Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 75

Ukraine’s largest reformist party, the Rukh, shows signs of what seems to amount to a split personality. A sure indication of this: two presidential “candidates” for the upcoming October elections. While the two Rukh wings do not disagree ideologically, their respective stances regarding President Leonid Kuchma and the country’s government seem irreconcilable.

The group which broke with Vyacheslav Chornovil shortly before his death last month has suggested that its leader, Yury Kostenko, run for the presidency. Call it a preliminary nomination. The rival wing–Chornovil’s followers–continues to support its leader, former Foreign Affairs Minister Hennady Udovenko.

Udovenko’s candidacy has apparently been endorsed by the Rukh’s coalition partners, the Reforms and Order Party (ROP) and the Republican Christian Party (which joined the Rukh-ROP bloc last week) (Studio 1+1, UNIAN, April 17, Ukrainian agencies, April 14).

But what of Kostenko? He opposes both leftists and President Kuchma. A member of the Rukh since 1989 and of parliament since 1990, Kostenko headed the Ukrainian delegation to Russia at the nuclear disarmament talks in the first years of Ukraine’s independence and served as minister for the environment and nuclear safety from 1992-98. In February of this year, a Rukh emergency congress selected Kostenko as party head, replacing Chornovil (see the Monitor, March 1).

After Chornovil’s death a month later, the Rukh announced its plans to reconcile its differences and present a united front. This did not come to pass. On April 15, the Rukh central committee–led by Udovenko–formally expelled the anti-Chornovil members–Kostenko supporters–from the party and from the parliament faction.

At the same time, the Udovenko wing also announced its support of Oleksandr Omelchenko in Kyiv’s mayoral elections, which are scheduled for May. Omelchenko, a Kuchma appointee, serves as Kyiv’s state administration head. Last year, the Rukh had nominated Yaroslav Fedorin as its mayoral candidate. Fedorin is now backed by the Kostenko wing of the party (Den, April 17; see the Monitor, April 7).–OV