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06KIEV589, UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION PROVINCIAL SNAPSHOT:

February 14, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV589 2006-02-14 13:10 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kyiv
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIEV 000589 

SIPDIS 

SENSITIVE 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION PROVINCIAL SNAPSHOT: 
CHERNIHIV THEN AND NOW 

REF: 04 KIEV 4202 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly. 
Not for Internet distribution. 

1. (SBU) Summary:  The north-central province of Chernihiv 
offers a snapshot of the changed Ukraine and of the fluid 
political dynamics between the 2004 Presidential contest and 
the upcoming March parliamentary (Rada) and local elections. 
In 2004, Chernihiv witnessed heavy administrative resource 
abuses, the planting of "bombs" to compromise pro-democracy 
NGO "PORA!" activists, and the only known incident of 
official violence against "Orange Revolution" protesters 
nationwide, while eventually delivering 71 percent of its 
vote to Yushchenko.  In 2005, local activism flourished; Our 
Ukraine-affiliated governor Vladyslav Atroshenko was forced 
from office due to localized protests against his alleged 
misdeeds, and the provincial Our Ukraine organization 
subsequently resisted national party efforts to include 
Atroshenko on the provincial party list.  In the run-up to 
the 2006 elections, there are no complaints about 
administrative resource abuses; the media environment is 
unfettered, and the province's votes appear up for grabs, 
with Our Ukraine, the Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT), the Socialists, 
Regions, and Communists likely to split the vote, leading to 
likely coalition arrangements in the provincial and district 
councils.  End summary. 

2004 -- Then:  Planted evidence and violence 
-------------------------------------------- 

2. (SBU) In the run-up to the 2004 Presidential elections, 
Chernihiv's Governor Melnychuk, an SPDU(o) ally of Kuchma 
Chief of Staff Medvedchuk, facilitated heavy administrative 
resource abuses, including pressure on government and 
enterprise workers to vote for PM Yanukovych, media 
harassment, and the planting of a fake "bomb" in the 
apartment of a PORA! activist, the only place outside Kiev 
that the police planted such evidence in justifying 
wide-scale anti-PORA raids on trumped-up terrorism charges in 
late October 2004 (reftel).  When 10,000 "Orange" protesters 
gathered in Chernihiv's main square after the falsified 
November 21 second round of elections and before the December 
26 re-run, police used tear gas and percussion grenades in an 
attempt to disperse the crowd, sending 30 citizens to the 
hospital in the only apparent incident across Ukraine during 
the Orange Revolution of law enforcement officials using 
violence against a large group of peaceful demonstrators. 

2005 -- Local activism brings down a governor 
--------------------------------------------- 

3. (SBU) Chernihiv's PORA activists continued to agitate 
after Yushchenko came to power and appointed as governor his 
Presidential Campaign Chair for Chernihiv, local businessman 
Vladyslav Atroshenko (b. 1968).  Atroshenko ran afoul of both 
PORA activist Valeriy Borovyk and Rada Chair of the Committee 
to Combat Organized Crime Volodymyr Stretovych (Our Ukraine 
electoral bloc).  Borovyk accused Atroshenko of embezzling 
funds from the 2002 Our Ukraine parliamentary campaign (note: 
 the accusations were mutual); local protesters picketing the 
governor's office also cited a traffic accident, in which a 
trail car from Atroshenko's entourage killed a bystander, in 
calling for Atroshenko's removal.  Stretovych implicated 
Atroshenko in a shady privatization deal in Chernihiv; 
Atroshenko countered by claiming that Stretovych had his own 
business interests in Chernihiv that he was attempting to 
boost by scheming for Atroshenko's ouster.  In the end, 
Yushchenko dismissed Atroshenko December 12, 2005, moving 
Sumy governor Mykola Lavryk to Chernihiv. 

4. (SBU) In a further sign of local political muscle flexing, 
Our Ukraine's Chernihiv provincial party organization 
subsequently resisted Our Ukraine's national party 
headquarters' attempt to place Atroshenko high on the party's 
provincial list, Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) 
Chernihiv head Oleksander Solomakha told us February 13. 
Listed at 101 on Our Ukraine's national list, Atroshenko is 
on the bubble to make it into the national Rada (Our Ukraine 
would have to receive 23 percent of the Rada's 450 seats). 

2006 -- Now:  Unfettered competition, province up for grabs 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 

5. (SBU) Chernihiv's socio-economic-political profile defies 
easy categorization.  Bordering both Russia and Belarus, 
Chernihiv province is roughly split between Russian speakers 
in the north and in the cities and Ukrainian speakers in the 
south, though the population near Belarus "speaks both 
languages with a Belarusian accent," joked deputy governor 
Volodymyr Tandura.  Chernihiv is also a dying province, its 
largely rural current population of 1.2 million dropping 
quickly, with only 6-7000 annual births compared to 24-26,000 
annual deaths, the worst ratio in Ukraine, according to 
Tandura, a former professor and university rector now 
responsible for social issues in the oblast administration. 
Chernihiv voted communist until the 2002 Rada elections, when 
Our Ukraine captured the anti-Kuchma protest vote. 

6. (SBU) Both the CVU's Solomakha and "Sivershchina" (The 
Northern Lands) newspaper editor Petro Antonenko said that 
Chernihiv was fully in play for a range of parties in the 
March 26 parliamentary and local elections, and that there 
were no signs of
 the administrative resource abuses that had 
occurred in 2004.  Our Ukraine, BYuT, the Socialists, Party 
of Regions, and the Communists would likely make it into the 
provincial Rada, with Rada Speaker Lytvyn's Bloc a 
possibility and the SPDU(o)-based Ne Tak bloc an outside 
shot.  As with the nationwide race, no one party would win a 
majority, and a legislative coalition was inevitable.  The 
race for Chernihiv mayor would be a toss-up between the 
non-affiliated incumbent, whom Regions had endorsed, 
Socialist MP Ruchkovsky, and a possible late Our Ukraine 
entry.  Antonenko predicted that control of Chernihiv's 22 
local district councils would vary widely, reflecting 
localized factors, including the strength and popularity of 
various district administrators, most of whom claimed 
allegiance to Our Ukraine, with a handful from BYuT, 
Kostenko's People's Party, and Lytvyn's Bloc. 

7. (SBU) Antonenko noted with evident regret that the 
acrimonious autumn break-up of "Team Orange" and the 
continued sniping between the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko camps 
had damaged the overall level of "Orange" support in the 
province.  Despite Yushchenko taking 71 percent of the 
Chernihiv vote in 2004, there was no guarantee that the 
combined share of votes for Our Ukraine, BYuT, and the 
Socialists would reach that level in March, Solomakha said, 
since part of the pro-Yushchenko vote in 2004, as had been 
the case in 2002, was really anti-Kuchma; he predicted that 
protest voters disappointed with the lack of progress in 2005 
would likely shift to Regions, the Communists, Lytvyn or Ne 
Tak. 

8. (SBU) Despite Solomakha and Antonenko's assessment that 
BYuT had a stronger Chernihiv organization than Our Ukraine, 
Our Ukraine had a dominant street presence during our 
February 13 visit, with nearly 10 Orange tents set up at 
various key intersections, staffed by pairs of orange-clad 
campaign workers handing out copies of the party newspaper, 
wallet-sized Our Ukraine calendars, and a glossy pamphlet 
detailing fulfillment of President Yushchenko's "Ten Points 
for the People" Presidential campaign platform.  The only 
other street presence that we saw was a single Socialist 
tent, plus two mobile pickets from Natalya Vitrenko's 
Progressive Socialists/People's Opposition bloc protesting 
two separate NATO-related roundtables.  Apart from one large 
Lytvyn Bloc billboard and two sidewalk "Ne Tak" panels 
promoting an anti-NATO, pro-Russia position, the billboards 
in and around Chernihiv city were split between Our Ukraine, 
BYuT, and PORA-Reforms and Order.  Clumps of orange ribbons 
reminiscent of Yushchenko's 2004 Presidential campaign marked 
trees and thickets along much of the 100-plus miles between 
Chernihiv and Kiev, thanks to a January 29 Our 
Ukraine-sponsored commemoration of the 1919 Kruty massacre, 
when 300 young students died in an unsuccessful defense of 
the nascent independent Ukrainian state against an arriving 
Bolshevik army at the Kruty train station, Chernihiv province. 

Orange Revolution's true legacy:  change in attitudes 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 

9. (SBU) Antonenko summed up the pre-election situation on an 
upbeat note:  "Those who think the Orange Revolution happened 
only in Kiev on the Maidan are mistaken.  We had our own 
Maidans all over Ukraine, including Chernihiv.  Despite the 
disappointments of unfulfilled expectations of the past year, 
the real change endures in people's attitudes.  People now 
truly understand what freedom is and know that those in power 
must respect and not ignore the people.  This will not 
change, no matter who wins on March 26." 

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

 

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