Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 77

A new group in the Ukrainian parliament, apparently formed to promote both President Leonid Kuchma’s policies and to pursue the business interests of its founders, was announced on April 20. Called Working Ukraine, the group of fifteen is chaired by Mykhaylo Syrota–one of the drafters of the Ukrainian constitution of 1996, who abandoned the Reforms-Center faction of the liberal reformer Viktor Pynzenyk to join Working Ukraine. Syrota emphasized in a television interview that Working Ukraine will support Kuchma. It is not Syrota, however, who will be defining the group’s strategy, but, apparently, Viktor Pinchuk and Ihor Sharov–two successful entrepreneurs who organized the group and are close to the president. Another similar caucus controlled by businessmen loyal to Kuchma, Regional Revival, was created in parliament two months ago (Ukrainian agencies, Inter TV, April 20; see the Monitor, February 22).

Pinchuk, 39, is the founder of the Dnipropetrovsk-based Interpipe group which controls large stakes in Ukraine’s steel industry. He was listed among Ukraine’s five “oligarchs” in a recent study by Kyiv’s Institute of Politics. Having the reputation of a man who shuns media attention, he is, however, behind Ukraine’s definitely most popular and strongly pro-Kuchma tabloid, “Fakty i kommentarii” (UNIAN, April 7; Kyiv Post, April 15). Sharov, 37, a former director of lucrative gas trading businesses Respublika and Intergaz, served as Kuchma’s permanent representative to parliament in 1996-1997.

Working Ukraine is in essence a continuation of an electoral bloc with a similar name which used unionist rhetoric to divert leftist voters from Kuchma’s bitter enemies, the communists and socialists, in the elections of 1998. The bloc–which had on its list, besides Pinchuk, such heavyweights as the Security Service chief, Leonid Derkach, who also hails from Dnipropetrovsk, and Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko–lost those elections.–OV