Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yushchenko under pressure

In an article in 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' US ambassador in Ukraine William Taylor says he will work with any coalition in the Ukrainian parliament, as long as it is formed in a democratic manner. But he also warned Ukrainian authorites against using force or introducing direct presidential rule.

And 'Segodnya' reports that former US ambassador in Ukraine, Steven Pifer, has expressed the opinion that Ukraine will not be granted its NATO Membership Action Plan if the Verkhovna Rada is dissolved by the President. 'Segodnya' considers this political 'arm-twisting' by Pifer is intended to push the Presidential NUNS party back into coalition with BYuT.

The same article, entitled 'Tymoshenko stirring mutiny at Yushchenko's rear' [i.e. inside NUNS], says today a pro-premier [pro-Tymoshenko] fraction is being formed inside the presidential block. Tymoshenko's stated today that if "Parliament is pushed into early elections, then it would be logical to hold simultaneous presidential, and parliamentary elections," [which Yushchenko would almost certainly lose.]

'Segodnya' also claims a parliamentary investigative commission will conclude that president Yushchenko himself was involved with the supply of weaponry to Georgia and to his 'kum' a monetary loss to Ukraine of whopping half a billion hryvnya.. Will this scandal have legs?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ukraine slipping in Corruption rankings

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008 has Ukraine dropping to 134th place, down from last year's 118th place.

I seem to recall during the Orange Revolution President Viktor Yushchenko appeared on the Maydan expressing shame at Ukraine's 122th position - between Sudan and Cameroon or similar.. Corruption is not something Ukrainian politicians talk about much these days...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some sense from Kluyev

PoR deputy Andriy Kluyev was allegedly one of the darkest of the 2004 Orange Revolution election fraud plotters. Recently there have been stories in the Ukrainian media that he has been the main PoR liason man in efforts by one wing of PoR to assemble a new parliamentary coalition with Yulia Tymoshenko's BYuT following NUNS walk- out from their democratic parliamentary coalition with BYuT.

Kluyvev has written a well-reasoned article entitled 'Becoming a country of realized possibilities' for the current 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya', which I recommend reading. He argues any coalition is better than the early parliamentary elections sought by president Yushchenko.

I've translated and paraphrased some portions below:

"Since 2004, in Ukraine, the authorities in power have practically not been able to function. The constant political stand-offs, both within the walls of parliament and between the President and the cabinet of ministers, have led to the disintegration of state institutions. Conflicts within the 'orange camp' are most apparent. The work of the organs of power organs and judicial is particularly politicized.

Politicians and ordinary citizens have become weary of this. The myth that inactivity of the authorities is good for the economy sounds reasonable, but is unrealistic."

Kluyev calls for a long-term development program to be written for the country to increase the quality of life of its citizens. The key tasks are to increase the lifespan of Ukraine's citizens by ten years and reduce mortality particularly amongst people of working age, reform public health services, modernization of the pension system, development programs for infrastructure, and improving the education system and science.

For this to be achieved the economy has to grow. In all of these questions the positions of the country's main political forces practically coincide. The reasons for differences lie in personal ambitions, and also in questions most of which concern the past.

The judical disintegration of the current unworkable "democratic" coalition forces the country's politicians either to negotiate and compromise, or to go again for senseless and unnecessary early elections. Today everyone recognizes that without a change in the legislative rules any elections will change nothing, but will only increase polarization and deliver a further blow to the economy. Therefore it is important to come to some agreement.

The [recent] renewal of the full operation of parliament [and the co-operation of PoR and BYuT] has shown that this can be productive, but it is is just a first step.

"I am sure that any working coalition will be more beneficial for the country than sequential elections. Moreover, from the point of view of the interests of the country, any configuration of those being discussed today would be acceptable. The coalition could even be 'technical' - just for solving the most urgent problems - the stabilization of the economic situation, and also for introducing legislation changes, which would make it possible to minimize conflicts amongst those in power.

It is at the same time obvious that creation of any coalition will be difficult, taking into account future presidential elections and ideological differences between main political forces, so that the probability of early parliamentary elections is very high. But soon after, the battle for the presidential post will begin, and the current crisis will automatically be prolonged by one-and-a-half years..which could result in social and economic upheavals comparable to those of the crises in the '90's.

The country's elites must finally understand that decline of the population and economic stagnation threaten the security of Ukraine considerably more than the artificially fanned conflicts with neighbours. We should put aside the topics causing conflict and concentrate on the main priorities. I'm pleased to say that understanding the importance of consolidation of the elites around productive aims is gradually filtering through to my politician friends. I hope that this understanding will give to the Ukraine chance to become a country of realized possibilities."

The main political groups in parliament have about 4 weeks to come to agreement on forming a coalition. Weighing heavily in their minds is how joining any such coalition could affect their ratings. Kluyev seems to be appealing for politicians to look at the broader picture - an honorable position for someone normally associated with sinister behind-the-scenes dealing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nemyria in BBC interview

The vice Prime Minister Hryhoriy Nemyria talks to Stephen Sackur tonight on BBC's 'Hardtalk' here.

Don't miss his impressive, eloquent performance.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bohatyryova interview

The current political crisis in Ukraine could be said to have started when National Security and Defence Council secretary, Raisa Bohatyryova was sacked from her PoR party following statements in Washington that were generally supportive of President Yushchenko's policy on last month's Russian-Georgian war. In previous VR convocations she had been leader of the PoR faction.

'Obozrevatel' has conducted a most interesting interview with her, entitled: "I will not return to Yanukovych, even if he drops to his knees," which I recommend everyone to read.

She speaks revealingly of serious rifts within PoR, but today I will translate some just these portions:

Qu: Those, who await your further steps and actions, see you as a potential leader, possibly an alternative to Yanukovych. Experts are sure that the creation of a new political project headed by Bohatyryova is just a matter of time. More so because Rinat Akhmetov, [Ukraine's richest oligarch] is ready you to support you.

(Significantly, after a pause..) I am considering my possible perspectives at the moment.

Qu: Party [perspectives]?

I'm examining all possible possibilities. I do not intend to leave active politics. I can't say what my next steps will be.

{Bohatyryova then does not deny that she may be involved in some kind of new political project together Arsene Yatsenyuk [the current VR speaker] and Anatoliy Hrytsenko [until recently, a minister of defence], and that Rinat Akhmetov could be bankrolling it all.}

Qu: Do you agree that early elections are now practically inevitable?
I do not see any other way to deal with the [current] crisis. In the opinion experts, it's further development could lead to an anti-state coup.

Qu: The democratic coalition will not be ressurrected then?
[No,] This is unrealistic. Tymoshenko does not want it...

Qu: Responsibility for the integrity of the union between Tymoshenko and Yushchenko is shared between them. However, the actions of the latter clearly did not further the strengthening of the coalition.
This is not so. As the President, Victor Andriyovych did everything in order not to permit the crisis [to grow and] develop.

Qu: And his Secretariat supported him in this?! Particularly Baloha and Kislinsky?
I am not the attorney of the Secretariat and moreover not its leader. Accordingly, I cannot comment on the activity of his colleagues.

Qu: You have known Yanukovych for many years. Tell us, is he actually capable of establishing a union with Tymoshenko, or is this bluff?
The prospects for the forming of coalition PoR and BYuT depend more greatly on Tymoshenko. If the smell of power is sweet for Yanukovych then I do not exclude it, an alliance with the pretext of the interest of each Ukrainian may be created. However, it won't last long - a divorce scandal is inevitable. And as a result PoR will finally be demoralized and will lose voters...

Certainly, if BYuT agrees to embody PoR policies, including those on language issues, citizenship, non aligned status, the realization of constitutional changes, then these two antipodes could combine and collaborate. But I do not believe this scenario. At the same time fear of Viktor Yushchenko could push Yulia Tymoshenko into a situational alliance with PoR. Such a political incest could happen...

..PoR and BYuT do not have the three hundred votes necessary for changing the Constitution. All statements about complete control of the deputies of the two fractions is bravado, just as in the previous years. One coalition has already bragged about the presence of the constitutional majority, which, after checking, turned out not to be the case...

LEvko thinks she may be correct in this final statement. Up to about 70 PoR deputies are from Rinat Akhmetov's 'personal quota'. He has allegedly been PoR's biggest financial backer so will have a big say on how the crisis now pans out.

p.s. On Friday the President, his daughter, Raisa Bohatyryova, Rinat Akhmetov, and other 'prominenti' attended an exhibition of sculptures from the Paris Louvre which are being displayed in Kyiv. Why do so many of them look like stone-faced aliens?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yushchenko dangerously out of touch with reality

Ever louder whispers are being heard that President Yushchenko will dismiss the Ukrainian parliament [VR] soon, if a formal coalition between BYuT and Party of Regions is created. NUNS [the president's bloc] walked out of what was the majority ruling coalition in the VR recently because of major disagreements with BYuT.

There would be no legal basis for the dismissal of the VR, but Yushchenko will blame Tymoshenko for "revision of the will of the electorate" if she 'mucks in' with Yanukovych.

This is a highly dangerous path to follow. PoR and BYuT are by far the two largest parties in Ukrainian politics and were fairly elected into parliament. By and large they do represent the will of those who voted them in. Yushchenko dismissed parliament last year on the flimsiest of legal grounds. Does he imagine he could get away with it a second time around?

Interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists today that he would not allow clashes between power structures to take place in the event of any solution by force of the current political crisis. He considers "The party of war, with Baloha [head of the president's secretariat] at its head, could push for a force scenario."

p.s. The 'Unian' press agency are running an on-line poll, asking its website visitors if they approve the creation of a PoR-BYuT coalition. Over 10,000 have voted; almost 67% of respondents said 'Yes'..

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NU in bad shape for any early elections

Kommersant run a story which I have summarised below:

"Our Ukraine" [NU] has begun active preparations for extraordinary parliamentary elections. Following a meeting of the party leadership with president Victor Yushchenko members of "Our Ukraine" agree that their union with BYuT has come to an end. However, NU have a problem - from the first five of the NUNS block list in last year's parliamentary elections, only one - Vyacheslav Kirilenko, would remain on their list.

NUNS VR deputy Xenia Lyapina told 'Kommersant' that her party considered the most realistic scenario is that BYuT will go into coalition with PoR. Another NU member said active preparations for prescheduled parliamentary elections have already begun.

First on the NUNS list in last year's VR election was Yuriy Lutsenko, but his National Self-Defence party has now burnt its bridges with NU. They could possibly link up with BYuT if BYuT are agreeable to this.

VR chairman Arseniy Yatseniuk, who was third on the NUNS list, apparently refuses to be a part of "Our Ukraine". He allegedly spent last week in active negotiations on his political future and is considering creating his own political project. The are rumours that Yatsenyuk has spoken to businessman Rinat Akhmetov who could be ready to financially support the political project as long as head of the National Security and Defence Council, Raisa Bohatyryova, who is quite close to Akhmetov but who has just been kicked out of PoR, should be second in command. But Akhmetov's close associate Boris Kolesnikov claims he knows nothing about such plans.

Former minister of defence Anatoliy Hrytsenko [number 4 on the NUNS list last time around] is considering starting his own political project also.

Number 5 on the NUNS block list was Mykola Katerynchuk, but he already heads the European party of Ukraine and they will probably enter any elections independently.

NUNS deputies are privately admitting that President Yushchenko could dissolve the VR yet again if a coalition which does not suit him is assembled. PoR VR deputy Vadim Kolesnichenko claims: "A military coup is being prepared in Ukraine..and the process of preparation to topple constitutional order in Ukraine has entered an active practical phase."

However, PM Yulia Tymoshenko says: “At present we are not discussing any other configuration of coalition apart from the democratic coalition. And I request that absolutely all provocations on this topic be stopped," So there...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Normal situation for democracy?

President Yushchenko seems to be living in his own fantasy world. In a conversation with journalists in Paris after today's 12th EU-Ukraine summit, when asked about the current political situation in Ukraine, he told them, "There is no crisis, this is a normal situation for democracy." He obviously missed PM Yulia Tymoshenko's two-hour diatribe against him yesterday.

But the ground may be crumbling under his feet. According to Defence minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, ministers allocated from the President's quota and from NUNS intend to take part in all further cabinet meetings. "We will [continue] to work, and believe me, we will work responsibly," said the minister.

And in last night's TV interview, Yulia Tymoshenko claimed that the Prosecutor-General's office has refused to set up a working group to investigate her 'state treason' alleged by the President's secretariat. If this is true, it indicates that Yushchenko's control over the 'sylovyky' is not as great as he had hoped.

Several political 'big-beasts' including interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, former foreign affairs minister Borys Tarasyuk, and former defence minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko did not support the break-up of the NUNS-BYuT coalition late in the evening on 2nd September when 39 out of 64 NUNS deputies voted to walk out of the NUNS-BYuT coalition. According to the VR 'reglament' the 'divorce' officially takes place on the eleventh day after this resolution was adopted.

Many NUNS deputies are now in a state of panic over possible fresh elections. They are demanding Yushchenko settles his differences with Tymoshenko and sacks troublemaker-in-chief, head of the president's secretariat, Viktor Baloha.

But even if BYuT wer to form a new ruling coalition with 'Regiony' within the allotted 30 day period, President Yushchenko may dismiss parliament in any case, even though no legal basis would exist for this. This is a normal situation for democracy, no?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Predicting the future

There is some interesting speculation in today's 'Segodnya' on how events could develop in Ukrainian politics. Below is a very rough translation:

The political crisis in the Ukraine continues. In response to Yushchenko's ultimatum to adopt a resolution condemning "Russian aggression" against Georgia and demands to cancel recently approved anti-presidential laws, Yulia Tymoshenko advanced her conditions for reconciliation. She demanded the president apologizes for accusing her of state betrayal, but added she does not hold out much hope for this.

There are two realistic possibilities on how matters may develop. The first is the creation of a PoR and BYuT coalition. However the business-wing in 'Regiony', and many of the Western Ukrainian deputies and companions-in-arms of Viktor Pynzenyk in BYuT are not agreeable to this.

The second possibility is early elections, if the above-mentioned coalition fails to be constructed. Two other versions of the course of events cannot be discounted entirely, i.e. the restoration of the NUNS-BYuT coalition, or the creation of the broad NUNS-PoR coalition.

'Segodnya' gives the good and bad points of each possibility:

1. The revival of the BYuT-NUNS coalition could ensure an offer of MAP from NATO in December, but could also lead to a collapse in negotiations on the price of Russian gas, causing great pain to industrial and domestic consumers. Parliament, where the coalition does not an absolute majority, would be further paralyzed at least until the presidential elections to be held at the end of 2009.

2. The creation of a BYuT-PoR coalition would be a 'first' for Ukraine so predicting how such an arrangement would 'pan out' is difficult. However, the government would, maybe, at long last, be able to pass in the VR, at least the most basic necessary laws (e.g. changes in the budget). Furthermore, the alliance of these two largest parties which, combined, total over 300 votes, could, in half a year, change the constitution and affirm a normal system of authority, clarifying who is 'top dog' in the country - the President or premier.

To the pluses of this coalition could be added the normalization of relations with Russia. This coalition could quite realistically agree with Moscow a small increase only in the price of gas, furthermore, if 'Regionaly' are persistent, then the government could 'back off' on Ukrainianization, removing some stresses in the southeast of the country.

On the economy there could be two outcomes - one good and one bad. Tymoshenko's desire to increase her popularity amongst the electorate by means of generous social programs could be combined with the economic pragmatism of 'Regionaly'. Alternatively, businessmen from BYuT and PoR could dictate political progress by excessive lobbying of their own business- interests, increasing corruption.

3.The break-up of parliament and early elections would see a sharp rise in social payments to the electorate by the current government, to be paid off by any incoming government, increasing inflation. Talks with Russia would be put 'on hold' because of the uncertainty of who is in charge of the country. Internal investment would decrease. There would be a sharp increase in the tension in the country on the question of the war in Georgia war and relations with Russia, with ever more deepening divisions in society. Finally, the elections may not provide any change to the current stalement, so the same political chaos that exists now could remain for a long time in the future.

4. Broad PoR-NUNS coalition. This could only take place if 'Regiony' back-down from its fundamental positions on NATO and Russian language, or in case of a volte-face on these questions by NUNS and Yushchenko.

Tymoshenko proposes three scenarios to break present deadlock [in English] here


Meanwhile 'Kontrakty' expresses the opinion that the many Russian business interests in Ukraine would prevent any repetition of the Georgian scenario in Ukraine. Ukrainian experts on security issues consider a military conflict impossible.

It is indicative that despite the military conflict between Russia and Georgia and the strain in relations that followed it, no new trading war has developed. Russia did not stop gas delivery to Georgia or fuel transits to Armenia. And Georgia does not intend to restrict the import of goods from Russia.

Russian companies have large investment holdings in Georgia, e.g. in electric power generation, banking, chemicals, petroleum products and telecommunications. The same is true of Ukraine.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Desperate comments from pres's secretariat

The Ukrainian President's press service posted the following on the pres's website last night:

The PM's reluctance to obey the fair demands of the President testifies the non Ukrainian origin of the Ukrainian crisis scenario - A. Kyslynskyi [deputy head of the pres's secretariat]

"An impression is being formed that PM Tymoshenko is enduring a psychological crisis linked to the unsuitability of her own ambitions and national interests of Ukraine." This is the only way that absence of adequate reactions [by her] to the latest events, particularly the President's ultimatum, can be explained.

"It is difficult to call the schoolboy jokes with which the head of government 'amuses' the country the position of a serious politician."

"One can assume that the reluctance of the PM to give an honest assessment to the events in Georgia and their possible influence on Ukraine may be the result of her fear of being refused entry to Russia again. There are no other rational explanations for the anti-constitutional acts, i.e. voting for anti-state laws, by the new BYuT coalition, PoR, and Communists, which upset the balance of the system of authority in the country," said Kysynskyi, adding, "It is clear that the possible support from Russia in future presidential elections weigh more heavily for Yulia Tymoshenko than defending of the national interests of her own country."

p.s. Some experts are talking of the possibility that the political crisis in Ukraine may be resolved by force.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

BYuT-PoR coalition likely

"Segodnya" carries this story entitled:

BYuT: Coalition with 'Regiony' is better than the re-elections

Neither Party of Regions nor BYuT are hiding the fact that they are actively conducting negotiations on the creation of a new coalition.

According to 'Segodnya's' sources in BYuT, the union between Regionaly and 'Byutovtsi' will be legalized by the end September. "BYuT are categorically against early elections. The majority of 'Byutovtsi', in particular those from the eastern, southern and central regions, consider that a coalition with PoR is absolutely natural. It is somewhat difficult for the representatives from western regions, it is more complex for them to explain this union to its voters. But in any event they understand that a new coalition is more advantageous than re-elections. And the last eight months with NUNS were not easy and pleasant", explained the source.

PoR spokesman Taras Chornovil told "Segodnya" that PoR has now walked out of "stupid" negotiations with NUNS. "I'm so pleased about this! Now, as a party spokesman I don't have to give false statements that we are still trying to come to some agreement with someone. Yes, there are people in PoR who were drawn into negotiations with the Bank St. [president's secretariat], and now we are seriously reorienting [our position]. But as you may have noticed, in recent days these people and the entire fraction, voted for the joint agreements made by PoR and BYuT. And I've heard that even Akhmetov has already said that to it is easier to come to an agreement with Tymoshenko [rather than Yushchenko]. Working with Bank Street is political suicide, everyone understands this. As to early elections or coalition with BYuT - I prefer the latter. And I can assure you - the probability of this coalition is very large. But we are not conducting negotiations [on this], because we need to give BYuT the chance to officially leave the previous coalition".

Meanwhile on Bank Street they do not believe in the union of Tymoshenko Yanukovych. "BYuT and PoR will not be glued together so simply. Tymoshenko will in any event remain premier, and Yanukovych will be made speaker. But this distribution is not equivalent, and problems will appear," a source from the President's secretariat told "Segodnya".
For this very reason the presidential team is counting on early elections, which must take place at the beginning, and at latest, by the middle of December. "A coalition between BYuT and Regionaly, will hit Tymoshenko's positions in the western regions, so elections could substantially change the political distribution", said the source.

['Segodnya' is published by one of Akhmetov's companies]

Other commentators agree that all bridges have now been burned between Yulka T and Yushchenko - the same goes for Yanukovych and any possibility of a PoR/NUNS grand coalition. For the first time in all the years of their existence, both PoR and BYuT totally trusted on another to stick to previously-made agreements and to vote in a co-ordinated fashion in the VR last week.

The Russian-Georgian conflict caused the abscess in the democratic coalition that had been festering for months and which no-one wanted to squeeze, to finally burst.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Unchartered waters for Ukraine's politicians

President Yushchenko's fevered statement on the events in the Verkhovna Rada [in English] here

Tymoshenko's response [in Ukrainian] here

The tone of her response is noticeably more calming and measured that the president's, but includes passages of pure electioneering.

It also includes these passages:

"From tomorrow I am starting consultations with all political parties in parliament in order to create a system of consolidation, in order to finally stop discord, [and] in order to create a centre of stability in parliament and government..."

"I am happy that today parliament is voting 'like clockwork'. Yesterday all laws without exclusion were accepted to raise [the efficency of] the coal mining branch. Today we accepted all decisions and changes to the budget, enabling us to raise wages ...And every day parliament and government will make those decisions that you expect."

"I think that the politicum have worn the country out with early elections. We need to work and not cast the country into crisis every time..."

Is she going to try and assemble a government of national unity with some PoR ministers in her cabinet, and side-line the president?

Both Tymoshenko and Yanukovych have both been driven out of office by Yushchenko in the period since the Orange Revolution. LEvko does not believe either will permit history to repeat itself. This is a major constitutional crisis.

p.s. There are some reports that the president has called secret meetings with his 'sylovyky' today..

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sensations in VR

The Ukrainian parliament [Verkhovna Rada] returned to work after the summer recess in what was a most turbulent day. BYuT, PoR and the Communists voted together to change the law on the Cabinet of Ministers, significantly weakening the powers of the President with respect to the KabMin and parliament. The BYuT/PoR/Communists grouping garnered well in excess of a constitutional majority of 300 votes - there is already some talk of impeachment of the president..

The VR, by 362 votes, changed the law on the Security Serice of Ukraine [SBU] and removed the President's powers to appoint and sack the SBU's leadership. It is proposed that this function be transferred into the hands of the VR.

Looks like the ruling BYuT/NUNS coalition is now belly up, dead in the water.

The Verkhovna Rada rejected making any declaration on the situation in Georgia. All the draft resolutions submitted by parliamentary factions in the Rada for consideration on this matter failed to receive the minimum 226 MPs' votes. The parliament also refused to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

VR speaker Yatsenyuk has run away from his chair, declaring, "The collapse of the ruling coalition will not happen with my hands." The remainder of the sitting was led by a newly-appointed deputy.

There was some truth in the rumours that Yulka T had been plotting on the high seas during her summer hols. then.

LEvko thinks Yushchenko has brought much of this about himself. In 2005 he sacked the then PM Yulia Tymshenko together with her government. Last year he dismissed a PoR-led VR in a legally most dubious manner. This year his secretariat's constant unfounded accusations of treachery directed at Tymoshenko and her government have become a bad joke. In the latest macabre twist the head of the pres's secretariat Viktor Baloha, in a letter to the acting head of the SBU, claims Tymoshenko is planning to 'eliminate' him. He says there are plans to poison him, kill him in a staged automobile accident, or to shoot or to blow him up. Even the 'Donbass' daily recently sprung to the defence of PM Yulia Tymoshenko from these never-ending assaults.

Maybe more later..

Update : NUNS have just 'pulled the plug' on the NUNS/BYuT coalition. VR deputies now have 30 days to cobble together a new ruling coalition or else new elections will take place.

Ukrainians seriously worried by Georgian conflict

An O.P. in 'Unian' reveals 48.5% of Ukrainians consider conflict similar to that in Georgia could occur in Ukraine.

40.4% of those questioned disagreed with this point of view. Nevertheless, 47.4% see dangers for Ukraine in the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Clearly, large numbers of Ukrainians are seriously worried about recent events in Georgia.
p.s. I can recommend an analytical article from 'Der Spiegel' [in English] entitled 'The Cold Peace'. It claims there is OSCE evidence that Saakashvili 'drew first' by attacking civilian targets, contrary to his repeated assertions that he did not. The article also highlights the statements and suggestions by Russian officials, particularly on the question of Crimea, that are making Ukrainians so nervous [see above].

Also well worth reading is 'Spiegel's excellent account [in English] of how the events leading to war in Georgia unfolded.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Putin the tiger tamer

Who will be the next target for Putin's tranquilliser gun?

[Check out this video explaining how 'a miracle' saved a TV crew]