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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06KIEV589
2006-02-14 13:10:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Kyiv
Cable title:  

UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION PROVINCIAL SNAPSHOT:

Tags:   PGOV 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIEV 000589 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION PROVINCIAL SNAPSHOT:
CHERNIHIV THEN AND NOW

REF: 04 KIEV 4202

(U) Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.
Not for Internet distribution.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KIEV 000589

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: PRE-ELECTION PROVINCIAL SNAPSHOT:
CHERNIHIV THEN AND NOW

REF: 04 KIEV 4202

(U) Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.
Not for Internet distribution.


1. (SBU) Summary: The north-central province of Chernihiv
offers a snapshot of the changed Ukraine and of the fluid
political dynamics between the 2004 Presidential contest and
the upcoming March parliamentary (Rada) and local elections.
In 2004, Chernihiv witnessed heavy administrative resource
abuses, the planting of "bombs" to compromise pro-democracy
NGO "PORA!" activists, and the only known incident of
official violence against "Orange Revolution" protesters
nationwide, while eventually delivering 71 percent of its
vote to Yushchenko. In 2005, local activism flourished; Our
Ukraine-affiliated governor Vladyslav Atroshenko was forced
from office due to localized protests against his alleged
misdeeds, and the provincial Our Ukraine organization
subsequently resisted national party efforts to include
Atroshenko on the provincial party list. In the run-up to
the 2006 elections, there are no complaints about
administrative resource abuses; the media environment is
unfettered, and the province's votes appear up for grabs,
with Our Ukraine, the Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT), the Socialists,
Regions, and Communists likely to split the vote, leading to
likely coalition arrangements in the provincial and district
councils. End summary.

2004 -- Then: Planted evidence and violence
--------------


2. (SBU) In the run-up to the 2004 Presidential elections,
Chernihiv's Governor Melnychuk, an SPDU(o) ally of Kuchma
Chief of Staff Medvedchuk, facilitated heavy administrative
resource abuses, including pressure on government and
enterprise workers to vote for PM Yanukovych, media
harassment, and the planting of a fake "bomb" in the
apartment of a PORA! activist, the only place outside Kiev
that the police planted such evidence in justifying
wide-scale anti-PORA raids on trumped-up terrorism charges in
late October 2004 (reftel). When 10,000 "Orange" protesters
gathered in Chernihiv's main square after the falsified
November 21 second round of elections and before the December
26 re-run, police used tear gas and percussion grenades in an
attempt to disperse the crowd, sending 30 citizens to the
hospital in the only apparent incident across Ukraine during
the Orange Revolution of law enforcement officials using

violence against a large group of peaceful demonstrators.

2005 -- Local activism brings down a governor
--------------


3. (SBU) Chernihiv's PORA activists continued to agitate
after Yushchenko came to power and appointed as governor his
Presidential Campaign Chair for Chernihiv, local businessman
Vladyslav Atroshenko (b. 1968). Atroshenko ran afoul of both
PORA activist Valeriy Borovyk and Rada Chair of the Committee
to Combat Organized Crime Volodymyr Stretovych (Our Ukraine
electoral bloc). Borovyk accused Atroshenko of embezzling
funds from the 2002 Our Ukraine parliamentary campaign (note:
the accusations were mutual); local protesters picketing the
governor's office also cited a traffic accident, in which a
trail car from Atroshenko's entourage killed a bystander, in
calling for Atroshenko's removal. Stretovych implicated
Atroshenko in a shady privatization deal in Chernihiv;
Atroshenko countered by claiming that Stretovych had his own
business interests in Chernihiv that he was attempting to
boost by scheming for Atroshenko's ouster. In the end,
Yushchenko dismissed Atroshenko December 12, 2005, moving
Sumy governor Mykola Lavryk to Chernihiv.


4. (SBU) In a further sign of local political muscle flexing,
Our Ukraine's Chernihiv provincial party organization
subsequently resisted Our Ukraine's national party
headquarters' attempt to place Atroshenko high on the party's
provincial list, Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU)
Chernihiv head Oleksander Solomakha told us February 13.
Listed at 101 on Our Ukraine's national list, Atroshenko is
on the bubble to make it into the national Rada (Our Ukraine
would have to receive 23 percent of the Rada's 450 seats).

2006 -- Now: Unfettered competition, province up for grabs
-------------- --------------


5. (SBU) Chernihiv's socio-economic-political profile defies
easy categorization. Bordering both Russia and Belarus,
Chernihiv province is roughly split between Russian speakers
in the north and in the cities and Ukrainian speakers in the
south, though the population near Belarus "speaks both
languages with a Belarusian accent," joked deputy governor
Volodymyr Tandura. Chernihiv is also a dying province, its
largely rural current population of 1.2 million dropping
quickly, with only 6-7000 annual births compared to 24-26,000
annual deaths, the worst ratio in Ukraine, according to
Tandura, a former professor and university rector now
responsible for social issues in the oblast administration.
Chernihiv voted communist until the 2002 Rada elections, when
Our Ukraine captured the anti-Kuchma protest vote.


6. (SBU) Both the CVU's Solomakha and "Sivershchina" (The
Northern Lands) newspaper editor Petro Antonenko said that
Chernihiv was fully in play for a range of parties in the
March 26 parliamentary and local elections, and that there
were no signs of the administrative resource abuses that had
occurred in 2004. Our Ukraine, BYuT, the Socialists, Party
of Regions, and the Communists would likely make it into the
provincial Rada, with Rada Speaker Lytvyn's Bloc a
possibility and the SPDU(o)-based Ne Tak bloc an outside
shot. As with the nationwide race, no one party would win a
majority, and a legislative coalition was inevitable. The
race for Chernihiv mayor would be a toss-up between the
non-affiliated incumbent, whom Regions had endorsed,
Socialist MP Ruchkovsky, and a possible late Our Ukraine
entry. Antonenko predicted that control of Chernihiv's 22
local district councils would vary widely, reflecting
localized factors, including the strength and popularity of
various district administrators, most of whom claimed
allegiance to Our Ukraine, with a handful from BYuT,
Kostenko's People's Party, and Lytvyn's Bloc.


7. (SBU) Antonenko noted with evident regret that the
acrimonious autumn break-up of "Team Orange" and the
continued sniping between the Yushchenko and Tymoshenko camps
had damaged the overall level of "Orange" support in the
province. Despite Yushchenko taking 71 percent of the
Chernihiv vote in 2004, there was no guarantee that the
combined share of votes for Our Ukraine, BYuT, and the
Socialists would reach that level in March, Solomakha said,
since part of the pro-Yushchenko vote in 2004, as had been
the case in 2002, was really anti-Kuchma; he predicted that
protest voters disappointed with the lack of progress in 2005
would likely shift to Regions, the Communists, Lytvyn or Ne
Tak.


8. (SBU) Despite Solomakha and Antonenko's assessment that
BYuT had a stronger Chernihiv organization than Our Ukraine,
Our Ukraine had a dominant street presence during our
February 13 visit, with nearly 10 Orange tents set up at
various key intersections, staffed by pairs of orange-clad
campaign workers handing out copies of the party newspaper,
wallet-sized Our Ukraine calendars, and a glossy pamphlet
detailing fulfillment of President Yushchenko's "Ten Points
for the People" Presidential campaign platform. The only
other street presence that we saw was a single Socialist
tent, plus two mobile pickets from Natalya Vitrenko's
Progressive Socialists/People's Opposition bloc protesting
two separate NATO-related roundtables. Apart from one large
Lytvyn Bloc billboard and two sidewalk "Ne Tak" panels
promoting an anti-NATO, pro-Russia position, the billboards
in and around Chernihiv city were split between Our Ukraine,
BYuT, and PORA-Reforms and Order. Clumps of orange ribbons
reminiscent of Yushchenko's 2004 Presidential campaign marked
trees and thickets along much of the 100-plus miles between
Chernihiv and Kiev, thanks to a January 29 Our
Ukraine-sponsored commemoration of the 1919 Kruty massacre,
when 300 young students died in an unsuccessful defense of
the nascent independent Ukrainian state against an arriving
Bolshevik army at the Kruty train station, Chernihiv province.

Orange Revolution's true legacy: change in attitudes
-------------- --------------


9. (SBU) Antonenko summed up the pre-election situation on an
upbeat note: "Those who think the Orange Revolution happened
only in Kiev on the Maidan are mistaken. We had our own
Maidans all over Ukraine, including Chernihiv. Despite the
disappointments of unfulfilled expectations of the past year,
the real change endures in people's attitudes. People now
truly understand what freedom is and know that those in power
must respect and not ignore the people. This will not
change, no matter who wins on March 26."


10. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website at:
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kiev.
HERBST