Former Ukraine PM Yulia Tymoshenko and Me

(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, file)

I’m going to tell a story that I really don’t want to tell because it is so personal and it hurts me, but I think it is now worth telling, over one year into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.


Through a friend, I did some work for former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. This was several years ago. And she is lovely. A very impressive woman with a big personality.

Yulia wanted to come to the U.S. to sound the alarm about the threat from Russia she felt as PM. No one took it very seriously at the time but obviously she was not wrong. 

Having previously run the CPAC conference for three years, I booked her there as a keynote speaker at the Friday night Ronald Reagan Banquet. We got the great producer and GOP consultant Tony Marsh to make a video intro and she proceeded to give a barn-burner of a speech. But it ran long because of her passion. She got a standing ovation. I was pulled aside by one of the organizers and harassed because she ran over time, and I said something like, “If you don’t appreciate what she just did, you are an a-hole.”

I was then banned from CPAC for life. Whatever. Sorry I saved the conference when I was there and my successors grew it to the massiveness that it is today. 

I don’t know where Yulia is now. Her deputies, particularly the total badass Oleksandr Turchynov, are on the front lines, defending their country in totally admirable fashion. I’m pretty sure it was Turchynov who ordered the attack that sunk the Russian flagship months ago.

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I touched Turchynov on the shoulder when their delegation arrived for dinner in the United States. One does not tough Turchynov. I received the scariest look that I have ever received in response. My friend saw it all and we joke about it to this day. Don’t touch The Torch.


Of course, all this was happening while the current Ukrainian president was still doing a sitcom.

Who knew it would come to this? Well… Yulia did. And by extension, we did. She had a secret White House meeting w Dick Cheney and he too knew of the threat. The Bush White House took it seriously, to their credit.

So now, more than a year in, it’s all playing out. I cannot help but be angry at the cavalier attitudes of the CPAC organizers at the time and how she—and I—were treated. But that’s Washington for you. I you want a friend get a dog, etc…

Of course, we now have Mr. Zelenskyy in power, defending his country along with his committed deputies like a true champion. It’s hard to watch—Ukrainians are good people who should be free—but it is also inspiring to see the unity and the resolve, which is really kind of against all odds. It does not surprise me, however, knowing what I know about them and their leaders. 

Wherever you are, Yulia, you changed me and I am grateful. And to the Ukrainians on the front lines, I send my prayers and love. Do not mess with a Ukrainian. And if you ever come across Oleksandr Turchynov, don’t touch him. Trust me on that.



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