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07KYIV2417, UKRAINE: NATO, RUSSIAN LANGUAGE ISSUES ENTER

September 19, 2007

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07KYIV2417 2007-09-19 12:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO1989
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKV #2417/01 2621258
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191258Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3800
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 002417 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2017 
TAGS: PGOV NATO PREL PINR UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: NATO, RUSSIAN LANGUAGE ISSUES ENTER 
ELECTION FRAY 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i., James Pettit for reasons 1.4 (b 
,d) 
 
 1. (C) Summary.  Party of Regions' recent decision to call 
for a referendum on neutrality (local shorthand for no NATO 
membership), and an official status for the Russian language 
resurrects divisive election themes, present in 2004 and 
2006, that the major parties had tried to keep quiet so far 
in this campaign.  Number 4 on the Regions list Inna 
Bohoslovska admitted to the Ambassador that this was a 
campaign ploy to build support among core supporters, but it 
may focus part of the debate on Ukraine's foreign orientation 
and Euroatlantic aspirations.  Polls show voters focused 
primarily on bread-and-butter economic issues, and so far Our 
Ukraine-People's Self Defense (OU-PSD) and Bloc Yuliya 
Tymoshenko (BYuT) continue to emphasize anti-corruption and 
social/economic core messages, avoiding a NATO/Russian 
language debate that neither sees as in its interest. 
However, Regions campaign manager Borys Kolesnikov told the 
Ambassador that while there was a marketing aspect to raising 
these issues, giving the Russian language official status was 
also a campaign promise that Regions intended to keep. 
 
2. (C) Comment.  Just as in 2006, the campaign features a few 
smaller parties beating the anti-NATO drum, primarily 
Nataliya Vitrenko's Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine 
(PSPU) and the Communists.  However, Regions' decision to 
raise the issue suggests it may be worried about support 
levels in the East, and reflects their sense that this will 
be a tight race.  Regions leadership continue to cite the 
possibility that the loss of two percentage points of support 
could have significant impact in seat allocation in the new 
Rada.  While the near-term impact of the PoR referendum will 
be damaging to NATO membership support levels, we anticipate 
it will be more limited in scope than the anti-NATO effort 
launched by the Ne Tak! bloc prior to the 2006 elections.  We 
doubt that PoR is fully committed to the referendum issue as 
a post-election core goal, and anticipate that the initiative 
will be allowed to fade once it has served its purpose of 
energizing core voters.  However, some members of Regions are 
likely to advocate for Russian language being granted 
official status, even after the elections.  End Summary and 
Comment. 
 
NATO/Russian Language Referendum 
--------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) The Party of Regions (PoR) on September 6 announced 
its intention to push for a referendum including questions on 
making Russian an official state language and supporting 
nonbloc status for Ukraine.  Prior to the referendum 
announcement, PoR had generally refrained from interjecting 
either NATO or Russia/Russian language issues into the 
campaign, in sharp contrast with the 2004 and 2006 campaigns. 
 Inna Bohoslovska, fourth on the PoR list, told the 
Ambassador during a September 6 meeting that PoR had to raise 
NATO and Russian-language issues, otherwise "we won't win". 
Kolesnikov told the Ambassador September 18 that Regions had 
polling data that said 66 percent of Ukrainians support 
Ukraine's neutrality and 54 percent support official status 
for Russian language, with the number jumping to 85 percent 
in the East -- so part of the referendum was marketing to 
boost support.  He cautioned, however,  that Russia and 
Russian language were part of Ukraine's history and sooner or 
later, his party would get two state languages; the preterm 
elections had just made it sooner. 
 
4. (SBU) The announcement is aimed at preempting other 
parties, primarily the Communists and PSPU, on these issues 
and solidifying core support.  The signature-gathering 
process -- PoR has a nine million signature target, although 
only three million are required -- will provide PoR with 
another opportunity to raise NATO/Russian-language directly 
with voters.  This behavior mirrors Regions' 2006 campaign, 
where the party's official platform made no mention of NATO 
or Russian language, but then they stumped for these issues 
as loudly as the leftist parties. 
 
5. (SBU) Our Ukraine has stayed away from these issues 
publicly, focusing almost exclusively on its core 
anti-corruption message.  Following the referendum 
announcement FM Yatsenyuk, third on the OU-PSD list, 
criticized Regions, stating that "the decision on NATO should 
be made by politicians elected by people.  Don't attract 
attention to things Ukrainians don't need today, solve vital 
problems instead." OU-PSD is banking on opinion polls that 
show the referendum issues trailing bread-and-butter concerns 
among 
voters. 
 
6. (SBU) Yuliya Tymoshenko has refrained from publicly 
 
KYIV 00002417  002 OF 002 
 
 
joining the NATO fray, limiting herself to subtle digs at PM 
Yanukovych's ties to Russia.  She recently demanded that 
Yanukovych confirm or deny reports that his recent vacation 
in Altai was paid for by Russian billionaire Vladimir 
Yevtushenkov, who BYuT claims is interested in the
 upcoming 
privatization of communications giant Ukrtelecom.  Tymoshenko 
foreign policy advisor Hryhoriy Nemyria recently told 
Ambassador that he viewed the referendum as a sign of 
weakness on the part of Regions, signaling a loss of 
confidence.  He noted that BYuT polling showed NATO and 
Russian language issues very low on a list of voter concerns. 
 Only PSPU leader Nataliya 
Vitrenko has maintained a steady drumbeat of anti-NATO 
rhetoric throughout the campaign. 
 
A Different Party Landscape 
--------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) The most outspoken proponent in 2006 election of the 
pro-Russian and anti-NATO/US views as main campaign message 
was the Ne Tak! bloc, which is not on the ballot this time. 
Ne Tak! was extremely vocal and well financed -- it launched 
an anti-NATO referendum campaign similar to the current PoR 
effort that had a sharp negative effect on public support 
levels for alliance membership.  Although the 2006 referendum 
gathered sufficient signatures to be brought before the 
electorate, it received a pocket-veto from President 
Yushchenko as the Constitution contains no time limit for 
Presidential review of a proposed referendum. 
 
8. (SBU) Vitrenko's PSPU received strong financial support in 
2006 from Russian businessman Maksim Kurochkin (shot dead in 
Kyiv this winter), but has seemed to lack the same deep 
pockets in 2007.  Current polling has the PSPU well below the 
3-percent hurdle (it fell just short in 2006). Similarly, the 
Communist Party ran a strongly anti-West/NATO campaign in 
2006 and is doing so again in 2007.  These parties efforts 
have been supported to some degree by second-tier Russian 
politicians, such as Aleksandr Dugin, Konstantin Zatulin, 
Kirill Frolov, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, making the same 
anti-West/NATO statements in Southern Ukraine and Crimea. 
 
Signal to Moscow? 
----------------- 
 
9. (C) During a September 10 meeting, OU-PSD head Yuriy 
Lutsenko told the Ambassador that the referendum was a signal 
of increased Yanukovych/Moscow ties, and that Putin wanted 
the anti-NATO, pro-Russian language issues raised as a way to 
signal Russian voters that things were "going right for them 
in Ukraine."  Serhiy Taran, a Kyiv political analyst, has 
described the current campaign as the first instance since 
Ukrainian independence that "Russia has not made a strong 
official statement about 
Ukrainian politics."  Taran believes Russia is unsure of who 
could serve as a reliable partner in Ukraine, and that the 
upcoming Russian election has focused top-level Russian 
politicians on domestic issues. 
 
10. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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