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Ukraine: Tymoshenko Discusses EU, Energy In Washington

  • Roman Kupchinsky

http://gdb.rferl.org/50EFF619-F93D-4473-8E37-671DFD85887F_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/50EFF619-F93D-4473-8E37-671DFD85887F_mw800_mh600.jpg Yuliya Tymoshenko (file photo) (official site) WASHINGTON, March 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Yuliya Tymoshenko, one of the most visible and dynamic symbols of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, ended her first visit to the United States in 10 years by confidently proclaiming that she had garnered the support of the U.S. government to help her build democracy in Ukraine.

Her whirlwind tour of Washington began with an appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on February 28.


Her message to policymakers in Washington, including meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was that she and her political party, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, remain the strongest democratic alternative in Ukraine to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's pro-Russian Party of Regions.


EU Ambitions


The former prime minister devoted much of her speech at the CSIS -- and, indeed, her visit to Washington -- to Ukraine's relations with Western institutions. In particular, she spoke about her party's objective of gaining European Union membership.


However, that same day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel poured cold water on these aspirations, telling Yanukovych in Berlin that the best Ukraine could hope for in the foreseeable future would be a free economic zone between Ukraine and the EU. Merkel indicated that EU membership was not likely for the next 10 years.


For now, Ukraine looks likely to remain in the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), an EU foreign-policy framework designed to increase integration of countries on the union's borders.


Even the most pro-Western Ukrainian politicians have rejected the ENP as being unfair and discriminatory -- or as some have dubbed it, "the EU doctrine of separate but equal."


There could be other options, though. Tymoshenko told the audience at the CSIS that Yanukovych's deputy prime minister, Mykola Azarov, recently revived the old alternative plan to EU membership -- that Ukraine join with Russia in the Single Economic Space. Tymoshenko said that she was opposed to this plan.


But with Belarus currently estranged from Moscow and the Central Asian states engaged in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, it is not clear what the Kremlin intends to do with the original Single Economic Space plan.


Energy Security


The second major focus of Tymoshenko's message in Washington dealt with Ukrainian energy security and her criticism of RosUkrEnergo, the Swiss-based gas intermediary company, which is responsible for deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.


Tymoshenko was openly hostile to the activities of RosUkrEnergo and warned her audiences that this company was intent upon establishing full control over the Ukrainian energy market.


An uncomfortable moment for Tymoshenko came during her briefing at the CSIS when a journalist asked her why she had not visited the United States in over 10 years, and was this in any way related to her relationship with former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was found guilty in a U.S. court on money-laundering charges. The journalist asked whether she was afraid of being arrested upon entering the United States. Tymoshenko parried the question, saying that her appearance in the United States was proof that all was well.


In the first indictment of Lazarenko by the U.S. Justice Department, Tymoshenko and her company, Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine, are named as co-conspirators of Lazarenko and she was accused of giving a substantial bribe to Lazarenko. The charges linking Tymoshenko to Lazarenko were later dropped from Lazarenko's indictment as they were not deemed to be within the jurisdiction of a U.S. federal court.

Spotlight On Yuliya Tymoshenko


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Former Prime Minister YULIYA TYMOSHENKO has long been a controversial figure in Ukrainian politics. A former economist and head of Unified Energy Systems (EES) of Ukraine from Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, Tymoshenko served as deputy prime minister for energy in the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko, when he was prime minister under former President Leonid Kuchma. She has faced legal troubles linked to corruption allegations both in Ukraine and in Russia, although all cases against her have now been dropped. Tymoshenko was a firebrand of the opposition movement during the 2004 Orange Revolution, leading demonstrators to surround the presidential administration and issuing ultimatums to the Kuchma government.
In March 2005, President Viktor Yushchenko named her prime minister, a post that she held until September of that year. In August, on the occasion of the six-month anniversary of her appointment, Tymoshenko spoke with RFE/RL at length, discussing, among other things, the then-looming gas conflict with Russia and the likelihood of a "difficult and dirty" battle in the upcoming parliamentary elections....(more)

See also:

Interview -- Yuliya Tymoshenko Marks First 100 Days As PM

Former Prime Minister Offers President Olive Branch

Former Prime Minister Tymoshenko To Go It Alone


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