KIEV, Jan. 27 – President Viktor Yushchenko alleged Sunday that Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been seeking to sell state power assets to her opponents through non-transparent arrangements to win greater legislative support for her government.
Yushchenko, who cited undisclosed sources for the intelligence, warned the government against any plans for the privatizations and pledged to take immediate action to stop them.
“I’ve got the signals that the privatization may appear to be simply a transfer of power distribution assets to certain [lawmakers] to make sure they vote in line with somebody’s wishes,” Yushchenko said in an interview with Studio 1+1 late Sunday.
“Unfortunately, the signals are there, and when time comes my reaction will be immediate,” Yushchenko said. “For now I am simply warning that I’ve been informed, I’ve got mail, and I will press firmly for conducting a reasonable privatization of assets, not the sell-off of Ukraine.”
The comment is an attack on the government of Tymoshenko, underscoring complicated relations between the president and the prime minister, despite the fact that both supposed to be united in a pro-Western coalition.
This is the second warning issued by the president to the Tymoshenko government over the past two weeks. Yushchenko demanded the government must not revise gas transit fees that Ukraine charges Russia for shipments of gas to the EU, but Tymoshenko had insisted the fees must be increased.
The pro-Western coalition commands a slim majority of 227 votes in the 450-seat Parliament, which makes the government vulnerable. By selling the power assets to undisclosed members of the opposition, the government could technically increase legislative support for some of its controversial initiatives that otherwise may not have been approved.
One such initiative might be the nomination of Serhiy Portnov, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, to the post of chairman of the State Property Fund, the government’s privatization agency, analysts said.
Portnov is thought to be one of the strongest lawyers focusing on privatization issues, and critics said Tymoshenko may be planning to use his skills to re-privatize some of the assets that had been earlier sold to some of her foes.
Portnov’s nomination is apparently not favored by some lawmakers within Our Ukraine-People’s Self-defense, Tymoshenko’s coalition partner, but the attraction of some votes from the opposition groups may help Portov’s approval.
“Now, of course, I believe that Parliament will approve decision to appoint Portnov as the new chairman of the SPF,” Tymoshenko said in an interview with ICTV television Sunday. “His candidacy has been nominated: we’re talking about Serhiy Portnov.”
Tymoshenko defended the nomination, which she said is aimed at eliminating corruption at the SPF, which is currently led by Valentyna Semeniuk, a member of the Socialist Party.
“Under Semeniuk, the SPF has been operating at the most corrupt schemes,” Tymoshenko said. “We will prove this on tens of enterprises that had been transferred to well-connected people for unrealistic prices lowered by thousands times.”
Tymoshenko pledged to go ahead with her commitment to return what she claims illegally sold assets to the state by winning court rulings.
“If the court stipulates that there was something illegal, the state will be selling those enterprises legally in a clean and transparent way,” Tymoshenko said. (tl/ez)