Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ukraine's finest on the case..

Ukraine's Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Medvedko today revealed that two more suspects have been identified in the poisoning of president Viktor Yushchenko in September 2004. In a hesitant performance which can be seen here, he refused to name names, but added that one of them was 'a masseur' who left Kyiv last September. His whereabouts is now not known.

Several days ago ex-SBU head Igor Smesko in a newspaper interview stated that Yushchenko had also eaten at the dacha one of the directors of the 'Foxtrot' chain of electrical products stores, one and a half hours before the fateful last supper with Smesko and ex-deputy head of the SBU Satsyuk, at the latter's dacha.

Deputy P-G Renat Kuzmin declared two months ago that at least 20 persons could have poisoned Yushchenko, and that member of the president's closest circle were amongst the suspects.

LEvko says Inspector Clouseau could do a better job. And another thing: Kirpa - Kravchenko - Kuchnaryov? Is there a serial Killer out there? Just might be worth checking out....

P-G is probably working on it as I write..

Update from today's 'Gazeta po Kievski'

'Stop feeding us fairy stories'

But who in this country still believes in the fairy stories that 'the investigation continues' and 'the poisoner is being sought'?

If it is necessary to solve the crime (as with the British law enforcement agencies in the Litvinenko case), then they will solve it. But if not (as occurs with murders of journalists, politicians, businessmen over here), then to the matter will never be resolved.

Uncertain future for Kharkiv after Kushnaryov's death

Journalists in Ukraine are speculating on the significance of the sudden death of Yevhen Petrovych Kushnaryov [YPK] in a shooting accident two weeks ago. I've translated a portion from an article in the current 'Bez Tsenzury':

"Never before was any Ukrainian politician buried with such pomp. The funeral was attended by practically the entire Cabinet of Ministers, the prime minister, the VR speaker, many VR deputies, oligarchs, Rinat Akhmetov, foreign delegations, kriminalni avtoritety [!], persona non grata Zatulin from Russia, and the maestro of them all – Kuchma. [in descending order of notoriety?..LEvko]

The shock disappearance from the political chess board of the chess queen [Kuchnaryov] has caused a stalemate position. Everyone understands, that after his death, Kharkiv has lost its greatest champion in Kyiv.

For the city [which is Ukraine's second largest] it means redistribution of spheres of influence of various clans both inside of the Party of Regions, and among local business-elites. YPK was the only person with the indisputable authority to prevent matters getting out of hand. The epoch of YPK in Kharkiv was such that key players preferred to agree without using weapons.

YPK was the buffer between the capital [Kyiv] and the "Donetskiites", and that allowed problems at issue to be amicably resolved. The oblast will now be supervised from outside, and a possible war between local clans for redistribution of property could lead to long-awaited arrival to region of the 'Dons'.

The possibility that Kharkiv will finally turn from an intellectual capital to a criminal capital cannot be excluded. Recent events, in which city authorities openly participated, forced law enforcement agencies, for only the second time in the history of Ukraine, to raise criminal cases under the 'mass disorder' clause. These led to the open confrontation between the police authorities and the mayor's office. YPK, understanding where this all could lead to, unexpectedly supported militia in this conflict instead of his fellow party members, Kharkiv mayor Mykhailo Dobkin and city council secretary Hennadiy Kernes. His word has served as a guarantee of that no policeman would not be forced to leave his chair, and he instigated the creation of court of inquiry in the VR.

[There's much more on theses mass disturbances last month on the 'Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group' site, in English, here ]

It is necessary not to forget also, that the Kharkiv politician was the intermediary between Yanukovych and Akhmetov, who are slipping away from one another more and more.

After the tragic death of the political grand master in the region, a new game will now be played."

Other news websites predict possible turf-wars too between clans supported by Akhmetov, the president, and the PM. One of the victims could be local oligarchic businessman and BYuT VR deputy Oleksandr Feldman.

Some valuable assets could be privatized in the future in the Kharkiv oblast. These include the Antonov aircraft factory, Malyshev armaments [tank] factory as well as local power utility companies. There are very few Ukrainian Financial Industrial Groups who could bid seriously for such prestigious objects..And everyone knows where the money is..

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fusion of politics and business

Ukrainska Pravda carries a story entitled "Hayduk and Firtash provoke a government mini-crisis in Hungary" about some rather shady business, bits of which I have loosely translated:

Billions of KWatts of electricity, primarily generated in Burshtyn, Western Ukraine are exported, via several private structures at a highly attractive price, to western neigbours Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Most of the deals were set up in 2003 by the Ukrainian state enterprise UkrIntEnergo when Vitaliy Hayduk was deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector in the Ukrainian government.

Vitaliy Hayduk was recently appointed Secretary of the National Security & Defense Council by president Yushchenko. He is co-owner of one of Ukraine's largest financial industrial groups - Industrial Union of Donbass.

It can be said that he is the 'godfather" of all of the companies who earn millions of dollars from supplying cheap Ukrainian electricity westward. By this means Industrial Union of Donbass can obtain cheap Ukrainian electricity for its metallurgical companies in Huta, Poland and Dunaujvaros, Hungary.

[Dunaferr (Hungary) made the entire world to look differently at the Ukrainian business. Dunaferr is the largest metallurgical enterprise in Hungary (annual income being greater than 600 million Euro). Around 40% of its production is exported to the countries of E.U.- from I.U.D.'s official website]

The Orange Revolution did not cause the electricity export schemes to become more transparent, and after the 2006 parliamentary elections, I.U.D.'s business rivals SCM and RosUkrEnergo started 'demanding a piece of the action'.

Trading company Emfez, linked to Dmitro Firtash, which has been selling gas to Hungary for a few years, got involved. But this was not to the liking of the Hungarian 'System Consulting' company, controlled by Hungarian industrialist and Socialist party leader and MP Laszlo Kapolyi, which would lose some of its own business as a result. Profits from 'System Consulting' were also conveniently being siphoned off to an American off-shore company to avoid payment of taxes."


The allocation of electricity import capacities from Ukraine to Hungary has turned into a subject of controversy as new market entrants are vying for positions previously held by dominant importer System Consulting Zrt, the Hungarian daily Nepszabadsag reported Monday. System Consulting, controlled by Hungarian industrialist and Socialist MP Laszlo Kapolyi, has a 20-year contract valid through 2015 for import capacity rights for 350 MW of border-crossing capacities. The company imports electricity from Ukraine's Burstyn power plant, where it helped finance investments to create special generating blocks (the so-called Burstyn Island) that can produce electricity in line with the technical parameters of Western European power grid association UCTE (Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity).

However, the daily notes that at least two other companies are now jockeying for position on the Ukraine-sourced electricity import market. These are Emfesz Kft, a company that dominates the liberalized segment of Hungary's natural gas market and which is indirectly controlled by Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, and Energy Capital Zrt, an electricity trader in Slovakian and Ukrainian ownership whose main client is Ukrainian-owned Hungarian steel producer Dunaferr.

The new demand for import capacity rights has led to what Nepszabadsag describes as controversial and possibly politically motivated decisions by Hungarian and Ukrainian grid operators on the allocation of import capacities for 2007. Hungarian grid operator Mavir announced a tender in mid-November to commit Ukrainian import capacities that are not tied down in long-term import contracts, saying that the Ukrainian grid operator failed to provide Mavir with its own allocation plan for the coming year. However, the results of the tender - in which neither Emfesz nor Energy Capital received capacity rights - were annulled by the Hungarian Energy Office (MEH) due to procedural irregularities.

In a subsequent decision, Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenergo announced in late December that it awarded border-crossing capacity rights totaling 200 MW to Emfesz, and just 250 MW to System Consulting. According to analysts cited by the daily, the generous allocation to Emfesz may have been attributed to the company's alleged close ties to Ukraine's Energy Minister Yuriy Boiko, which Emfesz spokesman Boris Shestakov denied.

However, just one day later in late December the decision was overturned and Emfesz ended up with just 100 MW of import capacity rights, as opposed to System Consulting's 350 MW and Energy Capital's tiny 5 MW. According to Nepszabadsag, Emfesz has appealed the decision and is now awaiting a final ruling, as Shestakov told the daily that the decision was modified under "unusual pressure from some Hungarian officials." System Consulting's Kapolyi told Nepszabadsag that if the company was eventually awarded less than the contractually committed 350 MW, it would most likely turn to the courts, or at the minimum demand compensation for its investments at Burstyn."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Sweet words..

Sweet words..from PM Yanukovych's presentation in Davos today:

"Our first unconditional priority - to strengthen the democratic achievements of the Ukrainian nation. Today Ukraine is one of the most developed democracies in the region, and we value this highly. I always welcome fair criticism from the press, healthy competition between the government and opposition, the existence of wise and active systems of checks and balances, which eliminate the possibility or usurpation and misuse [of power] by the authorities.

However Ukraine is in a state of transition from a presidential to a parliamentary-presidential republic, and existing legal ambiguities, unfortunately lead to the emergence of misunderstandings.

I want, quite openly to note that I do not understand what is the basis for periodic expressions of doubt expressed about the consistency or even sincerity of our politics regarding our European choice.

*Compare with my previous posting on PACE's report on Ukraine which was published yesterday.

PACE report: Unsatisfactory progress..

Check out this Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe [PACE] report produced after a fact-finding visit to Ukraine in October 2006 by the committee on the honoring of obligations and commitments by member states.

Some quotes:

"The political reality in today's Ukraine shows that, apart from the conduct of free and transparent elections in March 2006, the promises of the Maidan to introduce clean, honest and competent governance and promote the rule of law and transparency at all levels have not been met. The new Cabinet is top-heavy with officials who personified the corrupt fusion of business interests with the government and the manipulation of elections before the Orange Revolution period. The non-transparent way in which the coalition negotiations were conducted over half a year, the mismatch of the political 'colours' of the so-called coalition partners and the murky deals that the short-lived 'grand coalition' stemmed from means that people do not finally know who they voted for...

Ukraine's unpredictable political system without fixed rules, moral umpires or political traditions, where agreements between political forces are signed only to be broken on the following day, coupled with the lack of strategy and transparency, disinterest in reforms and the return of discredited personnel from the Kuchma era to the state apparatus cast doubt on the irreversibility of the spirit of the Universal, augment the gap between the state and society in Ukraine and seriously undermine Ukraine's international reputation as a reliable partner...

A huge gap exists between the rhetoric and reality, promises and performance, intentions and action, which in turn have contributed to a loss in public confidence in state institutions, and to the rise of political apathy, corruption, and fears of eventual return of undemocratic practices."

Worth reading in full. Recent appointments in the Ministry of Internal Affairs at deputy minister and oblast police chief level, and in the Prosecutor-General's office increase these fears..

p.s. The new police chiefs were not appointed for their good looks alone..

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just writing on a toilet wall

Today's 'Obozrevatel' carries an interview with the recently-appointed Deputy Prosecutor-General - the Donetskyite Renat Kuzmin [see photo], about whom I have posted previously.

Here's a bit:

Oboz: "You have a rather dubious reputation, some even call you "an odious deputy prosecutor". How do you explain these 'honours'?"

Kuzmin: "I consider that the first task of the representatives of the media is to provide objective information. But when individual personalities, financed by other wretched personalities, write such garbage, then this reminds me of public toilets in the times of stagnation. When you go in it is dark, it stinks and there are inscriptions on the walls. These inscriptions are the various articles on our internet sites."

He may be alluding to investigative journalist Volodymyr Boyko's and others allegations about how three years ago Kuzmin and associates tried to force Kyiv's largest cable TV operator 'Volya Kabel' to broadcast Donetsk TV station 'Kyivska Rus' programs free of charge. When they refused, Volya Kabel's director and others were thrown into jail and maltreated in dreadful conditions. Members of the Donetsk prosecutor's office continued to pressurize Volya Kabel by every means possible until the Orange Revolution halted them in their tracks. 'Kyivska Rus' is allegedly controlled by former Donetsk prosecutor and former P-G Hennadiy Vasilyev - one of Ukraine's richest men, who appears in 'Kyiv Post's top 30.

[I have also written about another newly-appointed deputy P-G Viktor Pshonka, his shady past, and his possible link to murdered journalist Ihor Aleksandrov, previously.]

Two days ago Boyko wrote a powerful article about the shooting and death of leading PoR deputy Yevhen Kushnaryov here entitled "Death of a poacher" . I recommend to anyone who wants to know how the country has been run, and is being run.

A quote: "Ukraine is not divided into East and West at all, nor into 'blue-white' and 'oranges', and not even into the rich and the poor. It is divided into 'them' and 'us', those that are always right, and those with no rights. They have their own budget, which for some reason they call 'the state budget', their own prosecutors office, their own judges, their own tax police, their own ministry for protecting their health.

For them - everything, for us - the law."

"Bandits to jail?' - just writing on a toilet wall..

FIGs at war

The ferocious rivalry between Ukraine's financial-industrial groups (FIGs) in the eastern part of the country is highlighted in this article from today's 'Kommersant', some bits of which I've translated.

The price war between iron-ore raw material manufacturers and metallurgists has taken an unexpected turn. Yesterday it was revealed that 'Industrial Union of Donbass' has started to supply its Alchevsk MetKombinat (АМК) with up to one million tons of Brazilian iron ore concentrate which, by various estimates is at least one third more expensive, than Ukrainian raw material.

In the past to year Ukraine produced 15 million tons of iron ore, 21 million of concentrate, 5,7 million tons of agglomerate and 16,1 million tons of pelletized material. The largest manufacturers of iron ore raw material in Ukraine are the Inguletsk GOK [ore enrichment plant] (Smart-group), Southern GOK (Privat), Northern GOK, Central ore dressing combine (SCM), and also Mittal Steel – Kryvyi Rih.

The press-service of Alchevsk MetKombinat, controlled by businessmen Sergey Taruta and Vitaliy Hayduk (IUD) announced that since January it has started to supply АМК with Brazilian iron ore concentrate.

Victor Yushchenko has already intervened and tried to sort out the conflict between MetKombinats and GOK's.

In December the biggest metallurgical combines in Ukraine – Zaporizhstal and МariupolМetКombinat im. Ilyich announced the commencement of construction their own Priazovsk GOK for maintenance of supply of iron ore raw material.

Vitaliy Hayduk was appointed Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council several months ago, and is now regarded an ally of the president. Taruta has supported some of the president's cultural heritage projects. SCM's boss, Rinat Akhmetov, is PoR's financial sponsor. The Privat group is led by Ihor Kolomoyskyi, by some accounts Ukraine's third richest man. There are rumors he is quite close to BYuT - maybe a little closer now that latest opinion polls show BYuT at 20.5% - almost neck-and-neck with PoR at 22.6% and early VR elections not out of the question.

As things stand at the moment the chances of Yushchenko winning a second presidential election are slim. But with early VR elections, maybe in the summer... Yuliya T. PM again, this time with enhanced powers...don't worry the oligarchs and politicians are all scheming and plotting..

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Inspector Clouseau alive and well in Ukraine?

Serhiy Hrabovskyi, in a piece entitled 'Who do they take us for?' in 'Ukrainska Pravda' lists the contradictory and bungling comments made by the 'high-ups' on the death of Yevhen Kushnaryov [several of which I mentioned in my previous posting], and contrasts these with his grandiose funeral which he compares with those of former Soviet leaders.

"Either our law-enforcement agencies, or more accurately their leadership, are incompents and their spokesmen empty-headed scandalmongers, or they are quite consciously mocking our citizens.."

"Who are these people that convert real human tragedy into a brutal farce - into a tragi-comedy. Who do they take us for, and those people who for reasons other than politics loved the deceased, and even Yevhen Petrovych Kyshnaryov himself?"

Clouseau [see photo] has been working on several cases over the last few years in Ukraine, including the poisoning of a well-known president, and a gigantic international fraud involving Turkmen gas..

p.s. Check out BBC's [unnecessarily overcooked?] documentary on the Litvinenko poisoning tomorrow [Tuesday] here .

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More on Kuchnaryov

The importance of the late Yevhen Kushnaryov [see photo] in the Ukrainian politics was underscored by the list of VIPs attending his funeral. These included former president Leonid Kuchma, PM Viktor Yanukovych, many cabinet ministers, VR speaker Oleksandr Moroz, former speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, Rinat Akmetov, Russian embassador Chernomyrdin, Petro Poroshenko and Yevhen Chervonenko from the orange camp, and a host of oblast governors from both Ukraine and Russia. A metro station and a city road is to be named in his honor in Kharkiv. Over 30,000 people filed past his coffin to pay their last respects, and 22 chartered flights filled with mourners landed in Kharkiv on the day of the funeral.

But the incompetent way his killing has been dealt by the country's leadership and media fuels speculation surrounding his death.

There has been several conflicting statements made, but thus far no official detailed account of he was killed. It looks as if a 'final version of events' is still being worked on.

According to one statement, a firearm was accidently discharged inside a Toyota Land Cruiser when the brakes were suddenly applied to avoid a wolf on the road. In another version shots were fired beyond the vehicle 'while Kushnaryov was behind some bushes'. First it was reported that the incident occurred at 2 pm, then 4 pm as dusk was falling. An official stated that the fatal shot was fired from a 'Saiga' rifle [whose use is proscribed for hunting purposes] - then it was a 'Benelli' Argo hunting rifle. And definitely nobody in the hunting party had traces of alcohol in their bodies - completely implausible to most Ukrainians. Even though it was 'out of hunting season' it wasn't poaching because it was on private property.

After this the 'big-boys' from Kyiv waded in. Deputy minister of internal affairs Korienko claimed that the incident was an accident - just something that occurred in the 'excitement [or fervour] of hunting'. [An astonishingly callous remark in my view.] Investigators were treating the incident as a 'homicide caused by undue care'.

PoR VR deputy Tetyana Bakhteyeva - an experienced medical practitioner, expressed suspicion because the bullet had punctured the liver, right kidney, and bowels - an improbable trajectory. VR human rights commissioner Nina Karpachova expressed concern that the truth may be being concealed.

By general concensus the fatal shot was fired by vice-president of the 'Tochprylad' company, industrialist Dmytro Zavalskyi, who, astonishingly, in the past had been a member of the Ukrainian national rifle-shooting team and who had been decorated 'Master of Ukrainian Sport' for his achievements. So, an eagle-eyed crack-shot..

Polish TV reported that there had been a quarrel during the hunt between Kushnaryov and Zavalskyi when they were both under the influence of alcohol, and that Zavalskyi had not wished to receive Kushnaryov at his dacha nearby. [This is beginning to sound like something from Agatha Christie..]

The deputy minister of health Valeriy Ivasiuk claimed that Kushnaryov's life could have been saved had there been sufficient blood reserves in the the town of Izyum, where Kushnarov was treated for his wounds, and that his death was caused by the "the mediocrity of our medical services" - another extraordinarily insensitive comment which was immediately challenged by local doctors and authorities who unanimously declared Kushnaryov's injuries were such as not to be "consistent with life".

The manner in which Kushnaryov's death has been handled reveals much about the disregard for human life and lack of decency and respect for fellow human beings in Ukraine by those who were supposed to be his friends and political associates. It is hardly surprising that theories about conspiracy and foul play spring up.

As for the VR opposition, they seem to be indifferent whether Kushnaryov's death is properly investigated or not. They should be the ones asking awkward questions and checking that the government scrupulously investigate Kuchnirov's death..

Six months ago the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs announced Russian legislator Konstyantin Zatulin [and Vladimir Zhyrynovsky] persona non grata for stirring up trouble in Crimea. Yesterday he attended Kushnaryov's funeral and is seen here flanked by Yanukovych and Moroz.

During the funeral procession shouts from the crowd to Yanukovych were heard: "Viktor Feyodorovych - find the killer!" - causing Yanukovych to wince..

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Speculation in the wake of recent events

Former Socialist big-shot and now vice-chairman of Yuliya T's 'Bat'kivshchyna' party, Yosyp Vinskyi, in an interview in 'Den' says he does not exclude the possibility of formation of a new coalition in the VR in the near future.

"I would not be surprised if 'Our Ukraine' returns to the position it maintained half a year ago. If they can come to an agreement with 'Regiony', then it is entirely possible that the existing [anti-crisis] coalition will break up, and a new majority will be created. I would not discount such a possibility. A significant portion of NU are gravitating away from being in opposition."

Vinskyi added that the president, "Would not want to hand over his powers, [but] would not want to be in a situation of permanent war [either, with PoR and the anti-crisis coalition]. A broad coalition with the participation of 'Our Ukraine' completely removes this problem. "

Such an arrangement, if it could be agreed, would make the president's life more comfortable. It would reduce the pressure on him resulting from PoR and BYuT's ganging up together in order to overcome the president's veto on the laws on the Ukrainian Cabinet, thus reducing further his power.

A presidential adviser Volodymyr Horbulin recently stated that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko are now 'finished for good' after last week's voting in the VR. BYuT are trying to force the president's hand into calling early VR elections. But as Vinskyi suggests, a PoR-NU deal could calm matters significantly - and keeps BYuT well away from the levers of governmental power.

A few suspicions are [almost inevitably] raised in an article in 'Internet Reporter' entitled 'For whom is the death of Kuchnaryov beneficial?'

Yevhen Kushnaryov who was shot and killed in a hunting accident a couple of days ago was probably the second most popular 'Regiony' figure after Yanukovych, so his passing, at first sight is a big loss to them. The author says that Kushnaryov headed the ideological wing of the party [as opposed to the more pragmatic business wing] and always maintained a firm anti-Yushchenko stance. He "was always firmly against any attempt to unite PoR with NU [in a grand coalition] - something oligarchs from both sides did not object to [and would have little problem with]."

Kushnaryov was a keen proponent of the federalisation of Ukraine and strongly supported the provision of second national language status for the Russian language. Whilst popular in the east and south of the country, these policies are regarded as being objectionable in other regions of the country. Now, after the death of Kusharyov, the more pragmatic blue and orange oligarchs will possibly find it easier to co-operate.

The author suggests there are unanswered questions about the shooting. What was Kushnaryov doing on a hunting trip in the midst of a political crisis between the VR and president, and at a time when the PM was out of the country in Turkey?

{LEvko thinks that in the Kharkiv oblast, where he was shot, Kushnaryov was almost 'god'. In any such a hunting party he would undoubtedly be 'top banana' - the centre of everyone's attention, and would probably have 'first shot' at any target. By most accounts he was an experienced hunter, as were members of the party. Pro-Russian extremist politician Nataliya Vitrenko suspects foul play too, so it probably was a tragic accident. Time will tell..}

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kushnaryov's death a loss to PoR

The death of Evhen Kushnaryov may increase Yuliya T's chances of becoming president, according to political expert Andrey Okara.

He says that in the event of early VR elections, in the Kharkiv and other eastern oblasts "Without Kushnaryov and his electoral and organisational resources there is a possibility of some drift of the PoR electorate to BYuT. Without him the party loses a significant portion of it 'all-Ukrainian appeal' and becomes more Donetski-ite, which will result in the loss of votes."

Okara considers Kushnaryov to have been one of PoR's main 'front-men' - an intelligent 'talking-head', and also a charismatic politician of a high order with a high degree of electoral trust and possessing a great deal of political capital, a powerful party manager and organizer, the only 'non-Donetsky' in the leadership of a predominantly Donetskyite party.

He was one of only a very small group of PoR leaders who was entrusted to speak to the media on PoR party policy.

He was head of a tidy network of dozens of family-run businesses in Kharkiv and elsewhere, and several members of his family are embedded in the Kharkiv city council. [not unusual for many Ukrainian politicians.]

According to an order of State forestry committee of Ukraine there are legal restrictions on the hunting of boar and other cloven-footed animals at this time of year. Wolves and other fur-skinned animals may only be hunted at weekends. Kushnaryov and his friends were poaching - but hey, laws passed by VR deputies apply only to the 'plebs' don't they?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kushnaryov shot in hunting accident

Yevhen Kushnaryov, one of PoR's brighter sparks and deputy leader of the PoR VR fraction, was shot with a hunting rifle and seriously wounded in the abdomen when hunting for wild boar with fellow PoR 'big-shots' today.

There are conflicting reports as to what happened, but a second operation had to be carried out, and the man is bad shape.

He is an astute and experienced politician who was presidential adminstration chief 1996 -1998, and for a time member of the National Security and Defence Council. Unlike most PoR politicos his power base is the Kharkiv oblast. Ukrainian politicians seem to be prone to accidents with firearms.

Dick Cheney wasn't in the vicinity was he?

Update: It's being reported that Kushnaryov has died of his injuries. His passing will be considered a loss to Ukrainian politics by most Ukrainian politicians, of whatever color.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ukraine to Become Parliamentary Republic?

Good piece in today's Russian 'Kommersant'

A quote : "The Ukrainian Supreme Rada voted to override the president’s veto on the bill on the state government late last week, turning Ukraine into a parliamentary republic. Nearly all tools of power will go to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, President Viktor Yushchenko becoming a purely nominal figure."

The full Russian text, which can be read in Ukrainian in 'Korespondent'. The author suggests BYuT's motive in supporting the motion to override the president's veto is to force Yuschenko into calling early VR elections.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Yulka's gamble

On Friday, VR deputies overturned President Viktor Yushchenko's vetoing of a bill which increased the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers. BYuT sensationally voted with Yanukovych's PoR and so the 2/3rds of the total 450 deputies' votes required were comfortably exceeded.

In practice this means:

Appointment of a prime minister is not dependent on approval by the president;
the president losses control over the appointment of minister of foreign affairs, and minister of defence;
the president no longer has influence on the 'road map' because it will be the cabinet that submits a program for government activity for consideration to the VR;
and the president loses the levers to oust the cabinet or to influence the appointment of deputy ministers and lower order officials.

Tymoshenko explained that BYuT voted the way they did in order to 'bring order', and to prevent 'shame throughout the entire world caused by internal political scandals'. "We consider that people who personally ruined the first 'orange' team, who ruined everything they could ruin, who with their bare hands brought forward the candidature of prime minister Yanukovych, cannot reproach us for anything," she said, as a riposte to criticism from NU supporters.

Tymoshenko has in the past fought against any diminution of presidential powers, and even on Thursday BYuT submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Court to annul all political reforms, calling for early VR elections to take place. So what happened on Friday?

Since the orange revolution, Yushchenko has, in the eyes of many orange supporters, made so many [coerced?] political errors, that BYuT see him as a 'busted flush' [a poker term meaning someone or something that had great potential but ended up a useless failure] having no future prospects.

Clearly for Tymoshenko, always a high-stakes gambler, to gain power, she must defeat her biggest political enemies -Yanukovych and PoR. She is the only leader who could possibly benefit if early elections were to take place. 'Den' suggests maybe Friday's maneouver was an attempt to drive Yushchenko, from whom power is rapidly draining away, into a corner, and leave him no other card to play but to [somehow] force early VR elections.

Deputy head of the BYuT parliamentary fraction Mykola Tomenko, in an interview on Thursday regrets that early VR elections were not called immediately after the O.R. and thinks that there is a greater possibility of no early election than that of early elections taking place. But he does go on to say that he is convinced that the price of early VR elections would be early presidential elections. He does not think the Consitutional Court will make any radical decisions on the question of political reform, but will pass the buck back to the VR.

The 'new look' Tymoshenko - new hair-do - new boyfriend? New political tactical course?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Betrayers betrayed

Big power shift today - described in 'KyivPost'

"Parliament overrides presidential veto of law to strengthen premier's powers

For the second time in a week, however, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc joined the [pro-government] coalition, giving it the necessary votes."

Quotes from some big names:

"Our negotiations with NU even in July [2006] would start [from agreement that] in any future coalition, [they] would have the PM's position. They trashed all of these agreements. They [NU] walked out of the VR today because they are politically bankrupt." Yevhen Kushnaryov -leading PoR deputy.

"The greatest sadness for me is that in the question of overcoming the [presidential] veto, the anti-crisis coalition and BYuT united together on impulse. The law on the cabinet of ministers now opens a path for the Yanukovych government to usurpation." Vyacheslav Kyrylenko - leader of the NU fraction in the VR.

"There can be no cooperation between us and Viktor Yanukovych. This was simultaneous, but not contiguous strategic voting." Yuliya Tymoshenko

LEvko thinks the man in the street will not buy Yulka's pitch. It looks as if BYuT have betrayed any principles they may have claimed, as did the double-dealing Socialists and NSNU last summer.

p.s. Review of the late Sasha Litvinenko's book in today's London 'Times' written by Oleg Gordievsky.

A quote: "Putin degenerated from being an intelligence officer to become the leader of a country where criminal kingpins and former convicts are respected and even worshipped and now constitute the country's official “elite”. They drive the best cars, buy the best houses, acquire profitable companies at home and abroad, and have seats in the Russian parliament, the Duma..

sounds familiar

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ring a ring o'roses* around the table

The president is still acting as if he expects fair play in politics and is preparing further round tables and Universal declarations with PM Yanukovych, whilst at the same time he is vetoing bill after bill submitted to him by the VR. [From Internet-reporter]

The truce between the two Viktors which was declared at the end of last year was just a brief interlude, and from the start of 2007, conflict has again been stepped up.

A situation that could even be called anarchy has been created - laws are not being adhered to. The constitution is being interpreted according to specific requirements by one and all, a state of affairs that cannot continue for long. There has to be a winner, but politicians are being aided by the passivity of the electorate, after the stormy events of the last few years. The Ukrainian military have never acted independently in order to resolve conflicts, as has occurred in other countries, e.g. Thailand last year.

The president has used his one ace - the power of veto - too frequently recently [Maybe about 8 times..LEvko] but has had to back down several times. Meanwhile the VR has sacked the president's ministers without too many problems, so it would seem that Yanukovych has the stronger hand at the moment.

There are possibly three ways to resolve this conflict. #1 Come to a mutual agreement, and act according to these agreements. #2 Either Yanuk or Yush 'falls on his sword' i.e. resigns. #3 Cancellation of political reforms and a call for fresh parliamentary elections.

Problem with #1 is whatever is agreed is not legally binding on any of the parties concerned, so would very quickly not be adhered to in any case.

#2 is an unlikely scenario.

#3 has some merit. The changes in the constitution [which were agreed to in order for the oranges to obtain a re-run of the second round of the 2004 presidential elections] and the resultant ambiguities are the primary source of the confusion behind the current power struggles between President and PM. Although, in principle, there are no procedures envisaged for resolving such matters, there are precedents, e.g. the all-Ukrainian referendum of 2000 [more on this here], and also the annulling of the second round presidential election voting in 2004. So there are possibilities..

However, opinion polls indicate that support for the country's political forces, orange and blue, has changed little - any fresh VR elections would produce a similar result to that of last March.

So Yush is going for option #1. A write up of yesterday's round table between the two Viktors and Moroz here

A ‘roadmap’ based on the previously agreed 'Univeral' will be the top issue at another round table planned for February 14-15.

Meanwhile unbridled Government scams are on the rise.

*Ring a ring o'roses
A pocketful of posies
ah-tishoo! ah-tishoo!
We all fall down!

Nursery rhyme or children's song and game.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Problems in Lugansk

Non-payment of gas and electricity bills is 'causing anxiety' in the cabinet, according to Viktor Yanukovych.

"I have asked the fuel-energy complex headed by Klyuyev, Boyko and Tulub to investigate these questions. It's very painful because it is linked to the income portion of the budget. Examination, acceptance and bringing in of severe measures are in order here. If there is anyone who is still celebrating [Christmas], maybe I'll suggest that they do not return [to work at all]. Let them [continue] to celebrate," said the PM rather sternly. [It sounds clumsy in Ukrainian too.]

A Lugansk website reports:

"TeploKommunEnergo" turning off heating to Luganskites

In Lugansk the urban utility enterprise "Teplokommunenergo" has started turning off supply of heat to domestic dwellings because of consumers debts. Lugansk town council press- service reported that in the next few days heat will be turned off to 13 buidings. In all, the residents of 72 houses have received notice that heating may be disconnected. Yesterday heating to two buildings, whose inhabitants owed 177,9 thousand hryven and 167,7 thousand hryven, was turned off.

Data provided by the press- service of town council reveals that during December 38% of the inhabitants of Lugansk have settled their heating supply bills. Tariffs for heating in Lugansk were increased from 1st November 2006, from 2 hryven 8 kopecks to 4 hryven 56 kopecks per meter of the area being heated."

A high power delegation from the ministry of coal industry led by a deputy minister is in Lugansk today trying to resolve a strike by about 6000 miners who want an improvement in their 'social-economic' conditions.

65 % of Ukrainians are proud of their Ukrainian citizenship, which is 16% more than than in December 2002, according to an O.P. conducted by the Ukraine Sociology Service. Significant growth has been noted in all regions of the country. In particular, in Donetsk and Lugansk areas the figure has increased from 39% up to 60%, and in five western oblasts - from 59% up to 79%. Amongst persons up to 30 years of age, on the average, 71 % are proud of their citizenship. At the same time the number who more readily identified themselves with the former Soviet Union rather than with Ukraine fell from 39% to 34%.

The reduction was most marked in Kyiv (from 30% down to 18%). In eastern areas this parameter decreased from 62% up to 54%.

P.S. Another 'kriminalnyi avtorytet' - 'Kolya Rockero' - Mykola Lozynskiy [cool nickname] was shot dead in his Mercedes in Lviv today.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Influential Ukrainians

Most influential Ukrainians of 2006 [according to 'Korespondent' magazine's experts]:

1 Rinat Akhmetov, 2 Viktor Yushchenko, 3 Yuliya Tymoshenko, 4 Viktor Yanukovych, 5 Oleksandr Moroz, 6 Ihor Kolomoysky [Privat group businessman], 7 Petro Poroshenko, 8 Serhiy Taruta [IUD businessman], 9 Mykola Azarov [deputy PM and finance minister], 10 Leonid Chernovetsky [L'onya Kosmos], 11 Klyuyev brothers [PoR big-shots and behind-the-scenes fixers], 12 Viktor Pinchuk, 13 Yevhen Kushnaryov [one of PoR's brightest, but not in cabinet], 14 Yuriy Yekhanurov, 15 Oleh Blokhin [Ukraine's soccer coach], 16 Vira Ulyanchenko [Kyiv oblast governor and Yush confidante], 17 Vitaliy Hayduk, 18 Yuriy Lutsenko, 19 Oleh Rybachuk, 20 Petro Symonenko

Since the list was drawn up I would suggest that Hayduk [now NSDC secretary] has moved significantly upward in the list, as has Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Viktor Baloha.

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.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kyiv property boom

Short BBC video clip here bout Kyiv's property boom [and bust?]

And this article from the British 'Independent' newspaper.

Veselykh Svyat bazhaye vam vsim LEvko!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Murky connections

"A year after the so-called gas war between Moscow and Kyiv, energy transhipments from Russia to Europe via Ukraine remain a concern. On December 1, RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a briefing featuring Tom Mayne, an energy researcher for the London-based Global Witness. Mayne discussed the lack of transparency in the energy sectors of Ukraine, Russia, and gas supplier Turkmenistan."

Hear Tom Maine's interesting presentation and responses to questions here

A couple of quotes:

" worryingly..in key areas there has been little or no improvement... transparency in the energy sector has shown no improvement [since the OR]"

"a lot of people want to speak of these issues, unfortunately the Ukrainian government is not one of them.."

Former Naftohaz head Yuriy Boyko's appointment as fuel and energy minister in the present government means the unanswered questions will remain.

It is not unreasonable to conclude from the evidence presented, and from President Yushchenko's obfuscatory responses and behaviour in this vitally important matter, that he too is enmeshed in these scams.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Viktors walking hand-in-hand

Today PoR VR deputy Mykhaylo Chechetov said in an interview that in 2007, "The two Viktors will walk together hand-in-hand," and PoR will not permit them to quarrel and "fall-out"with one another.

He is confident that it will be impossible to annul the polical reforms which weakened the President's powers after the Orange Revolution, and that the government can now work peacefully for five years. "Work or dismissal of the government does not depend on what side of the bed the President got up on," he said.

Maybe PoR know that they can 'pull the same stunt' that they did on 3rd August last year when Yushchenko changed his mind at the last moment and did not dismiss the VR. [Something Tymoshenko describes in her summing up of the events of 2006]

Chechetov was the chairman of the Ukrainian State Property Fund who in 2004 oversaw the rigged sale of 'Kryvorizhstal' to a consortium led by two of Ukraine's biggest oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk [President Kuchma's son-in-law] and PoR's main financial sponsor, Rinat Akhmetov, for $800 million, despite foreign bidders offering up to $1.5 billion.

Kryvorizhstal was reprivatized and eventually sold to Mittal Steel for $4.8Bn in October 2005 in a transparent auction organized by the Tymoshenko government.

Last February it looked as if Chechetov would be 'nailed' for his participation in this business, but now he is a deputy in the VR and has immunity from prosecution, so can sleep easy. More on this here.

What a country..

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Economic feudalism

An interesting article was posted in the economics section of 'Ukrainska Pravda' recently, entitled 'Ukraine needs a war between millionaires and billionaires', about how the former are systematically being subjected to 'hostile raids' by the latter.

Some quotes:
"Billionaires, ie the oligarchs, which were formed in the days of Kuchma's presidency, are actively conducting a war against millionaires, i.e. middle-ranking businesses, by means of raiding. Top management of the most influential Financial Industrial Groups stand behind dozens of raiding attacks involving almost-daily resonant business scandals.

Any Ukrainian corporation whose value may be measured in billions of dollars, forms such a large portion of the national economy, that in existing conditions, it cannot but have a major influence on politicians and the state apparatus.

Until now, it has been considered in business circles that the distancing of a business group from the levers of power would nearly always mean that it would be destroyed by business rivals.

Participation of FIGs in 'shadow politics', gives them powerful instruments of business influence on the economy and on their rivals, in the form of corrupt state officials, judges and politicians.

In such a situation it is irrational not to employ hostile raiding as a technique when there is a possibility of obtaining an attractive enterprise or property for a small portion of its true value. The expansion of any business empire, in turn, increases the political clout of the FIG - thus closing the circle. In the post-soviet era, this oligarchic system resembles 'economic feudalism'.

Just as in the past, feudal armies and not the law or justicial system ensured a medieval baron could maintain his possessions and accumulate new ones, so now, for Ukrainian oligarchs, the guarantors of success are their clan colleagues i.e. politicians, judges, and government officials.

The oligarchic elite is not interested in the strengthening of the law, transparency, or protection of the institution of private ownership, because these deprive them of their corrupt competitive advantages. As a result, the nation's efforts are wasted on endless dividing up of assets, and not on improvements in productive technology.

Particularly dangerous is the pseudo-liberal policy of expecting the 'unseen hand of the market' to transform the Ukrainian oligarchic system and lead it toward a civilized relationship between business and politics."

The author suggests "the authorities should take away from 'feudal businessmen' their raiding weapons, while simultaneously opening up national finance and technology markets".

The oligarchic clans' political representatives are well described in an article in 'Der Speigel'

"The parliamentary groups.. even those of Tymoshenko and Yushchenko, have been taken over by a caste of politicians who came of age as "bazaar dealers" in the 1990s, without even the slightest understanding of the needs of the state and of society as a whole. They have spent their entire lives thinking only of themselves."

In the March 2006 VR and local elections, this caste of politicians embedded itself and its young adult offsping more deeply into the VR and city councils, where they can be seen preening their expensive clothes and gelled hair, flaunting recently-acquired expensive baubles. [Yuk! enough]