KIEV, Dec. 20 – Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday declared a crusade against corruption in Ukraine and promised “no amnesty” to those found guilty of embezzlement or illegal transactions that had benefited them.
Tymoshenko, in her first televised address to the nation since her appointment as premier on Tuesday, pledged to deliver on all her campaign promises - from canceling Ukraine’s military draft to paying out billions of hryvnias in failed Soviet bank debts.
“I want you to mark today’s date on the calendar,” Tymoshenko said in the address aired by Inter, Ukraine’s most popular television channel. “This is the day when the government is turning its face towards the people.”
“We begin the process of cleaning the country and I will make sure that dirty money will not be a factor in Ukrainian politics. Lawmakers will not be purchased as cattle on the marketplace,” she said.
“Besides, those who paid up to $30 million to lawmakers [to switch sides in her approval vote], will not have these shadow millions,” Tymoshenko said.
The carefully staged address and Tymoshenko’s strong remarks were reminiscent of her first arrival as prime minister in early 2005, when she declared a number of initiatives that had later failed.
Two years ago Tymoshenko pledged to redo the privatizations of up to 3,000 companies that she claimed had been illegally sold off by the government in the 1990s. Her government also canceled tax breaks in some regions originally intended for foreign investors.
Both measures then tarnished Ukraine’s investment reputation and forced many to postpone their investments, while domestic businessmen refused to re-invest their profits.
Coupled with weak steel prices on world markets, which reduced Ukraine’s main exports, this led to a major slowdown of the economy, which had registered negative growth seven months after Tymoshenko’s appointment.
This time around, Tymoshenko said her anti-corruption drive would identify - and punish - officials that had embezzled or illegally spent money in the past.
“This does not mean we will announce amnesty to all violators of the law,” Tymoshenko said. “This will not be so.”
“I guarantee that we will check every penny spent, every tender, every license sold and every illegal act,” Tymoshenko said. “Let everybody have no doubt that they will be responsible for all their dark and illegal deeds.”
But Tymoshenko also admitted that her government will probably face major opposition in the anti-corruption campaign.
“I am not naïve and I know that real order in the country is not needed for anybody, except for the people. We realize what colossal opposition we will face from corrupt structures, oligarch groups, sabotaging middle-level bureaucrats, hired experts and political scientists,” she said.
“If they spent millions of dollars to prevent democratic coalition, they will now throw billions to stop our government, to destroy the democratic coalition,” Tymoshenko said. “That’s because they are neither going to clean themselves nor to live in an honest way.” (tl/ez)