- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

Kostyantyn Gryshchenko began his career in the Soviet diplomatic corps, served as Ukraine’s ambassador in Washington, and rose to be his country’s foreign minister during the tumultuous days of December’s Orange Revolution.

But in Washington yesterday for meetings with senior State Department officials, Mr. Gryshchenko was wearing yet another hat: politician.

“For Ukrainian diplomats, our frustration was always that what we tried to achieve abroad was being held back by the realities of our own country,” Mr. Gryshchenko said in an interview. “Forming a political party was the way I saw to change that.”

Mr. Gryshchenko said his fledgling Republican Party of Ukraine is named after and patterned on its American counterpart: a pro-business, low-tax, small-government party that favors individual initiative, community values and decentralized political power.

“We took the basic core idea from the ideas of the U.S. Republican party,” he said.

The Orange Revolution, in which massive, peaceful protests overturned a questionable election and led to a victory for pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko, electrified the world.

But Mr. Gryshchenko, who stepped down as foreign minister Feb. 4, argued the revolution had been far from complete. U.S. and European support and pressure, he said, were still needed to keep the new government on the path to needed reforms.

“In many ways there has been no visible break with the way the country was governed before,” he said.

“The outward declarations and statements of the government are much more positive, but the power structures — dealing with the media, with local governments, with the economy — have seen no real change.”

The Orange Revolution “opened a window of opportunity that should be exploited to the maximum for reform, but that is not happening now,” he added.

President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have clashed over energy policy and other issues, reminiscent of the paralyzing fights that occurred throughout the two terms of former President Leonid Kuchma.

Most local officials are appointed by the central government in Kiev, and business “oligarchs” continue to dominate many of the main industrial and media properties.

Mr. Gryshchenko said many of the bureaucrats and ministers from Mr. Kuchma’s time remain in place, and government officials still have trouble accepting the need for a critical and independent press.

He said his new party hopes to meet the 3 percent vote threshold to qualify for seats in parliament in next spring’s vote, seeking support in both Ukraine’s European-oriented west and its Russian-speaking eastern regions.

He acknowledged the vast change between his former life of international conferences and high-level diplomacy to a politician’s lot shaking hands, slapping backs, striking deals and trolling for votes.

“I have gotten to see a lot more of my own country than I did before,” he said.

“But cutting deals is something I have had to do for a long time. Any negotiation is a delicate balance between what is achievable and what is in the best interests of everybody in the room.”

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