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February 15, 2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KYIV361 2008-02-15 13:01 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

DE RUEHKV #0361/01 0461301
P 151301Z FEB 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 000361 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2018 
REF: KYIV 00192 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(b,d). 
1. (C) Summary.  Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat 
Stavnichuk and Justice Minister Onishchuk confirmed to us 
recently that the President's team is moving ahead with its 
plans to amend the constitution in the first half of the 
year.  Stavnichuk described the National Constitutional 
Council (NCC), which Yushchenko established in December 
(reftel), as containing representatives of all political 
forces and of civil society, but underscored it is the 
President's right and prerogative to lay out the Council's 
agenda.  She also confirmed that the Secretariat already has 
a draft that it plans to use as a working paper for the 
Council's first meeting and she would not rule out that there 
could be a final document ready for a referendum in June. 
Justice Minister Onishchuk, another key member of the 
President's constitutional reform team, told the Ambassador 
that he expected 65-70 percent of the old constitution to be 
rewritten in the new draft.  He thought that the Rada should 
approve the new constitution before it is put to referendum 
and said he would try to convince Yushchenko of this. 
2. (C) Comment.  Although the presidential team is clearly 
hard at work, it seems to be having some difficulties in 
getting the NCC off the ground.  Stavnichuk told us that the 
first NCC meeting would be held in mid-February, but they are 
already a week late in announcing the composition of the 
Council.  One reason for the delay may be problems in 
identifying the members -- 230 nominations were received and 
the Secretariat was targeting 100 members, but the most 
recent rumors suggest that now all NGO representatives have 
been removed, dropping the number to 60.  If the President's 
process is to be seen as credible, the President's team will 
have to be careful that the NCC really does represent all 
views.  End summary and comment. 
Presidential Secretariat Readying New Constitution 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
3. (C) Marina Stavnichuk, the deputy head of the Presidential 
Secretariat tasked with running the NCC, told us January 31 
that they hoped to have the Council up and running by 
mid-February.  At the first meeting, Yushchenko will present 
his vision for constitutional reform and lay out the tasks 
for the NCC.  Of course, Stavnichuk added, there must be 
consensus in order to avoid the crises that occur today -- 
there will be plenty of discussions with professionals and 
with society. 
4. (C) According to Stavnichuk, Yushchenko will use his 
constitutional right to send the constitution to the Rada, 
but the question remains how do you write a new constitution, 
since the current document only addresses amendments.  One 
path would be the same -- approving the new document in two 
separate Rada sessions (the Rada has two sessions per year), 
but the other option is approving the new draft of the 
constitution via a national referendum.  An October 2005 
Constitutional Court decision validated referendum as a valid 
5. (C) In terms of the composition of the NCC, Stavnichuk 
said there would be representatives of all political parties 
and of civil society.  She confirmed that the Secretariat had 
received more than 230 nominations, but the final total would 
be fewer than 100 members.  (Note.  Members of the Civic 
Constitutional Committee (CCC), a group of NGOs and think 
tankers, told us on February 12 that there were rumors that 
the NCC was actually down to 60 people and all NGOs had been 
removed from the list, with the possible exception of 
respected human rights activist Yevhen Zakharov.  End note.) 
Those not selected to serve on the NCC, will be asked to take 
part in roundtables along the way.  Stavnichuk was somewhat 
dismissive of the Constitutional Assembly idea proposed by 
the CCC, saying the NCC is constitutional and legally 
empowered, but a CA would be outside the constitutional 
framework.  She reiterated that the decree Yushchenko issued 
to establish the NCC specified the need for expert opinions, 
including the Venice Commission, so those voices would not go 
6. (C) Stavnichuk said that the timeline of the NCC's work 
will be clearer once it meets, but they hope to have a draft 
finished by April or May.  Therefore, she could not rule out 
that a document might be ready for referendum on June 28, 
Constitution Day.  (Note.  This is the target date that a 
number of NGO leaders have cited to us.  End note.)  She 
added that they already had a draft document that the NCC 
could begin to consider. It envisioned a careful balance of 
KYIV 00000361  002 OF 002 
power between the President, Cabinet, and Rada.  Beyond that, 
she refused to divulge any details of the President's 
constitutional draft, saying it was his prerogative to 
announce the details.  Regions also had a project, Stavnichuk 
said, but Yanukovych had already told Yushchenko that he was &#x0
00A;ready to compromise.  The actual drafting from this point 
forward would be done by a working group made up of 
constitutional experts, constitutional court judges, 
academics, representatives of the Justice Ministry, and maybe 
someone from the Rada. 
Justice Ministry on Board with Reform 
7. (C) At a February 1 meeting, in response to the 
Ambassador's question about whether the administration wanted 
a new constitution or to amend the old one, Justice Minster 
Onishchuk said there was an obvious need for a new 
constitution.  He said approximately 65-70 percent of the 
text will be updated from the current document.  Onishchuk 
said that he would insist that the new constitution be 
adopted by the Rada, as specified in the current 
constitution. (Note. The current constitution only refers to 
amending the current document, not to adopting a new one. 
End note.)  He also believed the Rada decision should then be 
endorsed by a national referendum.  He said he could not 
predict what would happen if the Rada rejected the new 
8. (C) Onishchuk said that there were several objective 
reasons in favor of a new constitution.  Local 
self-government reform and decentralization of power was 
needed.  In addition, there needed to be administrative 
reform and reform of the executive branch to unite the 
executive branch.  There should be only two centers of power 
-- the government and the citizenry, with regional 
administration the weakest level.  Onishchuk proposed 
enhancing the power of the President as "guarantor of power", 
but to weaken his administrative role.  For example, the 
Minister said, it would be beneficial to increase the 
President's role in appointing and dismissing judges, make 
him head of the High Council of Justice, and specify the 
President has right to terminate the Cabinet only in event of 
threat to national security.  However, in terms of 
administrative control (which is what Ukrainian leaders 
always want), the President should not be so protected.  For 
example, a government that is formed with the President's 
participation creates two channels of control over the 
government -- this needs to be consolidated.  The President 
would lose his role here, but he would gain power as 
guarantor of the constitution.  Onishchuk said that he was 
certain that most Ukrainian politicians already understand 
this and he planned to try to convince President of this. 
Finally, he said the question of a unicameral or bicameral 
legislature (which Regions keeps raising) will simply be a 
matter of political expediency. 
9. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 




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