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09KYIV1433, UKRAINE – RUSSIA: RELATIVE CALM PREVAILS

August 20, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV1433 2009-08-20 15:16 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXRO7333
RR RUEHDBU RUEHSL
DE RUEHKV #1433/01 2321516
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 201516Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8301
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 001433 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/20/2019 
TAGS: PREL UP RU
SUBJECT: UKRAINE - RUSSIA: RELATIVE CALM PREVAILS 
 
REF: KYIV 1322 
 
Summary 
-------- 
1.  (C) Ukrainian President Yushchenko's calm response to 
complaints conveyed in an August 10 letter from Russian 
President Medvedev (ref) has been met by general approval in 
Ukraine.  Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's eventual 
response was also measured in tone, and echoed Yushchenko in 
strongly defending Ukraine's sovereign rights.  Since then, 
bilateral contacts have quietly continued, including a 
meeting of the Acting Minister of Defense with his Russian 
counterpart on August 18 and a Tymoshenko-Putin phone call on 
August 19 to discuss economic cooperation and a possible 
early September meeting in Poland, at the invitation of 
Polish President Donald Tusk. End Summary. 
 
Yushchenko's Reply 
----------------- 
2.  (C) Those hoping for an emotional diatribe from 
Yushchenko were disappointed by his eventual reaction, 
conveyed in a written response to Medvedev three days later, 
on August 13.  His calm, reasonable response underscored 
Ukraine's sovereign right to determine its own alliances, as 
well as its own internal and foreign policies.  The letter 
chastised Medvedev as unconstructive, particularly in his 
decision not to send an Ambassador to Kyiv.  Ukrainian 
reaction to Yushchenko's letter has ranged from overall 
satisfaction with the tone to mild dissatisfaction with its 
failure to offer proactive suggestions on how relations could 
be improved. 
 
Tymoshenko 
---------- 
3.  (C) While most other Ukrainian politicians reacted to 
Medvedev's incoming letter by quickly distancing themselves 
from Yushchenko (ref), Prime Minister Tymoshenko's statement, 
released on August 14, echoed Yushchenko's.  Rather than 
blame the President for problems with Russia or distancing 
herself from his policies, Tymoshenko noted that she, as 
Prime Minister, also tries to contribute to strong bilateral 
relations.  In strong terms, she defended Ukraine's right to 
"independently, without external interference, define its 
external and internal policy."  Her statement concludes with 
a dig at Medvedev's unwillingness to work with Ukraine's 
current leadership: "Any pause in the development of 
cooperation between Ukraine and Russia is unacceptable." 
 
Lytvyn the Conciliator? 
---------------------- 
4.  (C) Presidential candidates Yanukovich -- widely 
perceived to have done himself some discredit by a hasty 
embrace of the Medvedev letter -- and Yatsenyuk have not 
commented further after their initial criticism of the 
current bad state of relations.  By contrast, Rada Speaker 
Lytvyn has continued to press forward with his style of 
parliamentary diplomacy, pushing hard for a meeting of the 
Ukraine-Russia Inter-Parliamentary Commission in early 
September. 
 
5.  (C) In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio on August 18, 
Lytvyn took pains to reach out to the Russian audience, 
agreeing that relations cannot improve if foreign policy is 
determined by the President of Ukraine (note: according to 
the Ukrainian constitution, this is the case).  Lytvyn stated 
that Ukraine should not focus on "controversial moments" in 
its shared history with Russia, that Ukraine should remain in 
the CIS, that Russia has a special leadership role in the 
CIS, that the new law authorizing the Russian president to 
use force to protect Russian citizens abroad may not be "a 
priori" aggressive, that arms sales to Georgia should be 
reexamined, and that he does not see direct Russian influence 
in Ukrainian electoral politics. 
 
Public Opinion 
-------------- 
 
6.  (C) Ukrainian think tank Razumkov Center conducted a 
telephone poll of at least 600 people each in the cities of 
Kyiv, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, and Simferopol between 
September 12 and 16.  Respondents were asked whether they 
were aware of Medvedev's address to Yushchenko, whether they 
supported Medvedev's claims, what they thought of Medvedev's 
decision to delay the dispatch of a new ambassador to Kyiv, 
whether Medvedev was disrespectful to Yushchenko or to 
Ukraine on the whole (or both), whether Medvedev's motive was 
to interfere with elections, and whether Russia currently 
represents a threat to Ukraine. 
 
7.  (C) Results of the polling revealed a predictable 
geographic split in people's views, with most in the West and 
in Kyiv reacting negatively to the letter and ascribing 
 
KYIV 00001433  002 OF 002 
 
 
negative motives to Medvedev.  With regard to the potential 
threat posed to Ukraine by Russia, most respondents did not 
perceive a threat (with the exception of Lviv, where the 
split was slightly skewed toward seeing a threat).  Most 
interesting of all, however, was the high percentage or 
respondents who said they were unaware of Medvedev's letter 
in the first place. 
 
Comment 
------- 
8.  (C) The letter from Medvedev seems to have been perceived 
by many Ukrainians as an emotional statement of well-known 
differences.  Ukrainians by and large do not seem to view 
Russia as an existential threat.  While many were not pleased 
with the emotional tone taken in
Medvedev's message, 
Ukrainians may be currently more absorbed with Ukraine's own 
internal problems and the upcoming elections than with 
problems in the bilateral relationship with Russia. 
Tymoshenko's balanced response to Medvedev is likely to play 
well both with her traditional electoral base in the West, 
and with potential voters in the East, who look forward to a 
new pragmatic approach that would do less to irritate Moscow. 
PETTIT

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