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07KYIV186, UKRAINE: TURKMEN OPPOSITION VISA SCANDAL REALLY

January 25, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV186 2007-01-25 15:21 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO8451
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #0186/01 0251521
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251521Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1014
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1841

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 KYIV 000186 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/25/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM EPET TX UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: TURKMEN OPPOSITION VISA SCANDAL REALLY 
ABOUT INTERNAL UKRAINIAN POLITICS 
 
REF: USOSCE-EMBASSY KYIV JANUARY 25 EMAIL 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(a,b,d). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  The scandal that has erupted over Socialist 
Transportation Minister Mykola Rudkovskiy pressuring 
Ukrainian ambassadors to issue visas to Turkmen opposition 
figures to travel to Kyiv in late December in the wake of 
former Turkmen President Niyazov's death is, at its heart, 
the latest battle in the struggle by the President's team to 
protect what remains of its eroding power and to carve out 
its role in foreign affairs rather than an issue of democracy 
versus gas supplies.  It also features some internal 
coalition dynamics, with Rudkovsky a target of Regions' 
pressure and his ministerial seat, overseeing plum resources 
and contracts, in their sights.  On January 20, respected 
newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnya broke the story that Prime 
Minister Yanukovych had ordered an internal investigation 
into Rudkovskiy for inviting the opposition figures to Kyiv 
without notifying the government.  The Presidential 
Secretariat increased attention on the story by calling 
 
SIPDIS 
publicly on January 23 for Rudkovskiy to be fired for his 
disregard for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the 
presidential role in foreign policy. 
 
2. (C) Comment: Although the Presidential Secretariat couched 
its criticism of Rudkovskiy in terms of his having threatened 
Ukrainian-Turkemistani relations, its specific focus on the 
violations of protocol, the publication of a December 28 
letter from Yushchenko to Yanukovych calling for an 
investigation into the issue, and the lack of criticism 
directed at Our Ukraine MP Mykola Katerynchuk also involved 
in arranging the opposition meetings in Kyiv all suggest that 
this controversy has little to do with the Turkmen 
opposition's presence in Kyiv.  Yanukovych initially may have 
sought a way of removing an irritating Socialist and may have 
been concerned that Rudkovskiy's actions could have 
potentially damaged the GOU's relationship with 
Turkmenistan's leaders at a time when Niyazov's commitments 
may be re-examined--the opposition figures reportedly offered 
lower gas prices in exchange for support.  However, once 
Yushchenko took an interest in Rudkovskiy's removal, 
Yanukovych chose to defend his minister.  End summary and 
comment. 
 
The Minister, the Ambassador, and the Visas 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) There were signs in early January that Rudkovskiy, an 
abrasive lieutenant of Socialist Party leader Moroz who 
helped broker the Socialist "betrayal" of Our Ukraine and the 
Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) in forging a new coalition with 
Regions and the Communists in July, had become a target of 
Regions' efforts to oust him.  On January 11, Volodymyr 
Makeyenko, a deputy faction leader for Regions, told us that 
Regions was disgusted with the amount of power the Socialists 
had within the coalition, given its small size.  Regions 
thought the Socialists held too many ministerial posts. 
Makeyenko said they were specifically targeting Rudkovskiy as 
the first to go and that corruption-related issues would be 
the pretext. (Note: This was the mechanism used in late 2006 
attempts to unseat Interior Minister Lutsenko and Defense 
Minister Hrytsenko). 
 
4. (SBU) Dzerkalo Tyzhnya (DT) broke a story on January 20 
about Rudkovskiy's role in procuring last-minute visas for 
Turkmen oppositionists Hudayberdi Orazow and Nurmuhammet 
Hanamow to travel to Ukraine in late December 2006 to 
announce their opposition to the interim government in 
Ashgabat and their unified candidacy for upcoming 
presidential elections.  According to DT and a January 23 
press conference by Deputy Head of the Presidential 
Secretariat Oleksandr Chaliy, Rudkovskiy called the Ukrainian 
 
SIPDIS 
Ambassadors to Austria, Bulgaria, and Norway on December 22 
in the middle of the night to demand visas for the opposition 
leaders be issued before opening of business the next 
morning.  The ambassadors reportedly told Rudkovskiy that 
because the Turkmen had refugee status, they needed an 
official invitation before they could issues visas, which had 
to be coordinated through the MFA.  Rudkovskiy, according to 
Chaliy, promised that everything had been approved, but it 
had not been.  Visas were issued in Vienna, Austria.  (Note: 
after the scandal broke, Rudkovskiy told the press that he 
had called the Ambassadors "as a private person, not as a 
Minister.").  In addition, DT reported that Ashgabat had 
accused the two opposition figures of embezzlement and issued 
a warrant for them through Interpol, suggesting that even if 
the charges were unfounded and political in nature, Kyiv 
would have been in an awkward position without having advance 
notice to prepare for the visit. 
 
KYIV 00000186  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
5. (SBU) Note: the Turkmen opposition meetings took place 
December 25 to moderate publicity, wit
h Orazow and Hanamow 
holding a press conference afterwards.  Interestingly, the 
Ukrainian politician named publicly as having helped organize 
the meetings was OU MP Mykola Katerynchuk; Rudkovskiy's 
involvement was initially not mentioned. 
 
Pressure from the PM... 
----------------------- 
 
6. (C) Dzerkalo Tyzhnya claimed that Yanukovych, incensed 
about the supposedly awkward position in which Rudkovskiy had 
put Ukraine, ordered the government to launch an internal 
investigation into why Rudkovskiy was involved in issuing 
visas to Turkmen opposition leaders.  At a January 10 Cabinet 
meeting, Yanukovych reprimanded the Transportation Minister. 
(Comment: Yanukovych may have been concerned about preserving 
good relations with whomever becomes the next leader of 
Turkmenistan, or this may have been the beginning of the 
campaign to unseat Rudkovskiy which Makeyenko described to 
us.  End commment).  An MFA colleague suggested another 
theory, also mentioned in the DT story, that Rudkovskiy was 
acting on the basis of instructions from Moscow -- that 
bringing Turkmen opposition figures here would complicate or 
harm Ukrainian-Turkmen relations and the existing gas deal. 
 
7. (SBU) Note: According to the January 2006 
RUE-Ukraine-Russia gas agreement, Turkmenistan supplies 41 
bcms, or 55% percent, of Ukraine's yearly natural gas 
consumption, at a lower price than Russian-sourced gas ($100 
vice $230/tcm).  In practice, Turkmen gas likely travels no 
further than Russia, with all Ukrainian-bound gas provided 
from Russian wells.  Ukraine's paper gas "mix" allows Gazprom 
to save face in making its "market pricing" arguments to 
other European countries, while monopolist gas supplier 
RosUkrEnergo supplies below-market priced gas to Ukraine. 
While in Kyiv, the Turkmen oppositionists supposedly offered 
to strike a new, cheaper gas deal with Ukraine if Kyiv 
supported them, which could have been embarrassing for the 
GOU.  Rudkovskiy owns a short section of a domestic gas 
distribution pipeline and is believed to have links to energy 
trading companies in Ukraine, a likely explanation of his 
interest in Turkmenistan gas. 
 
...and the President 
-------------------- 
 
8. (C) The Presidential team took the controversy further on 
January 23, while Yushchenko was in Switzerland for medical 
treatment, when Chaliy held a press conference to announce 
that Yushchenko had requested the internal investigation of 
Rudkovskiy on December 28 and that he was now asking 
Yanukovych to dismiss Rudkovskiy.  Chaliy initially framed 
the issue as Rudkovskiy having endangered Ukrainian-Turkmen 
relations, which could jeopardize gas supplies.  However, 
Chaliy subsequently laid out a second, probably more decisive 
factor: Rudkovskiy had circumvented the Foreign Ministry and 
Presidential Secretariat in the foreign policy process by 
issuing orders to an Ambassador.    On January 24, Rudkovskiy 
told the press that Presidential Secretariat Chief Baloha had 
asked the SBU to open its own investigation, although an SBU 
spokesman was noncommittal on its role. 
 
What's really involved? Internal political maneuvering 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
9. (C) As soon as Yushchenko jumped on the "dump Rudkovskiy" 
bandwagon, however, Yanukovych jumped off and began defending 
the Minister.  The PM even denied that he had ordered an 
investigation, although on January 25 Deputy Prime Minister 
Tabachnyk publicly acknowledged that the investigation was 
ongoing and might be concluded by early February. 
 
10. (C) Comment: It is striking that Yanukovych should drop 
Regions' plans to remove Rudkovskiy when it became apparent 
that to do so would be to accommodate Yushchenko and 
presidential prerogative as well.  While a quick read of 
Presidential Secretariat statements may make it seem that 
Yushchenko was criticizing someone for facilitating the 
meeting of Turkmen opposition politicians trying to fight a 
rigged transfer of power, the attack on Rudkovskiy and the 
dismissal of Ambassador to Austria Yelchenko (below) has 
little to do with the Turkmen angle.  In the December 28 
letter Yushchenko sent Yanukovych, which the Presidential 
Secretariat made public in mid-January, Yushchenko cited the 
 
SIPDIS 
concerns that Ashgabat might have about opposition meetings, 
but seemingly acknowledged the concerns without endorsing 
them.  Our Ukraine MP Katerynchuk, who was publicly 
identified in December as the coordinator of the Turkmen 
 
KYIV 00000186  003 OF 003 
 
 
opposition meeting, has not received any subsequent criticism 
regarding his role in the meeting.  That suggests that any 
genuine concern about potential fall-out in the bilateral 
relationship with Ashgabat is secondary at best. 
 
11. (C) Comment continued: Instead, the heart of the 
controversy is about the Presidential Secretariat making an 
example of a minister who directly tasked Ukrainian diplomats 
in other countries, without going through the MFA or the 
Presidential team which, in theory, controls foreign policy. 
As the Yanukovych government continues to encroach on 
Presidential responsibility, Yushchenko's team is trying to 
find ways to assert presidential prerogatives.  A secondary 
element, at least initially, may have been the 
intra-coalition struggle between Regions and the Socialists, 
and Regions' interests in cutting the Socialists down to size 
after having given them many plum positions to defect in July 
2006. 
 
Diplomatic footnote: a split decision? 
-------------------------------------- 
 
12. (C) Yushchenko also signed a decree December 28 
dismissing Yelchenko as Ukrainian Ambassador to Austria for 
authorizing the visas without proper permission, although 
this only became known after DT's Rudkovskiy story broke. 
Chaliy said that the President's main goal was to make sure 
that all officials understand that they must follow orders 
and protocol and not to act outside these boundaries.  Chaliy 
added that although the decree dismissing Yelchenko had been 
signed, it would not be promulgated until Yelchenko 
"completes his diplomatic assignment in Austria."  The 
Ukrainian mission to the OSCE told USOSCE January 25 that 
Yelchenko would remain as Ukrainian Ambassador to OSCE and 
that a new Ambassador to Austria would be appointed (ref A). 
Our MFA counterparts concurred, noting that Yelchenko would 
remain as Ukraine's Ambassador to both the OSCE and 
UN-related agencies in Vienna.  There was no information yet 
about a new Ukrainian bilateral ambassador to Austria. 
 
13. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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