Right-wing forces consolidate
On 9 June, the Ukrainian People's Movement and the People's Movement of Ukraine (two Rukh parties) signed a declaration on uniting into a single electoral block. The declaration was signed during the second national conference of the Ukrainian People's Movement (UPM), led by Yuriy Kostenko. A few days later, on 13 June, the block was joined by the Reforms and Order Party, headed by Viktor Pynzenyk. Former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and representatives of other democratic and nationalist parties were present.
Rukh split in February 1999 in a struggle over leadership between Kostenko and Vyacheslav Chornovil, who died in a car accident the following month, and was replaced by Hennadiy Udovenko as the leader of the People's Movement of Ukraine (PMU). "This is the first step toward the unification of our parties, towards the creation of a powerful national democratic party of state-building orientation," Udovenko commented.
Yuriy Kostenko, leader of UPM, explained that the declaration states that the two parties intend to start to unite themselves into a single electoral block on the basis of a broad electoral union of national democratic forces at the 2002 parliamentary and local elections. However, as Hennadiy Udovenko said, uniting the two parties could be discussed only after the 2002 elections.
All three parties see Viktor Yushchenko, the former prime minister and the most popular politician in the country, as a potential leader of their pre-election block. The two parties supported him when he was voted out of the office at the end of April, and were quick in proclaiming him as the leader of democratic opposition forces.
Whilst addressing the Rukh unification congress, Yushchenko avoided saying directly whether he would become the leader of the right-wing coalition. His behavior since his dismissal has largerly spurned the opposition and he has even hinted that he may enter into a political alliance with President Leonid Kuchma.
According to the high-profile political analyst Oleksandr Dergachyov, "it's hard to say on whose side Yushchenko will be. He'll be balancing between them [Kuchma and right-wing parties], exploiting to the very end his image as a political figure of national significance."
President Kuchma's reaction to the news about the unification of the two parties was rather negative. On 9 June he told journalists: "it's a game, a farce concealed behind high-sounding slogans."
Kuchma in Slovakia
President Kuchma paid an official three-day visit to the Slovak Republic between 12 and 14 June. Besides holding meetings with high-ranking Slovak officials, he gave interviews to journalists, highlighting solutions for the political situation in Ukraine.
First, President Kuchma openly criticized Ukrainian parliamentarians during his talks with Speaker of the Slovak Parliament Jozef Migaš on Wednesday 13 June. He said Ukrainian MPs have been misusing official trips and are responsible for the failure of parliament to meet its obligations towards the Council of Europe. He also said that the opposition, which has been putting pressure on him to resign, has already divided itself.
During the talks over energy, security and possible Slovak participation in the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline project (considered to be an important energy route for Ukraine bypassing Russia), President Kuchma denied accusations of Ukraine siphoning off gas illegaly. "Ukraine has not violated the gas delivery terms a single time", said Kuchma adding that "there has never been stealing of gas either, and I can even cite opposite examples."
According to Kuchma, the charges of unsanctioned gas siphoning are voiced to apply economic pressure on Ukraine. He stated that this problem "is not on the agenda" of Ukrainian-Russian relations.
Kuchma's statements are controversial as he has claimed the exact opposite many times. In one of the news conferences last summer he said he was "ashamed to look Russia in the eyes" because of the Russian gas thefts and criticized the government for failing to take adequate measures to correct the problem.
Ukraine has been constantly accused by Russian authorities of siphoning Russian gas. In particular, in June last summer, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko alleged that between 1.2 and 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas was siphoned by Ukraine per month over the previous year.
Prime minister goes public
Recently appointed Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh held his first official news conference on Friday 15 June.
Avoiding references to the achievements of the previous government, Kinakh said Ukraine's economy has developed relatively quicky on a macroeconomic level. For the last five months, output growth has amounted to 18.8 percent and GDP growth has reached 109 percent.
Answering the question whether the new government would sell Ukrainian strategic enterprises to Russia to pay Ukrainian debts there, Kinakh assured journalists that the government will never trade national interests: "We are going to work on how to combine the efforts and interests of Europe, from the point of view of its energy security, the Russian Federation, as a gas importer to Europe, and Ukraine, on whose territory the highway gas pipelines are located."
The prime minister also outlined his government's priorities. First, the government will increase the average salary. Second, the government will rectify the imbalance between science-intensive industries, which amount to just 13 percent of the total industries, and energy-consuming industries. Third, they will try changing the spending ideology surrounding privatization funds, channelling them into the innovative development of the economy, profound reforms and small and medium business development.
The government will also work to pursue harmony with the parliament. According to Kinakh, the first meeting of the coordination committee of government and parliament will take place next week.
The formation of the new cabinet, which has been debated for the last three weeks, is nearly completed. The only position still remaining vacant is that of the deputy prime minister for economic policy. Numerous voices could be heard promoting Serhiy Tyhypko, leader of the Working Ukraine Party and one of the former candidates for the post of prime minister, as the most likely candidate for this post. He, however, recently made it clear that he would rather concentrate on preparing for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Iryna Solonenko, 15 June 2001
- Archive of news reviews for Ukraine
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Ukraine through CER
- Return to CER front page
The Day,daily newspaper
Unian news agency
Ukrainian New Channel Television