Sunday, January 07, 2007

L'onya Kosmos

Anyone who follows events in Ukraine will know about the scandals in the Leonid Chernovetsky-led Kyiv city council, particularly those involving the expropriation of property and doling out of parcels of city land.

An article from the 'Kyiany' site, bits of which I've translated, describes how this appears 'at ground level':

"Chernovetsky's bloc stealing bookstores on Khreshchatyk

The Prosecutor General is to investigate links between Chernovetsky's bloc and the liquidation of Ukrainian bookshops on Khreschatyk [Kyiv's most prestigious boulevard], acccording to BYuT VR deputy Mykola Tomenko [who was vice premier for humanitarian and social issues in the 2005 Tymoshenko cabinet].

An example is the situation around the center-of-town bookshop 'Syayvo', whose premises are worth around $1m. Even in 2003 Anatoliy Chub [Chernovetsky's brother in law] approached the booksop's director Maryna Dovha, with a proposition to transfer ownership of the shop to 'influential people with Donetsk roots' but his offer was rejected. An alternative route was then chosen, and having bought out a portion of individual co-owners' shares, in 2005 the raiders obtained a decision from a regional court granting them ownership of the bookshop's property.

Now ownership is being claimed by the secretary of the Kyiv rada commission for questions of property and Kyivrada Chervonetsky bloc deputy Petro Ivanov, whose legal interests are looked after by Vyachelav Suprunenko [Chernovetsky's son in law], and Denys Komarynskyi [leader of the Chervonetsky block in the Kyivrada]. The entire matter is being examined by the highest courts. Maryna Dovha, couldn't cope with all the stress to which she was being subjected, and died earlier this year.

This is not the first time that the situation surrounding bookshops on Khreschatyk has been at the center of attention. There was a similar story concerning the transfer of ownership of the 'Znannyya' bookshop to a workers' collective . The Kyiv rada has ignored judges' rulings in favour of the workers' collective, and has still not carried out their decision," says Tomenko."

'Interfax' recently reported ByuT's version of events in the Kyiv rada in this article:

"BYuT leader Yuliya Tymoshenko says opposition deputies in Kyiv city council will continue blocking city council sessions

"We won't unblock Kyiv council, because to leave [Kyiv] to these kleptomaniacs would be to wrong Kyiv's residents," she said at a press conference in Kyiv on Tuesday.

She said representatives of opposition factions had met twice with Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky and representatives of the Kyiv council majority. The meetings addressed the settlement of the situation. The opposition proposed to halve the housing and utility rates, which grew by almost 250% from December 1st and to work on documents providing for allotment of land by means of tenders. Although Mayor Chernovetsky agreed with the proposals, Tymoshenko said the majority had rejected all of the proposals made by the opposition.

"What is flourishing in Kyiv city council is not just nepotism - it is unclear who runs Kyiv council," adding that Mayor Chernovetsky's son Stepan Chernovetsky was present at a meeting of the city council's conciliatory council, as well was the mayor's son-in-law, Viacheslav Suprunenko, his brother, Oleksandr Suprunenko, and the husband of the mayor's sister, Anatoliy Chub.

"Those people, not the mayor, controlled the situation at the conciliatory council meeting," said Tymoshenko, and added that the [parliamentary] opposition would initiate draft bills providing for the sale and leasehold of municipal land and municipal property only via auctions."

Cover for Chernovetsky and his boys' rapacious 'raiding' is being provided by new appointees to the Prosecutor General's and Kyiv prosecutor's offices Renat Kuzmin and Serhiy Lenskiy, whose disreputable past history is described in detail by respected investigative journalist Volodymyr Boyko,

More details from the capital's 'Kiyany/Oboz' website:

"Land given away to Chernovetskyites and other fighters for justice

Around 200 parcels [of land] having a total area of 365 hectares have been assigned, circumventing competitive tendering procedures. In the lists of recipients of the allotments are structures linked to Kievrada deputies from various fractions of the pro-mayor's majority.

The city authorities, which had promised voters to end the plundering of the Kiev land, showed particular cynicism in this land grab. The council majority formed by Leonid [Chenovetsky] have followed in the tracks of its predecessors and received Kyiv green belt land and nature reserves as payment for loyalty shown to the mayor."

Chernovetsky's bloc in the Kyivrada received less than 33% of votes cast, but he is supported by deputies from other parties. Chervonetsky [a.k.a L'onya Kosmos] was a NSNU deputy in the VR and a former presidential adviser. He was expelled from school for 'drinking and a tendency for indulging in petty crime', and has allegedly been involved in drug dealing [hence the nickname?]

Ukrainian politicians and elected officials seem incredulous at any notion of conflicts of interest, compulsory declaration of outside business interests, or control of their activities by the sort of powerful independent national audit watchdogs that exist in most normal countries.


Anonymous said...

So it sounds like he's not very diff from past Kyiv mayors, with the diff that there is better press coverage and a stronger opposition(and more assistance for the relatively poor Kyivites)? It also sounds like Chernovetsky is not truly in control of his leadership section if he has made compromises with the opposition that have been tankered.

Sounds like maybe a C+ still to me...


DLW said...

Maybe I'm way too easy of a grader, especially for someone who doesn't have to live in Kyiv.

If 72% of Kyivites want him out of there then that's a failing grade.

I especially think its disgusting how he wanted to open a session where they were giving out 300 tracts of land with prayer.

It sounds like some revenue is being raised, but there still is heavy favoritism and going back on the sorts of reforms that Kyivites were wanting.


Anonymous said...

I am not very familiar with Kyiv politics but from what I have seen and read on your blog is there is an urgent need for dramatic reform in the Ukrainian local government sector. The size of many city councils (some have over 100 deputies) is unmanageable and necessary. Local council's should be no more then 15 elected representatives.

Overall planning control and responsibility should lie with the regional government with the local government playing the role of advocate.

The issues you have described and reported on are alarming to say the least. Clearly conflicts of interest involving elected representatives is unacceptable (One of the many problems associated with having such large representative bodies)

It is this lack of open and transparent planning that severely undermines public confidence in Ukraine's government.

An appointment of a local government/planning Ombudsman, who could take legal action against any elected official considered to have a conflict of interest would provide some form of additional avenue for addressing any misconduct. The other option is the formation of a business/community lobby that is prepared to act as a public watchdog and if need be initiate legal action on behalf of the community.

It is these sort of issues that Yulia Tymoshenko should be concentrating on and in the process winning community respect and support.

There are similar issues of poor planning and development effecting the Crimean coast with private developers closing off access to the foreshore and in the process limiting the economic development of local communities. It should be possible to walk or cycle unhindered from Alusta to Yalta but sadly various closures and gates prevent the such access.

I have spoken to many local residents and small businesses along the coast line and they all recognize the value and importance of managing and mainatining open public access to the foreshore. They sadly are being let down by the local government representatives and authorities, who in most cases are the ones that are acting to deny access to the seas and the existing coastal pathways.

The economic and social benefits of ensuring public access to the coastline is considerable and would benefit all the local communities residents and business alike (Including the greedy land owners who are denying opportunity by closing off foreshore access to the sea).

Someone has to step in and protect the public's right of access. I am told that many of the closures and gates along the costs are illegal but no one takes any action to protect the public's entitlements. The way in which privatisation has been undertaken no one weams to know what is private and what is public anymore. The Crimean costs is fast becoming a chain of gated communities where the general public have no rights or entitlements.

In New Zealand, Australia and many European countries if a someone tried to close off access to the coast there would be massive protests with members of the public, with media in tow, rallying with bolt cutters removing the barriers and demanding that local governments take action to protect the public rights.

Yulia Tymoshenko and other policital organsistions such as Pora should consider taking organsiing similar protest action to ensure that those responsible and local authorities are held accountable for their actions or inactions as the case may be.

A few well planned/non violent public protest meetings would attract media attention and broad community support and help educate the public of the serious problems facing public land asset management. The net result of such protest action is being greater political awareness of the problems and ways to resolve them.

This is the challenge that Ukrainians must take on board. It is the local issues that are of greater importance then issues such as NATO and foreign relationships. That is not to say they are not important, clearly they are, but it is the local issues that create the foundations of community awareness and social activism.