On Saturday, May 12, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko replaced Vitaly Hayduk with Ivan Plyushch in the post of secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). Hayduk — co-owner of the steel company Industrial Union of Donbas along with Serhy Taruta — is a businessman from Donetsk Region and a former energy minister. Plyushch is a seasoned right-of-center politician and a close ally of Yushchenko. He was twice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament — in 1991-94, when Ukraine HAD just gained independence, and again in 2002-02, at the height of the popular protests against the then-President Leonid Kuchma.
Hayduk’s resignation did not come as a surprise, as he did not support the radical line of behavior in relations with political opponents as currently pursed by Yushchenko. Ukrayinska pravda — a well-informed source — has said that Hayduk wanted to resign as early as January, as he opposed the opposition’s intention to boycott the work of parliament, which Yushchenko eventually backed. Kommersant-Ukraine said that Hayduk did not support Yushchenko’s April 2 decision to dissolve parliament, either.
Hayduk’s resignation coincided with a chain of events last week that could exacerbate tension between Yushchenko and the ruling coalition after a brief détente following Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s approval consent to an early parliamentary election (see EDM, May 9). On May 10, Yushchenko said that if the coalition insisted that the early election should be held no earlier than October, rather than in the summer, as he wants, he would instruct the NSDC to come up with “certain measures” to make the opponents agree with his conditions. Yushchenko did not specify which measures he meant, and NSDC Secretary Hayduk’s reaction has been unknown to the public.
On May 11, the head of the presidential secretariat’s service for law-enforcement bodies, Valery Heletey, made the sensational announcement that plans were underway to murder leading opposition politicians, including opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, the leader of People’s Self-Defense bloc and former interior minister. Heletey also said there was “a scenario for splitting the country being developed” and that “criminals working with certain political forces, radical forces, helped by some spin doctors” were involved.
Yanukovych’s Party of Regions (PRU) condemned Heletey’s statement, saying that it was part of a “smear campaign” against political opponents. The Interior Ministry, which is headed by Vasyl Tsushko, a member of the Socialist Party allied with Yanukovych, dismissed Heletey’s statement as groundless and provocative. Yanukovych’s coalition urged the Prosecutor-General’s Office to come up with a legal assessment of Heletey’s statement and accused the presidential secretariat of torpedoing the talks between the two rival camps on early elections.
Vasyl Kyselyov, one of PRU’s leaders, has suggested that Hayduk resigned because he “disapproved of the Heletey provocation.” Kyselyov alleged that there had been plans to stage an attempt on the life of an opposition leader, so as to use this as a pretext for introducing the state of emergency with NSDC’s blessing. Kyselyov praised Hayduk for resigning, and said that he hoped that Plyushch “would not break the law or moral standards.”
Another leading member of the PRU, Volodymyr Syvkovych, commenting on Hayduk’s replacement, said that Plyushch “is a very radical man.” Communist leader Petro Symonenko said that Plyushch’s appointment disrupted the talks on early elections. And another Communist, deputy parliament speaker Adam Martynyuk, suggested that Yushchenko broke the law by appointing Plyushch, as he had reached the maximum age allowed for state officials, 65.
Plyushch tried to dispel the fears about him in an interview given to Kommersant-Ukraine immediately after his appointment. He said that he opposes the use of force in the current political crisis, and that Yushchenko’s team would make a concession to the opponents regarding the date of early parliamentary elections, postponing it to mid-July. Plyushch also reminded that he is a convinced proponent of the idea of a broad coalition including Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine, the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, and the PRU.
The head of Yushchenko’s secretariat, Viktor Baloha, a “hawk” who is widely believed to have been the main opponent of “dove” Hayduk in Yushchenko’s team, said in a statement on May 14 that Hayduk resigned voluntarily. Baloha said that Plyushch’s tasks on the new job would include reforming the law-enforcement system, eradicating corruption in courts, and “correcting the energy policy of Ukraine taking into account the global realities.” Hayduk is known to have been unhappy with the current scheme of buying natural gas from Russian and Turkmenistan, in which the main role is played by RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-registered joint venture between Russia’s Gazprom and private individuals in Ukraine.
(Interfax-Ukraine, May 11-13; TV 5 Kanal, May 12; Ukrayinska pravda, UNIAN, ProUA website, Kommersant-Ukraine, May 14)