Tymoshenko: The Last Tour

Recently, the Ukrainian media, and especially social networks, have been filled with “exclusive insiders” about an “agreement between Kolomoisky and Tymoshenko“. Allegedly unhappy with the government of “Soros hatchlings”, the oligarch promised Tymoshenko the position of Prime Minister.

Theoretically, all of this could be true. Kolomoisky is certainly unhappy with the government of Goncharuk, who sees himself as being capable of leading an independent political party. Kolomoisky could not only meet Tymoshenko and discuss with the ambitious lady the option of a joint fight against the government of grant-eaters, with the subsequent sharing out of posts, but also even promise something. He could even promise the premiership.

But he clearly does not plan (and did not plan) to keep those promises. This is indirectly evidenced by the leak of information about the meeting. Kolomoisky is quite capable of organising a meeting in order to confirm the subsequent “insiders” about the specific issues that were discussed during the meeting by the very fact of the meeting itself. But if Kolomoisky was really going to propel Tymoshenko to the premiership instead of Goncharuk, no one would know about it. It is not a fact that at such an early stage even Tymoshenko herself would know about it.

Kolomoisky could certainly split the “Servants of the People” faction and deprive the government of its majority. But the votes of his personal deputies, together with 25 deputies from Tymoshenko’s faction, will clearly not suffice for a vote of no confidence in the current Cabinet of Ministers, or for the formation of a new government. It is necessary to involve Medvedchuk, Vakarchuk, Poroshenko, and all non-factionals. It should also be noted that 28 of the 450 seats in the Rada are vacant. This creates an unusual situation. Previously, if the government did not have 226 votes, then the opposition had them, i.e., the collapse of one coalition provided an opportunity to lay down a new one. Now, half of the actual number of deputies is 211 people. I.e., there may be a situation where no group will have the majority necessary to form a government coalition. In such a situation, Tymoshenko’s asset of 25 votes is clearly insufficient to secure a claim to the Prime Minister’s post.

We remember, of course, that Tymoshenko had a reputation of being a tough, purposeful, and charismatic politician, capable of achieving victory in a completely losing situation. Once she managed to show results in elections 1.5-2 times more than sociologists predicted, building up potential through an active and aggressive electoral campaign.

But that was a long time ago. She has never achieved any notable success since Yanukovych lost the 2010 presidential election. In fact, the loss itself was a catastrophe. Tymoshenko entered the electoral campaign from the position of Prime Minister and recognised leader of the Orange winners of the first Maidan. Yanukovych was not just an opposition leader, but a man who twice disappointed his voters with insensitivity. The first time he surrendered it was in front of the first Maidan (although he had every opportunity and reason not to surrender). The second time he surrendered was during Yushchenko‘s illegal dissolution of Parliament in 2007 – he agreed to hold an early election at a time when the second (after Maidan) Yushchenko coup completely failed and Yushchenko could be handcuffed.

In general, with all the disappointment of the people in Maidan, it was necessary to be able to lose in such a situation. Tymoshenko managed to do it. Then there was prison, towards which she literally thrusted herself, wrongly believing that Yanukovych would not dare and the West would not allow her to be imprisoned. He dared and they allowed it. While Tymoshenko was drinking blood from the prison authorities, former associates dismantled her party structures for spare parts and did not really wait for her to return. Tymoshenko’s attempt to ride Maidan immediately after leaving prison failed – she was booed. The West, too, has placed a stake on others and for the second consecutive election it is forced to settle for a consolation prize in the form of a marginal faction in the Rada.

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It is the 10th year since Tymoshenko last rose the podium of Ukrainian politics. During this time, two generations of politicians have come and gone. At first came the “field commanders” of the second Maidan and ATO battalion commanders. In 2019 they were replaced by a young nationalist team of hodgepodge “servants” of Zelensky. Tymoshenko for these new generations is like Khrushchev for Breshko-Breshkovskaya, who, of course, is the “grandmother of the Russian Revolution”, but Khrushchev is clearly not her grandson or even a distant relative.

The “feats” of Tymoshenko remain in the distant past. They were overshadowed by a bloody coup and the ensuing civil war that gave the country new “heroes”. Regaining influence is unrealistic. The people have a constant request for someone new and unsullied (through which, by the way, they were sold Zelensky), but Tymoshenko is old and tiresome.

In general, she has no faction, no street, no sponsors. Tymoshenko, of course, is not poor, but in Ukraine no one (except Andrey Kluyuev) ever finances their political projects from their own pocket – they finance it exclusively using attracted money.

If it weren’t for Tymoshenko’s ambitions, it could be assumed that Kolomoisky sees her as a technical Prime Minister, fulfilling his will without complaints. But in Ukraine everyone (and Kolomoisky more than others) knows that if Tymoshenko gets a chance, in the form of a given premiership, she will start fighting for the presidency. She sees herself as a sole leader, hates her colleagues in the oligarchic class, and burns with a thirst for revenge against anyone who has somehow offended her along the long life path. And Tymoshenko is very sensitive.

Kolomoisky knows this, Akhmetov knows this, Pinchuk knows this, and Poroshenko knows this. They also know that if power is in Tymoshenko’s hands, in the scenario that is best for themselves they will be naked-barefooted and outside the country. None of them would risk giving a lady’s grip a chance. This was already visible in the election of Zelensky. Leading up to December 2018, Tymoshenko was strangling everyone. Even Poroshenko was led into the second round of voting instead of her in order to be safe.

But why not make use of Tymoshenko in the dark? Especially since it is Kolomoisky’s favourite method. Meet, talk about the prospects of joining forces, and even promise something. Tymoshenko does not have so many proposals that she can immediately abandon such a promising option. She must take time out to reflect, but is unlikely to refuse the offer and make the contents of the conversation public. Then it is possible to organise a leak of information through media outlets not directly connected to Kolomoisky. Journalists and their “sources” may even sincerely believe that they obtained this information on their own. And now everyone knows that Kolomoisky agrees with Tymoshenko concerning the division of power.

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I think that’s what happened. You ask why Kolomoisky would opt for this? Too many are playing against him: Goncharuk’s government, the US Democrats, the IMF, some Ukrainian oligarchs. He is not supported by anyone, neither by Trump’s team, nor by Russia, nor by the Europeans. Even his own fosterling Zelensky keeps conditional loyalty to him only out of fear. But will this fear last long? Moreover, it’s an unreliable method. A man with fright sometimes kills. Zelensky too, having finally lost his head from fear, can decide to rebel against Kolomoisky. Avakov is a partner, while he still brings benefits, but he will not sacrifice himself for Kolomoisky’s cause. In general, Kolomoisky has more and more enemies, and his situational allies are unreliable.

Now we will assess the development of the situation in the last six months. Media controlled by Kolomoisky and his contact with Russia during this period several times (for no apparent reason) offered a reminder of the legend that during the 2010 election Russia was betting on Tymoshenko. In fact, the Kremlin was not enthusiastic about both favourites of the race, but at the last minute still opted for Yanukovych. And the “Party of Regions” knew about it. It was no coincidence that the Kharkov Agreements were signed, and then the team of Yanukovych/Azarov hoped for quite some time to renegotiate Tymoshenko’s gas contract.

But if Tymoshenko is a long-time favourite of the Kremlin, then cooperation with her can be imagined as achieving a mutual understanding with Russia. I think that it is not by chance that the rumour about Tymoshenko arose at the same time as Kolomoisky’s statement about Russia’s unbridled desire to give him $100 billion for the development of Ukraine. Further, it is no secret to anyone in Ukraine that for a long time (in 2005-2010) Medvedchuk considered Tymoshenko as an extremely promising politician and tried to create various political combinations with her participation. But in Ukraine Medvedchuk is also associated with the Kremlin. Moreover, they are afraid of him, since he is a very secretive person and knows how to surprise with unexpected steps and alliances that are considered to be impossible.

The Kolomoisky/Tymoshenko/Medvedchuk/Kremlin line is supposed to line up in the brains of Ukrainian politicians immediately. For them, in the created conditions, this is a terrible alliance. It is enough to re-format Zelensky correctly (or organise an early presidential election by replacing him with some promising blogger) as the next step, this team can organise an early parliamentary election (which Kolomoisky has already talked about) and, by concentrating on the votes of the southeast, as well as the moderate pacifists of the center, north, and west, get a pro-Russia parliamentary majority.

In fact, through one meeting with Tymoshenko and a leak of information about this meeting, which has no real support or political reserves, Kolomoisky creates the impression within the country and beyond that he has trump cards in his hands.

And then, as he believes, they should come to bargain and he will sell to the Americans, Europeans, and Ukrainian oligarchs the rejection of a nonexistent deal with Russia as his concession for more than real financial, economic, and political preferences. He needs the Americans to close the criminal cases initiated against him. The IMF is demanded to waive the requirement for the immediate sale of land to foreigners and restore credit to Ukraine. From the Ukrainian government and the president it is demanded to return “Privatbank“, and even better – pay compensation ($3 billion). From the Europeans it is required to maintain the political line of giving unconditional support to Ukraine.

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Certainly the operation is risky. The world is small and the Tymoshenko-PM scam may well become surface. Therefore, Kolomoisky veils it with allegedly ongoing negotiations on a similar topic with Khoroshkovsky. The latter is an ideal technical Prime Minister, if not for one “but” – he is extremely unreliable, and at any moment can defect to enemies. But the rest are no better. Again, Khoroshkovsky does not need to know Kolomoisky’s plans. He can be quietly used in the dark, along with Tymoshenko, having held one or more relevant conversations with him.

The task of Kolomoisky is to ensure that what can be verified confirms the information he needs people to know: there were negotiations with Tymoshenko and Khoroshkovsky, and the question of the premiership was discussed or the corresponding hints were made. And people will think up the rest themselves.

He would outplay Ukrainians and Europeans with one touch. The United States and Russia have sufficiently powerful and qualified intelligence agencies capable of obtaining information about the real state of affairs. But, firstly, Kolomoisky has nowhere to go, either he “leads Ukraine down the aisle”, or he is “led to the prosecutor”. Secondly, he doesn’t need to win against everyone at once at the first stage. To begin with, Kolomoisky needs to strengthen his position in Ukraine, and then, relying on his home base, he will try to bargain with Moscow and/or Washington.

The calculation is simple: while in real time (“behind the board”) the Kremlin and the White House will find out what Kolomoisky is seeking and decide what counter-measures to take, bluffing should have the necessary impact on the intellectually poor, narrow-minded Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. And after they surrender to Kolomoisky, he will actually have a springboard via which he can try to play on US-Russia contradictions. The fact that Kolomoisky overestimates the strength of this springboard and his ability to separate Moscow and Washington, like with Pinchuk and Akhmetov, is secondary. As has been said, he still has no other option. He can try, maybe it will work out.

Of course, with such a game on paper sometimes there are the most unexpected combinations, up to the real premiership of Tymoshenko. But the chance of the stars aligning that way is vanishingly small, no more than 1%. And when calculating options for the development of political (as well as military) operations, such meagre chances are dismissed. Especially since if they come to fruition, they have no impact on the development of the general situation. Like how the unexpected presidency of Zelensky did not (and could not) affect the development of the general situation in Ukraine.

Kolomoisky can beat his Ukrainian competitors, they can beat him, and there can be some third, quite unexpected option. But there will still be no winner among the political forces in Ukraine. The system of an oligarchic republic created there at every next turn of its development leads to the degradation of statehood. I.e., the more ideal the system becomes, the smaller the Ukrainian state. Therefore, with every next “victory” of every next politician, the overall situation becomes worse and worse. “And so endlessly to the end”.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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