Leonid Kuchma Tells It Like It Is

By Taras Kuzio
Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s longest serving president (1994-2004), published some, at times, rambling memoirs entitled, Posle Maydana. Zapysky prezydenta 2005-2006 (After the Maidan: The President’s Writings 2005-2006) (Vremya, Moscow and Dovira, Kyiv, 2007). Although datelined after he left office, the 700-page book deals with the last two decades of Ukrainian history.
In his book, Kuchma barely touches the contentious issues surrounding his presidency, such as massive high level corruption and the murder of journalist Georgi Gongadze. He continues to claim the Kuchmagate scandal was a Western (i.e. US) backed conspiracy to replace him with Yushchenko, which he believes came to fruition in 2004 (p. 684).
Kuchma claims that by the last year of his presidency, relations between business and politics had become “normal.” Capital that previously fled abroad had begun to return and work for the Ukrainian economy, and big business had begun to pay taxes and desire a transparent and stable system (pp. 192-193). He replies to the accusation of building an “oligarch country” by claiming that “another type of regime, other than the nomenklatura-oligarch system, could not have come into existence” in the 1990s (p. 221). “Ukraine is not the Baltics. It did not feel itself to be occupied territory or a colony. There were still strong pro-Soviet feelings” in 1991, Kuchma pointed out (p. 291), meaning the pro-Western opposition could not have won the presidential elections.
Besides serving as a defense to the criticisms leveled against Kuchma’s presidency, the memoirs reveal the ideological differences between Kuchma and his successors, Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
Firstly, on national democrats and Yushchenko:
Although both are Russophones and were elected by eastern Ukrainians, Kuchma outlines numerous positions that differentiate him from Yanukovych.
Kuchma’s centrist position between Yushchenko and Yanukovych could very well turn out historically to have been the best strategy for Ukraine’s national consolidation and Euro-Atlantic integration.

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