Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 117

With the elections of October 31 drawing ever nearer, the Ukrainian parliament–in which over a dozen presidential hopefuls sit–is increasing its pressure on incumbent President Leonid Kuchma. The lawmakers are now targeting Oleksandr Volkov, member of parliament and the chief of the incumbent president’s campaign this year, who also steered Kuchma’s successful race in 1994. However, a no-confidence motion against one of the organizers of Kuchma’s campaign, Premier Valery Pustovoytenko, initially planned by the leftists for June 16, has been postponed (see the Monitor, June 4). The official reason for the postponement is Pustovoytenko’s trip to a CIS economic forum in St. Petersburg. In reality, the leftists perceive that at the moment they will not be able to gather enough votes to dismiss Pustovoytenko (Ukrainian television, June 14).

On June 16, the legislature set up an ad-hoc parliamentary commission to examine cases of reported money-laundering abroad by Ukrainian officials. The initiator of this motion, retired security service colonel and independent MP Hryhory Omelchenko, does not conceal that the main goal of this investigation is to indict Volkov. Omelchenko announced that judges in Brussels earlier this year had charged Volkov with money-laundering and arrested some US$4 million on his accounts and real property in Belgium (STB, June 14-16; UNIAN, June 16). Similar ad-hoc commissions, in which Omelchenko also played a leading role, have been instrumental in indicting several high officials in the past–including, most recently, former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko.

With the presidential elections just three months away, the investigation into Volkov’s perhaps murky affairs may seriously damage Kuchma’s reputation and his campaign. While this is not the first time that Omelchenko has targeted Volkov for money-laundering (see the Monitor, December 14), this time he has succeeded in securing the support of “red” factions in parliament, whose leaders, themselves presidential hopefuls, are also interested in spoiling Kuchma’s chances at re-election. Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz and progressive socialist Natalya Vitrenko, both prominent members of the leftist opposition and bitter rivals of Kuchma, publicly confirmed their resolution to back Omelchenko’s crusade. “Those who have currency accounts abroad do not have many friends in the parliament,” Moroz warned (Kievskie vedomosti, June 16). According to Ukrainian laws, citizens may not open accounts in banks abroad without special permission from the National Bank.–OV