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Monday, December 24, 2007

How Tough Is Tymo?

She’s back. But is she tough enough?

Aside from Putin's history class, one of the major events I missed while being out of town was Tymoshenko’s peace voyage to Donbas. In a move highly reminiscent of the maiden voyage she had pulled on the eve of the Dec. 26, 2004 rerun, weeks before being catapulted to her first PM term, she started her second PM term on a soft, conciliatory note.

With a stronger personal support and a stronger opposition — both in and outside of the Orange Coalition — she faces a reality very much different from the euphoric landscape of the early 2005. The Orange Revolution is now history, but another presidential election is just a dream away. And there she is, ready to make that dream come true, ready to make history. So, the first thing she does as PM — her suitcase full of presidential ambitions — is beard the lion in his own den.

And she seems to have brought some pacifist Kitekat with her, Donbas being a region full of growth opportunities crucial to her nascent presidential campaign.

Judging from the soundbites that she spilled down the mineshafts of our minds, she is picking her battles carefully. She demonstrated a willingness to strike a deal with neutral Regionalist factions, a nonaggression modus operandi that would win allies and keep her focused on the coveted presidential prize.

Meeting with the victims’ families at the Zasyadka Mine, she echoed Donetsk Mayor Lukyanchenko, who embraced Zvyahilsky’s theory that shutting down the Zasyadka Mine may cause methane buildup with a far greater explosive potential. Below are some of the noteworthy statements she made there, a mishmash of activism and appeasement:

We believe that the Zasyadka Mine should not be closed. Instead, it should be developed, using sophisticated safety systems. We are to build a system of quality control in support of the safety system that will never again allow for such tragedies.

Despite grave violations of the leasing agreement, we can’t just shoot from the hip. It is necessary to carefully sort out things, and only then should we make decisions.

I want to uncover every fact, every detail.

In the next couple of days, I will set up a working group answerable to the Vice-Premier that will work on the legislation.

We will conduct a full-scale checkup of how the mine equipment was procured, of what funding was used in the procurements, and of how, basically, all the cash flows are moving. We will not leave anything unchecked.

We will set up a special housing commission that will analyze the living conditions of each of you.

After a while, once we’ve put in some work, we’ll meet in the same arrangement as now, perhaps as soon as a month from now.

We need to do things. Whoever wants to keep on struggling, let them struggle. I want to do practical things and bring order to the country, so let elections be on someone else’s mind.

We’ll be working further, and will make it so that being a miner in our country will be fancied by youths and children.

Just how many Cabinet members’ kids will want to become miners? Is she absolutely positively sure those safety systems will work? If methane buildup indeed happens to be the case, should we burn off the gas, or should we burn off the miners’ lives?

As long as these questions remain unanswered, they beg the question of whether the Prime Minister should endear herself to the miners at the cost of endangering their lives.

Meanwhile, PM Tymoshenko appears to have quietly abandoned her widely publicized campaign promise of abolishing conscription as early as 2008. Her burying the hatchet on this issue can be seen as an attempt to lessen friction with the slow-paced NUNS coalition partners, who control the military.

For people on the front lines, the status quo comes at a high price. A conscript died recently in a bullying incident, followed by the death of another miner at the Zasyadka Mine.

When you try to be all things to all people, you may eventually become president, but more people may die along the way.


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