Ukraine: Foreign Minister Fired, Naftogaz Office Stormed

Global Voices Online
Saturday, March 7, 2009

This has been a pretty turbulent week in Ukraine: on Tuesday, the parliament fired Volodymyr Ohryzko, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, and on Wednesday, riot police stormed the Kyiv headquarters of Naftogaz, the Ukrainian national energy company.

Ukrainiana wrote this about the foreign affairs minister situation:

The Verkhovna Rada Tuesday fired Volodymyr Ohryzko, Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister, who had recently reprimanded Russian ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin for meddling in Ukraine’s internal affairs.

The move gathered 250 votes: 174 from the Party of Regions, 27 from the Communist Party, and 49 from the increasingly pro-Russian BYuT.


Tymoshenko resented Ohryzko’s direct reporting relationship with President Yushchenko. “As Minister, Ohryzko radically did not suit me. It's a person that is not professional, a person who systemically engaged in provocations against the government.”

To hell with political correctness! It's about time Tymoshenko appointed Сhernomyrdin Ukraine's foreign affairs minister!

LEvko of Foreign Notes had this explanation for the Naftogas office siege situation:

[...] It is not unreasonable to conclude yesterday's SBU raid was pay-back for BYuT's assistance in ousting the president's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Volodymyr Ohryzko, in parliament earlier this week, and just a further round in the war of attrition between the president and PM. [...]

Ukrainiana provided some background, calling what happened "an interesting Yushchenko-Firtash v. Tymoshenko-Putin episode, featuring Ukraine’s elite counter-terrorist unit Alfa":

[...] On Wednesday, Alfa stormed the Naftogaz head office in Kyiv to seize Tymoshenko’s gas agreements and to prevent the alleged theft of the so-called “technical gas.”

Background: It was the gas that Firtash had lost to Tymoshenko when he had lost Putin’s support in January. Then-customs chief Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, who has a business relationship with Firtash, refused to finalize the transaction, deeming it illegal. As a result, some 11 bcm of RosUkrEnergo’s gas have changed hands a few times between Naftogaz and Gazprom. Tymoshenko then fired Khoroshkovsky, and Yushchenko appointed him deputy director of the SBU.


It also reminds me of how Yushchenko and his team clashed with members of the Kuchma-Yanukovych regime in the Central Election Commission in October 2004.

Times have changed.

Today, it's Yushchenko and Tymoshenko who are clashing with each other, with special interests on both sides. [...]

More background and analysis can be found at Tetyana Vysotska's What's Up, Ukraine? blog:

[...] Anyway, the most interesting thing is not a scary picture, but the reasons of the scandal. As every contemporary problem in Ukraine, it has origins in the struggle for power between the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko. [...]

James of Robert Amsterdam's Blog began his post about the Naftogaz siege this way:

The disintegration of Ukraine continues. [...]

Eternal Remont also had a Naftogaz siege post and seemed to be of the same opinion on the state of things in Ukraine:

[...] Given: Ukraine is falling apart. [...]

Kyiv-based Abdymok, who appears to have been near the Naftogaz building at the time of the siege, chose to post a tranquil photo from "around the corner":

right around the corner from naftohaz, where riot police touting automatic assault rifles were being pushed around by parliament deputies belonging to prime minister yuliya tymoshenko’s eponymous bloc, workers lined up flower boxes to be hoisted up to the window sills of kyiv’s city administration headquarters on the capital’s main thoroughfare khreshchatyk. (kyiv, march 4)

In another post, Abdymok posted this comment about the conflict:

[...] property rights are not enforced in russia and ukraine, countries with disfunctional systems of jurisprudence. what matters here is size, strength, gall, ruthlessness, cunning, desire, hatred, etc.

While the foreign affairs minister and the Naftogaz crises dominated the media and the blogosphere this past week, the financial crisis received its share of coverage, too.

Adrian Blomfield, the Daily Telegraph's Moscow correspondent, posted this Twitter note from his trip to Ukraine:

Bankers I've met in Kiev have been surprisingly upbeat about the sector and the economy in general. Do they believe their own rhetoric?

Petro of Petro's Jotter traveled by car from Kyiv to Kharkiv and from Kharkiv to Donetsk, and posted his observations on the life, business and politics in Ukraine. Here's an excerpt from Petro's first post:

[...] The general topic of conversation is how everyone has stopped spending money and is waiting for something to change. There is no credit money. Banks are failing. Then on to a conversation about the Tax inspectors, corrupt local politicians and so on. I felt like I had traveled back in time to 1995 Ukraine. [...]

And another excerpt, from the second post:

[...] At the edge of Kramatorsk, I stop at the “Art Nirvana Café” for a cup of coffee. It’s an empty, formal restaurant with table cloths and all manner of fancy napkin folding in the glasses on the tables. Intimidated by the pristine table tops I sit on one of four bars stools by the small bar in the back. Anton appears happy to have a task to do as the Saeco coffee maker loudly grinds the exact portion of coffee beans required.

“Have you felt the impact of the global economic crisis?” I ask.
“Not really, business at the restaurant is the same,” replies Anton.
“What about the plant? How many people work there anyway?”
“About 45,000. I haven’t heard of any layoffs. There are several other plants in Kramatorsk as well.”

I sip the 14 Hryvnia coffee and ponder its value. Last August $2.80, last month $2.00, and now judging from the rates I saw at an Obmin leaving Kharkiv, less than than $1.40.

“So I imagine you are a Yanukovych, Party of Regions fan?” I ask. [...]
“Sure am. Kramatorsk voted 99% for Yanukovych,” says Anton proudly.

I recall the allegations during the O.R. that factory workers were instructed to vote a certain way – or the factory may shut down.

“Who knows, maybe he’ll become president while Yushchenko and Timoshenko fight each other,” I speculate.
“That would be great.”

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