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08KYIV832, UKRAINE: KYIV MAYOR’S RACE HEATS UP

April 25, 2008

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08KYIV832 2008-04-25 12:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO8252
PP RUEHBW
DE RUEHKV #0832/01 1161258
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251258Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5452
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 KYIV 000832 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: KYIV MAYOR'S RACE HEATS UP 
 
REF: 07 KYIV 02813 
 
KYIV 00000832  001.2 OF 005 
 
 
Classified By: Political Counselor Kent Logsdon for reasons 1.4(b,d). 
 
1. (C) Summary.  With early Kyiv mayor and city council 
elections scheduled for May 25, and 150 candidates already 
declared, the race to control the capital city is being seen 
as an early showdown in the run-up to the presidential 
elections in late 2009/early 2010.  Prime Minister 
Tymoshenko's BYuT is by far the most popular party in Kyiv, 
but the strong possibility that Leonid Chernovetskiy could be 
reelected despite her best efforts could be a blow to her 
status.  Both Tymoshenko and OU-PSD leader Lutsenko have been 
pushing for Chernovetskiy's removal for more than a year and 
made it a key electoral promise in 2007, but the coalition 
has been unable to come to agreement on a single candidate. 
Tymoshenko has put forward her loyal, but uncharismatic 
deputy First DPM Oleksandr Turchynov, while Our Ukraine does 
not have an official candidate, although some in the bloc are 
backing former boxing champion Vitaliy Klychko, who is the 
only real competitor for Chernovetskiy.  OU-PSD's lack of a 
candidate and President Yushchenko's opposition to the 
election in general have prompted some to speculate that 
Yushchenko's inner circle is quietly backing Chernovetskiy. 
The current mayor remains the front-runner in large part 
thanks to his social spending on the poorer parts of the 
population and his control over local media.  However, 
Klychko told the Ambassador that if Chernovetskiy was 
reelected, the new city council might refuse to swear him in, 
as is their legal right, leading to further elections or a 
backroom political deal. 
 
2. (C) Comment. Kyiv is an important city to control with 
huge financial and media resources, the seat of government 
and the courts, a politically active population, and the 
likely site of any protests after a national election.  Many 
have said the Kyiv mayor is the fourth most powerful 
political position in Ukraine (after the President, PM and 
Speaker).  This election is made more interesting because 
Tymoshenko has made it a test of her popularity and her 
political machine -- by picking the uncharismatic and 
unpopular Turchynov, she has made the elections a referendum 
on her own political sway and all sides are watching to see 
how she does.  A victory -- which many would not define 
solely as a Turchynov win, but as a strong Turchynov finish 
-- would put her in a good position for the presidential 
elections and strengthen her position vis-a-vis Yushchenko. 
A failure would conversely weaken her standing some, 
especially in current political negotiations both within and 
outside the ruling coalition.  In addition, with the 
coalition unable to agree on a candidate and Chernovetskiy in 
a good position to be reelected, it has once again been 
demonstrated that personal and presidential ambitions have 
overridden the coalition's common goal -- in this case 
relieving Kyiv of a corrupt and controversial mayor.  End 
summary and comment. 
 
Removing Chernovetskiy: A Longtime Goal 
--------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Tymoshenko has been gunning for Chernovetskiy since 
late 2006, when he convinced a number of BYuT city council 
members to defect to his side; both she and OU-PSD leader 
Lutsenko made Chernovetskiy's removal a key campaign promise 
in September 2007 (reftel).  This goal became number six on 
the list of top legislative priorities in the coalition 
agreement signed between BYuT and OU-PSD in November 2007. 
Nevertheless, the coalition struggled to put the issue on the 
Rada agenda and hold a vote.  On March 12, the Cabinet 
discussed corruption in the Kyiv municipal administration and 
voted to ask Yushchenko to dismiss Chernovetskiy, although 
five OU-PSD ministers -- DPM Vasyunyk, Emergencies Minister 
Shandra, Family and Youth Minister Pavlenko, Agriculture 
Minister Melnyk, and Justice Minister Onishchuk -- did not 
support the resolution.  On March 15, as controversy swelled 
in the press and at Chernovetskiy's request, Yushchenko 
temporarily suspended the mayor pending the outcome of an 
investigation by a supposedly independent commission, chaired 
by Vasyunyk and Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat 
Bezsmertniy.  The Rada established a similar investigative 
commission on March 7.  On-line newsite Ukrainska Pravda 
noted that the bulk of the President's commission -- 
including representatives from BYuT and Lytvyn Bloc -- were 
associates of Presidential Secretariat Head Baloha. 
 
Tymoshenko Pushes Ahead in the Rada 
----------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Perhaps sensing that Yushchenko would not support her 
request, Tymoshenko turned to the Rada to oust Chernovetskiy. 
 In a surprise March 18 vote, 246 members of the Rada voted 
 
KYIV 00000832  002.2 OF 005 
 
 
to call new mayoral and city council elections in Kyiv on May 
25.  The vote was supported by all of BYuT, all of the 
Communists, six members of Lytvyn Bloc (including Lytvyn), 
and 59 members of OU-PSD.  Lytvyn deputy Oleh
Zarubinskiy 
told us that there was a behind-the-scenes deal between 
Tymoshenko and Russian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin to 
buy the Communists' votes.  Zarubinskiy added that part of 
his faction voted yes because they had their own candidate 
for mayor, MP Viktor Pylypyshyn, who also heads the 
Shevchenko district administration in Kyiv.  The 13 OU-PSD 
MPs who did not support the early elections were noticeable 
for their links to Baloha and/or Chernovetskiy.  Two MPs -- 
Stanislav Dovhiy and Anatoliy Matviyenko -- have a son and 
nephew respectively who work for Chernovetskiy, and fought 
particularly hard against the vote.  Matviyenko told the 
press that the decision would be overturned in court, an 
opinion echoed by Baloha (however, this has not happened). 
 
No United Candidate 
------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) The Central Election Commission announced that it 
has received 150 applications for mayor and as of April 21 it 
had already registered 76 of them.  Of these candidates, only 
a few are serious.  In a poll conducted at the beginning of 
April by Ukrainian Sociology Services, Chernovetskiy came in 
first with 25.4% support.  He was trailed by former boxer and 
Kyiv politician Vitaliy Klychko with 21.3%, former Kyiv mayor 
(and current OU-PSD MP) Oleksandr Omelchenko with 10.7%, 
European Party leader Mykola Katerynchuk with 7.8%, Turchynov 
with 4.4%, and Pylypyshyn with 4%.  It is striking that with 
Chernovetskiy continuing to lead the pack, the coalition was 
unable to back a single candidate, which has raised 
speculation about whom the Presidential Secretariat actually 
supports. 
 
6. (C) BYuT MP and Kyiv city council member Volodymyr 
Bondarenko told us that there had never been an agreement to 
have one coalition candidate, which was why they had picked 
Turchynov.  Interior Minister Lutsenko repeatedly called on 
the coalition to pick one nominee, but his own OU-PSD does 
not even have its own candidate.  Lutsenko himself had wanted 
to be mayor, but with 3.6% in the polls, he decided not to 
run.  There are three OU-PSD MPs running -- Omelchenko, 
Katerynchuk, and Pora leader Vladyslav Kaskiv -- but all are 
self-nominated.  Many in OU may be supporting Klychko, who 
has ties to the orange camp and who almost beat Chernovetskiy 
in 2006.  The former boxer is backed by Kyiv businessmen 
Dmytro Andriyevskiy and Lev Partskhaladze.  Klychko took a 
recent trip to New York City; he told the Ambassador on April 
25 that he had met Rudy Giuliani, who had agreed to come to 
Kyiv in mid-May and to act as an adviser if Klychko wins. 
Klychko's press service announced that he also sought advice 
from Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit.  However, many say Klychko 
lacks charisma, speaks Ukrainian poorly, and has weak public 
speaking skills.  Klychko issued a statement to the orange 
coalition asking them to refrain from multiple nominations 
because "the parade of nominees from BYuT, OU-PSD, and 
Klychko's bloc had already undermined mutual respect and 
triggered mutual accusations."  Lutsenko tried to organize a 
meeting between Klychko and Tymoshenko supporters on March 
26, but the latter did not show up. 
 
7. (C) Klychko told the Ambassador that he was speaking 
regularly to Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, Akhmetov, and Yanukovych 
-- all had offered conditional support, if Klychko would 
agree to return favors later.  However, Klychko stated that 
he was an independent and didn't want to be beholden to 
anyone, so the major political forces had all turned to other 
candidates.  He hoped that in the end Tymoshenko and some of 
the OU-PSD candidates would realize that he was the only 
candidate with a shot at beating Chernovetskiy and would 
endorse him closer to the election.  Klychko believed one of 
the reasons Tymoshenko had decided she needed her own 
candidate was to have leverage over Klychko closer to the 
vote -- Turchynov might drop out, if Klychko agreed to 
certain conditions. 
 
8. (SBU) At an April 15 panel discussion, Kost Bondarenko, 
head of the Gorshein Institute and new adviser to Rada 
Speaker Yatsenyuk, said Klychko had the second best chance to 
win, but if he did, Bondarenko did not believe he would be 
significantly different than Chernovetskiy.  Neither had a 
lot of experience running a city and both came surrounded by 
business interests.  A Klychko victory would not alter the 
quality of governance only the circle of businessmen 
benefiting.  BYuT MP Bondarenko told us that his bloc was 
indeed concerned about some of the businessmen in Klychko's 
circle, especially former Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov, who 
was accused of engaging in corrupt energy deals.  A second 
political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko said Klychko's rating had 
 
KYIV 00000832  003.2 OF 005 
 
 
not grown since 2006, suggesting he faces a limit to his 
popularity.  In addition, Fesenko said that Yushchenko and 
Tymoshenko both believed Klychko will be a weak mayor. 
 
One Round or Two? 
----------------- 
 
9. (SBU) A second dispute has broken out within the coalition 
and with the President over whether the election should be 
held in one round -- the current system -- or two. 
Tymoshenko and most of the coalition are proposing amending 
the law on local elections to make the mayor's race two 
rounds, presumably because this would allow for a second 
round between Chernovetskiy and the top vote-getter from the 
orange team, increasing the chances of defeating the 
incumbent.  BYuT MP Bondarenko told us that the draft law -- 
introduced to the Rada by a number of BYuT and OU-PSD MPs -- 
would make two-round votes the norm for all mayoral elections 
in the country.  However, Yushchenko came out strongly 
opposed to the idea and has promised to veto the law if it is 
passed. 
 
President's Real Agenda? 
------------------------ 
 
10. (C) Some in BYuT are charging that Yushchenko and his 
inner circle are actually backing Chernovetskiy, who is 
supposed to in turn provide financial and political support 
to Yushchenko's reelection campaign next year.  Critics point 
to the Secretariat and OU's willingness to let a range of 
candidates from their camp run -- which is expected to drain 
support from Klychko -- as a sign that they do not actually 
support Klychko.  They also point to the President's 
opposition to the two-round vote as support for 
Chernovetskiy.  Moreover, on April 24, Yushchenko said the 
Rada resolution to hold new elections was ungrounded, 
although he admitted the vote would go forward.  On April 8 
Baloha issued a letter saying that he strongly supported 
Klychko and wanted Tymoshenko to do the same.  However, some 
have suggested Baloha may have been calculating that his 
endorsement would be enough to convince Tymoshenko not to do 
the same -- she came out the same day to announce BYuT would 
nominate Turchynov.  Klychko himself has openly accused 
Yushchenko of favoring Chernovetskiy because the President 
had not commented on the current mayor's corrupt deals an
d 
did nothing to prevent the multiple OU candidates -- 
Yushchenko has never clearly expressed his opinion about 
Chernovetskiy.  BYuT MP Bondarenko also accused Katerynchuk 
of taking money from business interests that want to see 
Chernovetskiy reelected. 
 
Don't Count Chernovetskiy Out 
----------------------------- 
 
11. (C) Regions MP Miroshnychenko told us that Tymoshenko had 
underestimated Chernovetskiy.  Despite the jokes about 
"Leonid Cosmos," the current mayor remains the most popular 
candidate in the city.  He could have appealed the Rada 
decision in court, but chose not to, suggesting that he 
accurately calculated that his opponents would be unable to 
unite around a single challenger.  Chernovetskiy has a stable 
electoral base, which may even be growing as the result of 
social spending and philanthropic activities.  Throughout 
2007-2008, Chernovetskiy's administration has distributed 
food packages to pensioners and paid them periodic 100-200 
hryvnia (USD 20-40) "bonuses."  On the day the Rada voted to 
call new elections, Chernovetskiy signed a decree to provide 
an additional 50 hryvnia a month (USD 10) to 23,000 single 
mothers.  His administration also provides financial 
assistance to WWII veterans and has given bonuses to doctors 
and teachers.  Chernovetskiy himself funds soup kitchens for 
the poor.  Ukrainska Pravda estimated that in total, 
Chernovetskiy has provided additional financial resources to 
600,000 residents, or 30% of voters.  In addition, 
Chernovetskiy has been putting up billboards since last fall 
extolling the accomplishments of his administration.  In 
mid-April, he even took a "democratic ride" on the metro in 
front of television cameras, forgoing his luxury Maybach 
limo.  Also of benefit is that despite all the accusations 
that Chernovetskiy has engaged in illegal land deals, he has 
never been charged with anything.  There is an investigation 
pending against unnamed officials in the Kyiv administration 
for abuse of office while authorizing land sales, but 
Chernovetskiy does not appear to be a subject of the 
investigation.  Klychko said he had already been to court 
several times to complain that Chernovetskiy was violating 
campaign rules by taking personal credit for the budget money 
he was spending on pensioners -- acting as if the money was 
coming out of his own pocket.  He added, however, that as 
long as the "bonuses" kept coming, many voters were willing 
to overlook the rampant corruption in the mayor's office. 
 
KYIV 00000832  004.2 OF 005 
 
 
 
12. (C) Chernovetskiy's other advantage is that so far he has 
faced no negative television coverage.  He has strong 
influence over Kyiv stations (reftel) which have focused 
newscasts on the conflict within the Rada coalition and with 
the Prime Minister.  In addition, Ukrainska Pravda wrote that 
several national channels/media holdings -- including 
Pinchuk's ICTV, Poroshenko's Channel 5, and Tretyakov's media 
company Glavred, which includes Unian, Glavred, and Gazeta 
Po-Kyivskiy among others -- have abstained from criticizing 
the mayor.  Chernovetskiy will also benefit from the fact 
that the elections will be held during Kyiv Days, the last 
weekend in May, when many residents, especially the younger 
ones leave town for the weekend, thereby skewing the voting 
population towards the older voters who tend to support 
Chernovetskiy. 
 
13. (SBU) Kost Bondarenko believed that Chernovetskiy might 
be reelected, but that he would face a hostile new city 
council.  (Note. Most observers expect BYuT and Klychko bloc 
to win a large majority on the city council regardless of who 
becomes mayor.  End note.)  Therefore, Bondarenko argued, 
another round of repeat elections might happen down the road. 
 Fesenko also believed that Chernovetskiy had the highest 
chances of victory.  Fesenko said Yushchenko and 
Chernovetskiy do not have a great relationship, but that the 
President may be satisfied to leave the current mayor in 
office because Chernovetskiy could be a loyal mayor and 
because Yushchenko does not have a good alternative candidate. 
 
The Test for BYuT 
----------------- 
 
14. (C) BYuT is by far the most popular party in Kyiv city, 
but whether Tymoshenko can spin that into a victory for mayor 
is far from certain.  The bloc won 38% of the city's vote in 
the 2006 Rada elections and 24.6% in the 2006 city council 
elections and managed to improve, winning 46.2% in the 2007 
Rada elections.  Many observers and politicians have said 
Tymoshenko has made this mayoral election a test of the 
strength of her bloc and her personal popularity.  By picking 
an uncharismatic candidate who has no track record in Kyiv 
city politics, she is hoping her stamp of approval will be 
enough to raise his ratings.  BYuT MPs have defended the 
selection -- Semyonha told us that the First DPM was an 
experienced administrator and professional economist, which 
was what the city needed.  However, Turchynov's ratings are 
low.  Moreover, his membership in the Baptist Church (he is 
an ordained minister) have led to some jokes and comparisons 
with Chernovetskiy's membership in the Embassy of God Church 
and that "no one wants another pastor around here." 
 
15. (SBU) Bondarenko and Fesenko both believed Turchynov 
would come in around fourth place.  Fesenko said that 
Chernovetskiy had attracted the support of one third of BYuT 
supporters in 2006 -- the question is who will win them this 
time?  If Tymoshenko can get rid of Chernovetskiy, she will 
have a strong position in the city, but if she fails, she 
will look weak and her image will be hurt.  Fesenko argued 
that the Kyiv mayor and city council races could serve much 
the same role that the Mukacheve mayoral election did in 2004 
-- an opportunity before the presidential elections to test 
out strategies and technologies.  Therefore, all eyes were on 
Tymoshenko. 
 
City Council Matters Too 
------------------------ 
 
16. (C) Klychko told the Ambassador that Tymoshenko's other 
motivation in putting forward Turchynov was that every party 
needed a visible leader if it was going to win city council 
seats and this was a key BYuT goal.  Fesenko also said that 
Turchynov's candidacy would help BYuT win more seats. 
Klychko explained that gaining a majority on the city council 
held several attractions for all political forces, and 
especially for BYuT, which is poised to win a plurality, if 
not a majority.  Kyiv city legislation stipulates that the 
new mayor must be confirmed by 51% of the city council before 
he can take office.  If he is not confirmed, another round of 
elections would be called.  Klychko ally Andriyevskiy told 
the press on April 22 that if BYuT and the Klychko Bloc hold 
a majority in the new city council, they may refuse to swear 
Chernovetskiy in, should he be reelected.  Klychko told the 
Ambassador that Tymoshenko's other strategy may be to use its 
plurality/majority in the city council to force C
hernovetskiy 
to be more compliant.  Klychko also believed that one reason 
Yushchenko might be backing Chernovetskiy is because OU-PSD's 
Kyiv ratings have dropped and their city council faction is 
likely to be small, giving them little influence on a new 
mayor -- better for the President to cut a deal now. 
 
 
KYIV 00000832  005.2 OF 005 
 
 
17. (SBU) Given the role the city council might play, all 
parties have stacked their lists with well-known figures. 
Tymoshenko herself is heading the BYuT list, Lutsenko is 
number one on the OU-PSD list, and even Regions padded its 
top five with the Father Superior of the Kyiv Lavra 
monastery, in addition to MPs Dmytro Tabachnyk and Inna 
Bohaslovska.  (Note.  City council members are unpaid and 
hold sessions only once every three or four weeks, allowing 
MPs and senior government members to join without violating 
the constitutional prohibition on holding two positions.  End 
note.) 
 
18. (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev. 
Taylor

Wikileaks

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