: 28-02-2003
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An observer from abroad

Eighteen months remain in President Leonid Kuchmas term in office so now might be an appropriate time to sit back and admire what he and his commanders have managed to do to the country in the 7 1/2 years during which they held almost total power over the economic and political life of Ukraine .

The history of the Kuchma presidency is yet to be written and it might take decades before an objective analysis can be done. At the present however, a few commentaries can be made about the results thus far of his reign and the current situation in Ukraine.

The rule of Leonid Kuchma began in a period of turmoil and there were hopes that he would resolve some of the more drastic problems facing the young country. Inflation was out of control, the economy was a mess and the previous President, Leonid Kravchuk, was incapable of a vision for the country. A complex person, Kravchuk had few strong views. A communist functionary, an ideologue, he was often susceptible to the views of the person who last spoke to him. He was also chained to the old communist network of enterprise managers, KGB generals, ministers and various charlatans who surrounded him and used him to advance themselves. A handsome man and a natural orator with a charismatic personality, unlike his successor, he looked like a president but was incapable of providing leadership. He did however become a part of history by signing the agreement to disband the USSR, an act which for many people redeemed him of any sins he might have had. It also made him the hated enemy of thousands of members of the Soviet nomenclature, people who saw the end to their privileged existence.

After him came Leonid Danylovych Kuchma, the penultimate Soviet military industrial complex manager from Dnipropetrovsk. A russified Ukrainian who never in his wildest dreams imagined that he would someday become the President of an independent Ukraine, he brought into his first administration arrogant and hungry men. Dmytro Tabachnik was one such member of the new team. A very ambitious young man, Dima felt he could manipulate Kuchma to his likings and get rich in the process. It was soon afterwards that the first scandals surfaced; the Tabachnik apartment, his bogus military promotion, and his swinish behavior towards other members of the administration all this showed that something was beginning to rot and stink. Then greater scandals appeared Fima Zviahilsky, the one time acting Prime Minister ran off to Israel with tons of money in fear of his life. He reappeared suddenly in Kyiv, having made the wise decision to share his stolen wealth with certain very high officials which made forgiveness possible and which he should have done in the first place. Fima returned to his empire in Donbas to attend the countless funerals of miners killed in the Zasiadko coal mine which he controlled and never did bother to make safe. This, after all, might have cost him some money. In everlasting gratitude for these heroic efforts, Kuchma awarded Fima recently with the status of Hero of Ukraine.

Then came the legendary Lazarenko escapades; the Pustovojtenko reconstruction of the Palace of Culture of Ukraine at hugely inflated costs which no doubt were pocketed by somebody close to if not at the very center of power in the country. Then there was Tkachenko and his Zemlya i lyudy fraud which a magnanimous Kuchma forgave him for as long as he would stop his bid for the presidency. Then Ihor Bakaj was caught sticking his greasy little hands into the pockets of Naftogas Ukraine and building his tiny mansion in Florida, which he, as an obedient son in law, gave to his mother in law. Kindly old Mykola Azarov, then the head of the tax administration, knew all about it, but forgave young Igoryok for his dumb actions. Kuchma worried about young Ihor, he was, after all, a major contributor to the cause of Kuchma and he knew that not all the money that stuck to Ihors beak stayed there, some of it went to him, as it should have.

But old Kolya Azarov had other problems as well. One of his chief administrators responsible for the tax police was running a racket by confiscating goods and then re-selling them to his friends. Numerous Mercedes, some of them stolen in West Germany, tons of flour and other goodies were for sale. Soon the man responsible for this racket, Vyacheslav Piskun, was able to buy himself a very expensive Rolex, a few nice suits and respectability in the eyes of his superiors. His activity was not ignored and Piskun was nominated to become the General Prosecutor of the country when the ancient Mykola Potebenko was finally sent out to pasture in the hallways of the Verkhovna Rada after having protected the President and his men from long jail sentences for their activities.

The other stars in this grade B movie were the young, born-again Christian Andriy Derkach who had a way with fraud and whos Papa just happened to be the head of the SBU. Then there was the not-too-pleasant Aleks Volkov, the portly gent with bank accounts in Belgium where he was parking a lot of cash in what was part of a massive capital flight scheme from Ukraine to off-shore havens. There were the boys from Donetsk who at first only acted and looked like 1930s Chicago hoods, but eventually proved that they were just that. And when one of them was made Prime Minister by the Capo di Tuto in Kyiv, was there ever a celebration in the prisons of the Donbas. One of their alumnae had made good.

The first Kuchma administration did not produce any economic breakthroughs. He did not make the country an investor friendly place and could not and did not want to hear of reforms of any type. Yes, they went to Washington and Berlin where they promised reforms by the ton, but soon the West realized that they were dealing with con artists and that it was prudent to hide the silverware when they came to town.

By the year 2000, and the beginning of the new millennium, the boys in Kyiv decided to celebrate and really jumped the leash. First they attempted to sell some radar to the Iraqs. Kuchma knew a good deal when he saw it and when the opportunity arose he went for it. A hundred million is real money and Sadam would pay it. The problem was that Derkach and his SBU were simply incompetent and probably could not deliver the damn things to the Iraqs, try as they did. But Kuchma did make an honest attempt. It was to cost him plenty of lost sleep later. Then came this Gongadze matter. This arrogant young journalist was drinking their blood and something had to be done. Yura Kravchenko, the tough cop knew what to do with punks like Gongadze; kick him in the groin a few times and he would remain silent and cease bothering men of authority like his Papa- Danylovych. The court plagiarizer Yura Lytvyn, the intellectual of the bunch, saw a great opportunity for his own career and kept placing copies of Gongadzes articles in front of Danylovich just to spoil his day. Lyonia Derkach and his poorly trained SBU circus act kept up the rear of the plot. So Gongadze was killed. The cynical men named above just wrung their hands and told Yura Kravchenko to round up the usual suspects Moroz, Tymoshenko, the CIA, Freedom House and lock them all up. When Danylovich himself, known for his liberal views on freedom of the press, proclaimed that he was taking charge of the investigation it became clear that he was behind the murder all along.

The apologetic politologists were called in to justify matters to the mobs on the street. Volodya Malenkovych, known for his lack of conviction about anything except his overblown ego, immediately identified the problem it was the Brzezinski Plan, a devious plot by the former National Security Advisor to the Carter Administration who together with his former students and spies wanted to sell Ukraine to the bloody Americans. In order to do so, Malenkovych lectured to the bewildered masses; they had Gongadze killed in order to discredit the kindly and decent Leonid Danylovich and replace him with the husband of a known CIA operative, Viktor Yushchenko.

As the uninformed public listened in awe to this terrible plot, the James Bond of Ukraine, Lyonia Derkach, came forward to whisper into their ears, yes, it is the husband of Katia Chumachenko, she is the spy among us, the agent of influence who recruited the innocent banker Victor and now is planning to make Ukraine into one of the states of the United States. Now this was not a bad idea in the minds of most of the population as the boys in Bankivska soon discovered and the plot was quickly abandoned. Malenkovych was sent packing back into political exile and a new theory had to be concocted.

Then along came the Major. Mykola Melnychenko and his library of recordings, the top 10 hits in Ukraine for years to come pushed the old regime to the brink. These were old songs, but sung by the original performers. Did they ever stir up the hornets nest. People could now hear for themselves how their fates were decided. It was recorded in the original language, no subtitles or dubbings, no beeps in those places where the performers used what was politely called inappropriate language, the language of mobsters. But they were mobsters so why should they not talk like mobsters? Even Dick Nixon would have blushed.

There was Slava Pikhovshchyk, Mister Epicenter himself, telling his krysha that he was a loyal soldier of the revolution; Leonid Bondovich Derkach gleefully showing the Papa transcripts of illegal wiretapped telephone conversations between Grisha Omelchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. Papa himself was heard complaining about the Jews who were everywhere and who were trying to do him in.

Then there was Yura Kravchenko bragging to the duly elected President about his Eagles and how they would do in Gongadze. And there was the late Malev patiently explaining to the commander in chief how he could make 100 million bucks by selling 4 radars to Sadam and the voice of the greedy Danylovych Do it.

With all of this in hand, one would expect that if there was a political opposition in the country, they would manage to dump this President and the crooks beside him and reestablish democratic and lawful rule in the country. But then again, this was Ukraine, not some hole in the ground third world country.

The opposition turned out to be a strange and incompetent bunch as the nation was soon to discover. Yushchenko, the leader of the pack, turned out to be something less then forceful by his kowtowing approach to Kuchma and his deeds. Moroz was fixated on some obscure Masonic lodge who, he claimed, secretly ruled the country. This might have been a popular theory in the beer halls of Munich and Lisbon in the 1930s, but not for a political movement in the year 2003. Yulia was just trying to avoid a long jail term for her alleged misdeeds during the reign of Pavlo Lazarenko.
Having used Melnychenko to the hilt, they soon abandoned him to the likes of Oleksander Zhyr and his comrades who were conducting a partisan war with the apparent purpose of discrediting Melnychenko.

Comrade Symonenko, still waging the class struggle, slowly paraded his legions of the retired proletariat up and down the Khreshchatyk. As they carried their icons of Stalin, Brezhnev and Lenin, they were followed by ambulances, which stopped now and then to pick up the exhausted.

Seeing this, the Kuchma people did some rapid calculations and came up with the idea that it was time to pull a few fast moves. First they got into bed very quickly with Vova Putin. Vova, who himself was not a novice to such matters, showed a great deal of brotherly concern and understanding to the younger brothers in Kyiv and agreed to become their krysha. Soon afterwards Leonid Danylovych was crowned the king of the CIS. That Ukraine was not a member of this organized crime group did not matter. Then the boys from Gazprom began putting the pressure on Bakajs friends and took over control of the gas pipeline going through Ukraine to Western Europe. This was the price that the krysha demanded so they paid. They werent happy with it, but who cared. The ambassador from Gazprom to Ukraine, Vitya Chernomyrdin, only rubbed his hands in merriment as he cooked shashliks in Bakajs former dacha which was now his.

Then it was decreed that a Year of Russia in Ukraine would be held. 350 years was not enough, so another year would do no harm. The Grand Dame of Ukraine, the wife of the head of the CIS, went to Moscow to celebrate the inauguration of this inevitable year. There, at a televised party she mingled with such Russian gangsters as Josef Kobson and pledged eternal love and devotion to the Russian mob.

At this time a new Prime Minister had to be found who would both reflect the existing political realities and help shoulder the moral obligations of the Ukrainian president to his nation. The earlier version, Kinakh, was viewed as somewhat of a wimp. He was loyal, but did not talk their talk, he used big words and did not make himself or his intentions understood to his superiors. So Danylovych turned to someone close to him. Having a similar moral perspective and a deep understanding of the ways of wielding power in a modern democratic state, Vitya Yanukovich was the perfect choice. An educated man who earned a few bucks on the side from lecturing and writing, he was also a humble and modest man who received a monthly state subsidy, food stamps if you will, in order to make ends meet. He was also rumored to be a gentle and sensitive man who reportedly cried at the numerous funerals of his close co-workers who had been murdered by some of his other close co-workers in Donetsk.

But then the unexpected happened. The Bush administration decided that Sadam was evil. It was a revelation which came to them in their sleep no doubt, something which the Good Lord decided to share with Bush and Rumsfeld. So the war drums began beating in Washington once again. Out of the dustbin came the Kolchuga and Danylovychs evil little attempt to hoard even more bucks for his grandsons education. Danylovych, who saw himself as the living Buddha, the very incarnation of Mother Ukraine herself, was livid. The word went out from Medvedchuk, the new cardinal of Bankivska that Ukraine, not Kuchma, was being accused by the warmongers in the Pentagon of having aided and abetted the terrorists in Baghdad. Cries of distress were heard from all quarters of official Kyiv. There was Marchuk, the gray ghost of arms sales, lecturing the parish that this was not so. Horbulin, who had hoped to share in the profits from the sale of the Kolchugas, shook his bald head in disbelief. Derkach simply hid in his bunker. Even the ultimate krysha, Vova Putin, was helpless in countering the charges. Uncle Sam had spoken and said very plainly that Kuchma was a crook, that the Melnychenko recordings were genuine, and crooks had to be isolated from children.

Soon Tolya Zlenko, the Father of Ukrainian diplomacy got into the act as well. Having spent his years in the foreign ministry looking for strategic partners under whatever rock they might be hiding, Zlenko came out swinging. Lies he yelled, but was duly dismissed by all as some sort of eccentric.

The opposition in the meantime was now looking for Masons under the Presidents sofa now that the Toshiba recorder was safely stored in Zhyrs refrigerator. Interestingly enough, not one leader of the opposition took a stand on the Kolchuga issue. Moroz made some noise about it, but they were merely whimpers. Yulia pleaded virginity on this one and Yushchenko did not recall the event since he was only Prime Minister at the time and nobody bothered to tell him about anything. Symonenko, a pal of Sadams, only muttered that they should have sold Iraq more Kolchugas in order to defeat the imperialists.

The Americans in the meantime could not find the Kolchugas in Iraq, or anything else for that matter, and were getting impatient to start a war. The French and the Germans were being bullheaded and refused to go along with what seemed a very bad idea. NATO, even without Ukraine as a member, was in the process of falling apart. Putin, who wanted a free hand at murdering his own countrymen in Chechnya and in theaters in Moscow, played on the paranoia of the Yanks. Then Washington had another brilliant idea, why not bury the hatchet with the Ukrainians, well put the Kolchuga on the back burner and get them to help us fight the infidels in Iraq. Kuchma, who needed to be loved, immediately went along with this brilliant piece of diplomacy which even Henry Kissinger would have been proud of. So the word went out, we are back in the good graces of the Americans, the Melnychenko plot failed, and we can return to our bad old ways once more.

Money laundering taking place in Ukraine you ask? Who us? After a brief flirtation with imposing sanctions on Ukraine the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, decided that the new law passed by Parliament was good enough to stop any sanctions, if not the laundering itself. Besides, Ukraine was needed in the effort to protect Western civilization from the Islamic hordes. This came as an immense relief to Volkov, Pinchuk, Medvedchuk, Bakaj, Surkis, Akhmetov and other practitioners of the art who had nightmares over this attempt to civilize Ukraine.

Along with Yanukovych came a new, fresh face, the token representative of the younger generation, untainted by past wrongdoings and scandal. It was the new Minister of Economy Valeriy Khoroshkovsky. Some sinister voices claimed that he was a tool of Pinchuk, but these were voices of malcontents. In order to maintain balance and not allow things to get out of hand, Dima Tabachnik was resurrected. The same old sleazy Dima, was back on the bandwagon now as Minister of Humanitarian, believe it or not, Affairs. The oil, coal and gas Ministers were from Donetsk and were seen hanging out in the corridors in their fedoras scaring children and even the young and still pious Derkach was now overseeing atomic energy, a marvelous place where to earn a few bucks on the side. Yura Kravchenko returned from exile to head the Tax Administration which came as a relief to numerous businessmen who feared that bribes might no longer work to get them off the hook. Yuras appointment calmed their anxiety.

Khoroshkovsky was sent off to Washington to make an impression on the newly re-established relationship with the Washington crusaders for Christ and civilization. He came back glowing from their holy touch on his shoulder. He really didnt do anything in Washington, but at least he didnt screw it up.

The new General Prosecutor, Piskun, having narrowly escaped prosecution for running a racket at the tax administration, promised to find Gongadzes killers in 6 months. After 8 nobody was found.
His main task was clear, it was to lock up Yulia and protect the living Buddha. He did promise to lock up Bakaj, but this remains to be seen in light of his earlier unfulfilled promise to find Gongadzes killers.

The new head of the SBU, Volodya Radchenko, sat silently in his fortress afraid to burp in public. His command over an inept and corrupt structure was impressive in that it managed to stay out of the public eye and not get caught with its fingers on the till.

The politologists from the past were busy looking to provide cheap advice to anyone who bothered to listen to them anymore. Malenkovych, who was once again screwed by Kuchma and not been made a Minister in the new cabinet, became angry and yet again reverted to his anti-Kuchma stance. Pohrebinsky led the herd as they walked on hot coals and swore that it was ice.

The opposition in the meantime was busily trying to outmaneuver itself. Yushchenko was off again on his own tangent making incomprehensible remarks in Washington, Yulia was sipping tea with Berezovsky in London while Moroz was still exposing Masonry in the woodwork on Bankivska. Only Symonenko remained true to the cause of the world proletariat revolution as he stood with tears in his eyes at the memory of the good old days of Volodya Shcherbytsky.

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