Yulia Timoshenko: Power in Ukraine Will be in the Hands of Three or Four People

KIEV, Ukraine -- In less than a month, the amendments to the constitution of Ukraine that limit presidential power and drastically increase authority of the prime minister and the role of parliament will go into effect in Ukraine. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko told Kommersant about her vision of future political mechanisms of the country and future perspective of Russian-Ukranian relations.

The prime minister of Ukraine Timoshenko (L) and chairman of the Supreme Rada Litvin

From Sept. 1 to constitutional amendments that were adopted last year will go into effect in Ukraine. That means that the power of the prime minister is increasing quite a bit. Are you ready for that?

Actually, many times in my interviews I said what I thought about constitutional reform. Maybe I praise myself a little bit, but my attitude does not change with a change in my position. It doesn’t matter what position I held, I always quite realistically evaluate the reform. And even if this reform gives the prime minister more authority, I would like to say that it does not become more attractive to me.


This reform at the end will unbalance power in the country and will put an end to separation of powers. A few people who would rule the fractions of majority in the Supreme Rada (local parliament) will appoint everybody and everything in the country, starting with prime minister and ending with ministers. In other words, from now on, the prime minister will not be able to appoint and fire ministers. That would be the role of the majority in the Supreme Rada. It all will boil down to the decisions of three or four leaders or owners of the factions. Moreover, this majority in parliament will appoint and fire all judges, all law enforcement officers and all controlling organs. It shouldn’t be like this. Beside, it breaks the executive connection. According to the changes in the constitution, the governors will be appointed by the president. So it will look like a tree with a bunch of branches and leaves on the top—the government will be subordinate to the Supreme Rada and the roots representing governors – to the president. I would like to see who would be able to take any obligations in the country within such a system of management. Or how somebody can manage and finish projects to the logical end.

You said many times that you intend to run for election to the Supreme Rada in 2006 in one bloc with Viktor Yushenko and Vladimir Litvin. However, some political analysts have doubts that such a union is even possible.

I can say firmly that the bloc of parties that I was heading on the previous election and which works quite successfully in the parliament (Faction BYT—Kommersant) we will keep. It went through hard trials, but people withstood all the troubles and demonstrated ability to work as one team. And of course, the bloc that was headed by me for sure will join the efforts with the president of the country. I want to underline one more time that I am not separating myself from the president and I will always support him.

Who will lead this election bloc?

The politician that has the highest rating in society. I will take a risk to think that it will be the prime minister.

Your visit to Russia was planned many times but always postponed. When will it finally happen?

Of course all visits will be made some day. I think mine in Russia and the Russian prime minister to Ukraine. Currently the Ministries of Foreign Affairs are working on the terms and protocols of these visits. As soon as these visits are prepared they will happen.

Vladimir Putin stated Russia would supply gas to Ukraine only “if Ukraine would not snatch it again.” Do you agree with such an evaluation of Ukrainian actions?

I do respect Vladimir Putin and Russia. And I would really want the mutual feeling from them. Because all the friendly relationships can only be built mutually. One-sided love usually ends up with not good things: disappointment and the soul aches. I would not want for our peoples to have such soul aches. I do believe that Ukraine behaves itself correctly in all issues connected with gas. Ukraine accurately pays its debt and also accurately pays for all incoming gas. I also would like that all officials in Ukraine understand that we have to proudly represent the interests of our people and defend with honor our national interests.

In the last week you signed a government order to form a working group for negotiations for the gas supply from Russia to Ukraine. How long will it really take to settle gas problems between the two countries?

There are plenty of ways out of the current situation. It is important that from Ukrainian as well as from the Russian sides there be professional teams of negotiators. In other words people who know what they are talking about. I think the Ukrainian government formed a quite competent group that in the nearest time as soon as a Russian agreement is received would go to Russia and start concrete negotiations. A lot of it depends on Russia. For instance, how about this way out from the situation? In 2001, we had a ratified agreement that Ukraine will pay for its previous debts not by gas but by money. Later, in a contradiction to this agreement, Naftogaz of Ukraine and Gasprom struck an deal according to which we have to give back as a debt payment 5 billion cubic meters of gas each year. I think we should go back to the agreement of 2001 and pay with money. We’re ready for that. Ukaine has money for that.

Today several Russian banks are showing interest in the Ukrainian market. However, they are complaining of administrative obstacles. Do you plan the liberalization of the market for the banking industry?

First of all, the Russian banks can work in Ukraine right now, but with limited licenses. Ukrainian laws prohibit the opening of full-operation bank offices. However, if you want to know my opinion, Ukraine should get rid of all these limitations in the banking industry and enter the capital market as well as go into the competitive financial market. Otherwise, we would never lower the credit percentage for our industry and we’ll never have solid competition in our financial market. That’s exactly what I would like to do—to create normal competition in the banking market. For that matter, I will employ all my political powers for the opportunity to have all banks and financial companies of the world be represented in Ukraine.

What do you think about Russian participation in privatization of Ukrtelekom?

The nationality of investor does not make any difference to me. The only thing that is important is how much the investor is willing to pay for the stock portfolio and how ready he is to comply with the conditions of the contract. I can say that today we are conducting preliminary preparation for Ukrtelekom privatization. We hope to increase capitalization of the enterprise and give back all possible licenses, including license of the model communication operator as well as clear out all debt. In other words, we are getting ready.

Which model might the privatization use?

I think that would be pretty simple. With very tough conditions from the state about Ukrtelekom’s coordination with all state structures, I think we most likely sell 51 percent of stock. The state will stay an owner of 49 percent and thus will receive guaranteed dividends. And the dividend payment would be part of the conditions. Moreover, these conditions will also include all technicalities which concern state security in the field of connection and communication.

During the May crisis in the oil market, you criticized the work of Russian oil companies. Did your attitude toward the work of TNK-BP and LUKOIL change?

These enterprises today are deeply involved in the reconstruction of their plants. I hope they will continue to provide their gas stations with the oil byproducts without breaks. And I also hope they will represent a real competition in our market. This is the main demand to these companies. And of course, the main demand is to honestly pay taxes.

Source: Kommersant