Back on 28 July, Ukrainian football idol Andriy Shevchenko announced his retirement from sports and entered politics. And not any kind of politics. For the « Immortal Sheva », Mister « Ballon d’Or 2004 », politics means campaining hand in hand with Nataliya Korolevska.
A former friend and ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, she is now heading a mini-political party called « Україна – Вперед! » (Ukraijna-Vpered! – Ukraine-Forward!, former Social-Democratic Party). Credited with more or less 5% of the votes ahead of the October poll, the party is believed to be supported by financial sources close to the ruling Party of Regions. In this perspective, it would be used as a kind of a fake alternative project meant to divide opposition forces.
Quite unknown only a few months ago, Nataliya Korolevska gained visibility thanks to an intensive promotion campaign made of TV adds and billboards. One estimates the campaign to cost her about 250,000 euros per months. The civic movement чесно (Chesno – Honestly) established a link between the party and MP Oleksandr Yefremov (Party of Regions). According to the newspaper « Українська правда » (Ukrainska Pravda), connections might go as high up as to Ukraine wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov.
Political added value of hiring Andriy Shevchenko is obvious for Nataliya Korolevska. She has also recruited the famous actor Bohdan Stupka for her campaign and uses well the « peoplization » trend one may observe in Ukrainian politics. Yet, for the inexperienced Sheva, the bet seems quite hazardous. Many believe he endangers his legendary popularity by joining Korolevska’s party. And it is yet not guaranteed that he is to win a seat in the Parliament. The campaign and the October election may show that Sheva is mortal, after all.
But for now, Ukrainian cities’ streets rejoice with joyful pictures of a happy couple. Autumn will be hot.