October 09, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Rublev


The Ukrainian political comedy turns a horror movie

Politics, like nature, tends to symmetry. Three rounds of elections that elevated Victor Yushchenko to the position of Ukraine's president back in 2004, are echoed with three rounds of parliamentary elections: in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In the spring of the past year, Yuliya Timoshenko's campaign was led under the motto, "Buds are opening, the Rada (Parliament) is dissolving". This time, Mrs. Timoshenko is not so enthusiastic about dissolution of the Rada.

In accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine, the Rada can't be dissolved within a year after its first session. In order to push his decision, Victor Yushchenko had to repeatedly overstep the provisions of constitutional law. Still, Ukraine would be lucky if this demonstration of legal nihilism is restricted with this dissolution, not continuing into anything extreme.

Victor Yushchenko, the person who proclaimed Roman Shukhevich, head of the pro-Nazi movement of OUN-UPA, the Hero of Ukraine, does not have any moral immunity from decision-making regarded as unacceptable in civilized states. At the same time, he is not in fact the principal decision-maker. His lack of political will, well known to the public, is compensated with the inflow of half-criminal persons, deployed to Kiev from Transcarpathia by Victor Baloga, head of the President's Secretariat with a controversial background. In fact, Mr. Yushchenko, whose personal rating does not exceed 13%, has nothing to lose.

Kiev observers are wondering about new surprise moves of the irrelevant President. Even nationalistic politicians, who used to issue anti-Russian declarations during the last year, are now reportedly trying to talk Yushchenko out of the effort to initiate a "small victorious war" in the Crimea. Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, once believed to become Yushchenko's "orange" successor, tells the public about "the 300 Spartans" – the Secretariat's plan, suggesting provocation of a revolt of Crimea's Russian population by means of a deliberate assault on the Black Sea Fleet's hydrographic objects.

MP Taras Chornovil indicates that the plan of assault on Russia's Black Sea Navy existed already in August: "The military task was outlined in details. The idea was to drown some transport vessel leaving the Sevastopol harbor, and frigate Getman Sagaidachny was supposed then to block the harbor, following the orders of the Defense Ministry orders to clean the military facilities from Russians". According to Chornovil, the planners admitted the possibility of some casualties in the inevitable clash with Russian marines guarding the harbor. But they were convinced that the Russian side, regarding the earlier international reaction to the events in Georgia, would not "overreact": "Okay, Russians declare that in 1954, when the Crimea was conveyed to Ukraine, Sevastopol remained in the Union's subordination, and therefore legally belongs to Russia. Okay, they would get Sevastopol, but not claims for the whole Crimea, as they are aware of the limitations and won't risk isolation from the West". Thus, agreeing to concede Sevastopol, the planners reportedly expected to achieve stronger international guarantees from annexation of Crimea which they believed probable.

In his turn, Mr. Yushchenko may be interested in "a small war" in Crimea for the purpose of consolidation of rightist and nationalist political forces. The earlier collapse of the government coalition was followed with disarray within the Our Ukraine- Popular Self-Defense block of parties. The President's rating was continuing to decline, while the popularity of Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko was increasing. On October 2, the Prime Minister signed a new gas agreement with the Russian Government. Mrs. Timoshenko had a real opportunity to become the next President Ц an option which Yushchenko, and especially the "Transcarpathian gang" could not tolerate.

A week before Timoshenko's trip to Moscow, Victor Yushchenko accused the Prime Minister of "state treason", while the President's Secretariat raised the issue of Mrs. Timoshenko's wrongdoings back in mid-1990s, hoping to collect dirt on the premier's then-partnership with the disgraced ex-Premier Pavel Lazarenko, exposed of large-scale corruption and embezzlement by US authorities. Simultaneously, Mrs. Timoshenko was interrogated by the General Prosecutor's Office on the notorious case of attempt of poisoning the President in 2004.

Victor Yushchenko's "second turf war" against Yulia Timoshenko reportedly involves a plan to officially accuse her of "betraying state interests", as well as of an attempt to poison the President. Victor Baloga, Head of the Secretariat, declares he has got evidence of Mrs. Timoshenko's direct cooperation with Russian intelligence services, as well as with the disgraced oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who is as unpopular in Ukraine as in Russia.

The decision to dissolve the Parliament is negatively assessed in Europe, including Poland, Ukraine's major political and economic partner. Western observers believe that the new reshuffle may result in serious economic troubles. Meanwhile, Washington promised Ukraine new military aircrafts Ц right on the day when Yushchenko signed his decree. According to Ukrainian experts, Yushchenko has reached approval for his political act during his earlier trips to Washington and London, along with guarantees of informational and legal support.

Probably for that reason, Mr. Yushchenko does not hesitate to crack upon the judicial authorities who question his decree. After Yulia Timoshenko filed a legal suit against the President, Yushchenko ordered to dismiss judge Valery Keliberda from the Kiev Regional Administrative Court, who ruled that the President’s decree was illegitimate. The attempt of Timoshenko's supporters to protect the judges and to prevent further pressure on their work was disrupted by a team of security servicemen, reproducing last summer's pattern of "wrestle for the courts". Meanwhile, the opposition of the Minister of Interior to the President's decree heralds a split in the law enforcement community.

Watching the political developments in other post-Soviet countries, Victor Yushchenko made a simple and far-reaching conclusion: in case he follows the rules of the game, inherent in a democratic rule, he may lose power, like Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland. On the contrary, a Somoza-type arbitrary rule would enable him to prolong his tenure as many times as he would wish.

Yushchenko's desire to become "our son of a bitch" Ц the term once applied to the infamous Nicaraguan dictator, was obviously prompted by the example of Mikhail Saakashvili who failed in a desperate war but achieved guarantees of staying in power from Washington and London Ц half a year before the Presidential elections that could be fatal for him. The whole pattern of Saakashvili's regime, with brutal police crackdowns on oppositionist rallies and physical extermination of political rivals like Zurab Zhvania and Badri Patarkatsishvili, serves as a perfect example to the incumbent leadership of Ukraine. By following the example of Saakashvili, his close personal friend and even the godfather of his child, Victor Yushchenko undertakes new arbitrary reshuffles, despite probable economic and social consequences, and seriously envisages provocation of war for his personal political needs. The political choice he has made is malicious for the people and statehood of Ukraine, as well as for the closest neighbors of the country Ц Russia and the European Union.

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