Regions Boss Gets Security Post

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yushchenko surprised critics and allies this week when he appointed opposition leader Raisa Bohatyryova to a top government post in what is widely viewed as an attempt to stabilize the post-election environment in Ukraine.

President Viktor Yushchenko delivered a double blow against his political rivals by appointing Party of Regions leader Raisa Bohatyryova to the post of National Security and Defense Council.

Appointing Bohatyryova, a leader of the Party of Regions of Ukraine (PRU), to secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) will help foster stable relations between the president and Rinat Akhmetov, Bohatyryova’s close ally and Ukraine’s biggest industrial magnate, observers said.

“This is the president’s team drawing closer to the constructive, moderate wing of the PRU led by Akhemtov and Bohatyryova,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, chairman of the Kyiv-based Penta Center for Applied Political Research.

The Dec. 24 presidential decree appointing Bohatyryova as NSDC secretary, which coordinates key security organs, caught the PRU’s leadership off guard and resulted in the first time an internal PRU conflict spilled into the public eye, he said.

Regional differences

The following day, the presidium of the PRU’s political council opposed Bohatyryova’s appointment and told her to choose between the party and the post.

“She can make this decision as an individual undoubtedly, but I believe her activity as a politician will cease,” PRU leader and former prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych said.

Bohatyryova did not make an official statement explaining why she accepted the job, but was present at the Dec. 26 Cabinet of Ministers meeting where the president officially presented her.

The appointment was likely coordinated by Presidential Secretariat Head Viktor Baloha and PRU member Borys Kolesnikov, the right-hand men of the president and Akhmetov respectively, Fesenko said.

The political insider said Kolesnikov was initially considered for the post, but the presidential secretariat determined his presence would be too controversial.

Today a member of parliament, Kolesnikov was arrested in 2005, when he was Donetsk Region Council Chair, and accused of crimes in Donetsk while acquiring his enormous wealth, estimated at more than $500 million. The charges were subsequently dropped.

The Bohatyryova appointment took Kyiv by surprise, causing various theories to circulate why she was offered the post and why she accepted it.

Her close contact with the presidential secretariat will provide Akhmetov with access to the president’s policymaking, Fesenko said, to defend his massive business interests.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko re-privatized the Kryvorizhstal steel mill, partly owned by Akhmetov, in her first term as prime minister in 2005 and said she would review Akhmetov’s late August purchase of a controlling stake in Dniproenergo, Ukraine’s largest electricity producer, according to Fesenko.

“This is insurance against possible raids by Tymoshenko’s government on Akhemetov’s business,” he said.

Akhmetov and Bohatyryova are also flexing their muscles within the PRU, demonstrating to Yanukovych’s team that their wing’s concerns must be taken into account, observers said.

Bohatyryova grew tired of looming in the shadows of other PRU leaders without being offered any government posts with influence, other observers said.

Her last major post was as Minister of Health in the late 1990s during the presidency of Leonid Kuchma.

Born in the Russian Federation and educated as a gynecologist in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Bohatyryova is a veteran of eastern Ukrainian politics and among the PRU’s most popular figures.

In her rise to success, she perfected her Ukrainian language, lost weight and adopted a telegenic image. On one occasion, she told journalists that she regained youthful good lucks by quitting smoking, coffee and alcohol.

Counterweight to Tymoshenko

From the president’s point of view, appointing Bohatyryova is a way to ensure stability following political crisis, Fesenko said.

Not everyone agrees.

Andriy Yermolayev, a Kyiv political analyst affiliated with the PRU, accused Yushchenko of inflaming political intrigues by making a political decision regarding what is largely a bureaucratic post.

Yushchenko has used the NSDC post as a means to check the prime minister’s influence in the past, observers said.

During Tymoshenko’s first term, Yushchenko appointed his close advisor Petro Poroshenko to the post, which set the stage for a vicious power struggle that ultimately caused the demise of the first Orange government.

The president may be looking to create a buffer once again, observers said.

“The president is practically creating a certain counterbalance against Yulia Tymoshenko and will try to weaken the Tymoshenko government by introducing Donetsk players into the game,” said Kost Bondarenko of the Kyiv-based Gorshenin Institute of Management.

Tymoshenko told reporters it’s solely the president’s prerogative to appoint the NSDC secretary and she looked forward to working with any appointments.

The NSDC chair is not an exceptionally stable post, with six politicians having served during Yushchenko’s three years as president. None have served longer than nine months.

When created, the NSDC was tailored as the Ukrainian government’s version of the US government’s National Security Council.

NSDC members include ministers and heads of the so-called power ministries and agencies. Yushchenko expanded the council to include the heads of regional state administrations – the so-called “oblast governors” that are appointed by the head of state.

Appointments continue

Other key government posts were filled this week.

Mega-millionaire banker and Tymoshenko ally Serhiy Buryak will lead the State Tax Administration, while media magnate Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy will chair the State Customs Service.

Presidential ally and former Zaporizhya Region administration head Yevhen Chervonenko said Dec. 24 he was offered a deputy prime minister post in Tymoshenko’s cabinet to oversee preparations for Euro2012. His nomination needs the parliament’s approval.

Other key posts remain to be filled at the state committee level, including the State Committee for Radio and Television Broadcasting.

“Society will have to monitor not only Yanukovych’s oligarchs, but those of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko as well,” Fesenko said.

Source: Kyiv Post