Friday, September 30, 2005

Ukraine: Pragmatic Interim Government

MOSCOW, Russia -- There are no surprises in the new Ukranian government, although a number of ministers, who were believed to be favorites by the press, have lost their positions. On the whole, however, the outcome is not unexpected, and testifies to the hardened pragmatism of the Ukrainian elite.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Yury Yekhanurov

Former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh has left the Government but has remained in the system. Experts say that he has even been promoted to succeed Petro Poroshenko in the post of secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC).

However, this promotion appears to be purely a formality: unlike his predecessor, Kinakh cannot take part in appointing judges, Supreme Justice Council members, regional power department leaders and military rank conferment. In addition, the NSDC Secretary has lost the status of a Presidential advisor as well as the right to be present at the Council of Ministers sessions and issue orders to the executive bodies. Yet Kinakh has accepted this "high-status" position, which he probably needs as a stepping-stone for the post of prime minister.

Finance Minister Viktor Pinzenik, who had been called the Ukrainian Gaidar in the 1990s, did not hesitate between political loyalty to Yulia Timoshenko and the desire to remain a minister. While Timoshenko had offered Pinzenik the prospect of becoming the finance minister in the future, following the Rada elections, and without any guarantees (as she may never return to premiership), Yushchenko was in a position to do it now. Acting rationally, the pragmatic minister joined Ekhanurov's team.

Foreign Affairs Minister Boris Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoly Hritsenko have remained in the Government. This means that the pro-Western orientation of Ukraine's defense and foreign policies will remain unaltered. Kiev Mayor Alexander Omelchenko, though not the member of the new Cabinet, is still regarded as the winner in this situation. He is the only regional leader who has kept his position since Yushchenko came to power. Now his position has become even stronger, since Fuel and Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov, his representative in the government, has kept his post. In addition, Omelchenko's old buddy, Stanislav Stashevsky, who had been Kiev's Vice-Mayor for many years, has become Vice-Premier of the new Cabinet. Some years ago Stashevsky served as Fuel and Energy Minister, but without much success.

Ivan Sakhan, another veteran politician, has become Labor and Social Policy Minister. Some years ago he held this post in three consecutive Cabinets. Lately he worked as General Director of Ukraine's Aluminum, a subsidiary of Oleg Deripaska's Russian Aluminum.

Arseny Yatsenyuk (who was member of Sergey Tihipko's team when he was Head of the National Bank of Ukraine) has become Minister of Economics. During last year's presidential election campaign Tigipko was head of Yanukovitch's election headquarters. Tigipko lost his post as the head of the National Bank as a result of the "orange revolution", and Yatsenyuk was not able to work with his successor, Yushchenko's old friend Vladimir Stelmakh. At that time experts of the stock market expressed their disappointment at the departure of a high-level market-minded professional, but now Yatsenyuk has been recruited to join Ekhanurov's team. As for who sided with whom during the revolution days, it doesn't seem important in the pragmatic atmosphere of Ukraine today.

On the whole, the new government is an odd assortment of politicians. There is Pinzenik, a classic liberal professor with an obvious taste for politics; Stashevsky, a retirement age economic manager of the Soviet mold; Sakhan, who had worked in Komsomol for many years and in the late 1980s was the Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee inspector; 31-year-old Yatsenyuk, as well as 29-year-old Viktor Bondar, the new Transport and Communications Minister, who are young modern managers. Nothing but political pragmatism unites all these very different people.

Will this government be an efficient union of like-minded people able to handle the serious problems Ukraine is facing, such as the sharp decline of economic growth, high inflation, and inability to attract investment? Looks like the next Cabinet, which will be elected in spring, will have to deal with all these issues. The purpose of Ekhanurov's government is to get through the winter without a new government crisis or rigorous rivalry of ambitious politicians. In essence, it is an interim government, which is probably not expected to make any fundamental decisions.

Yet there are grounds to assume that even after the elections the new Ukrainian government will resemble Ekhanurov's Cabinet. New people will come to it, but the fundamental idea of the elite's pragmatic compromise, will remain. It is evident that no Ukrainian political party or even a stable political coalition will be able to form an election-based government on its own. So, it is likely that the future Ukraine's Cabinet will have the same complicated and contradictory structure as Ekhanurov's interim government.

Source: RIA Novosti

To Shut Doors Tightly

MOSCOW, Russia -- Oleg Rybachuk, head of the Ukrainian presidential secretariat, arrived on a working visit in Moscow Wednesday to hold informal talks with the staff of the Russian president. Rybachuk is the third politician of Ukraine who came to Moscow during a week.

Oleh Rybachuk

Before the departure, Rybachuk said he was heading for Moscow to gain experience. On September 8, 2005, Rybachuk moved from the vice premier office to take over the secretariat of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Rybachuk’s briefer Svetlana Zalishchuk said her chief intends to hold informal meetings with some Russian politicians and experts. The highlight is reorganization of the presidential secretariat, where the Russian experience is also significant.

It is the second Moscow tour of Oleg Rybachuk over a month. Moreover, he is the third influential politician of Ukraine, whom Russia’s capital welcomed during a week. Former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Timoshenko was in Moscow only five days ago. She settled all issues with military prosecutors of Russia and dropped in at Putin’s administration on the way. After the visit, Timoshenko’s mate and former vice premier Nikolay Tomenko hinted she was in Moscow as a leader of parliamentary election campaign, with whom it is better to make an agreement than to compete or wage war.

Oleg Rybachuk represents quite the opposite party. Before the orange split into Yushchenko and Timoshenko’s groups, today’s office of Rybachuk was held by Alexander Zinchenko, who acted as a link between Yushchenko and Kremlin. Zinchenko does the same now but for Timoshenko.

Rybachuk’s briefer blankly denied any relation of the present visit of her chief to the Moscow visit of Timoshenko. Nevertheless, it is clear that today’s top priority for Rybachuk is to enter into direct connection with Moscow, which was broken by Zinchenko’s withdrawal. In addition, it is the beginning of election fight in Ukraine, so Ryabachuk is not only to study out the structure of the Putin’s administration but also to endeavor to shut its doors for Timoshenko.

Source: Kommersant

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ukraine’s New Prime Minister Yekhanurov Says No More Re-Privatizations

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov said on Thursday, Sept. 29, that re-privatization processes launched by his predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko, are now officially over and that the authorities will conduct their relations with business in a new way, Interfax-Ukraine reported.


PM Yuri Yekhanurov (L) and President Viktor Yushchenko (R)

Speaking in Ukraine’s Dnepropetrovsk region, Yekhanurov said that it is necessary to guarantee the inviolability of private property. “That which had to be returned to the custody of the state, has already been returned.

All of the controversial issues which exist today will be solved only by negotiations and amicable agreements,” the prime minister said. The head of the Ukrainian government also added that the main task of his new cabinet is to stabilize the country’s economy.

As MosNews reported in February, then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said that as many as 3,000 privatization deals may be reconsidered and overturned by the new government, prompting her boss, President Viktor Yushchenko to refute the statement. Yushchenko said then that “re-privatization is the politics of exception”.

The best known re-privatization action taken by the Ukrainian government after the Orange Revolution involved Krivorozhstal, Ukraine’s largest steel producer. The company was privatized in June 2004 and 93.02 percent of its shares were sold to Ukrainian consortium Investment Metallurgy Union which united the companies of Donetsk-based businessman Rinat Akhmetov and of then-President Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk.

The consortium acquired the stake for $800 million, while Russia’s Severstal offered to pay $1.2 billion and LNM-US Steel — $1.5 billion for the same shares. After Kuchma lost his post, the new Ukrainian government ruled that the privatization was illegal and took the shares back into state custody. Now Ukraine plans to hold another tender for Krivorozhstal.

Source: MosNews

Ukraine's Yushchenko Slumps in Polls After Split

KIEV, Ukraine -- Support for President Viktor Yushchenko has plunged after an acrimonious split in the team that led Ukraine's Orange Revolution last year and allegations of mass graft, opinion polls showed on Wednesday.

The latest survey was published as Yushchenko proceeded with rebuilding his cabinet nearly three weeks after dismissing Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- his ally in the mass protests last year that led to his election.

Having won parliament's support for technocrat Yuri Yekhanurov as premier, he named a young central bank specialist to replace an ally of the ousted Tymoshenko as economy minister.

Some members of the outgoing team stayed on. But key appointments were still to be made, including whether to retain Viktor Pynzenyk, another Tymoshenko ally, as finance minister.

The poll by the Democratic Initiatives Fund, conducted this month, showed 61 percent of 1,803 respondents believed Ukraine was moving in the wrong direction. About 41 percent had no trust in the president compared with about 33 percent who trusted him.

Yushchenko took power in January after a re-run of a rigged presidential poll by winning over 52 percent of the vote and pledging to engineer reforms that would enable Ukraine one day to join the European Union.

Ukraine's most popular and trusted politician, he had only eight percent of voters expressing no trust in him in March.

DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT

"The situation has changed into the complete opposite. It is worse than during President Leonid Kuchma's term," Iryna Bekeshkina of the Fund told reporters, referring to the 10 years of scandal-plagued administration by Yushchenko's predecessor.

"This is the result of deep disappointment among those who had such high expectations after the Orange Revolution."

Public opinion was jolted by his dismissal of Tymoshenko and her entire cabinet on September 8 after each of the two camps in the government accused the other of involvement in graft.

The ousted prime minister, admired for her rousing speeches, vows to get her job back by beating Yushchenko's allies in an election next March to a parliament with expanded powers.

Many Ukrainians were also upset by a scandal over the extravagant lifestyle of the president's eldest son, a 21-year-old student, and reports that his family owns the copyright on slogans and symbols of the Orange Revolution.

Pollsters said with Yushchenko and Tymoshenko engaged in a war of words, a third force could emerge the winner in March.

"When two lions are fighting, other animals could get the prize," Bekeshkina said.

She singled out the Regions of Ukraine party led by Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Moscow politician defeated by Yushchenko in the presidential election.

Polls monitoring party support put Regions of Ukraine in the lead with 20.7 percent. Tymoshenko's Fatherland party lay second with 20.5 percent and Yushchenko's Our Ukraine had 13.9 percent.

A failure to win enough seats would put in doubt Yushchenko's plan to move closer to the European mainstream as from the New Year as his powers will be reduced in favour of parliament.

Both Tymoshenko and Yanukovich have a record of making sweeping promises to voters based on stronger state interference in the economy. Yanukovich backs closer ties with Russia.

Source: Reuters

Yushchenko Reappoints Pynzenyk, Names Bondar Transportation Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko re-appointed Viktor Pynzenyk as the finance minister and appointed Viktor Bondar as the transportation minister to replace Yevhen Chervonenko, a close ally of Yushchenko, the presidential press service reported.


Finance Minister Viktor Pynzenyk

The latest appointments, which come a day later than most of other appointments, show they may be politically motivated as Yushchenko has been carefully screening the candidates.

By re-appointing the finance minister Yushchenko has been apparently seeking to win support of Pynzenyk's party, the Reforms and Order Party, ahead of the March 2006 election and to prevent its alliance with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

After the re-appointment Pynzenyk issued a statement where he had called on his party fellows to stop the split and to back Yushchenko.

"We came with Viktor Yushchenko not to spread hostilities, but to jointly with him overcome a difficult heritage of social problems and to build a new [society]," Pynzenyk said. "I stay to collect the stones. Let God stop those who seek to throw the stones."

Mykola Tomenko, a member of the Reforms and Order and an ardent backer of Tymoshenko, said recently that Pynzenyk will have to quit the post of the party leader if he stays in the government.

However, other party members said the matter had not been yet decided and suggested a party congress later this year may still vote to support Yushchenko, not Tymoshenko.

Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko Sept. 8 amid a wave of mutual accusations of corruption between supporters of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

By replacing Chervonenko, Yushchenko has been apparently responding to allegations that the former transportation minister, formerly a wealthy businessman, may have maintained hidden links to business.

Although Chervonenko repeatedly denied having any links with any businesses, the allegations could still spoil Yushchenko's party performance ahead of the vote, analysts said.

Bondar, 30, is the youngest member of the government. Until his latest appointment, Bondar worked as the first deputy transportation minister.

Yushchenko also appointed Pavlo Kachur as the construction and architecture minister.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Is PORA Turning Against Yushchenko?

KIEV, Ukraine -- Pora, the non-governmental organization that played a decisive role in Ukraine's Orange Revolution, has adopted a highly critical stance towards the ten-point memorandum signed last week by President Viktor Yushchenko and the leader of the Party of Regions, former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.


Members of "Black" PORA

An interactive poll on Pora's website found that 29.2% of respondents believed Yushchenko had "betrayed" the ideals of the Orange Revolution. Another 32.5% believed that ousted National Security and Defense Council secretary Petro Poroshenko had betrayed them, while only 10.3% believed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko had done so.

One wing of Pora (commonly referred to as "yellow" because of their symbols) worked closely with Yushchenko in the 2004 presidential elections. Another wing of Pora (commonly referred to as "black" for the same reason) worked independently and drew its inspiration from Serbia's OTPOR youth group.

The "yellow" wing of Pora clashed with the minister of justice when he attempted to block the registration of their new political party. Eventually, a Kyiv court ordered the Ministry to retroactively register the party as of March, so that it could stand in the March 2006 parliamentary elections.

Outgoing minister of justice Roman Zvarych will not be re-appointed to the new government headed by Yuriy Yekhanurov. Zvarych, an American-Ukrainian who exchanged his American citizenship for a Ukrainian passport in the 1990s, was embroiled in a separate scandal surrounding his exaggerated academic credentials (see EDM, May 4). Pora's relationship with Zvarych has remained lukewarm.

The Pora political party has appealed to outgoing government members sympathetic to Tymoshenko to join their 2006 election bloc. The appeal was sent to outgoing state secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko, his deputy, Markian Lubkivsky, Channel 1 state television CEO Taras Stetskiv, and MP Volodymyr Filenko. Stetskiv and Filenko played prominent roles in organizing the Orange Revolution.

"These politicians," according to the appeal, "have similar positions, political views, and moral beliefs that concur with the values and principles of Pora's activities". The appeal then called upon these four men to join the Pora party.

Zinchenko is considered to be a likely candidate to lead the Pora 2006 election bloc. At a September 27 press conference entitled "Memorandum. Betrayal. Crisis? Pora's Response," the NGO unveiled its own policy recommendations for the Yushchenko administration. The "black" wing of Pora issued a similar list of demands on the authorities four days earlier entitled, "Memorandum of the Maidan".

The Pora political party called upon everyone who participated in the Orange Revolution to form a "civic coalition" that would work "to clean up the Ukrainian authorities".

The Pora party has not garnered widespread public support until now. But the September political crisis could tip the balance, with Orange voters critical of Yushchenko flocking to either Pora or Tymoshenko's bloc.

Andriy Ihnatov, a founder of maidan.org.ua, which has close ties to the "black" wing of Pora, told Jamestown that he believed the Pora party could cross the low 3% threshold in the 2006 elections. He believes that readers of maidan.org.ua, a prominent Orange Revolution website, are likely to split their votes evenly between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Vladyslav Kaskiv, head of the Pora party and an adviser to Yushchenko, theorized that the current crisis was due to the "inability of the authorities to place the interests of Ukraine above those of business groups and personal ambitions." With an eye toward attracting voters disillusioned with Yushchenko but unsure about Tymoshenko, Kaskiv also criticized the "lack of professionalism of the Ukrainian government, which sought political dividends through social populism."

Pora is especially critical of one particular clause in the Yushchenko-Yanukovych memorandum, which would expand immunity from prosecution from parliamentary deputies, who have had it throughout Ukraine's independence, to local deputies. Such a change would give them, in Pora's words, "criminal and administrative immunity."

An earlier Pora statement complained about changes to the law on local deputies that ruled out filing criminal charges against individual elected deputies without authorization from the local council. Pora complained that such a step would lead to criminal and corrupt elements seeking election to local councils in order to obtain immunity.

Such a step would violate Yushchenko's pledge to expand the campaign against corruption. Speaking on Ukraine's independence day Yushchenko admitted, "Corruption is retreating rather slowly so far. The former system often grinds the newcomers before they can change it".

The memos from both wings of Pora seek to draw attention to the Yushchenko administration's lack of progress toward implementing what they believe were the ideals of the Orange Revolution. Pora's memorandum blamed the political crisis on the authorities and the economic crisis on the government. "Ukrainian citizens went to the Maidan not for Yushchenko or for Tymoshenko, but for a normal way of life and moral authorities".

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, a Socialist, agreed, saying, "The Maidan stood not for Tymoshenko or even not completely for Yushchenko. People stood for liberty and against [election] falsification". This demand led to an unusual alliance of "socialists, nationalists, democrats, anarchists" and people of different religious confessions.

Yushchenko may come to regret signing the memorandum with Yanukovych. Serhiy Rakhmanin, a prominent commentator on Zerkalo Tyzhnia/Nedeli confessed, "I pity this person [Yushchenko]. He has no place in my own Maidan."

Yushchenko's popularity has declined from 33% in August to only 20% today. The latest poll shows that Peoples Union-Our Ukraine has collapsed in support to only 13.9%, while the Tymoshenko bloc has grown to 20.5%.

The outcome of the crisis suggests that Yushchenko will face a serious challenge from both Pora and Tymoshenko in the 2006 elections.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Police Question Akhmetov in Connection with Criminal Case

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian police on Sept. 26 questioned the country's wealthiest tycoon as a witness in several criminal cases.

Rinat Akhmetov, a coal and steel magnate, "gave full answers to all questions" of police investigators, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Inna Kisel said, refusing to elaborate. No details were available on what criminal cases Akhmetov was asked about.

The tycoon and his businesses have faced increasing pressure since Viktor Yushchenko became president in January and began a government crackdown on shady business deals dating back to the administration of former President Leonid Kuchma.

Akhmetov's U.S.-based lawyers have described all the investigations involving their client as politically motivated.

Last month, police stormed and searched the tycoon's office in his native town of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in connection with an investigation into tax evasion and abuse of power.

In July, police summoned Akhmetov for questioning about an alleged 1988 assassination attempt, but Akhmetov did not appear. His company said he was abroad and insisted the summons was not mandatory.

Yushchenko's government has regained control over an important steel mill that was bought last year by Akhmetov and the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma in a highly criticized privatization deal.

Forbes magazine lists Akhmetov as Ukraine's wealthiest tycoon, with an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion (2 billion euros). Besides steel and metals holdings, he is also the owner of a top soccer club and a major television station.

Also Sept. 26, police summoned Kuchma's one-time administration chief Viktor Medvedchuk as part of an investigation into the awarding of medals and state honors to the ex-leader's alleged cronies. Medvedchuk was not immediately available for comment.

Medvedchuk, who now heads the opposition Ukrainian Socialist Party (United), was also summoned for questioning in July. He did not appear, and his party accused police of persecuting the government's political opponents.

Source: AP

Kremlin Back in a Big Way After Ukraine Crisis

MOSCOW, Russia -- Following the miserable defeat of the candidate it backed at the Ukrainian presidential election last year, the Kremlin appears to have weathered the first shock and is now poised to come back in style.

The Kremlin

A recent political crisis, which culminated with the sacking of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Sept. 8, created ample opportunities for Moscow to re-establish its influence in Ukraine.

The Kremlin threw all its political muscle into the election of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian candidate, at the presidential vote last year, but failed. A pro-Western, Viktor Yushchenko, swept to power following a rerun vote in December 2004 and pledged to work hard for Ukraine to quickly join NATO, Russia's worst nightmare, and to seek joining the European Union within a decade.

Russia scrambled for a response by adjusting its foreign policy to new realities, seeking to economically punish countries like Ukraine and Georgia for their closer cooperation with the West.

But the answer to the challenge came from where few had actually expected: From within the ruling coalition in Ukraine.

As the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko teams bitterly split following the government dismissal, both had apparently sent messages to Moscow that may eventually produce a greater-than-expected cooperation between the two biggest states of the former Soviet Union.

Yushchenko appointed Yuriy Yekhanurov, a Russia-born ally of the president, to the post of prime minister. This is a contrast to Tymoshenko, who has been using populist anti-Russian rhetoric, such as pushing for the building of a natural gas pipeline bypassing Russia, and irritating Moscow for the past seven months. To push Yekhanurov through Parliament, Yushchenko struck an unprecedented agreement with Yanukovych, the Russian favorite, whose party had overwhelmingly backed the choice.

But the latest development in Ukraine’s political reshuffling appears to be even more surprising than anything. Tymoshenko traveled to Moscow on Sept. 24 apparently for a secret meeting with Kremlin strategists to outline her vision of a future cooperation.

The Russian authorities appeared to be so pleased with Tymoshenko's turnaround that they had immediately cancelled an international arrest warrant for her. Several Kremlin-controlled media outlets have followed with a favorable coverage of Tymoshenko in broadcasts that are widely viewed in Ukraine.

So, 10 months after Russia's fiasco at the presidential election in Ukraine, Moscow now appears to have much closer cooperation with all three major political groups that are expected to score well as the upcoming election in March 2006. The winner will become prime minister, a job that will have extended powers to shape the country's policy with amendments to the constitution coming into force on Jan. 1, 2006.

No matter who wins the election, Yekhanurov, Tymoshenko or Yanukovych, Russia seems to have already secured a favorable outcome.

Source: Ukrainian Journal Editorial

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ukraine President Names New Economy Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has appointed a young central bank specialist as new economy minister in a revamped government, a source in the presidential administration said on Tuesday.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, 31, a former first deputy chairman of the bank, is to replace Serhiy Teryokhin, who often quarreled with the central bank.

Yatsenyuk will symbolize the new face of the government, overhauled after a damaging split within Yushchenko's eight-month-old administration.

His new team will be charged with reversing a slowdown in economic growth and bringing consistency to economic policy in the run-up to a parliamentary election next March.

Yulia Tymoshenko, sacked by Yushchenko in early September after months of infighting, won widespread admiration among voters for her fiery style, but contradictory decisions under her stewardship have scared off many investors.

New Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, approved by parliament at the second attempt last week, has a style diametrically opposed to his flamboyant predecessor. Seen as a low-key technocrat, he has pledged to pack his team with experts rather than politicians.

Teryokhin, one of Tymoshenko's key allies in the outgoing government, often confronted the central bank, lobbying for stronger hryvnia currency and more a flexible exchange rate.

Yatsenyuk headed the bank for five months in 2004 when the chairman of the time, Serhiy Tyhypko, took leave to oversee the campaign of Yushchenko's rival in the presidential election. He is well placed to improve ties with the bank.

Pro-Western liberal Borys Tarasyuk was kept on as foreign minister. Yushchenko appointed parliamentary deputy Stanislav Stashevsky as first deputy prime minister and Anatoly Kinakh, first deputy premier in the outgoing government, was named secretary of the National Defense and Security Council.

The source in the administration said talks on other ministerial posts were proceeding but most of the cabinet line-up is expected to be named by the end of Tuesday.

Source: Reuters

In Ukraine, Old Whiff of Scandal in New Regime

KIEV, Ukraine -- The allegations read like a page from Ukraine's dark days not so long ago, when graft and bribery contaminated virtually every corner of government.

President Yushchenko addressing parliament

The president says his former prime minister used her post to try to erase $1.5 billion in taxes owed by her former firm. The country's former security council head is under investigation on corruption charges, as is its former customs chief. Top government officials have traded accusations of engineering factory takeovers for private gain and pressuring judges.

What has both astounded and angered Ukrainians is that the man they equated with the promise of clean government, Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko, is now the figure whose administration is saddled with the taint of scandal.

Eight months into his presidency, Yushchenko has seen his coalition of reform-minded allies destroyed by fierce infighting and competing accusations of corruption. Earlier this month, the crisis forced him to fire Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and accept the resignations of top aides, including National Security and Defense Council chief Petro Poroshenko.

The firestorm has caused Ukrainians' confidence in their new government to plummet. A poll this month by the Kiev-based think tank Razumkov found that fewer than a quarter of Ukrainians support Yushchenko or Tymoshenko.

"We didn't stand and freeze on Independence Square day after day for this," said Natalya Fedysko, 20, a nurse. "We expected far better. And I feel it's only going to get worse."

Discord between Yushchenko's circle of advisers and Tymoshenko's team had been brewing for months, but the spark for the crisis appeared to revolve around a court ruling last month to return the Nikopol Ferroalloy plant to the state.

Privatization Defended

In 2003, Viktor Pinchuk, former President Leonid Kuchma's billionaire son-in-law, acquired the eastern Ukraine plant in a privatization widely regarded as rigged. Though the plant was worth $1 billion, Pinchuk paid $80 million. Pinchuk maintains the privatization was done legally.

Shortly after taking office, Tymoshenko announced an ambitious plan to revisit 3,000 privatizations of state-owned enterprises during the Kuchma era. The plan sent chills through Ukraine's investment community, and Yushchenko later emphasized that only about a dozen privatizations would be scrutinized.

Tymoshenko focused her attention on privatizations that benefited Ukrainian businessmen with close ties to Kuchma. That included the acquisition of Ukraine's largest steel mill, Kryvorizhstal, by Pinchuk and Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov last year for $800 million. The mill is expected to sell for more than $2 billion in a state auction next month.

Pinchuk's majority stake in Nikopol was next. Ukrainian courts initially ruled that the Nikopol privatization was lawful, but after Tymoshenko's intervention, they reversed their decision and ordered the return of Pinchuk's stake back to the state, Pinchuk said. He also accused Tymoshenko of trying to help Pryvatbank, a minority stakeholder in Nikopol and a Pinchuk rival, of wresting control of the metals plant, according to Ukrainian media reports.

In firing Tymoshenko, Yushchenko cited Tymoshenko's handling of the Nikopol case. "High officials started directing events in favor of corporate interests. Then crises appeared," The Associated Press quoted Yushchenko as saying Sept. 11.

In an interview in Kiev, Tymoshenko denied the allegations and said she has no relationship at all with Pryvatbank. She also accused Poroshenko, her nemesis within Yushchenko's circle of advisers, of fighting to block the government from taking Nikopol from Pinchuk.

In recent weeks, Russian and Ukrainian media have suggested Poroshenko was working behind the scenes to block the seizure of the Nikopol stake, so that Pinchuk could proceed with its sale to Russian magnates Viktor Vekselberg and Alexander Abramov. Poroshenko could not be reached for comment Monday.

"A real war was being waged between the wheels of justice and the president's advisers with ties to Pinchuk, and who sided with him," Tymoshenko said. "I have tried to put up obstacles to those ties, not for the benefit for private groups, but so that the country can feel a sense of justice."

Yushchenko also accused Tymoshenko of trying to secure the erasure of $1.5 billion in tax debt owed by United Energy Systems, an energy company she once co-owned. Ukrainian courts endorsed the move, but the country's prosecutor general is now appealing those rulings.

Tymoshenko dismissed the allegation as an attempt by the president to resurrect allegations long ago disproved.

"When the new president pulled out these allegations, the whole country simply laughed, because even under the Kuchma regime, these charges were cleared," Tymoshenko said. "This case has already been thrown out by the courts."

In Russia, Tymoshenko faced charges of bribing Russian defense officials during the time she headed up UES. However, on Monday Russian authorities announced they would no longer pursue her arrest, after she met with investigators in Moscow on Sunday.

Ukraine's prosecutor general has pending at least five investigations into allegations of corruption against top-tier government officials. Ukraine's Security Service has said it is investigating allegations of corruption and smuggling made against the country's customs chief, Volodymyr Skomarovsky, according to Ukrainian media reports.

`President Chose Stabilization'

Yushchenko has responded to the crisis with wholesale dismissals. They included Poroshenko, a wealthy candy manufacturer regarded as one of the president's closest advisers.

"When the president had to choose between his friends and stabilization, the president chose stabilization," said Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's chief of staff.

Nevertheless, the crisis has eroded the credibility that Yushchenko's government established with Ukrainians after last winter's demonstrations on Independence Square. Ukrainians have a lot to be disillusioned about: Economic growth has slowed to 2.8 percent so far this year compared with 12.1 percent last year, industrial production is down, the country's trade surplus has disappeared.

"But it's the issue of corruption that is on top of the agenda for average Ukrainians," said Oleksander Lytvynenko, a political analyst for Razumkov. "Certainly among the people, distrust in the president has taken root."

Source: Newsday

Former Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko No Longer Wanted by Russia

MOSCOW, Russia -- Ex-Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been taken off the international wanted list, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said Monday.

Screenshot from www.interpol.org

The prosecutor’s office website said Russia’s Military Prosecutor’s Office had removed Tymoshenko from the list, as she had voluntarily appeared this weekend and given evidence, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

Tymoshenko, who had been sought over allegations of bribing Russian Defense Ministry officials, said she would continue to help investigators when necessary.

Source: MosNews

Ukraine’s Yushchenko Honored With London Foreign Policy Prize

LONDON, England -- Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko was named as the recipient of the first-ever Chatham House Prize, awarded by the eponymous London-based foreign policy institute.

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko

Yushchenko will be presented with the honor by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at a reception in London on Oct. 17 followed by a gala dinner to be addressed by Cherie Booth, the lawyer wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the AFP news agency reports.

“President Yushchenko’s achievement as a statesman was to manage a domestic political revolution whilst simultaneously dealing with neighboring states who have sought to influence Ukraine’s political and economic life,” said Chatham House director Victor Bulmer-Thomas in a statement.

“His adeptness in handling relations with other states has ensured that Ukraine, as a pivotal state in Eastern Europe and Russia’s most important western neighbor, has not become the cause of a serious deterioration in relations between Russia and Western Europe.” Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is one of the world’s best known think-tanks dealing with international relations.

Source: MosNews

Ukraine’s Richest Man Returns Home Despite Legal Probe

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov has returned home from abroad despite the threat of questioning by prosecutors.

Ukrainian tycoon Rinat Akhmetov

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office wants to question Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, about criminal cases linked to gangland violence a decade ago in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the center of mining region. So far, no charges have been brought against him. Akhmetov’s business empire is based in Donetsk and includes steel and machine-building plants, telecom companies, banks and the Shakhtar soccer club.

Akhmetov is an ally of Viktor Yanukovich, a former prime minister of Ukraine and the rival of the current president Viktor Yushchenko during last year’s presidential elections.

Last week, before the second vote for the president’s candidate for PM in the Ukrainian parliament, Yushchenko and Yanukovich concluded a pact of guarantees for the opposition. Experts quoted by Reuters speculated that Akhmetov who has been in Western Europe for months, had been able to return as part of this deal.

“Now any legal action against Mr. Akhmetov, including those unrelated to his political activities, could be seen as a violation of the Memorandum by the authorities,” Taras Chornovil, an opposition deputy, said. “In the current situation with the president relatively weakened, he will not take any such steps.”

Akhmetov, whose fortune is estimated at about $2.4 billion, has so far failed to appear before prosecutors. He has said in the past that he has nothing to fear. Akhmetov has already lost a prominent asset —- Ukraine’s largest steel mill Kryvoryzhstal. The plant was sold to Akhmetov and his partners for a price below other offers in June 2004 in a selloff denounced by Yushchenko as “theft”. The country’s courts overturned the sale and a new one is planned for Oct. 24.

Source: MosNews

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ukraine's Prime Minister: Quiet Man In, Fiery Lady Out

KIEV, Ukraine -- In the person of Yuriy Yekhanurov, who Ukraine's parliament approved as new prime minister on September 22, President Viktor Yushchenko has acquired a quiet professional who should run the economy while Yushchenko will tackle constitutional reform and next year's parliamentary race.


Fiery Lady Tymoshenko (L) and Quiet Man Yekhanurov (R)

Yekhanurov shares Yushchenko's vision of Ukraine as a free market economy, unlike his predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko, who preferred government interference. Yekhanurov has considerable experience as a government official managing economic transition.

In contrast, Tymoshenko came to opposition politics after running, in the mid-1990s, a regional fuel monopoly that enjoyed preferences at the top -- Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine -- so she had no real experience of working under market conditions.

They will continue to play different roles in the months ahead, with Yekhanurov trying to help Yushchenko find a way out of economic stagnation; and Tymoshenko trying to torpedo his party's election campaign as the leader of a rival bloc.

Yekhanurov has played secondary roles in party politics. In the mid-1990s he joined the main pro-government party at the time, the People's Democratic Party (NDP). He was elected to parliament for the first time in 1998 not on the party ticket, but from a single-seat constituency in Zhytomyr.

His first stint in parliament lasted less than two years, as in early 2000 then prime minister Yushchenko plucked him from parliament and named him his first deputy. Yekhanurov left the NDP the same year. He returned to party politics in late 2001, as deputy head of the election headquarters of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc.

The bloc won the polls in March 2002, and Yekhanurov was elected to parliament on its list. The summer of 2004 again saw Yekhanurov as deputy head of Yushchenko's campaign, this time the victorious presidential one. In March 2005 Yekhanurov took the number two slot -- head of the central executive committee -- in Yushchenko's newly formed People's Union-Our Ukraine party.

Yekhanurov's record as an economic manager has been impressive. He became director of a construction materials factory in Soviet Ukraine at the age of 26 (he is 57 now), and then worked in top positions in Kyiv city hall. When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, he came to the Cabinet of Ministers, where he headed an economic department.

In 1993 Yekhanurov became deputy economics minister, and in 1994-97 he steered the early stage of Ukraine's privatization as chief of the State Property Fund. Unlike his Russian counterpart Anatoly Chubais, who was demonized as the "father" of voucher privatization in his country, Yekhanurov managed to conduct Ukraine's privatization without scandals.

He served a brief stint as economics minister in 1997, and then tackled problems of private enterprises first as head of a relevant government committee, then on the economic committee in parliament. In 2000-2001 Yekhanurov was first deputy prime minister, and in 2001-2002 he was then president Leonid Kuchma's commissioner for administrative reform (he has preserved warm relations with Kuchma, despite belonging to Yushchenko's camp).

Yekhanurov's most recent job was governor of Dnipropetrovsk Region since April 2005.

Yekhanurov has already promised a review of Tymoshenko's revolutionary re-privatization decisions, favoring amicable out-of-court deals with the tycoons who bought large chunks of industry for cheap and not quite legally under Kuchma.

Yushchenko has instructed Yekhanurov to pay his first visit as prime minister to Russia, to settle natural gas trade problems. This is something that Tymoshenko had planned, but never accomplished, probably for fear of detention on a bribery case dating back to her time at the helm of Ukraine's Unified Energy Systems, in which Russian Defense Ministry official were involved.

For now, Tymoshenko is planning to travel around Ukraine. In a recent interview, she told Ukrayinska pravda that she is about to launch an election campaign tour across Ukraine's regions: "Nobody will see me in Kyiv until the polls," she declared.

Tymoshenko said she would not take into her "mega-bloc" for the polls "the businessmen" from Yushchenko's entourage, who she earlier accused of corruption. Another revelation that she made in the same interview was that she knew "since childhood" that she would one day be "the country's leader." The opposition United Social Democrats may become her allies in the fight for power.

Their leader, the former head of the presidential administration under Kuchma, Viktor Medvedchuk, has offered to cooperate with her on several occasions. Interestingly, the latest issue of the Kyiv-based weekly 2000, which is believed to be linked to Medvedchuk, came out full of features and interviews lauding Tymoshenko.

Following Yekhanurov's appointment, Ukrainian media have been comparing the income declarations Yekhanurov and Tymoshenko made for 2004. The differences between the two reflect not different lifestyles, as both are affluent according to Ukrainian standards, but rather a lack of openness on the part of Tymoshenko.

Yekhanurov declared an income of over $30,000, a mid-size apartment in downtown Kyiv, a land plot, and a Toyota SUV. Tymoshenko declared an income of some $12,000, a tiny studio apartment in Dnipropetrovsk, and no vehicles.

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

Russia Lifts Arrest Warrant for Ukraine Ex-PM

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian prosecutors said on Monday they had lifted an arrest warrant on Ukrainian former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko after she voluntarily turned up for questioning.

Russian authorities, who suspect her of trying to bribe defence ministry officials in the 1990s, suspended the warrant when Tymoshenko became premier, but restated it after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sacked her earlier this month.

However, the Russian Prosecutor General's office said on Monday it had withdrawn the warrant again.

"Such a decision was made because this weekend she (Tymoshenko) voluntarily turned up in the main military prosecutor's office and gave the evidence requested by investigators," it said in a statement.

Tymoshenko's spokeswoman confirmed the former prime minister was in Moscow on the weekend but gave no further details.

Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the "Orange Revolution" that overturned the Moscow-backed establishment and brought the pro-Western Yushchenko to power, had denied any wrongdoing.

She has described the arrest warrant, issued in the middle of the Orange Revolution as an instrument of Moscow's pressure on Ukraine.

Yushchenko sacked his former ally this month to end a row over high-level corruption that had divided the leadership.

Source: Reuters

“There Will Be No More Revolution”

MOSCOW, Russia -- At the end of last week, Yuri Lutsenko, head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, former organizer of “Orange Revolution” demonstrations, had negotiations in Moscow with his Russian colleague, Rashid Nurgaliev. Before departure back to Ukraine, Lutsenko told Kommersant correspondent Vladimir Soloviev about why there would be no more revolutions in Ukraine.


Yuri Lutsenko

After Rada disapproval’s of Yuri Ekhanurov for the prime minister position, the State Secretary Oleg Rybalchuk said that he has a backup plan –Yuri Lutsenko. Why?

Well, first of all, Oleg is a good friend of mine. Second, that was a special operation of some sort. If the candidature of Lutsenko for the position of prime minister would be offered for real, it would create a mixed reaction in Rada. The opposition factions would for sure block the tribune and would start to scream: “E-kh-a-nu-rov!” Let’s say it was a normal political joke.

What do you think about Ekhanurov?

I’ve known him for a long time and I respect him. And I wouldn’t hide the secret if I’d tell you that right after Yushenko’s victory in the corridors of Supreme Rada, I was loudly supporting Ekhanurov’s candidacy for the prime minister position. Already in that time he could become a stabilizing factor for the situation in Ukraine. He would be well received by business people in Ukraine and Russia. He would be well understood by those who were demonstrating in Kiev and Donetsk. I think he was wanted already then. However, the revolutionary situation went in a different direction and Ekhanurov was called in only six months after.

Do you think another “Orange Revolution” could happen under the leadership of Yulia Timoshenko?

Let’s speak sincerely. The people on the squares were not standing because of Timoshenko or even Yushenko. The people wanted freedom. They were expressing an anger against falsifications and against the president that they did not choose. Thus, it would be impossible to bring these people back into the streets when democracy and freedom already took hold in Ukraine. Of course it is possible to repeat some actions of the protest against certain politicians. It is not difficult. I can assure you in that as a field commander of the “Orange Revolution” (this name Lutsenko had during the mass protests –Kommersant). However, it is impossible to repeat the “Orange Revolution,” when socialists, nationalists, democrats, anarchists, non-partisans, Eastern and Western Ukrainians, Christian Orthodoxy, Catholics, and atheist – all gathered in the same city squares. They all wanted freedom. However, what is going on now is nothing more than internal party fight – the clash of ambitions. Right now the “Orange Revolution” is not possible.

Were you, as a field commander, disgusted by the union of Viktor Yushenko and Viktor Yanukovich?

God forbid… I don’t split Ukraine for enemies and friends. I was protesting not against citizen Yanukovich. I was organizing people’s demonstrations against the falsifications. For that reason, Yanukovich, who backed by 15 – 20 percent of Ukrainian voters, maybe is not my favorite, but is still a very real politician. I took absolutely normally the dialog of the current president and the politicians from the opposition. Of course, I have a negative attitude to him, but it is my civil right.

So, you think it is not part of some big game of Viktor Yushenko against Yulia Timoshenko?

Everything develops in its natural way. The cleaning stage of the revolution is over and now it is time to make a dialog within different electoral groups. In this sense, the high voiced dialog of Yushenko and Timoshenko or clenching teeth dialog of Yushenko and Yanukovich – are normal things. I think this is the right of the citizens with different beliefs to talk to each other and to remain the citizens of one country.

What do you think about the political reform?

I have pretty good opinion about it. I was parliament member from the Socialist party and this party was the initiator of the reform. I voted for these bills. And besides, I consider “orange revolution" to be a real revolution because it changed not only the president but also the powers themselves. If it would not be for the Constitutional changes, it would be just change of faces. But when Rada took the decision about the reform it was a revolution.

However, recently Viktor Yushenko suggested postponing the reform. It looks like he doesn’t really need that.

Everything is in the past now. Today, the president believes the necessity of political reform that would start from Jan. 1 of next year.

It looks like the election campaign already has started. Are Socialists and “Our Ukraine” staying friends?

I wouldn’t call that a friendship even in today’s relations. The Socialists and “Our Ukraine” have different views for many issues. They are united by common understanding of “being Ukrainian.” Yes, the election campaign has started, but I think Socialist Party, “Our Ukraine” and bloc of Vladimir Litvin (Speaker of Rada –Kommersant) will run their own campaigns. However, I think that they wouldn’t fight with each other. We have different views, but we have common strategic vision of Ukraine’s future.

When you became an interior minister, you promised within two months to purge the police from thieves and to get rid off corruption. Did you fire a lot of people already?

I did not promise to do so within two months. I said that I would start a serious campaign. For seven months of this year about 5,000 people had voluntarily resigned, about 2,000 could not pass the personal certification and about 400 were charged with crimes. To let you compare, I’d tell you that in National Security Service there were no charges brought up against anybody and the tax service has only 16 people under investigation. So, the purge was pretty radical, and that allowed me to surround myself with colleagues and allies from the right, from the left, and the main thing – from the back. In June we announce the movement to decriminalize the society. And that become possible only after internal purges within our ministry.

Does the fact that you had no connection in the past with police prevent your job? You suffered from the police, but you never work for them…

I've never suffered from the police. The communications with law enforcements were always normal. During the mass demonstrations of protests we met with our acquaintances from the police before every public action and talked about the rules of game: what we can and what we cannot do. That’s because I was responsible for hundreds of thousand my people and they were responsible for thousands of theirs. I always respected those, who kept the word and had the officer’s honor. All these facts allowed me –a civil person- without any problem to become the head of the Interior Ministry. And the fact that I was not connected with police previously is rather a plus than a minus. The outside look is always more interesting that the inside one. But, then again, I wouldn’t be the judge on that one.

What is going on now with Gongadze case?

The Prosecution Office has the case. Our job is the operative work. But, I would be lying, if I would say that is all we care about. Georgy Gongadze was not just a man, who woke up Ukraine. He was working for the newspaper where I was the editor. He gave his life for the consolidation of anti-Kuchma opposition. Coming to the Interior Ministry on the wave of “orange revolution”, I knew that I had to contribute to this case. The investigation advanced quite far already. It was me, who announce the amnesty for the low level case participants if they would just name the main figures. That turned out to be an effective tactic. The former and still active police officers, who participated in this crime, were giving the information to me in my office. Because of their accounts, the investigation group arrested three murder suspects. This is a giant step. The next question we have: who did order the murder? The society demands the truth and the truth they shall receive. Today, we know who did the killing. Tomorrow we’ll tell who ordered it. The people should not wait for years to learn the results of investigation.

Why did you come to Moscow?

First of all, it is not my first time in here. I was just riding the car with the first deputy of your Interior Ministry and was remembering my first time in here. I don’t know what caused me to think about it. Maybe it was shot of vodka, which I drank for the approval of our new prime minister, or, maybe, it was just a special mood. My father and I came here in 1980. In 5 a.m. we took our place in line to the Lenin’s mausoleum. It was minus 23 degrees of Celsius - pretty cold… Then, in the top floor of the Hotel Moscow I drank vodka for a first time. My father insisted so I’d warm up. So, for that reason Moscow is not a foreign capital for me. Our histories are too close – all our great victories and great defeats. I came here for negotiations with my colleague Rashid Nurgaliev. We have a lot of common problems and common ways to improve our relations. Only cooperation will help us. However, that was not the only reason for my visit. I came here with joy because it is Moscow and because I am from Kiev.

But, I think Ukrainian authorities have a lot of questions to the people who also found their comfort here as well…

This is temporary. Their freedom here is temporary, and they know it too. Our meeting with the minister will touch this problem also. Everything will be resolved- maybe not as fast as we want it, but it will be resolved. I am sure that Mr. Bakay, (former Head of the Presidential Administrative Office, which hides in Russia from Ukrainian authorities – Kommersant) who suddenly becomes a Russian citizen, will respond here in the same manner as he will be responding in Kiev. And other our citizens, who live in your capital understand that it’s all temporary. It doesn’t matter when they will answer for their crimes. What really matters is the idea that it’s unavoidable. Our mutual actions could be improved. And I feel mutuality there.

Did you bring to Moscow something new?

One thing for sure – I did not bring an orange tie to Moscow.

Source: Kommersant

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yushchenko Owes Political Debt

KIEV, Ukraine -- The main news in Kiev was not the one that people voted Yuri Ekhanurov in. The most amazing was the fact of who gave their voices for Ekhanurov and thus saved Viktor Yushchenko from another political blow – the fatal one. It was not Yulia Timoshenko who changed the balance on the weights in favor of Yushchenko. It was no other than Viktor Yanukovich – the main antagonist of current Ukrainian president.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (L) and former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich (R) meet in Kiev

This was the main news and that can effectively change today’s Ukrainian political map by mixing the orange, yellow-blue and other colors in a strange combination.

However, the combination looks strange only from the first glance. The logic of the events pushed two Viktors to this necessary for both of them union. And now, the political fates of Yushenko and Yanukovich depend on this union.

Several weeks after Yushchenko took presidential office he found out that there are many obstacles on the way of his beautiful, even if a little bit abstract, idea of making a world to rediscover a new Ukrainian nation.

If this idea, which gathered thousands of people on the streets, would die – the Yushchenko’s political death would follow right after. And it wouldn’t even matter if he still would be sitting in presidential chair or if he would keep his powers after the political reform.

Now, after receiving a chance to move forward, President Yushchenko will still remain in the eyes of Ukrainians as their national leader.

The political survival of Viktor Yanukovich also depends of Yushchenko, and not of his recent sponsor Rinat Akhmetov, Donetsk’s billionaire, or the Leonid Kuchma’s associates, or even the Kremlin.

To be in hard opposition to the president would not benefit Yanukovich or pay him political dividends. The empty niche of the number one in Ukrainian political opposition was already taken by Yulia Timoshenko.

And she was not planning to make any kind of alliances with Yanukovich. The alliance with Yanukovich would compromise former prime minister’s “orange idea.” Besides, charismatic Timoshenko is able to create her own political future without any help from the former Kuchma’s cadre.

She might need him only as a target for her electoral campaign.

Not finding a place for himself neither at the power, nor in opposition, Viktor Yanukovich ended up in political vacuum. However, now he got the leverage to influence new Ukrainian politics. Yushchenko has a debt to pay to Yanukovich and big one too.

Moscow is fine with this course of events. From now on, it doesn’t see Yushchenko as dangerous as he was during the “orange revolution.”

Source: Kommersant

Russia’s Gazprom Gives Ukraine Conditions for Keeping Gas Prices Low — Paper

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom is prepared to keep supplying Ukraine with low-priced gas in exchange for Ukrainian government’s agreement to create a consortium that would jointly manage the country’s gas pipeline system. The information was reported by the Kommersant Ukraine paper, which quoted an unnamed Gazprom official.

Gazprom pipeline

Earlier it was announced that beginning next year Gazprom plans to deliver natural gas to Ukraine for $180 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, which is an average price for European consumers of Russian gas. This price is approximately four times higher than the present tariffs used in relations between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov already announced that he’s planning to make his first official visit to Russia to discuss gas delivery prices and Gazprom’s suggestion to re-create the gas pipeline management consortium. “We shall carry out the tasks given by the President to the government, in particular building good business relations with Russian Federation,” said the Ukrainian Prime Minister.

A source in Gazprom’s press service told the paper: “We are ready to re-think our proposal regarding the price of natural gas for 2006 in the course of our negotiations with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov. The price may be reconsidered in case Ukraine agrees to create a consortium to manage the country’s gas transportation system”.

Source: MosNews

Yushchenko Seeks to Find Way Out of Crisis

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko met with parliamentary faction leaders to try to find a way out of the deepening political crisis triggered by the breakup of his Orange Revolution team.


Viktor Yushchenko meets with parliamentary representatives

Yushchenko said he wants to "bury the hatchet" with ousted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, but stopped far short of accepting his former ally's proposal to return to the government.

"All political forces, including Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko, should take part in forming the government," Yushchenko said a day after parliament refused to approve his choice of acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov for the nation's No. 2 job.

Tymoshenko took part in the meeting, along with losing presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych, whose party joined forces with her faction to block Yekhanurov's candidacy.

"We may look at things in different ways but I am convinced that we have ideals which may unite us," Yushchenko said at the start of the meeting. He asked the participants not to do anything "that would hurt the country's image or her reputation."

Ukraine has sunk into a political quagmire since the Orange Revolution team that brought Yushchenko to power disintegrated two weeks ago amid mutual allegations of corruption and infighting. Yushchenko dismissed the government Sept. 8, a move that has left him politically vulnerable in a parliament still dominated by communists and his former foes. The opposition has grown even larger, with lawmakers expressing loyalty to Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko told journalists she was ready to offer Yushchenko an alliance aimed at creating a new coalition government.

"I am ready to sit down with him (Yushchenko) today ... and suggest we unite forces and create a new government," Tymoshenko said.

Asked if she was proposing that Yushchenko name her prime minister again, she said: "We need to restore the status quo."

"In my heart, there are no bad emotions about the president," she said.

Asked about the offer, Yushchenko said only that he had called Tymoshenko on Monday and proposed she "bury the hatchet and not violate the ideas of Independence Square because we stood there together and at that time we elected the president of Ukraine and not the prime minister."

Yushchenko added: "I am excluding no one." But he did not directly respond to Tymoshenko's wish to be named prime minister again.

Earlier, Yushchenko's aides said he would likely forward Yekhanurov's name for a second vote. Yushchenko repeated that he thought Yekhanurov's candidacy would help "consolidate the majority of political forces." He said Wednesday, however, that he would make a final decision after the closed talks. A new vote could be held as early as Thursday.

For many Ukrainians, Tymoshenko symbolized their revolution, a charismatic orator with charm and appealing ethnic symbolism. She rallied hundreds of thousands who massed in Kiev last year to denounce fraud by the former government in the presidential election and force a new vote, which Yushchenko won.

But since her dismissal, Yushchenko has accused her of abusing her office to cancel the debt owed by a company she once headed. The Prosecutor General's office on Wednesday appealed earlier court rulings that had annulled the $1.3 billion debt of the now-defunct United Energy Systems.

Authorities loyal to former President Leonid Kuchma jailed Tymoshenko after her 2000 ouster on embezzlement charges stemming from her running of UES.

Source: AP

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ukraine’s New PM Blames Ministries for Acting Against Country Interests

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s newly approved prime minister, charged with reversing an economic slowdown, has castigated the outgoing economy and finance ministries, saying they had failed to act in the national interests, Reuters reported.


Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov

Technocrat Yuri Yekhanurov, approved by parliament at the second attempt this week, told reporters most of his new cabinet line-up would be made public next Tuesday.

President Viktor Yushchenko appointed him to replace Yulia Tymoshenko, his ally in last year’s Orange revolution, after months of infighting had split the liberal administration into rival camps, each accusing the other of corruption.

Economic growth slowed to its lowest rate in five years, with the 2005 forecast scaled back to four percent from 6.5 and more earlier. Policy uncertainty, mainly proposed reviews of “dubious” privatisations, cut sharply into foreign investment.

“The Economy Ministry gives the impression, it is sad to note, of operating under a ’made to order’ principle and not in the manner of a command centre of Ukraine’s economy,” Yekhanurov said after the first cabinet session since the assembly’s vote.

“And what happened to the professional principles of the Finance Ministry? This is a matter to be discussed separately by specialists.”

Yekhanurov is seen as a caretaker premier ahead of elections next March to a parliament with expanded powers. The ousted Tymoshenko, widely admired for her fiery style, has vowed to contest and win the poll to get her job back.

The new prime minister said this week he would shed two-thirds of the outgoing cabinet and give prominent places to technocrats rather than seasoned politicians.

Consultations on the government were proceeding, Yekhanurov said. The president had made choices for security and foreign policy portfolios, while he had made proposals for other sectors.

Source: MosNews

Up to 10 Ukraine Peacekeepers Involved in Fraud in Lebanon

KIEV, Ukraine -- Up to 10 Ukrainian peacekeepers were involved in the fuel and money fraud in Lebanon, Acting Defence Minister Anatoly Gritsenko told journalists on Friday. According to him, the guilty will be sacked and some will stand trial.

Ukrainian peacekeepers in the Middle East

"There are grounds to believe that somebody will end up in jail," the Ukrainian acting defence minister said, Kazinform quotes Itar-Tass.

The official did not specify which violations he had in mind. Experts believe the Ukrainian military were selling the fuel they received. They pointed out the Ukrainians have the smallest salaries among foreign contingents deployed in Lebanon.

In the view of Gritsenko, the incident in Lebanon shows "how several people can tarnish very serious, responsible and risky work of hundreds of people." He said the Ukrainian contingent demined during the years of stay six million square metres of the Lebanese territory. The cost of mine clearance at one square kilometre of land is estimated at 300-900 US dollars.

Gritsenko said inspections have been sent to all Ukrainian peacekeeping contingents.

Source: KazInform

Ukraine’s Yushchenko Faces Flak for Deal with Rival

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko was criticised yesterday for forging a pact with his defeated “orange revolution” rival that helped him win backing for a prime minister and manoeuvre out of a political crisis.


Viktor Yanukovich (L) and Viktor Yushchenko (R)

Newspapers and political analysts said the deal with Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Moscow candidate he defeated in last year’s election, would do Yushchenko more harm than good.

But Yushchenko’s chief of staff dismissed the criticism of the deal that swung an additional 50 members of parliament behind Yushchenko’s candidate for prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov, six months before parliamentary elections.

“What happened has made Yushchenko the president of all Ukrainians,” Oleh Rybachuk, head of the presidential administration, told a news conference.

“The rules of the game are set out publicly for the first time. The key message is we are burying the hatchet. A united Ukraine is going into an election with European standards.”

Yekhanurov was approved on Thursday at the second attempt, winning 289 votes in the 450-seat chamber. Backing from Yanukovich’s party provided a cushion after the 57-year-old technocrat fell three votes short earlier in the week.

Yekhanurov replaced Yulia Tymoshenko, who stood alongside the president during the protests which led to a re-run of the rigged presidential poll, eventually won by Yushchenko.

Tymoshenko was sacked after in-fighting split the administration into two camps, each accusing the other of corruption. Admired by voters for her abrupt, fiery style, she has vowed to challenge Yushchenko’s camp in the election.

Analysts said the president’s deal with his rival could further alienate supporters upset by the split between the revolution’s leaders. The accord guarantees no repression of the opposition and upholds property rights and free media access.

Katya Malofeeva, analyst at Russian investment bank Renaissance Capital, said the accord’s contents posed no difficulty but its political implications “could be significant”.

“The consistency and integrity of the president’s political platform ahead of parliamentary election is likely to come under severe scrutiny.”

Most newspaper editorials were critical.

“Implementing the memorandum will essentially put paid to the authorities’ plans for a radical overhaul of Ukraine’s economy and its politics,” the daily Segodnya said.

Economic growth has slowed to its lowest pace in five years and inflation is on the rise. But most damaging to public morale were the allegations of the corruption Yushchenko had vowed to stamp out after 10 years of scandal-plagued administration under his predecessor Leonid Kuchma.

Analysts said the deal would dent confidence.

“Some people who stood in the square will see this as a betrayal,” said political analyst Volodymyr Polokhalo.

“Every compromise comes at a price. Had the country been under threat of foreign aggression, they might have been united. But a government crisis is too high a price to pay.”

Source: Reuters

Friday, September 23, 2005

EU Backs Yushchenko as Ukraine Returns to Normal

KIEV, Ukraine -- The EU is giving its full backing to President Yushchenko's regime, as Ukraine slowly returns to normality after its most serious political crisis since the Orange Revolution last year, according to a review by Andrew Rettman, Euobserver, Brussels, Belgium.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addresses the parliament after his candidate Yuri Yekhanurov was backed by the deputies as Ukraine's new Prime Minister

"We have full confidence in president Yushchenko", EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Cristina Gallach told EUobserver on Thursday (22 September), following an EU-Ukraine meeting in New York.

"You will find in the EU an understanding of the tremendous difficulties with the reform agenda in Ukraine", she added. "You can't expect to turn around a country in six months".

Member states underlined that it is business as usual with Ukraine by agreeing this week to send 50 EU monitors to the Ukrainian-Moldovan frontier in December under Mr Yushchenko's plan to stabilise the neighbouring republic.

The European Commission will select the unarmed mobile units from existing member states' customs personnel in the next two months.

Europe's reaction comes after Mr Yushchenko sacked his government, led by powerful prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, over corruption allegations on 8 September and installed loyalists Oleg Rybachuk (former EU integration minister) as head of the civil service and Yuriy Yekhanurov (former governor of Dnipropetrovsk) as prime minister.

Ms Tymoshenko hit back on Sunday by depicting Mr Yushchenko as an oligarch puppet, while a hostile parliament on Wednesday rejected Mr Yekhanurov's prime ministerial nomination and announced a fraud probe into the president's own 2004 electoral campaign.

But with Brussels watching the country slide into chaos, things turned around again on Thursday, when Ms Tymoshenko suddenly offered to work in parallel with the Yushchenko camp and a second parliamentary vote confirmed Mr Yekhanurov's nomination.

Russia, the US, France and Poland echoed the EU in publicly endorsing president Yushchenko during the crisis, with Poland describing the mess as a second phase in the revolutionary process while other diplomats said it was the start of campaigning for the March 2006 parliamentary elections.

One western expert indicated that nobody outside the inner circle in Kiev really knows what went on however, with foreign powers privately accepting that there are no angels in Kiev and some degree of government corruption has to be tolerated for now.

Meanwhile, the EU remains cautiously optimistic about Kiev pushing forward reforms under its 1998 EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and its 2005 Action Plan (AP), which identifies some 70 areas for economic and legal improvements.

"I think Mr Yushchenko knows very well what he has to do", Ms Gallach said. "Let's get a stable government, let's get a united parliament and a prime minister who will put reforms at the top of the agenda".

She compared his 8 September government dismissal to a 9 July move when Mr Yushchenko sacked all traffic police in the 50 million-strong country over corruption, leading to a period of chaos on the roads, but with less-corrupt police emerging in its place.

Ukrainian EU ambassador Roman Shpek also pointed out that the free media coverage of the crisis, the open criticism of the president and the defiance of parliament would have been unthinkable in pre-Orange Revolution days. "Ukraine will emerge stronger from this crisis", he said.

The EU's December summit in Kiev will assess the country's progress in terms of its WTO candidature, the possibility of easing EU visa restrictions and the country's progress on PCA and AP goals.

But Ukrainian diplomats remain concerned over the tendency to speak about the country in terms of neighbourhood programmes and third country partnerships rather than as a future EU candidate.

Mr Shpek said Kiev wants to step beyond the PCA and AP structure in the next few years into a new "enhanced agreement", that could see EU aid reach the levels of Pre-Accession Strategy payments for the new eastern European member states.

Ukraine currently pockets some euro 100 million a year in EU grants, while Poland scooped over euro 1 billion a year in the run-up to accession.

For its part, the EU acknowledges that Ukraine holds special value due to its economic potential and strategic location, but says that it is still too early to create timetables for WTO, NATO or EU entry.

For now, the international community is waiting to see how Ukraine passes its next big test, the March 2006 elections - where the three competing forces of Mr Yushchenko, Ms Tymoshenko and the old pro-Soviet faction will slug it out to see who takes charge of the fledgling democracy for the next four years.

Source: Unian

Ukraine Press Fears for Revolution

KIEV, Ukraine -- A day after Ukraine's parliament approved President Viktor Yushchenko's choice of prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov, newspapers wonder if the ideals of the Orange Revolution have been compromised.

Yuri Yekhanurov (L) receives congratulations from Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko after the parliament backed him as Ukraine's new prime minister

Several commentators note that the vote followed a deal between the two former election rivals, the pro-West Mr Yushchenko and the Moscow-favoured Viktor Yanukovych.

Others say Mr Yekhanurov's appointment will deepen the rift between President Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, his former prime minister and close partner during the Orange Revolution.

Oleksandr Polokhalo in pro-government Ukrayina Moloda

Today we are talking about strategic, political and tactical co-operation between the former presidential candidates - Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych... This alliance will dismay many supporters of both Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

One of these politicians symbolises democracy, the other authoritarianism. This means that, once more, east and west, business and power will be mixed up. Many of those who stood on Independence Square will view this as a betrayal.

Yevhen Ikhelzon and Yaroslav Malyuta in opposition Segodnya

The implementation of the deal [between the president and the opposition] in effect buries the new authorities' plans for a radical shake-up of Ukrainian politics and the economy. So, is the revolution over? That was the mood yesterday among Yushchenko's firm supporters.

Leonid Shvets in pro-Tymoshenko Gazeta Po-Kiyevski

One feels sorry for Mr Yekhanurov. It was his big day, he became Ukraine's 14th prime minister. But he wasn't the hero of the day. There were no heroes... The epoch of heroes is over. Viktor Yushchenko, who became a revolutionary against his nature, has returned to his psychological comfort zone.

Stability is on the agenda. He promises not to touch the opposition, or at least those who share the values of [former President Leonid] Kuchma. There's an amnesty for those who rigged the election. Reprivatisation? Forget it. The president forgives everyone.

Ksenia Vasylenko in Independent Den

The outcome of the parliamentary vote, which exceeded all expectations, was made possible by the [pro-Yanukovych] Regions of Ukraine faction. Some may see this as a sensation, but in Ukrainian politics it is something of a rule that yesterday's "enemies" become "friends" today. Two Viktors, two former presidential candidates, first held a heated discussion and then peacefully signed an agreement on friendship and co-operation.

Vadym Karasyov in Ukrayina Moloda

The appointment of Yekhanurov ends much of the tension... But two destabilising factors remain. First, the campaign for parliamentary elections [in early 2006]. Second, the weakness of the presidential team. The latest events have demonstrated that weakness.

To reach an agreement means to make concessions. And these agreements were reached not from a position of strength, but from weakness and indeterminacy. The radical opposition will play on this.

Source: BBC News

Ukraine Parliament Approves New Premier After Rivals' Deal

MOSCOW, Russia -- President Viktor A. Yushchenko of Ukraine won parliamentary approval of a new prime minister on Thursday on a second vote after striking a deal with his bitter rival in last year's disputed presidential elections.

Yuri Yekhanurov (R) speaks as President Viktor Yushchenko looks on, after Ukraine's parliament backed him

With his political coalition having splintered and his presidency teetering, Mr. Yushchenko turned to Viktor F. Yanukovich, the former prime minister whose party has been fiercely critical of the new government, to help salvage the nomination of Yury I. Yekhanurov, which Parliament had narrowly rejected two days ago.

"We must bury the hatchet," Mr. Yushchenko told deputies before they voted again on the nomination of Mr. Yekhanurov, as transcribed by the British Broadcasting Corporation. "We need to bury it deep and forget about it."

The vote - with 289 deputies in favor, compared with only 223 on Tuesday - ended the immediate crisis that began nearly three weeks ago with public accusations of corruption against some of Mr. Yushchenko's closest advisers.

It came at a cost politically, though, and further roiled Ukraine's political landscape six months before new parliamentary elections.

The unlikely alliance with Mr. Yanukovich - who felt cheated out of victory in last year's elections after street protests overturned a fraudulent vote and swept Mr. Yushchenko to power - isolated Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who was one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution.

Mr. Yushchenko dismissed her as prime minister two weeks ago after a turbulent seven months that disrupted the country's economy. She remains a popular leader, however, and her supporters reacted angrily.

Mykola V. Tomenko, who resigned as Ms. Tymoshenko's deputy prime minister and accused Mr. Yushchenko of tolerating corruption, said he had betrayed the Orange Revolution by allying himself with a stalwart of Leonid D. Kuchma's presidency.

"The current authorities have closed the historical period linked to the demands of and values of Maidan," he told Interfax, referring to Kiev's Independence Square, where last year's protests were concentrated. "A new period is beginning, which historians have yet to name but will definitely not be linked to the Orange Revolution."

In exchange for backing the new prime minister, Mr. Yanukovich extracted a written list of concessions from Mr. Yushchenko. They included promises to end criminal investigations that Mr. Yanukovich's supporters have denounced as political retribution and to provide his party with access to the news media before the elections in March.

Mr. Yushchenko also agreed to diminish significantly the National Security and Defense Council, a new agency that has been criticized as an unconstitutional expansion of the executive branch and has been at the center of corruption accusations. When Mr. Yushchenko announced those changes, Parliament erupted in applause. All 50 members of Mr. Yanukovich's party, Regions of Ukraine, then reversed their votes, having abstained Tuesday, as did 16 others who did not vote the first time.

Taras V. Choronovol, a deputy from Mr. Yanukovich's party, said in a telephone interview that the agreement would weaken a presidency that had grown unaccountable and susceptible to corruption. "Until yesterday, he and his administration were duplicating the old regime, grabbing and accumulating new powers and authority, powerful new functions that, among other things, resulted in pressure on judges," he said.

Mr. Yekhanurov, a liberal economist and regional governor widely seen as a moderate, announced that he would form a new government of ministers next week.

Source: The New York Times

Prez Cuts Key Positions, Curbs Security Council Powers to Please Rada

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko abolished several key positions at his office and lowered powers of the National Security and Defense Council Thursday amid attempts to reshape the way decisions are made in Ukraine.

The changes were part of a compromise with other political groups that had allowed an approval of Yuriy Yekhanurov, his long time ally, as the country's new prime ministers.

The changes replace a system of decision making that had been introduced by Yushchenko shortly after his inauguration to the presidency late January and that had been balancing out rival groups of power.

The system anticipated three important decision making positions, such as the prime minister, the secretary of state and the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

The idea was to give each of these positions significant powers so enable them compete against each other and provide competitive development to select strategically correct decisions.

However, it proved to be a disaster that had led to political crisis earlier this month when the secretary of state, Oleksandr Zinchenko, resigned and accused the secretary of NSDC, Petro Poroshenko, of corruption. Zinchenko's position was later supported by the prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, while Poroshenko had responded accusing both of politically motivated attack.

As a result, Yushchenko sacked all on Sept. 8, arguing the team had failed to come up with an appropriate decision making that had stalled the process and led to the crisis.

Under the new plan, the post of the secretary of state will be eliminated with some of its duties to be transferred to the newly created post of the head of the presidential secretariat, the position that will be taken by Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's close aide.

The secretary of NSDC will have its powers reduced, such as supervision of the process of clearing and appointment of judges and law enforcement officials. These duties will transfer to the presidential secretariat and would remove a conflict that had been so far brewing between the NSDC and the Cabinet of Ministers.

"I made the conclusion that the president begins to act as the leader, as the president," Leonid Kravchuk, a leader of SDPU(O), an opposition group in Parliament, said. "Previously there was more attention given to office bureaucracy that had not always generated transparent policy. But the president can generate such policy."

Yushchenko also abolished the post of the president top aide. The post has been so far occupied by Oleksandr Tretiakov. Tretiakov was suspended on Sept. 8 after the corruption allegations from Zinchenko, but a subsequent investigation had found nothing on him.

Source: Ukrainian Journal

Berezovsky Welcomes Ukraine Inquiry

RIGA, Latvia -- Boris Berezovsky has said he will cooperate fully with a Ukrainian parliamentary investigation into allegations he funded the political campaign of President Viktor Yushchenko, and accused outside forces, including the Kremlin, of being behind a plan to bring down Yushchenko's government.

Berezovsky, in Latvia on a two-day business trip, on Wednesday repeated statements that he had spoken by telephone to Yushchenko and met his Orange Revolution allies.

Berezovsky was in Riga with Neil Bush, U.S. President George W. Bush's brother, to promote an educational software company.

Berezovsky said the funding allegations were part of a plan by Yushchenko's opponents to bring him down.

"I think this is very simple," Berezovsky said after his arrival in Latvia. "There are groups inside the country and outside, in the Kremlin, who are very disappointed in the outcome of the election and they're trying to destroy the team that won the election."

He did not elaborate on his claims, and again refused to say whether he had directly funded Yushchenko's campaign.

Interfax on Wednesday quoted "sources in law enforcement agencies" as saying Russia had officially asked Latvia to detain and extradite Berezovsky, who is wanted in Moscow on fraud charges.

The Ukrainian parliament on Tuesday set up a commission to investigate the allegations that Berezovsky financed the campaign.

"In general, I think the investigation is good because they are trying to build an open society," Berezovsky said. "They should make a choice between an open society and a corrupt society. I am open to give them all the documents they ask from me."

Berezovsky's statements have generated a political storm in Kiev, though the furor has been overshadowed by Yushchenko's efforts to install Yuriy Yekhanurov as prime minister. Yushchenko fired Yekhanurov's predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, earlier this month after months of government infighting and allegations of corruption.

Former President Leonid Kravchuk accused Berezovsky of having funded Yushchenko's campaign days after the president fired Tymoshenko. Kravchuk said he believed Berezovsky had donated at least $15 million.

Yushchenko and his allies denied receiving funds from Berezovsky or any foreign source.

Berezovsky is a shareholder of Ignite, an educational software company founded by Bush in 1999 that is looking at opportunities in the Central and Eastern European markets.

Berezovsky said planned to meet with university professors as well as Latvian officials, including the parliamentary speaker and interior minister, RIA-Novosti reported.

Source: Moscow Times

Time for Justice Says IFJ as Ukraine Parliament Report Fuels Accusations over Gongadze Killing

KIEV, Ukraine -- After five years of prevarication and political hand-wringing the time has come for justice in the case of Georgy Gongadze says the International Federation of Journalists after a Parliamentary Commission in Kiev investigating the kidnapping and beheading of the journalist five years ago accused the parliament's speaker of being behind the assassination.

The speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, had "instigated the abduction" of Gongadze, says the commission, whose report has been sent on to the general prosecutor’s office.

Gongadze, an internet journalist who wrote about high-level corruption, was kidnapped and killed in 2000. “It’s time for justice in this case and an end to the political game-playing,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Ukraine must act upon this report, ensure that all the evidence is fully tested and make sure that those responsible are brought to trial.”

However, the IFJ fears that the parliamentary decision to wind up the commission and the lack of response from the prosecutor’s office may prompt a new round of delays. “Many people are rightly worried that the public outrage over this case which helped lead to the ‘Orange Revolution’ last year, may be ignored in order to save the skin of people in high places,” said White. “It’s vital that there are no further delays.”

Public concern over the case was one of the issues which brought the President Viktor Yushchenko to office.

The parliamentary commission's report is based upon tapes in which voices resembling those of Lytvyn, former president Leonid Kuchma and other officials are heard allegedly conspiring against Gongadze. But Kuchma has repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the tapes, secretly recorded by his former bodyguard. Lytvyn has dismissed the report as "a provocation aimed at diverting attention from the real culprits" for Gongadze's death and has resisted calls for his resignation.

Nevertheless, the parliamentary report says that the "authenticity of tapes has been verified.”

A month after Yushchenko's inauguration in January this year, prosecutors indicted three former policemen over Gongadze's death. A fourth suspect is at large and being sought on an international warrant.

“There is no excuse for further delay,” said White. “We need answers as to why the powerful people behind this plot have not been held to account. Those in custody today are willing pawns; the people who gave the orders and set the process in motion must be found and brought to justice, no matter how powerful they think they are.”

Source: Peace Journalism