KIEV, Aug. 18 – President Viktor Yushchenko’s office alleged Monday that Moscow plans to spend $1 billion to support Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at the next presidential election in Ukraine in exchange for her pro-Russian stance.
Andriy Kyslynskiy, a deputy chief of staff at the office, said a secrete team has already been set up in Moscow to map out and to finance the Tymoshenko campaign in Ukraine.
He said the team is led by Viktor Medvedchuk, Yushchenko’s biggest foe and the alleged mastermind of the massive presidential election fraud that eventually triggered the Orange Revolution in November 2004.
“We stated last week there was information that Tymoshenko had been systemically working in favor of Russian interests,” Kyslynskiy said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this information gets further confirmation.”
Kyslynskiy, who did not disclose what information exactly had been obtained, added it had been submitted to law enforcement agencies for investigation.
Tymoshenko, who is currently vacationing on the island of Sardinia off the Italian coast, was not available for comment on Monday. Her party loyalists on Monday denied the allegations as a “hysterical statement.”
However, Stanislav Belkovskiy, a well-connected Moscow-based political scientist, said Monday that some Russian security services have been actively pushing for making Tymoshenko “the partner of the Kremlin.”
Belkovskiy also said that Tymoshenko has been actively cooperating with Medvedchuk.
Yushchenko two weeks ago accused Tymoshenko of undermining Ukraine’s security interests when she had unexpectedly postponed several important energy projects aimed at reducing dependence on Russian energy imports.
One project, led by U.S. oil company Vanco Energy, was aimed at starting development of an off-shore oil and gas field in the Black Sea, while another was aimed at starting Caspian Sea oil shipments via Ukraine to the European Union.
Tymoshenko cited unspecified corruption allegations for postponing both projects in a move that had de-facto strengthened the Russian energy monopoly in the region.
But perhaps more articulate was Tymoshenko’s silence in response to an invasion of Russian troops and tanks into Georgia, a small country and an ally of Ukraine, which had put the world on the brink of the new cold war.
By contrast, Yushchenko played a crucial role in rallying early international support for the pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
“Obviously, there is no way back for Tymoshenko,” Kyslynskiy said. “That explains her position towards the war in Georgia – she does not have a room for political maneuver.”
Moscow, which controls all Russian television, is thought to have some influence on the Russian-speaking people in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions.
Moscow is thought to have spent $800 million to support its favorite candidate Viktor Yanukovych, a former pro-Russian prime minister, who had lost to the election to pro-Western Yushchenko following a popular uprising against the election fraud in November 2004.
There were earlier reports of Tymoshenko actively cooperating with Medvedchuk, who is thought to have drafted constitutional amendments reducing Yushchenko’s powers.
The amendments, which Tymoshenko has been seeking to approve in May, failed after the Regions Party had withdrawn its support, following separate talks with Yushchenko, people familiar with the situation said.
Medvechuk is known to have close personal relations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his patron, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin is the godfather for Medvedchuk’s four-year old daughter.
Belkovskiy said Tymoshenko has been actively cooperating with Medvedchuk, but also with Volodymyr Satsiuk, a former top SBU security service official who had fled to Russia.
Satsiuk is wanted in Ukraine for his alleged role in the poisoning of Yushchenko with dioxin in September 2004. Satsiuk hosted a dinner at which Yushchenko is believed to have been poisoned.
Moscow recently granted Satsiuk the Russian citizenship making his extradition to Ukraine impossible.
“It’s not a secret that Yulia Volodymyrivna [Tymoshenko] is cooperating with Medvedchuk, and Satsiuk is also from Medvedchuk’s team,” Belkovskiy told Ukrayinska Pravda online newspaper in an interview published Monday.
“Yulia Volodymyrivna receives information from Russia through Satsiuk,” Belkovskiy said. “Also, Russian security agencies, which actively work with Satsiuk, are actively pushing for making Tymoshenko the partner of the Kremlin.”
When reporter asked to provide more details on the issue, Belkovskiy said: “I already said too much. If I start to elaborate, our next meeting will be at my funeral.” (tl/ez)