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?