After removing Vice Premier Vitaly Haiduk, the Yanukovych Cabinet is faced with serious personnel problems, solving which is easier said than done. Where there are no irreplaceable administrators, Haiduk seems an exception; he had of late proved a brain trust of sorts in the energy sector, and simultaneously, its energy center. Nor had he apparently stood in the way of the Ukrainian industries showing record development rates this year. The situation is aggravated by the fact that winter could not be ousted together with the vice premier. Winter is here and is capable of playing all kinds of dirty tricks. The fuel and energy complex head’s vacancy can be used by this treacherous season to influence the sociopolitical situation.
In a word, Ukraine needs a new vice premier immediately. The coalition of political parties and groups within the parliamentary majority will have to put aside other matters and concentrate on this issue. Who would not want to be at the controls of Fuel and Energy Complex’s not so transparent finance and commodity flows? Among the probable vice premier replacements are Andriy Kliuyev, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Fuel and Energy Complex Committee. Due to certain reasons (such as his Donetsk background, political affiliation, business aspirations, marked professionalism, ability to compromise, and respect for his elders), he could be accepted by the government and its head. Haiduk, nevertheless, is known to have joined the cabinet on the United Social Democratic roster, so the party is not likely to surrender its right of the first night to any other force. First Deputy Fuel and Energy Ministry Yury Boiko, CEO of Naftohaz Ukrainy, is in a similar situation, politically relying on Oleh Dubyna’s authority as former vice premier and current presidential adviser. Boiko is a willful and resourceful administrator. He built NU’s positive loanworthy image in the West (although the company’s tax returns in Ukraine are a different story), succeeded in getting Russian Gazprom’s support and received blessings from the President of Turkmenistan after presenting him with a superbly designed copy of the President’s book, Rukhnama. In the end, Gazprom, set on crowding rivals out of the Turkmenian gas market, lost to Ukraine, reads the Russian electronic periodical RusEnergy (in fact, the said work was promised to be used in Ukrainian schools and colleges as a textbook on spirituality; Mr. Saparmuradov declared in response that he would make a 25-year contract with Kyiv, selling several trillion cubic meters of gas). So much for Boiko’s assets. The liabilities include his scandalous support of putting the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline in the reverse mode, as well as the absence of cabinet work experience. The third likely candidate is the Enerhoatom current President Serhiy Tulub, Ukraine’s first fuel-and-energy minister. While persistently cleaning out the nuclear Augean stables, he keeps silent about his political ambitions and contacts.
This means it is auction time, with the auctioneer closely watching the audience, picking the best bids. There is no ruling out the possibility of his being influenced. To figure out this possibility, suffice it to recall what happened before Haiduk’s retirement.
He was directly responsible for two major Ukrainian projects in the international arena: Odesa-Brody oil pipeline with the international consortium to control the Ukrainian gas transport system, and Ukrainian-Russian contacts in the power engineering domain. Backed by Yanukovych, Haiduk managed to defend the pipeline’s planned usage by and large. It was from the outset meant to transport Caspian oil to Europe. It was not without his involvement that Anatoly Chubais, head of the Unified Energy Systems of Russia, left Ukraine empty-handed (he wanted to boost his electorate ratings by pocketing Ukrainian regional power distribution companies, the oblenerho). It was then that the then vice premier got carried away on the crest of this success. He took the liberty of announcing to the world the end of the consortium, thus breaching an unwritten cabinet code of ethics (the reader ought to remember that Ukraine still has no law on the government). He did so, referring to expert views on the matter. With his lack of political flexibility, Haiduk overlooked the fact that the consortium was not so much an economic as it was a political project, aimed, among other things, at integrating Ukraine in the European community, and that it was blessed with the signatures of the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, and of the German chancellor. “The issue of the consortium (the one controlling the Ukrainian gas transportation system — Author) has been deleted from the agenda,” Vitaly Haiduk resolutely stated, reminding those present that experts had previously ascertained the inexpedience of all other options, except the one of concession. “Does this mean that we are bad administrators? Does it mean that our gas transport system is in a bad condition?” asked Vice Premier Haiduk and explained that Ukraine was prepared to set up a consortium, but only for the construction of another pipeline to transport gas, thus providing for an increase in its extraction, expected by experts (among them those in Russia) in Central Asia.
That was perhaps Haiduk’s worst mistake. As vice premier responsible for the fuel-and-energy complex, above all as a politician, he ought to have realized that no one should try to pull a morsel out of the bear’s mouth if one is to shut its eyes to rivals (such as Turkmenistan and Ukraine) trying to settle on the European gas market. The president instantly responded to the blunder, in many ways refuting myths about SDPU(O)’s omnipotence, as the party appeared unable to protect one of its men in government.
Premier Yanukovych let Haiduk down twice. First, he disavowed his statement about the consortium, stressing that the Ukrainian side had made no decision to deny Ukrainian gas transport concessions to the consortium. And after the presidential edict [removing Haiduk], he weighed him down with a number of fuel and energy problems, saying they were not being solved “as quickly and effectively as demanded by the times... The government, as a solid team, must work to implement set tasks and problems in a concerted and purposeful manner... The times demand from the government a balanced attitude to every issue (and this also relates to important international contracts and projects), and the latest cadre decision concerning Vice Premier Haiduk was caused by the principled stand taken by Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine.”
The Russian side also quickly responded to the then vice premier’s miscalculated move. “The statement made by Haiduk reflects his personal opinion,” Aleksei Gorshkov, head of Governmental Information Department of the Russian Federation, confidently declared. In Kyiv, Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin hurried to point out the success of the Ukrainian-Russian gas consortium talks. “I met with the leadership here in Kyiv Friday, among them people from Moscow responsible for the preparations. They said that we are practically in the home stretch,” he told journalists, adding that “The talks are underway and the last arrangements are being made.”
For this reason, all vice premier candidates are likely to proceed from the above approach, assuring that the consortium project will be approved. At the same time, the tender for the implementation of the powers vested in the vice premier for the fuel and energy complex and industries could cause some confusion in the parliamentary majority’s performance. This would be especially undesirable on the eve of signing an agreement on solidarity between the majority and the cabinet. Judging by what Valery Konovaliuk, first vice chairman of the Budget Committee, had to say, there is a growing trend of backing Yanukovych. “If it comes to removing the prime minister,” said People’s Deputy Konovaliuk, “I just can’t think of another man capable of uniting us and make the situation prior to the election if not victorious, then at least tolerable.” It looks as though Yanukovych’s entourage regarded the situation with Haiduk also as an alarming signal addressing Yanukovych and the rest of the cabinet, and thus they hurried to put forth their counterarguments.