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06KIEV408, UKRAINE: SHIFTING SANDS AND POST-ELECTION

February 1, 2006

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06KIEV408 2006-02-01 12:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 KIEV 000408 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: SHIFTING SANDS AND POST-ELECTION 
SCENARIOS - UKRAINIAN POLITICS IN TRANSITION 

REF: KIEV 367 

Classified By: Political Counselor Aubrey Carlson, reason 1.4 (b,d) 

1. (C) Summary and Comment:  Conversations with Media 
watchdog-turned-PORA politician Serhiy Taran, website 
editor-turned-Tymoshenko Bloc PR director Oleh Medvedev, and 
independent-minded Regions MP Volodymyr Makeyenko January 
25-27 provided three views on the shifting ground in 
Ukrainian politics heading into the March 26 Rada election 
and expected post-election horsetrading to form a 
parliamentary majority and the next government.  Taran 
claimed that the Orange Revolution had allowed Ukraine to 
move away from patronage politics to charismatic politics, 
but that a necessary shift to programmatic politics remained 
in the future.  Taran and Medvedev expected the March 26 
elections to be the most free and fair in Ukraine's history, 
thanks to the fundamental differences in Ukraine's 
post-Orange Revolution political environment, particularly 
freedom of speech and a lack of intent by the current 
government to use administrative resources to favor 
affiliated parties.  Taran and Medvedev laid out the three 
primary post-election scenario options -- Orange, Blue-Red, 
and Blue-Orange.  While both hoped for an Orange option, 
enduring Yushchenko-Tymoshenko animosity was a genuine 
obstacle; in contrast, Regions would fall over itself to cut 
a deal to return to power.  Medvedev candidly acknowledged 
that it would be better for either Yushchenko or Tymoshenko 
to come to terms with Regions than see a 
Regions-Communist-Vitrenko-Lytvyn majority emerge. 
Makeyenko, a deputy campaign chair for Our Ukraine in the 
2002 Rada race before defecting to Regions over a year before 
the Orange Revolution, described his role in facilitating Our 
Ukraine-Regions discussions and why Regions believed 
Yushchenko "must" reach accommodation with Regions for 
Ukraine's sake as well as Yushchenko's own.  The trio's 
interlocking observations from three parts of the Ukrainian 
political spectrum and differing backgrounds demonstrates the 
shifting sands of Ukrainian politics a year after 
Yushchenko's inauguration and two months prior to the Rada 
elections.  End Summary and Comment. 

Politics in Transition: Patronage, Charisma, and Platforms 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 

2. (SBU) Serhiy Taran, a long-time media watchdog who 
recently joined his PORA friends for the joint PORA-Reforms 
and Order Bloc led by former heavyweight champion Vitaly 
Klychko, described to us January 26 Ukraine's ongoing 
transition through three fundamental phases of politics. 
Through the end of the Kuchma era, patronage politics had 
dominated Ukraine's political scene; people voted for 
candidates they believed would provide direct benefits, and 
politicians sought office and connections primarily for 
division of the spoils.  The Orange Revolution ushered in an 
era of charismatic politics, a large but only partial step 
away from the patronage model, to which Regions was still 
firmly wedded.  Ukraine's weakness, in Taran's view, was an 
absence of programmatic politics and clear party platforms. 
Most Ukrainian parties remained associated with their 
dominant personalities rather than policies or ideologies: 
Yushchenko (Our Ukraine), Tymoshenko (Batkivshchyna, 
Tymoshenko Bloc), Yanukovych (Party of Regions), Lytvyn 
(People's Party), Moroz (Socialists), Vitrenko (Progressive 
Socialists).  The Communists were perhaps the only exception 
currently, but they had no future. 

3. (SBU) Taran suggested that Yushchenko, Yanukovych, 
Tymoshenko, Moroz, and Lytvyn were all cut from the same 
cloth and used to the same "old" rules of politics.  Ukraine 
sorely lacked a new generation of politics and politicians. 
Regions' Makeyenko, who entered the final Soviet Ukrainian 
Rada in 1990 at age 29, similarly told us January 25 that the 
current Rada was nearly bereft of professionals, packed 
instead with "businessmen, bureaucrats, cultural figures, and 
crazies."  Taran said PORA aspired to fill the new generation 
niche; unscientific internet polls, skewed toward the young, 
showed PORA as the third choice after Yushchenko and 
Tymoshenko.  PORA had paired with the established Reforms and 
Order Party (RO) led by Finance Minister Pynzenyk to join 
RO's professional experience with PORA's youthful enthusiasm. 
 The PORA-RO platform to be rolled out February 1 would be 
liberal, pro-Europe, and "nationalist in a central European 
way."  That said, to get across the three-percent threshold, 
PORA-PO would have to rely on charismatic politics and the 
name recognition of bloc leader Vitaly Klychko, recently 
retired world heavyweight boxing champion. 

Ukraine in 2004 and 2006: "two different worlds" 
--------------------------------------------- --- 

4. (SBU) Taran said that his sociological polling indicated 
that, despite the disillusionment expressed by 60 percent of 
Ukrainians in the lack of progress in 2005, 70 percent still 
planned to vote in the March elections, a sign that 
Ukrainians still felt their voice could make a difference. 
(Note:  Other polls similarly show high and even higher "plan 
to vote" rates.)  Even though numerous smaller problems 
remained in Ukraine's political landscape, the 2004 and 2006 
election environments represented "two different worlds." 
Most importantly
, there was freedom of speech for all 
parties, no government efforts at falsification, and a range 
of options, not just a simple choice of two candidates. 

5. (SBU) BYuT PR chief Medvedev echoed a similar line to us 
January 27, scoffing when asked about a media report (on 
Donetsk-based, Akhmetov-owned TRK Ukraina) that Tymoshenko 
had faced difficulties gaining access to large factories and 
local media in a recent campaign swing through Dnipropetrovsk 
and Zaporizhzhya.  Tymoshenko had visited every enterprise 
she wanted to, said Medvedev; more importantly, she had 
access to every local media outlet possible in the two 
provinces.  The contrast could not have been greater with 
what Yushchenko faced in 2004: shut factory gates, blocked 
roads, denied airport landing clearances, and only negative 
local media coverage. 

Post-election scenarios: Orange, Blue-Red, Orange-Blue 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 

6. (SBU) The emerging consensus was that Regions would win a 
plurality in the March 26 voting, with Our Ukraine and BYuT 
vying for second.  The next tier of the Socialists and the 
Communists would pull 5-8 percent each, with Lytvyn's Bloc on 
the three-percent bubble and Vitrenko and PORA-RO struggling 
to get over the threshold.  BYuT PR Chief Medvedev said that 
his polling indicated that the Orange and Blue electorates 
and West/Central vs East/South splits from the 2004 
Presidential elections had remained remarkably stable in the 
intervening 15 months.  Regions, the Communists, and Vitrenko 
vied for Yanukovych's 2004 44-percent share, and the 
post-Maidan parties competed for Yushchenko's then-52-percent 
share.  However, Medvedev expected voter turnout in Blue 
(i.e., eastern and southern) provinces to be higher than in 
Orange (central and western) ones.  Despite Tymoshenko's 
stated intent of campaigning hard for eastern votes, 
Luhansk-native Medvedev said that hardened stereotypes had 
proven too tough to break in the short 15-month election 
cycle.  "If her prospects in Donetsk and Crimea are very bad, 
in her hometown Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kharkiv 
they are just plain bad."  Yushchenko ran strongest in 
western provinces, Tymoshenko in central Ukraine. 

7. (SBU) With those possible actors and levels of support in 
mind, Taran and Medvedev described the same three possible 
post-election coalition scenarios.  In colored shorthand, the 
options could be described as Orange, Blue-Red, and 
Orange-Blue, with Rada Speaker Lytvyn's team (whose image is 
colorless or grey, despite its chosen campaign color green) 
willing to join any coalition that would make them part of a 
majority (if it makes it into the Rada).  Forging a 
parliamentary majority would depend not only on the math of 
election returns but also on expected fierce bargaining 
between factions, as well as personal animosities. 

8. (SBU) Taran and Medvedev both described the most natural 
coalition -- and their preferred choice if the math worked -- 
as the Maidan Orange team reunited:  Our Ukraine, BYuT, 
Socialists, and PORA-PO.  Despite Lytvyn's falling star 
recently, his votes might prove necessary to cobble together 
a majority.  Medvedev, who worked for the Yushchenko 2004 
Presidential campaign, cautioned, however, that the personal 
animosity between Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine's leaders, not 
only Yushchenko but Bezsmertny, Poroshenko, Martynenko, and 
Zhvaniya, was deep enough to possibly scuttle the Orange 
scenario. 

9. (SBU) Neither Taran nor Medvedev ruled out the possibility 
of a Regions-Communist-Vitrenko-Lytvyn majority.  Taran mused 
that such a coalition would hurt Ukraine's image and reform 
prospects in the short term but might force Regions into a 
more responsible approach to politics and governance. 

10. (SBU) In contrast, Medvedev said that were such a 
Blue-Red option to emerge as a mathematical possibility, he 
would strongly recommend that either Yushchenko or Tymoshenko 
cut a deal with Yanukovych and Regions for the sake of 
Ukraine's short-term future.  Notwithstanding Tymoshenko's 
public vow never to unite with Regions, Medvedev said such a 
partnership was possible and would be better than the 
Blue-Red option; the key would be how to pull Yanukovych away 
from Russia and integrate him fully within the Ukrainian 
context.  Regions was Donetsk oligarch Akhmetov's party in 
any event; Medvedev claimed that 30 of the top 100 names on 
Regions' list were associated with Akhmetov's business 
empire.  Taran noted that Regions was pushing hard to return 
to government in any event, since the industries associated 
with its MP candidates were vulnerable without the patronage 
protection of those in power.  Taran suggested that 
Industrial Union of the Donbas (IUD, owned by Donetsk 
oligarch Serhiy Taruta, not Akhmetov) executive Haiduk (a 
deputy prime minister for energy under Kuchma) might be a 
possible compromise PM candidate for an Orange-Blue 
coalition.  Taran and Medvedev agreed that former DPM and 
Finance Minister (under Kuchma-Yanukovych) Azarov would also 
likely be in the mix if the Orange-Blue scenario were to play 
out. 

Our Ukraine and Regions: the best fit? 
-------------------------------------- 

11. (SBU) Regions MP Makeyenko explained Regions' rationale 
for why the best post-election scenario for Ukraine and 
Yushchenko personally would be a coalition between Our 
Ukraine and Regions.  The pairing would help unite Orange and 
Blue Ukraine; Makeyenko suggested such national unity could 
have strengthened Yushchenko and Ukraine's hand in dealing 
with Russia over gas.  Makeyenko claimed he had worked 
closely with Presidential deputy chief of staff Ivan Vasyunyk 
to prepare the September MOU between Yushchenko and 
Yanukovych, blamed Yushchenko for not fulfilling his part of 
the bargain, and said he would continue to work Our Ukraine 
connections with an eye toward a post-election accommodation 
(reftel). 

12. (SBU) Makeyenko spouted a common Regions line: 
Yushchenko had no one else to turn to if he wished to be an 
effective President.  Yushchenko and Tymoshenko's mutual 
animosity dated back years; Lytvyn had stabbed Yushchenko in 
the back the past two months; Yushchenko despised the SPDU(o) 
and the Communists; Our Ukraine's discredited figures like 
Poroshenko were a net minus; Russia was like a crocodile 
looking to devour him; Europe was silent as a wall after the 
departure of Polish President Kwasniewski; Moldova and 
Georgia were more millstones than friends; the U.S. blew many 
air kisses but delivered nothing.  In contrast, "Regions 
knows how to deal with Russians, because we see them as 
business competitors.  Regions is Yushchenko's only real 
option if he wishes to rule effectively and not run Ukraine 
into the ground," Makeyenko concluded. 

Bio notes 
--------- 

13. (SBU) Serhiy Taran
 formerly ran the Kiev-based Institute 
for Mass Media and was Ukraine's leading media watchdog 
analyst before becoming Director of the International 
Democracy Institute, designed to help sponsor democratic 
movements elsewhere in the former Soviet Union and joining 
the PORA-RO list in late 2005.  (Note:  At number 28 on the 
list, Taran is unlikely to make it into the Rada even if 
PORA-RO gets over the three-percent threshold; the bloc would 
need to garner some 6-7 percent to reach 28 on its list). 
Taran also runs the SotsiVymir Center for Sociological and 
Political Research.  Taran was denied entry into Azerbaijan 
in early November when he and PORA leader Zolotaryov tried to 
travel to Baku as parliamentary election observers; 14 other 
would-be Ukrainian observers who happened to sit near Taran 
and Zolotaryov on the plane but had no association with them 
were also deported. 

14. (C) Luhansk native Oleh Medvedev's "day job" is 
editor-in-chief of Obozrevatel media holdings' five websites, 
which range from news-heavy www.Obozrevatel.com to the 
satirist group "Happy Eggs" at www.eggs.net.ua.  Tymoshenko 
associate and attack dog Myhailo Brodsky owns Oborzrevatel, 
but the calm-mannered Medvedev clearly does not share 
Brodsky's disdain for Yushchenko and hopes that the Orange 
team can be reassembled.  Medvedev said he is not a member of 
Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna Party but rather a campaign "hired 
gun" running the BYuT campaign's PR Department. 

15. (C) Chernihiv native Volodymyr Makeyenko has been in the 
Rada since 1990, elected initially on the Communist ticket. 
He joined the Socialists for much of the 1990s and briefly 
the Agrarian Party before running with Our Ukraine in 2002. 
He defected to Regions -- to protect his business interests, 
he says -- prior to the Orange Revolution and serves as the 
Secretary of the Rada's U.S. caucus.  He was a primary backer 

SIPDIS 
of Moroz' 1999 Presidential bid and came under intense 
pressure from the Kuchma-ites to withdraw his support, 
fleeing Ukraine with his family during the campaign and 
spending several months in the U.S. in the apartment of Itera 
executive Makarov, a long-time friend.  Like many 
politicians, Makeyenko made significant money in the gas 
trade and claims to have introduced Tymoshenko to gas 
industry players after she first came to Kiev from 
Dnipropetrovsk.  Independently wealthy, Makeyenko cultivates 
an air of being his own man (his business card lists his Rada 
committee assignment but not his party affiliation), and is 
willing to comment critically on his current Regions allies 
as well as his erstwhile Our Ukraine colleagues.  At number 
48 on Regions' list, he is assured of returning to the Rada. 

16. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website at 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
HERBST

 

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