KIEV, Oct. 10 - President Viktor Yushchenko on Tuesday appointed Vitaliy Hayduk, a former deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector, as his top security advisor, Viktor Baloha, Yushchenkoâ€™s chief of staff, said.
The appointment of Hayduk, 49, as secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, suggests the presidential top strategic advisory body will increasingly focus on energy issues.
â€śI believe that energy security, energy transit, putting Ukraineâ€™s transit opportunities within the energy transit map of Europe will become the main subject for the new secretary,â€ť Vadym Karasyov, director of the Institute for Global Strategies, said.
Yushchenko has long been considering appointing the top security advisor that would balance out the rise of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian figure.
Yushchenko had apparently previously considered, but then rejected, appointing former Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to the post, people familiar with the situation said.
Hayduk, who replaces Volodymyr Horbulin on the post, worked as deputy prime minister for the energy sector between December 2002 and December 2003. He worked as Energy and Fuel Minister since November 2001.
Hayduk was fired by then-President Leonid Kuchma for refusing to let Russia move its crude oil via Ukraineâ€™s Odessa-Brody oil pipeline amid concerns this would delay supplies of alternative Caspian Sea crude.
The appointment comes amid high tensions between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych over supremacy in domestic and foreign policies following controversial amendments to the constitution enacted on January 1.
The amendments shifted many powers, including drafting energy and economic policies, from the president to the prime minister, and Yanukovych had tried to use the new powers last month to challenge Yushchenkoâ€™s pro-Western foreign policy course.
Yanukovych, speaking in Brussels early September, said Ukraine will postpone accession to NATO, Yushchenkoâ€™s cornerstone policy initiative, in order to prevent deterioration of relations with Russia.
Russia, which views NATO as a military threat, has been persistently opposing NATOâ€™s expansion to the East.
In January Russia briefly suspended supplies of natural gas to Ukraine after the country had rejected a five-fold increase that had been demanded by Gazprom.
The suspension led to sweeping disruptions of gas supplies in Europe, while the US and other Western nations accused Russia of using energy for blackmailing its neighbors.
Yushchenko has been trying to arrange construction of additional natural gas pipelines that would allow Ukraine to reduce dependence on Russiaâ€™s gas deliveries.
One of the plans, which has been apparently discussed Azerbaijan last month, was building a gas pipeline via Georgia and the Black Sea to Ukraine bypassing Russia. The plan, however, may face delays if Yanukovych seeks to postpone it, analysts said.
The appointment of Hayduk, seen as a strong rival for Yanukovych, will probably strengthen Yushchenkoâ€™s position should the tensions accelerate between the president and the prime minister.
â€śItâ€™s a chance to shift the National Security and Defense Council into reliable hands,â€ť Horbulin said. â€śWhatâ€™s happeningâ€¦ is a well thought-out plan to strengthen possibilities for managing the country.â€ť (tl/ez)