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MILITARY PROSECUTOR'S RESIGNATION LINKED TO PROBE OF WOULD-BE SENATOR. The 14 June resignation of Chief Military Prosecutor Mikhail Kislitsyn (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002) may have been linked to his role in the investigation of controversial former Deputy Finance Minister Andrei Vavilov, who was recently named to represent the Penza Oblast legislature in the Federation Council, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Kislitsyn had been investigating the former chief financial officer of the Russian Army, Georgii Oleinik (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December 2001), who was accused of illegally transferring $450 million in federal funds to a Ukrainian company in 1996. In May 2001, Kislitsyn stated that Oleinik testified that all the documents concerning the transfer were prepared by Vavilov when he was serving as deputy finance minister. However, just before Kislitsyn's office prepared to indict Vavilov, he fell ill and entered the hospital. Later, the investigation of Vavilov was dropped and earlier this year he testified as a witness in the Oleinik case, which resulted in Oleinik receiving a three-year prison term. On the same day that the Federation Council accepted Kislitsyn's resignation, senators voted at the request of Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to postpone endorsing Vavilov's mandate. VY
REMAINING GUUAM MEMBERS COMMENT ON UZBEKISTAN'S DECISION TO QUIT. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said on 14 June he hopes Uzbekistan's decision to leave GUUAM (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June 2002) will serve as an incentive to that group's remaining members to consolidate and implement the projects they have agreed on, Interfax reported. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said Tashkent's decision will not negatively affect relations between Georgia and Uzbekistan but could limit the group's future activities, according to uzreport.com. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Udovenko said the decision is Uzbekistan's sovereign affair, Interfax reported on 14 June. ITAR-TASS on 15 June quoted an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying the previous day that Washington hopes Uzbekistan will review its decision to leave GUUAM, adding that "the GUUAM association has yet to realize its potential in full measure." LF
END NOTE: CHECKMATE! UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT OUTMANEUVERS THE OPPOSITION xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
UKRAINE, MOLDOVA TACKLE PROPERTY, TRADE, BORDER ISSUES. Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev visited Kyiv on 15 June where he discussed unregulated property, trade, and border issues with his Ukrainian counterpart, Anatoliy Kinakh, UNIAN and Interfax reported. Tarlev urged Kyiv to accelerate the handover of some 130 Moldovan properties on Ukrainian territory. He welcomed Ukraine's recent transfer of two wineries (in Kyiv and Lviv) and a health resort (in Truskavets) to Moldova. Tarlev also proposed the liberalization of cross-border trade by establishing a free-transit corridor of Moldovan goods through Ukraine to Russia. JM
MOROZ RE-ELECTED LEADER OF UKRAINE'S SOCIALIST PARTY. A congress of the Socialist Party in Kyiv on 15 June unanimously re-elected Oleksandr Moroz as the party's head, UNIAN reported. Moroz told the congress that the government has lost control over the economy and predicted that the country's financial situation will deteriorate and the shadow economy will grow. JM
UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS WANT COMRADES OUT OF JAIL. Some 50 members of the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO) picketed the presidential administration building on 17 June, demanding that the authorities release 13 UNA-UNSO supporters who were jailed following clashes with riot police during an anti-presidential protest in March 2001, UNIAN reported. UNA-UNSO leader Andriy Shkil, who was elected to the Verkhovna Rada in the 31 March election, was released from jail in April. "The day of reckoning will come -- the UNA-UNSO people will be free while Kuchma will be behind the bars," one of the picket's slogans read. JM
UKRAINIAN LAWMAKERS TO WORK HARD UNTIL SUMMER RECESS. The Verkhovna Rada is to view 118 draft bills as well as hear the government's report on its performance and a presentation of its action plan for the future during the 12 plenary-session days remaining before the parliament's summer vacation, UNIAN reported on 17 June. JM
POLAND, RUSSIA FAIL TO AGREE ON CHANGE TO GAS CONTRACT. Polish and Russian government commissions failed to agree in Moscow on 14 June on the renegotiation of a 1996 contract on Russian gas supplies, PAP reported. Poland has asked Russia to renegotiate the provision of the contract that forces Warsaw to pay for unused quotas of Russian gas. "We're nowhere," Polish Deputy Economy Minister Marek Kossowski told the agency. "Admittedly, we have contracted too much gas, and we're not hiding the fact. On the other hand, the Russians have recently decided they can't continue with investments they'd planned in connection with gas supplies to us," said Deputy Premier Marek Pol, who headed the Polish delegation. Commenting on the recent Russian-Ukrainian accord to create a gas consortium, which is widely seen as Russia's abandonment of its plans to leave Ukraine out of the European gas-transport project, Pol said Poland still supports Russia's earlier plan to build a gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine. JM
CHECKMATE! UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT OUTMANEUVERS THE OPPOSITION
The appointment on 12 June of oligarch Social Democratic Party-united (SDPU-o) leader Viktor Medvedchuk as the head of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's presidential administration, a position vacant since 29 April, means that Kuchma has finalized his post-election chess match by checkmating both the Rada and the opposition. Kuchma's latest move highlights the failure of Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko's policy of attempting to maintain good relations with Kuchma by not joining the opposition camp.
In mid-December, Medvedchuk was removed by a vote of no confidence from his position as first deputy Rada speaker. Having named his former head of the presidential administration, Volodymyr Lytyvyn, to be the Rada speaker, Kuchma has now handed Lytvyn's old position over to Medvedchuk.
Medvedchuk has never hidden his presidential ambitions -- unlike Lytvyn, who has never mentioned such a role for himself and feels uncomfortable in the limelight. In the summer of 2000, just after Kuchma was re-elected to his second and final term, Medvedchuk proposed to Kuchma that, in gratitude for the SDPU-o's assistance in securing Kuchma's re-election in 1999, the president should openly opt for the "Boris Yeltsin-Vladimir Putin" transfer-of-power mode. Kuchma refused, having at that time no inkling of the immunity he would soon desperately need when the "Kuchmagate" scandal erupted four months later.
The "Yeltsin-Putin" model is no longer completely out of the question following Medvedchuk's appointment. As no other personality from the oligarchic and pro-presidential factions can rival Medvedchuk, Kuchma may see him as his only chance to thwart a presidential election victory by Ukraine's most popular political figure, Our Ukraine's Yushchenko.
Kuchma still faces an uphill struggle, but not an impossible one. An opinion poll by the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies in May that asked respondents if they supported certain politicians gave Yushchenko 27.6 percent support and Medvedchuk 11.2 percent. Although Yushchenko's lead is substantial, Medvedchuk is already in a threatening position, especially considering his new access to the president's "administrative resources." For comparison, it should be recalled that Kuchma himself had less public support at the beginning of the 1999 presidential elections than Medvedchuk has now.
Certainly, Russia would not complain about Kuchma's choice of Medvedchuk. Gleb Pavlovskii's Effective Policy Foundation, which has close ties to Putin, worked for the SDPU-o during the March elections. Pavlovskii and other Russian leaders have applauded Medvedchuk's promotion. Russia's leaders tend to see Ukraine's political groups in black and white terms -- "pro-Russian" (United Ukraine, SDPU-o, and the Communists) and "anti-Russian" (Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko bloc, and even the Socialists). This division into "pro-" and "anti-" Russian forces is also the same fault line dividing the "pro-" and "anti-" presidential forces, with the exception of the Communists.
Although Medvedchuk has a reputation for aloofness, Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh and Lytvyn are little better. Indeed, this aloofness from the average Ukrainian is typical of the former high-ranking Soviet Ukrainian elite, something that might work against them in the 2004 presidential elections. By contrast, one of Yushchenko's biggest assets is his ability to connect with the Ukrainian public.
The final move in Kuchma's endgame will be to allow United Ukraine to divide into five or more factions and to give each one separate access to resources, such as staff, vehicles, and offices. This division will not necessarily harm their cohesiveness. During times of crisis, they can be pulled back together.
After blocking Yushchenko's moves to replace Kinakh as prime minister and then placing Lytvyn and Medvedchuk into checkmate positions, Kuchma was in a position to demonstrate his magnanimity in the division of Rada committees among factions. That division was consummated on 11 June by a vote in the Rada of 348 in favor.
Our Ukraine came away with the largest number of committees (10). Of these 10, the three most significant are Budget, Law Enforcement, and Freedom of Speech and Information. Our Ukraine also heads the Industrial Policies and Entrepreneurship, Combating Crime and Corruption, and Law Enforcement committees. National Democrats control two of their favorites -- Culture, Spirituality, and Human Rights and Ethnic Minorities and Interethnic Relations.
The number of deputies on each committee is a reflection of how deputies calculate their usefulness to themselves and, in some cases, to their vision of Ukraine. The most popular committees are also, not surprisingly, the most lucrative -- Budget (39), Finances and Banking Activity (34), Fuel and Energy Complex (32), and Transport and Communications (23). Of these four, the last three are controlled by the pro-Kuchma and oligarchic United Ukraine. Three of the smallest are Science and Education (11); Health, Motherhood, and Childhood (8); and Social Policies and Labor (8), in which United Ukraine has no interest.
Former Foreign Minister and Our Ukraine member Borys Tarasiuk failed to obtain the Foreign Affairs Committee after Kuchma adamantly opposed his candidature. It was handed instead to a former head of the presidential administration, Dmytro Tabachnyk, who has long coveted the post of foreign minister. His committee has 21 members, compared to just 11 on the committee on European Integration that was created especially as a sop for Tarasiuk. The Communists continue to control Defense and National Security.
This division of committee heads does not bode well for an integrated policy toward future NATO membership, something the Communists oppose and that they could easily block in the military sphere. More importantly, the Rada will have two committees with competing ideologies on European integration. Tarasiuk's committee will support integration in word and deed, dealing with Brussels directly. Tabachnyk's, on the other hand, will continue to pay lip service to the need for integration into Europe, but will proceed via Moscow while continuing to support domestic policies that hinder integration. Tabachnyk was a leading member of the "To Europe with Russia!" deputies group that existed in the 1998-2002 Rada.
Ihor Zhdanov, an expert at the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies, believes that all these moves by Kuchma signal the beginning of the 2004 presidential election campaign. Nevertheless, the positions of Rada speaker or head of the presidential administration are poor launching pads for the presidency. As in Russia, the most useful launching pad is generally believed to be the post of prime minister, especially during a period economic growth and declining wage and pension arrears.
If Medvedchuk is to be anointed as Kuchma's replacement, he needs to become prime minister at least a year prior to the election. Replacing Kinakh with Medvedchuk would not be difficult, as Kinakh's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is close to the SDPU-o. But such a move might displease rival oligarchic clans who would oppose such SDPU-o favoritism.
Kuchma will not be able to launch a nationalist campaign to elect his successor, as did Putin, and Kuchma is far more discredited than Yeltsin ever was. These negative factors could be overcome if Kuchma uses another trump card he mastered in the 1994 elections and which Pavlovskii's foundation worked on in the March elections: the promotion of the "pro-Russian" Medvedchuk to counter the "nationalist" Yushchenko. The more densely populated eastern Ukraine might not like Kuchma or Medvedchuk; but they might prefer him to Yushchenko, for whom they did not vote in large numbers in March.