Saturday, June 30, 2012

Independent Ukrainian news website under serious threat..[Updated]

In the past your blogger has referred to articles from the 'Lyeviy Bereg' site, now '', on many occasions.

The independent site posts articles by many authors, including some who strongly pro-ruling authorities as well those who are highly critical.The site is a project of the Gorshenin Institute  - who also publish this excellent weekly newsletter in English

Several of the site's staff, including well-known journalist Sonya Koshkina could now be facing criminal charges for doing their job - in particlar for writing about the severe beating last year of a young woman by Roman Landyk, son of a prominent PoR parliamentary deputy. The case was prominently covered across the entire Ukrainian media because is cast a spotlight on the frequently boorish, lawless behaviour of Ukraine's ruling elite and their children.

An photographer managed to take readable photographs of Landyk Sr. sending SMS messages whilst attending a pleniary parliamentary session. The photographs were taken quite openly from the journalist's gallery overlooking the main chamber of parliament where photographers are permitted to sit. There was nothing illicit or underhand in the way the photographs were taken. Deputies are well aware that everything they do in the main chamber is under scrutiny.

"From the contents of the SMS it is clear that in order to optimize his son’s image, Landik Senior is engaging political technologists as well as journalists from the Luhansk TV company to write positive comments in the news and texts about the Landik junior trial."

Koshkina and the others could now be facing up to seven years in prison for alleged 'violation of private corresondence'. Full story in English here

After being questioned by law-enforcement officials, Koshkina herself 'phoned Landyk sr. and wrote about their conversation, or rather his abusive, explative-ridden tirade, in this piece. The bright, charismatic and charming journalist has certainly 'trodden on more than a few toes' in her many articles, but has nevertheless always appeared to have had cordial relations with the 'great and good' of the land.

Koshkina considers she and other at her site are now under grave threat, and that this assault is not merely a token 'shot across their bows' - it may well be the start of a campaign to 'clip the wings' of independent journalists before next autumn's parliamentary elections. Or maybe someone has  just decided to seek revenge and 'get even'...

Another example of creeping authoritarianism?
And should not Landyk sr. be investigated for possible abuse of power and perverting the course of justice? Not in the Alice in Wonderland world of Ukrainian politics.

                                                                Sonya Koshkina


Sonya Koshkina appeared via Skype on last night's 'ShusterLive' programme. She is out of the country and will not return until she and her colleagues receive cast iron guarantees that they any possible criminal charges against them in the Landyk affair will be dropped. 

She accuses highly-placed officials in the presidential administration of organising a sustained 'nightmarish' attack against in the last months , but without the consent of either the president Yanukovych or prosecutor-general Pshonka. [Your blogger considers the last assertion may be a ploy to enable this pair of oafs to emerge from the scandal unscathed without loss of face or embarrassment.]

The president's representative in parliament Yuriy Myroshnichenko said on the programme that Koshkina's appearance itself showed freedom of expression in the country was not under attack. However, he added prosecutors had the right to conduct any investigations in this case.

Everyone knows that internet websites now are the biggest and best source of unbiassed information on the political scene in Ukraine...LEvko suggests such attacks will become more commonplace in future..and this is the reason are fighting back so vigorously...

p.s. Several years ago a British minister was photographed walking into Downing Street with her  briefing papers visible. Their embarrasing contents, discussing the double impact of falling house prices and rapidly rising food and fuel prices, a lethal political cocktail which were damaging to the then prime minister, were widely reported. No-one dreamt of attacking journalists for doing their job.
The minister in question held no grudge against them despite the sensitivity of the information placed into the public domain.

See also here, here, and here for similar cases.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moderate success in Euros will not improve Ukraine's image

Below are loosely translated portions of an article in the Polish 'Gazeta Wyborcza' entitled "A lost match, a lost Ukraine?" by the excellent Marcin Wojciechowski.

"Ukrainian success in the Euros could have persuaded the authorities to make a generous gesture in the Tymoshenko affair [having sentenced her to seven years in prison for signing the gas agreement with Russia], and also in the cases other members of her government who are now in jail... Success and nationwide festivities would have provided cover to the authorities, enabling them to justify a change in their current policy - destruction of the opposition, or breaking its back by means of selectively applied criminal charges.

Now, after Ukraine's exit from the tournament, the country is more likely to return back to the starting point. Ukraine is deeply divided, and is considered in Europe to be an half-authoritarian state, boycotted by some, and as a state losing its chance to enter Western structures, not capable of taking advantage of them.

Perhaps this image will be somewhat improved after the successful organization of the tournament in Ukraine and the good impression left on visiting fans. But we should not delude ourselves: during the championship about  200-300 thousand people from the West visited Ukraine - less than half the number that visited Poland - and its image in the world will be shaped by the media and the speeches of politicians. And these are what they are.

If you listen to the Ukrainian government you might conclude that everything is perfect: there is no corruption, no authoritarian practices exist, no crisis; and all shortcomings are the fault of a demoralized opposition.

If, in turn, you take the point of view of the opposition, Ukraine is now ruled by Stalin with Beria, only dumber and more corrupt. Neither one nor the other viewpoint is correct.

Ukraine is faced with the task of constructing a minimal compromise that will solve the current deadlock. While the current murderous battle between the authorities and the opposition continues it is obvious Ukraine will remain rooted on one spot. The successful hosting of the Euros will not help. With the current elevated emotional level of political conflict on the banks of the Dnipro, the successful organization of Euro 2012 is of small comfort. Unfortunately."

The 'Economist' agrees.

Wojciechowski is correct. Had Ukrainian authorities picked up the German doctor's hint and put Tymoshenko under house arrest while she undergoes treatment so that she is fit to face trial in the UESU affair, everyone would have gone away on their holidays in a more relaxed frame of mind.

p.s. Putting Tymoshenko into a glass 'aquarium' in the Kharkiv courtroom together with potted plants, fancy rug on the floor, paintings on the wall etc. is stupid -  cheap deception - 'ochkovtiratelstvo'

As for the 1996 Shcheban murder, one possible likely scenario?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Will Yanukovych be handing out the medals?

The semi-finalists of the Euro 2012 competition are now known. 
Germany and Spain are favourites to progess to next Sunday's final in Kyiv. 
Read what the German team captain Philipp Lahm thinks about Yanukovych and his treatment of Tymoshenko in this recent 'Spiegel' interview [ in English ]
If Yanukovych decides to present the trophy and hand out medals will Lahm and his team mates shake hand?
You can be sure the German press will be writing about this...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The fear of Tymoshenko

Hanna Herman, one of Yanukovych's closest advisers, was interviewed by 'Glavkom' recently.

She was asked: "How do you assess the prospects of a united opposition? Is this alliance viable? Is it merely a joint venture for anyone who wants to enter parliament, and then everyone will go their own way?

A: Nobody will be able to unite with Yulia Volodymirivna when it comes to equal partnership. She has an authoritarian style and in principle does not accept partners, only [perhaps] as subordinates. And Yatseniuk will be a partner of Tymoshenko's only as long she does not have the power to crush him. That's all."

Herman should have explained Tymoshenko has been imprisoned for seven years - no one can unite with her - she is no longer a player on the field of battle. And according to recent statements by the deputy prosecutor-general she is probably facing two more major criminal charges, including involvement in several killings - in a country where percentage acquittal rates in criminal trials are in the low single digits.

But responses such as Herman's reveal in their hearts the ruling authorities lack conviction and still have a morbid fear of Tymoshenko's influence. They know she is still setting the political agenda in Ukraine...this is why, by one means or another, Yanukovych will not allow the opposition to gain power in the October parliamentary would mean he himself would be crushed...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Yanukovych no longer credible

Today's 'Segodnya' claims:

"Yanukovych has decided to pardon Tymoshenko - the former prime minister will be released from prison after all court proceedings."

They base their assertion on this portion of Yanukovych's recent interview in 'Time' magazine:

Q...the Tymoshenko case is also a problem for Ukraine. European leaders have demanded her release, and they have moved to freeze ties with Ukraine until she goes free. That is a serious problem. Why are you unable to resolve it?

A. People have come asking me for various resolutions. The simplest resolution is just to let Tymoshenko go. My reaction to that is this: I can’t act outside the framework of the law … The President does not have such instruments. I have to do everything by the letter of the law. So when could these questions [of her release] arise? They can arise when the legal process is finished. When it is finished, when the courts have made their decisions, including the European Court of Human Rights, then it is in the President’s authority to grant a pardon. And if this time comes, there is a procedure for this. But until the courts have made their decision, in a transparent, legal and procedurally sound way, I do not have the power to do this.

Q. But do you want to?

A. Of course. Of course I do....

A couple of days ago he claimed she participated in murder.. [see previous blog]

The man is no longer credible..

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yanukovych links Tymoshenko to Scherban's murder [updated]

Maybe it's the heady euphoria that has swept the country and its leadership after Ukraine's narrow victory in their first match over their group's weakest team, Sweden, in the Euro 2012 football tournament but, according to 'Bloomberg' president Yanukovych claims: "Crimes carried in various criminal cases were carried out with Tymoshenko’s participation...this isn’t a secret for the whole world - this happened. Including Shcherban’s murder. There were motives."

He is entering dangerous territory. The world also knows that he trampolined from motor transport manager to the highest echelons of power in Ukraine shortly after Yevhen Scherban's slaying. However, little documentation exists how this happened or who his sponsors were - it is a taboo subject.

Dozens of businessmen were murdered in and around Donetsk in the early '90's. Few of the murders were ever solved. Some of the alleged perpetrators themselves died in suspicious circumstances either in jail or elsewhere.

Scherban, by various accounts, had been the wealthiest man in Donbass and was a well-liked, charismatic politician. Those who inherited/appropriated his wealth are now the richest in the land.

And those who failed to solve the dozens of murders, intentionally or otherwise, now run the prosecutor general's office.

The murder rate diminished once the Yanukovych-Akhmetov-Kolesnikov triumvirate took full control of the region.

Update: Realising that the above statement was highly prejudicial, 'el presidente' has now explained that all the above is of course, a matter for the courts...]

I wonder if Rinat has called recently?

p.s. The motley crew who now run Ukraine gathered together to watch their nation play Sweden two days ago. Photos here

In their midst were three former presidents, the prosecutor-general [ho hum..], the young Yanukovych brothers, and top oligarchs...they all know one another's dirty secrets. Opposition leaders, who should also be represented at such national events, languish in jail.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ready for Euros? [part 2]

Many if not most top European policians, including those of the United Kingdom, have decided to give the Ukrainian portion of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament a miss.

Ukrainian ambassador in London Khandohiy says: 'in reality no such decision has been taken by the British government' [An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country.. In this case this may only be partly true.]

As I mentioned in my previous blog, many facilities being prepared for fans from other countries are nowhere near complete. Photos of the current state of the Kyiv campsite being constructed for Swedish fans, who arrive tomorrow here

And the current state of the Khreshchatyk fan zone, complete with needlessly chopped down chestnut trees here

Expect a big stink about all of this. Negative reports are already appearing on BBC news channels and elsewhere.

I feel really sorry for the millions of Ukrainians in all parts of the country who have been looking forward for years to present their country in the best possible light and dearly want the tournament to be a success.

p.s. Top story in Friday's 'Sun' - UK's biggest selling daily:

Bigwigs boycott Euros

MPs protest over human rights 
(er, unless England reach 
the quarters)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ready for Euros?

With just a few days to go before the start of Euro 2012, Kyiv and the area around the Olympic stadium where several matches, including the final on July 1st are to be played, is nowhere near ready. Check out this TVi video:

The nearest hospital to the stadium, where any possible emergency casualties will be dealt with, is still a mess.

And at an intersection of two roads, near the Olympic stadium a giant hole has appeared out of which is emanating a torrent of steam and boiling water...

How much has been spent?


Saturday, June 02, 2012

"Ukraine: Teetering on the Edge"

Watch this video of Thursday's Wroclaw Global Forum 2012 session [with English language voice-over] entitled: "Ukraine: teetering on the edge", here:

Klitschko, Kwasniewski, and Herman are on the panel, which was moderated by former Polish PM Jan Krzysztof Bielecki.

The message from Ukraine's most loyal advocates could not be clearer: no progress on Ukraine's EU integration until opposition leaders are released from prison.

p.s. First Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy's presentation at the Forum, in English, here:

His brief response when questioned about the 'elephant in the room' - the imprisonment of former PM Tymoshenko [about 47 minutes into the clip] was not convincing...

Normally a highly polished and confident media performer on Ukrainian television, Khoroshkovsky appears nervous and uncertain throughout..His advisers should have prepared responses to the easily predictable questions beforehand...or maybe he's too much of a smart-ass to do  his homework.

In comparison, Klitschko was far more assured....maybe there is a politician in there....

As the title of the first panel suggests, the Poles seem to be saying: we can't say too much right now because of the Euros...but after they finish our patience with Ukraine will run out...

p.p.s. Lots of interesting videos of discussion panels, presentations from the event here: