by Ralph T. Niemeyer
Five years on, the winter 2004/05 “orange revolution” of pro-Western President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulya Timoshenko was over. The two power-brokers split soon after their “revolution” and when the 2005 ousted President Yanukovich clearly won the 2010 elections and had Mrs Tymoshenko and her oligarch-husband be investigated she ended up in prison for transfer pricing fraud to benefit her husband’s gas business.
The “Orange Revolution” has always been lacking a philosophical and ideological fundament. The only unifying force behind his “revolution” has been a pro-western, anti-socialistic and anti-Russian sentiment.
Viktor A. Yushchenko, the “orange” president of Ukraine, had soon after he took office in October 2005 privatised and sold the country’s largest steel mill Kryvorizhstal to steel magnate Lakshmi N. Mittal.
Previous arrangements to sell the highly lucrative company to a group close to former president Leonid D. Kuchma involving the son-in-law of the old president had proven to be “illegal”. The sweetheart-deal, was of course, a last attempt by the establishment and Russian oriented circles to not let it fall into the hands of the West.
The price Mittal paid in the auction was about twice as much as initially requested by the Ukrainian government and more than four times more than what the Kuchma-group had offered.
The transaction was widely seen as only the beginning of a privatisation-wave that is strongly resisted by the socialist and communist parties in the parliament and one can clearly say that the so called “Orange Revolution” has basically been about neo-liberal reforms usually requested by the EU before accession talks are held.
Wherever privatisations had taken place in Eastern Europe lately production declined while retail trade increased meaning that less goods are produced in Eastern European countries although the consumption increases which EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia was not getting tired to celebrate as “great success and stability”.
Along with the Eastern European de-industrialisation which usually follows privatisations comes a shrinking purchasing power due to declining wages or even unemployment and lowered social standards.
That may explain why there are still socialist strongholds like in Ukraine and Belarus. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is probably symptomatic for a country which has not come to terms with the new times yet.
President Yushchenko once demanded “democracy and justice” but he soon was seen defending a rather undemocratic constitutional principle of the so called ‘imperative mandate’ that makes it illegal for members of parliament to switch sides, i.e. if they disagree with their party’s government policy or, like in this case want to join a government.
The struggle in Ukraine has purely economic reasons as it loomed at the end of 2006 when the “Party of the Regions” which can be linked to the East-Ukrainian oligarchs, started a massive privatisation offensive which was intended to lead to the sell-off of some 500 state-controlled companies.
Oligarchs like Petro Porochenko and Igor Kolomoysky together with at that time Prime Minister, Julia Tymochenko, who came in second in the 2010 presidential elections, are at war with the oligarchs around Rinat Achmetov, the “richest man of Ukraine” and Viktor Pintchuk, the son-of-law of former president Kutchma who all support President Yanukovich.
The Yushchenko-Clan feared that the Yanukovich-Clan will eat all of the privatised companies and not even leave a bone over for the Kolomoysky-Gang. This has already happened in case of the privatisation of a holding company, Luganskteplovos, which was sold to a Russian investor.
Kolomoysky stood empty-handed in the rain, so the smart Julya Tymochenko let her fraction in parliament “Our Ukraine” denounce the transaction as illegal and start investigations.
Whenever visiting Brussels in recent years, EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso as well as at that time European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek, once a Ministerpresident of Poland who initiated a privatization-wave during the presidency of Lech Walesa, expressed their strong support for President Yushchenko who had always made clear that his “revolution” was “democratic” although it was lacking any ideology but rather was about selling off the Ukrainian table cutlery which in this case is made from steel.
Now, with Vitali Klitschko entering the stage on the wings of a fascist movement it becomes obvious that the split-up of Ukraine is near: The 30% discount Russia generously grants Ukraine for it’s own consumption is put into jeopardy. Mrs Tymoshenko and her husband stole billions of Dollars in putting the discount into their own pockets while selling the gas at world market price to Western Europe.
Mr. Klitschko and the fascist “Swoboda” (‘Freedom’) party he is aligning himself with and that is openly anti-semitic can not expect Russia to continue offering gas at such a discount.
On the other hand, with Northstream, a pipeline bypassing all ex soviet-mini-republics and Poland and Southstream shunning in a similar way Bulgaria and Romania can be an alternative cutting out any Ukranian middlemen.
When in 2009 Mrs Tymoshenko visited Brussels for an “Energy conference” she and EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso that “the door for Ukrainian EU membership shall remain open” and Mr. Barroso made it clear that he expected IMF, World Bank and European Investment Bank (EIB) to stand by to “help” the country also by modernising the pipelines.
When I asked President Barroso and Mrs Tymoshenko what sense it would make to hold an energy conference without Russia I probably hit the point: what are the pipelines worth without the Russian gas?
The video recording of the press point has been deleted from the EU Commission’s official website at the beginning of the Euro-Maidan crisis, probably because it has been too revealing.
A copy of the video was recovered and can be watched here:
Also quite revealing is the answer by Mr. Yushchenko to my question in October 2009 about the Russian oligarch’s business interests standing in the way of quick EU accession of Ukraine.