Ukraine's former prime minister, Yuliya Tymoshenko, whose cabinet was sacked on 8 September, has declared that she is no longer part of President Yushchenko's team and will lead her own coalition in the 2006 parliamentary election race.
Speaking in a live appearance on Inter TV on 9 September, she praised her cabinet's performance, and said its dismissal was "deeply unfair".
The following is an excerpt from Tymoshenko's live prime-time appearance on the leading Ukrainian channel Inter TV on 9 September:
Praises the Cabinet's records
Dear friends, I want just to begin with the following. The cabinet which was elected by you, by the people who voted for the new authorities, democracy - this was a very successful cabinet. I just want you to know that the accomplishments of this cabinet were extraordinary. I would like to name the ten biggest accomplishments, which I would like to be recorded in history, to be recorded in people's memory because these are the accomplishments of the team which I had a privilege to lead. FIRST and foremost, this is us seeing the real situation in the economy.
We have closed all, well almost all, unlawful, shadow flows. We have largely stopped smuggling, fictitious exports and on the basis of that we saw what the real figures should look like. I can tell you that all those inflated figures we removed gave us the right to see that in the first six months this year Ukraine had the dynamics of economic growth at 4 per cent. To compare, the USA posted 3.7 per cent, the EU 1.7 per cent, Poland 1.2 per cent. I want to tell you that the country is developing successfully.
There is brilliant macroeconomic culture, which the president also said, it currently exists in the state. There is nothing false. I can tell you that another thing we did, and this is very important, we have begun to create a unique investment climate in Ukraine. You should know that over 3,000 pieces of regulation have been cancelled in Ukraine, which used to complicate the work and life of businessmen.
We have done everything to ensure that everyone who comes to invest in Ukraine could find a normal investment environment. For the first time ever in Ukraine, agriculture posted a unique growth of 7 per cent. Last year there was a big slump. Now we can see this, and this is the third great success of the cabinet because the amount of credit resources, the special policy of donations have made it possible to make a step forward in our agriculture.
I believe that the FORTH thing is that while legalizing the economy and closing all shadow schemes, we have achieved good budget indicators, which are 70 per cent higher compared to the same period last year. To make you feel what amount of money we have taken away from the shadow sector - we have taken away 22bn hryvnyas [4.4bn dollars] as of this moment.
By the end of the year there will be almost 40bn hryvnyas. This is the figure that the Ukrainian budget has never had. As a result, against the background of the economic growth, against the background of legalization we have managed to implement the social programmes which no cabinet has been able to achieve. We have implemented everything that the president promised to those who believed in him.
We have provided excellent assistance to children. You know this is 8,500 hryvnyas [one-off payment to families with a new-born child], although we took over the budget with a 34bn-hryvnya deficit for this year. We have raised pensions by almost 21 per cent on the average, and wages in science, culture, education by 44 per cent as of this moment. We have brilliant results in the economy.
The gross incomes of families and households increased by 43 per cent in Ukraine. I believe that this is a brilliant result. By the way, in terms of pensions, we have increased the revenue part of the pension fund without raising taxes. I want to say that this was possible just because the economy is growing and going legal.
These are thing which has Ukraine never seen. We have developed the strategy for Ukraine for the next several years. The strategy of our energy independence which is fundamentally different from what we used to have. The strategy for developing our motorways which we have begun to implement. This is clean privatization and this is our next accomplishment.
You know, this is the same as clean hands [programme] of some time ago. This is privatization which can at the expense of two or three companies yield for Ukraine 50bn hryvnyas by the end of the year.
This is transparent privatization at auctions without all those corrupt schemes behind the scene. These 50bn [hryvnyas] which we will definitely get from privatization by the end of the year, I hope it will not switch to corrupt schemes again - this money will help us to return the lost deposits in the [Soviet] state savings bank - this is what has not been settled for years because privatization was unfair. We wanted at the expense of this money to give small credits to all who want to start their own business.
We wanted to launch the colossal programme of supplying computers to almost every student with this money, and many other things which we had to do. I can say that an absolutely new outlook has been introduced to almost every industry, the new system of approaches that was absolutely far from the chaos that we inherited.
However, as usual, at least for me personally, we have been stopped at the take-off. You recall me having been sacked not by Kuchma but by his inner circle. By that time I had worked for almost a year in the cabinet [of Viktor Yushchenko under President Kuchma in 2000]. Today I have been sacked once again by the inner circle. I am confident that this has not been a strong decision by the president. It was a decision of his entourage, which had been working to make sure that I am not in the cabinet.
You understand that seven months is not enough to clear up the debris which we have inherited after the 14 years of life before our cabinet. The same is true of any human and of any cabinet. However, now I would like to tell why this happened that in the most positive period of the work of our cabinet, when we made all the main basic decisions that were about to yield a fundamental result for the public, and why this was done. I will tell.
First, just returning to your question. We and Mr Yushchenko united our teams before the presidential election and quite sincerely I walked hand in hand with the president. The president needed someone to rely on. After My Yushchenko prevailed in that difficult struggle in which all people made their heroic deeds, at that very moment we had firm and formal agreements to the effect that Mr Yushchenko would nominate myself as the prime minister.
But you remember that for a long time after the election the president named no candidacy and there was a long pause. This pause was taken because as it turned out no-one expected me as the prime minister in the presidential team. The president held lots of talks with me to step down in favour of Mr Poroshenko. He wanted me calmly to accept Poroshenko's appointment as prime minister.
To be honest I disagreed [laughs]. But at one critical moment I was confident that I would be nominated. When was the critical moment? During the presidential inauguration at the square, the whole square was chanting my name. This had a fundamental effect and I was appointed. But I can tell you that this have been was the most difficult seven months in my life. This was just day-to-day ruining of my life and work, it was the difficult and absolutely unconstructive cooperation which did not allow me to do what was needed in full.
"Parallel government" of Poroshenko
I can say that instantly after my appointment another cabinet was created on the basis of the National Security and Defence Council headed by Poroshenko. Its staff was considerably increased, objectives were set which should have been the cabinet's prerogative. Poroshenko received an absolutely anticonstitutional right to give orders directly to ministers bypassing the prime minister.
The whole history of my life in the cabinet is the history of the two cabinets in existence, when ministers received orders from four or even five sources - from Poroshenko, from the president, from the secretariat, from myself and also from their party leaders. It was the ministers who were being torn apart. Obviously this is an institutional thing, but two cabinets cannot exist in Ukraine.
Apart from that there was a very interesting thing. Virtually everyone who was in touch with these two cabinets said that a firm decision was made to set up a crisis group on the basis of Poroshenko, which, first, creates crises and, second, makes everything possible to make sure that the cabinet resigns in September - compromised, almost ruined with frustrated people in this country and this was prearranged and Poroshenko had to take my seat.
As you can see the first part has taken place and in September I faced the planned and, to my mind, absolutely unfair, dismissal. But the second did not happen. Poroshenko simply ruined himself by all these events which have taken place lately.
I would like to say another thing: virtually from the very first day the president's inner circle was put in charge of all powerful cash flows in the state. I will not name then, you know them - this is Naftohaz Ukrainy [national oil and gas company], these are the railways, this is Ukrtelekom and many other flows, which were virtually covered with specific people.
I can tell you that not only myself but the whole public felt that something went wrong in this country, that some unique model of ruining those principles and foundations with which we came in power had been enacted. Corruption began. You recall that there were reports that people felt that corruption increased two- of threefold. Everyone knew who was taking bribes, where and how.
I have to say that I came to see the president on various occasions many times and this all could be seen in documents. For instance, in terms of gas, there was and there still is - we have inherited it - a powerful, corrupt geopolitical model and at the time they simply banned me from dealing with gas, I could not do anything there and restore any sort of order there. I am firmly convinced that all the crises, I mean the petrol crisis which was developing before your own eyes - I had a firm agreement with people who produce oil products in Ukraine.
They are monopolists but we reached understanding and all of you remember that petrol and diesel prices went down. At the time, the president's inner circle simply invited these people and suggested that they do what you can see now. So can't you see what is happening to petrol now?
I want to tell you that regarding sugar - well I can begin even with meat - when it all we needed to do was one small thing - to open up all markets for real meat producers. But there were parallel orders to close, to ban, and everything good that was proposed was buried. As for sugar, each MP knew that every year a special law is adopted to import raw sugar, and those who hold rallies now almost voted for this law and for a quota.
This quota was blocked absolutely deliberately, I even have written orders banning the import of much-needed sugar and you saw what happened. But colossal efforts made it possible to slow down the prices and return to their previous level . I want to say that this all was my daily life, when I did not have a chance to implement any my project in full, because the resistance was so strong - including in parliament - that it was impossible to overcome.
Last-minute talks failed
But the latest events were simply scary. You know, till the very last, till the very last moment I hoped that Mr Yushchenko and myself would manage to find a common language. I seemed to be his most sincere partner. I wanted us to go hand by hand for another ten years, and there was no reason to ruin our relations.
But when this unique crisis broke out involving the president's inner circle - [National Security and Defence Council chief Petro] Poroshenko, [head of Our Ukraine parliamentary faction] Martynenko, [president's first aide Oleksandr] Tretyakov - it became clear that it is impossible to keep anything secret after our revolution.
It is impossible to conceal anything from people, it is impossible to conceal anything from the media. And at that time this bunch of people from the president's inner circle realized that they should save their skin. They put the president in an extremely difficult situation. They were looking for a way out. When I felt that this critical situation started to run like an avalanche, the president invited a broader circle including Poroshenko, [Deputy Prime Minister Roman] Bezsmertnyy, Martynenko and other people, and there I heard things which simply scared me.
It turned out that this team gathered to voice their complaints against me, to formalize them and to tell that it is their decision to dismiss everyone - Poroshenko, Tretyakov, the cabinet and in doing so to put an end to the scandal which took place. I heard things which I think will remain in my head for the rest of my life. Martynenko took the floor and said that I am implementing a special project against the president and that [president's former chief of staff Oleksandr] Zinchenko is my programme to ruin the authority of the president.
You know how indecent these people are. They do not understand that Zinchenko, who has been through a colossal stage in his life, you know that he was on the verge of death, that this man managed to raise himself over all these petty squabbles, over all this filth over insincerity and the courage of this man cannot be someone's programme, project or someone's terrible idea or conspiracy. I should say that they simply do not understand that a man like Oleksandr Zinchenko will not tolerate this and that this is not Tymoshenko's special project.
Then the president took the floor and said that he is absolutely indignant that I personally created such a situation in the state that in the media the president looks weak and incapable of running things, while the prime minister seems strong, efficient, and that he would never allow this to continue. He said that there are other countries, Russia and Belarus. He said: look at Putin or Lukashenko, they have brilliant prime ministers. No-one ever sees them on TV.
The second serious claim against me was that I should not head the cabinet in a manner that I give my public results of the cabinet's performance, but everything that is happening in the cabinet should be simply passed on to the presidential administration and then after the president announces this, simply do my routine job.
Dear friends, I am saying honestly that all this was the ruining of my hope. No claim was raised against me that I failed to do something in the economy or in the social sector because the president is a good economist and a good financier and he knows better that anyone else what has been done in this country. By the way, the president told this at Maydan when we marked Independence Day.
Then they told me that I had failed to come to terms with the president's inner circle, with his team, that I should have done so. And after this I tried to prove that this was absurd, that the president's fears that I will stand in the election separately were absurd. I want to work in a team, I want to be close, I want to be a supporter of the president. By the way, nothing has changed for me.
I do not want these people to be frustrated, their hearts broken, their families separated if one is for Yushchenko and another for Tymoshenko. For this reason I told the president that we should put this aside because I do not have to come to terms with the team, I have to have the president who lends me a hand, and this should be the hand of a friend.
Three days and half a night of these talks and after that, I think this is a key point, I was presented with a very clear set of conditions. The first condition is that I have to extend my hand not the resident but to his team - Poroshenko, Martynenko, Tretyakov, Bezsmertnyy, that I should give them a hand. By how could I extend my hand to them if their hands are constantly busy stealing something?
By the way, this idea to sack everyone at the same time, the cabinet and those who were suspected of corruption, this idea came from Roman Petrovych Bezsmertnyy. I can says that this was a unique, destructive idea. I have just remembered how Roman Bezsmertnyy proposed this territorial reform and travelled to his native village to present it, and he almost got beaten up just for proposing it in his native village, he barely escaped from there.
Such experiments must not be made in the country. That is why I told the president that instead of shaking the hands of his entourage, I was ready to shake his hand personally, and to be by his side under any circumstances in any moment.
The second condition, which was set clearly, was that I had to close my door for the people who did a lot to help me work, to help the government work and to help the country work. I was presented with a condition that I could not have any political agreements on forming election teams with the Reforms and Order Party, the Ukrainian People's Party led by Yuriy Kostenko and that I had to publicly support Poroshenko, Tretyakov and Martynenko, to say that they were honest and moral people who had been slandered. At the same time, I had to publicly condemn Oleksandr Zinchenko and I could not include him into my bloc's election list under any circumstances.
Another condition was that I sign decrees to dismiss those cabinet members who supported me in that difficult situation of a two-chamber cabinet, so to speak. These people supported me, helped me, they tried to protect me from all those splits in the government. I was supposed to sign decrees dismissing those people.
The main thing was that I had to agree to the dismissal of Oleksandr Turchynov from the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU]. I understand that it was discomforting to have the prime minister on one side and the head of the SBU on the other side, we could see everything clearly, everything bad that was happening in the country - corruption, abuse and illegal lobbying. Of course, this tandem did not suit the president's entourage.
I can say that 90 per cent of these conditions were communicated by the so-called team, who demanded that I do it immediately.
In addition, in the joint election list for the parliamentary election, two thirds had to be given to the president's team and one third was to be given to our party. By the way, I was not against this. A coalition agreement and a joint election bloc - I welcomed this, it was the only way to resolve the situation.
However, honestly, I was somewhat psychologically shaken by this formal proposal. I asked the president whether it was possible to sack those who were suspected of corruption. Whether we could at least suspend them from their posts and later decide on their fate after the investigation.
But Viktor Andriyovych said no, he could not do it, because they were his team and they would feel that it was unfair that they were sacked and I stayed on. This would offset the balance. I want to ask, what kind of balance can exist between the people who are suspected of corruption and those who are not? Sack them all together?
I understood that I had to think about those conditions and I did not sign any decrees that night. I simply came to my team, I gathered everyone who would be affected by those conditions set by the president. I gathered those people because I could not just stab them in the back and do the things I could not do. I gathered them and sought their advice on the situation. We exchanged ideas on what to do and how to behave in this case.
I can say that they did not protest against their dismissals or anything at all. But the main thing was that I just could not do it. I could not do it because my seat means nothing to me. Hundreds of times I just wanted to drop it all, because it was torture to work under these conditions.
But I thought that I could not drop it, because it was not some officials who appointed me to this post. I was appointed by the people who trusted me, who stood in the squares and who voted for the president. I simply could not abandon it, because it would mean betrayal, it would be like deserting from the battlefield, from the barricades.
Yushchenko "destroyed unity"
I could not do it by myself. So in the morning I spoke with the president by phone and I told him that I would not be able to accept those conditions, because I would not be able to look in the mirror in the morning, I would want to spit at the mirror. I would always remember those whom I betrayed to keep this seat, which was not worth much in tactical terms.
I asked the president to meet one more time and to try to find an option that would not ruin the morals of our relations. I came to the president and we talked for 20 minutes before his fateful live TV appearance when he dismissed the cabinet. I sat next to him, I took his hand in my hand and said: "Viktor Andriyovych, I am asking you, and I am struggling to find the right words, but don't ruin people's hopes, don't ruin the authority of our revolution, don't ruin the people's hope for morality, honesty and justice.
Let us walk out to the cameras hand in hand, together, look at the cameras and say that as long as we are together, stability in Ukraine is guaranteed."
At some moment I thought the president hesitated but you know, fate will always be fate. At that moment Poroshenko stormed into the president's office, without invitation, without knocking. He was covered, excuse me, in tears and snot, and he started yelling that he had just been stripped of his parliament seat and that the decision had been backed by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, that they were traitors who literally removed him from parliament. It looked comical, honestly.
So the president looked, stood up, turned his back to me and said that the conversation was over. He went on, having practically destroyed our unity, our future and the future of our country. I would like to say that I consider this step absolutely illogical.
[Presenter]...Yuliya Volodymyrivna, I would like to ask you a question put by one of our TV viewers. Halyna Fomicheva from Zhytomyr asks - Who specifically do you think ordered the government's dismissal and who could benefit from it?
[Tymoshenko] First, I read the press and it says that the president took a bold step by sacking the government. I would like to tell you right away that the president did not sack the government. The president was merely held hostage to the ultimatum made by his closest entourage, who demanded that the government must be sacked.
What are the reasons for that? Why was the ultimatum made? Reason number ONE. It is their personal fear for their personal future if public trust in me grows in society.
Reason number TWO. They could not go ahead with all their corruption schemes when I and [sacked Security Service of Ukraine head Oleksandr] Turchynov were in office, watching every step they made and practically catching them red-handed. They felt that they simply could not leave the country's potential and financial flows untapped.
And reason number THREE, which the president himself could have borne in mind, is to drown the corruption scandal involving the president's entourage in a more loud scandal. Why did they need it to happen now? As regards the first two reasons, they would have found a different time to sack the government.
But why did it happen now and why was it so illogical, where some people are accused of corruption while others are held responsible? A scandal over the government's dismissal was needed to drown out corruption by the president's inner circle in the media space and in the world - simply to shift the blame.
I have a pile of clippings from the world media. Just picture all the newspapers and the news ticker tape. What do I read there? No-one recalls Poroshenko or Martynenko. They say the government was sacked in the context of a corruption scandal in the president's team. So, I would like to say to you that this was the main aim - to shift the blame to the government.
But I can say that I as prime minister worked so honestly and so logically that every person working alongside of me knew for sure that corruption is unacceptable to me under any circumstances.
[Presenter] You keep saying they. Could you name some names?
[Tymoshenko] Yes, of course. First of all, this is Poroshenko. This is Tretyakov, who has virtually become a bottleneck blocking access to the president, who shaped his opinion and who imposed negative assessments [on the president] every day. Undoubtedly, this is [Deputy Prime Minister] Roman Bezsmertnyy, who was the ideologue behind this Jesuitical model of how to cut this knot and this shame. This is Martynenko, and another five or six people. I just don't want to go any further. I think everyone knows them.
[Presenter] Oleh Kurdyukov from Bohuslav asks whether you think that the government's dismissal means a split in President Yushchenko's team? Is this a split?
[Tymoshenko] The thing is that the president and I were a team. I would say that the main thing we had, unity, has been ruined by the president's entourage. I am very sorry that the president succumbed to such advice. I am very sorry indeed. That is why at the moment we are undoubtedly two different teams.
And I think that these two different teams will go different ways. I think that if such developments occur again - [changes tack] I think that the president's entourage, Poroshenko and Tretyakov, will not disappear into thin air.
Regardless of whether Tretyakov is sacked or not, whether Poroshenko is sacked or stays on, they are the president's team, they are the closest people to him. They are the people he trusts. They are the people he works with as one team. Therefore, I would like to say that they will remain alongside of him. These people will be there. Therefore, I think we should part our ways, but undoubtedly without war, without war.
Once again I want to recall those last minutes before the president left for that pivotal, historic news conference. To the very last minute, I tried my best to make sure that our unity was not ruined, that the ideals of the Orange Revolution were nor devalued, that our orange colour did not turn bleak.
This is tremendous pain for me [sighs]. I just want to say that - my friends tell me I look very optimistic - that to me this may have been the deepest moral trauma in my whole lifetime. Because competence or incompetence are not at issue here. By the way, another curious detail.
You know that an economic forum in Poland conferred on me the title of the person of the year in Central and Eastern Europe for achievements in economic reforms and reform of all state systems. I found this a great honour of course.
But just before I left for this interview, I checked the Internet. Just imagine in what state I came here. When I checked the Internet, I saw reports coming from Poland that at the personal request of the Ukrainian president I was stripped of that award, which had already been announced.
[Presenter invites journalists in another studio to ask questions.]
[Male journalist] Yuliya Volodymyrivna, how would you answer the question put by Inter to its viewers.
[Tymoshenko] Are you talking about the interactive poll [asking what Tymoshenko should do now]? You know, dear friends, frankly, I am happy that you came up with this interactive poll because I really need advice now and I would like to perceive this interactive poll as a council with you, an assembly with everyone who is now listening to me. I care about everything that may happen to this country.
I want no chaos in this country. I want peace, accord and calm in this country. It is very true that when I was leaving Yekhanurov's office - the office of the prime minister now - I left him a note on the desk that with all my heart I wished him success, good luck and happiness in his work.
So, depending on what you advise me to do, I will make up my mind at the next meeting of the political council [presumably, of her Fatherland party]. But I think that we will find a model that will not dash your hopes.
Attempts to salvage unity
[Male journalist] Svyatoslav Tseholko, 5 Kanal. Yuliya Volodymyrivna. Why did the corruption scandal erupt in September, not earlier? You said you were aware of this happening even earlier.
[Female presenter in the studio] I would like to add a question from viewers. If you knew so much about corruption in the president's inner circle, why didn't you raise this issue before? That's a question from Yevhen Urcharov, Kiev.
[Tymoshenko] I think the reason is obvious. Until the very last moment I hoped - and by the way, I still hope - that the president would deal with the outrage taking place in his team, that the president would manage to overcome this. I simply had no right - understanding that the president has a chance of overcoming this - to ruin our unity in public. I wanted to make things right.
I asked the president to sack the people who are getting in the way of this country's life and work and who are ruining his authorities. I hoped that it was time to get rid of those people. That is why I tried to maintain our unity at any cost, I tried to save the Ukrainian people from disappointment. That is why I behaved this way.
Interference by Poroshenko
[Female journalist] Is it true that you once signed a secret instruction for central bodies of power to notify you of information requests from the National Security and Defence Council and the presidential secretariat. Have you analysed the reports? Who collected what information and about whom? Thanks.
[Tymoshenko] Certainly, this document exists, and it is not secret at all. It's just when Petro Oleksiyovych [Poroshenko] came to the National Security and Defence Council, he assumed the role of prime minister and started issuing a large quantity of totally unbalanced instructions and inquiries to Ukrainian ministers.
Then I gathered the government and said - dear friends, the government should not be plunged into such imbalance. The government's work should not be undermined in such a way.
That is why I said I would send an instruction to each minister to collect all the rubbish they were getting and to forward it to me so that I could be responsible for how well Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko was informed and so that the government could act as a single team and so that it did not get all kinds of instructions all the time.
So, this was an absolutely open instruction. It was not secret at all.
[Female journalist] What was Poroshenko looking for? Did he find the information he was looking for? What was he looking for when he requested additional information? Was it information about you or your associates?
[Tymoshenko] Well, actually, Petro Oleksiyovych wanted to run the government and to get feedback. He wanted to issue instructions and to receive reports in response. I think he succeeded only partially, and only unofficially, for instance, by directing certain ministers - certain, I should emphasize - in one-to-one conversations.
Proof of corruption
[Male journalist] Volodymyr Aryev, "No-go Area" [TV programme]. Yuliya Volodymyrivna, have you as prime minister gathered material that could prove corruption by Poroshenko, Martynenko and Tretyakov so that we could finally see the facts of corruption that Oleksandr Zinchenko and Mykola Tomenko talked about?
[Tymoshenko] Actually, such things exist on two planes. The first plane is kind of semi-official, where seemingly normal instructions are issued, but there are serious, well-planned actions are behind them - I mean undisguised lobbying. I honestly forwarded all this to the Prosecutor-General's Office and the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] and I can say that I acted this way with regard to all signals.
This is one plane because I am not an investigative body or a security agency. I cannot keep an eye on Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko all the time - I have better things to do - not to mention his team. I simply worked a lot, I had no time to follow his shenanigans.
On the other hand, there are things that look public enough, but it is simply impossible to catch one in the act of doing them. When some businessmen complain of being forced to sell their stakes, for example, when they complain of being forced to give up part of their dividends, when such serious things happen as the Nikopol ferroalloys plant [conflict] - by the way, a very telling thing - [change] I heard the president say that this is a fight between two gangs. I agree with the president.
This was the gang of [tycoon Viktor] Pinchuk fighting the gang of Poroshenko and a Russian businessman, who was in the same package with Poroshenko. I can just say that when Pinchuk hung out there at the Nikopol ferroalloys plant, using the authorities for lobbying purposes to hold on to the plant despite a legitimate court ruling - that was when such things surfaced. Everyone knew about the backroom deals that were struck - why Pinchuk was being met half-way.
Accuses opponents of sabotage
[Tymoshenko] The government was prohibited from carrying out interventions on the sugar market. Over the past week we found a way to bypass the need for new legislation and use existing laws to alleviate the crisis. But just when we had almost solved the sugar crisis, when we had brought in ships wish sugar - because no matter what they say, we are having sugar shortages, and the prices were rising due to artificially created shortages - as soon as we started addressing the situation, I received a written instruction from the president categorically forbidding us to implement that programme. That was wrong. The president's team were putting pressure on him to prevent us from doing our job.
[Presenter] You said that the sugar crisis was a special operation. Who was behind it, can you give us names?
[Tymoshenko] It's the same old people. I don't want to make accusations on the air. We all saw the sugar crisis unfold. And now I am not going to spend time collecting documents - who is going to let me have those documents now? I am not going to collect compromising materials. It was in the public domain, that sugar was being brought in as contraband, and a well-known person together with his father was behind it. And the father of this well-known person was criticizing me on all TV channels when we started solving this problem.
Promises economic stability
[Presenter] Can Ukrainians expect that the hryvnya exchange rate will remain broadly stable?
[Tymoshenko] I am absolutely optimistic that everything will be well in thiscountry, regardless of the political crisis. I will do everything I can to stabilize the situation and prevent some people from taking advantage of those difficult events in the country.
[Journalist Larysa Hubyna] We'd like to come back to the previous topic. Mrs Tymoshenko, if the facts of corruption were so well disguised that it is so hard now to find documentary proof to them, how will the situation unfold? How will those facts be proven?
[Tymoshenko] I am confident that what Oleksandr Zinchenko said and what other politicians said does have documentary proof. I think there are complaints by businessmen who have made official statements. There is evidence. I think there will be no problem with the evidence. But it is not my job to collect evidence.
Not to back Yushchenko during elections
[Journalist Viktor Shlinchak] Good evening, Mrs Tymoshenko. A lot of people hoped to see you without your braid [Tymoshenko laughing] and with a statement that you are going into opposition. Judging by the fact that you are still wearing the braid, you are still undecided. Please tell us under what circumstances you will go into opposition. And if you don't go into opposition, how will your run for parliament?
You said you would be on a parallel path with the president. Is a single election bloc of the forces that were together with Yushchenko during the previous election still possible at the next election?
[Tymoshenko] As to whether I will go into opposition, I would like to say that unlike many other politicians who have changed after the revolution, I have not changed my policies, my views, my morals. I have not changed my attitude to Ukraine. So if someone has changed, they should go into opposition, not me. I am on the right and clear path.
I can firmly say that Viktor Yushchenko and I will go to the election by parallel paths. It does not mean we are at war. But we have two different teams, two very different sets of people. Our teams are different, and I will not go to the elections together with the people who have so discredited Ukraine. I do not mean the president, I mean his entourage.
[Shlinchak] Who will be in the Top 5 of your election list? Who will be the basis of your team in the next six months?
[Tymoshenko] I think it is too early to speak about this because the party lists are not yet being put together. But I can firmly say that it will be worthy people, strong people, people who have moral credibility and authority.
Predicts smear campaign
[Journalist Serhiy Rakhmanin] We were deeply impressed by your statement that you were a single team with the president but now you are not, as I understand. So what do you think about the fact that on the initiative of your team partner, several criminal cases linked to your business activity have been resurrected? And my second question is, can you be sure that after all this you will not be extradited to Russia and your other colleague, [Interior Minister] Yuriy Lutsenko, will have no qualms about it?
[Tymoshenko] Very good question, honestly. I will certainly lead an election bloc and I will lead my own team. I know that staring from yesterday they have been working on a campaign of persecution against me. I want to say one interesting thing to you. Interior Minister Lutsenko has already filed a criminal case against me, actually, when I was still prime minister.
It is in connection with the United Energy Systems [gas distribution company Tymoshenko chaired in the early 1990s]. And later, when he found out that there are court rulings absolutely exonerating me he apologized. But the president in fact knew about it.
I can even tell you another thing. After we came to power, all those criminal cases were dropped. But the president gave an order to some heads of law-enforcement agencies not to close the criminal cases against me and not to settle this issue until election lists [for the parliamentary election] are formed. I was of course told about it. I had no doubts about it. So it hurt a lot. I told the president is was absurd. He agreed with me, but nothing changed.
I think that there will be a real smear campaign against me. Yesterday, when I was sacked, I collected comments by well-known politicians about my dismissal. And the positive comments from people who honestly told the truth about how the cabinet had performed, those very positive comments, there was not a lot of them.
But some very famous politicians - and I actually want to thank them, because this is how people are tested, when truth must be told and the top leadership does not want to hear this truth - so these people I have known for many years were saying this was merely a struggle between two clans, or that it was just a war of commercial structures.
Dear friends, this is yet another test. I am very surprised that this pack of men have for many years, for eight or nine years, are dreaming about ripping me apart and getting rid of me somehow. I want to say to you, dear men, you will not get rid of me. It is not you who are protecting me.
Three things are protecting me, and I want you to know it. You have no control over these three things, no matter how arrogant your comments are. The first thing is the true goal I have - it is a good goal, and the Lord protects me. The second thing, I know that day after day people will believe me more and support me more, because my every deed is transparent and understandable. You cannot do anything about it.
No matter how much dirt your pour on me, people are much wiser than you think. And the third thing that protects me is my faith that the era of Ukraine's cleansing has already begun, and what is happening now is evidence to that. It is not like it was under [former president] Kuchma - under Kuchma everyone kept silent. Now we can clean up, and step after step my faith will become true, and Ukraine will change, it will become strong and beautiful.
Aims to get job back after elections
[Presenter] Mrs Tymoshenko, I know that you have wished good luck to [caretaker premier] Yuriy Yekhanurov. Do you think parliament will support his candidacy?
[Tymoshenko] Yes, I left a very warm note for him on the table when I left my office. I truly wish him well because my country's wellbeing depends on how well he does.
[Presenter] Svitlana Yakovenko from Kiev asks whether you want to work in the new cabinet.
[Tymoshenko] Of course I will work in the new government, but after the parliamentary election in a few months' time. I am sure that I will get a chance to continue building my country. You know, I remember that when Kuchma fired Viktor Yushchenko, Yushchenko came out [of parliament building] and said, I am leaving to come back.
Well, I am not even leaving anywhere, dear friends. I am still with you, and I will keep working to make sure that the new government that will come after the parliamentary elections, and not a lot of time it left till then, I will make sure that this government is how it should be, that nothing stops it.
[Presenter] How about the cabinet being formed now? Is you party going to take part?
[Tymoshenko] No, we are not going to take part in the formation of those cabinets. You see, we criticized Kuchma over the fact that his cabinets never stayed in office for much more than a year. This was because of jealousy, competition, doubts - he did not want anyone to become a competitor for him. But under the new government, the cabinet has survived for just seven months. The next cabinet, if it is approved by parliament, will only work until the election, in the best case scenario.
[Journalist Viktor Shlinchak] Mrs Tymoshenko, yesterday morning agencies quoted first you and then you party members as saying that you had thrice been betrayed - first when Yushchenko did not support you when you were deputy prime minister [in Yushchenko's cabinet under President Kuchma], second when he signed the statement of three [criticizing anti-Kuchma movement in which Tymoshenko took part after her dismissal in 2001] and the third time now [that he has sacked you]. Do you really believe that Yushchenko has betrayed you?
[Tymoshenko] I am not going to judge Viktor Yushchenko. And I just want him to hear this now: I forgive him. Committing this great injustice against me is not a good thing to do, of course. But I want him to know that I forgive him and I bear no grudge against him because I know that my path is light and clear to me.
U-turn on constructional reform
[Journalist on the panel] Mrs Tymoshenko, when, on the president's initiative, attempts will start to abolish the political reform [bill that transfers much of the president's powers to the cabinet of ministers and that is due to take effect on 1 January 2006], will you and your party try to prevent this?
[Tymoshenko] You know that I have always been very clear on this, I have always said that this reform is not a good thing for Ukraine. I remain on this position, because this reform is illogical, it is not ideal. Back at that time I really hoped that the arrival of the new president, of the new team will be able to give the country a new impetus without changes to the constitution.
Now I just see what is happening, and to be honest, all of this reminds me of the old days which it seems are returning now. So we just have to choose now between the bad - the constitutional reform - and the very bad, the things that are now happening under this administration. So we will think about it, and our party will define its position on this.
[Journalist on the panel] If the president offers you some compromise now, will you accept? What kind of compromise should it be? It's a question from our caller, Maryna Kobzar from Boryspil.
[Tymoshenko] I think this compromise could be peaceful coexistence on parallel paths. Our paths will be parallel, and I am sure that everyone will take this path. Everything is still ahead of us, and everything will be happening right in front of you.
[Journalist Svyatoslav Tseholko] Mrs Tymoshenko, how will the new coalition be formed in 2006 if you have already declared that you want to become prime minister once again? Which political forces will take part in the coalition? Will [Yushchenko's] Our Ukraine be among them?
[Tymoshenko] Time will tell. We will take part in the election as a separate and very powerful political force, and I think the result we will obtain will be very good. Then we will decide who to form a coalition with in the new parliament, and on what principles.
[Tymoshenko] Many people really do not approve of such inhumane treatment of me personally and of my cabinet. But on the other hand, seeking compromise does not necessarily mean being in the same team. I will be seeking compromise that will preclude confrontation. I think we [Tymoshenko and Yushchenko] will be moving on different paths but without active confrontation.
[Presenter] Mrs Tymoshenko, you have repeatedly said that you haven't been on vacation for ages. Are you now going to go on vacation? We already know what you are going to do after the election, but what about now?
[Tymoshenko] A lot of people, when they resign, the first thing they say is that they want to have a sleep. Well I don't want to sleep, and I do not plan to go on vacation. My task is that under no circumstances you are disappointed in the government. I know that many people, especially those who were protesting on Independence Square [during the Orange Revolution], they feel that the idea they fought for has been discredited. I want to tell you, please don't feel that way. Some people may have let the flag of our victory fall down.
But I want you to know this. When I was going to this studio, and generally when in a difficult situation, I always have this little ribbon for luck with me [showing an orange ribbon]. I want to tell you now that I do not divide people into Orange [Yushchenko supports] and Blue [backers of Yushchenko's opponent Viktor Yanukovych in the 2004 presidential election]. Because I now understand all those people with my heart.
Me and the team I lead, we will make sure you do not regret freezing on the squares. But what we didn't realize at the time is that the ordinary people who were freezing on the squares for the Blue camp, they wanted the same thing. They wanted change, they wanted respect, they wanted a say in what is happening in the country. So I have in this studio, for the first time, both ribbons, orange and blue. [Showing two ribbons.]
What we haven't noticed is that if we put these two colours together, we get our national flag [blue and yellow]. And I do not want us to go to the election campaign as separate teams, under separate colours. I want us to combine the best we have in our colours.
I want us to unite Ukraine, so that as a single powerful team that has not betrayed its moral values we could come and build Ukraine in which there is justice, prosperity, economic growth, investment and everything we are dreaming about.
A Ukraine with a proper justice system, without corruption, where no-one uses power to enrich themselves. I want you to hear this: I am going to the election as the leader of my own team. I will lead all those people who are ready to join us, both from our team and everyone who feels that Ukraine is our only goal, and all our life is devoted to Ukraine.
I want you to know that I will not betray you. And I am not leaving to come back. I am not leaving at all. I am still with you, and I will always be with you. [Passage omitted: presenter signs off, invites Tymoshenko's opponents to respond]
Coordinator, Action Ukraine Coalition (AUC)
Senior Advisor, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF)
Chairman, Executive Committee, Ukraine-U.S. Business Council
Publisher, Ukraine Information Website, www.ArtUkraine.com
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