Today, as Ukraine suffers the ills of unstable politics, President Viktor Yushchenko has once again issued a decree to dismiss parliament. Meanwhile, all the attention has fallen on Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko. Her silence during the South Ossetian conflict and apparent friendship with Russia pushed Yushchenko to make the move for the third time in his presidency.
Timoshenko all too often displays such an obstinate demeanor — placing herself under threat of fire, and charging forward head-on. Those close to her say she will never change. Before Timoshenko became Ukraine's princess of the Orange Revolution and prime minister, she was known as the gas queen. From 1991-1994, she was the director of the Ukrainian Benzine Corporation, which supplied the majority of oil products to the agrarian sector in the Dnepropetrovsk region. At the time, Timoshenko had a bodyguard, who later became the security director at her firm. KP spoke with Sergey about Timoshenko's life behind the curtains.
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Sergey: I'm from Dnepropetrovsk, like Timoshenko and [former President of Ukraine Leonid] Kuchma and many others from Timoshenko’s inner circle. I was a police officer before an acquaintance invited me to take a job at Yuliya's firm. This was back in 1992.
I began by providing security services for Yuliya, but I wasn't her personal guard. I was soon promoted to the position of security head at her firm, the Ukrainian Benzine Corporation.
I was in charge of maintaining the firm's reputation and promoting the company on the market, as well as guaranteeing the personal safety of the general director, Yuliya Timoshenko (managing her personal bodyguard and driver).
The work of a guard is to protect, and the security service maintains control over the situation, guaranteeing both a client's and his firm's safety. I remember once we had to sleep at Yuliya's apartment -- three nights in a row -- as a result of a threat to physically harm her... We were amazed at how she held herself. Fearless. I found bugs in her office.
KP: Were attacks or assassination attempts made against Timoshenko?
Sergey: No. If anyone approached her, the individual was sidelined.
KP: Did Timoshenko ever run from her security service?
Sergey: She was able to get away from our entourage with her personal driver, but that's about it...
Our work protecting the firm's reputation on the market and acquiring compromising material on our competitors was far more stressful.
Timoshenko is an active entrepreneur. Her policy isn't to sit back and wait, but rather to go on the attack. Having said that, she was always able to negotiate with her competitors. She tried to win over the people who she respected. She also was able to pay people back. Her authority in the gas world rose consistently. She was well-respected. Our security department was engaged in solving specific problems that I can't talk about.
Sergey: Without exaggerating, Yuliya has the best team, and Yushchenko has the worst. Kuchma lost those who were loyal to him. But Timoshenko is able to pick the best of the best. She completely depends on the team of professionals who surround her. They give her advice about what to do in this or that situation. She examines all the advice she gets and then makes up her mind. It's nearly impossible to force her to do anything.
Timoshenko makes her decisions deliberately, and thinks quickly. Most importantly, though, she always has confidence in what she's doing. I can't remember her ever getting mixed up about something, or not knowing what to say or do... One particular situation comes to mind. I went to see Yuliya and told her about my plans to sideline our competition. She listened to me, weighed all the pluses and minuses, and then made her decision literally within 5 minutes.
She's decisive. Once she asked her business partner to loan her money. He refused. She got angry, left the office and said she didn't want anything to do with him. The next day, she had already signed all the papers necessary to create a new gas company without his support. She never had anything to do with him after that incident.
Forgiving her subordinates
Sergey: People who worked for Yuliya held onto their places tightly. She paid her colleagues more than other companies. Every year, she paid her employees 5-6 additional times, and also gave them bonuses. She gave everyone presents during the holidays, which amounted to their monthly wage.
Yuliya never asked for an account of my work or budget. If I needed more money than she gave me, I just went to see her to argue my point. She always gave me the amount I needed.
People never worked for Yuliya incidentally. She endorsed “family values.” I know a couple who she even gave one of her apartments to. As a result, people always treat her with thanks and loyalty. When the daughter of the company's accountant fell ill with cancer at 22 years old, Yuliya paid to have her sent to Germany for treatment.
First and foremost, Yuliya values business qualities. Everything else is inconsequential. I discovered that our economics head was stealing little by little. I thought I should tell Yuliya. She listened me out, thanked me for my work, and... he kept his job. She closed her eyes when it came to insignificant financial indulgences if an employee worked hard and was an important member of the team. The only thing she couldn't stand was stupidity. Everything else she could control. A universal soldier...
Yuliya only hired people with a higher education, including her security. Her employees were intelligent and well-raised. One of her guards was studying to get his PhD... Their level of intelligence could even be seen by looking at their desktops... I never once saw anyone acting slovenly. If someone had a bit too much to drink, the other employees tried to keep him out from under her nose. They tried not to upset her.
KP: Did she care about what her subordinates said about her?
Sergey: No. She took a very calm view of their opinions.
KP: Could she admit she was wrong?
Sergey: She never did publicly. She probably understood she was wrong in several situations, but no one knew she felt this way. If she was wrong, she would remedy the situation, but she wouldn't mention it to anyone.
Читать русскую версию: Бывший охранник Тимошенко: Юлю боятся даже сторожевые овчарки