Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 121

Ukraine’s powerful parliamentary gas lobby has formed a new party, called–perhaps with tongue in cheek, as it is scarcely likely to defend the working people of the country–Labor Ukraine. At its founding congress in Kyiv on June 19, the party elected Mykhaylo Syrota, former chair of the Constitutional Center pro-presidential caucus in the parliament of 1994-98, as its head. Its members (all of whom support incumbent President Leonid Kuchma) include Yuly Ioffe, a former deputy premier for fuel and energy and Kuchma’s long-time adviser in the field; Igor Sharov, former president of Intergaz wholesale gas importer and Kuchma’s one-time official representative in parliament; and Andry Derkach, the successful businessman, adviser to Premier Valery Pustovoytenko and son to Leonid Derkach. Derkach senior also serves as Security Service (SBU) chief and has been a crony of Kuchma since the time the two men worked at Yuzhmash Dnipropetrovsk-based missile manufacturer.

Enumerating Labor Ukraine’s priorities on June 21, Syrota ruled out active participation in the presidential campaign scheduled for October 31 and defined successful performance at the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2002 as the long-term goal (Ukrainian television and agencies, June 19, 21). Formation of the party can be seen as part of the overall movement among Ukraine’s industrial “clans” and oligarchs to enter public politics, use the democratic tools of parties and elections and, at the same time, prepare a “safe landing” should Kuchma be defeated in the upcoming presidential election. As a name choice, Labor Ukraine typifies the Kuchma team strategy of using leftist slogans to attract (and subsequently fragment) the red ideology-oriented electorate.–OV