Yanukovych: The Man Who Wouldn't Be Ukrainian President

KIEV, Ukraine -- He first rose to national political prominence in 2002, when he was appointed Ukrainian prime minister under President Leonid Kuchma. Analysts immediately foresaw a shift in power toward the country's so-called Donetsk clan, which Yanukovych represented.

Viktor Yanukovych

After years of stagnation and corruption, and a string of murdered journalists, Kuchma had become a pariah at home and abroad, with no hope of imposing himself into a third term.

The Donetsk region, a flotilla of industrial assets in a sea of criminal activity, was looking to drop anchor in Kyiv.

Yanukovych - or Yanuk as he's sometimes called - was an ideal leader of the Donbass revival: He spoke Russian rather than Ukrainian, knew how to manage a hierarchical structure and himself had served time for violent crimes committed as a youth.

These very characteristics, however, made him all the less appealing to a majority (although not a vast majority) of Ukrainians.

So when Yanuk tried to steal the presidency in 2004, the result was an outpouring of public and international support for the country's new, democratic "messiah'Viktor Yushchenko.

Just the opposite of the Donetsk strongman, Yushchenko was mild-mannered, seemingly squeaky clean and Western looking.

By the time the non-violent Orange Revolution was over, Yanuk had become the archetypal post-Soviet bad guy.

But to his credit, and helped by the self-interest and idiotic infighting of Orange leaders, Mr. Yanukovych returned as prime minister in 2006.

With fresh momentum, a democratic mandate and an imported PR team, he quickly tried to stage himself as a standard center-right politician, while rabbit punching Yushchenko off stage.

After several successively nasty political standoffs, the Orange team briefly regained their unity and retook control of the government, if only to start fighting over it among themselves before the ink on the ballots had dried.

Yanukovych was once again out of a job. Yes, he still heads the parliament's biggest faction, but that faction is breaking apart.

With presidential elections scheduled for January of next year, Yanukovych can, however, hardly afford to lose control of his own party.

"Now, the Party of Regions is more mobilized than ever. We don't have any schisms, we have no disagreement," he recently announced during a visit to Crimea.

But the more he talked, the less convincing he seemed.

"As for those who for whatever reason have changed their views or decided to betray their principles, the door is not only open for them [to leave], we will help them to leave the party," he threatened ominously.

Does this sound like the words of a man who can lead a nation? If it does, then things don't bode so well for Ukrainians who don't share Mr. Yanukovych's point of view.

What Mr. Yanukovych really sounds like is a man desperate to hold on to what little power he has left.

But it was Yanukovych who let the much weaker Yushchenko call early parliamentary elections in 2006 and regain the government for the Orange.

This put the Donetsk strongman in no good stead with the Kremlin, virtually the only country to recognize Yanukovych's claim to the presidency in 2004.

Not only can he not hold on to power dropped into his very lap, Yanukovych has still not even managed to make Russian an official language in Ukraine, the Kremlin must be thinking.

Under Yushchenko, Ukraine has, on the contrary, attempted to join NATO, kick the Russian navy out of Crimea, accuse Moscow of genocide, etc. etc.

Surely as the leader of the largest party in parliament and having been in charge of the government for a year, Mr. Yanukovych could have done something to show Moscow he's useful.

The split in the Regions Party is in fact one between the party's business wing and those keen on closer ties with Russia.

Without the support of Moscow or his party's business wing, Yanukovych might end up resorting to drum beating among unpaid pensioners and angry young men with crew cuts.

Either to remind voters that he still exists or as an attempt to kick start his presidential bid, the former premier held a rally in Kyiv on Friday.

As predicted by analysts, the expected protest against "Orange chaos" by Regions loyalists was a flop, with only two or three thousand showing up.

Didn't the Regions learn their lesson during the Orange Revolution about trying to stir up Kyivans?

Yanuk had promised that he had no intention of destabilizing the country, and he kept his promise better than he had ever intended.

Maybe the party of the opposition will have better luck blocking the parliamentary rostrum, as they also recently promised to do.

But don't expect such passé antics to win them any more votes.

Ukrainians are tired of their indecisive president, but not so tired to have warmed on Yanuk. If Yushchenko is a wimp, then Yanukovych is a bully, and their countrymen can stand neither.

The third candidate, Orange premier Yulia Tymoshenko, has also dropped in the ratings, but she's fallen on Yushchenko's head, while challenging Yanukovych in Moscow and Eastern Ukraine along the way.

Yanukovych still scores much higher than Yushchenko and even tops Lady Yu on a good day, but points do not make a president.

His latest efforts are a little too little, a little too late; they still smell of vodka-fuelled rallies and sound more like "what's wrong?" instead of "what are we going to do?"

There is something about Yanukovych's rise from an orphaned hoodlum to a post-revolutionary leader that could almost be romantic and inspiring if it weren't for Yanukovych himself. In the end, the man offers nothing new and, indeed, has a hard time making anything out of the old.

It's far from clear who will take the reigns of power from Ukraine's fallen "messiah', except that it won't be Mr. Yanukovych.

Source: Turkish Weekly


Pushkin said…
Wishfull thinking... from the Tutkish Press (???)... paid by the "anti-Russian" group?

It takes more than character assessination to undo the ongoing chanages, the reality checks, the fantasy outlook of the Orange (planned)Revolution.

What you see in Ukraine is "capitalism" western style and the natural results of this system. The West wants and see Ukraine as a puppet country, and as a tool for the demise of Russia.