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January 29, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV211 2007-01-29 15:46 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

DE RUEHKV #0211/01 0291546
P 291546Z JAN 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 000211 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2017 
REF: 06 KYIV 4679 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(a,b,d). 
1. (C) Summary.  President Yushchenko's January 26 decision 
to refer two constitutional articles on holding a referendum 
to the Constitutional Court for clarification effectively 
pushes down the road the need to decide whether there will be 
a referendum on membership in NATO and the Single Economic 
Space (SES) in 2007.  Given the Court's heavy caseload and 
the recent January 18 start on hearing its first case, we do 
not expect a ruling for at least six months, if not longer. 
Although the President has the constitutional authority to 
decline the petition for the referendum, buying time from the 
Court better suits his aversion to confrontation.  Comments 
from the Prime Minister's team, the Presidential Secretariat, 
and outside experts suggest that all parts of the GoU would 
prefer to delay holding a vote that they know will fail if 
conducted too soon.  The most vocal MP in the Rada 
(parliament) previously pushing the referendum, the late 
Regions MP Kushanaryov, died unexpectedly January 17 in a 
hunting accident, which may reduce pressure in the Rada in 
favor of an early referendum. 
2. (C) Comment: PM Yanukovych's role in this saga is 
important.  His team, notably Chief of Staff Lyovochkin, told 
the Ambassador that it is not in the PM's interests to hold a 
referendum in the near future.  Yanukovych could help take 
the pressure off the President by making a public statement 
regarding the inadvisability of holding the referendum in 
conjunction with the comprehensive NATO information campaign 
of the sort he indicated was necessary while in Brussels 
September 14.  However, it is also possible that he could use 
Yushchenko's strong desire for Ukraine to join NATO, and the 
referendum wildcard, as a way to extract political 
concessions on other issues.  End summary and comment. 
Legal Questions 
3.  (SBU) Since the Central Election Commission announced on 
December 29 that it had approved as valid more than 4 million 
signatures in support of a referendum on NATO/Single Economic 
Space (SES) membership (see reftel for details), a number of 
legalities surrounding the proposed referendum have arisen. 
Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat for legal affairs 
Ihor Pukshyn, who chaired a working group to examine the CEC 
protocol, announced on January 26 that the Presidential 
Secretariat had asked the Constitutional Court to interpret 
the relevant constitutional articles on conducting a 
referendum.  In particular, he said that Court should clarify 
what could be asked in a referendum.  Based on the 
Presidential Secretariat's read of the constitution, a 
referendum's questions must relate to a normative or legal 
act; therefore the proposed question: "Do you agree that 
Ukraine should become a member of NATO?" does not fit into 
that category. 
4. (SBU) There also has been a debate about whether the 
President is under any time limit to make a decision on 
calling a referendum.  Most experts believe he is not. 
However, the 1991 law on referendums, which predates the 1996 
constitution by five years and was adopted expressly to allow 
the Rada to hold a referendum on Ukraine's independence from 
the Soviet Union, says that the Rada must make a decision on 
referendum petitions within 30 days of receipt.  While most 
analysts agree that the 1991 law is outdated and contradicts 
the constitution, some claim this clause from the 1991 law 
should oblige Yushchenko also to make a decision within 30 
5. (C) Political analyst Oleksandr Sushko, a pro-NATO 
think-tanker and one of the country's leading foreign policy 
experts, cited potential signature fraud to us in late 
December 2006 as another reason why there should be no 
referendum in 2007.  The Presidential Secretariat could 
challenge the validity of the signatures in court, he 
maintained.  There had not been a noticeable campaign in late 
2005-early 2006 to get Ukrainians to sign the referendum 
petition, he noted; how could anyone have collected over four 
million signatures without anyone noticing?  Sushko concluded 
that this was indirect evidence of forged signatures.  (Note: 
the last serious referendum signature collection effort in 
2000 under President Kuchma was marred by forged signatures 
and exposed by investigative journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.) 
Moreover, the CEC's method of using a limited random sampling 
of signatures, which resulted in 200,000 signatures being 
disallowed, was not a valid way to verify the signatures. 
Political Considerations - where does Regions stand? 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
KYIV 00000211  002 OF 002 
6. (C) Comments from Prime Minister Yanukovych and his team 
have generally leaned against holding a referendum in the 
near future.  PM Chief of Staff Lyovochkin told the 
Ambassador on January 22 that in his view, and the PM,s 
view, it was not time for a NATO referendum.  He took note of &#x
000A;the Ambassador's suggestion that it was important for the PM 
to show leadership on this issue. 
7. (SBU) Publicly,  Yanukovych said that the referendum 
ideally would be held in a "calmer environment," when the 
regional clefts from 2004 had healed and after more pressing 
social and economic needs had been addressed.  He pledged to 
create conditions for an "honest and open discussion" of the 
referendum's questions, since the public needed to be 
educated before making such an important decision.  (Note: 
Septel will address the state of the 2007 NATO information 
campaign.) In addition, Segodnya, a high-circulation 
newspaper owned by Regions' MP and financier Rinat Akhmetov, 
argued on January 3 that there is no law that compels the 
President to consider a referendum within a certain 
8. (C) Regions' most vocal anti-NATO voice, so-called "Rada 
radical" Yevhen Kushnaryov, forcibly supported moving forward 
on the referendum after the CEC certification of signatures. 
However, Kushnaryov died unexpectedly January 17 after a 
hunting accident, removing him from the political equation. 
While others in Regions no doubt share Kushnaryov's views, 
none come close to his prominence or force of personality. 
Opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko told Ambassador January 
19 that the departure of Kushnaryov the most prominent 
non-Donetsk figure in Regions, left the party that much more 
in the hands of what she described as Regions' "iron Donetsk 
triangle" of decisionmakers: Akhmetov, Yanukovych, and DPM 
9. (SBU) Political analyst Vadym Karasyov, an advocate of 
Ukrainian neutrality in the past, said to the press on 
January 3 that he believes the referendum will not take place 
because neither Yanukovych nor Yushchenko wants it to happen. 
 He argued that the PM wants to remain in good standing with 
Washington in order to influence relations between Ukraine 
and the U.S.  Moreover, in his view, Regions, Our Ukraine, 
and the Socialists are concerned that conducting a referendum 
in the near term would give a platform to the anti-NATO 
Progressive Socialist Party, led by Nataliya Vitrenko, and to 
SDPU(o), led by pro-Russian former Chief of Staff Medvedchuk, 
both currently marginalized without parliamentary 
representation.  (Note: the SPDU(o) led the referendum 
signature drive but failed in its attempt to time it to 
coincide with the March 2006 parliamentary and local 
10. (C) On the other hand, Sushko maintained that NATO 
membership was primarily a bargaining tool for Yanukovych. 
The PM had no strong feeling for or against NATO membership, 
but since he knew that Yushchenko really desired it, he could 
use the referendum issue to extract concessions from the 
President on other issues.  Supporting Sushko's theory was 
Yanukovych's comment, issued on the Party of Regions website, 
that he is "forced to honor the CEC decision," leaving an 
opening to push the referendum if needed.  Sushko also argued 
that Yanukovych thought he could use American and European 
desire for Ukraine to join NATO to his advantage.  Finally, 
and separately, Sushko blamed Russia for pushing the 
referendum in order to keep Ukraine out of NATO. 
11. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 




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