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West stakes Ukraine’s future on Klitschko

December 09, 2013, 16:47 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Ukrainian leader of opposition party UDAR, Vitali Klitschko

Ukrainian leader of opposition party UDAR, Vitali Klitschko

© EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

MOSCOW, December 09. /ITAR-TASS/. The West, strongly supportive of the current protests in Ukraine, seems to have made its choice - it would like to see Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the party UDAR (‘punch’) and WBC heavyweight champion, as the Opposition’s leader. Experts agree he is the strongest politician in the Ukrainian Opposition as long as Yulia Timoshenko is in jail, but offer different comments over his political capacity.

German Chancellor, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel and a group of the EU conservative parties (European People’s Party — EPP) are going to support Klitschko and his party, the latest issue of acclaimed German magazine Der Spiegel says with reference to its sources in the German government and the EPP.

Klitschko’s UDAR receives logistics support from the EPP and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, an organization close to the CDU. In particular, these organizations hold seminars and master-classes for UDAR deputies and their aides.

France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has officially invited Klitschko for negotiations due in Paris on December 11. It was not an act of interference in the country’s internal affairs, though, Fabius assured, but “we have lately talked about Yanukovich, and I find it normal to meet with Klitschko as long as Timoshenko is in jail”, he said.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has compared Klitschko with Poland’s first post-Communism President, Nobel peace prizewinner Lech Walesa.

 “A very interesting personality. I see a certain resemblance to Lech Walesa,” he said in an interview to a Polish TV channel describing Klitschko as “not yet quite politically mature.”

Late October Klitschko announced plans to run in the 2015 presidential election. Next month he specified he would like to be a candidate of the united Opposition.

Klitschko ran in Kiev’s mayoral election in 2008 and finished with 17.97 percent of the votes. The party UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform) was established in April 2010. In the October 2012 parliamentary elections his party gained 42 seats, and Klitschko led the fraction.

He is now one of the main protagonists of the present opposition rallies. Last night Klitschko said that the protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square will “force the government into submission and change life in the country, regardless of how long they would have to stay in the streets.”

"We may have to stand here one night, two nights, a week or a month, but we shall force the incumbent government into changing life in the country. We shall demolish the present system. The Poles managed to do this, as well as the Czechs and the Slovaks and we, Ukrainians, shall manage, too,” Klitschko said.

Multi-thousand protest rallies in Kiev started over two weeks ago. Supporters of integration with Europe demand President Viktor Yanukovich’s and the government’s resignation, the release of political prisoners and punishment for those guilty of the use of force against the rally on December 1. On Sunday the opposition gathered a people’s ‘veche’, or assembly, in Independence Square — 50,000 — 200,000, according to different estimates. Protesters are putting up barricades near the government’s building in Kiev. The organizers say in this way they hope to get the government’s attention and that everything that is happening is peaceful.

Meanwhile, there is no unanimity among political scientists regarding Klitschko as political figure.

Klitschko is a controversial personality, and in the absence of Yulia Timoshenko he is the most popular politician in the Ukrainian Opposition, First Vice-President of the Center for Political Technologies, Aleksey Makarkin, believes. The polls show he has acquired the same presidential rating as Yanukovich, he says.

“Klitschko is a comfortable candidate for a part of Ukrainian tycoons,” he told Itar-Tass. “In contrast to Yulia Timoshenko he will hardly agree to substantial property redistribution. Klitschko seems a calm and influential person.”

At the same time Makarkin remarks that Klitschko has never had a chance to show his governing skills, though he has some political experience.

“The Ukrainians, especially those in the Opposition, have grown tired of politicians; they do not trust any of them and seek something ‘non-political’. And in this respect Klitschko as an athlete quite matches their expectations,” he said. It is too early to talk of 2015 elections, but if these are as transparent and competitive as those of 2010, some tycoons will quite possibly support Klitschko, Makarkin said in conclusion.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of the CIS Institute Vladimir Zharikhin is harsher in evaluations.

 “It would be better, if Klitschko were just utterly ignorant of politics,” he told Itar-Tass. “He is a local-level politician. He has mastered five or six topics, and when someone tries to ask him about something else frames, he prefers to be evasive. He is very weak as a politician.”

Zharikhin does not discount the possibility Yanukovich’s decision not to sign the EU association has improved his rating, including that among the Opposition” not present in Independence Square.

 “He has shown he is capable of taking action — and Ukrainians appreciate this quality very much.” “This decision of his action has boosted Ukraine’s rating in the world,” he believes.

Klitschko is perceived as a potential opposition leader, Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko told the Dozhd TV channel. “This especially caught eye at the summit in Vilnius. I was there at a conference that was running parallel to the summit. Klitschko took center stage there.”

In his opinion, during the current protests Klitschko “has demonstrated his best qualities of a leader and team player by leading a huge mass of people and steering it clear of conflicts.

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