Ana­toliy Grytsenko: I am best choice for pres­i­dent

Kyiv Post - - National - BY VERONIKA MELKOZEROV­A MELKOZEROV­[email protected]

One thing Ana­toliy Grytsenko does not lack as a can­di­date for pres­i­dent is self-con­fi­dence.

“Of those who will sup­pos­edly take part in the elec­tions, I’m the best pre­pared for this job,” Grytsenko, 60, said as he met the Kyiv Post in a café in cen­tral Kyiv for an in­ter­view on July 9.

He might be draw­ing his con­fi­dence from the re­cent polls. Ac­cord­ing to one poll pub­lished on July 12 by the Rating Group Ukraine re­search cen­ter, 9.7 per­cent of Ukraini­ans would vote for Grytsenko in the March 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

That might not seem like an im­pres­sive num­ber, but it places Grytsenko se­cond be­hind Batkivshch­yna Party leader Yuliya Ty­moshenko, with 17 per­cent, and ahead of Yuriy Boyko, the leader of the pro-Rus­sian Op­po­si­tion Bloc, which has 45 seats in par­lia­ment, who polls at 8.9 per­cent.

Some ear­lier polls were even more fa­vor­able to Grytsenko, show­ing a smaller gap be­tween him and the leader, Ty­moshenko.

“How did we achieve this? It’s sim­ple,” Grytsenko said. “With no ac­cess to the cen­tral TV chan­nels, we’ve been work­ing with peo­ple in the re­gions. I’m al­ways on the road.”

The politi­cian also links his good polling num­bers to the pub­lic’s dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal elite — es­pe­cially Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko.

More than 50 per­cent of Ukraini­ans wouldn’t vote for Poroshenko in 2019, ac­cord­ing to the Rating Group Ukraine poll.

But Grytsenko is hardly a new face in Ukrainian pol­i­tics — some­thing Ukraini­ans yearn for, ac­cord­ing to poll­sters.

He served as de­fense min­is­ter and then sec­re­tary of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fense Coun­cil, leav­ing the job in 2012, and was elected in par­lia­ment twice — with ex-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko’s Nasha Ukraina and Ty­moshenko’s Batkivshch­yna po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Grytsenko al­ready ran for pres­i­dent — twice. In 2010, he got only 1.2 per­cent of votes. He did bet­ter in 2014, win­ning 5 per­cent and the fourth place, fin­ish­ing be­hind Poroshenko, Ty­moshenko, and the Rad­i­cal Party leader Oleg Lyashko.

But just months later, his party Civil Po­si­tion lost the par­lia­men­tary elec­tion, fail­ing to get the re­quired min­i­mum of 5 per­cent.

While ex­perts blame Grytsenko’s poor team­work for his past fail­ures, the politi­cian says the Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties’ at­tempts to dis­credit him tor­pe­doed his 2014 can­di­dacy.

Haunt­ing past

Grytsenko was de­fense min­is­ter from 2005 to 2007, serv­ing un­der three prime min­is­ters –Ty­moshenko, Yuriy Ye­ha­nurov, and Vik­tor Yanukovych, who later be­came pres­i­dent and was ousted into ex­ile by the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2014.

It left him vulnerable to crit­i­cism: Grytsenko was one of the de­fense min­is­ters un­der whose watch the Ukrainian army suf­fered cat­a­strophic de­cline, leav­ing it un­able to stop Rus­sia’s in­va­sion of Crimea in 2014.

In 2014, the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice launched sev­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions against top de­fense min­istry of­fi­cials al­legedly in­volved in sell­ing off Hr 1.8 bil­lion worth of weapons be­tween 2004 and 2015.

The big­gest sale al­legedly took place dur­ing the time Grytsenko was de­fense min­is­ter in 2005–2007, Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko’s spokes­woman Larysa Sar­gan claimed in 2016.

The Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice told the Kyiv Post it's in­ves­ti­gat- ing the al­leged mis­man­age­ment by sev­eral top de­fense of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing for­mer de­fense min­is­ters, but wouldn’t dis­close their names.

Grytsenko branded these al­le­ga­tions as an at­tempt by Poroshenko’s cir­cle to de­stroy a po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

“Poroshenko is just afraid that he will have to an­swer for his wrong­do­ing, so he keeps throw­ing mud at me,” Grytsenko said, ad­ding that if he be­comes a pres­i­dent, Poroshenko would face in­ves­ti­ga­tion and trial.

Poroshenko’s Ad­min­is­tra­tion didn’t re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment for this story.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion got more at­ten­tion this June, when the par­lia­ment, where Poroshenko Bloc has the big­gest rep­re­sen­ta­tion, cre­ated a com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate cor­rup­tion in the mil­i­tary in 2004–2014.

The com­mis­sion was cre­ated when Grytsenko started to poll well, pointed out Grytsenko’s ally Ye­hor Firsov, an ex-law­maker who was voted out of par­lia­ment after he quit the Poroshenko Bloc.

Ser­hiy Zgurets, a mil­i­tary ex­pert and head of the me­dia and con­sult­ing com­pany De­fense Ex­press, says Grytsenko was an ef­fec­tive de­fense min­is­ter, in­creas­ing the de­fense bud­get from Hr 5.9 bil­lion in 2005 to

Hr 8.9 bil­lion in 2007 and dou­bling the hours of mil­i­tary train­ing in the army.

How­ever, Grytsenko’s abra­sive lead­er­ship style earned him en­e­mies, ac­cord­ing to Zgurets.

“He fired some peo­ple from the De­fense Min­istry who then turned against him,” the ex­pert said. “Grytsenko as a leader is too sharp and undiplo­matic.”

But Grytsenko de­scribes him­self as an ex­cep­tional man­ager who trusts peo­ple, del­e­gates work and doesn’t mi­cro­man­age. By that, Grytsenko tries to prove he is a bet­ter fit for the pres­i­dency than Poroshenko.

“He doesn’t trust any­one and wants to be every­one — the chief of staff, the head of the cen­tral bank, an am­bas­sador,” Grytsenko said.

Not a team player?

Be­ing de­scribed as an in­di­vid­u­al­ist by ex­perts, Grytsenko says he wants to team up with demo­cratic op­po­si­tion lead­ers and new faces in pol­i­tics.

Two small par­ties merged with Civil Po­si­tion in May: Firsov’s Al­ter­na­tive Party and in­de­pen­dent law­maker Dmytro Do­brodomov’s Peo­ple’s Con­trol Party.

For a while, Grytsenko was con­sid­er­ing an al­liance with Samopomich, the po­lit­i­cal party of Lviv Mayor An­driy Sadovyi, which has 20 seats in par­lia­ment.

Grytsenko says that back in 2017 he was ready to give up his party and merge with Samopomich. He changed his mind after the polls started com­ing in, show­ing him way ahead of Sadovyi. In a July poll by GFK Ukraine re­search com­pany, Sadovyi had 2 per­cent, while Grytsenko had 6 per­cent.

One July 19 Sadovyi an­nounced he and his party would take part in the elec­tions separately.

Grytsenko now looks to team up with young lib­eral politi­cians like Sergii Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayyem, Svit­lana Zal­ishchuk, and Demo­cratic Al­liance party leader Va­syl Hatsko. Grytsenko’s party has al­ready paired with Demo­cratic Al­liance once, for the 2014 elec­tion.

“We must unite in one fist as soon as pos­si­ble and win the pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions to cre­ate a syn­ergy of power,” Grytsenko said.

The prob­lem is, some of his po­ten­tial al­lies are sug­gest­ing hold­ing pri­maries to pick a sin­gle can­di­date for the March 2019 elec­tion. Grytsenko won’t have it: He is all for join­ing forces, but in­sists he has to be the can­di­date.

“As of to­day, I have the high­est chance of vic­tory,” Grytsenko says.

He has one sur­pris­ing be­liever: Ser­hiy Ly­ovochkin, a law­maker with the 45-mem­ber Op­po­si­tion Bloc fac­tion and a po­lit­i­cal heavy­weight whose ca­reer peaked when he was chief of staff in the Yanukovych govern­ment.

“Grytsenko can beat any­body in 2019,” Ly­ovochkin told the RBC Ukraine news web­site in May, ad­ding that to win Grytsenko needs to “unite the demo­cratic ba­bies around him,” re­fer­ring to the young re­formist politi­cians.

The July poll by GFK Ukraine partly backs this al­le­ga­tion: Ac­cord­ing to it, the poll's leader Ty­moshenko would beat every­one in the runoff ex­cept for Grytsenko and two show busi­ness stars who are ru­mored to con­sider run­ning — Svy­atoslav Vakarchuk of Okean Elzy pop-rock band, and ac­tor and show­man Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy.

Be­cause of Ly­ovochkin’s praise, some al­leged Ly­ovochkin could be se­cretly fund­ing Grytsenko. Both Grytsenko and Ly­ovochkin de­nied it.

Money fac­tor

It’s not cheap to run for pres­i­dent. A cam­paign costs ap­prox­i­mately $15– 20 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Grytsenko. He said he spent much less in 2014 — just around $3 mil­lion, and won 5 per­cent of votes.

“I don’t know yet how much I need this time. It must be sev­eral mil­lion dol­lars for po­lit­i­cal ads, bill­boards, and can­vass­ing,” he said.

But who will fund it? Grytsenko isn’t a rich man by any ac­count. He re­ceives a monthly mil­i­tary pen­sion of Hr 13,800 and a Hr 1,500 salary as a part-time lec­turer at the Na­tional Kyiv Mo­hyla Academy. He says that his wife, Yuliya Mos­to­vaya, the chief ed­i­tor of the pop­u­lar Dz­erkalo Tyzh­nya news­pa­per, makes “more than Hr 20,000 a month.”

Grytsenko be­lieves he can run the cam­paign on con­tri­bu­tions from in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses.

But in the first three months of 2018, his party’s 3,000 mem­bers and spon­sors only con­trib­uted about Hr 1.6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to their fi­nan­cial re­port.

Ties and plans

Grytsenko de­nies get­ting fund­ing from oli­garchs, who are the usual piggy banks be­hind ev­ery Ukrainian elec­tion.

But if an oli­garch of­fered money with no con­di­tions at­tached, he could take it, Grytsenko said on Zik TV chan­nel on July 9.

Grytsenko has been no­tice­ably close with Vic­tor Pinchuk: he and his wife have at­tended or spo­ken at Pinchuk’s events, and his daugh­ter is a pro­gram direc­tor at the Vic­tor Pinchuk Foun­da­tion.

Still, de­oli­garchiza­tion is among his plans were he to win in 2019. He vows to get rid of mo­nop­o­lies and make big busi­ness pay taxes and stay away from pol­i­tics.

Grytsenko claims he was told that some oli­garchs (that he would not name) have re­acted to this mes­sage pos­i­tively.

Other than that, Grytsenko’s plans for Ukraine are vague. He wants to raise liv­ing stan­dards, achieve an eco­nomic break­through, adopt ef­fec­tive anti-cor­rup­tion leg­is­la­tion, and much more. How he will achieve all of this is still not clear.

Ana­toliy Grytsenko, leader of the Civil Po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal party and ex-de­fense min­is­ter, sits for an in­ter­view with the Kyiv Post in a Kyiv cafe on July 9. (Volodymyr Petrov)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ukraine

© PressReader. All rights reserved.