The Sunday Times today passes on an interesting rumour that Russia is going to offer sanctuary Ukraine’s outgoing President Leonid Kuchma should he be forced to flee .
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who last week met Kuchma in Moscow, is believed to have offered him a haven in Russia should the opposition seek to have him investigated.
Update (6/12/04): The quote above is a little hard to find – buried at the bottom of the second page of the Times article.
Kuchma certainly has plenty to worry about. His business dealings are under investigation – his son has managed to amass a $1bn fortune over the last decade. But, more likely to bring Kuchma down are the allegations that he ordered the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze, a journalist who campaigned against corruption in Ukraine.
Kuchma is also reportedly working hard to cut a deal that, in exchange for allow a smooth re-run of the election, will give him immunity from prosecution. He had a deal already arranged with Yanukovich, but the Ukrainian people took to the streets and spoiled his retirement plans somewhat. Now he’s left scrambling for some kind of deal with Yuschchenko.
If I were Kuchma, that’s the route I’d take. Make every concession necessary, and don’t do a thing to stand in the way of a fair election, in exchange for guarantees of immunity as iron clad as he can make them. Kuchma is still a powerful man in Ukraine, and his son still wields a lot of influence between them they should be able to make a deal stick.
And Russia is not a particularly reliable haven for outgoing heads of state these days. Remember Slobodan Milosevic, ex-President of Serbia? A few years ago it seemed pretty certain that he’d end his days in a dacha just outside Moscow. Instead he spends his days commuting between his cell block and a courtroom in the Hague.