Mustafa Nayyem, Sergiy Leshchenko, UP
A distance only six months and seven days long. It connects two events – Petro Poroshenko’s attempts to stop the storm of the Administration with a bulldozer on Bankova and his inauguration, as a result of which he received the keys to this building in the style of Soviet classicism.
The December favourite of the presidential ratings, and currently Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko came to the inauguration of his political ally together with the former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and National Security and Defence Council secretary Andriy Parubiy.
“No, I am not going to work as advisor to the Ukrainian President,” Saakashvili responded to the currently popular question. “But several Georgians are working with the mayor of Kyiv, as well as in the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Justice.”
A van stopped by the Parliament – a group of French journalists escorting the French Minister for Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius filed out of it as if from a marshrutka.
The unprecedented high level of representation at the inauguration was a sign of respect of the Western World to the Ukrainian’s struggle against internal and external dictatorship. Yushchenko’s ascension to the post nine years ago was attended by the US Government Secretary Colin Powell, who was working his last days at the post, while now America was represented by the current Vice President.
Joe Biden’s cortege was evidence to which country is number one in the world. Two identical Cadillac limos were brought to Kyiv which transported the American leader, and then entire procession occupied a whole block. Biden entered at the service entrance of the Parliament, and the journalists only managed to see American soldiers with big suitcases in hand.
Besides Biden, another transcontinental guest arrived at the inauguration – Prime Minister of Canada Steven Harper, who attended the celebration in Normandy. One of the members of the delegation communicated Harper’s impression from the events in France several days earlier.
“Our Prime Minister, together with the US President Obama would have wanted for European leaders to boycott Putin at this event. But everyone wanted to meet with Putin, there was a line. Because of this the program in Normandy was delayed by two hours.”
While waiting for the arrival of the newly-elected President, the journalists joked as to how the organisers would keep the President safe from the Parliament’s doors closing, which nearly hit Viktor Yanukovych in the face in 2010. However this year the surprise happened several steps before.
Petro Poroshenko arrived in Constitution Square with a slight delay with two cars with the national coat of arms instead of the licence plate. When the newly-elected President exited the car, a “Lexus” stopped by his car with a lot of noise and barely escaping collision. MP from UDAR Artur Palatniy came out and ran for the side entrance – he was late and came last.
Meanwhile Poroshenko, having stepped onto the red carpet, headed for the central doors of the Parliament. As of the moment the honorary guard had been waiting for him for several hours under the blazing sun. Poroshenko passed the first, second, third, fourth soldier – and when he approached the fifth, the silence of Constitution square was interrupted by the sound of a falling rifle. The soldier that concluded the live corridor fainted from a sun stroke. However Poroshenko entered the Rada without wavering.
Poroshenko’s speech, which was broadcast on all TV channels, got favourable reviews from many – however “Batkivshchina” was disappointed that he did not mention Timoshenko and did not note her step in acknowledging his victory.
“We were expecting it,” commented on of the MP’s while explaining Timoshenko’s presence at the inauguration.
The same way Poroshenko never mentioned the irritable word “Maidan,” though he did mention the “Revolution of Dignity.”
Already after having made the oath, when exiting the Verkhovna Rada, Poroshenko stopped by the soldier and said something to him. Later the President admitted to “Ukrayinska Pravda” that he approached him to ask the guardsman about his health, but it turned out he had already been replaced.
The guests left the Parliament in high spirits. The happy US ambassador Jeffrey Payatt shared his observations:
“…And you know, when Poroshenko said that Ukraine would be a modern European state, even Lukashenko applauded him.”
Former Prime Minister Valeriy Pustovoytenko, who has a constant expression of lamentation on his face, remembered how Poroshenko became a member of the Parliament in 1998.
“We went to the SDPU because business is always dependent on the government…”
“So Poroshenko went into politics to help business?”
“But of course,”said Pustovoytenko.
The former Polish President Oleksandr Kvasnievsky announced that starting that moment his considers his mission as European Parliament representative completed. He wished the Ukrainians to prepare for a long struggle for membership in the European Union.
“Poland signed the Association Agreement in 1991, and became a member of the European Union if 2004. Now you are beginning a process that might take 13-15 years. The main thing is to involve all political powers.”
Kyiv contracor Nvier Mkhitarian exited the Parliament, owner of “Poznyakyzhitlobud” company elected on the lists of the Party of Regions, whose buildings have taken over Lesya Ukrayinka boulevard. The name “Nvier” was mentioned in the notebook belonging to Yanukovych’s security guard, which included the list of the people that celebrated his last New Year’s with him at the peak of Maidan.
“…Thank God, peace and stability have come,” cheerfully exhaled Mkhitarian.
“Did you celebrate Yanukovych’s last New Year’s with him?” Ukrayinska Pravda tried to find out, taking advantage of the situation.
“Let us bury the past and move forward, all right?” Mkhitarian did not let us finished, and the conversation was interrupted by his bodyguard.
“Goodbye,” said the guard.
The reception in “Mystetskiy Arsenal”
But while the presence of the regionals at the inauguration has a completely natural explanation – they are all members of the parliament, their mass celebration at the President’s reception, who received the post after bloodshed on Maidan, was seen by many as a slap across the face.
The reception took place in “Mystetskiy Arsenal,” where Poroshenko’s Press centre was located on the night of the elections. The arrival of the newly-elected President was awaited within minutes, however marshrutka’s continued coursing Lavrska street and several hundred passersby gathered across the road. However, passenger transport was only let through on invitation.
“In Yanukovych’s time we would have cleared the territory two hours before the beginning,” commented one of the workers of the Headquarters of National Defence without a hint of nostalgia.
“Well, did “the Big One” enter?” MP Taras Kutoviy from UDAR asked his colleagues whether the leader of their party Vitali Klitschko, hidden behind this moniker, had arrived.
The former secretary of the Kyiv City Council Halyna Hereha came an hour late, together with her husband, a regional, Oleksandr Hereha and half a dozen security guards who pushed journalists away from the path of their mistress. One of them even tried to escort the esteemed body inside Arsenal, but came face-to-face with protocol. “Our security is better than yours,” they did not let him in.
Poroshenko was an hour and a half late for the reception, and some MP’s couldn’t take it. Thus, Valeriy Moshenskiy came out to see regional Volodymyr Demishkin off – the one from Yanukovych’s hunting club “Kedr.”
“He’s not feeling well,” explained Moshenskiy.
The next to come out were former governor of Vinnytsia oblast Mykola Dzhiha and musician Jan Tabachnyk, who in the mid-90’s escorted Poroshenko into big politics.
Boris Lozhkin – the person who is likely to head the Administration of the President – seeped inside Arsenal through a crowd of journalists, managing to withstand an attack of questions and having not said anything in the end.
“Everyone is asking him about it,” shared Viktor Chumak from UDAR. “I am saying to him: ‘So, Mr. head of the Presidential Administration?’ And he only answers: ‘I don’t know anything.’ Sasha Presman asked him about it in front of me – the same happened.”
Oleksandra Kuzhel entered the small “Batkivshchina” delegation, which came to the reception – and shared the plants for the future.
“The President ends the war in the East and sends all of us to early elections. He promised and he is obliged to end the war quickly!” said Kuzhel in a clipped manner.
“You see, this will be their thesis now – ‘promised and has to end quickly’,” said Viktor Chumak from UDAR of the future line of political attack of “Batkivshchina.”
Lieutenant-General of the police Viktor Koval, who is Poroshenko’s long-term friend, painted the plan of successful presidency:
“You know, he has five years, but the country has to be reinforced within three – for the people to live in new realities for two years.”
Inside Arsenal, awaiting Poroshenko, Kharkiv oligarch Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy stood alone, who was without his young wife.
“She is pregnant,” he explained, looking at the crowd condescendingly and apparently not raring to join the overall enthusiasm about the event.
“How is Gennadiy Kernes feeling?” We ask him about the fate of his sworn enemy who participated in confiscating “Metalist” from Yaroslavskiy.
“You know, I didn’t ask – I don’t want to. Let him get better, but my attitude towards him hasn’t changed, I am frank about this.”
“You are somewhat distant from the people, are you sad about anything?”
“You see – the people are celebrating though there is little to be happy about…”
“How would you evaluate Poroshenko’s chances to make peace in the East?”
“He has no other choice. This is a forced promise. If he doesn’t manage, it will consume him.”
At the moment Yaroslavskiy’s compatriot, Inna Bohuslovska, clad in the red colours of Petro Poroshenko’s presidential campaign, approached him. After exchanging greetings, she joined the conversation.
“You see, if there was at least one person able to put twenty people from the east at a table and make them – or convince them – to see his perspective…”
Yaroslavskiy nodded in agreement, looking at the horizon. Suddenly he caught someone in the crowd, cheered up and turned to “Ukrayinska Pravda” correspondent:
“Listen, is this the guy from Maidan?”
Volodymyr Parasiuk stood close by a column; his statement became one of the turning points in the February events. Yaroslavskiy ran towards him, took him by the elbow and started speaking to him like a teenager to a football idol.
“Listen, is this you? The guy from Maidan?”
Parasiuk laughed in agreement.
“Inna, he is famous. You know?!” Bohoslovska laughed together with Parasiuk. “Wait, come here, stand on this side, and you, Inna, here.”
Yaroslavskiy handed me his phone: “Listen, snap a photo of us on my phone! This is a star!”
The most noticeable delegation at the reception dedicated to the inauguration were the regionals. They walked the hall in groups, trying not to disperse alone.
Close to the red carpet Poroshenko intended to walk, stood Tetiana Bakhteyeva, Vitaliy Khomutynnik and Oleksandr Kuzmuk. They gladly took photos and talked with the rest. The leader of the Party of Regions fractions Oleksandr Yefremov stood close by, who tried to avoid being part of the shots and pointedly turned away from those who wanted to talk.
Oleksandr Stoyan and Yaroslav Sukhiy talked happily separately. Mr. Sukhiy is famous for knowing numerous jokes for any occasion. Upon “Ukrayinska Pravda’s” request to tell something funny regarding the inauguration, instead of Sukhiy, Stoyan tried to be humorous:
“Obama calls Putin and says: Barack, I have two news for you: bad and good news. Which should I start with? He says: “Start with the bad.” “All right,” says Putin. “Dear Barack, ‘the Crimea is ours’!” “How?!” Asks Obama. “Why did we spend so much time financing Right Sector, how could this have happened?!” And Putin tells him: “Oh, Barack, and here is the good news – open the window.” Obama opens it, and Right Sector is standing outside with posters “Obama, out!”.”
Yarsolav Sukhiy listened to the joke in silence.
“You know, Sasha, it’s a somewhat sad joke, don’t you think?” He asked Stoyan.
“Yes, a bit,” admitted the regional and changed the topic.
The star of the soiree, outside of the official part, was Igor Kolomoyskiy. Once quiet, this oligarch is gradually become a public and even social person. A person who was only known by journalists and a small number of businessmen recently, now became so popular that women are lining up to take photos with him, and their husbands consider it an honour to shake his hand.
“Ukrayinska Pravda” correspondent found the governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast in somewhat strange company – together with member of the Parliament Igor Yeremeyev. They have been publicly disputing over so-called “technical oil,” which has been pumped into the lines of “UkrTransNafta” and which Kolomoyskiy, as they saw, is trying to take away for balanced prices.
The information war between the two businessmen has long reached its boiling point. Yeremeyev publicly accused Kolomoyskiy of corruption, and Kolomoyski made the parliamentary member into the main anti-hero of the news on “1+1” for a long time.
“Good day, Igor Valeriyovich,” Ukrayinska Pravda correspondent addressed the governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast.
“Oh! Good day… Are you not ashamed to greet me after everything? You lied about me…”
“We explained Mr. Yeremeyev’s point of view – and he is standing next to you.”
“What does Yeremeyev have to do with anything?”
Yeremeyev stood by with a smile and silently watched the conversation.
“What do you mean? You accused the journalists of making material on orders of Mr. Yeremeyev. And he is standing next to you, let’s ask him about this, whether he paid anyone for publications and broadcasts…”
“We have nothing to fight over – what does he have to do with anything? It is state oil, it remained there… Our arguments are not interesting. Let me tell everyone what text I wrote to you instead, shall I?!” Asked Kolomoyskiy.
Numerous people who wanted to hear the argument between an oligarch and a journalists gathered nearby. Among them were the governor of Odessa oblast Igor Palytsia, general producer of “1+1” Oleksandr Tkachenko, and several others of Kolomoyskiy’s close associates.
“It is personal messaging, but it is you right,” said the author of this article. “But I would like to cite it afterwards.”
“Write whatever you want… So, when I heard that broadcast, I wrote him a text: ‘Before I thought you were simply idiots, and now I understood that you are stupid idiots!” The governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast laughed loudly for everyone to hear.
The people that surrounded the oligarchs exchanged surprised glances but decided to support him. Meanwhile Kolomoyskiy continued:
“You know who rescued you? Sasha Tkachenko stood up for you. Because I immediately called him and asked him to give a direct response live on “1+1” prime time news. We would have torn you to peaces… But Sasha stopped me.”
At this point Yuriy Lutsenko approached us. They exchanged greetings and Kolomoyskiy continued talking about his complaints to journalists:
“Yura, listen, they are accusing me of becoming governor to steal a billion dollars! And now we’re standing here with Yeremeyev and everything seems to be all right…”
“So state your position,” the journalist told the oligarch. “Who standing in the way of you laying out your point of view? Just like Yeremeyev did.”
“What’s the point?! You wrote all the same that all oligarchs are anointed with the same mirth. This is how you write about me… Yura, tell me – are all oligarchs the same?!”
“Not really,” said Lutskenko. “They are not right right, Jews are not anointed with mirth! It’s not their tradition.”
The company was joined by member of the parliament Kateryna Vashchuk, who is part of Igor Yeremeyev’s Parliament group “Sovereign European Ukraine.”
“Igor Valeriyovich, I respect you very much and I am not saying that all oligarchs are the same, but I am asking you, please don’t offend our Yeremeyev!”
“Me?! What are you saying, everything is all right, don’t worry… Everything is all right with us!” Assured Kolomoyskiy. “You see, I have good relations with everyone, everyone is greeting me. I just don’t see Pinchuk anywhere…”
Viktor Pinchuk at the moment is the only oligarch who is publicly fighting with the public favorite, Igor Kolomoyskiy. However this clash is not happening in Ukraine, but in the High Justice Court in London, where the two oligarchs are fighting over metallurgy assets which had been privatised back in 2004.
Viktor Pinchuk was also in Mystetskiy Arsenal that day. Ukrayinska Pravda correspondent bore witness to how the two oligarchs, being within 20 metres of each other, spent half an hour circling the tables but did not “see” each other. It is possible that the new President will now have to bring peace between the two oligarchs.
Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina