Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 232

On December 14, the fourth congress of Ukraine’s Party of Regions (UPR)–a key element in the presidential bloc For United Ukraine (FUU)–ruled to replace its leader. Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Issues Volodymyr Semynozhenko took over as the UPR chairman from the chief of Ukraine’s State Tax Administration, Mykola Azarov. The official take on this, which Azarov announced, is that the move was made both to silence allegations that the UPR relied heavily on the Tax Administration’s administrative resources and to contribute to more transparency in the upcoming Rada elections. “Six bills have been submitted to the Rada to limit my rights as a citizen,” Azarov complained. “They wanted to forbid me from participating in political activities.” Azarov also suspended his membership of the party until the elections.

In fact, the move had been anticipated. Since Azarov became chairman of the newly formed UPR in March, he has not concealed that the post was a temporary one, and that he would step down when the party no longer needed his patronage to survive. His task was to help his friends from the eastern Donetsk elite build, over a short term, a party capable of getting through to the next Rada. He achieved this. From March, the UPR membership grew from 30,000 to a whopping 450,000, if a report by Volodymyr Rybak, leader of the UPR Donetsk branch, to the Donetsk Regional party conference earlier this month is to be trusted. Donetsk party bosses do not conceal the fact that people did not always enroll voluntarily. It is difficult to say “no” to tax authorities.

Semynozhenko, 51, is not native to Donetsk. He represents instead another eastern regional elite, one based in Kharkiv. The fact that a man from Kharkiv was preferred to Rybak, who many in Donetsk would have liked to see at the top of their party, is a manifestation of Kyiv fears that the powerful Donetsk “clan” may get out of control. Semynozhenko is not a novice in big politics: He was elected to the Rada from Kharkiv in 1994, served as minister for science in 1996-1998, returned to the Rada again in 1998 and was picked this past summer by Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh to serve as deputy premier.

Semynozhenko became the UPR chairman just in time to sign an official accord on the creation of the FUU in Kyiv on December 15. The document was also signed by the Agrarian Party leader Mykhaylo Hlady, the People’s Democratic Party leader Valery Pustovoytenko, Labor Ukraine leader Serhy Tyhypko and Kinakh, who chairs the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Bloc leader Volodymyr Lytvyn, who is also head of the presidential office, boasted at a press conference on the same day that coming to power is not UPR’s goal. It already has power. It simply wants to keep it. Masterminded by President Leonid Kuchma, UPR is probably the most ambitious and certainly the largest element in the officially 1-million strong bloc (Ukrainska Pravda, December 11, 14; Interfax-Ukraine, December 15; Segodnya, December 17; see the Monitor, March 28, November 29).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions