Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 107

Four founding leaders of Ukraine’s Hromada Union have officially announced their decision to quit that party, which is still chaired by fugitive former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. The four–Yulia Tymoshenko, Oleh Bilorus, Oleksandr Turchynov and Dmytro Hnatyuk–charged in a joint statement that the party had been “turned into a clan-type organization, a private corporation which has to distribute dividends to newly emerged despotic leaders.” The statement blamed this development not only on Lazarenko personally but on his entire “political and administrative team.” The four co-founders averred that the party “no longer has a future.” They did not say just when they realized what was afoot (UNIAN, June 1; Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), June 2).

Tymoshenko, for, one is said to have grown extremely wealthy through her association with Lazarenko, who–as first deputy prime minister and later prime minister–awarded Tymoshenko’s United Energy Systems company a large chunk of the Ukrainian gas market. Hromada won forty-four parliamentary seats in the 1998 elections, drawing the bulk of its votes from the Dnipropetrovsk region controlled by the Lazarenko political machine (see Hromada profile in the Monitor, December 12, 1997; see also the Monitor, July 1, 1998). Earlier this year, Tymoshenko split the Hromada parliamentary group to form her own, Batkivshchyna [Homeland] faction in the legislature. The Tymoshenko group now seems intent on creating its own party and offering to trade its support to one of the candidates in the upcoming presidential election.

Lazarenko’s “team” has meanwhile arranged his nomination as a candidate for the presidency of Ukraine. A meeting of voters in Donetsk took that legally required step on June 1 “with 507 voting in favor and four abstaining,” according to the Hromada party’s official communique (UNIAN, June 1). That tally suggests a choreographed event. Lazarenko’s loyalists are unlikely to be able to collect throughout Ukraine the signatures required for his registration as an official presidential candidate. The former prime minister, currently seeking asylum in the United States, is wanted in Ukraine and in Switzerland on multiple charges stemming from his financial activities (January 21, March 5, April 15).–VS