Special Elections Take Shape in 7 Districts: Parliament has set special elections to fill vacancies in seven districts across the country for July 17th. The vacancies were created due to ministerial appointments, elections to other offices, and a death. The special elections will take place in Volyn District #23 (villages around Manevychi), Dnipropetrovsk District #27 (October Rayon of Dnipropetrovsk City), Ivano Frankivsk District #85 (Kalush City), Luhansk District #114 in Stanytsya Luhanska, Poltava District #151 (town of Lokhvytsya), Kherson District #183 (Korabelnoy Rayon in Kherson City), and Chernihiv District #206 (Chernihiv City).
In Volyn District #23, the vacancy was created by the death of Ihor Yeremeyev. Yeremeyev was the leader of the People’s Will faction and owner of the Kontinium Group, which is involved in the gas business and banking among other spheres. His business and faction has been taken over by his business partner, fellow Volyn MP Stefan Ivakhiv. Yeremeyev won re-election to his third term as an independent in 2014 by a 41-22% margin, over Lyudmyla Kydra with Motherland who was the Chairwoman of Manevytska Rayon Administration at the time. Kydra has filed again as the candidate from Motherland party. The race is expected to be highly competitive as the Yeremeyev-Ivakhiv team will certainly filed a candidate to hold the seat. Former Kolomoyskyi ally and Volyn Governor Ihor Palytsya is backing Ukrop candidate Iryna Konstankevych, who is the Deputy Head of the Ihor Palytsya charitable fund. Svoboda has a strong candidate in Oleksandr Pyrozhyk. Pyrozhyk is the First Deputy Head of the Volyn Oblast Council and the electorate has historically supported nationalist candidates in the district. The Radical Party, Communists and the Illustrious Party (Ukraine Slaventa) have also registered candidates.
In Dnipro (former Dnipropetrovsk) District #27, Borys Filatov was elected last October as city Mayor from the Ukrop Party following a hard fought battle against the Opposition Bloc’s Oleksandr Vilkul, a former Dnipropetrovsk Governor and Yanukovych Vice Premier Minister. Filatov is a close ally of oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi and served as Deputy Governor when the latter was Governor of Dnipropetrovsk. Filatov was elected to Parliament in October 2014 as an independent, by a crushing 57-19% margin over independent Svitlana Yepifantseva, a Deputy Director of Vilkul’s charitable foundation. Filatov then defeated Vilkul himself in October 2015 by a 53-41% margin in the city Mayoral election. Filatov’s victory resulted in a vacancy in his Parliamentary district. The candidate from that election who finished third, Dagestani born businessman Zahid Krasnov is now the front runner to fill the vacancy in Parliament. He faces two Kolomoyskyi backed candidates: Anatoliy Krupskiy from the Renaissance Party and Oksana Tomchuk from Ukrop. Krupskiy is the Deputy Head of the Samarska Rayon in Dnipro and Tomchuk is a lawyer. Other more serious candidates include Motherland’s Tetyana Korniychuk, independent Roman Zinchenko who heads the Dnipro Police, and Oleksandr Tyhov who is the elected Head of the Svatoshyn Rayon Council in Kyiv oblast. Tyhov is a member of Poroshenko’s Solidarity Party but is campaigning as an independent in Dnipro where the Poroshenko label pails in comparison to the Kolomoyskyi one. So far, a total of 18 candidates have filed for this vacancy, including candidates from the Radical Party, Greens, Illustrious Party, Rukh, Svoboda and the Communists.In Ivano Frankivsk District #85, former MP and Kalush City Mayor Ihor Nasalyk, won an easy victory as the Poroshenko Bloc candidate over National Guard Veteran Andriy Tiron from the People’s Front, by a 52-19% margin in October 2014. Nasalyk, a businessman with experience in the energy sphere, was named as the Minister of Energy and Coal last month which created the vacancy in the district. Initially is appeared that the seat would be a “battle of siblings” as Vira Savchenko, sister of Nadia Savchenko, was mentioned for the post. Nasalik’s brother was rumored to be a possible candidate too. However the only sibling of a famous local politician to file for office so far is Viktor Shevchenko, the brother of independent MP Oleksandr Shevchenko, Oleksander Shevchenko quit the Poroshenko faction last year to run for Mayor of Ivano Frankivsk as the candidate from Ukrop. His brother Viktor, will also be the candidate from Ukrop for this election. Motherland Party selected native Kalush resident Olha Sikora for the seat instead of trying to import Savchenko’s sister. It is not yet clear if Nasalyk’s brother will run as the candidate from the Poroshenko Bloc. However other candidates have been field from Svoboda, UNA-UNSO, Rukh, the Radical Party and the Patriot Party.
In Stantsya Luhansk district #114 a total of 31 candidates have filed so far to fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Yuri Harbuz as Luhansk Governor. Harbuz was elected to Parliament from Luhansk District #114 in 2014 as an independent by a 26-18% margin over a rival from Tyhypko’s Strong Ukraine Party. Harbuz, age 44, then immediately joined the Poroshenko faction once he was sworn in. The front runner to replace Harbuz is Andriy Lesyk, the Head of the Charitable Fund“FK Premier” who is also an ally of Viktor Medvedchuk. His main competitors include former Luhansk Governor Iryna Verihina from Motherland, independent Serhiy Zaretskiy who is the Deputy Mayor of Syevyerodonetsk for Culture and Education, former MP Valeriy Moshenskiy the President of “Community Control” NGO, former MP Ihor Shvayka from Svoboda, battalion commander Konstantyn Ilchenko from the Radical Party. Ukrop, Strong People and the Illustrious Party also have candidates in the race.
Moshenskiy’s candidacy is notable in that he won election to Parliament in neighboring Luhansk district #108 (Krasniy Luch) in 2012 by defeating the Party of Regions candidate 35-33%. However Moshenskiy finished third behind Harbuz and Tyhypko’s candidate in 2014 with 16%. The other notable candidacy is Motherland’s Iryna Verihina. Verihina served as Luhansk Governor from May 2014 until September 2014, which was the hottest period of the war. Though Verihina avoided capture by the pro-Russian armies, her tenure as Governor gets mixed reviews.
In Poltava District #151, Taras Kutoviy’s appointment as the Minister of Agriculture and Food Policy has created the vacancy in the Parliamentary seat. Kutoviy won easily in October 2014 as the Poroshenko Bloc candidate, defeating independent businessman Roman Kharchenko by a 63-13% margin, with the Radical Party’s Oleksandr Olshanskiy finishing third with 10%. With the vacancy, Olshanskiy is back in the race as an independent this time and as evidence of his chance of winning the seat, has already drawn a technical candidate in pensioner Vitaliy Olshanskiy. Other notable candidates include Pyryatin City Mayor Oleksiy Ryabokon (a member of the Socialist Party but running as an independent), and entrepreneur Ruslan Lyashko from Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party (no relation though). Parties fielding candidates include Ukrop, the Opposition Bloc, Svoboda, Motherland, the Illustrious Party of Ukraine, the Political Party of Ordinary People Serhiy Kaplin (MP Kaplin won election in the neighboring Poltava district #144), Renaissance, and the Communists (although the candidate has registered as an independent).
In Kherson District #183 (Korabelnoy Rayon in Kherson City), the vacancy was created by the appointment of Andriy Hordeyev as Governor in late April. Hordeyev, age 33, was elected to Parliament in Kherson district #183 with the Bloc of Poroshenko in 2014. He defeated independent MP Mykhailo Opanashenko by a 27-11% margin. Hordeyev replaced Andriy Putilov as Governor who had earlier resigned after being elected as the Head of the Oblast Council in the October local elections. Putilov was also originally a UDAR MP. It is now rumored that Putilov when run for the open Parliamentary seat. Parties fielding candidates include the Opposition Bloc, Rukh, the Radical Party, Motherland, the Illustrious Ukraine Party, Ukrop and Svoboda.
In Chernihiv District #206, former Yushchenko era Governor, MP, agri-businessman, and Poroshenko Bloc candidate Vladyslav Atroshchenko demolished his 25 year old, independent opponent Anna Kovalenko, by a 51-9% margin. His election as Chernihiv City Mayor in October 2015 has created the vacancy in the Parliamentary district position. Atroshchenko defeated three term incumbent Mayor Oleksandr Sokolov by a 59-37% margin in October 2015 to claim the Mayor’s Office in the city. With the Parliamentary seat now vacant, Kovalenko has filed again for the seat. However Atroshchenko is expected to tap a replacement to run from the bloc of Poroshenko, which will certainly have a good chance of winning. One of the most visible candidates so far in the race is former MP Egor Firsov. Firsov was Parliament’s youngest MP after he was elected in 2014 with the Poroshenko Bloc. However when he quit the faction earlier this year because of allegations of corruption against the leadership, the party invoked Article 81 and newly passed Law #3700 to boot Firsov out of Parliament altogether. Firsov is now running as an independent in the special election. Ihor Andriychenko, a leader of the Democratic Alliance Party, is also in the race. He finished third with 12% of the vote in the neighboring Chernihiv district #205 in 2014. Andriychenko faired worse in the special election in the district last summer to fill the vacancy left by Valeriy Kulich’s appointment as Governor of the region. Andriychenko’s vote tally fell to just 8% and a fourth place finish with Poroshenko Bloc’s Serhiy Berezenko prevailing over Ukrop’s Gennadiy Korban in the contest. The Radical Party (MP Oleg Lyashko won the neighboring Chernihiv district #208 in 2012), Motherland, Opposition Bloc, Ukrop, Samopomich, and Svoboda parties have also registered candidates.
Thus, in the special elections, the Poroshenko Bloc must defend five seats, Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance faction must defend one seat, and the People’s Will faction must also defend one seat. Given the slim governing majority in Parliament, these five races will take on added significance as they could slightly pad the coalition’s numbers if things go well for the Poroshenko Bloc. Once candidate registration is finished, the races will shape up more clearly.
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1. Svitlana Kustova. Kustova (age 37) is an honored Lawyer of Ukraine and currently works for the law firm Moor and Partners. She served as Poroshenko’s Representative to the CEC during the 2014 Presidential Election. Previously Kustova has been a Deputy’s Assistant to MP’s Mykola Katerynchuk, Roman Zvarych, Petro Poroshenko, and Iryna Friz. She stands a decent chance of becoming the new Chairperson of the CEC.
2. Olha Zheltova. Zheltova (age 52) is the Deputy Head of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Policy and the Judiciary. Her candidacy is supported by the Chairman of the Committee, MP Ruslan Knyazevych (Poroshenko Bloc). She also worked as an Assistant to former MP Yuri Klyuchkovskiy, one of the foremost lawmakers in Ukraine’s history and a specialist in electoral legislation.
3. Mykhailo Verbenskyi. Verbenskyi (age 61) served as the Chief of Staff to the Interior Ministry under Yuri Lutsenko from 2005-2010. Since March 2014 he has served as the Director of the Department of Monitoring and Organizational Inspection Work at the Interior Ministry. In September last year, he unsuccessfully submitted his name for consideration to serve in the Accounting Chamber.
4. Olha Lotyuk. Lotyuk (age 43) is a constitutional lawyer. She campaigned for Mykola Onishchuk in the 2002 election when he was a candidate with “For a United Ukraine”. Onishchuk later became Justice Minister under Yushchenko (2007-2010).
5. Vitaly Plukar. Plukar (age 30), is currently the Head of the Department for Monitoring the Activities of Local Authorities for the Department of Local Government and Decentralization in the Presidential Administration. Plukar formerly served as a Deputy’s Assistant to MP Valeriy Karpuntsov who was the Head of the Legal Department for Klitchko’s UDAR party. Karpuntsov is playing an increasing powerful role behind the scenes in the Poroshenko Bloc faction.
The four nominees from the People’s Front faction are:
6. Roman Greba. Greba (age 38) is a lawyer with a primarily business background. He served as a Deputy Chief of Staff to Yatsenyuk before becoming a Deputy Prime Minister to the Cabinet of Ministers in December 2014.
7. Oleg Konopolskiy. Konopolskiy (age 44) is a lawyer with extensive political experience. He worked for then Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko in the 2004 Presidential election and was a proxy (“trusted person”) for Yatsenyuk in the 2010 Presidential Election. He has the distinction of being named an “Honored Lawyer of Ukraine”.
8. Nadiya Synytsa. Synytsa (age 40) is a lawyer by profession. She was a Deputy Minister to the Cabinet of Ministers from April until December 2014, when she was replaced by fellow CEC nominee Roman Greba.
9. Leontiy Shypilov a constitutional lawyer and an adviser to Speaker Andriy Parubiy. Shypilov teaches international law at Kyiv Mohyla Academy and has the support of “Maidan Self-Defense” deputies in Parliament (associated with Speaker Parubiy). Shypilov previously was a candidate for parliament with Klitchko’s UDAR party.
Samopomich managed to get their sole nominee on the list due to his exceptional background in elections, and support from the Western community.
10. Yevhen Radchenko is the Development Director at Internews Ukraine and previously held key positions with the OSCE and Committee of Voters of Ukraine, an election watchdog organization. Radchenko is also a Member of the Venice Commission since 2009.
The increasing influential Renaissance faction also has its nominee on the President’s CEC list as further evidence that the feud last year between Poroshenko and Kolomoyskyi has now ended.
11. Alla Baslayeva from Renaissance. Baslayeva (age 35) is a Darnytsya Rayon Judge (Kyiv City) and as the former Head Legal Consultant to the Secretariat of the CEC which represented the body to the courts.
These nominees will be voted on individually by Parliament on Tuesday, June 14th according to Speaker Parubiy. Thus it is possible that some of all of the nominees could be rejected, and the President forced to propose new candidates. This could possibly result in Okhendovskiy or Magera emerging as the replacement nominee. These 11 candidates will be joined by another member following consultations with the factions. If Western best practices are followed, this nominee might be from the Opposition Bloc as they will not be represented on the CEC otherwise, and they are the third largest Parliamentary faction (behind Poroshenko Bloc and People’s Front). However the People’s Will faction might earn the post too since they have been providing key votes to the governing coalition lately. Motherland and the Radical party stand the smallest chance of getting one of their candidates named to the post since they are both in opposition and have the smallest factions.
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This sensational statement brought out the usual Yushchenko haters and stirred up Tymoshenko’s old allegations of a secret Yushchenko-Yanukovych pact. However the reality is far different than Moskal’s “Weekly World News” style headline. After Yushchenko became President, his wife began actively conducting charity work through the Ukraine 3000 Foundation. In a country where previous First Ladies were rarely seen – and even less often heard, Kateryna Yushchenko broke the mold. She played an active public role working on behalf of charitable causes, but wisely avoided public involvement in politics. In effect, she was not only an American born First Lady of Ukraine, but she was a Ukrainian First Lady who followed the American First Lady model. The Foundation had early success in helping young mothers and sick children, and after seeing firsthand the deficiencies in the healthcare sector of Ukraine, the foundation decided to build a state of the art “Hospital of the Future”. The hospital which would cost an estimated $100 million dollars, would provide the best medical care in Eastern Europe, and give Ukraine a hospital comparable to the best American medical facilities. Therein lies the only mistake of the “Hospital of the Future”: that is, planning ambitiously in a country with zero history of charitable giving.
Nonetheless, the project moved initially moved forward, and for a brief moment, it even became fashionable among the oligarchs to engage in a bidding contest to pledge the most money in support of the effort. This culminated in a TV telethon in which Rinat Akhmetov, Viktor Pinchuk, Serhiy Taruta, Oleksandr Yaroslavskiy, Borys Kolesnikov, and others made the public proclamations about how much money they would give to support the hospital. While the oligarchs were quick to seize the spotlight and pronounce their righteousness, they were mostly slow to actually make any contributions. For example, Viktor Pinchuk pledged $10 million dollars, but contributed just 141,000 hryvnas – which was less than $30,000 at the time. Serhiy Taruta promised $12 million dollars for the hospital but didn’t give a single kopek. Meanwhile ordinary Ukrainians contributed in 10 hryvna increments through a mobile phone SMS code, which was the first charitable contribution for many of them. In the end, the Foundation raised around $17 million in contributions with all but one million in hryvnas. The information was then published on the Hospital of the Future website and remains available to this day. When the world economic crisis hit Ukraine in autumn 2008 and the currency devalued from a 5:1 ratio to an 8:1 ratio with the US dollar, the value of the contributions shrank by $5 million overnight. Less than 18 months later, Yushchenko’s term in office ended, and with it the ability of the Foundation to raise money on a large scale. In a dilemma about what to do with the money since the project was far from being adequately funded, the Foundation made the responsible choice to use the money to buy medical equipment for existing hospitals, provide training abroad for Ukrainian doctors, and donate to the Cancer Institute among other medical related efforts. Thus, the contributions did indeed go to improve medical care for Ukrainians as intended. The information about the donations is available on the project’s website.
What then are Moskal’s motives for the attack on the Yushchenkos? Having threatened to quit as Zakarpattya Governor just last month, Moskal may be frustrated over his lack of ability to control the lucrative border crossing into the European Union – and is now lashing out. More likely though is the motivation of revenge: First, for the fact that Yushchenko fired Moskal as Governor of Luhansk after just five months on the job in April 2006. Second, Moskal is a close ally of new Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko. While Lutsenko was one of the leaders of the Our Ukraine – Self Defense Bloc in the 2007 Parliamentary elections, his involvement in an apparently drunken Frankfurt airport incident in May 2009, led to Yushchenko to call for his resignation. Then under Yanukovych, Lutsenko served prison time in a politically motivated corruption case. During his court trial, the Yushchenko poisoning case was lumped into the mix, and Lutsenko was questioned about conducting “illegal surveillance” of individuals believed to have been involved in the affair. It is because of the court trial that Lutsenko still harbors ill feelings towards Yushchenko. As a result, Moskal’s attack on Yushchenko’s wife Kateryna, appears as a petty settling of scores by Lutsenko and company, as they celebrate their return to high positions in government.
Dates to Watch (for Ukraine unless otherwise noted):
June 14-17: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
June 23: New EU Expiration Date for Crimea related Sanctions on Russia
July 5-8: Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
July 12-15: Last Regularly Scheduled Plenary (Voting) Session of Parliament.
July 22: Current “Session” of Parliament Ends
July 31: Expiration of the EU’s Donbass related Sanctions on Russia.
September: Stockholm Arbitration Hearings on Counter Claims between Naftogaz and Gazprom.
January 2017: Stockholm Arbitration Courts Expected to Render a Decision on the Case Between Naftogaz and Gazprom.