Ukraine advisory role for Putin critic
By Arkady Ostrovsky in Moscow and Tom Warner in Kiev
February 14 2005 20:47

Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's pro-western president, on Monday appointed one of Russia's leading liberal opposition figures as an adviser - a move likely to ruffle Kremlin feathers.

Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the Union of Right Forces, has been a staunch supporter of Mr Yushchenko and appeared with him during last year's Orange Revolution protests in Kiev.

His appointment highlights the strong bond between Ukraine's new government and Russia's liberals, who hope to stage a political comeback after failing to win parliamentary representation in the 2003 election.

"Yushchenko's victory in Ukraine was also a victory for Russian liberals," Mr Nemtsov told the Financial Times. However, Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, may not be happy to see one of his most outspoken critics advising the president of a neighbouring country.

The head of Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the main industrial lobby, said during a visit to Kiev on Monday that it would not be "proper" for Mr Nemtsov to advise Mr Yushchenko on political matters.

Kirill Frolov, a Russian political analyst, said the appointment, and a recent announcement by exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky that he was planning to live in Kiev, confirmed that "Orange Ukraine would become a bridgehead for Vladimir Putin's opponents".

Mr Yushchenko's spokeswoman portrayed the appointment as reflecting Mr Yushchenko's interest in hearing a broad range of views.

"Ukraine's new leaders are interested in every politician or representative of the business elite who can add something to developing bilateral ties to work as a goodwill ambassador," she said.

Mr Nemtsov was governor of Russia's central Nizhny Novgorod region and deputy prime minister in 1997-1998. But his Union of Right forces failed to get into parliament last year, leaving him on the margins of Russian politics.

Mr Nemtsov said he would not receive a salary from the Ukrainian government and would still live in Moscow. His job, he said, would be to channel Russian investment into Ukraine's economy, something Mr Putin encourages. But the Russian leader may not care for Mr Nemtsov's sales pitch, however.

Mr Nemtsov said: "There is a unique window of opportunity for Russian companies in Ukraine. In Russia, conditions for private business are getting worse and money is running away from the country. But instead of taking their money to Swiss banks or to Cyprus, Russian businessmen can be investing into Ukraine's economy."