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06KIEV1128, UKRAINE: IN THIS CORNER! EX-CHAMPION KLYCHKO RUNS

March 23, 2006

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06KIEV1128 2006-03-23 15:49 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED 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 03 KIEV 001128 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: IN THIS CORNER! EX-CHAMPION KLYCHKO RUNS 
FOR KIEV MAYORALITY AGAINST HEAVYWEIGHT INCUMBENT 

(U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Please handle accordingly. 
Not for Internet. 

1. (SBU) Summary:  In a March 22 meeting with TDY PolOff, 
Volodymyr Bondarenko, head of Kiev mayoral candidate (and 
recent world boxing champion) Vitaliy Klychko's campaign, 
described campaign impediments including incumbent Mayor 
Omelchenko's use of administrative resources and biased 
media coverage, but was optimistic on Klychko's chances for 
pulling an upset win.  Bondarenko opined that an "Orange" 
majority in the Kiev Rada (city council) was likely, but 
expressed doubt that his political bloc, PORA-Reforms and 
Order (PRP), would participate in such a coalition, since it 
would be tainted by business ties and relationships between 
Omelchenko and members of the major parties, all of which 
have endorsed the incumbent mayor.  Comment:  Complaints of 
incumbent mayors of all stripes using administrative 
pressures on advertisers and local media outlets are regular 
throughout Ukraine, and stand in contrast to the race for 
the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament), where such 
pressures have been notably absent.  Omelchenko is widely 
believed to be one of the most corrupt mayors in Ukraine. 
End summary and comment. 

Omelchenko's Heavy Hand 
----------------------- 

2. (SBU) On March 22, PolOff met with Reforms and Order MP 
Volodymyr Bondarenko, head of Kiev election headquarters for 
retired world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaliy Klychko, 
Kiev mayoral candidate and face of the PORA-Reforms and 
Order Party (PRP) election bloc.  Bondarenko criticized 
current mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko, who has received the 
endorsement of all the major parties, for impeding PORA- 
PRP's campaign, contending that his party's success was the 
worst prospect for current mayor Omelchenko, because only 
PORA-PRP lacked ties to the mayor and took an uncompromising 
anti-corruption stance. 

3. (SBU) Bondarenko criticized Omelchenko, claiming the 
mayor had used administrative resources to support his own 
campaign, pointing to such tactics as using city financial 
and land resources to garner good will.  For example, 
Omelchenko has scheduled a press event this week publicizing 
the laying of foundations for four new university 
dormitories.  (Comment:  We do not necessarily see 
propitious timing of legitimate city hall moves as abuse of 
admin resources, but rather normal use of incumbency.) 
Bondarenko claimed that city-controlled mass media had not 
allowed any positive materials on Klychko to be published, 
although he acknowledged that the city's Radio Kiev did 
allow Klychko two opportunities to speak.  (Note:  We 
observed that TRK Kiev TV news broadcasts on March 22 
favored Omelchenko, while mentioning Klychko and Leonid 
Chernovetskyy (another candidate for mayor, member of Our 
Ukraine parliamentary faction, and owner of Praveks bank) 
exclusively in negative terms and ignoring Chernovetskyy's 
press conference that day.  Rukh MP Mykhaylo Pozhyvanov, who 
chairs Omelchenko's campaign in Kiev, was a TV studio guest 
and called Klychko a "business project" of MP Ihor Hryniv 
and other businessmen in Our Ukraine who were using his good 
name to realize their ambitions.  (Comment:  National 
alliances do not always explain local rivalries.) 

4. (SBU) Bondarenko alleged that the head of Kiev metro 
(subway) advertising had reported receiving direct orders 
not to allow Klychko's name to appear, and that other 
private channels had been verbally pressured to exclude 
Klychko's advertising.  Posters and billboards featuring 
Klychko's face and thumbs-up logo are prevalent in Kiev at 
present, but Bondarenko claimed that administrative efforts 
to block advertising caused them to lose two weeks of 
campaigning. 

Klychko's Prospects 
------------------- 

5. (SBU) Bondarenko declined to offer any prognosis for 
Klychko's mayoral prospects beyond expressing confidence 
that Klychko would win and acknowledging that it was a close 
race.  (Note:  We are not aware of recent polls backing this 
contention.  One survey showed Omelchenko and Klychko 
polling about 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively.  The 
widely respected Democratic Initiatives' polling from 14-22 
February put Omelchenko at 31 percent and Klychko and 
Chernovetskyy at about 15 percent each among likely voters.) 

6. (SBU) Bondarenko noted that the vote results would depend 
in part on the performance of some trailing candidates who 
might be able to take votes away from Klychko, but who had 
no real chance in the election.  Bondarenko displayed a 
series of one-page newspapers highlighting Omelchenko's 
false promises and allegedly corrupt actions using cartoons 
and humor in a style reminiscent of many past PORA 
activities.  (Note:  The PORA party is an offshoot of the 
pro-democracy NGO that figured prominently in the 2004 
Orange Revolution street action.)  The papers have a print 
run of 20,000 and are distributed daily on the metro. 

7. (SBU) On the subject of Klychko's potential first steps 
as mayor, Bondarenko related a series of administrative 
measures to restructure power in the city, including the 
elimination of secret decisions in the city government and 
allowing citizens gre
ater access to information, the 
creation of micro-regions within large city districts to 
bring administrative bodies closer to the people, and the 
reorganization of similar functions, such as medical 
services, now divided among multiple bodies, into single 
departments.  Bondarenko spoke of the party's general plan 
for city development and the need to develop a detailed plan 
based on localized understanding and expert evaluation of 
land values. 

An "Orange" City Rada, likely supporting Omelchenko, 
but without PORA-PRP 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 

8. (SBU) Bondarenko claimed there was no question that PORA- 
PRP would pass three-percent threshold for the city Rada, 
along with Yuliya Tymoshenko's Bloc (BYuT), Our Ukraine, 
Regions, the Socialists, and perhaps Rada Speaker Lytvyn's 
party.  He predicted no difficulty in forming an "Orange" 
majority in the city Rada, but he emphatically excluded the 
possibility of PORA-PRP participating in any coalition that 
supported Omelchenko.  Bondarenko predicted that the ties 
between Omelchenko and members of leading parties -- 
including all the parties except PORA-PRP -- would prevent 
the majority coalition from pursuing a reform agenda. 

9. (SBU) Calling Our Ukraine "a business holding company," 
he alleged that influential Our Ukraine figures including 
Mykola Martynenko and Petro Poroshenko had business 
interests in Kiev that made them primarily interested in 
preserving ties with Omelchenko.  Ties between Tymoshenko 
and Omelchenko were more indirect, he claimed, through 
oligarch Mykhaylo Brodsky, deputy chair of her campaign, and 
representatives of the "Zaporizhzhya clan" who had common 
business interests with the current mayor.  (Note:  There is 
no such clan that we know of; even within Zaporizhzhya, the 
main industrial magnates split their support across a range 
of parties.  This is probably a reference to the two 
Zaporizhzhyan businessmen on BYuT's Rada list, No. 41 Tariel 
Vasadze and No. 60 Vasyl Khmelnytskyy, who allegedly owns 
the building in the historic Podil section of Kiev to which 
Tymoshenko recently moved her party headquarters.) 
Bondarenko also observed that, in the current city Rada, 
Omelchenko controlled 72 percent of its 90 deputies, 
allowing him to effectively control its decisions, and a 
contingent of these old faces were retained on the lists of 
various parties. 

Bio Note 
-------- 

10. (SBU) Vitaliy Klychko was born on 19 July 1971 in a 
village in Bylovodsk, Kyrgyz SSR.  In 1988, he graduated 
from school in Kiev, and until 1996 studied in the physical 
education department of the Pereyaslav-Kmelnytskyy teaching 
institute.  In 2000, he completed a graduate degree in 
physical education and sports at Kiev University and 
received a doctorate specializing in Olympic and 
professional sports.  He is a six-time world champion kick 
boxer, three-time Ukrainian boxing champion, and held a 
number of other world boxing titles, most recently WBC world 
heavyweight champion, before retiring in late 2005.  In 
1997, he founded and headed an international fund for 
assisting the development of sport "Sport-21st Century."  In 
2003, he and his brother Volodymyr, another world-class 
boxer, founded the charitable organization "Fund of the 
Klychko Brothers."  In 2005, Klychko was appointed an 
advisor to President Yushchenko and led the state program 
"Health of the Nation."  He also joined the national 
coordinating council on HIV/AIDS.  In 2005, after a knee 
injury forced him to give up boxing, he declared his 
intention of leaving sports and running for Kiev city mayor. 

11. (SBU) Klychko and his wife Natalya were married in 1996 
and have three children:  Ihor, age 5, and twins Viktoriya 
and Maksimko, who turn one in 2006.  In addition to sports, 
Klychko enjoys music, chess and literature; and in 2003 he 
wrote a book with his brother and wife, "Our Fitness: Simple 
Secrets of Champions." 

SIPDIS 

12. (SBU) Comment:  A Klychko victory at the polls would be 
a refreshing change in Kiev city government. 

HERBST

 

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