Interview: Tymoshenko Says She Was 'Radical' As Prime Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko acknowledged Dec. 8 that she acted too radically while in office, but defended her rush to annul some state privatizations as the justice that voters demanded.

Yulia Tymoshenko at a press conference

"Yes, undoubtedly, I was radical," Tymoshenko told The Associated Press. "Probably my mistake was that I wanted to do everything quickly, as people expected."

Tymoshenko has been plotting her return to the country's No. 2 job since her former Orange Revolution ally, President Viktor Yushchenko, fired her in September, complaining that her economic policies drove the country to the brink of collapse.

Far from removing her from the political scene, Tymoshenko's ouster set her up as a strong competitor to Yushchenko. Tymoshenko is banking on a good showing by her party in March parliamentary elections, when the new government will be formed by the parliamentary majority instead of by the president. A strong win could propel the charismatic Tymoshenko back into the prime minister's seat, a job that will become even more powerful after the election reforms.

Tymoshenko had called for the annulment of dozens of suspicious privatization deals made under former President Leonid Kuchma. She defended those actions Dec. 8, saying "either there is justice or there isn't, there can't be just a little justice."

But she noted that she also pushed for a law that would have made clear which companies would have their deals reconsidered; every other business would have been granted an amnesty.

"The door would have been closed" to further reversals of privatization deals, she said.

During Tymoshenko's time in office, foreign direct investment in Ukraine plummeted and GDP growth fell from double-digits to below 4 percent. She also was criticized for intervening in the marketplace, triggering crises in the gas, sugar and meat sectors.

Tymoshenko said she ran into trouble because "all the other team members agreed on something else behind my back. In that case, my actions were groundlessly radical."

"I am sure that in some months, the people of Ukraine will understand that I was taken away not for low-quality work, not for ineffective work, but just for what I did fulfilling the requests of the voters," she said.

Opinion polls indicate that her party is neck-and-neck with Yushchenko's bloc, and the Orange Revolution's main enemy, Viktor Yanukovych, is ahead. None of the three parties, however, are poised to win enough votes to form a government on their own, making a coalition necessary. Tymoshenko has repeatedly said that she hopes to reunite with Yushchenko's team at that point.

Otherwise, she warned that she fears a return of Yanukovych, Kuchma's former prime minister and last year's losing presidential candidate.

The chances "are so high that people who represent our Orange Team need to think not about themselves but about what's at stake so that all we did was not done in vain," she said.

Many Ukrainians are disappointed with the slow pace of change, and were shocked by the abrupt and nasty break-up of the Orange Revolution duo, who ended up accusing each other of corruption. Yushchenko has complained that Tymoshenko wasn't a team player, and has seemed reluctant to consider her as a possible prime minister again.

Tymoshenko said the Orange Revolution taught Ukraine that the people's will matters. Earlier, she said five factors influenced elections in this nation of 47 million people: the United States, Russia, the use of administrative resources to pressure voters, pressure on the media and money.

"This has radically changed," she said from her office, which bustled with activity the day after her party held a big convention to kick off its campaign.

"I feel a big responsibility not to allow these changes to stop, not to allow it to stop half way," she said. "I feel a big responsibility to complete these reforms and to return faith to a large number of disappointed people."

Source: AP