Yanukovych fulfilling Yushchenko’s promises?

(Media Credit/Reuters)

By Dan Peleschuk, Graduate student at CERES at the University of Toronto

Ukraine’s tattered opposition has once again been shaken up recently by the Yanukovych administration’s prosecution of key figures, most prominently former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko.

Both stand accused for abuse of office – Tymoshenko for allegedly funneling carbon credit funds to cover a deficit in the pension fund, and Lutsenko for allegedly embezzling state funds. While Lutsenko has been jailed since December 26, Tymoshenko has been questioned by state prosecutors and investigated by top Western auditing firms.

The crackdown comes as no surprise, as Yanukovych has never quite masked his authoritarian tendencies. What’s worth noting, however, is the irony in comparing his and former President Viktor Yushchenko’s presidencies: while Yushchenko staked much of his reputation – and the success of the Orange Revolution – on eliminating corruption, it’s Yanukovych, the Orange “villain”, who has actually followed through.

Of course, the matter is rife with selective justice, as Yanukovych has not gone after any of his own allies (nor is it likely he’ll do so in the future). Yet it’s an indication that his administration, and the Party of Regions, has learned from the unfulfilled promises of the Orange government in eliminating corruption and has sought to capitalize on the public’s general distrust of former Orange politicians.

It remains to be seen whether there’s any credence to the allegations against both Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. No doubt, the move seems designed to cripple the opposition hierarchy. The fact remains, however, that it may prove successful on two fronts: eliminating major opponents of the Yanukovych regime, and potentially wooing a portion of the notoriously disgruntled Ukrainian electorate.


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