Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 45

It looks as if the fugitive Ukrainian former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, now seeking asylum in the United States, is rapidly losing his supporters at home–a sure sign of his political career nearing its end. On March 4, Lazarenko’s alleged main partner in the shadow deals on the Ukrainian gas market in 1995-1997, Yulia Tymoshenko, announced the creation of a new faction in parliament called Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), which she chairs. Twenty-two of its twenty-three members are defectors from Lazarenko’s Hromada faction. These defectors include the founder of the Hromada party, Oleksandr Turchynov, and a former ambassador to the United States, Oleh Bilorus. Tymoshenko said that Fatherland will cooperate with the government–another small victory for President Leonid Kuchma. Hromada, in serving Lazarenko’s interests as a potential presidential candidate, has bitterly opposed the government and allied itself strategically with the “red” factions. Tymoshenko has called on the remaining twenty-three Lazarenko supporters to join Fatherland. If they were to do so, Lazarenko would have no faction support in parliament and the faction itself would officially either quietly die or be absorbed by Tymoshenko. In January, Tymoshenko and Turchynov resigned as deputy heads of the Hromada party, which was then firmly under Lazarenko’s command (Ukrainian agencies and television, March 4; see the Monitor, January 21). –OV