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14 June, 2013  ▪  The Ukrainian Week

Yulia’s Move

Yulia Tymoshenko`s open letter, questions as to its authenticity and what the opposition is doing

Last week, Yulia Tymoshenko released her latest open letter, which contradicted her unity-oriented rhetoric, causing many to wonder whether the ex-premier had actually written it. During Tymoshenko’s incarceration, her interviews have occasionally appeared in the press, and the party press-service has circulated statements and commentaries on current events. But it has long not been a secret that most of these texts were written at the Batkivshchyna headquarters under the control of its top leadership. As for the last letter, which has caused so much controversy, sources within the party confirm that that it is an authentic appeal, although complete conviction is only possible when one receives it from her own hands.

Tymoshenko’s call to put an end to the provocation of opposition between the government and the opposition along the “fascist” – “anti-fascist ” line and even suspend the Rise Ukraine! campaign for this. Instead, she is proposing “to sit at a round table” with the government in order to determine a plan of action regarding European integration. However, the most telling is the proposal to reject a single candidate in the first round of the election, in order to avoid a struggle among the current opposition threesome for the right to be such a candidate.

Not only opposition supporters, but also numerous party members of the lower, middle and higher echelons of the opposition forces felt that the announcement of such candidate should be a culmination of an entire Rise Ukraine!, and after some time, criticized the resolution approved on May 18 in Kyiv, which did not actually include such decision. Having spoken with some influential people from Batkivshchyna, The Ukrainian Week received explanations regarding one of the possible motivations behind Yulia Tymoshenko’s addresses. Arguably she thus demonstrated that she does not merely want to be a repressed symbol of the opposition, but still has her eye on the status of a real political player that it is too soon to write off. The Rise Ukraine! campaign quickly transformed into a travelling promotion platform for the opposition leaders, who are competing amongst themselves, while slogans for the release of political prisoners and her in particular during these “insurgent actions” ring ever more quietly.

“Yatseniuk is playing for the long-term, which will not end in 2015,” says a well-known member of the opposition who is not the fan of Arseniy Yatseniuk. “Having obtained Batkivshchyna, he will be able to successfully capitalize on this asset in the forthcoming presidential election and strengthen his starting position in the new political cycle.” Tymoshenko possibly considered this scenario, and there is no way that she would be in favour of it. She is not yet ready to declare this openly, so she is coming up with other arguments in favour of a three-pronged attack: a single opposition candidate can only be determined by the electorate with their votes; it is necessary to avoid a repeat of the Kaniv Four (an alliance of presidential candidates in the 1999 presidential election that collapsed eventually); the teams of opposition nominees will be more motivated to work if each works for its own candidate. This is what she or those using her name in this situation think as regards opposition to Arseniy Yatseniuk, which has become more intense in light of his hypothetical entry to Batkivshchyna and his position in its leadership.

In other words, if one assumes that the letter was indeed written personally by Tymoshenko or with her knowledge, this would be evidence that she is seriously concerned with her own political prospects in the new reality, which is forming in Ukrainian politics. She still sees herself as the only agreed nominee with a real chance of defeating Yanukovych, and to achieve this, she expects to be released from prison and have her conviction overturned in the short term. According to this logic, it would be wise for Yulia Tymoshenko to maintain her vagueness on the issue of the nomination of a single opposition candidate for as long as possible, otherwise she will lose her own chance.

However, if the letter was not written by Tymoshenko, then several scenarios are possible. First – the group in Batkivshchyna that is involved in this is trying to use the ex-premier as heavy artillery and last hope in the battle for influence in the party, which they are losing at an alarming rate under the Yatseniuk – Martynenko pressure. The second option – Batkivshchyna is trying to gracefully withdraw from the long-drawn and overall ineffective Rise Ukraine! campaign, and also avoid the nomination of a single candidate, since in light of the latest polls, this could be the leader of UDAR. Or the government is exploiting Yulia Tymoshenko and/or her close circle, (after all, her isolation has escalated of late), which could have persuaded her/them, that “ a war with us will not resolve anything, other than offer dividends to others, but cooperation will win her freedom”. So letters with a content that is beneficial to the Presidential Administration in the name of the imprisoned revolutionary could continue to appear. Subsequent messages signed by Tymoshenko should clarify this situation.

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