Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tough times ahead for Ukraine's journalists?

The popular 'Shuster Live' TV program, produced by the Savik Shuster Studio company, is broadcast on the the TRK Ukraina channel, which is wholly owned by Rinat Akhmetov's SCM financial-industrial group.

Akhmetov, Ukraine's wealthiest businessman, is a major sponsor of Party of Regions as well being one of this party's parliamentary deputies.

Last January, Akhmetov won an undefended judgment in a London court against the Ukrainian internet news site 'Obozrevatel', and some of its staff for allegedly libellous articles written by journalist Tatyana Chornovil. Chornovil continues exposing the shady manner in which Ukraine's richest oligarchs, including Akhmetov, acquired their huge assets, to this day.

And yet Chornovil, and other leading Ukrainian investigative journalists appear regularly on Shuster's chaotic and unstructured show, hotly debating current political issues with deputies and representatives from all political parties, including those from PoR.

Does this indicate that Akhmetov and his party consider that these journalist cannot damage them politically? Or are they sufficiently confident to 'take their best shots', and 'ride out' any blows landed by them?

During last week's Savik Shuster's show, Viktor Yanukovych was vigorously questioned by Shuster's deputy, Mustafa Nayem, about the highly dubious and irregular manner in which the PoR leader had acquired a huge former state-owned dacha, 'Mezhyhirya'. Yanukovych's replies were brusque, arrogant and rude. In no way did he answer the questions posed. Sadly, the reaction of the audience to this matter, and probably that of large numbers of the electorate, was that of indifference. Perhaps too many are still resigned to the opinion that in Ukraine the 'nachal'stvo', whatever their hue, always steal, that normal rules on accumulation of wealth and property do not apply to them.

Yanukovych's responses on how he would tackle the ever-increasing endemic problem of corruption sounded as convincing as a five year-old's fibs.

It must be dispiriting for journalists to know how little impact is made by their revelations of Ukraine's leaders' systematic abuse of power, and a worry to think of any possible 'pay-back' in the weeks after next month's presidential election ends. Could we be watching their last hurrah?

p.s. A reminder from the past: it's not that many years ago since Ukrainian investigative journalists came to sticky ends. I have blogged on these matters before.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Will Yanik appear on Shuster?

"The leader of the opposition, Party of Regions' Viktor Yanukovych, will appear in the Friday Shuster Live talk show, Anna Herman, widely believed to be Yanukovych speech writer, said Dec. 22."

This after an official statement posted the day before on the TRK Ukraina website, the channel on which the Shuster program is broadcast, expaining that because PM Tymoshenko had the full program to herself last Friday on account of president Yushchenko and leader of the opposition Viktor Yanukovych failing to turn up for that show [see previous blog], then the TV company proposes, in the interest of fair play, the latter two are provided with comparable air time on Shuster's program.

Curiously, at time of posting of this blog - about 24 hours prior to Yanukovych's supposed appearance, there is nothing about this on the Shuster program web page.

Important appearances by leading figures are normally announced well in advance on this site. My guess is Yanik's 'minders' are negotiating hard with the Shuster and his producers, on the format of the program, who will be asking the questions, what questions will be, and so on...and no agreement on these matters has been reached yet...

UPDATE: Yankovych's appearance in tonight's Shuster program entitled 'Priorities for the country' was announced today on the program's website.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Open goal for Tymoshenko to shoot at

Last Friday, PM Yulia Tymoshenko answered questions from journalists and other political analysts for over three hours on the flashy 'Shuster-Live' television programme.

Watch it all here.

President Yushchenko and PoR leader Viktor Yanukovych had been invited to take part but had declined to attend, thus providing Tymoshenko over three hours of almost unchallenged TV prime time - political gold dust in anyone's language - which she took full advantage of in her usual masterful manner.

Most voters receive most information on politicians via television - the most important mass media by far. It could even be said, "If you're no good on TV don't even think about going into politics."

It is unmaginable that the owners of the tv channel on which Shuster's programs are broadcast, major backers of PoR, are not aware of this. Any broadcast by the prime minister attracts a large audience and hence generates large advertising revenues - perhaps one reason why the program was allowed to run without the president and leader of the opposition attending. Most of the questioning was 'soft-ball' and easily dealt with by the PM - some journalists even declaring their investigations had confirmed the PM's allegations that Viktor Yanukovych's Mezhehirya dacha had been dishonestly appropriated - but it did not, however, appear that any of the questions were 'planted'.

Yanukovych has declared recently that because Tymshenko is an artist, and he will not compete, or debate with her on tv.

In an excellent in-depth analytical article in 'Lyeviy Bereg' its authors suggest the 'most optimistic' result for the first round of the January 17th presidential election would be a small lead for Yanukovych over Tymoshenko. [His current lead in current OP's is significant]. According to the article a large lead, say over 8% after the first round of voting could plunge the country into a very nasty campaign - outpouring of 'kompromat', challenges to the result etc. akin to 2004. Could this is the thinking behind 'Ukraina' television's decision to run the Shuster program?

The article presents two scenarios for a possible Yanukovych presidency, and three scenarios for a Tymoshenko presidency; it has nine most interesting conclusions which I may summarise later, time permitting.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Justice for Demjanjuk?

By far the best article I've read on the Demjanjuk 'trial' currently being staged in Germany, from 'Esquire', here

It's a bit long, but stick with it..

"Human justice - frail at best - at worst a hopeless oxymoron."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Uncle Joe - what a guy..

London 'Times' on "Russian textbooks attempt to rewrite history" here.

An hour-long BBC TV documentary on this subject will be viewable, probably from tomorrow, here

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Carnage on the roads

Today it was reported that the well-known former Kyiv city mayor, now NUNS deputy, Oleksandr Omelchenko, was last night involved in a fatal driving 'accident' in his Mistubishi Pajero. He knocked down and killed a 48-year old pedestestrian.

The current Kyiv mayor, Leonid Chenovetsky, killed a pedestrian on the same road in 2003. Serious road 'accidents' involving high profile figures occur on a regular, almost weekly basis in Ukraine.

By coincidence I was looking at the World Health Organisation Global Status Report on Road Safety yesterday, comparing Ukraine's awful statistics with those of similar-sized countries in Europe.

In 2007 there were 9921 road traffic fatalities reported in Ukraine, 56% of which were pedestrians. So, over five and half thousand pedestrians were killed on the roads that year in the country.

In the United Kingdom by comparison, 2398 road deaths were reported in 2006, 21% of which were pedestrians, i.e. about 500 pedestrians were killed - 10 times less that in Ukraine, even though it has a larger population and many more vehicles on the road.

But more disturbing are the trends. In the U.K., as in most West European countries, road deaths have been declining for many years. In the last 20 years road deaths in the U.K. and other Western European countries, have halved. In Ukraine road deaths are increasing....

Many more pedestrians will be killed on the roads in Ukraine than will die from swine flu, but there's no political mileage to be gained from tackling this carnage is there?

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's not the's the way you tell 'em

This from AFP:

" [When president Putin was] Asked at a news conference [following his meeting with PM Tymoshenko] to comment on Saakashvili's current visit to Kiev, the Russian strongman premier known for his bad boy image and sharp tongue said the Georgian leader and his host, Ukraine's fiercely pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko, should meet without ties.

"The two presidents would be better off holding a dinner -- if they are to hold it -- without ties. Ties are pricey these days... Well, you understand what I mean," he said, eliciting laughter from officials and journalists.

"Yushchenko's guest will scarf up his tie."

Putin was alluding to the widely-circulated footage in which Saakashvili put a tip of his tie into his mouth and chewed on it as he waited to be interviewed last year.

LEvko says sure, the Saakashvili video clip is funny, but Putin's stuttering George Bush-like delivery of a rather thin 'anyekdot' was so bad it's embarassing to watch.

Every comic knows: "It's not the jokes that are's the way you tell 'em." It's the second time this week Putin was maybe out of his comfort zone..

The coincidence of the Yushchenko-Saakashvili meeting, and that of the much earlier planned Intergovernmental Ukrainian-Russian economic co-operation commission meeting attended by prime ministers Tymoshenko and Putin, was unfortunate, to say the least, and may even have been deliberately contrived by the two presidents just a few days ago.

The attempt to "pi** on her parade" was an unneccessary diversion for PM Tymoshenko in what would have been difficult talks with Putin in any case.

Monday, November 16, 2009

President and PoR digging country deeper into hole

From the 'FT's' Lex column today:

"Europe is on tenterhooks over whether Russia will shut off gas to Ukraine and leave it shivering in January. If that happens, however, blame will fall on Kiev, not Moscow.

Recession-ravaged Ukraine’s political squabbling and populism has hit fever pitch ahead of presidential elections on January 17. That has led the International Monetary Fund to suspend co-operation and delay a $3.8bn loan payment, due on Sunday. The government had already backed off from commitments to increase long-subsidised domestic gas prices. The final straw was President Viktor Yushchenko signing into law, against IMF [and PM Tymoshenko's ] objections, a parliamentary bill [proposed by PoR] that will raise minimum wages and pensions by 20 per cent – costing 7 per cent of economic output in 2010.

Since Ukraine is reliant on IMF funding to make ends meet, it could struggle to pay its next two monthly gas bills – leading to another winter shut-off. It only just scraped together October’s payment. Yet, for all its bluster, Russia would rather keep the taps open. The Kremlin has belatedly realised the damage to its reputation from shut-offs, and last January’s interruption to European supplies cost state-run Gazprom dearly. Hence Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s exhortation that Brussels extend a loan to Ukraine.

And why meddle in Ukraine’s electoral process this time? Moscow’s bogeyman, Mr Yushchenko, trails badly in the polls. Either frontrunner, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko or Viktor Yanukovich, is more acceptable to Russia.

Ukraine still has $28bn in foreign currency reserves; the central bank will probably allow some to be used to pay for gas. A bigger question is whether it will plug the budgetary gap by printing money. If so, inflation will result; if not, wage arrears beckon. Either option may put pressure on Ukraine’s currency and asset prices. Europe’s gas consumers must hope they do not become collateral damage."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Akhmetov - masterful football tactician

Rinat Akhmetov, owner of Shakhtar Donetsk football club, in a great piece of PR, has offered to buy out all of the tickets for Wednesday's vitally important Ukraine-Greece second leg World cup qualifying match, to be played in Shakhtar's new stadium.

After yesterday's no-score draw in Greece, the result of this one game will decide whether it will be Ukraine or Greece that go to next year's World Cup football finals in South Africa.

The stupidly greedy Ukrainian Football Association has whacked up the prices for the match by so much there is a real possibility that the stadium could be half empty for this 'do or die' game.

If Akhmetov succeeds in his bid, he will put the tickets on sale at normal European club tournament match prices, at a loss of over $1m to his club.

No wonder he is so popular in Donbas. And if Ukraine do win, it will be Akhmetov and his Party of Regions' colleagues that will parade on the pitch before the nation's TV viewers to be reflected in the glory...And good luck to them..

Monday update... The Ukrainian Football Federation has declined Rinat Akhmetov's offer - as a a result the vital World Cup eliminator match may well be poorly attended. No home team likes to play in half-empty stadiums, and it makes no business sense either..

Friday, November 13, 2009

British papers on Holodomor

Two articles about British journalist Gareth Jones's reports on the Ukrainian Holodomor of the '30's, have appeared in the British papers today here and here.

Jones's diaries are currently being exhibited at Cambridge University and a documentary programme is being planned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mevedev says Russia-Ukraine probs all Yush's fault

Below is part of an interesting interview with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev from the current English language version of "Der Spiegel"

SPIEGEL:...In accordance with your instructions, there is currently no Russian ambassador in Ukraine, and you are regularly engaged in disputes with Belarus. Why do you constantly try to solve problems with your neighbors with strong-arm tactics?

Medvedev: Are there no problems between EU countries? Germany also has problems with its neighbors. We are therefore no exception.

SPIEGEL: To say that an ambassador will only be sent when another country's president has been toppled -- that's really a pretty unique stance in Europe.

Medvedev: Many things are unique in this world. All of these difficulties have been created by just one man -- the current president of Ukraine. He is guided by anti-Russian ideas, and no compromises can be achieved with him. Everything that he has done over the past four years has been aimed at disrupting bilateral relations. He has breached economic agreements, he tries to rewrite history and he has expelled a number of Russian diplomats from the country. That was an unfriendly act that requires a robust reaction. Presidential elections will soon be held in Ukraine. I sincerely hope that politicians will come to power there who are more pragmatic in their approach to Russia. Then there will be a Russian ambassador in Kiev again.

SPIEGEL: That sounds as if the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could take a dramatic turn.

Medvedev: There is no conflict between our countries. Our peoples are brothers, linked by close relations and solid economic ties. Despite the crisis, we trade goods worth billions of dollars.

SPIEGEL: But are we in for a new round of the annual natural gas war?

Medvedev: A few days ago, Ukraine informed us that it had no funds to pay for our natural gas, despite the fact that, after the conflict in January, we had agreed on the rules of the game and that, if they were in financial difficulties, they would seek loans early enough -- or we would only deliver if Ukraine paid in advance. But there is an election campaign in Kiev, where everyone is trying to politically outsmart everyone else. I wish Ukraine stability and the capacity to act. Then cooperation will be easier for Russia and the EU." man, no problem.” Joseph Stalin

Monday, November 09, 2009

Scoring cheap points

My last blog on president Yushchenko's national address on the flu epidemic has been placed in Taras Kuzio's 'Ukrainska Pravda' Blog - There's has been quite a number of comments, some mentioning the impracticality of the president possibly cancelling last Wednesday's European Champion's League soccer game in Kyiv, even though the WHO had warned the epidemic was quickly spreading to the Kyiv area.

All I can say is that in response to a flu epidemic in Mexico City, which has about 20 million inhabitants, important soccer games and baseball games were played in empty stadiums, or in parts of the country less affected by flu last April, at great cost to the clubs and their owners.

It is not my intention to down-play the effects of the current flu epidemic in Ukraine - several friends of mine and their families have been seriously affected.

Many people will suffer from swine flu even in those countries were large sums of money have been spent to provide adequate supplies of antiviral drugs, vaccines, intensive care facilities, and laboratories to quickly identify new strains of flu virus in patients. In Ukraine, where there are serious shortages in all of these, swine flu is inevitably going to hit hard. And sadly, there is no reason to expect the medical profession in the country to be any less corrupt or uphold ethical standards better than other members of Ukrainian society.

But Ukraine's leading politicians and parties should not use the epidemic for scoring cheap political points against their rivals. Most of the electorate know that no-one would have performed any better that their rivals in this situation.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Send for the men in white coats...

Tonight president Yushchenko made a stutteringly delivered, alarmist, outrageous address to the nation in which he blames PM Tymoshenko, parliamentary leaders, and leaders of the opposition for inactivity when they were supposedly already aware of the flu epidemic taking a grip of the Western parts of the country.

Without providing any medical evidence, he claims that in Ukraine new hybrid strains of flu are beginning to materialise.

In particular, he blames his main political rivals in the presidential campaign of organising large rallies in Kyiv on 24th October, by which time 10 victims had died of flu-like illnesses in the town of Ternopil. [Whether these deaths were due to swine flu, or the seasonal flu, whether the victims had underlying medical conditions, whether they were children or adults, all quite significant in swine flu outbreaks, he does not say.]

Quite scandalously he suggests: "This is directly reminiscent of the Mayday parade in Kyiv [several days] after the [nuclear] accident in Chernobil [when the city had been showered with nuclear material]."

But most worryingly, he declares: "It is necessary to change the system of organisation of state authority in Ukraine...The principal centre of decision-making should be the National Security and Defence Council, [which he heads, naturally]

LEvko's prescription: He should lie down in a quiet room, take some deep breaths, cold towel on his forehead, have a sip of herbal tea..with honey. Or the men in white coats may be coming for him soon too...

Serious US commentators consider the tough measures undertaken by the Ukrainian government to combat the flu outbreak to be excessive, and warn against politicisation of this health problem. 'Der Spiegel' suspects the sudden concern by Ukraine's politicians for the health of its citizens could just be electioneering. And the pesky swine flu virus may be not as tough as first thought...

P.s. The World Health Organisation yesterday reported: "Regions in western Ukraine continue to show the highest rates of acute respiratory illness/influenza-like illness. The level of activity in the Kyiv area is also increasing rapidly."

If the president is so concerned about the spread of flu at mass meetings then why oh why did he not use his powers to postpone or cancel tonight's European Champion's League soccer game in Kyiv? [Doh! Never thought of that!]

The WHO report "strongly recommends early treatment with the antiviral drugs", [which are currently in worryingly short supply in Ukraine], but also says: "Given the potential significance of this outbreak as an early warning signal, WHO commends the government of Ukraine for its transparent reporting and open sharing of samples. WHO continues to recommend no closing of borders and no restrictions on international travel, including to Ukraine. Experience shows that such measures will not stop further spread of the virus."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Authorities will be blamed if flu epidemic worsens

Reports in newspapers from Western Ukrainian, where the current epidemic is most serious, describe the near state of panic gripping the local population. This despite Ukraine's government introducing some of the strictest measures in the world to combat swine flu.

For example, in Lviv all shops in which staff are not wearing face masks will be closed from today; and schools have already closed their doors for three weeks. But discos were still open for Halloween parties.

Both 'Vysokiy Zamok' and 'Lvivska Hazeta's' reporters admit to the shortage of diagnostic laboratories in the area, and to a lack of "technological possiblities to gather samples for analysis". Your blogger thinks that the lack of clearcut evidence as to whether the current flu outbreak is swine flu rather than normal seasonal flu is fuelling anxiety, and shortages of antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, which help alleviate the worst effects of illness, is certainly a worry.

'Lvivska Hazeta', in their article entitled: "Inactivity of the authorities is more frightening that the swine flu virus", is already blaming the authorities.

If the epidemic gets worse then those in power will pay a political price - and the blame game has already begun. It doesn't help that the head of the Lviv oblast health administration, Viktor Kimakovych, is taking a holiday in Egypt at as the crisis mounts..

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swine flu panic

LEvko is astonished at the panic in Ukraine and the way over-the-top reaction from the government and politicians over the swine flu epidemic which has hit the country. There is even talk of the president establishing a state of emergency and possibly postponing the presidential elections.

The United Kingdom has been hit harder than most countries by swine flu - there have been well over one hundred swine flu-related deaths since the start of the current outbreak - but if Ukrainian visitors to this blog read this advice from the BBC, then maybe they will be able to sleep more soundly tonight.

The British National Health Service latest information bulletin on this virus says: "As in other countries, most of the cases reported so far in the UK have been mild. Only a small number have led to serious illness, and these have often been in patients with existing health problems, such as cancer, that already weakened their immune systems.."

Sadly, for an unlucky few, swine flu will mean hospitalisation. And one has to remember that even normal seasonal flu kills over 250,000 people in the world every year.

Ukrainian politicians would do better to take a good look at Ukraine's appalling life expectancy figures. Major causes of premature deaths in the country are the smoking of cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption. A ban on advertising these products and restricting their availability would help save countless lives, but it won't happen because there's too much money being to made from their sale. Much easier to show "decisive leadership" and determined action over the flu epidemic, and scare the the population out of its wits - no doubt increasing the sales of cure-all vodka even more...

p.s. I 'phoned the official goverment swine flu information hot-line today...all I got was crackling..

Monday, October 26, 2009

Foreign Minister Poroshenko on NATO

Russian 'Kommersant' newspaper includes an interview with Ukraine's new foreign minister, Petro Poroshenko, following his recent meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. This is the first such visit by a Ukrainian minister for one and a half years and indicatesa rewarming of Ukrainian-Russian relations.

A couple of days ago the newspaper claimed that "Sergei Lavrov received Petro Poroshenko as if there was no 'anti-Russian policy' in Ukraine"

Today's piece is entitled: "Let's dispel the myth that the Ukrainian authorities are striving to drag the country into NATO - The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine tells 'Kommersant' how he will regulate relations with Moscow."

When asked by 'Kommersant', "Do you consider integration into NATO to be the first priority task of Ukrainian foreign policy?" Poroshenko replies: "The first priority task of Ukraine's foreign policy is to ensure the rights and protection of individual and citizen, society and the state. As for NATO, today the question of Ukraine's membership in that organization has not been posed. At the same time, the strategic goal of Ukraine's accession to the North Atlantic alliance while retaining good neighbourly relations and a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation is determined by the Ukrainian legislation, and specifically by the law, "On the Principles of National Security". As minister, I am obligated to fulfil the goals defined by the Parliament of Ukraine back in 2003. Today, our priority is to take pragmatic steps aimed at ensuring our national interests. It would be foolish to reject the opportunity to interact with the most effective system of collective security. Which, I might add, Russia also understands very well, having a much larger-scale level of interaction with NATO than we do."

He continues: "Let us dispel the myth that all of the Ukrainian authorities are striving to drag Ukraine into NATO despite the will of the people. The first one to initiate the procedure of Euro-Atlantic integration through an all-people's referendum was Viktor Yushchenko. And it is specifically on the basis of the results of the referendum that a decision may be made on joining NATO or any other collective security organization. We do not intend to go anywhere just to anger Russia."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

'Minor' presidential candidates put in good performances on TV

Three lesser candidates standing for president in next January's election appeared in an interesting and lengthy 'Shuster Live' TV program last Friday. Representatives and spokesmen from the main condenders' political parties also took part. [You can watch it via the above link.]

The candidates were Anatoliy Hrytsenko, a former minister of defence in both Yanukovych's and Tymoshenko's government; Inna Bohoslovska, who ran her own party a while, was a member of PoR for a couple of years, then quit Regiony to run as an independent candidate earlier this year; and Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the right-wing 'Freedom' party.

PoR send two of their top mouthpieces - attack dog Nestor Shufrich and Oleksandr Efremov, whilst BYuT sent their deputy Oleh Lyashko. Former president Leonid Kravchuk, whilst not strictly a BYuT party member, spoke in support of 'she who works'.

A couple of political experts pointed out that it was important to remember that the president, according to the consititution, is not primarily responsible for the economy, even though in the coming campaign the current economic crisis this will completely overshadow all other matters.

In LEvko's opinion, the three 'minor' candidates performed most competently with creditable seriousness and eloquence, presenting policies and ideas, whilst the others were more concerned in mutual mud-slinging. Hrytsenko's performance in particular, was impressive and was appreciated by the audience.

At the end of the program the studio audience, which Shuster made great pains to point out was a true cross-section of Ukraine's adult population, were asked: "Which one of the speakers was the most convincing". Top came Hrytsenko - 37%. Second came Tyahnybok - 30%. Bohoslovska 14%. The PoR representatives, perhaps the best they've got, scored 11%

None of the three candidates mentioned have financial resources and backing to match the main candidates, which is a shame. Hrytsenko in particular would give any other candidate a run for their money in any TV debate. I would not be surprised if he came in a creditable third in January, even though he would make an excellent president.

After this show, PoR will have to do some serious thinking about their presentational policy for Yanukovych's campaign. Even though he is favourite, they cannot keep their man wrapped in cotton wool for the entire period. And they may rue the loss of Bohoslovska.

p.s. There may well be more dirty allegations soon. Well known journalist Sonya Koshkina makes mention, in a piece in 'Lyevyi Byeryeg', of shall we say, unnatural and illegal behaviour of a sexual nature, by 'Yanik' during his second prison stretch in the early '70's. The rumblings around this may have caused PoR to 'get their retaliation in first' with 'paedo' allegations against BYuT deputies...

Who knows where the truth lies? Maybe the electorate of sick of the dirt - hence the possibly growing support for the minor presidential candidates.

In another article by the same journalist, entitled 'The recidivist candidate', describing Yanukovych's party nomination conference, the first [untitled] photograph in the article shows the above-mentioned Nestor Shufrich embracing a rather sinster-looking character. This can't be PoR deputy Elbrus Tedeyev, whose brother was allegedly involved in a wild-west-style shoot-out between two criminal gangs in a Kyiv park recently, can it?

After the shooting, several participants were allegedly seen driving away in Elbrus's officially registered Merc 500. But it couldn't possibly be him - 'cos he's also a pal of fellow PoR-deputy, Yanik-junior..

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Presumption of innocence - what's that?

President Yushchenko today blundered into the political fray surrounding a major sex abuse scandal in which three BYuT parliamentary deputies are allegedly implicated. The deputies have been questioned but, until now, have not had to face any charges.

At a public meeting where the Prosecutor-General Oleksandr Ivanovych Medvedko was also present, the president addressed the P.G. directly:

"Recall this scandal, which today is taking place in Ukrainian society, when in the highest levels of government we have, excuse me, paedophiles, people who bring colossal harm to our morals..But, unfortunately, today they have [are protected by] a [parliamentary] mandate."

"I think that the [same] fate [as that] of Lozinsky awaits them The same political shelter, and after a few weeks we will be hunting them via Interpol, Oleksandr Ivanovych."

[Viktor Lozinsky was a BYuT parliamentary deputy. He is the prime suspect in a murder case and is now on the run. He has been stripped of his seat in parliament.]

"And so we are playing a game, which Oleksandr Ivanovych, will end the same way as with Lozinsky, who was released, who was protected by a political force. Now [we have] episode two - with paedophiles," added Yushchenko.

The president's highly prejudicial, almost Stalinist comments are astonishing, particularly to a western observer, and can only be seen as a most crude attempt to discredit the political force of one of his main rivals in next January's presidential election. Furthermore, if no charges are brought against the three BYuT deputies, or if they have sound alibis, it will be the president who be accused of co-instigating very dirty political games. Hints of this are already being aired.

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych's statements on this affair have been more measured. "My attitude to this question [i.e. the scandal] is extremely negative. If this fact took place, [if it] is confirmed, I don't even know what to call it."

"Only bad words keep coming back [to me] - I would rip off that place which you do not have," he added when answering a female journalist's question.

[He may have had previous experience of such procedures. On the Melnychenko tapes, secretly recorded several years ago, Yanukovych is heard to promise to "..hang up by his balls for a night" Oleksandr Tupytskiy, a judge in the Donetsk region.]

'Segodnya', in a fair-minded article, today informed its readers that minister of the interior, Yuriy Lutsenko, told journalists that his ministry have opened a criminal case concerning the alleged $2m blackmail of one of the BYuT deputies accused of child molestation.

Lutsenko claimed in parliament a couple of days ago that he had a PDA recording of the child victims' lawyer attempting to blackmail one of BYuT deputies concerned.

p.s. Dmytro Polyukhovych, the central figure and in this nasty business and father of the two victims, was detained two months ago and remains in custody.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ukrainian way of doing business

Today's London 'Times' reports:

"Tony Blair, the favourite to become Europe’s first president, is believed to have accepted tens of thousands of pounds from a steel billionaire [Viktor Pinchuk, no less] campaigning for Ukraine to join the European Union. "

As for Viktor P - no such thing as bad publicity..

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ukraine not wanted in EU

Many core members of the EU share a common currency already - the Euro. Millions of citizens from new member Central and Eastern Europe countries are living and working in Western European countries with full access to job markets, accommodation, schools, medical care and other benefits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the current global crisis has not turned the tide, and many of these folks are staying put in their newly-chosen countries of residence.

Below is a portion of an article on the proposed European Union Lisbon Treaty from Wednesday's today's London 'Times'. The Treaty is intended to make the EU "more democratic, more transparent, and more efficient", but would also mean forfeit of more national sovereignty by EU member countries - increasing the possibility of the EU becoming a fully fledged federal superstate.

"The original EU was supposed to secure the postwar prosperity of Western Europe and ensure that France and Germany never took up arms against each other again. Until 1989 the European mission was essentially to stay happy, rich and out of harm’s way. The Havels and Lech Walesas changed all that. The two Germanys merged and the eastern longing for acceptance made enlargement a sensible goal.

Now, two decades on, the EU has realised that it is become significantly poorer, less secure along its borders and is probably unhappier than for half a century. For mainland Europeans the fulcrum of the continent has shifted significantly eastwards. On the borderlands there are wobbly dictatorships such as Belarus, blood feuds in the Balkans and, in the popular imagination, hordes of potential immigrants from Ukraine. Berlin and Vienna are little more than a hop, skip and jump from some dirt-poor communities.

Enlargement once seemed to give the EU a moral purpose; now it is seen as trouble. The moral purpose has been lost in a tangle of treaty-prose. How does it deal with this? It should be quarrying out a new sense of purpose. Instead it has cobbled together a treaty of which the deepest purpose is to find institutionally acceptable ways to block the entry of Turkey or Ukraine."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Classic disinformation

Just over two weeks ago a story emerged supposedly casting doubt on president Yushchenko's 2004 poisoning.

On September 18th 'Segodnya' ran a sensational article entitled: "Prosecutor General of Ukraine Report: Dioxin was sprinkled [into the food] of Yushchenko by Americans", with a sub-heading: Head of Prosecutor General's office revealed poisoning of Yushchenko was falsified"

"Russia Today" picked it up and embellished it in their own article entitled: "Ukrainian president’s poisoning was falsified".

At the story's core is an audio recording whose existence was revealed by Larisa Cherednichenko, head of the department for supervision of investigations into criminal cases of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office.

"RT", in their piece state: "..Cherednichenko mentioned a recording of a phone conversation between two people who called each other Roman and Marta. Speaking in English and occasionally using some Ukrainian words, those two were discussing the delivery of Yushchenko’s blood samples to the U.S. and then to Austria.

She claimed the name “Marta” was a pseudonym and the poisoning was nothing but an operation planned and performed by Ukrainian and foreign special services.

The General Prosecutor’s office representative refused to name who was really hiding behind the “Marta” nickname. However, the gossip that appeared on the Internet shortly afterwards is that it was Kateryna Yushchenko."

Today an 'Ukrainska Pravda' article by Serhiy Leshchenko [who Yushchenko once called a hit-man or killer, following one of his U.P. stories - so 'no friend of the president he'] contains a transcript of the conversation, mainly in English, between "Roman" and "Marta".

It turns out that "Roman" is Roman Zvarych - a US-born former Ukrainian cabinet minister and close friend of Yushchenko, and "Marta" is Marta Lopatynska, his sister-in-law, an opthalmologist from New Jersey. The readers of this blog can read the transcript from the 'U.P.' link and decide for themselves whether there is any evidence of conspiracy in the conversation, or whether it is part of a disinformation campaign to discredit Yushchenko and his allies. Zvarych claims that the conversation is an appeal to his sister-in-law to find toxicology experts in the U.S. who could identify the poisons in Yushchenko's body, and help the-then presidential candidate overcome their effects.

The involvement of U.S. doctors and other specialists helping treat Yushchenko at that time was widely reported, as in the 'Washington Post' article.

Leshchenko reveals at the end of his article that the prime suspect in Yushchenko's poisoning, Volodymyr Satsyuk - then deputy head of Ukraine's security services [SBU], took with him his whole audio file archive when he fled to Russia, where he remains to this day. It was he who gave the "Roman-Marta" recording to the Ukrainian Parliamentary Committee investigating Yushchenko's poisoning. And it was they and Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office that have deliberately organised this disinformation, colluding with the prime suspect in the case to deliberately 'muddy the waters' and take the heat off Satsyuk.

Just how low can you get?

"disinformation - 1955, from Rus. dezinformatsiya"

"The truth is so precious it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.." Winston Churchill

p.s. On a completely different note, "Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, has dropped plans to run for mayor in the Russian city of Sochi. Mr Lugovoi said he and his party, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, had decided he should remain an MP in the Russian parliament instead.

British police want to question him about Litvinenko's death by radioactive poisoning in London in November 2006."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What worries Ukes

Results of a recent opinion poll conducted in the Kyiv oblast revealed over 63% of those questioned were most worried about inflation, over 54% worry about low pay and pensions, over 42%were worried about unemployment, and almost 40% were concerned by political instability in the country.

Relations with Russia? Less than 8% were bothered about this. As for entry into the EU and NATO, unity of Eastern and Western parts of the country, or a possible new Constitution - less than 5% have anxieties over each of these.

LEvko's conclusion - the candidate who voters consider to be more likely to improve the Ukrainian economy will become president in next year's presidential election.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yushchenko packing bags already?

ProUA reports that president Yushchenko has accepted he will no longer be head of state in several months time. He sees no possibility of reanimating his political base, 'Our Ukraine', and the last straw was the cold shoulder he recieved from Joseph Biden and Barack Obama during his recent visit to the USA.

ProUA's sources claim that having received no guarantees of immunity from prosecution from either of the two front-runners in next January's presidential election, Yanukovych or Tymoshenko, president Yushchenko has already started packing his bags.

Several aircraft-loads of his stuff, including his antiques collection, was apparently seen departing from Zhytomyr airport for Canada and later transhipment to the USA - probably to his wife's home town of Chicago.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shuster show with Tymoshenko hijacked by PoR

I've just spent over two hours watching latest Savik Shuster program, on-line, here.

It's rivetting stuff.

The show was to comprise Yulia Tymoshenko being cross-examined by a battery of eminent journalists. She claimed during the programme that Viktor Yanukovych was to be present as well. Just as the programme opens, three PoR heavyweights - Mykola Azarov, Hanna Herman and Iryna Akimova gate-crash the proceedings, claiming this was 'in the interest of balance'. The PoR trio are seen milling around the studio floor while Tymoshenko is speaking, and two extra chairs are brought into the studio for them, perhaps suggesting that only one of them was to attend. The journos are all clearly pi**ed off by this as it is obvious they where not aware the PoR trio would be there. During the programmeTymoshenko answers hostile questions in her usual passionate manner complete with many diversions, as well as responding challenges from the 3 PoR guys. The whole atmosphere is very tense and the proceedings quite chaotic.

About 2 hours 20 minutes into the programme [which is on a TV channel owned by PoR deputy Rinat Akhmetov] Shuster, who many consider the most respected TV interrogator on Ukrainian television, tries to explain the mix-up about who was to attend the program and who was not.

He says he had been summoned to PoR headquarters earlier in the day, where he had been accused of pro-Tymoshenko bias and was told that PoR representatives had to be present during the programme. He responded that Tymoshenko may well not agree to this. Herman then accuses Shuster, live on air, of concocting a plan whereby the 3 PoR guys would enter unannounced, but he could carry on with the pretence that Tymoshenko would be questioned only by journalists. Shuster repudiates this, denying he was party to any conspiracy, whilst other journalists lay into Herman too for not trusting them to do their job properly in scrutinizing the PM in a fair manner, and for taking from them the opportunity to quiz the PM live on TV, whilst at the same time promoting their own political agenda and electioneering.

The intention of the programme was to give journalists the opportunity of grilling the PM on her handling/mishandling of the economy during the global crisis. PoR considered that the programme would give Tymoshenko the opportunity to promote herself for president, even though the campaign has not yet started.

In the end, it was Tymoshenko and the journalists who emerged with more credit. 'Glavred', in their 'write-up' on the program say her people are happiest about how it all worked out.

PoR have a real problem with Yulka T who is a star performer on TV. As in this particular programme, if she takes on all-comers on her own, answering their questions and challenges, she looks as if she is being unfairly bullied - neutral viewers feel sympathetic to her. She is a master of playing the delicate 'wronged woman'. If she goes one-to-one against anyone in a TV debate, paticularly Yanukovych, [if this were ever to happen], she would probably win hands down. Putting her in front of agressive journalists, who would have given her a hard time, would probably have been best for PoR at this moment in time. But PoR could not be content with this. By highjacking the programme they let Tymoshenko score some easy points and made PoR and Savik Shuster, who had to apologise to the journalists present for submitting to PoR's, in his words, "blackmail", look devious. And they annoyed the journalists big-time too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

British Royal Shakespeare Company play about Holodomor

Listen to a most interesting audio clip broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 4's flagship news programme "Today", about this new play called "The Grain Store", here

"The great famine of 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine, known as the Holodomor, may have killed as many as 10 million people. Some believe that it was a deliberate act of genocide.

BBC Correspondent Nick Higham reports on the Royal Shakespeare Company's world premiere of a play about the famine, written by a Ukrainian writer."

Much more fascinating information about the play, at the RSC site here and here

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Russia's time running out in Ukraine? Or maybe not..

Paul Goble has written a good summary in his blog of a recent important article published in 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya', by Volodymyr Horbulin [who was a National Security and Defence Council secretary under president Kuchma] and Oleksandr Lytvynenko, about the security trap in which both the Russian Federation and Ukraine find themselves. Paul Goble's summary can also be read here.

'Segodnya' yesterday published a riposte to the article by Horbulin entitled "Friendship between Obama and Moscow: the Ukrainian Atlanticist's nightmare"

The author argues that an improvement in relations between Russia, Europe and the USA will make it easier for Ukrainian politicians to maintain equally good relations both with Russia and with the West.

He concludes: "[The] ideal economic situation for Ukraine [would be] to establish a free trade zone with the European Union and to preserve and widen free trade with Russia. To obtain investments both from the Russian Federation and from the West. To agree with Russia on an acceptable price for fuel, and with the West about the technological modernization of our industry and infrastructure. If such a most advantageous multi-vector policy seemed unrealistic in the past because of the complex relations between the West and Russia, then now, as a result the significant warming up of relations in the Moscow- European Union -USA triangle, it is fully possible. The main thing is that these large geopolitical comrades do not fall out between themselves again."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Medvedev's CNN interview

Below is part of the transcript of today's interview with president Medvedvev on CNN.

See video here

"F.Zakariya: Talking about Ukraine, when you say they should hold a referendum there, we should note that Ukraine is a sovereign state, and it’s free to enter any alliance it wants. There is no constitutional requirement for Ukraine to hold a referendum. Even though many believe that Russia is not satisfied with Ukraine being independent, as it believes Ukraine is still part of Russia to a large extent, that it cannot put up with the fact that it has lost Ukraine. In any case, we believe Ukraine has the opportunity to join any alliance; and according to the Constitution, it doesn’t need our direction on whether to do it or not.

D.Medvedev: You’re right. The question is that I am not making any recommendations to Ukraine; I just believe that Ukrainian politicians should think about it. I am not an expert on Ukrainian legislation. But we are talking about entering nothing else but a military bloc; and we had all been within one military bloc called the Warsaw Pact, which used to be NATO’s direct opponent. So if I was to make such a decision, I believe I would have to consult with the population on such issues. This is certainly their sovereign right; but as far as I know, a significant number of politicians hold the same position as me: that a referendum is required before acceding into NATO. The fact that the current Ukrainian president doesn’t think so is his own business. This is what I believe we should remember.

Regarding our attitude towards Ukraine, it’s a hearty and friendly one. We all have relatives and friends in Ukraine, and we have a need to communicate. Ukraine has been going its own way; it’s an independent state now, so let it develop itself. Ukraine has been experiencing economic difficulties and their own national problems; so let our colleagues deal with them.

What is it that I dislike? It’s something I had talked about in my recent address and in my letter to President Yushchenko. There is only one thing I dislike: that the anti-Russian position has become the main policy of the current leadership, meaning the country’s president, my colleague. Whatever they say, I am absolutely convinced this is their key policy. It’s a shame, and it’s wrong. Our nations have been so closely tied together that anyone who tries forcing a wedge between our two nations would be making a mistake, if not a crime, for the sake of future generations. So my address had only one meaning: to make Ukrainian politicians – and their president first of all – start to think about their policy. I really don’t like it that Ukraine has been heroising Nazi criminals, so to speak. [As a lawyer, Medvedev would certainly be aware he was deliberately making an erroneous sweeping generalisation here..LEvko] We had all actually fought against Nazism at some point. Other countries understand it, but the Ukrainian leaders are not willing to realise it for some reason. I have the right to make such assessments, as this is a common challenge, a common threat. Nazi criminals used to be judged by the Nuremberg tribunal.

So there are things that are truly crucial for the future of our relationships. We are not forcing anything on anyone; we are not addressing anyone. I’ve particularly emphasised that I wasn’t even appealing to the Ukrainian nation, because this nation has its own leadership. But as this country’s leader, I have to express my standing to my colleague. Considering everything that had been – and still has been happening there – I had to make an unpleasant decision and to delay sending a new ambassador to Ukraine, so that our Ukrainian colleagues would actually think about the consequences of such a policy."

In three of four months time president Yushchenko will be out of office, clearing his desk and packing a furniture removal truck. So why so hostile? Today was Medvedev's 44th birthday. Maybe he just didn't like the birthday prezzie from his Ukrainian counterpart...

'Segodnya's' "take" on this is: "Head of the Russian Federation has again criticized our president over [his] anti-Russian policies"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another presidential junket

President Yushchenko returned home empty-handed from a state visit to Turmenistan today.

He was accompanied by two airplane loads of officials, musicians [!?], and other personnel. A meagre four inter-government documents only were signed during the president's visit.

But I'd bet they almost cleared out the Ashkhabad duty-free shop before the flight back home..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poisoners in Russia, claims Yushchenko

The last edition of the "Sunday Times" informs its readers that "President [Yushchenko] claims Kremlin is shielding his would-be killers"

Good job it was dioxin and not polonium..

Ukrainian intellectuals warn of Russian threat

Several days ago the big-selling 'Segodnya' ran this story on "Ukrainian intellectuals'" appeal to the world to save Ukraine from Russia. I've translated some portions below:

They call on the USA, Great Britain, France and China, the guarantors of the Budapest memorandum, to take part in an International conference in order to provide security guarantees for Ukraine.

The members of the intelligentsia have also appealed to leading organs in the European Union "on the need for a clear and unambiguous position on the question of the guarantee of the national sovereignty of Ukraine, and to express a warning against any form of interference by Russia into the internal affairs of Ukraine".

The members of the intelligentsia note: "The Russian leadership have consciously taken a course on the dismantling of the current security system, the key direction of which has become the aim of subordinating Ukraine in order to fulfill the geo-strategic interests of Russia".

According to their appeal, "the consequence of such a strategy is the rapid escalation of stress in bilateral relations. Unprecedented aggravation has taken the form of information warfare against Ukraine".

"In Russian society Ukrainians are presented as the enemy, and Ukraine is labelled as the main destabiliser of relations between the European Union and Russia," they add.

Commenting on the President of Russia's recent message to the President of Ukraine and the new Russian legislation on the use of the Russian armed forces beyond the limits Russian Federation, the intellectuals claim:

"For the first time in many years signs are appearing that the Kremlin is not excluding use of power in its arsenal of foreign policy tools relative to Ukraine".

"The subordination of Ukraine to Russia's strategy will renew the division of Europe, will carry a direct threat to the international and national security of the European Union, will lead to a decrease in the overall level of confidence and security in Europe, and will escalate tension and resistance in foreign relations as a whole", warn the signatories. They include former President Leonid Kravchuk, former top man at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskiy, who is now working for Rinat Akmetov's Foundation for the Development of Ukraine, former ambassador to Great Britain, Serhiy Komisarenko, Levko Lukyanenko, and many others.

Full text here

Saturday, September 05, 2009

BBC radio report on Donbass Arena opening ceremony

Listen to a 5-minute BBC Radio 4 "From Our Own Correspondent report, broadcast on Saturday 5th September 2009, on last weekend's opening ceremony at the new Schaktar Donetsk Arena here. The report starts about 7 minutes into the 30 minute-long audio clip.

Also worth watching is Shaktar's official video of the event here

Friday, September 04, 2009

Con artists all..

British PM Gordon Brown is not the only major world figure doing dubious and disreputable deals with Libyan supremo colonel Gaddafi. At the 40th anniversary celebrations of the coup that brought Gaddafi to power, Ukraine's Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko was amongst the first foreign leaders to greet him.

According to the 'Independent' newspaper : "Prim and pretty with her braided hair, she seemed like a girl receiving a school prize. Her presence was among the more obvious clues as to why the rest of the world puts up with Ronald Reagan's "mad dog" of the Middle East. At least one half of the Ukrainian political establishment is desperate to break clear of its energy dependency on Russia and the political limitations that come with that."

Don't be fooled by the looks - Tymoshenko has had experience in the past of dealing with autocratic and 'loopy' leaders of oil and gas-rich countries to secure beneficial deals for her own [former] companies and for Ukrainian consumers.


I also particularly liked this story from today's 'Independent' about a 17-year-old graffiti artist who stole several pencils that formed part of a sculpture by one of Viktor Pinchuk's favourite artists, Damien Hirst. [Pinchuk's gallery in Kyiv is currently staging a major retrospective Hirst exhibition].

The teenager was arrested by British police and released on bail - he is waiting to find whether he will be formally charged with causing damage to an iconic artwork worth, wait for it, £10m! The pencils were valued at £1/2 million. [They were, apparently, in 'as-new' condition, but it is not clear whether they were the sort that have an eraser rubber at the upper end.]

'Philantropist' Pinchuk, who made his money in no small part thanks to to his father-in-law, former Ukrainian president Kuchma, has been spending millions on what some commentators regard as "not masterpieces..[but] the icons of idiocy".

Now however, the contemporary art market is in meltdown and prices are plummetting. Still, easy come - easy go I suppose.

p.s. It's an inspiration to know that the British police and legal system are ruthlessly pursuing these adolescent thieves and vandals who have no respect for art..

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Kremlin further out of step

Listen to a concise 5 minute audio clip from the 'Guardian's' Luke Harding explaining yesterday's events in Gdansk and the new Kremlin doctrine directed at its neighbours, here

And read his article on some dubious documents on Poland's supposed dealings with Hitler produced in Moscow yesterday, here

Poland - supporting Ukrainian nationalists in the 30's? I don't think so..

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Poland is start of long, uncomfortable season for Russia

Amongst the many articles on the commemoration to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of WW2 in Gdansk today, I particularly liked one entitled "We must not forget the real causes of the war", by the acclaimed British historian Norman Davies.

"As the Russian government must realise, however, Poland will only be the start of a long, uncomfortable season. After Poland, it will be Finland's turn, and the 70th anniversary of the Winter War. Stalin's aggression against Finland in November 1939 was every bit as blatant as his actions against Poland. His German partner was not involved, and the despatch of a million troops into a neighbouring country to deport the entire population of the frontier area can hardly be described as the doings of a neutral well-wisher. It led to the expulsion of the USSR from the League of Nations. And after Finland, there will be Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. At every stage, there will be scenes of peace-loving tanks, of executions and deportations, and of weeping patriots..."

Hence the current propaganda war orchestrated by the Kremlin?

p.s. PM Tymoshenko has spent a few interesting few days lately. Over the weekend she was in Donetsk for the opening of Shakhtar's new stadium and was warmly embraced by Rinat Akhmetov, while Beyonce Knowles was singing on stage. Today she met Vladimir Putin in Gdansk, and flew off to Libya for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's bash.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Medvedev on WW2

Portion of a TV interview with President Medvedev on TV Channel Rossia's 'News of the Week' Programme, August 30, 2009:

Interviewer: You and I are talking today on the eve of an important historic date: September 1, the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War Two.

Now, in Europe, there is an unbelievably wide range of assessments as to why this horrible tragedy was started. What are your thoughts on this matter?

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: These events were the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. It was a tragedy that took the lives of about 70 million people, according to various estimates, as this figure has never been fully determined. Thus, there can be no other view of those events. Of course, there is also the issue of how these events are interpreted in different nations. And here, unfortunately, there are some clear setbacks.

Just 20 or 30 years ago, even within the so-called political and ideological blocs that stood in opposition to each other – by which I mean the West and the East, the Warsaw Treaty and NATO – everyone agreed that Nazism had been rightfully condemned by history and that Nazi criminals who were judged in the Nuremberg trials were serving out a just punishment. This was the case, even despite our differences in ideological approaches, which is why I specifically brought it up.

Now, we share relatively common values, and we no longer argue about what we see as the most important values in our societies, the values that should serve as the foundation for our nations, and how we should build our economies.

Nevertheless, we are seeing some astounding trends. Governments in the Baltic States and even Ukraine are now essentially pronouncing former Nazi accomplices to be their national heroes who fought for the liberation of their nations. Of course, everyone knows what really happened, but everyone looks down in shame, so as to avoid souring relations.

There is another situation: the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly just recently grouped together Germany and the Soviet Union, pronouncing them to be equally responsible for World War Two. Now this, quite frankly, is a flat-out lie. One can have different attitudes toward the Soviet Union; one can be critical of the Soviet Union’s political regime and the leaders of what was then our country, but this is the very issue I was just talking about – the issue of who started the war, which country killed people and which country saved people, millions of people, and which country ultimately saved Europe.

I have one final thought regarding this matter. We really must treat our history with a lot of care, especially concerning those issues that were assessed in the same way throughout the world. We cannot destroy the institutions that were formed as a result of those tragic events. We cannot disregard all those things in order to favour some states that are currently developing and are in the process of forming their national identity. We must think about the future. And this, I think, is one of the most important lessons that can be learned from the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the 20th century’s greatest catastrophe – the beginning of World War Two.

These comments are about 24 minutes into this video of the interview.

Medvedev's views are already causing a stir..

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BBC report on Ukrainian agriculture

Do not miss an excellent report from BBC's 24th August 'Newsnight' program on Ukrainian agriculture, and how western companies are moving in. A summary here

The report can be watched via this link here and available for just a few of days or so..

Beautifully filmed and edited too..

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Medvedev is not right

Below I have loosely translate several portions from a blog by the big-selling Russian language 'Segodnya's' chief editor, Igor Guzhva.

"Why Medvedev is not right - The President of Russia is helping the national-fascists by his statements.

I am ready to put my name to practically all of the points raised in Medvedev's letter to Yushchenko. But, I am a citizen of the Ukraine - I have the right such to say these things to the President of my country. I have the right to criticize his policy of integration into NATO, since in my opinion, it does not correspond to the national interests of Ukraine. I have the right to criticize the policy of forced Ukrainization. But here Mr. Medvedev, as the President of a foreign state, does not have a right to call Yushchenko to account.

Medvedev's efforts will ensure that all Ukrainians who speak out against NATO or against Ukrainization, will automatically be treated by the authorities as fifth columnists of Russia. They will say: "Look, those bastards are singing to the tune of the Russian aggressor..."

What is worse, Medvedev is pushing many Ukrainians who are wavering into the camp of the nationalists. According to data from opinion polls, 70-75% of the population of Ukraine relate very favourably to Russia, they want them to be friends, to develop links etc. This actually is a pro-Russian majority. But only about 25-30% of Ukrainians should be considered as political Russians, i.e. those, who are in favor of the re-creation a political union with Russia in one form or another.

The remainder, i.e. 40-50% of the pro-Russian majority do not want spoil relations with Russia in any way, they want open boundaries, they are not ready to go in NATO, particularly as the overwhelming majority do not love the Americans, and they do not need any forced Ukrainization. But they have become accustomed to independence. For many of them it has become valuable, and they are fearful of changes that could lead to its possible loss. They are fearful of the reaction of the West and of the threat of isolation of the country.

Many of them, in general, are not against even some form of economic integration with Russia, but do not support major changes whereby Russia would [again] pose as the 'older brother'. When Russia adopts this pose and starts to talk on the lines of what Ukraine should or should not do, or suggesting the country be split...then these 40-45% begin to get agitated and, many of them become the prey of the nationalists who shout about the Russian threat...

There is a greater task - of moulding a new Ukrainian patriotism, based not on hatred for Russia, but on the respect for its sovereignty and uniqueness, and on its protection, including, also, from the West.

But the statement of Medvedev, does it help or hinder the accomplishment of these objectives? Certainly it hinders. It throws into the camp of the enemies of Russia and nationalists the Central Ukrainian ordinary Joe who does not like the Americans for their bombing of Yugoslavia, who supports the Russian team in the European championship, who despises Yushchenko, and curses "Yulka" the fibber [brekhukhu], fears the Banderites, respects Putin and celebrates on May 9th his main commemorative day. But the ordinary Joe does not want for someone from the outside, neither from Russia nor the West, to dictate what is right for Ukraine and what is not.

There are many such Joes, not only in central Ukraine, but also in the southeast, particularly amongst Russian language speakers.

And without such Joes we cannot break the back of nationalism. So it is better for our Russian brothers to remain silent...

Generally, when I speak to different public figures who speak out against NATO, for the Russian language and so forth I always give them one piece of advice. Never rely on Russia, on its forces, on its money and connections. In Moscow, alas, no intelligent policy with respect to the Ukraine has appeared. Any that exists is deeply intertwined with corrupt connections (a typical example is Rosukrenergo, or an older example isYeESU - essentially, the joint business of Tymoshenko, Lazarenko and corrupt officials in Gazprom, the Russian Ministry of Defense and other departments...

The question of entry into NATO and curtailment of forced Ukrainization must be transferred away from the plane of Russian-Ukrainian intergovermental relations (which Yushchenko wants, with the aid of Dmitriy Medvedev) into the plane of purely intra-Ukrainian policy..."

p.s. Igor Guzhva's views do not necessarily coincide with LEvko's, particularly on the language issue, but his blog gives an insight into the mindset of many Ukrainians.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Biggest national flag to be unfurled in Donetsk

Логвиненко, Близнюк и Лукьянченко развернут в Донецке самый большой в мире Государственный флаг Украины
I thought the following recent article on the 'Novosti Donetska' site to be quite revealing. I've translated portions below:

"Logvinenko, Bliznyuk and Lukyanchenko to unfurl largest [Ukrainian] national flag in the world

Ukrainian National Flag Day celebrations will take place in front of the Donetsk Oblast State Administration building, with the participation of the chairman of Donetsk O.S.A. V.I. Logvinenko, chairman of the Donetsk Oblast Council A.M.Bliznyuk, and Donetsk city head A.A.Lukyanchenko, on August 23 starting at 9.00 a.m.

Together with the representatives from oblast community youth organizations and those of Donetsk, the oblast and city leaders will assemble around the flag - the symbol of the unity and consolidation [sobornost] of Ukraine. The flag measures 30X45 m.

The next day, on August 24, [Independence Day] at 15.00, the largest national flag of Ukraine in the world will be carried along Khreshchatyk by representatives of all-Ukrainian community youth organizations to the Maydan Nezalezhnosti where leaders of state, well-known politicians, businessmen, artists and athletes will join the celebrations...

The article goes on to expain that the initiative to manufacture this flag came from Donetsk in 2007, and it has since been unfurled at at various historical remembrances, at historical sites etc. The flag was sewn by a Donetsk miner's widow and was later displayed around the country by young people from that city.

p.s. Also check out this from today's FT, which may or may not be connected to the above..

p.p.s. the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed 70 years ago tomorrow. More on this here and here

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Russia and Germany stitching up Ukraine again?

"World Agenda: Merkel and Medvedev share Ukraine's Munich moment"

This story has quickly been picked up in the Ukrainian media e.g. here and here

Will Angela now explain her lack of response?

Maybe her silence was a thank-you for last month's declaration by Russia's defence ministry that it was Poland that had provoked the second world war by refusing to yield to Germany's "modest" ultimatum demands in 1939. All Poland's fault then..The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact - very reasonably under the circumstances..

Polonium -210 trails in Hamburg...deaths of Russian journalists..hardly worth mentioning..

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tymoshenko responds to Medvedev's letter and video blog

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has responded to President Medvedev's nasty letter and video blog [see previous blog] on the official Ukrainian Cabinet website. A mangled English version has also appeared, which I've corrected slightly for clarity:

"Following the answer of the President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko to the address of the President of the Russian Federation Dmytro Medvedev the Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko made a statement concerning Ukrainian-Russian relations.

“Despite the fact that foreign policy appears a constitution prerogative of the President I cannot keep silent about recent events in Ukrainian-Russian relations. In view of their importance I cannot but [be concerned] bother [about] with a high [the high temperature of polemics] degree of the public dispute in this topic.

The feeling of responsibility for the country is a good way for every politician to keep emotions [in check] in any situations, even hard ones.

As Prime Minister I have always done and still do all my best to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, first of all, in economic sphere which is a responsibility of the Government. I will act the same way taking any other position entrusted to me by Ukrainian people.

Relations with Russia have always been built and will be built by me on [as] equals on the bas[e] of national interests, mutual benefit, respect to the sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At [Along with] this, Ukraine will determine its foreign and internal policy independently, without any external interference, including in the humanitarian area. We will be learning [studying] our own past, will be coping with our present matters, [and] will independently build our own future.

Realization by Ukraine of our [its] sovereign rights, forming of the current policy of the nation is not, [viewed] and can never be viewed as a policy directed against anyone.

We are always ready to hear and entertain thoughts of our partners on East and West alike, taking into account their interests, but meddling into our internal matters is [impermissable] unaffordable.

I would like that Ukrainian and Russian diplomats of all levels could solve the problems, which are inevitable in relations between any other countries, not by way of confrontation and public dispute but at the negotiation table.

I also consider [it to be] as inadmissible any pause in the development of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia. Our Government will be acting [to overcome] reasoning from this.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko

More on this story from AFP here

p.s. maybe the translators in the Cabinet of Ministers are all away on holiday..

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

Watch, President Medvedev, the man in black, deliver a beligerent 5 minute video [with English subtitles], set against a balmy evening seascape, in which he describes the rapid deterioration of Russian/Ukrainian relations: here

What is it with these Russian height-challenged testosterone-charged men?

Reminds me of this old British advert for Cadbury's chocolates

Maybe fearing that his boss may have overstepped the mark, deputy head of the Kremlin's administration Aleksey Gromov says today that Dmitriy Medvedev's statement on the bad blood between Moscow and Kyiv was not directed against the Ukrainian people, but only against President Victor Yushchenko personally. [Whipping a dead horse then..]

Turning off gas supplies in the midst of winter was not directed at Ukraine's population either, I suppose..

p.s. The man in black, with Yanukovych and Putin, possibly chewing Cadbury's chocolates here

Monday, August 10, 2009

Consumerism will never make you happy

Although I have criticised many of Patriarch Kirill's pronouncements during his visit to Ukraine he did make some sensible observations on the dangers of what some writers have called 'turbo-consumerism'. Below are links to two recent newspaper articles which explain why the insatiable pursuit of "more" will never make people happy.

Will Ukraine's ruling elites take any notice? Not a chance..

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Patriarch Kirill's visit to Ukraine a success? Hmm..

According to, during Patriarch Kirill's visit to Ukraine: "the idea of the "Holy Rus," or "the great Eastern-Slavic civilization" as a spiritual and historical, rather than a political, entity capable of saying something important to today's secularized world without forfeiting the link between the earthly and the divine, served as the leitmotif throughout all of the Patriarch's speeches."

During one Ukrainian TV appearance, he said this:

"By no means do I oppose the Western world — I know the West well and lived in the West, - but why, in dialogue with the Western world, do we accept the role of 'the led' so easily? What values do they offer us? What unique thing does this rich civilisation tell us today? Why do we give up our primacy so easily?

We are ready to enter a united Europe, into any other Europe. [But do] We enter there to receive ideas? To graft a certain correct form of life[style]? [Do] We enter there for the sake of our stomach and our pockets? Sure, this too is quite good. But let's bring our values [too]; but I do not believe that they will be ready to accept [these] values there. However, to enter as 'the led', losing spiritual primacy, renouncing our tragical, but unique, incomparable experiences, raises major doubts with me.

I think that our unity - the unity of the spiritual space of Sacred Rus, historical Rus, is a civilizing project of huge force which is not destined to be led. It is destined to generate ideas, and this is now taking place.. We have a potential for the development of a genuine dialogue between the East and the West, but not the dialogue between a horseman with a horse..."

Three years ago Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University of Leicester School of Psychology, in Great Britain analysed data published by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness.

Studies elsewhere have produced results similar to those obtained by Adrian White.

Secular meritocratic European countries, with high standards of living, long life expectancy, excellent education, health and welfare services score very well in these comparative studies, whilst Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Socialist Republics fare particularly badly. For example, in Adrian White's study Russia lies at a miserable 167th position out of 178 countries. In Ukraine, the young, and particularly the ambitious and dynamic are most conscious of these great differences. I do not believe Patriarch Kirill's messages about Sacred Rus or 'the great Eastern-Slavic civilization' having anything important to say to the secularized world, or to Western European neighbours, will make much impression on these people. The man will not be taken seriously, even if he himself thinks his trip was a success..