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Tymoshenko political cynicism: fake leak to play nationalist card in Ukraine's presidential election?

Photo: EPA

Hardly had Yulia Tymoshenko returned to Ukraine following her medical treatment in Germany, when she swung into Ukraine's political activities. She said she was going to run for President and then found herself amid a scandal following the publication of her telephone conversation with the former Deputy Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, Nestor Shufrich. Judging by the conversation, Tymoshenko is a radical nationalist. Experts do not rule out that Tymoshenko herself could have leaked the conversation recording to the Internet in a bid to harness Ukraine's new political trend.
"I will use all my contacts and will raise the whole world as soon as I have a chance to ensure that not even a burnt ground will remain of that damned Russia!" is just one, by no means the most incisive statement by Tymoshenko during her conversation with Nestor Shufrich. Tymoshenko, also known as the "Orange Princess", used some swear words when claiming that if she had been in Ukraine, rather than in Germany, at the moment, she would have prevented Crimea from joining Russia. She also said that the eight million Russians that make their home in Ukraine should be shot with atomic weapon. The leader of the Batkivshchina party later confirmed that she had a telephone conversation with Shufrich, but that her words about the eight million Russians had been edited, and that she had instead said that Russians in Ukraine are Ukrainians, according to her tweet. But experts believe that the conversation recording may have been posted on the Internet by someone who is not at all an enemy to Tymoshenko. This is what the head of the Sociology and Social Psychology Department of the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dmitry Yefremenko, says about it in a comment.

"One should be aware of the specifics of Ukraine's political process. Stove piping is an instrument of political struggle, of political standoff, and is used increasingly often in Ukraine today. One can't rule out that the information was deliberately leaked to boost Tymoshenko's approval rating among the more radical part of the Ukrainian electorate".

Following the Kiev revolution Ukraine's nationalists have indeed been at the forefront of developments. But Tymoshenko is a seasoned and sly politician, so she has simultaneously sent a signal to the other part of the electorate, claims political analyst Alexei Vlasov, and elaborates.

"What is most important is that she tweeted afterwards that what she really thinks of Russians in Ukraine is that they are actually Ukrainians. That statement makes her different from those representing Ukraine's right-wing political forces. All that was clearly a show, but I can't quite make out yet just how Tymoshenko is going to hold herself out in the long run".

Experts point out that Tymoshenko has always been known for lack of principles and for pragmatic approach. She is prepared to deny her words and change allies; small wonder then that she has decided to try to play the nationalist card in the run-up to Ukraine's presidential election. This is what Dmitry Yefremenko says about it in a comment.

"She may well radicalize her rhetoric or, conversely, distance herself from what she said. She is a pragmatic person, one could even say, a political cynic, so what always matters most with her is her political survival, her political success".

An important factor that can affect Tymoshenko's use of her nationalist rhetoric will be the way her presidential race rivals will behave. At the moment the "Orange Princess's" approval rating is lower than those of Piotr Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko. But Angela Merkel's protg, the UDAR party leader Vitaly Klitshcko will certainly not play the nationalist card, while Poroshenko referred to the 'Right Sector' as Ukraine's enemy back in December last year. It is therefore reasonable for Tymoshenko to try to attract the electorate of the pro-Svoboda, or Freedom, party and of the 'Right Sector' movement.

Artyom Kobzev Read more: