Billionaires divvy up the Ukrainian pie


MOSCOW. (Vitaly Portnikov for RIA Novosti) - Political tensions in Ukraine subsided over Easter, but only for a short while.

The warring parties did not even wait for the end of the holidays - foregoing their day off on Monday, MPs gathered for an extraordinary session on April 9.

This shows that tensions will increase even further. Nobody is going to wait for the Constitutional Court to give its verdict. Although the representatives of the ruling coalition and the president's supporters have voiced their readiness to accept its ruling on the president's decision to dissolve parliament, they do not really mean it. The president has made it clear more than once that he is not going to make any concessions. Nor does he have any reservations about ignoring the law.

The coalition is powerful enough to block the elections even if the Constitutional Court decides they should be held - it is enough to recall the Central Election Commission members who suddenly fell ill. In a nutshell, I wouldn't count on a legitimate settlement of the crisis over the presidential decree.

This has been confirmed by, among other things, the constant meetings between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. It would seem they have nothing to talk about after the president's decision to dissolve parliament. Representatives of the clans locked in combat for Ukrainian resources are trying to reach an agreement on spheres of influence. One of the meetings was attended by billionaire Vitaly Gaiduk, who controls the National Security and Defense Council, and Viktor Baloga, who is not so fabulously rich but heads the presidential secretariat and can influence decision-making; another billionaire and Gaiduk's partner, Sergei Taruta, has declared his support for the presidential decree.

Yushchenko and Yanukovych could just as well leave the political arena altogether, and let Donetsk billionaires from Lugansk settle it all with billionaire Rinat Akhmetov from the Donetsk Botanical Gardens because the current conflict does not have an iota of ideology. Nobody is discussing how to run the country; there are no disputes about Ukraine joining NATO or building a single economic space with Russia. What NATO? These people have made their fortunes God-knows-how; they were the backbone of Leonid Kuchma's rule; they have created the worst kind of corporate state imaginable and are robbing its naive people, who find it hard to assume responsibility for the homeland's future. Now they are dividing up Ukraine in a most vulgar manner and using politicians as puppets. Nothing else is taking place in Ukraine, and nothing else will happen there.

For these reasons, analysts like me, who compare the confrontation in Ukraine with the events in Russia in 1993, or Belarus in 1997, are both right and wrong at the same time. In 1993, Russia did not yet have oligarchs who ruled the political elite. They emerged later on - after President Boris Yeltsin destroyed parliamentary democracy, or rather hopes for it, as there was no democracy in Russia at that time. In Ukraine's case, the oligarchs are there and they are running the whole show. They alone will decide the development of what we would like to call the political situation, and the forms of clan-related struggle.

In any event, the Ukrainian confrontation is in its infancy, and the Ukrainian people do not yet have any idea what these forms of struggle might be. Neither do the billionaires know that it's no joke, that their clash may leave heavy wounds on Ukraine's body, that their crude rivalry may call into question even the existence of a young state. But why would they bother about that?

Vitaly Portnikov is editor-in-chief of the newspaper Gazeta 24 in Kiev, Ukraine.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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