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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Red Card for Rudkovsky
Transportation Minister Probed for Turkmenbashi 2-Bashing

Minister Mykola Rudkovsky, SPU, one of the founding fathers of the Anticrisis Coalition, stands accused of running a travel agency on the side. Las month, the agency sparked a diplomatic scandal between Kyiv and Ashabad when it hosted exiled Turkmen opposition leaders, or so they presented themselves.

In the middle of the night, Minister Rudkovsky called Ukrainian missions in Vienna and Varna, urging that visas be granted to the Turkmen by 5 am. The decision had been approved in the upper levels of government, he added.

What followed was a vain voyage of two former high-ranking Turkmen officials, Khudaiberdy Orazov and Nur-Mukhammed Hannamov, ex-Vice Premier and ex-Ambassador to Turkey, respectively. Their value offering: better access to Turkmen gas wells in exchange for some sort of support.

It’s no secret that experts see no challenger to Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the heir apparent to the recently deceased Turkmenbashi. Therefore, the easy question is, what was Rudkovsky’s interest in all this and was it worth it? The tough one is, were those opposition guys the real McCoy and, if so, what matters more to Ukraine — taking care of number one or babysitting democracies yet to be born?

Whatever the answers, once the exiles showed up in Kyiv, the Turkmen Embassy lodged a sulfurous note of protest, informing the Ukrainian authorities that warrants for their arrest had been issued by Interpol.

After the visitors safely sneaked out of Ukraine, the scandal seemed to have died quietly. Until a Saturday piece in ZN shed light on the story. The article states that Rudkovsky’s travel business has incited the wrath of Yanukovych.

Rudkovsky is suing the author for defamation. He considers himself to be the target of a smear campaign of reprisals orchestrated by his former business partners, some of whom have found employment in the Secretariat of the President. He claims it all began with his bold decision to remove a score of state-owned enterprises from the privatization list.

The SBU and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have launched separate probes. Both the Ukrainian Ambassador in Vienna and the Consul General in Varna have been relieved of their duties for issuing visas in violation of procedure. Apparently, the spasmodic turf wars so symptomatic of our government’s chronic gold/gas rush have acquired a Turkmen dimension.

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