Welcome to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council

BBC Monitoring research in English 24 Dec 07
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, Thursday, Dec 24, 2007

Volodymyr Ohryzko became foreign minister in December 2007, as his candidacy was approved by parliament along with other ministers of Yuliya Tymoshenko's new cabinet. Ohryzko is a pro-Western diplomat; he is reportedly disliked in Moscow.

Ohryzko was nominated to the cabinet by President Viktor Yushchenko, as the post of foreign minister, along with defence minister, belongs to the
presidential quota in the government.

This job is not entirely new for Ohryzko, as he briefly served as acting
foreign minister in early 2007. He was also nominated for foreign minister
by Yushchenko twice in February and March, but was rejected by parliament.

Ohryzko was born in Kiev on 1 April 1956. He graduated from the Kiev
Shevchenko state university as a translator from German in 1978, and was
employed by the Soviet Ukraine's Foreign Ministry as press attache the same
year. He has been dealing with foreign affairs ever since, with a break for
military service in the Soviet army in 1981-83.

In 1992-1996, Ohryzko served in various positions at the Ukrainian embassies
to Austria and Germany. In 1996, the then president, Leonid Kuchma, picked
him to chair the foreign policy directorate of the presidential
administration. Ohryzko was ambassador to Austria in 1999-2004, after which
he briefly served as ambassador at large.

Ohryzko earned a reputation for being a tough negotiator with Russia,
serving as first deputy prime minister since February 2005.

Moscow disapproved his statements on the need for the Black Sea Fleet to
leave Ukraine as soon as possible, as well as requests for the Russian navy
to abandon the hydrographic facilities in Ukraine which Russia has been
using for years.

Ohryzko refused to speak Russian at one meeting with visiting Russian
experts, who afterwards complained that their poor knowledge of Ukrainian
hampered normal dialogue.

This caused a diplomatic scandal, which Yushchenko's opponents in parliament
quoted as one of the reasons for their refusal to approve Ohryzko's
candidacy as Yushchenko's choice for foreign minister twice in February and
March 2007, following Borys Tarasyuk's resignation from the post of foreign
minister in January.

Pro-Yushchenko parties said that Kremlin was behind Ohryzko's failure.
"Volodymyr Ohryzko hates Russia and Russians," said pro-Kremlin commentator
Georgiy Markov. It was widely believed that the then anti-Yushchenko
majority in parliament feared that Ohryzko would zealously pursue
Yushchenko's policy of integration with the West at the expense of relations
with Russia.

Yushchenko remained faithful to his choice and nominated Ohryzko again
when control over the majority in parliament passed to his allies following the
September 2007 early parliamentary election.

Ohryzko has been serving as foreign minister since 18 December 2007. US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice congratulated Ohryzko on his appointment
by phone.

Among Ohryzko's first steps as foreign minister was the summoning of the
Russian Embassy's counsellor-envoy over the Russian Foreign Ministry's
statement saying that Ukraine was distorting history when it called the
1932-33 famine an act of genocide. Ohryzko said that the statement
"contradicted basic historical knowledge".

Ohryzko said that Ukraine has no alternative to normal relations with
Russia. He listed the increase in the price of Russian gas and Russia's
withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
among the major challenges facing Ukraine.

Ohryzko pledged to strictly monitor the implementation by the Schengen zone
countries of the Ukraine-EU accord on visa regime liberalization. He also
said that it is too early to speak about joining NATO, but added that
Ukraine should join the NATO Membership Action Plan as soon as possible.

Ohryzko speaks German, English and Russian. He is married, with two
daughters and a son who serves at the Ukrainian Embassy to Austria.