But after resigning earlier this week, Viktor Yushchenko’s former chief of staff accused the new president’s administration of being "even worse" than Kuchma’s.
Today, the political temperatures in Kyiv rose further. Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, opened its new session with speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn criticizing the government, saying it is "acting just like” Kuchma.
In remarks to reporters yesterday, Zinchenko told reporters that several high-ranking officials are corrupt and are trying to take over all branches of government. "Having organized an information blockade around the president, having taken him to a virtual, unreal world, cynically distorting reality and true accents of life, [these people] are step by step carrying out their plan to maximally use government posts in order to increase their own capital, to privatize and get into their hands everything they can," he said. "Their goal is a monopoly on key government functions."
Zinchenko identified National Defense and Security Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko as the main culprit and was applauded when he finished his statement. He also identified senior presidential adviser Oleksandr Tretyakov as another corrupt official.
Tretyakov has denied the allegations, as has Poroshenko, who attended the news conference.
"I would like to emphasize that Petro Poroshenko is an absolutely self-sufficient person and that he has never clung onto a [government] post and never will," Poroshenko said in his own defense. "He has not become one kopiyka [small Ukrainian change] or one share richer since he became a government official, and he will leave office in the same way. I emphasize now that the Security and Defense Council secretary has no influence either on the Prosecutor-General's Office, or on the Ukrainian Security Service, or on the Interior Ministry."
Poroshenko, a well-known businessman, said Zinchenko was trying to destroy Yushchenko's team "from the inside" and challenged him to find evidence to back up his allegations. So far, no evidence has been given to back up the corruption allegations.
Nonetheless, the incident is just the latest dispute to hit Yushchenko’s administration. Stuart Hensel of the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit told RFE/RL that it is "bad news" for the president. "It underlines the lack of cohesion within Yushchenko's team," he said. "I think this is more bad news for Mr. Yushchenko, who's been unable to maintain the momentum that he came into office with. This is going to be another setback, it is going to lead to more accusations that things aren't as different in Ukraine as many had hoped they'd be."
Yushchenko took office in January pledging to root out official corruption and take Ukraine into the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and NATO. The current problems cast doubts on the ability of the country’s new leaders to deliver promised reforms.
Yuriy Yakymenko, the head of the political-legal office of the Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, told RFE/RL that he's not surprised the scandal has erupted. Yushchenko came to power supported by both socialists and liberals and never managed to create a united team. He said the rising political temperatures should be seen as a part of the prelude to parliamentary elections in March 2006.
"The elections exacerbate these disagreements, which existed long ago both inside the government and between the government and other centers of power. The elections are catalysts in all these events. The recent stormy events really indicate that the election campaign is informally kicking off and politicians are eager to participate in it openly," Yakymenko said.
But Yakymenko said that the resignation of the head of Ukraine's National Television and Radio, Taras Stetskyv, is a slightly different matter. Though Stetskyv has decided to retain his seat in parliament, his resignation indicates that he had failed to create a truly independent public broadcaster as he felt pressured by both politicians and officials.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, is closely observing events in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin told “The Times” of London today that foreign pressure for reform in former Soviet states risks turning them into chaotic "banana republics."
Putin said Western governments may have been mistaken in backing nongovernmental organizations pushing for change during last year's Orange Revolution in Ukraine. He also said it was no surprise that Zinchenko quit to protest the rising corruption among top officials.
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