Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The case against Putin

Interesting op-ed piece on Radio Svoboda's site today by the the excellent, high profile journalist Vitaliy Portnykov.

I've loosely translated portions below:

On the eve of the arrival of the head of the Russian government Vladimir Putin in Kyiv today it was announced that a new criminal case was being opened against former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko.

On the face of it it would seem that these two events are not related, except that the criminal case against Tymoshenko concerns the signing of gas contracts with Putin in 2009.

The agreements were called 'the best in the history of Ukrainian-Russian energy co-operation' by Putin, but Viktor Yanukovych sternly criticised these contracts. Once in power, he has persistently fought for their abolition but attempts to revise the Tymoshenko-Putin formulas have invariably met with refusal from the Russian side.

In Kyiv it is suggested that Tymoshenko illegally gave directives which allowed her to sign the agreement. According to Inna Bohoslovska, chairman of the Temporary Parliamentary Commission investigating this matter, Tymoshenko had "personal, specific, secret relationships with the Russian side, which could have impacted on her behaviour". But the Russian side was not an abstraction - it was PM Putin...

The Russian prime minister is in the Ukrainian capital to discuss co-operation in the energy sector, but now negotiations will take place against the backdrop of this new criminal case, which casts doubt on the legitimacy of the 2009 gas agreements.

This statement about suspicion of the damage caused to the Ukrainian state by the former premier was announced by none other than Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin - the same Kuzmin, who is not afraid to bring criminal charges against former President Leonid Kuchma. And Bohoslovska has announced her temporary committee of inquiry has requested the Prosecutor General of Ukraine turns to their Russian counterparts for help in the investigation.

Obviously Putin will not be questioned by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office, but the mere fact of the opening of the investigation is a hint to the Russian Prime Minister that Ukrainian law enforcers may be accumulating 'kompromat' indicating the use of personal relations with Tymoshenko to create and sign a contract disadvantageous to Ukraine. It is possible that in Kyiv they believe that this hint will help president Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov gain a stronger position in their energy negotiations with Putin.

But it's more than a peculiar calculation as it is well known Putin does not like to be pressurised. [It is well known Putin personally despises Yanuk too..LEvko]

It is possible that Yanukovych may not be calculating not so much on instant success, but rather how to help his colleague Dmitry Medvedev, who is now entered into a competition with his predecessor in the 2012 Russian presidential elections.

And if Medvedev, who gave Yanukovych a gas discount in Kharkiv, wins, he will repay his helper.

p.s. Former president Kuchma was sensationally charged with criminal offences linked to the Gongadze murder on the eve of Tymoshenko's recent visit to Brussels...Additional charges are directed at Tymoshenko on the eve of Putin's visit...can the timing of the declaration of these charges be coincidental? Most unlikely. Ukrainian authorities just don't get it...the law enforcement system is not a tool of politicians. No progress has been made in 20 years...

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