Monday, July 30, 2007

Textbooks rewrite history to fit Putin’s vision

This article entitled "Textbooks rewrite history to fit Putin’s vision", from today's London 'Times' may be of interest:

A couple of paragraphs:

"As Russia flexes its foreign policy muscles against the West and President Putin enjoys record approval ratings, the Kremlin is turning its attention to schools to instil a new sense of nationalism in children.

Two new manuals for teachers have been accused of glossing over the horrors of the Soviet Union and of including propaganda to promote Mr Putin’s vision of a strong state.
One, for social studies teachers, presents as fact Mr Putin’s view that the Soviet collapse was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. It describes the United States as bent on creating a global empire and determined to isolate Russia from its neighbours.

Mr Putin’s support for Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine’s rigged presidential election of 2004 is also defended. Mass protests in the Orange revolution eventually brought his pro-Western rival, Viktor Yushchenko, to power, but the manual states: “Yanukovych was the only candidate capable of truly resisting Yushchenko. So Russia’s choice was clear.”

What about now?

p.s. Has there been any progress in the Yushchenko poisoning case lately?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ruskies and the VR elections part 2

The respected 'Kommentarii' weekly, in an article entitled: "Moscow refuses to help Yanukovych', gives a different interpretation to that offered in my previous blog on last Monday's visit to Moscow by Mykola Azarov and Boris Kolesnikov.

"The Kremlin has let it be known that it will not actively support 'Regionaly' in the early elections, as, even in the event of their victory, they will be going nowhere and will return 'cap in hand', bowing to Moscow..

The trip to Moscow by Azarov and Kolesnikov, ostensibly for strengthening inter-party co-operation with the dominant Russian party 'Yedinaya Rossiya', has ended with nothing. The Russians are not going to interfere actively with the election process in Ukraine. The status of 'Yedynorossov' attending clearly mismatched the status of the first vice-premier who had arrived from Kyiv, and comments on the modest results of their meeting, from the Russian side were made not by party bosses, but by the normal commentators on 'Ukrainian questions'.

The Russians have been dissappointed with Yanukovych's performance after their support of him since last year. This visit of the two "blue and white" leaders to Moscow has only confirmed this.

It seems that the inter-party meeting was called at the personal initiative of one of the two 'Regionaly'. Of note was the small size of party delegation - it is usual for a far greater number to attend such meetings. Most likely it was Azarov who wanted to meet the Russians - he is considered the main propenent in Ukraine of the United Economic Space, but his weak performance has not met Russia's expectations. Even if PoR do well in the elections, Azarov's return to his deputy PM's chair is by no means assured, so Azarov's motives for the meeting were clear: to remind Russia who is her 'best friend', and to gain support in the inner-party conflict inside PoR.

To correct Azarov's personal plans, Rinat Ahmetov, sent his own man, Boris Kolesnikov, to oversee matters.

The head of the Russian parliamentary committee on international affairs Konstantin Kosachev declared after the meeting, "There were many defects in co-operation between the two parties - misunderstandings and vagueness which should be corrected; and as for the political crisis in Ukraine - the Ukrainian political forces should sort it out for themselves". In this manner the Kremlin has let 'Regionaly' know that they are dissatisfied with them.

In the Kremlin the have already understood that supporting Regionaly does not bring many dividends. They know that if they again officially support Yanukovych befor the Ukrainian electorate, then they would have to give Ukraine a preferential price for gas at the end of the year, particularly as the Russian presidential elections are drawing ever closer.
Russia is not particularly keen to support other pro-Russian parties e.g. Natalia Vitrenko's bloc, or the Communists, either.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


BBC Ukrainian service reveals that reports are appearing on some [unattributed] websites of agreements between Yu and Ya on the formation of a post-election coalition.

Rumour has it that they have agreed on how chairs in the new cabinet of ministers are to be 'divvied up'. Apparently Ya is to remain PM, whilst the 'syloviy bloc' is to be selected by the pres. More importantly, there are rumours that Ya will not stand for president in 2009 - giving Yu a clear run against any other opponent.

Politolog Volodymyr Fensenko says that in both camps, i.e. in PoR and in NUNS, everyone understands that it will be necessary to make some kind of deal, even if this is not on the creation of a joint parliamentary coalition, then at least on a regime of coexistence, and also on a common algorithm to solve the constitutional crisis.

"It is necessary to come to an arrangement so that a renewal of the political crisis does not occur as a result of the election campaign, when one or the other side could either not recognise the results of these elections, or simply provoke a new political crisis. There may be agreements being made about this, but hardly on the creation of a coalition."

Interesting, nevertheless..

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ruskies and the VR elections

Last Monday, 1st deputy PM Mykola Azarov, and deputy head of the VR PoR faction Boris Kolesnikov attended a meeting in Moscow with the 'top bananas' of the pro-Putin 'Yedinaya Rossiya' party which completely dominates Russian politics.

Azarov is considered to be a loyal Yanukovych man, whilst Kolesnikov is close to Rinat Akmetov. There has been some speculation recently on a possible split into two camps led by Akhmetov and Yanukovych, in PoR .

An article on the 'Novosti Donetska' site, entitled 'Moscow tea for Boris Kolesnikov' highlights the significance and possible consequences of Monday's meeting. As usual here are some paraphrased portions:

The chairman of the committee on international affairs of the Russian Federation State Duma and member of the presidium of the general council of 'Yedinaya Rossiya', Konstantin Kosachev said, follow the visit of the 'Regionaly': "Without interfering in the internal situation in the Ukraine, I would like to say that we welcome the manifestation of good will from the leading political forces of Ukraine, and especially PoR, for acknowledging the inevitability of conducting extraordinary parliamentary elections in Ukraine and participating in them". In other words, the early elections have now received official blessings from 'upon high' from the Russian 'vlasti'..

Gazprom, for political reasons, has set Russian enterprises the task of of ramping up production of large diameter pipes to completely satisfy its requirements by 2010 and practically eliminate the need for pipes manufactured in Ukrainian plants owned by Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk, even though the Ukrainian-made pipes would be cheaper. But anti-dumping investigations against Ukrainian suppliers of flat cold-rolled steel stock has been dropped as a consolation prize.

Ukraine's attitude to NATO, the RF Black sea fleet and its leased base in Sevastopol were discussed.

According to Russian political scientist Aleksey Ivanov, "Today's encounter between the 'Yedynorossy' "and PoR in Moscow shows that the process of providing support to Yanukovych has already began. The recent meeting has legalized a reciprocal appearance of Russian deputies in Kyiv on the eve of the early VR elections. Without it they could not really appear there." The propaganda will start from 2nd August, when a delegation of "Yedinorossov" arrives at the 'Regiony' congress to which they have been politely invited. 'Regionaly' have been invited to October's analogous 'Yenyna Rossiya' congress also.

Ivanov forecasts that after arriving into Ukraine, the Russian guests: "Will begin to tell voters from the eastern and southern regions, that they see in Yanukovych a defender of the Russian language and an advocate of the idea of dual citizenship". "They will say this whilst standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Yanukovych, who will remain silent. Political responsibility will be taken away from Yanukovych – after the elections he can say he made no promises - it was just statements by the Russian deputies."

[What Ukrainians really think are important issues are described in an article in 'Kyiv Post' here ]

All this means that the Kremlin has let Akmetov know, in no uncertain terms, that it will not allow any reorientations in the 'Regionaly' camp. "Russia will not support anyone else but Yanukovych in Ukraine," concludes Aleksey Ivanov. "Yedinorossy simply cannot remain detached from the political process in Ukraine."

So if Akhmetov and Kolesnikov actually planned to take leading roles in the party, they will now have to yield 'pole position' to Yanukovych. The maximum they can expect, while preserving loyalty to Russian attitudes, is to push more of their supporters into the higher, more influential places on the PoR election list.

The writer predicts that Yanukovych may even make an 'unofficial' trip to Moscow, ostensibly for medical consultations, and meet Vladimir Putin, to decide how matters develop further.

A slightly different interpretation is given in an article, in English, in 'Kyiv Weekly'. It concludes:

"The most important thing is that over the past two years the Kremlin understood that the Orange forces are not as scary as they are depicted. After coming to power, the heroes of Maidan visit Moscow with the same enthusiasm and intensiveness as the white-and-blue fundamentalists do. That is why, this summer there will be clearly less Russian rubles in the Ukrainian politics."

LEvko thinks that it is the big Ukrainian businessmen and oligarchs who have understood that the Orange forces are not as scary as they thought back in 2004. So these captains of industry will do what is best for their enterprises..

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Stealing BYuT's best lines..

Even though the VR election campaign does not officially start until August 2nd - its clear that the speculation in a recent article in 'Kommentarii' mentioned in a previous blog, may be quite accurate.

Yesterday NUNS, with much fanfare, initiated their campaign to strip VR deputies of ther immunity from prosecution. [Good photos from Unian here ] Removal of immunity from politicians has been at the centre of BYuT's political platform for several years - other parties have, until recently, been rather lukewarm on this. Thanks largely to BYuT's persistent efforts, a law was passed in April 2006 to take away immunity from thousands of city council deputies.

And today the social policy head in the president's secretariat, Pavlo Rozenko, in a press briefing, demanded that the far-reaching social initiatives presented by the president on 22nd June 2007 be fulfilled.

"All the social initiatives of the President must be realized in the budget for 2008," said Rozenko, adding that the President's secretariat had directed all proposals to the government. "We want to find out what is the official attitude of the government to the social initiatives of the President. All the figures were passed to the Ministry of Finance a month ago. We want an answer to our questions. The nine social initiatives are absolutely realistic, and are not an object of trading between the President and the government, " he emphasized.

Should the president's secretariat be taking such a prominent role in what surely is premature campaigning for NUNS? If a future government does deliver on these initiatives, then the president can claim credit for this. If they don't, he can claim he did all he could, but they didn't obey.

Social welfare initiatives, particularly for the least well off, have always figured prominently in Tymoshenko's manifesto also.

LEvko thinks that NUNS main aim is to become the largest 'orange' party, and second-largest party in the VR. This may be achievable, and would enable them to select the partner of their choice in any ruling coalition, e.g. they would be well placed to break up any PoR/Communist tie-up. They intend to poach as many of BYuT's electorate as possible, but any direct criticism of BYuT will be counter-productive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Preparations for the election campaign

Some good analysis on how the election campaign will be waged by the main political players in Ukraine is provided by an article in 'Kommentarii'. entitled "Tymoshenko cannot find grounds for war" - the main theme of the elections will be the fight for the orange electorate.

Here are the main points:

The "Our Ukraine - People Self-defence" [NUNS] campaign will include two central themes: the cancellation of the parliamentary immunity for VR deputies, and new presidential social initiatives which include proposals to increase pensions, improve grants for higher education students, for mothers of newly-born children, and improve allowances for serving soldiers. President Yushchenko's personal image will figure more prominently than in 2006 in these initiatives. Other benefits, e.g. an increase in the median wage by 2010 and so on will also be promised.

These election pledges were originally devised not by NU spin-doctors but have been part of BYuT's political program for years. Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc attempted to push the abolishment of deputies' immunity through the VR last year. She was the first to suggest an increase in the size of aid to mothers, and it has been BYuT that has harped on about dissolution of the VR for a over a year. Yushchenko pulled the plug on the VR only when orange deputies started to defect to the PoR ruling coalition and began to pose a real threat to his presidential powers. In other words, NUNS are stealing BYuT's 'best lines'.

Both BYuT and NUNS will attack PoR for failing to deliver on their main Spring 2006 VR election campaign - "An improvement in life already today ".

"Regionaly" have the simplest task in the forthcoming elections - they have only protect last year's electoral result to ensure victory. BYuT could make some progress in Kharkiv, where leading PoR politicans Dobkin and Kernes are losing popularity over local issues, and in Dnipropetrovsk, which is beginning to feel the heat from the expansion of Donetsk businesses. A danger to PoR is that their dissillusioned supported may not turn out on election day, but any significant swing to the orange parties is unlikely.

BYuT does not have much ammuntion to attack NUNS with. There is no analogy to the 2006 gas crisis which provided BYuT an easy target in the form of Yuriy Yekhnurov, and even most of Yushchenko's discredited "lyubi druzi" have left the stage. NUNS could possibly be attacked on their flirting with PoR on the formation of a grand coalition after the elections.

Tymoshenko has recently floated the idea of a referendum on the constitution to be held in parallel with the VR elections, [an idea first promulgated by Viktor Yushchenko], and 'agitbrigady' are already swinging into action on this.

Today the initiative in the "orange" sector has been seized Viktor Yushchenko, who has now left behind a period of political depression, increased his personal rating, and is re-inspired by the prospect of re-election as president in 2009.

The September VR [re]elections are now seen by Viktor Andriyevych as an important step to achieve his central objective - a second term in office. The President will attempt to position himself to cover two eventualities and to ensure that whether NUNS forms a coalition with BYuT, or with PoR after the elections, he will still be the central candidate in the next pesidential elections.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Elections too close to call

Latest O.P. has PoR at 28,5%, BYuT at 20,3%, NU-NS 11,6%, and Communist Party of Ukraine 5,3%.

The tendency to vote for PoR and, especially, for the Communists grows with an increase in the age of respondents and with a decrease in their 'level of education'. BYuT is more popular with young people and women.

Such voting patterns would resulting a VR comprising PoR 195 mandates, BYuT 139, NU-NS 80, KPU 36; i.e. a PoR/KPU majority of 12. So bearing in mind the margins for error, the result is too close to call right now.

According to this poll, Volodymyr's Lytvyn's People's bloc, who received 2.44% of votes in March 2006, could conceivably scrape past the 3% barrier too, and it would be he who wields the balance of power.

LEvko thinks, realistically, only a grand coalition, or NUNS/PoR combo in the VR would be stable.

ps Tomorrow Azarov and Kolesnikov are having a meeting in Moscow with the leaders of the pro-Putin 'Yedinaya Rossiya' party. A little tip boys - nothing by point taking chances..[only a joke..only a joke..]

Saturday, July 21, 2007

BYuT's referendum proposals

A translation of questions that BYuT propose be asked of the Ukrainian electorate, in parallel with the VR elections on September 30th, can be read on the Ostrov site in English here.

The site has them in Ukrainian here.

You decide if this is all a 'half-baked' idea or not..

Did they check this through with their possible political partners the pro-Yushchenko NU-NS?

BYuT better get some decent PR advisers - and pronto..

Wobbly NUNS-BYuT coalition

This week the head of Presidential Secretariat, Viktor Baloha, stated that the newly created orange NU-NS bloc, [Our Ukraine and Yuriy Lutsenko's People Self-defence] and BYuT plan to form a democratic majority in sixth convocation of the Verkhnovna Rada.

The bloc's leaders are to publicly sign declarations on this next week.

There are still unanswered questions on the arrangement, which could be largely resolved to as follows: The two parties could make it clear that in the event that they together gain a majority of seats in the V.R, i.e. more that 226 seats, and if BYuT's share is the greater, then Tymoshenko will be PM and lead the government. If NUNS' share is the greater then, say, Viktor Baloha [or other nominee] will be PM. Anything else will be considered as weasel words by NUNS and cast doubt on their coalition - yet again. We shall see what happens next week. Baloha's statement suggests that if a democratic majority is not achieved, then either party is free to go its own way.

Yesterday Tymoshenko announced that a referendum on the Ukrainian constitution should be held in paralled to the 30th September VR elections. More on this in English on her own website.

Yushchenko, who intends to retain as much presidential power as possible, may well have views much different to those of Tymoshenko on these matters.

Tymoshenko proposes asking the electorate nine questions: she wants to know whether they support a presidential form of administration, "by means of which the President is elected by the entire nation", or a parliamentary form of administration - "according to which the presidency is abolished, the government is assigned by the VR, and the prime minister is head of state".

Clearly there has been no co-ordination on this referendum between the two orange partners, and it well may be just a p.r. stunt. The NUNS-BYuT coalition could finish up as a pantomime horse..

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PoR men to visit 'older brother'

On 23rd July the first vice- premier and the minister of finances of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, and the deputy head of the PoR fraction in the V.R. Boris Kolesnikov will be in Moscow meeting the 'big knobs' of the solidly pro-Putin 'Yedinaya Rossiya' party which currently dominates the Russian state Duma.

The Y.R. website says topics for discussion at the joint consultations include inter-party collaboration, and inter-govermental relations between Russia and Ukraine. The consultations will "denote the principal positions of the leading political parties on the eve of the [Ukrainian] parliamentary elections."

PoR's site announces the meeting too, and [apologetically?] reminds readers that in August 2005 they and 'yedinorossy' signed an agreement on inter-party co-operation.

Azarov and Kolesnikov, who represent opposing wings in the party, have the weekend to prepare and ensure they will be 'singing from the same hymn sheet' during the meeting. Would such inter-party consultations take place in Kyiv on the eve of Russian parliamentary elections?

Parties' preparations for elections far from complete

The orange mega-bloc- NUNS, which was recently formed by NSNU and Yuriy Lutsenko's People's Self-defence [NS] is to create a coalition with BYuT after the September 30th elections in the Verkhovna Rada. The two-sided agreement is being finalized, and will shortly be publicly signed by #1 on NUNS's list, Yuriy Lutsenko, and by Yulia Tymoshenko. According to Viktor Baloha, head of the president's secretariat, this may all be 'rubber-stamped' next week.

Haven't we been here before, last year? Will the agreement hold, even if it means NUNS going into opposition? Can Tymoshenko trust NUNS after last year's double-dealing? With Yushchenko's millionare 'dear friends' all but banished from NU, who is going to pay for the NUNS campaign?

And there is more detailed analysis on the internal opposition inside PoR from here

The article speculates that PoR and Socialists are currently conducting their own private O.P's in preparation for 4th August when PoR, Socialists, and Communists are all, not coincidentally, staging their individual party conferences.

The Socialists, whose ratings have plummeted, may decide to fuse with PoR [if PoR accept them], or declare the elections illigitimate and not register candidates, or split into two groups, with one group only joining with PoR. The could run as an independent party too, of course.

The Communists have to decide whether to construct an alliance with PoR again too.

Even PoR have to formally decide whether to take part in the elections. Akhmetov, Kolesnikov, Bohatyryova and their supporters will go for elections, but Yanukovych, Kluyev and their guys could conceivably refuse to accept any decision, which would really set the cat amongst the pigeons.

All these matters should become clearer after the 4th.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tender Chamber of Ukraine

On July 12th, the honorary chairman of the Tender Chamber of Ukraine [TPU] and one of PoR's leading lights, Raisa Bohatyreva, resigned from her post. On the same day President Yushchenko issued an ukaz on increasing the effectiveness of state procurement of goods and services which the TPU is supposed to oversee.

The TPU's internet site posted a statement alleging that first vice-premier Mykola Azarov's attempt to take away overight of state purchasing etc. from the chamber was equivalent to crime. Allegedly, Bohatyreva threatened Azarov: "The parliamentary coalition appointed you in government, and it can sack you". Her resignation then appeared on the Region's site.

In it she states that she had become the subject of intrigues, that press reports were aimed at creating political conflicts within the PoR, but that questions of public procurement should be tackled in a transparent manner, through the tenders.

Even the presidential secretarial was rather taken aback. A spokesman said that her going would be difficult to come to terms with, and and would cause complications with fulfillment of the president's TPU ukaz.

Now, perhaps in an attempt to repair the damage, a posting has appeared on the official PoR website praising her work - she has set a record for the number of personal meetings conducted with ordinary citizens during the 3rd session of the 5th convocation of the VR - 26 persons in all [!?]

Bohatyreva herself has undergone an astonishing change of appearance and image for the better since last year, and will be a very important figure in PoR's election campaign.

The TPU is a little-known institution set up in 2005, to "ensure fuller transparency and openness in the realization of state purchases of goods and services." It is supposed to oversee the spending of over 100 billion hryven [about $20Bn], belonging to the state railroad, "Naftogaz", state highways of Ukraine, state coal company Ukraine", "Ukrtransnafta", "Ukrtransgaz" and so on. These enterprises, according to existing laws, must buy goods on the basis of tenders.

An example of the work the TPU do, from the Ukrainian News website:
The Ukrainian Tender Chamber says that the Kyiv city state administration violated the procedure for government purchases in the amount of UAH 960.3 million in April - December 2006 and January - June 2007. There are problems over faked tenders, tenders at overstated prices, monopoly collusions of participants, some or other tender victory guarantees for certain firms. This is all being done for the sake of kick-backs, bribe-taking, channeling taxpayers' money to shadow businesses,"

Monday, July 16, 2007

PoR's internal divisions part 2

More from the 'Kommentarii' article on probs in PoR. For first part, see previous posting.

"Last year Viktor Fedorovych had a free hand in forming the KabMin. The only totally Akhmetov-loyal person selected to the KabMin at that time was Vasyl Dzarty. Many other positions were filled by ex-Kuchmistas like Dmytro Tabachnyk, Anatoliy Tolstoukhov, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Mykhaylo Papiyev, Volodymyr Yatsuba, Oleksandr Kuz'muk and so on. Yanukovych also adopted Serhiy Levochkin from Volodymyr Lytvyn's team [as head of PM's secretariat]. He promised these guys not only a long career in structures of executive authority, but also good places in the PoR election list in the event of political 'complications'. Such a moment, caused by the dissolution of the Supreme Rada, has arrived, but now it is difficult for Viktor F. Yanukovych to deliver. These men now have three choices: to pay for their places, become financially dependent on Rinat A., or look elsewhere.

Another person who cannot sleep easy is Deputy PM Mykola Azarov. Akhmetov's associates consider him old-fashioned in outlook, and his policies are frequently misunderstood in 'New Donetsk'. There are plans therefore to replace Azarov with more "pro-European" financial 'specialist'. Azarov, feeling the heat, has found himself an ally - Oleksander Moroz. They both recently attempted to push through, at least partially, a new act on state purchases [and the State Tender Chamber], after the third Presidential ukaz on dissolution of the Supreme Rada, but their attempt failed. No other groups inside PoR represent a threat to Ahmetov. The 'old guard', even though they include Azarov, have already understood which way the wind is blowing, and have turned against Azarov too. An example of this is the unexpected criticism by Efim Zvyagilsky of Azarov's policies which affect Donetsk. The 'old boys' have now for a long time reconciled themselves to a back-seat role in the party, and will put up with any whims of the 'young turks' as long as they do not hinder the development of their own businesses. It is unlikely that Andriy Kluyev will provide Azarov with protection either.

According to some sources, Akhmetov's ideas have even found resonance with president Yushchenko, and they have recently began to meet suspiciously often. It may be that the billionaire is seriously deliberating onto whether to place a strategic bet on Viktor Andreyevych for a second presidential term. At present he has only two serious competitors for the 2009 elections - Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. If the first, with the help of Rinat, could be dumped already this year, only one problem - named Yulia Volodymyrivna will remain. And it may be possible to concentrate on this in the remaining years of the presidency."

LEvko thinks Yanukovych is the most popular politician in Ukraine, and PoR will stick with him to the elections..his fate will be decided by the result. But he must be feeling bad. Things were going well for him until April 2nd, and he would have justifiably felt confident of remaining in the PM's chair for another four years. Now, all this speculation about his future..

Sunday, July 15, 2007

PoR's internal divisions

More on the internal disputes in PoR in an article from the current 'Kommentarii' [a serious and polished politics and business weekly linked to Hayduk/Taruta]

"The lengthy inter-party discussion on what principles places on the PoR party list are to be distributed ended with the full and unconditional victory for the somewhat renewed doctrine of Akhmetov. The new situation promises Viktor Yanukovych, who had hoped to push into parliament a whole cohort of people loyal to himself, nothing good - at best the PM may be able to hang on to those positions which he held on the eve last year's elections - at worst today's mini-defeat may signal the end of Yanukovych as a politician [!]

It's true there is one further possibility for the head of the KabMin - he could detach himself from the guardianship of Rinat Leonidovich to swim free in the political sea.."

Akhmetov had demanded that those who want a good place on the list should pay a 'tariff' i.e. make a substantial financial contribution. Those incapable of doing this would be provided with 'credit' by him.

Apparently Yuriy Boyko [of Naftohaz Ukrainy etc.] promised to finance the entire PoR campaign in exchange for the election campaign manager's post, but rumour has it that Yanuk declined the minister for fuel and energy's offer, suspecting that Boyko was aiming for the PM's chair too. In the event it was Boris Kolesnikov, a close associate of Akhmetov's, who will be the PoR election campaign manager.

Is this all 'over the top'?
Maybe I'll post more tomorrow on this fascinating speculation..

Saturday, July 14, 2007

PoR - not a happy ship..

Since the orange revolution the orange coalition forces have shown themselves to be incapable of forming a sustainable and stable political entity, whilst their political opponents PoR have given the appearace of being far more politically disciplined.

Outwardly this still appears to be the case, but recently there have been ever-increasing speculation of fissures developing in PoR ranks too.

A recent article on the 'ord' site, by Andrey Lebedev, and reposted elsewhere sheds intriguing light on these splits.

As usual here are some loosely paraphrased portions:

Dead Donetski gangsters must be turning in their graves - an internal-party opposition has appeared. Until five years ago the fate of any opposition was a bullet and a thick layer of asphalt or concrete on top. But times change, and "dony" have changed too.

The conflict inside the party of regions is gathering force. On one side of the barricade is Boris Kolesnikov - new PoR election campaign leader, and on another - vice-premier Andriy Klyuev, who had been head of Yanuk's shadow election campaign in the 2004 presidential elections...

The psychological state of premier Yanukovych is now worse than the state of his knee - and party ratings have fell by 10 percent. [Ya has recently had extensive medical treatment for a knee problem in Spain].

The entire current crisis began, not from Viktor Yushchenko's 2nd April ukaz, but from the unsuccessful game of enticing opposition deputies in the VR, undertaken by the Klyuev brothers. Andriy Klyuev is a strategist smarter even that Viktor Medvedchuk, but the policy of buying up deputies for the PoR fraction from BYuT and "Our Ukraine" has backfired. The spectre of constitutional majority began to stalk the VR, forcing Yushchenko to dissolve parliament.

As the crisis developed a 'solution by force' was considered, Klyuev was given more authority than is normally granted to an vice- premier. The appointment of ex-chairman of SBU Vladimir Radchenko (a close friend of deputy Vladimir Sivkovich, who is in turn "vertically integrated" with Klyuev) as vice-PM responsible for co-ordinating the work of the 'power structures' was made, to facilitate the work of Andriy Petrovych Klyuev.

The hapless minister of internal affairs Vasiliy Tsushko rang the Kabmin each day and declared that everything was ready for him to act - whatever was required. But no-one gave any order for action. Radchenko simply kept stalling and Tsushko finally became ill from the stress and tension.

Klyuev had guaranteed Yanukovych that he would successfully persuade parliamentarians from BYuT and NSNU not resign their mandates, and thus preserve the VR's legitimacy. He failed, and Yanukovych went crazy because Klyuev hadn't delivered - Radchenko had accomplished nothing either.

Radchenko was sacked and replaced by General Aleksandr Kuz'muk, whose 'achievements' includes the rocket attack on a Russian passenger aircraft, and the stray runaway rocket which landed in Brovary, near Kyiv, [which killed three people]. But by then Yanukovych had agreed to the September elections, and Kolesnikov had become head of PoR's election campaign.

The position of Klyuev deteriorated, and Kolesknikov gained the support of his old business and political games partner, leader of the PoR VR fraction, Raisa Bohatyreva. There are rumors that she and Klyuev had 'fallen out' after he had refused her request to 'place' her twins boys into good positions in business, and into the VR. He told her that a town council rada position for one of them would be all she could have. So Kolesnikov now has Bohatyreva's total support.

Klyuev understands what is going on and does not intend to go quietly. He has assembled around him an inner-party opposition dissatisfied with early elections. The argument used by Klyuev's recruiters, is that we gave all for the party, and now corrupt strangers, e.g. Kinakh and company have appeared on our lists, as well as other deserters from other fractions. Because of them we have been driven away from parliament. After the official formation of PoR's election lists, they will become even more agitated.

Boris Viktorovych K., a close friend of Rinat Akmetov, has passed through an interesting metamorphosis from criminalized Donetsk business, to an [almost] good-natured politician. E.g as a result of training by American PR guys, he recently gave a long inteview in the [normally pro-Yushchenko] "Zerkalo Nedyeli". Kolesnikov does not hide that it was he who persuaded Yanukovych to go to the elections.

However, statistics indicate that Boris K. may have erred. According to classified information, 'Regionaly' have conducted a secret O.P. survey which, to their horror, revealed that at best they can count on 25% of the vote; and at worst - hardly 20%. This especially shocked Yanukovych's environment (Prutnik, Herman, Prigodskiy, etc.), because it poses a serious threat to the tail-end of the first hundred on PoR's election list.

The only man who could as act as an arbiter between those who are for elections, and those who are against, is Rinat Akhmetov, but he may be inclined to the follow Roman Abramovich into the Western oligarchic world.

Summing up, the future may bring the withdrawal of Akhmetov, the advance of Kolesnikov, the fall of Klyuyev's star, and a drop in the ratings of 'Regions' by 10%. Further forecasts on the course of events can only be made if [or whether] the special session of Supreme Rada takes place or not. Oleksandr Moroz is working on an insidious plan to prevent elections taking place, on the introduction of changes in constitution, and on liquidation of the post of the President in its present form. Those worried by the drop in popularity of the 'white and blues' want to participate in the disruption of elections, but thus far they have not been allowed to do so. This could provoke a rebellion against the supporters of elections, including Kolesnikov, and lead to the fast disintegration of party.

And today Party of Regions leader in the Verkhovna Rada, Raisa Bohatyryova, who is considered to be close to Akhmetov, resigned as the honorary president of the Tender Chamber.

Some commentators consider this to be the product of anti-Akhmetov moves made by Mykola Azarov, and a victory in the battle for control of bugetary flows spent on state purchases. It may disturb the financial schemes of some of Azarov's colleagues in PoR, the key to which was the Tender Chamber, locking them firmly under the control of ministries and government departments. Now all the 'adminresurs' of PoR has been concentrated exclusively in the hands of Azarov - and this is an additional ace for Yanukovych in his negotiations with Akhmetov in the formation of the candidate list for the September VR elections.

Yesterday the the chairman of the Tender Chamber administration Vladimir Laba practically accused the government of an attempt to skim off 100 million hryven for the early elections. It is unlikely that such statements could have been made without Bohatyryova's approval, so its possible that she may have been 'invited' to resign by Yanukovych himself. Credence is added to this because Yanukovych was due to return from medical treatment in Spain on Friday, but in the event he came a day earlier. The article says Akhmetov himself may be making a pitch for the PM's job. From 'Gazeta po Kievski'

Bohatyryova, one of PoR's best media performers, has posted a rather unclear explanation for her resignation on the offical PoR website.

LEvko thinks PoR is not a happy ship right now.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An interesting O.P.

Latest O.P. in today's 'Korespondent' has PoR at 26.2%, BYuT at 23.1% and the newly formed pro-presidential NU-NS 'megabloc at 13%. LEvko thinks this OP should be accompanied with a 'health warning'. Nevertheless, if others come in at anything like this, it may explain why Rinat Akhmetov is not putting all of his eggs in one basket, and perhaps indicates Yushchenko's wavering may be harming the cause of the 'NUNSivtsi'.

The Communists would obtain 2.7% of votes cast and fail to overcome the 3% threshold; remaining parties would receive even less votes that the Commies. Rather worryingly for PoR, according to the poll, a majority of the 'undecided's' are wavering between BYuT and NUNS. But as they say, 'one swallow doesn't make a summer'...

The pro-orange 5th TV channel has a straw poll which invites its website visitors to register who they think will be the next PM of Ukraine. At the last count Viktor Fyodorovich receives 80 votes, Yulka 422, Moroz 3, Rinat Akmetov 23, others 81 - not scientific, but interesting nevertheless - where are Lutsenko, Kyrylenko, Yekhanurov and other NUNSivtsi? Are they really so unattractive? [As a neutral observer, LEvko did not vote. Come on you PoR supporters, where are you?]

After the brouhaha several months ago, affairs at the Consitutional Court have slipped off the media radar, but today, no doubt after a lot of behind the scenes negotiation, a new CC chairman has been appointed by the court itself. An earlier attempt on 22nd June failed.

I've loosely paraphrased the following from 'Gazeta po Kiyevski':

"The election of the head of the CC was surrounded by a halo of secrecy..while some politicians said the the selection procedure for the leader of the CC should be transparent and candidatures openly discussed, voting was strictly formal. Agreements took place outside of the court's walls...As with all appointments, choosing the head of the CC became a subject of compromise between the [governing] coalition and the president.

The man elected to chair the CC was Andriy Stryzhak, who had been appointed onto the CC on the Congress of Judge's quota. [In accordance with the constitution, the VR, the president, and the Congress of Judges, each appoint 6 CC judges to the 18-chair CC]

He comes from the Transcarpathia oblast and is linked to the once-powerful SDPU(o). His name has appeared on the 'black-lists' of PORA and he has been accused of misusing authority and his official (state) position but nothing big has ever 'stuck'.

Observers consider the appointment a compromise made in an attempt to give the CC a semblance of dignity after the 'stink around Stanik' scandal, and other recent scandals involving CC judges. The agreement to promote Strizhak is strictly temporary - the CC will not be making any decisions before the September 30th VR elections, and after this 'cadre rotations' are likely.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Yanuk AWOL

President Yushenko today hosted a meeting with Polish president Lech Kaczinski at his presidential Carpathian mountain residence 'Synyohora'. The main topic of conversation was the Euro 2012 football tournament being jointly staged by Ukraine and Poland. Several ministers and ambassadors from both sides were present.

Meanwhile prime minister Yanukovych is still in Barcelona on a follow-up visit after a recent knee operation. He missed the sizeable 75th anniversary celebrations of the Donetsk oblast over the weekend- even though, as Ukraine's most popular politician, he enjoys such public occasions. He has even stayed away for his birthday today. His son Viktor jnr. will visit him in Barcelona.

Also taking part at the 'Synyohora' meeting was Rinat Akhmetov, who arrived in his own private jet... and with Fyodorovich out of the country..

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Major conflict of interest revealed

Investigative journalism is playing an increasingly significant role in Ukrainian politics. For example, it was primarily the media that recently revealed the massive assets inexplicably accumulated by several Constitutional Court judges.

Today's 'Ukrayinska Pravda' run a story exposing energy minister Yuriy Boyko's links with Dmytro Firtash, owner of 45% of the monopolist imported gas supplier RosUkrEnergo.

A summary from 'Ukrainian Journal' below:

Energy minister in bed with gas supplier
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, July 5 - Yuriy Boyko, the energy and fuel minister, was named a beneficiary of RosUkrEnergo, a controversial gas trader, among other assets worth billions of U.S. dollars, legal papers obtained by a newspaper showed Thursday.

Boyko, who has been long alleged by opposition politicians of having links to RosUkrEnergo, Ukraine's monopoly natural gas supplier, had always denied having any interests in the company.

But the letter of attorney, obtained by Ukrayinska Pravda, shows Dmytro Firtash, a key shareholder in RosUkrEnergo, at least once has legally authorized Boyko "to manage and dispose of all assets" that he had owned.

Firtash, who last month consolidated all his assets under a new holding, Group DF (GDF), declined to comment. GDF's companies posted $4.6 billion in consolidated annual revenues as of Dec. 31, 2006.

Boyko, through his spokesman, on Thursday confirmed the letter of attorney had existed. The spokesman said the letter was aimed at helping Firtash to handle divorce with his wife.

Boyko's emerged link to RosUkrEnergo may shed light on the ownership of the company, which has been repeatedly investigated by authorities in the U.S. and the E.U. for its alleged link to organized crime and tax evasion. RosUkrEnergo denied the allegations.
The revelations are likely to put mounting pressure on Boyko to step down as opposition leaders on Friday will probably call for his immediate resignation, political commentators said.

Boyko, who was appointed to the post in August 2006 by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, is the key negotiator with Russia on Ukraine's natural gas supplies. Boyko persistently defended RosUkrEnergo as Ukraine's only reliable source of natural gas.
The letter of attorney was granted by Firtash to Boyko on Dec. 13, 2005, and was valid through July 1, 2006, according to a photocopy of the paper published by the newspaper.
"Such letter of attorney really exists," Kostiantyn Borodin, Boyko's spokesman, told the newspaper. "It has been issued exceptionally because Boyko, at Dmytro Firtash's request, had been representing him in the divorce with Maria Firtash. It was exactly for this role that the power of attorney has been issued in the name of Boyko to dispose of all assets of Dmytro Firtash."

The revelations also underscore the close personal relationship between Boyko and Firtash that may well explain Boyko's attempts to defend RosUkrEnergo as the only gas supplier to Ukraine.

Dmytro Firtash has reportedly settled his divorce with Maria in January 2006. Maria, who now lives in Israel, has apparently received a $36 million settlement, according to the divorce agreement, Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

However, the divorce dispute resumed earlier this year when Maria had demanded 50% of Dmytro Firtash's assets. She claims that Dmytro Firtash only in April 2006, four months after the divorce had been settled, had disclosed that he also owns a 45% stake in RosUkrEnergo.

RosUkrEnergo, 50% of which is now owned by Gazprom, Russia's gas monopoly, has been for two years refusing to disclose its true beneficiaries since the summer of 2004 when it had been created.

LEvko thinks PoR would probably like to ditch Boyko [who is not Donetskiy] before the elections, but this would not reflect too well on the current Yanukovych government..and he most likely has influential friends 'up North'..

Friday, July 06, 2007

NUNS chasing Yulka

Today an orange VR election 'mega-bloc' was formed. Details in English here.

Akhmetov's 'Segodnya' newspaper christen the new bloc "Nasha Ukraina-Narodna Samooborona", or 'NUNSivtsi' for short. 'Segodnya' considers that the primary task the new bloc has set itself is to overtake BYuT as the largest orange bloc in the new VR. In their words: "To prove to everyone that Viktor Yushchenko is now a stronger leader than Yulia Tymoshenko, and can claim victory in the presidential elections."

However, even with the popular Yuriy Lutsenko 'on board', the article claims it will be difficult for NUNS to become the second-largest political bloc.

Lutsenko has declared that the new bloc would only co-operate in coalition with BYuT in the new VR; but 'Segodnya' quotes a politolog who, when asked if this could be a problem, replies: "If we analyse inconsistencies in his behaviour, first he declared that he would not work in the Yanukovych government [after the 2006 VR elections], but then asked to remain in the government, so the question answers itself." Anyhow, the true leader of NUNS is Yushchenko himself, and he would most likely give an NUNS-PoR coalition his blessing.

LEvko thinks that the big businessmen who are 'payrolling' their favoured parties' election campaigns will be feeling disgruntled. The money sunk into the respective campaigns will have to be clawed back after the elections, so problems of corruption and misuse of power will continue whoever forms the next government..

ps. The pres. is visiting Donetsk Friday. I'm sure his 2003 visit, when he was 'run out of town', will pass through his mind..

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Akhmetov skips pres's bash

Viktor Yushchenko today met some of Ukraine's most important 'big name' businessmen and oligarchs.

The themes under discussion at the encounter were to be tax reform, preparation of new tax laws, observance of property rights, and the disturbing increase of corporate raiding.

'Donbass' newspaper considers that the meeting, weeks before the September VR elections, may have been called by Yushchenko to try and secure the support of these oligarchs, be it financial, or in the media, as many of these guys have media and television interests.

Ukrainian politologists have long discussed formation of a so-called broad PoR-NSNU coalition after election, which would suit business-elites from both camps, and also the President.

Unfortunately Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest oligarch, and PoR's biggest financial sponsor, did not attend. He had previously informed the President's secretariat that his workload was to heavy at the beginning of July to permit this. Some commentators say he may have been embarrassed by Yushenko's gushing praise for helping solve the political crisis following Yushenko's dismissal of the VR.

'Donbass' speculates that Akhmetov may prefer to solve problems in a tight circle rather than in larger company. On Friday the president is to attend the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Donbass region, so a Yushchenko-Akhmetov meeting could take place on the latter's 'home turf' at that time. I wonder if it will?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


"Democracy is certainly weak in Russia, but society has become stronger. People start businesses, worship, travel abroad and live without fear of the state. The other dynamic at work in Russia is the urge to be a superpower again, and that tendency is most likely to be manifest in relation to Ukraine. For that reason Ukraine is right now the most important country in Europe." From today's 'Moscow Times'

"The Ukrainian transit system--pipelines and vast storage sites--handles an overwhelming share of Russian gas supplies to Europe, at an average annual throughput of some 120 billion cubic meters (the system’s design capacity being some 150 billion cubic meters). It also constitutes Ukraine’s most valuable economic asset by far, its worth being estimated at $ 10 billion to $ 13 billion by European experts." From Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies Washington, D.C.

"Putin stated in his annual news conference on February 1st 2007 that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych favored sharing control of Ukraine's transit pipelines through a consortium or similar deal with Russia, in return for Ukrainian "access" to oil and gas extraction projects on Russian territory. Presenting this idea as a Ukrainian proposal, Putin disclosed that it would figure on the agenda of Yushchenko's upcoming visit to Russia. Putin omitted to say that one extractive project under consideration for this deal, in Russia's Astrakhan oblast, has Dmytro Firtash as its main owner. Firtash fronts as the main shareholder in the purportedly Ukrainian half of Gazprom's offshoot RosUkrEnergo.

Putin's apparently calculated bean-spilling proved premature and forced Kyiv's proponents of this deal on the defensive politically. [On February 6th 2007] a Tymoshenko-initiated bill garnered 430 votes, with none opposed, in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada.

The law bans any deals that would involve the sale, transfer, merger, joint venture, concession, lease, putting up as collateral, the joint or trust management, mortgaging, and any change in the status of ownership or control of Ukraine's gas transport system and other Naftohaz assets. It also stipulates that Naftohaz may not be declared bankrupt -- an ultimate safeguard against Russian debt-collection through asset-takeover." From Vladimir Socor.

Are Ukrainians going to be push-overs?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Never say never..

The current "Stolichniye Novosti" runs an interview with NSNU party leader Vyacheslav Kyrylenko.

He is asked: "Recently there has been much talk of a broad coalition in the new parliament.. the participation of "Our Ukraine" and the "Party of Regions" [in this broad coalition] is not excluded. What is your attitude to to this idea?

He responds: "My position has not changed. I will be against the creation of a broad coalition in any event. And if this does happen, then I shall not be the leader of the party. I will never agree on a coalition with Party of Regions.

"But such position will split the country again..."

"In the country there is no split. In different regions there are different visions of development of Ukraine. And if we come in the Supreme Rada with these different visions, it does not mean at all, that we should be united there."

Kyrylenko is a tricky position - he knows that president Yushchenko may well be contemplating a coalition with PoR, if PoR do not gain an absolute majority in the September 30th elections.

Last August, months after the March 2006 VR elections, and after much 'toing and froing', it was the president who turned to Yanukovych rather that Tymoshenko to form a government; and lately there has been much talk of behind-the-scenes deals between Yushchenko and the top-bananas at PoR to solve the current political crisis. But if NSNU declare that a coalition with PoR is possible, much their electorate will switch to Tymoshenko's BYuT.

A western politician's answer would have been more non committal:, "We are working hard for, and are confident of a victory for the democratic forces. A coalition is not envisaged by my party at the moment - let's wait and see what the elections produce," or would have contained similar platitudes.

If Yushchenko does push NSNU into a coalition with PoR [a possibility Kyrylenko implicitly acknowledges in his reply] and Kyrylenko quits, how many of his party will go with him?