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The Silence of the Wolves

Yulia Mostova, Editor-in-Chief, DT.UA (Dzerkalo Tyzhdnya)

The circle around Yanukovych is confused: the chief has taken a break and is making no decisions. Burdened with various proposals, the “Thinking Man” is taking his time. On a table in Mezhyhirya [Yanukovych’s luxurious residence] is a plan to crush Maidan with force, in which case the winner’s flag would be raised in its very center in three hours at most.

There is also another version of the plan: to grab the initiative from the opposition and deprive it of most of its slogans, as was the case when the government, following Yanukovych’s directives, had not yet broken off negotiations for European integration. In other words, the plan would entail initiating and adopting a law on unconditional amnesty, seriously restructuring a coalition Cabinet, using the anti-corruption scythe to mow down most the visibly protruding heads, and reopening and completing negotiations on the EU Association Agreement with a positive outcome.

The most recent folder contains the offer to hold snap presidential elections which, after all, may be driven by the assumption that “better now, because the economy will only get worse later.” And naturally, there is also a proposal on the table that essentially calls for delaying the process in the hope of marginalizing Maidan and dragging the opposition deeper into regime’s own game, opening discussions on Constitutional changes in the hopes, say, by the fall to decide whether these changes are actually necessary.

Yanukovych is carefully weighing the pros and cons of all these options and deciding between them: I want power and money; I don’t want to share power and money; I don’t want sanctions and subsequent indenture to Putin. So you see, it is not only the opposition that is helpless and uncertain about what to do next.

Before deciding on a strategy, Viktor Yanukovych needs to make one important move: appoint a prime minister and form a cabinet.

Today, there is still no answer to the question of who will be the new prime minister of Ukraine. It is alleged that the Master of Bankova street [Yanukovych] promises to give the answer to a narrow group of associates on Sunday. As we approach the plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada, where MPs are supposed to approve a candidate proposed by the president, I keep hearing the question about the candidate’s name and background. My answer is: “Does it make a difference?” No matter who becomes the prime minister, and no matter how or on what basis the new government is cobbled together, nobody will allow it to adopt the reforms that Ukraine’s economy so desperately needs. Neither the government nor the opposition will do this before the elections.

Depleted by corruption, disfigured by experiments conducted by unprofessional quacks, Ukraine’s economy can only be healed intensively, quickly and painfully. Furthermore, it will be painful not only for the political class, but also for the masses. It will mean depriving the state racketeers of their business interests, eliminating the practice of intermixing business and government, drafting an honest budget, without concealing deficits in secret corners, cutting back social payments in the absence of economic growth, dismantling oligarchic monopolies, pursuing serious pension reform, and cleaning up the rotten banking system. This does not even include multi-billion dollar ‘details’ like eradicating smuggling, controlling the money conversion market, the embezzlement of gas excise taxes, and so on. Is anybody ready for this? Of course not.

Therefore, Yanukovych has two possible options: either he tries to play the government card to maintain the Family’s complete control over the last bits of the cake which is being rapidly consumed in this crisis, or he decides to reinforce a badly shaken majority by sharing access to budgetary and other schemes with several oligarchs who have prudently made sure that their assets include not only factories and ships but also TV channels and MP groups. To make it perfectly clear: we are talking about two versions of the same equation. The first goes like this: “You had ten apples and Viktor Yanukovych took ten apples. How many apples do you have left?” The second is: “You had ten apples and five oligarchs took two apples each. How many apples do you have left?” Let us revel in the multitude of answers.

With the information provided in the first equation, everything is clear in principle: we are referring to the simplest form of an aggressive survivalist organism that does not understand the meaning of ‘enough.’ As we know, dentophobia is one the most common human phobias in the world. In Ukraine, “fear of the dentist” has acquired another meaning. The issue here is not just money but power. The qualifications required to be a member of the government: absolute loyalty, talent for trickery, and, only in third place, professional qualifications; Yanukovych Junior [son of the president and a dentist by training] and Yanukovych Senior have both used these criteria to select those who surround them.

The other thing is that over the past several months the yes-men surrounding Yanukovych have made all kinds of mistakes. To confirm that fact does not mean paying homage to the late Yuriy Levenets or to Serhiy Lyovochkin, who is alive, well and free. [Both men were actively involved in rigging the 2004 presidential election in favor of Yanukovych.] This is a reproach. If it was not for their propping up of Yanukovych, everything would have ended for him much sooner.

It is widely believed that the Family can maintain control over the financial and administrative capacities of the Cabinet in one of two ways: by appointing either Serhiy Arbuzov as prime minister or some entirely submissive grey mouse whose name is completely unknown. Naturally, the candidate for prime minister proposed by the president must be accepted internally and not irritate Russia or the West, both of which Viktor Yanukovych hopes would provide necessary credits for the Ukrainian economy.

In the nomination process for the current acting prime minister of Ukraine, the following scoreboard will be used: suitability for the Family!!!; possible sanctions from the West; Russian contempt for candidate’s stupidity (This, of course, is not about you, Serhiy Arbuzov). In addition, there are a number of MPs from the Party of Regions who maintain that the parliamentary majority will support anybody Yanukovych nominates as prime minister, although even they cannot avoid some hesitation when Arbuzov’s name is mentioned. My sources doubt that Serhiy Arbuzov will find much support, especially among the majority whose interests he permanently ignored even though he was ostensibly responsible for relations with the parliament under Azarov’s government. But as acting prime minister, Arbuzov has been has been making an effort and actively meeting MPs.

The Party of Regions would support the candidacy of Andriy Klyuyev with much more enthusiasm. Certainly not all of them, but most. For the past two weeks, there has been an endless stream of visitors from the governing party to the presidential offices. Each visitor brought with him a bunch of insults, grievances, and complaints about being disrespected by the government, about having the needs of their districts ignored, about having their own businesses abused by Oleksandr Klymenko’s State Tax Administration, and so on. These have been noted. For the first time in a year, Andriy Klyuyev has shown he knows how to listen. And he does not appear to waste words.

Therefore, everybody asked for twice the amount he needed, firmly believing that Klyuyev will dole out the half they actually need. His hands never stole the entire amount, they thought. And if his hands are bloody, well, the party members aren’t squeamish. Klyuyev’s candidacy will be deemed a great success in the Rada hall.

However, it remains to be seen whether Yanukovych will let him go. Who would replace him? Really, these questions are a wake-up call for Yanukovych. It is a real problem when there is only one universal candidate for all key government posts. At the end of his second term, Leonid Kuchma narrowed down his circle of trusted advisors to family and Viktor Medvedchuk. Yanukovych has followed the same path much faster.

From Andriy Klyuyev, who promises to distribute the goodies to all, let’s proceed to the interests of those who simply do not believe any of the goodies would come, especially from Klyuyev.

Each segment of society that supported Maidan, directly or indirectly, had its reasons. Today, big business has its reasons for rebelling, notably against the state’s firm monopoly on corruption. It seems that the best option for them in the current situation would be victory over the Family as a result of the Maidan’s opposition to the regime. At the very least, under such circumstances, the regime would need to share.

I observe these adult men who have seen and done everything, who can stretch out in their own offices and I think why do you need to grab even more? Why would you support implementing a miserable budget and a business partnership with an odious president? Even at its best such a scheme would never bring as much profit as capitalizing on your businesses once Ukraine is transformed into a normal European country. A country with normal rules of the game, normal courts, with a developed infrastructure and a functioning government machine would increase your capital many times over and not just by small percentages.

In Yanukovych’s Ukraine, you will not even be able to sell your factories for more than pennies. Are you not tired of spending sleepless nights, of having to drag platoons of guards behind you, of fearing that your charter flight abroad might suddenly be turned back mid-air? Are you not tired of gnawing at each other’s throats instead of gnawing off your chains? In your disunion, your semi-opposition and semi-loyalty to Yanukovych, you appear just as senseless as your puppets on the Maidan stage.

Instead of dragging their opponents one by one like trophies, either to Mezhyhirya or to Bankova, the key oligarchs could reformat the parliamentary majority with their own MPs and come to an agreement with the individual who, having won the election, could bring the greatest profits, namely, by reforming the country.

Since the oligarchic body still does not currently exhibit such readiness, it is useless to analyze the ‘what if’s’ of nominating for prime minister such candidates as Yuri Boyko, Oleksandr Vilkul, Arseniy Yatseniuk, Petro Poroshenko. The first three possible candidates represent only the redistribution of our apples. And Yanukovych will never trust Petro Poroshenko with his money.

Could reconfiguring the cabinet either with the unlikely participation of the opposition or without it become a factor is stabilizing the conflict in the country? Most likely, not. The new government will not include Mykola Azarov, whose resignation Maidan demanded; the new cabinet probably will not include Vitaliy Zakharchenko either, who in any case, will have a seat waiting for him in the National Security Council.  For some people, the removal of both of these irritants will suffice, but for the majority of the opponents of this government, it will not.

Furthermore, these changes are negligible for destroying the corrupt system. This is what ordinary citizens of this burglarized, in fact, stolen country realize. The citizens, who are much more mature than the vast majority of the political class, will be able to tolerate and survive several transitional governments and even a transitional president who replaces Yanukovych. But on one condition. Maidan began with the desire to change the system by signing the Association Agreement with the EU. Given the Russian factor, the immaturity of the political class, and any kind of economic crisis, without the Association Agreement Ukraine risks becoming simply a heap of refuse.

Translated by Anna Mostovych, edited by Mariana Budjeryn&Robin Rohrback


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