Friday, April 28, 2006
A clue to the way these matters are heading is provided in an arrogant interview in 'Ukrainska Pravda' with Sergey Levochkin, one of former president Kucha's closest aides. This man was deeply involved with his old friend Dmytro Firtash, and Yuriy Boyko in setting up the huge RosUkrEnergo scam, sanctioned by Putin and Kuchma, about which others more knowledgeable than me are writing. He was, no doubt deeply involved in the flurry of 'last minute' 'divvying up' of state assests and property to Kuchma's favourites before the 2004 presidential elections, including something for Levochkin's good friend, the notorious Russian 'businessman' 'Mad' Max Kurochkin.
Soon after, Levochkin adroitly became a confidant of VR speaker Lyvyn, and was a leading candidate in Lytvyn's bloc [for Kuchma 'retreads'] which, having spending millions on advertizing, failed to cross the 3% threshold and enter the VR.
In his interview he predicts that a grand coalition will be created in the VR, and describes a scenario which is probably PR's 'pitch' to NSNU: PR's prime minister, and two vice-premiers including minister for fuel and energy, but the President remaining free to appoint and control the VR speaker and 'silovyky' - Defense, and SBU, and Foreign affairs. He suggests that NSNU's electorate, which would be lost in the event of a PR-NSNU coalition, would return if the economy grows sufficiently.
A photograph of happy-looking [L-R] Poroshenko, Levochkin and Martynenko in some behind the scenes 'wheeling and dealing' at the time of the Orange Revolution, is included in the UP article.
If the VR elections were to be repeated tomorrow, after all the stalling on coalition building and the RUE revelations, I wonder what the results would be? Would NSNU clear 10%
And what is the President's rating right now? It would be interesting to know..And what about 'that woman's' rating?
A rapid devaluation of the currency is not a pretty thing. I was in Venezuela when it happened there. The bolivar crashed, there was a run on the dollar and that caused the central bank to put controls on dollar buys. They needed to do this to be able to use dollars to control the descent (soaking up the bolivars on the market requires buying with dollars) and dollars reserves are needed to pay for goods coming in the the country.
The restrictions pretty much put a halt on imports. I talked with a grain trader at one point and he said the whole country was down to a 3 days supply of wheat. And the owners of any tankers with wheat bound for Venezuelan ports were seriously considering turning them back around because they thought they wouldn't get paid when the grain landed.
People tend to get surly when they get hungry and the Venezuelans have been known to riot. The owners didn't turn them back in the end and there were no riots and Venezuela came through it but came butt up against nationalism. Enter Hugo Chavez. Not a good ending, really.
I hope it doesn't happen here (and I should add, there are many, many reasons why it shouldn't.) But one thing is for certain: The parties on all sides believe they are in a fight to the death with their opponents only and with no others. But there are other interests and other actors who also have a say in what happens in Ukraine. The politicians here need to take that into account in their deliberations and in their public statements. Because those other actors, acting on the basis of self interest, criticize it for that reason as we will, can have a very significant effect on the lives of Ukrainians. (That has been my point with the very careless-- irresponsible, really-- way the investment situation here has been handled.)
But noting what has been said and done in the past, I won't be holding my breath.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Other PR 'big-shots' have recently been a little 'off-massage' on this, but now Yanukovich has made his position clear.
He said that his party is ready to come together with NSNU, and believes this would provide the most effective coalition. Importantly, PR have commenced two-sided discussions on formation of a coalition, but [oddly] didn't specify with whom.
In principle, the orange parties would seem to be the most natural partners in any government, but an article in 'Svoboda' entitled 'Pipes and Chocolates, or an Akhmetov-Poroshenko coalition', illustrates what is happening at regional level, where local elections took place at the same time as parliamentary elections. In the Lviv oblast rada the NU chairman categorically refused to give up his position, even though BYuT received a greater mandate.
An analogous situation has occurred in Kyiv oblast rada where BYuT has the largest number of seats, but NU bloc has formed a union with PR. In Odessa the head of the NSNU branch has declared that there is a possiblity of a coalition with PR. And, typically for central Ukraine, in Golovansk, a town in Kirovograd oblast in a 46 seat council, BYuT-Socialists-NSNU had sufficient seats to form a majority, but in a vote to choose a 'rayi-soviet' chairman, a split occurred, and a Litvinite man who had held the position previously, was elected.
In the Zakarpattya oblast rada NU have done a deal with PR on co-operation, driving BYuT, and the Socialists and Litvinites into opposition. But now in the BYuT fraction itself there has split into two groups.
A similar sequence of events with splits and deals may well occur in the Parliament even after coalition negotiations are finally completed. Yushchenko is predicting these will drag on until mid June..
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
a short quote:
..the press campaign against Gazprom...from all available information, originates with the Blair government, desperately looking for an external scapegoat for its failing energy policy and the accompanying gas shortages in the UK, this is highly suspicious...
*Some brilliant 'background stuff' on why Ukraine has a unique position in Gazprom's history and infrastructure from a man who was there - Jerome a Paris - the man deserves respect..
Algerians and Russians in gas talks
TALKS in Algiers last month between Gazprom and Sonatrach, the Russian and Algerian gas giants, were overshadowed by a $7 billion (£4 billion) arms deal between the two nations. Despite being held in the shadow of a visit by President Putin, the significance of the talks over gas was not lost on the Algerian media, which described it as the first step to the creation of a “powerful energy lobby that would force Europe to bend”. The Quotidien d’Oran, a newspaper, said that Gazprom and Sonatrach would be the “locomotives of a new Opec of gas”.
Gazprom talks spark fears of gas cartel
DEEPENING ties between Russia and Algeria are causing concern among Europe’s gas importers, raising fears that recent talks between Gazprom and Sonatrach, the Algerian state energy company, could be the first step to the formation of a natural gas cartel.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Unian reports that the press service of the US embassy in Kyiv announced US presidential aide and deputy national security advisor Jack D Crouch, during his recent visit to Ukraine, passed on greetings from George W. Bush to President Yushchenko only, and not to Viktor Yanukovych, on PR's decisive victory in the parliamentary elections, as had been declared by the Party of Regions press service.
Rather small-minded, no?
Crouch apparently greeted leaders of Ukraine's political parties [including Yanukovych] 'only personally'.
Some observers interpreted the 'greeting' to Yanukovych as possible approbation for a grand coalition.
[Reminder: PR will have 186 seats in the new VR, Our Ukraine 81.]
p.s. First chairman of PR's polit-rada Mykola Azarov states that Yanukovych does not necessarily have to be PM in any NSNU-PR coalition, [see previous blog] and now PR front-man Taras Chornovil, in an interview with Glavred says, "Under certain circumstances Yekhanurov [NSNU #1] could be Prime Minister."
You have to feel a bit sorry for Yanukovych, who for all of his faults, ran an efficient and successful election campaign for PR. He even tried to be nice to Jack D Crouch.
Next time Azarov or Chornovil meet Yanukovich, it may be a good idea if they keep out of arm-swinging range..
[Yanukovych has a reputation of having 'a useful pair of fists'.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
President Yushchenko has delivered an address for the Orthodox Easter, asking his people to pray for unity and peace. The holiday break will give politicians a few days to reflect on, and possibly reassess their positions on the question of building a democratic coalition in parliament following last month's elections.
For the NU bloc there are no easy options. The three orange parties combined would have a 17 seat majority max. Even if NU and Yushchenko agree that Tymoshenko be nominated to head a newly-appointed cabinet [something that looks a long way off, but what the majority of NU voters nevertheless want], there would probably be defectors or abstainers when she were to be voted into office to the position of PM in the Verkhovna Rada.
A PR-NU coalition [without the Communists] would command a majority of 41, but the number of defections from NU would be certainly greater than from a democratic coalition mentioned above, particularly if their 'biggest beasts' Yanukovych or Azarov were 'pencilled in' for the position of PM.
However it's been reported today that PR are not setting a condition that Yanukovych be PM in any PR/NSNU coalition. Mykola Azarov is quoted as saying: "Regiony at the moment are not claiming the premiership at all, nor [the positions] of 1st VicePM, or VicePM responsible Fuel and Energy."
This flatly contradicts a statement made by Taras Chornovil several days ago to the media, when he stated: "Yanukovych - PM, and Azarov and Kluyev VicePM's." Now Azarov says that the PR polit-soviet had made no such decision.
According to some analysts, a pivotal role may be played by Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz. If he could be persuaded to join a grand coalition which excluded some of the less palatable PR leaders, then BYuT could be shut out, joining the Communists in opposition. Such a PR-NU-Socialist grand coalition would be more acceptable to NSNU voters, and it would be Tymoshenko who would be seen as 'the party pooper'. The Socialists' 33 seats in the new parliament would be useful too.
So plenty for everyone to think about, and plot, over the Easter break.
Finally 'The Independent,' in an article entitled: 'Russian gas giant could leave Europe in the dark,' includes this: "The Russian government has strengthened its grip on the media by closing in on a controlling stake in the country's best-selling tabloid, Komsomolskaya Pravda. State-controlled Gazprom Media is reportedly waiting for the deal to be approved by the anti-monopoly commission." Haven't Gazprom got enough on their plates?
ps Maybe the Ukrainian economy is doing better than generally accepted. It's been reported that sales of new automobiles is booming - there's been a 43% year-on-year sales increase. Some showrooms are even experiencing shortages. 32% of the market is dominated by AvtoVAZ, 13% Daewoo, and 10% ZAZ....[no snickering at the back..]
Friday, April 21, 2006
They must like me, they really must.
it's got to be some new kind of scam. At least I haven't seen it before.
Amid growing tensions between the European Union and Gazprom, an EU spokesman said Thursday that the gas monopoly's warning to European countries not to block its expansion had intensified fears about growing reliance on Russian gas.
The comments continued the verbal sparring that followed reports last week that Britain was conjuring up legal barriers to block Gazprom's potential takeover of Centrica, Britain's largest gas supplier. On Tuesday, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller told European countries not to "politicize" gas supplies at a lunch with EU ambassadors in Moscow.
Gazprom's "statement gives grounds to our concerns on the growing foreign dependency of European energy supply and ... our need to diversify both the origin of our supplies and our supply routes," said Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, spokesman for EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Reuters reported Thursday.
Maybe they could threaten to turn off the taps. You know, something between friends.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
"[The premiership] was a job she [Tymoshenko] did until September of last year, when Mr Yushchenko abruptly sacked her for allegedly spending too much time polishing her own image, for apparently being too radical on the economy, and for picking too many fights with some of his closest advisers."But perhaps the main reason for her sacking involves corruption and money made by the intermediaries and their secretive beneficiaries in the Russia-Ukraine gas trade. Tymoshenko's #2 and former SBU chief Oleksandr Turchynov described soon after Tymoshenko's sacking how Yushchenko himself ordered a halt to his investigations into these matters, commanding him to "stop persecuting his men" because it was "creating a conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Tymoshenko has made it clear many times that if she becomes PM she will renegotiate the the entire Russian-Ukrainian gas arrangement from scratch - something both Russian government and President Yushchenko have declared is not a good idea. Some have suggested she will do this not wholly for altruistic reasons. She even brought down the Yekhanurov government on 10th January this year over the opaque details of the newly agreed Russian-Ukrainian gas accords, so causing a major constitutional crisis. It's no surprise then that during the parliamentary election campaign Yekhanurov stated clearly that he would not work with Tymoshenko 'under any circumstances'.
The smell of gas [sorry..] will continue to hang heavy over any orange coalition building.
Curiously newly-elected BYuT parliamentary deputy and newspaper editor Oleh Lyashko revealed on the Russian language service of Radio 'Svoboda' today that Oleksandr Turchinov has been hospitalized, and that there is a suspicion that he may have been poisoned."There are some facts that would indicate an unnatural reason for him to be in hospital," said Lyashko. However Tymoshenko's press secretary says he has no information whether Turchinov was poisoned.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Turchinov may have been using his position to destroy or 'dark-hole' evidence on Tymoshenko's 'dim and distant past' which could be used against her and others some time in the future, as well as collecting potential kompromat on her enemies.
Abdymok has blogged in great detail on these matters and how RosUkrEnergo and its shady beneficiaries [some close to Yushchenko] were being investigated by Turchinov and Kozhemyakin. Turchinov in a resignation press conference on 15th September last year, claimed that the President himself had told him to 'back-off' with his investigations.
In his TV interview Poroshenko claims that when she was PM, Yuliya Tymoshenko,"arranged, at night, at her dacha, with the then Prosecutor General, Sviatoslav Piskun", to open a criminal case against him, apparently in a private agreement, and to submit appropriate arrest warrants.
Before and during the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko kept close ties with the then Prosecutor General Sviatoslav Piskun, and with the SBU [late night meetings with Smesko and Satsiuk?].
In a country like Ukraine, where 'blackmail and kompromat were used a tool of state domination', the people, who have the 'dirt on everyone' become most important and powerful. Yushchenko only fired the odious Piskun late last year - he will now be sitting in a PoR seat in the newly-elected VR.
An insight onto how kompromat has been used is described in an excellent article by Keith A Darden [Yale University], which although written several years ago, is still a most interesting read, and helps explain the methods Ukraine's leaders have used to try to discredit or get the better of one another. [In the article it's still many of the same names on the gas merry-go-round as now, I'm afraid.] But at least after the Orange Revolution there's a free press and media..
Coalition of democratic forces? It looks a long way away.. And grand coalition? Maybe a bit nearer?
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
She also claims PR agrees with NSNU on Ukraine's entry into the EU and WTO, because it will widen access for Ukrainian business to external markets, adding "It seems to me that he - [Rinat Akhmetov] would be interested in such a [broad] coalition, as a representative of big business."
"The President's secretariat [where Ulyanchenko has an office] is not looking seriously into the question of the candidature of the PM at the moment."
Tetyana Mokridi, a NU press secretary, stated that the NU bloc could not decide at a political council meeting today whether to sign a democratic forces coalition protocol. A decision has been deferred until tomorrow.
But Yuliya Tymoshenko has accused a portion of NU led by Yekhanurov, Poroshenko, and Martynenko of wanting to form a coalition with PR, something she has ruled out for BYuT. She says she obtained the information from an insider - a member of the NU polit-rada, who told her that there is an NSNU campaign afoot to discredit negotiations on the creation of the democratic coalition, in order to create a broad coalition with PR.
She also appeals to the President to take personal responsibility in conducting talks with her and Socialist leader Moroz in this matter.
But perhaps, most sensationally she accuses Petro Poroshenko of co-operating with deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, and Mykola Martynenko of working with SBU chief Ihor Drizhchanyi to open a criminal case and sanction the arrests of Oleksandr Turchynov, BYuT #2, and Andriy Kozhemyakin, BYuT #25. Turchynov was former head of the SBU - Kozhemyakin an SBU adviser. This has all been denied by the Prosecutor General's office.
Meanwhile President Yushchenko strikes a statesman-like note and "is disturbed that the participants in the discussions [on coalition] are dragging their feet in developing a a realistic program of action for the coalition, and wasting too much time and energy on mutual insults in the mass media."
Yushchenko is caught in a dilemma. If he continues to procrastinate, he is open to accusations that he is doing under-the-table deals with 'the enemy' - PR. If he caves in and agrees to Tymoshenko becoming PM, the first thing she will do is pull her program out of her handbag and insist that her junior partners agree to it. If he forms a coalition with PR, then he will be despised by a large portion of the Orange electorate in central and western Ukraine.
Yuliya is in a much stronger position. Apart from having secured the support of a much larger portion of the electorate than NU in the March elections, in the 'worst possible case scenario' i.e. going into opposition against an NSNU-PR government, she has 'an ace in the hole' - a very good chance to crush Yushchenko in the next presidential elections.
What is Yushchenko to do with this woman? Perhaps there are worse fates than just lying back and thinking of Ukraine?
British Trade and Industry Minister Alan Johnson had eight meetings this year on how to block a potential takeover of British utility Centrica, the country's biggest gas supplier, by Gazprom, the Financial Times said on Monday.
Some collateral damage from the Ukraine/Russia gas crisis, no?
Monday, April 17, 2006
Meanwhile Taras Chornovil, Partiya Regioniv front man and their #4, has again declared that PR are ready to co-operate with the NU bloc in any coalition, on the proviso that Yanukovych is PM, and that the ghastly pair of Mykola Azarov and Andriy Klyuyev are vice PM's and ministers of finance and of fuel and energy respectively. What despicable characters they are is documented in Andrew Wilson's excellent "Ukraine's Orange Revolution" [Yale University Press].
The thought that they may wield power again propped up by the 'Our Ukraine' bloc is truly depressing, even for an outside observer like me.
And Yushchenko hints that he is not against new Kyiv mayor, "nutty-as-a-fruitcake" Leonid Chervonetsky, [see photo] who is already sacking people, changing locks, and controlling affairs using newly-introduced security men in the Kyiv city state administration..
An article [in Ukrainian] on pro-BYuT 'Kiyany' website describes was a swamp of nepotism the Kyiv city council has now become, and helps explain why things are turning out as they are..
Maybe there will be something more cheerful tomorrow.
Are there any lasting consequences? There must be because it keeps coming up and not only from her critics. But she can lay it all to rest now by simply saying how many she is going to inquire into when she takes the reins. I suspect she won’t/can’t do that because of her supporters. They want justice and who can blame them, a point I have made over and over here. The problem is that by getting that justice you may just drive off the very people who would be your friends. (Another point I have been making here.) As a case in point, Western companies that are here offer Ukrainian employees much better benefits and pay, on the whole, than their Ukrainian and Russian counterparts. Is that in the interests of Ukrainians?
And that’s the other problem with it. Discouraging Western investment doesn’t mean there will be no investment (though, it will always mean investment at much lower levels) it means that investment will come in from other areas. The chief candidate right now is Russia. Russians invest here now; they have more of a stomach for the risk (another point I have been making here.) But with Russian investment comes less transparency and less accountability. And it also comes freighted with Kremlin geopolitical ambitions. Russian businesses, to stay in business, have to bow to the Kremlin—pure business decisions must take a back seat to that. Some people might like that but is it the best for the country?
The same sorts of things can be said about going after the oligarchs and the other “bandits.” Will it serve the interests of Ukraine in the end? When they start lining up at the European Court of Human Rights making their case for persecution and framing it in ways that Europeans understand, let me know. (See here for something on this.) Will the Europeans have patience with it especially when it is remembered those Ukrainians took our natural gas? Maybe they won’t do it. But one of the markers of good governance should not be leaving an important flank exposed to the enemy.
A lot more can be said and maybe should be said, but won’t be said by me. I am out of the government critiquing business. I have to function here and don’t want that ability to be compromised in the future. So anything further to be said on the subject will be said to clients only from now on.
But I do wish them all success. I would like to see more Ukrainians better off than just the Mercedes and BMW owners around here. Of course, that may mean putting justice on hold-- and there's the rub.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
The newly-elected oddball mayor of Kyiv Leonid Chervonetsky was sworn into office Friday, apparently after a delay of two hours during which time he managed to scrape together a quorum of 61 registered city council deputies out of a total of 120. [Scott has previously posted info on this guy.]
Some deputies claim they were not aware that the ceremony was taking place, while others claim only 55 deputies were present. It all seems to have been rather a farce.
On Saturday a coalition comprising a total of 62 deputies called 'A Just Kyiv' led by Vitaliy Klychko, was formed by BYuT, Pora-PRP, and 'Hromadskyi aktyv Kyyeva' [HAK] factions.
Today Yuliya Tymoshenko condemned the support given to Chervonetsky's deputies by the NU and PR blocs. "I consider that such a coalition will practically make Kyiv a new business bridgehead for certain groupings, and practically ruin the aim of making Kyiv a civilized capital where politicians act fairly and honestly, in particular in the City council," she underlined.
She also promised that BYuT will not form any coalitions in any regional, city or oblast council with PR.
The Kyiv city council comprises 8 different political factions with 15 deputies from NU bloc, 9 from PR, and 21 from Chervonetsky's bloc. BYuT is the largest faction with 41 deputies.
I wonder if the NU 'nachal'stvo' will comment on this skulduggery..
Saturday, April 15, 2006
"Former Yushchenkite and now colleague of Yanukovych stole $3.5Bn?
Independent trade unions blame the Federation of Trade-Unions of Ukraine of illegally appropriating billions of dollars-worth of property.
They consider that nearly 300 objects* in Crimea, in the Carpathian mountain region, and elsewhere were sold in 'shadow' schemes. "We suspect that property to the value of $3.5 Bn has disappeared. The person responsible for this is Oleksandr Stoyan," said the head of Federation Mykhaylo Volynets.
He also accuses Oleksandr Yurkin, the new head of the Trade Union Federation, of involvement in the misappropriation. Both Yurkin and Stoyan deny all the accusations.
Stoyan refused to give any information of his earnings, or to show reporters his new dacha in Koncha-Zaspa, a swanky new recreation and leisure suburb of Kyiv where many of the rich and powerful, including Kuchma, have built dachas and live. Stoyan, who is #23 on the PR parliamentary election list explained, "The builders are still working there, and I haven't planted any flowers." In the previous parliament he had been on the NU bloc list."
Whatever the veracity of this particular story, millions of Ukrainians, not unreasonably, feel that most privatizations were 'a steal' - they remain poor, whilst the likes of the two above have made it 'big', and that some are now taking advantage of criminal immunity in parliament .
Yuliya Tymoshenko taps into this ground swell of opinion on this core issue, and until some kind of legal clear-out procedure take place, the sense of injustice will linger.
On 16th February last year, Tymoshenko, when she was PM, gave a press conference from which sprung forth the story that she intended to privatize 3000 enterprises, spooking so many investors. Certainly a lot of damage was done, vital investments went elsewhere, and Tymoshenko herself was branded a rampant 're-nationalizer'. The story was reported in ForUm thus:
I've translated some bits so that readers can make up their own mind what Tymoshenko's intentions were, and whether she was wise to tackle this matter in the manner she did:
"Tymoshenko to sort out the privatizations of 3,000 enterprises"
"The gov't is to review the legality of privatization of more than 3,000 enterprises, the results of the inspections of which were set aside by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine for five years," declared PM Yuliya Tymoshenko.
"The leaders of the state covered up these criminal transgressions during the time of privatization... the absence of competition, and unprecedented reduction of the estimated value of state-owned objects...childrens camps, and superb industrial establishments were sold off for kopeks."
PM Tymoshenko reported that at that day's Cabinet meeting, the gov't and Procurator General's office had co-ordinated their actions. "And for each establishment where transgressions are exposed, a plan will be adopted, so that we can return to the state, that which was illegally transferred into private hands, solely by deceit and corruption," noted the head of the gov't.
She also reported that the given materials would be analyzed by the Ministry of Justice, and after this they would be handed over to a court. "We will return to state ownership, in an absolutely legitimate way, that which was illegally privatized."
"Nobody today can say what the number of objects that will be returned to state ownership [will be]. It has been established that violations during privatization occurred, and there are courts that should investigate these questions," she emphasized.
*probably holiday camps, sanatoria etc. LEvko
Friday, April 14, 2006
Today NSNU #1 Yekhanurov stated that according to the protocol, Tymoshenko may well not be PM, 'correcting' Tymoshenko's statement that it will be she that is the main pretender to the post of PM.
Yekhanurov queried paragraph 6 on the signed protocol and says the political council of NU are studying the matter. According to Yekhanurov, "It's important that people understand the principles of the work of this coalition, and not whose physiognomy will head the government, or 'adorn' the cabinet."
Tymoshenko has wasted no time responding, and upped the ante, striking back at NU's backpedalling. She told unian: "The protocol on the [democratic] coalition will be denounced, if NU does not sign it in its totality."
Bezsmertnyi said earlier today that NSNU party council presidium has excluded article 6 of the protocol which may be interpreted that BYuT, as biggest coalition member, selects the PM. Article 6 states that the agreement on the coalition "is being prepared on the basis of the principles, laid out in the memorandum project on [setting up] of the coalition of democratic forces." The memorandum envisaged that the PM will be proposed by the political force who obtains most votes in the election ballot.
Yushchenko held quite a lengthy press conference a couple of days ago. He was quite irritable, rude and agressive to some of the journalist's answering their questions. When asked if he would he agree to YT as PM, instead of obfuscating [which he should really learn to do] he curtly replied, it was not a matter for that day. He praised Yekhanurov - 'a talented PM who wants to be perfect'. During the press conference he mentioned Y.T. only once by name. "Yesterday..it became apparent that Moroz and Tymoshenko will support my programe.."
Now the NU bloc is insisting that article 6 be removed from the coalition protocol.
Tymoshenko's response in a TV interview is that article 6 is the 'heart of the protocol' in which all the procedures for creating the coalition agreements are laid out. She appeals President Yushchenko to get involved in the processes going on in NU and stop the ruinous steps of politicians who are fighting to create a coalition between PR and the NU bloc.
But he clearly is in no way reconciled to working with YT as PM even after the mauling NSNU received in the elections.
*English dance song. 'Left leg in, right leg out, in out, in out, shake it all about..
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Roman Bezsmertnyi to-night signed a protocol on the priciples of formation of the coalition of democratic forces in the newly-elected parliament. The terms of the protocol indicate Tymoshenko will be PM.
Maybe I'm a cynic, but I feel like the miserable old drunk at a wedding. "I give it six months.." But can 'Regiony' stick together for that long?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Ukraine's richest man and newly-elected VR deputy, Rinat Akhmetov, received an unpleasant surprise yesterday when the Donetsk oblast state court took away 145 hectares of his land that had once been part of the Donetsk botanical gardens. The Court anulled a decision which had been taken by the Donetsk City Council to give Akhmetov, a.k.a. 'Botanik', the land on which, apparently, Akhmetov has a residence, together with several buildings built by Viktor Yanukovych.
The land in question comprises an arboretum, and has been transferred back to a communal enterprise: "The Donetsk Ecological Investment Project".
On 10th September 2004, just before the Orange Revolution and while Yanukovych was still PM, former President Leonid Kuchma signed an 'ukaz' reducing the area of the Donetsk botanical gardens by 63 hectares. Many similar transfers of portions of nature reserves and reservations to Kuchma's flunkeys took place in the months before the Autumn 2004 Presidential elections.
Meanwhile, Oleksiy Ivchenko, chairman of Ukrainian State Gas Company 'NaftohazUkrainy', has been personally ordered by President Yushchenko to return his new company car, an S-class Mercedes AMG [list price $215,000] back to the showroom for resale. The President, in a press conference today insisted a moratorium be held on e.g. the purchase of expensive automobiles, apartments, and similar 'perks' for high-ranking civil servants.
Last week 'Ukrainska Pravda' had exposed the purchase of Ivchenko's 'new toy' to its readers, at a time when rumours were circulating that 'NaftohazUkrainy' are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Ivchenko was at the heart of the Gazprom-RosUkrEnergo-Naftohaz Ukrainy negotiations following the 1st January gas crisis, and is #25 on NSNU's list of newly-elected VR deputies. There are unconfirmed reports that he may soon be fired.
It's a pity Yushchenko did not 'crack the whip' early last year when he first became President.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
President Yushchenko today met leaders of the political blocs that have been elected to the new Verkhovna Rada. I wonder what the 'body-language' people make of these photos from 'Ukrainska Pravda'
Yuliya and a 'thoughtful' Yanukovych answering journalist's questions after the meeting.
For readers interested in this sort of thing, here are the almost Disneyesque shoes Yulka wore for the meeting:
Tips on doing business Russia from today's London "Times" includes this: "You may well want to keep any fondness for Ukraine to yourself — Ukrainians often form the butt of Russian jokes. Typically, a joke would include references to Ukrainians’ cunning and their prediliction for fatty food — in particular salo, a sort of lard. Yummy..
Monday, April 10, 2006
"Coalition trio see no obstacles to signing agreements - the coalition of democratic forces will comprise only three political forces," reports Expres.ua
The next meeting is scheduled in two day's time. By that time the leaders of the parties are to prepare conditions, on the basis of which the future coalition is to act. Any coalition agreement will not be signed however, before the first sitting of the new VR.
In an interview with the Polish "Tygodnik Powczechny"
"I am ready to forget the insults," she added. Maybe that's the trade-off - I'll be PM now, but won't challenge you for job as 'top banana' in '09.
But before anyone gets carried away, Petro Poroshenko, Yulka's biggest enemy in NSNU, maybe sensing danger, said in a newspaper interview today, "Yuliya Volodymyrivna as PM would be dangerous for the economy and for democracy."
Sunday, April 09, 2006
- E.g. "[in the elections] the electorate preferred those political forces which supported me in the 2004 presidential election."
- And yet: "the government to be formed by a coalition should be a government of all Ukrainians and not only of those who backed certain political forces."
- "Political reform... upset the balance of state power and did not provide effectiveness and harmony to the issue of interaction between the president, parliament, government, the centre and the regions. The issue of improving the Constitution of Ukraine will undoubtedly be on the agenda of the work of the coalition in parliament."
- He is also very keen on: "The speedy formation of a viable Constitutional Court of Ukraine [which] should be the new Supreme Council's [VR or parliament's] first test on compliance with the constitution."
It is this Court that has the power to possibly declare the above-mentioned political reforms unconstitutional, and nullify them.
Some observers speculate that the agreement to overturn Constitutional reforms could be a bargaining chip to be proposed to Tymoshenko, i.e. Yushchenko agrees to her ardent wish to become PM [but with much reduced powers] if she agrees to push through annulment of the January 2006 political reforms, and return to the President the very significant powers enjoyed by Kuchma.
All this is highly ironic, of course. The adoption of Constitutional reform in December 2004 by a large majority in the old VR was the 'trade-off' Yushchenko made in order that Kuchma agree to the 26th December re-run in the Presidential elections. At the time Tymoshenko argued that Yushchenko, true to form, was being too soft, and was giving away too much to Kuchma's cronies in the VR, just as victory was in sight. [At the time these cronies probably felt reasonably confident that they would be re-elected in March 2006, and the reforms would enhance their power, whilst reducing Yushchenko's power.]
All but one of Tymoshenko's deputies voted against Constitutional reform, as did a significant portion of NU deputies. [Oddly, neither Yush not Yulia voted.] There is a snag though. Moroz and the Socialists have always been keen on Constitutional reform, and the reduction of Presidential powers. They are also an essential constituent in any 'Orange coalition'. Saturday's address may indicate Yushchenko is more interested in returning to the old Constitution which would have provided him with enhanced powers, than in the formation of a Parliamentary coalition.
Response to Comment: Socialist leader Moroz is getting old. Just a guess, but I think he would like get his hands on the levers of power for a year or two, in whatever political arrangement, before retiring.
There is a greater likelyhood of PR breaking up into fractions if they are driven into opposition. Poroshenko and other 'biznismyeny' in NSNU wanted to 'leave the door open to other democratic forces' apart from BYuT and the Socialists, at a recent NSNU political council meeting called to unify policy on formation of a coalition, but 92 out of 134 present voted against such an ammendment. [I wrote of this in a previous blog]
Incidentally, a recent article in 'Ukraina Moloda' [which also mentions the above] states: "Yushchenko, as opposed to many of his fellow party members, AGREES to the election of Yuliya T to the PM position. But agreements must be first formalized with certain conditions". The editor of 'Ukraina Moloda', Mykhaylo Doroshenko and Viktor Yush go back a long way - some say he is one of Prez's closest [non business] confidants...
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Lasts night, they had the leaders of the parties who won seats in Parliament, ByT, NSNU, the Socialists, the Communists and PR. We didn't watch much of it but stayed with it a little more when Yulia stood up to speak. She was effective as she normally is.
When she spoke, though, it was interesting to see what the others from the other parties were doing. There were a number of heads looking down at their desks from NSNU and others. Might say something.
And in Kyiv, NSNU was supported by less than 16% of Kyivites, as compared to 78% of votes accumulated by Yushchenko on 26th December 2004. His message at the press conference was: "The business elite of Our Ukraine are discrediting the President," i.e. Tomenko is attacking Yushchenko's coterie, but not him directly.
FT reports that uncertainty and failure to form a coalition could precipitate a currency crisis.
And President Yushchenko will be delivering a radio address to the nation tonight, 18:00 local time. He is supposed to be laying out the priniciples, as he sees them, for formation of a coalition. Link to internet access here. Will he continue to dither?
Today's radio address by President Yushchenko, on 'Formation of a Parliamentary coalition', included these main points:
- Political consulations will continue immediately after the official results of the elections have been published.
- President will consider the canditatures for the leading positions in the government only after a program of activity by the future parliamentary coalition has been determined...
- The government which will be formed by the coalition, should become a government for all Ukrainians, and not only those who supported certain political forces. The government should work for the unity of the country, and should allocate much attention to humanitarian, unifying policies.
- Quote: "I will not allow the country to again loose time because of the inability of some politicians to work in a team."
'Grand coalition', or BYuT-NSNU-Soc coalition?
Friday, April 07, 2006
Tymoshenko's supporters are active. On a local radio program, the agricultural minister made a lot of the economic mistakes of the Tymoshenko government. He said he would not serve if she becomes PM.
The program had call in numbers where they asked if the agricultural minister should serve in the new Tymoshenko government. The vote was 172 yes, 900 no. And he's a Socialist. These kinds of votes favor those who are motivated so I think this one shows who is.
I think it is likely that in any new vote the Our Ukraine supporters just wouldn't show up. Why bother if the numbers are going to be like the last or any where near? That would skew a re-vote Tymoshenko's way.
I hope Yushchenko and his advisers read Tammy Lych's letter in Thursday's 'Kyiv Post.' A quote: "..in any democracy, elections are messages to the incumbent. Incumbents who respond to those messages survive. Those who do not, don’t."
President Yushchenko's star is in decline. If he were to dismiss Parliament in the event that a workable coalition were not formed, then the likelyhood is that the NU bloc would be humiliated even further - they might even be doomed as a political force. Yushchenko's legacy in Ukrainian history would be tarnished - something political leaders are ever mindful of.
Minister of Agriculture Oleksandr Baranivskyi's recent declaration that he will never agree to work in a government headed by Tymoshenko was a surprise. As Scott says, the Socialist party of which he is a member, had agreed to support Tymoshenko's bid for the PM's job - but this is just another illustration of the fractured nature of Ukrainian politics, and how difficult it will be for any coalition to survive before splits occur in the months to come.
In a recent TV interview, one of Yushchenko's closest advisers, Petro Poroshenko, who felt that he should have been appointed PM ahead of Tymoshenko a year last January, and who Tymoshenko regards as one of her biggest enemies in the NU camp, said: "I do not, unfortunately, detect any moving together of the political positions of Party of Regions and NU bloc."
As one of Ukraine's wealthiest men, he may have been one of those in the NU camp who would be interested in co-operating with magnates and oligarchs from Yanukovych's PR in a 'grand coalition.' But apparently he is not having much success convincing others. Does this indicate that the pendulum is swinging more towards an NSNU-BYuT-Socialist deal?
The big stumbling block for many in the NSNU, particularly its highest echelons, is Tymoshenko herself. But no matter how distasteful it is for them, BYuT are 'on the up' and have been for many months now. It's probably up to NSNU members further down the tree to make their voices heard. Maybe the 'Hell's Angel' in this photograph has already made up his mind..
Thursday, April 06, 2006
The deal clincher that NSNU are terrified of putting on the table is: Tymoshenko to be acknowledged PM of the 'orange coalition,' now rebranded as coalition of 'democratic forces'.
Today Tymoshenko and Moroz have written an open letter to the President, stating they are disturbed that formation of the 'democratic coalition' is being dragged out. "At this historic moment, a lot depends on your position, [Mr President]" They accuse the NU bloc leadership of "indecisiveness."
At a joint press conference with Moroz, Tymoshenko was, again unequivocal: "We are absolutely consistent. And if there is to be no coalition, we will go into opposition, and [I] will work there with pleasure together with Moroz." But 'Glavred' quotes Moroz as adding, "This moment is not the time to talk of opposition.."
Stanislav Byelkovskyi, an analyst I rate, reckons that at the moment there's a 60% chance of a 'democratic coalition' eventually being formed, and a 40% chance of a 'grand coalition' that includes RU.
A quote from Yushchenko: "Eight months ago such a coalition already existed. It fell apart. Lessons learned? The problems that dismantled the previous coalition, are they solved? It's necessary to bear in mind that there's a third of voters, who voted for a different political force." Sounds to me as if Yushchenko is a 'grand coalition' man.
NSNU #2 Anatoliy Kinakh in a TV interview on 5-iy Kanal Wednesday seems to lean this way too, and NSNU #1 Yekhanurov has already said during the election campaign that he would not work with Tymoshenko "under any conditions." If they really consider a 'grand coalition' to be of greater long-term benefit, then they should start making the case for it more clearly to the public.
The whole thing is straight out of Marx. Akhmetov's marriage of convenience is based on shared class interests. If Yanukovych and Yushchenko join forces, they will create the first truly bourgeois Cabinet in Ukrainian history. Until now the ruling class has been split into clans, all pursuing their own narrow business interests. Following the Orange Revolution, the bourgeoisie appears to have emerged as a class.
Of course, the argument is that it would happen with a Yanu-Yuschenko government. But LEvko has been reporting some grumbling in the blue ranks. That might be an indication of something going on along these lines anyway.
They are demanding the positions of PM, vice-PM, economy minister, and minister of power, for their party, and lay out detailed conditions for forming a coalition.
The project reveals RU's support of WTO membership and presents a broadly euro-integrational posture. Possible coalition partners consider the project to be just a ritualistic stunt for the benefit of their electorate, to show that 'they are doing something'.
Political experts do not discount the possibility of an orange coalition being formed which includes several dozen representatives of big business who may drift over from the PR election list, presumably because these guys did not fund their campaign for mere political principles, but to be in power.
There is a trial of strength going on inside the President's camp, but significantly, the 186 member NSNU ruling council held a meeting Wednesday night and voted to accept an agreement document to be signed by their envisaged 'democratic forces' coalition members, i.e. BYuT and the Socialists. A motion proposing the agreement be open for signing by PR and Communists was rejected.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
It de-bunks some of the suspect claims made by journalists and observers when discussing the main parties and leaders on the Ukrainian political stage - it's a breath of fresh air..
There's an interesting piece by Dr Ariel Cohen published on the Heritage Foundation site, about troubles brewing in South Ossetia, which if they "spin out of control...can cause a Russian-Georgian military confrontation with unpredictable consequences for the region and the world." There is a gas and oil supply angle to all of this too. Georgia provides an important access route, which avoids Russia, for gas and oil from the Caspian sea region.
Finally, Chairman of Ukraine's Supreme Court Vasyl Malyarenko resigned today. This man should have been 'out of the door' as soon as the new Orange order came to power. I hope his alleged complicity in various crimes can be investigated now that he has failed to gain a place in the Verkhovna Rada and obtain immunity from criminal prosecution. Good riddance...
Russian experts say the US decision to lift cold war-era trade restrictions on Ukraine on the eve of last month's elections is an example of American interference.
But of course. Drugs to keep people mindlessly spouting the US line, US boots, spiked oranges, payments to the thousands on the Maidan, a truckload of CIA vodka for shipped-in Yanukovych people and now the repeal of Jackson-Vanik. Is there no end to the indignity?
Monday, April 03, 2006
She later talked of "de-oligarchization" of the country, tapping into a widespread feeling amongst the orange electorate that persons responsible for the worst excesses of the Kuchma regime have somehow escaped justice, and worse, are burrowing their way back into political structures.
Yushchenko, in today's 'Wall Street Journal,' while not mentioning Tymoshenko by name, speaks of .."a game of musical chairs, where party leaders are more interested in ministerial portfolios and prized legislative committee chairmanships than reaching specific policy goals.."
Tymoshenko's economic record and programs may certainly be questioned, but the numbers on the Central Electoral Committee plasma screens cannot. Any delay by NSNU to confirm Tymoshenko as PM in a future Orange government will erode even more NSNU's support and Yushchenko's authority amongst the Ukrainian electorate. NSNU and BYuT politicians at regional level are already accepting reality and are agreeing to work together.
'If BYuT become the largest Orange party, then Tymoshenko will be PM in any Orange coalition,' was the central plank of BYuT's election campaign. In a feisty interview in 'Izvestiya' she again makes her position very clear. She is not interested in being Parliamentary speaker or a 'technical' [that word again] prime minister.
The music stopped and musical chairs finished on March 26th - some of NSNU's leaders are beginning to look like bad losers.
Sandy beaches in the winter and mountain cabin in the summer here I come.
LEvko has made the case for Julia these past couple of days very ably. I made that case for her after the OR. I also defended her in these pages against some baseless charges made by Russian interests. I would make that defense again. I'd much rather have some evidence to base charges on than identification with Lazarenko or on some "that-is-the-way-they-do-things-there" kind of assessment.
There is no doubt that she won the votes she got with an effective campaign and that she is a very remarkable woman. My problem with her has been the policies she espoused and at times acted on during her time as PM. That they were not good for business is clear.
Some have commented with a so what? She has better things to do than to keep business happy. That's a nice abstract view of the world where causes can be neatly separated from effects. I don't know how you can get people better jobs here unless attention is paid to business. (And an argument can be made that the robber barons took what they took becasue not enough attention was paid to business originally.)
Maybe they could re-nationalize all the industries and make everyone government employees again? Some here would welcome that though it would be a small minority. But then we could look away as the champagne flows and the caviar is piled high in lush suites or exclusive dachas by civil servants because we know they are acting in behalf of the people--or because it is ideologically congenial to us. Abstractions in conflict with reality.
People here need jobs and good paying ones. If there is a better idea around than creating more businesses and business activity, I'd love to hear it.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
President Yushchenko and the NSNU party council members should pin up in their offices this map of which party took which oblast in the parliamentary elections.
They should take a good look at it before making any further pronouncements on possible parliamentary coalitions.
The statements that they have been making show the stark reality of their terrible performance has not yet sunk in. [E.g Petro Poroshenko on his own TV station] Even in an Orange coalition they will be outnumbered 2 to 1 by ByuT-ivtsi and Socialists.
They would be wise to heed the voice of the electorate...
Saturday, April 01, 2006
We look at the pie chart representing the composition of new Vekhovna Rada and see five different, evenly colored blocs with numbers alongside. It looks pretty.
Reality is much more complex, particularly in Ukrainian politics. A good example of lack of political discipline was the vote in the VR 10th January 2006 on the motion to fire Yekhanurov and dismiss his government after their inept and devious renegotiation of gas supply contracts with Russia. There were 250 votes supporting the motion to dismiss, and 50 against against out of a VR total of 450.
19 of Our Ukraine's deputies voted against, but 21 abstained, or more correctly 'didn't vote'. Anatoliy Kinakh's PPPU party showed similar indiscipline - 13 'didn't vote' and only 1 voted against the motion. [Kinakh is #2 on the NSNU election list - behind #1 Yekhanurov!]
Of the big three parties, NSNU are perhaps the most likely to splinter into various factions. In the event that their leadership agrees to form an Orange coalition together with the Socialists and BYuT, at least 64 of their 81 deputies must support any vote in the VR to carry any motion [assuming that no Socialist or BYuT deputies decide to 'throw a wobbly' and rebel]. Previous perfomance then do not provide any confidence that an Orange coalition would be sustainable for any long period.
An RU - NSNU coalition looks more stable, with RU + Communists holding 207 votes. But they would need at least 19 of NSNU's 81 deputies to support them and carry any motion; in an often febrile VR, with the mistrust and hostility between NSNU and RU, even this cannot be guaranteed with any degree of certainty.
New rules are being introduced to prevent deputies hopping from bloc to bloc, but I understand this will not prevent any deputy who does so from voting - there is no mechanism forcing him to give up his voting mandate even if kicked out of his [or her] party.
There are deep rumblings of discontent in RU party too, inside which "prison rules operate", according to an article entited 'Party of Region threatened by split, and some party members are [even] beaten by their bosses.'
Many members are " tired of the fear, which rules inside its party organization." Each party leader has "lads' who can cripple us," claim some intimidated RU members. However if RU were to be driven into opposition then surely the the likelyhood of internal fissures occurring will increase. "If our party falls apart, most of its members would be ready to go over to our opponents. At least the Donetsk members of PR would certainly go over," they say. Some much-needed encouragement for the Orange forces there then.
The Donbass region can not be governed by one monolithic party for much longer, pluralist democracy will surely develop there soon.
In Friday night's interview on 5iy Kanal, which is well worth watching, Tymoshenko gave no indication of deviating from her election campaign pledges, i.e.  no coalition with RU under any circumstances,  BYuT will only enter into an orange coalition if she is PM [and, I assume, as senior partner, picks most of the ministers]. This puts the dampener on any possibility of 'grand coalition' or government of national unity which Yushchenko seems to favor.
Yushchenko tried to impose his authority on matters in a radio address today but I have the impression that Tymoshenko is not in the mood to compromise with anyone.