime minister for a second time by the tightest possible majority of one vote in the 450 seat parliament .

When NUNS leader Vyachelav Kyrylenko was earlier asked by journalists whether his party had used "an electric iron, or a soldering iron" to persuade Yuriy Yekhanurov to remain loyal and vote for Tymoshenko, he replied that "a route of persuasion" had been used. "In the morning he declared that he would not vote, but after that we spent two hours convincing him."

In January 2006, BYuT voted with 'Regionaly' in a no confidence motion in the-then PM Yekhanurov, in what some saw as an act of revenge against Yushchenko for dismissing Tymoshenko from the PM position several months earlier.

Yekhanurov is now Minister of Defence, appointed by the president in the newly elected cabinet [hmm..]..

Tymoshenko's first priorities will be to sort out the almost bankrupt 'Naftohaz Ukrainy', the tax administration, and the state customs service where many heads will roll.

She immediately made it clear that decisions as to whether Ukraine is to have a presidential, or parliamentary system of administration, and whether Ukraine is to apply for membership to NATO, are to be decided by referendum. "Entry into any kind of collective system of defence - via a referendum," explained Tymoshenko.

Quite a good report on today's event from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty here. It includes this quote from Tymoshenko, when she addressing the VR, vowing to fight against corruption and curb the power of those oligarchs who in the past have wielded influence over public officials: "I believe that the process of cleansing in Ukraine cannot be reversed. Maybe for a few months more you will be able to cling to power. Maybe for a few months more you will be able to scratch together a few bits of Ukrainian resources. But in the end, you will have to return everything, right to the last drop. Hear my words."

This no doubt caused much buttock clenching and squirming in chairs amongst some of those present..

p.s. From my internet-piped view of proceedings in the VR, Yanukovych seemed to be just going through the motions, without much conviction in his valedictory speech..

'Ekonomicheskiye Izvestia' reports Yanukovych's brief visit to the "Yedina Rossiya" party conference on Monday was not a success. The position of 'Regionaly' on the status of the Russian language in Ukraine and Ukraine's entrance in NATO is baffling the 'Yedinorossy', they say.

"We expect a more clearly expressed position from 'Regionaly' on questions of the non aligned status of Ukraine, and on providing the Russian language a state status," stated member of the general council of "United Russia" Konstantin Zatulin.

According to E-Izvestia's sources, Tymoshenko has already formed understandings with the Kremlin, including in the sphere of energy. She has been assisted Oleksandr Turchinov and Viktor Medvedchuk [yes, Kuchma's old fixer].

The day before the United Russia congress, Russian vice-premier Dmitriy Medvedev was officially proposed presidential candidate for the Russian presidential elections. "Medvedev is a godparent of Viktor Medvedchuk's, and a close friend Ihor Bakay, whom he saved from deportation back to Ukraine. Bakay is wanted on charges of abuse of power, defrauding the state, and other crimes.

Some information on Bakay-Tymoshenko feuding from the past here.

Whatever anyone says, PoR acted in a fair-minded manner today, so that's progress.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Party of Regions acknowledge interference in VR voting system

In the opinion 'Regional' deputy Oleksandr Stoyan, "Political killers have combined with the electronic hackers" to prevent Yuliya T become the premier on 11th December.

Stoyan, a former Nasha Ukraina deputy, considers tomorrow's voting on Tymoshenko's candidature will produce the same result as on 11th December, and Viktor Yanukovych there will be acting premier at least until March 2008.

"My personal forecast is that tomorrow Tymoshenko will not be elected because the President himself does not want it. Some reason will arise again. We now already know, what happened on the first voting for Tymoshenko was not by chance. I would say that then political killers had combined with electronic hackers. If the President has not reconsidered his views, another version of events may be found for Tymoshenko not to accumulate sufficient votes," stated Stoyan.

The clear hint from Stoyan is that it was dirty tricks by some of those 'on the other side' that 'did in' Tymoshenko last Tuesday.

LEvko thinks Yulka T. has a dilemma. If she is elected PM tomorrow she knows that she will have to operate in almost impossible conditions with the most slender of majorities in the VR, and with some in her cabinet she would rather not be there. Concessions will constantly have to be made to lesser coalition partners and to the pres. himself, possibly even her giving up a shot for the presidency in late 2009. [In other words, dare I say it, a poisoned chalice?]

Apart from their success during the orange revolution, when she did most of the 'heavy lifting', Yushchenko and Tymoshenko seem to be incapable of sustaining a working relationship for any reasonable period.

To walk away to opposition now, when the premiership is so close..after such a long campaign would be really tough..But winners are not quitters, and quitters are not winners..

PoR also run this story.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hard work for everyone in VR

After long negotiations in the VR on the agenda for next Tuesday's sitting an agreement has apparently been achieved, satisfying both the "oranges" and 'Regionaly'. Hopefully a vote on the appointment of a prime minister, composition of KabMin, vice- speakers, heads of parliamentary committees and their composition, will take place on that day. This was approved by 274 votes - those of BYuT-NUNS, the Communists, and Lytvyn's bloc. Voting for the PM will now be by a show of hands.

There are rumours that the support of the Communists has been 'bought' by BYuT and Tymoshenko in exchange for the post of MinAgroPolitiki [Ministry of Agrarian Policy] in the KabMin. Tymoshenko also resolutely defended Communist Adam Martynyuk's bid for the post of first VR vice-speaker. 'Gazeta po Kievski' claims Yuliya T now expects Communist votes in support of her premiership bid. [There are 27 Communist deputies in the VR]

Behind-the-scenes negotiations will continue through the next days, but internal problems in the "orange" camp are growing also. There are increasing signs that the President's secretariat is claiming 'dibs' on the more desirable cabinet ministers' chairs in any Tymoshenko KabMin. E.g. Yushchenko fancies the deputy head of his secretariat, Yuriy Prodan as fuel and energy minister, a post Tymoshenko herself held at the turn of the millennium. According to the coalition agreement between the orange parties, this position was earmarked for BYuT.

'Segodnya' suggests next Tuesday could be 'black day #2' for Tymoshenko. The president will be out of the country, officially until the 17th, but could be away having treatment until 26th. His people would probably rather wait for him to return before any further voting takes place. Then there's a lengthy Christmas recess, so everything will be on the back-burner until the beginning of February.

'Segodnya' also talks of internal rifts amongst the oranges, particularly over individual Cabinet posts. But Yushchenko will need the support of BYuT if he is to change to laws on the KabMin, which were recently clarified by the Constitutional Court.

Seems to me that some are tightening up the nuts on the ruling coalition, while others are going around undoing them again. What are the chances that this will stop even if a cabinet is formed on Tuesday?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bubbly Bubliy

An article in 'Gazeta po Kievski', by the delightfully named Nataliya Bubliy, [check link to see her photo] quotes a BYuT deputy who is convinced that his party's failure to elect their leader to the PM's post was due to a conspiracy.

During negotiations demands were made on Tymoshenko to yield control of two 'desirable' state structures - the customs service, and 'GosKomZem' [State land registry]. Yesterday a source in BYuT reported that trading over these issues continues. To them has now been added horse-trading over control of the gas transit system, and removal of all middlemen. How this wheeling and dealing turns out will be revealed by who will eventually heads GosKomZem and Naftogaz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tips for Arseniy

Dear Arseniy - May I offer a few suggestions to on how to conduct voting in the Verkhovna Rada later today on the critical matter of electing a new Prime Minister.

As a teacher with several years experience, I would suggest a technique I used to use called 'painting by numbers', i.e. a fool-proof step-by-step approach to completing any task by every member of my class.

The following instructions dictated clearly to voting deputies may improve chances of success:

  • Everyone who intends to vote please raise your voting card in your right hand. [Check]
  • Insert card in slot
  • Has everyone inserted their cards in the slot?
  • Check your neighbours to see that they have inserted their card in the slot correctly.
  • Hands up and shout out if you have not done this.
  • Has everyone put their cards in the slot properly?
  • If you have not, the please shout out.
  • In a moment we will be voting, so place your finger on the green button...the green button.
  • Is everyone ready to vote? Yes or No?
  • I will count down, and then everyone presses the green button - O.K?
  • 5-4-3-2-1-0 PRESS THE GREEN BUTTON!

Remember, do not let the naughty deputies who have no interest in voting at all and are intent on mischief, distract you in any way. Remember, you are in charge..

Seriously, yesterday the expressions on their faces suggested 'Regiony' were resigned to the wind is back in their sails..has the moment passed for the dembloc?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bad first day at school

Yuliya Tymoshenko failed to gain the 226 votes in the VR required for her to become Prime Minister again. The BYTuT-NUNS coalition only managed to muster 225 - one short. Judging by the expressions on the faces of PoR deputies present, even they were shocked.

It seems that there was a malfunction with one of deputies' voting apparatus...and someone allegedly tampered or stole speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk's voting card too...LEvko knew it would be a hard first day at school for the novice...he should have expected a drawing pin on his chair..

Headmaster Yushchenko, and head-girl Tymoshenko should have warned him...they have had many nasty experiences with the naughty PoR boys and girls before..

Still, the whole routine may be repeated in a day or two's time..


Joking aside, a PoR deputy, Vladislav Lukyanov, has admitted removing Yatsenyuk's voting card at a critical moment.

Preventing a fellow deputy from casting his vote in this manner is a grave matter. The man should be kicked out of the VR.

That place is a den of thieves with its fair shair of extortionists, blackmailers, swindlers, and worse, many of whom colluded in the attemped presidential election steal in 2004..Yatsenyuk should really have had a 'minder' looking over him.

The second vote, on a point of order, should have not take place until all of the boys and girls were back in their places and order restored.. Every experience teacher knows: keep your back to the wall, and never let a pupil creep up behind you..Yatsenyuk will learn..

First day at school

Many years ago, I taught for a year or two in a rather rough school. If a novice teacher turned up for his first day at the school to start his teaching career, the 'older dogs' in the school staff room would 'wind him up' mercilessly.

"Say son, which is your first class?"

"12C," the novice would reply.

The 'old dogs' would all start laughing around him. "Eh! they've given him 12C!" "Not 12C! Bloody hell! The worst class in the school!" "Dear oh dear, he doesn't stand a chance! They'll eat him alive!"

Then one of the 'old dogs' would put his hand over the novice's shoulder and say, "Don't worry son, my class is next door. I'm going that way so I'll walk down the corridor with you to 12C's classroom. You go in first, then I'll throw the books in after you!"

For newly-elected parliamentary speaker, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, tomorrow may be like this first day in school. PoR have warned that they may prevent any voting for Tymoshenko for PM in the VR, and will block the podium unless parliament chooses a deputy speaker, and heads of parliamentary committees first.

This evening Tymoshenko was supposed to have met representatives from PoR, even though they insist they will not be voting for her. The meeting never took place. Interestingly, according to their leader Petro Symonenko, the Communists in the VR have not yet determined their position regarding Tymoshenko's candidature. They will meet her before tomorrow morning's VR sitting.

Quite a test for the young Yatsenyuk tomorrow, and maybe an indicator of how he will handle parliamentary problems in the future.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Latest on Tuesday's vote

From Akhmetov's 'Segodnya' newspaper today, an article entitled: 'Even the sick will vote for Tymoshenko's premiership'

"Politologists questioned by Segodnya are convinced that tomorrow will bring the premiership for Tymoshenko. In the opinion of Vladimir Fesenko, the entire "orange" coalition will support lady Yu. "Voting with cards is not voting in a secret ballot [as was the case when electing Yatsenyuk for speaker - then Tymoshenko checked every voting slip before they were dropped by individual deputies into the ballot box, just to make sure..]. Presence of deputies will not be compulsory for the vote. They can simply hand their cards to other representatives of the fraction for voting," explained Fesenko.

In the opinion of the political scientist Mikhail Pogrebinsky, the only thing which can stop Tymoshenko's premiership is the absence of sick VR deputies [nardepov] in the hall. "Then the oranges can attempt to put off voting by several days," says Pogrebinsky. At the same time, in the opinion of political scientist, Tymoshenko could secure the support of several persons from other fractions. For example from the Lytvyn bloc."

Lytvyn himself stated in a TV interview a couple of days ago that his bloc will not be supporting Tymshenko in her bid to be PM. 'Delo' even suggests that PoR may support Lytvyn for president in 2010.

Yekhanurov, when asked in a TV interview tonight whether NUNS would vote for Tymoshenko in an organized manner, replied in the affirmative. Yekhanurov has always been a 'broad coalition' man.

We shall see..

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Signs of democracy maturing

The September 30th early parliamentary elections produced and inconclusive result, and no one party or bloc will dominate the Verkhovna Rada. There has been speculation that the newly-elected parliament may operate, in the short term, in a 'situational' mode - with blocs co-operating to vote through individual pieces of legislation according to their particular requirements.

Viktor Yanukovych, at a recent extraordinary congress of judges, complained that it has become impossible to begin judicial reform. He reported that annual expenditure for maintaining the judiciary keeps rising, but societies' confidence in the judicial authorities is not growing, and bureaucracy and corruption persists at the highest level.

During the congress, the head of the Supreme Court of Vasyl Onopenko proposed President Yushchenko submits a law as soon as possible 'on the Supreme Judiciary Council' to parliament, and heads the Council [i.e. gains greater control] himself.

An example of 'situational' co-operation in this matter is given in Ekonomicheskiye Izvestia in a piece entitled, "PoR and BYuT against the President and Oponenko," about possible co-operation between the two parties to pass legislation to decentralise the Ukrainian judicial system, against the wishes of both the Supreme Court and the President.

Rinat Akhmetov made conciliatory statements about BYuT last week. "The colour of the coalition is not important to me, the main thing is what it will do. If its work will be directed to the economic growth of the country - we are ready to co-operate. But if the coalition works according the principle "seize and divide up" then this will not be a democratic coalition, this will be a 1917 coalition."

When asked about what he thought of Tymoshenko as premier, he said, "What is my thought? Tymoshenko received the support of 31.5% of the voters. This means a large number of people trust this politician." And if a coalition is formed and Yuliya Tymoshenko becomes prime minister, "I will respect this."

The main political players: PoR and its two main sub-fractions, the President and his secretariat, NUNS and its argumentative constituents, BYuT, the Communists, and Lyvyn and his chums, are all jockeying to be best placed in the new administration and have maximum influence in the future development of the country. No-one is certain quite what to do for the best.

E.g. the pragmatists in PoR, who are undaunted by a spell in opposition, wanted Rayisa Bohatyryova elected VR vice-speaker in order to nevertheless maximize their influence in the VR. The romantics in PoR, who feel that retention of power is still realistic, were willing to sacrifice this post in favour of Communist Adam Martyniuk in order to maintain the Communists' support in a 'wide coalition'. Yanukovych may have even influenced Bohatyryova's withdrawal - he did not want this close ally of Rinat Akhmetov holding such an influential position.

Tuesday will be 'crunch-time' as VR deputies attempt to vote in Yuliya Tymoshenko for prime minister. If BYuT fails to persuade Lytyvyn and his chums to support them, Levko thinks it may be quite a while before the crackle of Yulka's electric tights and clack of her stiletto heels are heard in the KabMin offices again. Lytvyn's bloc failed to enter the VR in March last year - this time they are in again. The possibility of political 'big beast' Lytvyn getting into a position of influence in government again, must be a temptation.

Even though President Putin [as well as other observers] considers all this political toing and froing chaotic and undesirable, whatever happens, all sides are behaving quite responsibly right now and sticking to the rules.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Possible scenarios on the political front

Some good analysis in 'Gazeta po Kievski' today. I've loosely translated portions below:

The day after Yatsenyuk was elected VR speaker the victorious democratic coalition is not hurrying to celebrate its triumph, and "Regionaly" have not lost their swagger either. Both camps await the battle for the premiership - few have full confidence in Yulka T's success.

The election of Yatsenyuk showed that "Regiony" were absolutely not ready to this turn of events - they were sure that a couple of the votes required for a coalition would 'disappear'. On Tuesday the 'Regionaly' simply departed in all directions - some home, and some to the football - waiting out the night in order to gather in the morning in the "Zoryaniy" and decide what to do. It turned out they did not have any plan at all. By noon acting vice- premier Vladimir Rybak, member of the PoR fraction stated that they would work constructively in the Verkhovna Rada with Yatsenyuk as speaker.

No-one in PoR can give an meaningful comment as to where will the party go and what it will do right now. Will it block the work of the VR or will it propose a candidate for first vice- speaker as proposed to the opposition? But while 'Regionaly' decide whether they want one of their own as Yatsenyuk's, 'zam', Byutovtsy say they had already offered the position to communist Martynyuk [in exchange for votes in support of Yatsenyuk?] but they declined the offer. Similar offers were made to Lytyvn's bloc, but they declined the offer too.

Regionaly are adopting a wait and see attitude. They need to wait until the internal contradictions in the 'demkoalitsiya' causes it's breakdown into separate components, and then it should be possible to begin negotiations on a new configuration of the 'vlasti'.

According to a source into the Party of Regions, the confusion and disunity of actions seen recently amongst PoR members is the result of differences of interests inside the party itself. Yanukovych understands that no type of broad coalition will guarantee him the premiership - PoR's partners would accept any candidature, other than the leader of PoR.

Therefore the absence of a new government, combined with a workable VR led by a compliant speaker-Yasenyuk would be an optimum version. The premier's people hint this would suit the president and his secretariat also. At the same time, the wing of party led by Rinat Akhmetov is moving ever further from Yanukovych. Stability in government policy, and also therefore, in business is in their interests. For the presidential elections they need a candidate that will have a greater guarantee of success than in 2004, i.e. somone other than Viktor Yanukovych.

Yuliya in a win-win situation

The President, Akhmetov and Yanukovych are not interested in strengthening Tymoshenko - i.e. they have mutual interests in this matter. Therefore events could develop in three possible ways:

The first, and most probable is Tymoshenko becomes premier with the smallest possible advantage over her opponents. After this, the de-facto 'demkoalitsiya' will disappear, and parliament will begin to vote in a 'situational' regime. Complex problems start springing up for the government starting with a large increase in the price of gas, and a crisis in the state of infrastructures. After about a year Tymoshenko is sacked for her failures and for the worsening economic situation. This would not be a disaster for her because presidential elections would be close in any case.

The second, Tymoshenko is simply 'dumped' - the full BYuT-NUNS list simply fails to vote for her. It is no secret that such moods exist amongst some members of the bloc. Either negotiations continue with Tymoshenko, in order to obtain more concessions, or she goes into opposition, and the PM's post goes to a less controversial person. Yushchenko will then find himself in a difficult situation: a large part of NUNS may well go over to Yulka, and the dependence of the President on PoR increases significantly.

The third possibility is that Tymoshenko does not become premier, and Yanukovych remains as acting PM for the winter months. For Yushchenko and Akhmetov this in by no means the worst turn of events. Under Yanukovych's "suspended" KabMin the situational majority will pass the 2008 budget. The further weakening of Yanukovych, after blows on the "gas" and other fronts would be to the benefit of Akhmetov and Yushchenko. Yanukovych will lose more electoral support and by the Spring could be 'sent for a rest'. His chances to play a strong hand in the presidential elections would be greatly reduced too.

Why VR speaker is so important

A really good explanation why the Verkhovna Rada speaker's position, to which 'wunderkind' Arseniy Yatsenyuk was elected Tuesday, is so important, is provided in 'Kyiv Weekly'.

Here's a portion:

"The speaker is the person who decides when a certain bill that is favorable for a particular financial industrial group will be considered by the parliament, meaning now or never. When the talk is about re-distribution of segments of the market or privatization of strategically important assets (major industrial plants), time plays the key role without exaggeration.

In the current constitutional framework, the president does not necessarily need to have a 100% loyal government. In order to have control over the situation, the president only needs to have “his man” as the speaker of the house as this figure is key in ensuring that the president has an independent and confidential channel of talks between the branches of power. The president and his secretariat aim at distancing themselves from political games and intrigues, but still want to preserve their influence on the adoption of laws and the behavior of opposition and coalition allies. This is precisely why the position of the VR speaker by its status and authority is the best mechanism for protecting the president’s interests in the parliament...

If a “president-speaker” link is formed, the premier will become the technical executor of the political will of this dynamic duo. If the speaker coordinates his actions with the Presidential Administration, the head of government will be forced to coordinate every single step with the “boys on Bankova”.

If Yatsenyuk plays his cards right and gets ambitious, he could be in the running for the next presidential elections too..Who knows?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tintin in VR

Earlier today, 33 year old Arseniy Yatseniuk was elected new Verkhovna Rada speaker by 227 deputies' votes of the new parliament. The democratic BYuT-NUNS coalition showed admirable discipline with their 100% turn-out in the secret ballot.
A PoR spokesman is quoted as having estimated Yatseniuk's chances of becoming speaker, "One thousand times less that of a meteorite landing on your head."

LEvko thinks that the remarkable solidarity displayed will cause some dismay amongst PoR deputies, but has also averted a possible internal crisis and split in NSNU. Had a couple or more voting deputies not turned up, or 'put their cross in the wrong box', and Yatseniuk's candidature failed to attain the required 226 votes, PoR and those in NSNU favouring a broad coalition would have probably put forward Ivan Plyushch's name for speaker, and maybe even demanded the removal of Viktor Baloha from the president's secretariat.
Whether similar solidarity can be maintained when deputies come to vote for Tymoshenko for PM, remains to be seen.
In March this year, Yatseniuk, a.k.a Kinder-surprise, was elected Ukraine's Foreign minister by 426 deputies, so maybe he will turn out to be a consolidating figure in the VR after all.
He has also served as Minister of Economics in the Yekhanurov government [when he was critical of the previous Tymoshenko government], as deputy chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, and as deputy head of President Yushchenko's secretariat - so he's a smart cookie indeed.
But he still looks like Tintin [or Snowy]..

Sunday, December 02, 2007

New airplane for pressa

Obozrevatel and others report that President Yushchenko will soon be getting a 'new toy' - a brand-new Airbus A319 presidential airplane priced $40-$60 million, even though only about half that sum had been ear-marked for upgrading the president's flight.

Until now Yushchenko has been using an Ukrainian-built 2004 Antonov, registration UR-YVA, [Yushchenko Viktor Andriyevych - cheesy eh?] or one of two Illushins.

Oboz quite-rightly insists the pres. should exclusively promote and use home-built planes, which are as good any in the world. This is no way for the pres. to gain support in Kharkiv - home of Antonov aircraft, or Zaporizhzha where Motor Sich, one of the world's largest manufacturers of aircraft engines and turbines is located..

Just for comparison, I've clipped the following excerpts from Wikipedia's entry on 'Air transport of the Royal Family and executive of the United Kingdom'.

"Air transport for the Royal Family and executive of the United Kingdom is currently provided by No. 32 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF); chartered civilian aircraft; and occasionally scheduled commercial flights, provided by the company British Airways.

No. 32 Squadron's executive transport role is secondary to its principal function of providing communications and logistical support for military operations.... Given the security concerns of chartering commercial aircraft and the fact that the aircraft are increasingly unsuitable to an executive transport role, the government plans to acquire two dedicated executive transports for the use of the Royal Family and executive ...Current travel options for the Royal Family and Ministers are aircraft of No. 32 Squadron, scheduled commercial flights and chartered aircraft.

Most air travel by cabinet and junior ministers is on scheduled commercial flights. Travel on 32 Squadron aircraft is recommended where it is more cost-effective than using commercial air transport, or where security considerations dictate that special flights should be used.

UK parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has [recently] recommended two dedicated aircraft with secure, advanced communication equipment be provided for the use of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence...The new aircraft should include state of the art security systems [on account of the greatly increased risk of terrorist attack]. To reduce costs, the planes will not be purchased outright, but will be on permanent lease."

LEvko thinks the pres. should get his head out of the clouds and his feet back on the ground - and think more about Ukrainian aircraft engineers and designers. They will be around much longer than he will be as president..

p.s. Former British prime minister Tony Blair left office a few months ago. Under ministerial rules he is allowed to take home any gift he received, as PM, worth more than $280, if he paid the full market price from his own pocket. E.g. he kept a 12-piece tea and coffee set given by President Vladimir Putin, for which he paid $600, and paid $1000 for a fountain pen given to him by Chirac.

The rest of the 'crap' e.g 20 watches, including 16 given by Silvio Berlusconi, oriental rugs etc. are to be auctioned, and the proceeds donated to charity. The sale is expected to raise about $300,000.
Bit different than Ukraine eh?

Friday, November 30, 2007

BAB on Ukrainian politics, Putin, Russia

Today I've translated a brief, but most interesting, interview with Boris Berezovsky from today's 'Segodnya':

"Putin will be jailed by any of his successors

The refugee oligarch explains why Yushchenko fears Tymoshenko, and describes the anti-Putin attitude of the orthodox church.

-Why, in your opinion, cannot NUNS and BYUT form a coalition in the VR and appoint Yulia Tymoshenko Head of Government?

- The problem is, unfortunately, purely personal. It concerns the personal relations between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko. And it is these relations themselves, that unfortunately, are seriously harming the democratic process in Ukraine. But since alternatives to their union does not exist, in the final analysis, they will be able to find a compromise.

- Why does Yushchenko so oppose Timoshenko's premiership?

- He is quite simply scared of her. He fears that she will become the real political leader of the country. He really fears that Tymoshenko will formally realize her leadership and will become the next President.

And will Tymoshenko be President?

- If she puts forward her candidature, then she will become President, beating both Yushchenko, and Yanukovych. Incidentally I do not envisage a strategic future for Yanukovych. The Party of Regions could split into two halves. The 'sovok' part will go with Yanukovych, while the 'biznesovaya" part with Rinat Akhmetov. He needs to somehow legalize himself in the West. And the FSB [Russian Federation Security Services] will not help him, if they begin apply pressure on him.

- Let's switch to the situation in Russia. What is Putin trying to attain? What will happen to him after selections?

- Putin is searching for ways of retaining power - [his own] personal and centralized [power]. Right now he thinks that he will enter the Duma, and then will return and be elected for a third presidential term. Someone will have a brief spell as President after him, they will then leave, and Putin will return again. In any case, this is what he wants.

- So who can be this short-term President of Russia? Zubkov, Sergey Ivanov, Medvedev?

- [It will be] the man who Putin will trust to head the country for the intermediate period. But no-one will carry out their obligations to him, if they becomes President. Neither Zubkov nor Ivanov nor any Medvedev. Putin will lose power to him in any event. And as soon as he loses it, then in the final account he will find himself on the defendant's bench [in the dock].

- Ivanov, Zubkov or Medvedev him will put him there?

- Yes. Any of its successors. Because they will want to disassociate themselves from the crimes of Putin. The regime will mover a little to the side of liberalization, but, in essence, it will remain before.

- But who will then overthrow this regime? Kasparov, Nemtsov, the Communists?

- The most likely, undoubtedly, Kasparov. Nemtsov has also changed for the better, but SPS, and Yabloko, and Communists - these are not real opposition. The real opposition are in the underground. I do not want to name concrete names in order not to help FSB, but I'm talking about groups of influence which are located in business-circles, the power structures, and in the orthodox church.

- Now about Georgia. Your friend and partner Patarkatsishvili - one of the leaders of opposition against President Saakashvili...

- With your permission, I'd rather not comment of Georgian matters."

Berezovksy is enemy #1 for Putin - Aleksandr Livinenko's poisoning and dreadful death last year may have been the result of his closeness to Berezovsky. The popular Rinatov-owned 'Segodya', is clearly not afraid of providing Berezovsky column inches on their pages. Nor, it seems, are they afraid to air Berezovsky's speculation on the future of PoR..


So, a BYuT-NUNS coalition of 227 was assembled today. LEvko thinks it rather resembles one of the circus pyramids formed by tiers of wobbly gymnasts standing on top of one anothers' long before it collapses? Maybe the guys at the top will be able to cling onto the lights and scenery above the stage when it does.. Or will some of Lytvyn's people step in at the last moment?

Anyway, they did it..the photos have been taken to prove it..

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Corrupt Putin

Check out this article from Anders Aslund on the myth of Putin.

'Moscow Times' articles go to 'subscribers only' status quite quickly, so don't delay.

"If these numbers [in the article] contain any truth, Putin would be the most corrupt political leader in world history...Abundant oil revenues have made it possible for Putin to avoid difficult reforms and to allow his inner circle to indulge in some of the worst corruption the world has ever seen."


Excellent update on current state of play in Ukraine here

Events it seems, are following the usual well-rehearsed script..

Oles Doniy, a NUNS VR deputy explains at a press conference what's going on.

"At the same time, [Doniy] believes that an informal coalition between the Secretariat and the Party of Regions has been already created.

"I can state that an informal coalition between the Secretariat and the Party of Regions is taking shape," he said.

Doniy is sure that the aim of the NUNS - PR coalition is to not let Tymoshenko gain strength before the presidential elections.

In this situation, Doniy continued, the aim of the Party of Regions is to elect the Verkhovna Rada chairman from among its candidates and keep the post of acting prime minister for Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych."

The Party of Regions and some members of the Our Ukraine People's Self-Defense Bloc, who favor the broad coalition, have enough votes to elect Yurii Yekhanurov, Ivan Pliusch or Mykola Onyschuk as parliament speaker."

Others say that if Kyrylenko withdraws his bid to be VR speaker, and NUNS propose a compromise figure, then an orange coalition would become more likely.

We'll see tomorrow..

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holodomor remembrance ceremonies in Eastern Ukraine

The desire to honour the memory of ancestors who suffered and died in the Holodomor is strong in the Eastern, predominantly Russian speaking parts of the country too.

Parts of an article from today's popular 'Donbass' newspaper:

"Memorial candles for victims of the regime

Hundreds of thousands of candles in the squares, the cemeteries of Donetsk and in the windows of its inhabitants over the weekend blazed grief for those innocently slain by the Holodomor.

The leaders of the region and city, the representatives of the political parties, public organizations, clergy, cossacks and young people took part in the 'Light a candle' campaign, which took place in a peaceful, and calm manner, without any political confrontation. Participants with lighted candles passed along the central street to the Taras Shevchenko memorial...

Artemovsk - Heavenly kingdom for them all

As the rays of the sun set on the central cemetery of Artemovsk a mass of people assembled to honor the memory of their innocent compatriots who died in 1932-33.
The hands of young people, holding lighted candles involuntarily began to tremble, and old men wiped away a tear when 80-year old Ivan Fedorovich Drogiv retold to the gathering his experiences during the Holodomor. His was a large peasant family who lived in the Slobozhanshchina region... [a summary of Drogiv's narrative follows]

The ceremony was opened by the city chief Aleksey Rev; and then the obladministratsiya deputy Kim Berestovoi reported to the gathering on the work accomplished in the city and the region to perpetuate the memory of compatriots who were innocently killed by the hands of Bolshevik regime...

To the sounds of a sorrowful melody, lighted candles were placed at the foot of memorial to the victims of the Holodomor. Together with them was placed an additional symbol of terrible tragedy - a sheaf of wheat with the tight ears. It stood on the black granite framed by the flickering flames..."

How famine embraced practically all villages in Dontechyna is described in another article in 'Donbass' entitled 'War against the people'. It even includes this facimile copy of a Chicago newspaper....

And this from Ukranews:

"Dnipropetrovsk region installed on November 23 a five-meter stele in memory to the 1932 - 1933 Great Famine (Holodomor) victims near the village of Pereschepyne on the border with Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian News learned this from a report of the press service of the regional state administration.

The stele [?] has a form of a fractured scale with an iron cross placed in its center, the report reads.

«The memorial sign was put up at the cost of the local public, including businessmen,» the report says.

Dnipropetrovsk region has 83 monuments to the Holodomor victims."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Confronting evil

Yesterday President Yushchenko delivered speech [in English here] at the ceremony in Mykhaylivsky Square, Kyiv, commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor. It's powerful stuff.

A excerpt [which I've tidied up] below:

"Evil advanced against us. Its name - genocide. A deliberate, planned and embodied attempt to suppress the nation.

Its organiser and executor - the totalitarian communist regime. They were the main killers. This degenerate gang had no mercy for any peoples, every subjected nation was filled with rivers of blood.

In our land, Stalin in accordance with a deliberate plan, chose to victimize Ukrainian peasantry because they were the core, the basis, the support of nation.

'Without a peasants' army, there is not, and there cannot be a powerful national movement. The national question in its essence is a question of the peasantry'. These words of Stalin provide the answer to the question: why did millions of Ukrainians die?"


Mark Franchetti [of the 'Sunday Times'] gained unprecedented access to former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the poisoning in London of former FSB officer Alexandr Litvinenko, for the totally absorbing, and somewhat disturbing, BBC 'thisworld' program entitled: 'Britain's most wanted'.

An absolute 5* 'must-see' for anyone interested in contemporary Russia..

Watch it here . Don't miss it.

Has his self-exposure in this programme made Lugovoi appear, in the eyes of a viewer, more, or less guilty of the charges confronting him?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Going nowhere fast

The first sitting of the newly-elected Ukrainian Parliament, the Verhkovna Rada, took place today, and a recess promptly declared until next Thursday.

BYuT leader Yulia Tymoshenko's response, in an interview with journalists today:
"They need time in order to continue to bribe deputies. They want to win a few days.."

She called the ajournment: "an absolute infringement of the reglament [procedural regulations]", and declared that her fraction will attend the VR on Tuesday. She expects NUNS to do the same, hoping that the total number attending will be an orange 'full house' of 228 - sufficient to pass resolutions.

"The president told me yesterday that there is no alternative to a democratic coalition, and that he will support Kyrylenko for VR speaker," said Tymoshenko. Everyone knows that the president is always true to his word in everything he says to Yulka, so that's all right then.. [no snickering at the back..]

And when will we see any solid evidence of bribes being offered?

There are reports that 8 NUNS deputies have not signed an agreement on democratic coalition.

If they were to form their own coalition, PoR [175]-Communists [27]-Lytyvn bloc [20], could only muster 222 votes maximum in total between them. Add 8 renegades from NUNS, maybe a handful from BYuT, and this still does not provide, in Ukrainian terms, a workable majority in a 450 seat VR. The presence of Communists in this coalition would be a big problem for anyone else thinking of joining them..and Lytvyn is well aware of what happened to Moroz and the Socialists after they teamed up with PoR last year in the VR, so will be most cautious about any such arrangement. He may well prefer to remain non-aligned for the time being.

This is all going nowhere fast. Privately, the current Yanukovych-led cabinet, and the President, will not be too unhappy about that right now..

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why Ukraine's problems are a cause for optimism

Excerpts below from an article in RFE/RL entitled "Colored Revolutions: High Hopes And Broken Promises"

"Some consider the Ukrainian east-west divide to the be a source of internal weakness. But others, such as Georgian political commentator Bakur Kvashilava, argue that it holds the benefit of laying the groundwork for the establishment of democratic principles and procedures.

"Such regional disagreements complicate governance of a country, of course," Kvashilava says. "But long-term, as history and other examples teach us, if two opposing sides can agree on one fundamental issue -- that Ukraine must be integral and undivided, for instance -- then chances are they will also agree on a second fundamental issue, that the only correct path for coming to power is the democratic one -- elections, referendums."
There has been a clear effort to solve all political crises -- no matter how acute -- through negotiation and accommodation in post-Orange Revolution Ukraine. For Kvashilava, this indicates that democratic procedures are finally taking root in the country's political culture, creating a telling contrast with Georgia.

"In Georgia, as the recent events demonstrated, it was absolutely legitimate and acceptable for the population, as well as some representatives of the opposition, to call for the president's resignation, [the opposition's] assumption of power, 'saving the people' and so on," Kvashilava says. "The majority of protesters applauded these slogans -- and this indicates that democracy, as the only way of life, in Georgia has not been established as firmly as in Ukraine."

Ukraine's regional and linguistic diversity has also served as a basis for less radical shifts in foreign policy. While in Georgia most political forces -- and certainly the one in power -- are openly pro-Western and have expressed the desire to distance Georgia from Russia's influence, Ukrainian politicians have been more restrained and cautious.

"The checks and balances that exist in Ukraine, because of various divisions within the country, meant the Ukrainian government, while it was always very keen on close relationship with NATO, was never able to go flat out and seek NATO membership, or the initial Membership Action Plan," Redman of the Economist Intelligence Unit explains. "Whereas Saakashvili has had a very free hand in Georgia, and was able to do that. So he was more out-and-out pro-Western, pro-NATO, than the Ukrainians ever managed."

But that approach has come back to bite Georgia in another sense, as it served to strain further its already deteriorating relationship with Russia and has fueled aggressive rhetoric by Russian politicians who can't afford to show the same hostility to Ukraine, lest they risk alienating Russian-speaking Ukrainians."

LEvko's observation is that Russian politicians have already alienated many Russian-speaking Ukrainians over several years now, and continue to do so by their overbearing attitude. Ukrainian politicians and businessmen will not be cowed by those from the north. They know them too well - know all their games - they all used to pi** into the same pot in the days of the Union.

Ukraine and Russia are now much different countries - and the blue water between them is widening..

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ukrainians' views on Holodomor

Today the popular Russian-language 'Segodnya' newspaper carries the following story:

"Increasingly more Ukrainians recognize the Holodomor as genocide.

The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians in all regions are convinced that the Holodomor [famine] of 1932-1933 was caused by the actions of the authorities.

Here are some portions from the article:

An opinion poll reveals, this point of view is supported by 72,4% of citizens questioned by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

In the last year the percentage of those questioned who consider the Holodomor of the 30's being caused by the authorities at that time, has increased in the Ukraine from 65 to 72% - in the eastern part of the country- from 46 to 57%, in the center - from 73 to 82%, in the south - from 59 to 65% and the west - from 80 to 85%.

Only 12% consider that Holodomor of 1932-33 was caused mainly by natural circumstances.

Almost two thirds (63,2%) of those questioned fully or partially support the acknowledgement by the Supreme Rada that the Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, 11,9% wavered with their answer, and 2,9% know nothing about it.

The acknowledgement of the Holodomor as genocide was supported by the supporters of the main political forces as follows: 93% of NUNS supporters, 84% of BYUT's supporters, 75% Lytvyna bloc supporters, 43% - Party of Regions. Amongst Communists - 50% do not support the acknowledgement of Holodomor as genocide, but 41% do.

It is remarkable that in comparison with the results of similar questioning carried out exactly year ago, during November 2006, the number of supporters who support the acknowledgement of the Holodomor as genocide has increased from 60,9 to 63,2%.

2041 respondents aged 18 and upward throughout the entire territory of Ukraine were questioned . The statistical error in the sample does not exceed 3,5%."

Also from 'Segodnya', this:

"Russia is concealing from Ukraine what was onboard the sunken vessels

The Ukrainian side has not yet had any reply from the Russian Federation about the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the cargoes being carried by the sunken Russian vessels in the Kerch strait, or any details of the vessels' proprietors.

The ministry of the environment notes that the absence of information is hindering the evaluation of damage sustained by the surrounding environment."

Lots more detail on the pollution caused by Russian vessels here.

Ukrainian minister of transport and communications, Mykola Rudkovsky, claimed several days ago that the captains of the Russian vessels which sunk during the storm did not adhere to warnings and recommendations provided by Ukrainian coastguards and so bear full responsibility for the ecological damage caused.

Ukrainian-flagged ships in the area did act on recommendations given by the port authorities in Kerch, and as a result, there are no sunken Ukrainian vessels

European Union officials are already actively involved in clean-up operations.

The Russian side is behaving in a stereotypically cavalier fashion toward its closest neighbour yet again. What is it with these guys?

Segodnya on Zasyadko disaster

Today's big-selling 'Segodnya', owned by Rinat Akhmetov, pulls no punches in its reporting on the Zasyadko mine disaster in Donetsk. Its lead story is "Widow of miner says: 'They killed my husband for 2000 hryven', after Zasyadko mining disaster
Yesterday's catastrophe on the Zasyadko mine could be the worst in Ukraine's entire history. Who is guilty? Natural forces [stikhiya] again?

Below are portions of the article:

Wives spoke directly and to the point, and cursed the mine's management. "My husband in a month earns only 2000 hryven. Lord, do not bring it about, but if they killed him for this money, then I will bite Zvyagil'sky myself, even if only his leg (Zvyagilsky is the honorary President of Zasydko mine). I will bite him. I swear, I could not kill him - his guards would not allow it, but I could bite him!" said miner's wife Natalie Piskun.

In the opinion of prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, who arrived at the place of the tragedy, most likely its cause was the sudden release of methane: "All this again shows that the man is powerless in the face of such natural forces [stikhiya]. This occurs all over the world." ....

Donetsk miners told us, often the explosions of methane occur because sensors which detect the level of methane, are deliberately 'de-tuned' in order to understate the level of dangerous gas. "While the methane content is higher than standard, coal cannot be extracted. It is necessary to wait until the work site is ventilated, but this means that less coal will be dug, on which wages depend, and the main thing is revenue for the owner of mine," explained a former electrician from the mine Vladislav K. The Zasyad'ko mine employees do not blame the board of directors directly, but they assert that "recommendations" usually come from middle managers.

According to Vladislav, he repeatedly encountered the practice of the "introduction of corrections" into the work of sensors. Most frequently instruments that measure methane are simply placed on the ground where there is less harmful gas, and if this does not help they they are disconnected. Sometimes a sweater is simply hung over the instrument.

Those who do not want to do this kind of thing are quickly dealt with. "Once a section chief asked me, why is the coal cutting combine not working? I answered, that the gas situation does not make it possible to conduct work. After several days they transferred me to another section where they pay two times less. My place was taken, it seems, by a more compliant fitter." According to the miner, several months after this, an explosion took place in his former section, killing 20 of its friends.

Another miner says new equipment is now installed in the mine, and the measurement data is fed to the surface dispatcher, but if it is desired, it is possible "to correct" the data there.

The 'Segodnya' article does temper these statements a little, suggesting that the explosion may indeed have been caused by and unexpected release of methane.

The edition even ran most of BYuT's statement on the tragedy which says priority number one should be safety of working in mines. Normally Segodnya is disparaging in its comments about BYuT.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A terrible price to pay

Yanuk's shallow, inadequate comments on visiting the Zasyadko mine in Donbas today, where a terrible mining disaster has occured: "I think not one mine in the world is safeguarded from similar events. All accidents which take place in mines, are linked with the conducting of mining works; and natural disaster [stikhiya] spares no-one, it is merciless...This accident yet again reminded us that man is powerless against natural disaster [stikhiya]." [Same quotes appear in Akhmetov's 'Segodnya']

The mine has witnessed many disasters in recent years:

May 1999 - 50 deaths
August 2001 - 55 deaths
June 2002 - 20 deaths
September 2006 - 13 deaths
November 2007 - 63 deaths and many more unaccounted for at time of writing..

It it is difficult to image what it is like to earn a living in such a death-trap where fatalities occur with such gut-wrenching regularity - a mine is not a battlefield or a war zone. The poor miners of Donbas deserve better..

Also at the site are presidential secretariat head Baloha, and national security and defence council secretary Ivan Plyushch. How long will Ukrainian miners put up with these unworthy leaders who are more interested in feathering their own nests than improving the lot of the working man?

'Ostrov' points out that several years ago a road in Donetsk was named in honour of the Zasyadko mine boss Yukhym Zvyahilsky, a former acting prime minister of Ukraine, and now PoR VR deputy. How ironic that this is the road that leads to the cemetery where dead miners are normally buried..

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Russians misbehaving again

Today Russia's national soccer team lost a crucial Euro 2008 qualifying game against Israel. Had they won, England would have been all but eliminated. Following what some English newspapers are calling a 'Miracle in the Holy Land', England now need only to draw against Croatia at home to reach the finals.. simultaneously eliminating Russia.

More wry amusement from the London 'Times' on this topic here and here


Much more sinister: today the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation demanding a swift investigation and bringing to justice members of the Eurasian Union of Youth who allegedly trashed a Holodomor exhibition in Moscow earlier today.

These are the same guys who also allegedly trashed Ukrainian national symbols on Ukraine's highest mountain, Hoverla, and conducted a cyber attack on President Yushchenko's website recently.

Even worse in Russia

Excerpt from a story in today's 'FT':

"Europe’s main election monitoring group said on Friday it was scrapping plans to deploy observers to Russia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections in a decision that could cast doubt on the integrity of the poll.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe claimed Moscow had imposed “unprecedented restrictions” on its activities. Russia had slashed the number of observers it would admit to the December 2 election and then repeatedly delayed issuing visas for OSCE monitors.

The move marks a new low in diplomatic relations between Russia and the west, following clashes over energy, the expansion of Nato into the former Soviet Union and US plans for missile defence bases. The west accuses Russian president Vladimir Putin of suppressing democracy while the Kremlin claims the west seeks to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs."

Check out the OSCE site for more.

And from another story in today's 'FT':

"The public prosecutions’ office in the British Virgin Islands has told the US government it has “overwhelming evidence” that Leonid Reiman, Russian telecommunications minister, is the “true beneficial owner” of a fund that owns a large part of Russia’s telecoms industry.

In a letter to the US justice department, Terrence F. Williams, the BVI’s director of public prosecution, said BVI investigators had prepared preliminary charges against Jeffrey Galmond, a close associate of Mr Reiman.

The letter alleges he concealed the minister’s role as the beneficial owner of Ipoc, a Bermuda-based fund that owns a chunk of Russia’s telecoms industry, including Megafon, the mobile operator.

The disclosure looked set to deal a fresh blow to Mr Reiman, an ally of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Mr Reiman has repeatedly denied allegations he secretly amassed billions of dollars of assets in the telecom sector with the help of Mr Galmond, his Danish lawyer, who has claimed in court testimony he was the beneficial owner of Ipoc."

What's Vova's cut?

Political unaccountability, part 2

So Serhiy Kivalov has received a honorary diploma from the head of the Central Election Commission for his "weighty input into securing the realization of Ukrainian citizens’ constitutional voting rights, and on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the CEC's foundation.”

Most readers of this posting will need no introduction to this character, and will, I'm sure, will be totally 'gob-smacked' by this astonishing, odious, almost unbelievable granting of this diploma. To make matters even worse, it was granted and signed by the current CEC chairman Volodymyr Shapoval, who entered the CEC as part of Yushchenko's quota.

Some argue that the rulings of the CEC are nothing to do with the president, and because no-one was ever charged or found guilty of falsifying the 2004 presidential elections, Kivalov must be considered pure and above reproach.

However, the Supreme court did rule that during the presidential elections in 2004 the CEC and its chairman at that time, Kivalov, did not fulfill their legal functions properly, and their decisions were made not in accordance with the law - hence the re-run second round of voting.

It is left to Yuliya Tymoshenko, not for the first time, to uphold the tattered remains of the honour of Ukrainian politicians, in a statement issued on the Batkivshchyna site.

She points out that this award encourages officials to cheat any future elections, and reduces the likelyhood these elections being fair. She appeals to the chairman of the CEC to withdraw the diploma granted to Kivalov, and warns that she will not remain silent while awaiting the formation of a democratic coalition in parliament.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

System of political unaccountability

An article on the current political situation in Ukraine in latest 'Kyiv Post' includes this:

"In the long term, it’s the Ukrainian nation and its people that suffer from the current political deadlock, lack of unaccountability and disrespect for the rule of law...Politicians created a system in which a small circle of politicians divide power among each other and a system of political unaccountability thrives.."

Co-incidentally, an illustration of this system is provided in a piece in today's 'Ukrainska Pravda' entitled: "From the life of the nomenklatura elites: the property of Ivan Plyushch", which describes how Plyushch - a former VR speaker, and currently National Security and Defence Council secretary close to the president and his secretariat, just two days before the 30th September VR elections, asked the president to help him obtain permission from the Cabinet of Ministers to transfer ownership and build a house on a plot of land owned by the Ukrainian state.

The dacha in which Plyushch resides right now, in what the British call 'grace-and-favour' accommodation, is located on this plot in the elite Pushcha Vodytsya suburb of Kyiv.

On 1st October president Yushchenko writes to PM Yanukovych to sort the matter out, and Yanuk promptly does this, even though, strictly speaking, the president no longer has the authority to forward such directives to the KabMin. By October 3rd Yanuk instructs minister Azarov to grant approval, and by the 5th, the ministry of Justice has also rubber-stamped a positive decision. The speed with which everything was resolved, by Ukrainian standards was truly miraculous.

Of course this has nothing to do with the fact that Plyushch is one of the main proponents in the NUNS camp of a wide VR coalition with PoR, in which he would be one of the favourites for the VR speaker's chair..

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Speculation speculation..

Some interesting speculation from the excellent Mustafa Nayem and Serhiy Leshchenko in 'Ukrainska Pravda'. They propose three possible scenarios on how matters could develop in the creation [or otherwise] of a ruling coalition in the VR.

I've paraphrased some bits:

Almost one-and-a-half months have passed since the elections. In this time in Poland, even though voting took place three weeks later, the new parliament has already began work, inter-party negotiations have taken place, and a new prime minister chosen...

Yushchenko dissolved parliament on 2nd April. Now in October it's becoming clear that the only person who is in no hurry to 'get the show on the road' is Viktor Yushchenko himself. The parliament is dissolved, the status of the cabinet of ministers can be regarded as 'semi-legal', and the all-important Constitutional Court discredited...

Against this background the President remains only legitimate institution of authority in the country. But the Party of Regions, against whom this war was begun, are willing to go along with the situation, grasping for the chance to temain in the authority, even in the role of 'acting government'.

Presidential Scenario

The vote in the newly-elected VR to elect a speaker could well fall through [Vyacheslav Kirilenko is the favoured candidate from BYuT/NUNS, but there are deputies in NUNS who will not vote for him], and parliament [with the help of PoR] could select a figure acceptable to PoR e.g Ivan Plyushch or Volodymyr Lytvyn.

Logically the next stage would be to create a broad coalition. However, for this to occur NUNS would need to sort out certain internal procedures - i.e. to make a decision at the level of the individual fractions that make up NUNS. It's reasonable to assume that out of the 72 future NUNS deputies less than half would vote for a wide coalition or "shirka". To do so would expose themselves to accusations by Yulia Tymoshenko of betrayal.

In the absence of a coalition the cabinet of ministers headed by Yanukovich would continue to fulfill its duties.

The President would for sure insist on the resignation some of the more unpleasant ministers e.g. Nestor Shufrich and Mykola Rudkovskiy, and insist his own man was appointed minister of internal affairs position, but Yanukovich could probably accede to these demands.

The threat of the "oranges" reuniting would provide the President complete support of the Party of Regions and, possibly, even the Communist party. As a result, Yushchenko would remain the only fully authorised institution of authority in the country.
Meanwhile Yulia Tymoshenko is increasing her co-operation with Yuriy Lutsenko and Vyacheslav Kirilenko.

In the event that Tymoshenko's bid to become prime minister fails, the leader of BYuT will do that which voters have expected since September 2005 [when she was sacked from the PM's position by Yushchenko] - commence a campaign of attack against Viktor Yushchenko and call for early presidential elections.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ever-shifting loyalties

Alliances of convenience and subsequent betrayals are a characteristic of contemporary Ukrainian politics. Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes deals are continuing to be thrashed out in an attempt to assemble a workable coalition in the newly-elected Verkhovna Rada.

Tymoshenko knows better than anyone that her plan to lead an orange coalition could be scuttled by just a handful of turncoat NUNS or BYuT deputies - those who would prefer a grand coalition with PoR. According to an article in 'Gazeta po Kiyevski', she has been busy trying to gain support of the 20 Lytyvyn bloc deputies for a while now, in order to achieve her aim and become PM again.

Although she has been unusually quiet, signs are her attempts have a reasonable chance of success. Hints of a possible arrangement between Lytvyn and Tymoshenko became public toward the end of last week.

Lytvyn declared that if Tymoshenko includes the basic pre-election pledges of his bloc: a moratorium on the sale of land, and a minimum wage in the program of government, then he would support her premiership. The price to be paid would be a number of posts for his bloc in Tymoshenko's government, and the vice- speaker's chair for Lytvyn himself. [The speakers chair itself would not be available as this has been 'bagsied' [called dibs] by NUNS, in their coalition agreement with BYuT.]

According to 'Gazeta po Kiyevski', Lytvyn will support Tymoshenko, but will not formally enter the "orange" coalition. He would rather take up a pragmatic 'pick and mix' neutral position.

The negotiations between Tymoshenko and Lytvyn have messed up the plans of head of the presidential secretariat Viktor Baloga in particular, and Lytvyn will now be under great pressure from PoR and some elements in NUNS to change his mind.

Meanwhile this week's 'Kommentarii' writes of a calculated warming of friendship between Yushchenko and Yanukovych, which may be of mutual benefit. [Something of which I've posted recently.]

Yushchenko continues to leave the door open for a possible broad coalition, so a working relationship with Yanukovych needs to be maintained, particularly as the 'bottom may drop out' of any BYuT-NUNS-Lytvyn bloc coalition.

Yushchenko has successfully strengthened his own position since dissolving the VR in April, taking advantage of a window of opportunity whilst Yanukovych is acting PM, but Tymoshenko not yet heading the Kabmin. He has strengthened his control over the sylovyk sectors, and rotated oblast governors, which he could hardly do with Tymoshenko as PM - Yanukovych has not protested. He has personally overseen gas affairs with Russia, with Yanuk's co-operation, so enlarging his own, new, more 'hands-on' personal image.

PM Yanukovych retains some hope of hanging on to his post in a grand parliamentary coalition. And if coalition-building in the VR drags out to a fruitless stalemate, he could continue as acting PM - retaining the loyalty to the President - a situation which could well suit the [more dynamic] president too.

For this reason Yanukovych has avoided conflict, and, on the contrary, has adopted a constructive attitude ready for broad compromises.

Even if he is thrust into opposition, a reasonably well-developed working relationship with the president means that some influence would be retained by Yanukovych - this could bring important dividends in the near future.

Cordial relations with the president could even ensure that Yanuk's significant newly-acquired properties and assets would be protected from Tymoshenko-led authorities.