KIEV, Oct. 24 – In a move that effectively buries an initiative of Yulia Tymoshenko, the likely new prime minister, for the creation of professional army in 2008, President Viktor Yushchenko signed a decree ordering a military draft next year.
The initiative, along with some controversial economic promises, was last week criticized by the presidential office as non-viable. The latest decree ends any discussion over the issue.
The development may potentially lead to a rift between Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense and the group led by Tymoshenko, the two pro-Western groups that have pledged to form the next government.
The groups that jointly outperformed pro-Russian parties at the Sept. 30 snap election, have earlier agreed to incorporate their election campaign promises into a joint government program.
The vote results were announced on Oct. 15, but some parties, such as the Communist Party, a pro-Moscow group, are currently contesting the results in court, which delays the formation of the new government.
Tymoshenko, during the election campaign, promised her party would push for canceling the mandatory military draft service in Ukraine from early 2008, replacing it with professional army.
But this and some other Tymoshenko’s initiatives were later criticized by Viktor Baloha, the chief of staff at the presidential office.
He said canceling the military draft immediately would pose a security and defense threat to the state, and said that the constitution lets the president take decisions that involve security and defense issues.
“According to the constitution, the head of state provides national security, including the issues of the defense, military and defense cooperation and energy,” Baloha said in a statement.
Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, the presidential loyalist, has said earlier this year that the soonest when Ukraine can possibly cancel the draft is early 2010. He cited a number of security and financial reasons, including the need to dramatically increase spending on the army, as major hurdles that prevent quick switch to the professional army.
Tymoshenko’s economic initiatives criticized by the presidential office include a promise to quickly pay out 127.5 billion hryvnias, or $25.5 billion, in bank deposits that had been owed to people since the collapse of the former Soviet Union. (by Olena Banas)