Cablegate: Ukraine: U.S. Ambassador Visits Sumy In

DE RUEHKV #2188/01 3081506
R 031506Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. Ambassador Taylor on September 25 became
the first U.S. Ambassador to officially visit the Sumy Oblast
(region) in northeastern Ukraine. The Ambassador met with
the Governor and the Mayor of the city of Sumy before
attending Sumy's International Economic Forum. He also spoke
with young politicians representing four different political
parties to discuss Ukraine's current political uncertainty.
One theme heard repeatedly during the visit was that despite
political unrest in Kyiv, Sumy leaders have learned to work
together regardless of party loyalties to make the Sumy
oblast a better place for its residents. Sumy's large heavy
industry sector and increased industrial growth have recently
made Sumy more attractive to foreign investment. In
addition, Sumy shares a border with Russia and seems to be
able to balance good relations with its northern neighbor
without sacrificing opportunities to develop commercial ties
with the West. End summary.

Political Background

2. (SBU) The Sumy oblast, with a population of about 1.2
million, borders Russia and has supported the Orange
political forces since 2004. Given its geographic proximity
to Russia and to Kharkiv oblast, a Party of Regions
stronghold, one might expect that Sumy would also lean in
support of the Party of Regions, but it currently does not.
Sumy Governor Mykola Lavryk told the Ambassador that one of
the main reasons Sumy remains "Orange" is because Ukrainian
President Viktor Yushchenko is a native son of Sumy, born in
the town of Khoruzhivka. (Note: in the September 2007 snap
parliamentary elections the majority of Sumy residents voted
"Orange" but Sumy residents preferred the block of Yuliya
Tymoshenko (BYuT) over the President's party with 41% of
voters supporting BYuT, 20.7% supporting the Party of Regions
and only 14.9% supporting the pro-Presidential Our
Ukraine-National Self-Defense block. End note.)

Sumy's Annual Economic Forum

3. (SBU) On September 26, the Ambassador traveled 90 km
outside of the oblast center Sumy to the resort "Bujmerivka"
for the Sumy Fourth Annual International Economic Forum. The
Ambassador met with the Indian-born developers of the resort
town, who were quite positive about commercial possibilities
in Sumy. The developers had created an outdoor retreat with
swimming pools, tennis courts, and restaurants deep in the
woods of Sumy. Developers told the Ambassador that the Sumy
oblast had been particularly supportive of foreign
investment, which was evident during the course of the forum.

4. (SBU) According to Sumy officials, its chemical and
agricultural machinery industries have accelerated Sumy's
economic growth. In addition, Sumy's mining and iron ore
production and oil and gas processing sectors have attracted
additional interest in this "sleeper" oblast. Sumy boasts a
doubled industrial growth rate in 2007 and a production
growth rate two times the national average.

5. (SBU) The Ambassador was joined at the forum by the
Argentine Ambassador and several diplomats from neighboring
countries, as well as a host of business representatives
interested in doing business in Sumy. Polish, Lithuanian,
Russian, and German investors said Sumy openly welcomed
foreign investment and were upbeat about Sumy's business

Meeting with Governor Lavryk

6. (SBU) The Ambassador discussed the following points with
Sumy Oblast Governor Mykola Lavryk on September 26:

--Governor Lavryk was particularly pleased to be the first
Sumy Governor to host a U.S. Ambassador, and considered it a
positive sign of continued U.S. support for Sumy and Ukraine.

--Lavryk was outspoken in support of Georgia during its
crisis with Russia, and appreciated the U.S. support for
Georgia. The Ambassador noted that President's Bush's visit
and Vice President Cheney's visit were also signs of the

KYIV 00002188 002 OF 003

United States' continued support for Ukraine.

--Discussing the common border with Russia, Lavryk noted that
a recent Ukrainian survey revealed that Russia was using
hundreds of hectares of land on the Ukrainian side of the
border. He said the GOU was currently taking back the land,
but was not specific.

--Lavryk conceded that he was not popular in Russia,
recounting struggles with Russia over transferring control
of an Orthodox church from the Moscow Patriarchate to the
Kyiv Patriarchate, and the dismantling of a prominent Lenin
statue. Nonetheless, Russia and Sumy maintained good
commercial relations, Lavryk said. He believed the overall
quality of life on both sides of the border was about equal,
and expressed confidence that Sumy could improve the quality
of life by boosting economic growth and maintaining good
commercial relations with Russia.

--Lavryk expressed strong support for President Yushchenko.
He said most of Sumy supports the President, since the
President was born in Sumy oblast in the town of Khoruzhivka.
Governor Lavryk was previously the Governor of neighboring
Chernihiv oblast from 2005-2007 and was appointed Governor of
Sumy in April 2008 by President Yushchenko. Lavryk asserted
that only Yushchenko has the political ability and fortitude
to keep Ukraine's democracy intact.

--When asked how Ukraine should solve the ongoing political
crisis, Lavryk was adamant that only new elections could
resolve the political crisis in Kyiv. He did not feel any
coalition could be formed in lieu of elections.

Meeting with Mayor Minayev

7. (SBU) The Ambassador discussed the following with Sumy
Mayor Hennadiy Minayev:

--Mayor Minayev (member of the Sumy-specific party Night
Watch) told us he survived what he called impeachment
proceedings by a single vote in 2007. He subsequently
established an executive committee in which members of
different parties are represented. The Mayor claimed that the
committee helped him overcome party differences in the City
Council. All parties were now working together. Separately,
four members of the City Council, each representing different
parties, reaffirmed that the Sumy City Council is now moving
important projects forward and is not stymied by political
unrest. (Note: Party of Regions (POR) City Council Member
Oleksiy Movchan told us that he had been instructed by POR
leaders to vote against Minayev's impeachment, as POR leaders
were afraid his impeachment would result in a BYuT member
becoming Mayor. End note.)

--The Mayor told us he appointed successful Sumy businessmen
Mykola Trofymenko, head of Sumy's largest chemical plant, and
Volodymyr Pavchenko, a successful construction company owner,
as his deputies to provide the economic leadership the City
was in need of. Trofymenko and Pavchenko alluded to the
Ukrainian expression "Ukrainians unite one minute before the
execution" to describe the Mayor,s impeachment proceedings.
They explained that Minayev was able to assemble a powerful
team of managers throughout the city who knew business and
could implement best business practices as soon as possible.
Minayev asserted that his decision to assemble such a
business-minded team has resulted in great economic success
for the city of Sumy and the oblast as well.

--Minayev stressed Sumy,s chemical industry which mainly
produces fertilizer as a means to further improve Sumy; he
noted that Sumy-produced fertilizer cost four times less than
U.S. fertilizer, adding that investment in Sumy,s chemical
sector is a key city priority.

--Minayev believed that all current deputies in the
parliament should step down and new, younger politicians are
needed. He called for Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and Yanukovych
to sit in a locked room together and hammer out all their
differences, before being allowed to leave the room. He also
viewed another election as the only probable way to resolve
the political strife in Kyiv.

Meeting with Young Politicians

KYIV 00002188 003 OF 003

8. (SBU) The Ambassador had dinner with four young and
engaging politicians from Sumy: Volodymyr Voitenko from BYuT,
Vitaliy Moiseyenk from Our Ukraine, Oleksiy Movchan from
Party of Regions, and Rodion Kochubei from the Night Watch
party. (Note: Night watch is a political party founded in
2004 by Sumy students who protested 2004 presidential
election fraud; several Ukrainian historians believe the
Orange Revolution was started when these students were
arrested and beaten by police in Sumy. End note.) These
politicians discussed the following:

--Although Kyiv seems unable to overcome party differences
for the good of the country, Sumy City Council members have
been able to do it. All four politicians agreed there is a
political will in Sumy that puts the needs of Sumy residents
first, adding that they did not see that kind of
multipartisanship in Kyiv.

--All four politicians agreed that constant political
instability in Kyiv did affect the oblast, especially since
budget funds come from Kyiv. They noted that Kyiv's
inability to properly fund roads nationally is noticed by
anyone who travels to Sumy by car. They added that many
citizens of Sumy had grown tired of political unrest, and
commented that voter turn out in another election would
probably be much lower than turnout for the September 2007
snap elections.

--Three of the four politicians believed Ukraine should join
NATO, while Mr. Movchan from the Party of Regions (Party of
Regions is a minority in both the oblast and city
governments) was clearly against NATO membership. Movchan
expected that a national referendum would prove that the
majority of Ukrainians do not support Ukraine's membership in

9. (SBU) Comment. The visit to Sumy underscored the notion
that Kyiv's political uncertainty does not necessarily extend
to other regions in Ukraine. In fact, Sumy leadership
asserted that parties can overcome their differences for the
greater good and work reasonably well with each other. Sumy
officials have attributed economic growth to a willingness by
Sumy officials to attract much-needed foreign investment,
which they added is not the case in Kyiv at present. The
annual economic forum in Sumy showcased Sumy,s potential and
its willingness to attract much-needed foreign investment to
all of its business sectors to this largely unknown oblast.
End comment.

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