Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 22

In a recent television interview Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko raised the possibility of a coalition between her eponymous bloc and the Party of Regions (PRU) of former prime minister Viktor Yanukovych. Tymoshenko later tried to downplay her comment, saying she had been misunderstood. But her words were taken quite seriously by both her current allies, President Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine (NU), and the PRU. Tymoshenko’s slip of the tongue – or whatever it was – has been interpreted as a signal to Yushchenko that if the tug-of-war between the Cabinet and the presidential team continues, the coalition may be reconfigured.

Ukrayinska pravda was the first to report Tymoshenko’s remarks about the possibility of a different coalition, quoting an interview by EuroNews TV, a French-based pan-European news channel. Speaking to EuroNews on her visit to Brussels on January 29, Tymoshenko was asked if it would be possible for the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) to form a coalition with the PRU. “Yes, but on our conditions,” she replied. “This would include implementing a 20-point plan to deal with murky schemes in politics and the economy. If the PRU is ready for this, then it is welcome.”

However, those words are missing from the transcript of Tymoshenko’s interview on the EuroNews website, and they apparently were never aired. But Ukrayinska pravda said that it had quoted from the original audio file of the interview, which it had obtained via its own sources.

Tymoshenko did not deny her comment, but she said she had been misunderstood. She meant nothing more than the hypothetical possibility of cooperation on selected issues with the PRU as an opposition party, Tymoshenko said. Tymoshenko’s press secretary Maryna Soroka, said that the words quoted by Ukrayinska pravda were meant as a joke. The PRU cannot fulfill the conditions mentioned by Tymoshenko in any case, according to Soroka.

Our Ukraine, however, took Tymoshenko’s words very seriously. “Our bloc will demand explanations from Tymoshenko,” said NU chairman Vyacheslav Kyrylenko. He noted that a BYuT-PRU coalition would violate the promises that NU and the BYuT had made to their voters ahead of the September 2007 parliamentary elections.

The PRU interpreted Tymoshenko’s words as a sign of insurmountable difficulties in the BYuT-NU coalition. “The parliamentary majority has proved unviable, which confirms a warning by the PRU that disregard for the position of our party in the process of forming a coalition and the cabinet would paralyze the work of the parliament and the executive,” according to a PRU statement.

The PRU blocked parliament in January, protesting the government’s intention to pursue a NATO Membership Action Plan. This not only prevented the legislature from passing important bills, but also made it impossible to close the new parliament’s first session properly. The PRU has not concealed its plans to play up differences between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in order to destroy the current coalition.

The number of such differences has been growing since Tymoshenko’s appointment as prime minister in December. Yushchenko thwarted Tymoshenko’s planned visit to Moscow, torpedoed several appointments to her government, disagreed with her privatization plans, came up with a package of bills aimed at diminishing the role of the cabinet, tried to dismiss the head of the State Savings Bank, whom Tymoshenko had praised, and disagreed with her plans to get rid of intermediaries in the gas trade with Russia and to increase transit fees for Russian gas bound for Europe (see EDM, January 22).

PRU member Vadym Kolesnichenko told RTVi that Tymoshenko’s comments about a possible coalition with the PRU were a signal to Yushchenko that if he continues to confront her on major policy issues, the BYuT may change partners, He did not rule out the possibility of a PRU-BYuT coalition. Kolesnichenko and several other commentators pointed out that the PRU and BYuT have some experience with cooperation, such as jointly pushing through parliament a law on the Cabinet of Ministers that diminished Yushchenko’s authority in early 2007.

Oleksandr Moroz, leader of the Socialists, who were BYuT and NU allies in 2004-2005 but formed the ruling coalition with the PRU in the previous parliament in 2006, has opined that a PRU-BYuT coalition is quite possible, because there are not many ideological differences between them. But Moroz predicted that Tymoshenko and Yushchenko will run against each other in the next presidential election, so their coalition is doomed.

However, Andry Yermolayev, the head of the Kyiv-based “Sofia” think tank, dismissed the possibility of reconfiguring the coalition. He said it is possible to disrupt the work of the current coalition, but it would be difficult to destroy it. It would be even more difficult to form any new coalition in the current parliament, Yermolayev said. Still, he did not rule out the possibility that the Tymoshenko cabinet may fall quite soon because of differences in the BYuT-NU coalition.

(, January 30; Ukrayinska pravda, Interfax-Ukraine January 31; Inter TV, February 1; UNIAN, February 1, 2; RTVi, February 3)