Tymoshenko Unbraided Ukraine's Orange Revolution under Strain
Just 10 months after being swept to power in Ukraine by the Orange Revolution, President Viktor Yushchenko has fired his leading lady Yulia Tymoshenko. Accusations of corruption are flying and the country's economy is struggling.
Just 10 months after being one of the heroes of the Orange Revolution, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been fired.
The official denial was reminiscent of Soviet days. "There is no government crisis," President Viktor Yushchenko announced last Wednesday. Just one day later, Yushchenko fired his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. The administration, Yushchenko said, had been suffering from a lack of "team spirit."
Only nine months after the Orange Revolution, which led to the ouster of the authoritarian regime of former President Leonid Kuchma, the new government team -- the team that had inspired hundreds of thousands on Kiev's Independence Square in November -- was shattered.
Tymoshenko, nicknamed the "gas princess" because of her successful career in the energy business, and Yushchenko, a former banker who had served as both deputy prime minister and prime minister under Kuchma from 1999 to 2001, were never able to agree on a joint political program. Whereas Yushchenko preferred dealing pragmatically with the country's shady "bisnesmeni," his prime minister, dubbed the "Joan of Arc of the Ukraine," favored taking a harsher approach against supporters of the former regime.
Although the government managed to regain control over the country's biggest steel mill, Kryvorizhstal, from the former president's son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk, the economic growth of Ukraine plunged from 12.1 percent last year to its current level of about 4 percent. In June, industrial production declined for the first time in six years.
The fight against corruption, one of the principal promises made in the heady days of Ukraine's revolution last December, has come to a standstill. Christopher Crowley, the United States Agency for International Development's bureau chief for Eastern Europe, complains that Ukrainian businesses continue to maintain double sets of accounts -- one real and one for show.
And in July, even the president himself came under fire when Ukrainska Pravda reported on the lavish lifestyle of Yushchenko's son, Andrei. The 19-year-old's fondness for expensive cars, like a 130,000 BMW M6, had raised eyebrows, forcing the president to go on the defensive. Yushchenko, outraged by the reports, lost his cool and likened the journalists who had written the story to "contract killers."
But his composure is not the only thing Yushchenko has lost. Some of the most trusted officials in his administration are no longer loyal to the architect of the Orange Revolution. Citing corruption among high-ranking authorities in Yushchenko's government, state secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko resigned on Sept. 3. The close associate of Tymoshenko was instrumental in organizing the Dec. 2004 protests that eventually led to the success of the Orange Revolution.
At the press conference called to announce his resignation, Zinchenko accused Pyotr Poroshenko, the head of the country's Defense and Security Council and one of the most influential financial backers of the Orange Revolution, of attempting to transform Ukraine's police, judicial and intelligence agencies into an "all-powerful new NKWD" -- a secret police in the Stalin tradition. The day after the Tymoshenko government was dissolved, Poroshenko also resigned, citing plans to fight charges against him in court. But Poroshenko's political career is by no means over. After quarreling with the sharp-tongued, financially strong and popular Tymoshenko, the Yushchenko will need his strongest supporter more than ever.
Yushchenko dumped the popular Yulia Tymoshenko last week.
Revolution, in other words, seems to have been put on the back burner this autumn. Instead, the name of the day is restoration.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan