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LOOKING AHEAD
28.07.2008

July 19, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Anatoly Grigorenko

THE SUPREME RADA'S SOB STORY

The Ukrainian establishment is growing into a role of a disabled

A MAD TEA PARTY IN MARCH HARE'S HOUSE

The independent Ukraine displays a phenomenon, hardly understandable for the Western European tradition: the more democracy it acquires, the weaker is the legal order. The situation of last summer, when President Victor Yushchenko's attempt to dissolve the parliament resulted in a complete paralysis of all the institutions, including the Supreme Court, the Central Election Committee and the Army Staff, was supposed to teach a good lesson. The compromise of the Party of Regions that voluntarily agreed for snap elections of the Supreme Rada, was supposed to return the situation into the legal framework. However, the same pattern was reproduced in the country a year later.

Unlike the episode last year's situation, the present crisis emerged developed without any intervention from outside. The political balance went topsy-turvy when two MPs, Igor Rybakov and Yury But, decided to withdraw from the feeble democratic coalition which lost the majority, while the opposition acquired the opportunity to sabotage the government. This opportunity was used at once, as the Party of Regions could not forgive the humiliation of its chair, Victor Yanukovich, in last September when the unexpectedly weak performance of his party in the snap elections he was supposed to repeatedly win, forced him to concede the post of Prime Minister to Yulia Timoshenko. The rest was predictable: the attempt to raise the issue of non-confidence to the government was followed with a "siege" of the tribune by Mrs. Timoshenko's faction, and an efficient collapse of the legislative process.

What was happening during the next six weeks in the Rada, was compared by observers to "Santa Barbara" soap opera. However, the TV serial at least followed certain logic of composition. Meanwhile, the events in the Supreme Rada exceeded not only expediency but common reason. One could hardly recall a single example from the history of European parliamentary tradition in which the Prime Minister's party voluntarily ceases the legislative process for a month; when the parliament's speaker opens the assembly to close it two minutes; when an hour afterwards, the leaders of factions, convened by the same speaker, return to the same hall and recite their accounts, addressing empty chairs. The last scene resembles not "Santa Barbara" movie but rather the mad tea party in March Hare's house in "Alice in Wonderland".

The grotesque impression is augmented with the serious expression of the faces of legislators who sincerely believe in compassion and trust from the electorate – which, in fact, is pretty bored with the political circus. President Victor Yushchenko, who realizes that one more snap election will doom his own party, decides to reanimate the issue of the attempt of poisoning he allegedly underwent at a party with caviar, cognac and sushi shortly before the triumph of the "orange revolution" three and a half years ago. He also uses the opportunity of the Independence Day to raise the national flag over the mount of Goverla on the West Carpathian range, and to launch criminal persecution against the flock of students who pulled down the earlier established national symbol at the same place. Instead of compassion, the two initiatives are followed with laughter. Even Yushchenko's own associates, instead of following the leader under the national banner, are calmly dividing the party into smaller parts, preparing to line up behind Victor Baloga, head of the President's Secretariat.

The search for poisoners results in detention and interrogation of a correspondent of Ukrainskaya Pravda online newspaper who had dared to interview David Zhvania, one of the organizers of the unhappy feast and then a close friend of Yushchenko (as well as his then- liaison to Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky). Ukrainskaya Pravda was founded by Georgy Gongadze, the legendary journalist who was brutally assassinated in 2001, physically losing his head which hasn't been found since. Days before the scandal with the correspondent, top EU officials inquired Mr. Yushchenko on the stalled investigation of the Gongadze case. Though Mr. Yushchenko's own head, covered with mysterious pimples, is on its place, he fails to grasp the inadequacy of the situation.

Naturally, journalists raise a human rights hullabaloo; naturally, the observer from Gongadze's website is promptly released. In fact, the defenders of media rights don't believe in Mr. Yushchenko's ability to establish a dictatorship or even a relative order among his own associates. Not quite naturally, the fear of dictatorship grips the Communist Party. On the last day of the Parliament's work, its chair Pyotr Simonenko refuses to vote for the non-confidence resolution, explaining that the collapse of Timoshenko's government would result in the "dictatorship of the President". This window-dressing well couples the President's complaints.

 

FEAR GRADING INTO LOYALTY

On July 11, the left-centrist opposition ostensibly possessed a good opportunity to avenge for last year's defeat. On the last day before vacations, Timoshenko's associates had to lift the "siege", as the Supreme Rada was supposed to adopt essential amendments to the state budget. The issue of non-confidence to the Prime Minister was in the agenda, and ex-Vice Premier Nikolay Azarov, a close associate of Victor Yanukovich, delivered a speech on the issue. However, the dullness of his intonation and weakness of arguments did not reflect energy and commitment. Already by the opening of the session, the Party of Regions was aware of the failure to gain the required majority, as the deputies from the Communist Party and Vladimir Litvin's Popular Party were reluctant to support Yanukovich, changing their minds within a day.

Yanukovich's associates had grounds to suspect of a backdoor deal. In fact, Vladimir Litvin expressed open loyalty to the premier weeks before, at the time when Mrs. Timoshenko was visiting the congress of the European Popular Union, her party being co-opted to the international alliance of Christian-Democratic parties. Earlier, Ukraine was represented in EPU by Mr. Litvin's party (as it is easy to guess from its title, invented probably for this only purpose). Obviously, Mrs. Timoshenko obtained the necessary political connections from Mr. Litvin, promising him support in the next Rada campaign.

The Communists, with their presently modest but stable electorate, expected even to expand due to economic decline and inflation, did not seem so dependent on Mrs. Timoshenko's sympathy. Still,

Simonenko's party not only refrained from non-confidence vote but supported the Premier's amendments to the budget Ц on the contrary to the majority of Victor Yushchenko's NUNS party representing the associates of Victor Baloga. The only visible motivation for the deal with the Premier could be explained with fear of snap election requiring expenses for the campaign.

In any case, each of the party bosses played in the interests of his own, thus allowing Yulia Timoshenko to keep afloat and stay in the Prime Minister's position at least until the end of the vacations. While Mr. Simonenko was explaining his motives to his puzzled regional associates, Mrs. Timoshenko hurried to Warsaw, in order to achieve public approval for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic choice from President Lech Kaczynski.

On this background, one more ardent supporter of Ukraine's entry in NATO pops up on the scene. Surprisingly, it is the former President Leonid Kravchuk, the very person who ran to the Supreme Rada in 2006 under the banners of "Ne Tak" list (a play of Russian and Ukrainian words, literally "Not Yes", as opposed to "Tak" (Yes"), the not very sophisticated slogan of the "orange revolution"). Mr. Kravchuk declares that he has revised his views on Ukraine's foreign policy priorities, suddenly guessing that only NATO can save the country from economic problems. This revelation is made only after the Rada vote; thus, Mr. Litvin and Mr. Simonenko have paved the way to Mr. Kravchuk's political discovery.

Curiously, ex-Premier Boris Tarasyuk, known as the most convinced supporter of Ukraine's integration into Western institutions, had acknowledged days earlier that the campaign of NATO's popularization in Ukraine has failed.

The political activity is evaluated from its result. The concession of the Communists helped the leadership of Poland to realize whom it has to deal with. A week before, Kaczynski rejected the invitation to Ukraine where he (along with Tony Blair) was supposed to speak at the Yalta European Conference (YES), convened annually by Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law, oilpipe oligarch and Elton John's friend Victor Pinchuk. However, he was too busy on that day as the Warsaw Institute of Memory on that day commemorated the massacre of Poles, committed in 1939 by the paramilitary Ukrainian Rebel Army (UPA). This political scandal did not prevent Mrs. Timoshenko from paying a visit to Mr. Kaczynski.

Meanwhile, the more essential issue of amendments to the budget was not resolved, as Mr. Yushchenko and Mrs. Timoshenko proposed two parallel texts of amendments, none of them gaining majority at the last session of the Parliament. The amendments were supposed to mobilize an additional amount of state expenses for urgent purchase of gas from Russia before the increase of prices.

 

SHAM DEAF-MUTE

In fact, Ukraine's leadership had a perfect possibility to accumulate the required gas reserves. Both Gazprom and the EU partners had warned that the privileged price regime was expiring, due to the demand of Turkmenistan's leadership to elevate purchasing prices. However, Ukraine's President was more occupied with the problem of national symbols, and the Prime Minister was too focused on attacking the President. The latest pretext was related to the "embezzlement" of the domestic oil and gas reserves on the shelf of the Black Sea. Mrs. Timoshenko was irritated with the fact that a formidable piece of offshore territory was granted to a single company for a song.

The deal with the oilfield was not new. Mrs. Timoshenko initiated the scandal only when the major share in Vanco, the developing company, was sold by the original investor, associated with Rothschild, to an ownership of East Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov Ц according to the Premier's version, through direct mediation from President Yushchenko.

The fact of a backdoor deal between Yuschenko and the major sponsor of the Party of Regions was not surprising for Ukrainian observers Ц as well as the published reprint from Huffington Post blog about a long-term PR contract between leftist Victor Yanukovich and rightist political technologist Rick Davis, a member of John McCain's staff. The Ukrainian public has got used to the sloppiness of their political and financial bosses, both in diplomacy and private life.

At the first glance, a Ukrainian politician is a perfectly adequate person, with excessive erudition and refined aesthetic. You can listen to him for hours, wondering why this intellect is so helpless in carrying out elementary managerial functions, and why this person, bravely and sometimes naughtily commenting on particular events, gets confused as a child when some sensitive personal issue is occasionally mentioned, goggling and getting deaf-mute.

 

FAMILIAR SOB STORY INTONATION

The newly-disgraced Ukrainskaya Pravda website recently published detailed interviews with two major businessmen involved in political affairs Ц the abovementioned David Zhvania and Donetsk tycoon Andrey Kluyev. Both persons were surprisingly sincere. Mr. Zhvania even acknowledged that the episode of alleged "capture" of Berezovsky's crony Ivan Rybkin that happened in spring 2004 in Kiev was mastered in order to undermine the presidential election in Russia where Rybkin took part, and only direct intervention from a "frightened" then-President Leonid Kuchma ruined the scenario.

However, the major intention of both businessmen was to paint themselves in better colors. While national business figures perform on the national scene, politicians prefer foreign media terminals: in particular, Victor Yushchenko's recent revelations on the supposed assault on his life on the eve of the "orange revolution" surfaced in his talk with Der Standard, an Austrian daily.

In fact, the Ukrainian ruling class is nervous not over current perturbation in regular political affairs that have become a tradition, as well as subtleties like amendments to the budget or fuel supplies. They seem to be nervous over some unexpected event that could interrupt the "Santa Barbara" serial, and demand responsibility for everything: for the laws not adopted and agreements not signed, for political mimicry and personal indecency, for everyday lies and backdoor deals, for excessive luxury on the background of mass poverty. Not surprisingly, each of them, including the president, style themselves as victims of something Ц Moscow imperialism, unknown disease, intrigues of rivals and unreliability of Western partners. The overall complaining intonation is supposed to emphasize that the complainer is incapable of resolving the problem he had personally created, for a whole array of external and domestic reasons.

It is equally unsurprising that one Ukrainian political boss after another grasps the lifebelt of NATO as the last resort. In fact, he is trying to grasp not a reliable cruiser but an efficient shield from Moscow partners and his own cronies, as well as his people.

This circuit of self-protection acquires specific religious colors. Not only Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky has become famous as a protégé of an international religious sect. The nearest circle of Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, beside the Evangelical pastor and Chernovetsky's arch-foe Alexander Turchinov, includes a certain Alexander Dubovoy, chair of the Kindness and Love Foundation. While Energy Minister YuryBoiko is exposing "Lady Yu" of corruption schemes, the head of the foundation provides support from US neo-Protestant circles. This connection serves as an additional sheet anchor for the Ukrainian establishment Ц like a crutch for a cripple.

The authors of the latest Annual Threat Assessment of the US intelligence community, forecasting a lengthy period of instability in Ukraine, have not much confused the Ukrainian establishment. On the contrary, they in fact produced a certificate of disability, authorizing necessity of permanent welfare on the grounds of inborn disability.

In Chernobyl, three institutions are still receiving international grants for research in environmental pollution, though venturesome persons, safely residing at the polluted place, make money on extreme tourism. "Do be a saint to help us" is a universal slogan of the Ukrainian political class, expecting new pardons, new payrolls and new privileges from international patrons.

Last week, Gernot Erler, State Secretary of Germany's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed the view that Ukraine is unlikely to be accepted to NATO's MAD program in this December. Despite recent prompts from Washington, the Euro-Atlantic community is rather likely to provide serious military assistance to Georgia than to Ukraine. The recent large-scale military exercises were held in Georgia not only because of its adjacency to Iran but rather because the Georgian military, less educated than their Ukrainian colleagues, at least display a certain extent of dedication. The Ukrainian military, who have exploded a range in Lviv Region, dropped a missile on a living district in Belaya Tserkov and accidentally shoot down an Israeli plane with another missile, are not supposed to be seriously relied upon: in a civilized society, weaponry are not supposed to be entrusted to disabled persons.


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