Friday, March 29, 2013

Selective use of justice used to break will of opposition [updated]

It was in the Obukhiv constituency in Kyiv, constituency no. 94, where some of the most blatant vote rigging in last autumn' parliamentary elections took place.

Party of Regions' candidate Tetyana Zasukha and her associates in the electoral commission, at a stroke, annulled almost 30,000 thousand votes cast at polling stations where her opponent, 'Batkivshchyna's Viktor Romanyuk, was according to independent polling, estimated to be well ahead.

Eventually Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission decided the final results were not 'safe' in 5 constituencies, including the result in constituency no. 94, and they were not approved. It is not clear when/if re-election will take place in these five constitutencies.

Romanyuk is challenging the result at the European Court of Human Rights.

Now Romanyuk is being hounded by the ruling authorities and is being sought in connection with 'an attempt to steal state property', even though this state property, remains in the hands of the state.

Romanyuk was detained in Italy late last week after the Ukrainian authorities placed him on the Interpol wanted list. His lawyers are confident the case against him is pathetically weak and he will be released in a week or two.

As I blogged previously, an opposition candidate from another of the five disputed constituencies, Arkadiy Kornatsky, is being severely 'squeezed'.

Vitaliy Klychko, leader of the 'Udar' party has complained several of his parliamentary deputies are also being pressurized by law enforcement agencies via their families, their business interests, in an attempt to make them compliant.

Selective use of the judicial system to break the will of the opposition is being systematically utilised by the ruling authorities.

Update - There are reports Romanyuk has been released from detention in Italy with 'no strings attached'..

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Political price will be paid in Kyiv as a result of snow paralysis

Exceptionally heavy snowfalls and bad weather conditions have caused chaos in Kyiv these last few days - the city has all but ground to a halt. There are warnings that floods could occur if the weather turns quickly.

The performance of municipal services has been shambolic. Many routes have been impassable for days and public transport services heavily curtailed. Elected city officials have provided no leadership and given little coherent public service information to the residents of the city.

Many of the city residents are aware how such problems are dealt with in Western urban centres including those in North America.

There, elected officials make it a priority to provide honest, accurate advice with constant updates in the mass media whenever such extraordinary meteorological events take place. Municipal workers put in extra shifts and do their utmost to help alleviate the situation. Additional temporary personnel are frequently employed. Smart politicians take the opportunity to openly declare the measures they are taking to deal with the crisis situation to provide assurance. The public don't care that this may be PR - they just want to know that elected officials and city employees are doing their best on their behalf.

Kyiv residents are feeling really angry that they have been let down both by the state and the city administrations. This anger may well surface in days to come as part of the reaction to the Ukrainian government's nonchalant attitude to opposition demands that timely mayoral elections take place in the city.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thieves now run Ukraine

'Kyiv Post' in their op/ed piece "Ukrainian agribusinessman struggles for justice" describe how "state and local bureaucrats target successful but independent entrepreneurs like Arkady Kornatsky, the owner of a modern agribusiness in the southern Mykolayiv Oblast". They describe how his victory in last Autumn's parliamentary elections were stolen from him,

But yet again, 'K.P.' miss out important background to this story....

Kornatsky's business is being stolen not by bureaucrats, but by Artem Pshonka, son of the prosecutor general of Ukraine Viktor of Yanukovych's closest associates from the old days back in Donetsk..

Kornatsky's parliamentary election victory last autumn was stolen by Party of Regions thugs..and by Mykolayiv Oblast Governor, Mykola Kruglov.

Kruglov was appointed Mykolayiv governor by Yanukovych in March 2010, a few days after he become president.

Kruglov was PM Azarov's deputy when the latter ran the State Tax Administration.

p.s. It seems that the controversial Boris Berezovsky's untimely death was suicide. This man, according to some reports, had been one of the main sponsors of the Orange Revolution, 'investing' up to $40 or $50 million into the campaign.

True to form, Yushchenko, as president, did not  allow him to even enter Ukraine after his victory... what a shitbag....

Sure, BB had plans to use Ukraine in his fight to bring down Putin. Nevertheless, he deserved to be treated better by the duplicitous Yushchenko.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kuchma and Lazarenko 'did in' Shcherban? run the second part of an interview with one of the late Yevhen Shcherban's closest business associates from the early nineties, Yuriy Dedukh.

He accuses president Kuchma and Pavlo Lazarenko of commissioning the assassination of Yevhen Shcherban..but says Shcherban he 'had no beef' with Tymoshenko..

He claims Volodymyr Shcherban, who recently testified in pre-trial hearings in the case,  was 'in on the hit' and even 'phoned people in the USA to inform them about plans to 'do in' Yevhen Shcherban.

Volodymyr Shcherban left Ukraine after the killing, only to return after two years....and be appointed regional governor of Sumy oblast.

Didukh says: "Volodya Shcherban 'sold' Zhenya [Shcherban]." [the appointment as governor being the reward for this..]

According to Dedukh, 'Special forces' did the dirty deed...Yevhen Kushnir, another Donetsk businessman/gangster was framed for the Shcherban killing and for many others. [It is unlikely a profession hitman would ever arrange such a spectacular killing as that which took place at Donetsk airport in November 1996 - a high-security, hig risk environment.]

Dedukh claims the murder of Paul Tatum, a US citizen which took place in Moscow on the same day as Shcherban's killing, was coincidental - they were not linked. [Hmmm..]

Some of Dedukh's answers are clearly evasive - he does not give any hint who may have tried to kill him [and Shcherban's son] a year after his father's Shcherban's killing..But he does say that criminal investigators tipped him off that it may have been Rinat Akhmetov, but then when he later met Akhmetov personally, Akhmetov complained that these same criminal investigators told him Dedukh had fingered Akhmetov for the assassination attempt, in other words criminal investigators were trying to artificially set up a serious conflict between them.

People such as Dedukh do not give up such information out of altruism. It is quite possible that some very rich people are embarrassed by the raking over of the Shcherban murder....and narratives such as Dedukh's perhaps help the mud to stick elsewhere.. but a lot of unanswered questions still remain..

And the case against Tymoshenko is looking ever weaker, strengthening the view that she is the victim of 'selective use of justice'.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Money paid to Shcherban's killer came from bank owned by PoRs member?

The 'Ukrainska Pravda' interview with Hennadiy Moskal, which I mentioned in my previous blog has been mentioned by the '' site.

Here is a precis of what they pick out of the interview:

One of the pieces of 'hard evidence' which, according to prosecutor's, connect Tymoshenko to the murder of Yevhen Scherban, are bank statements that supposedly prove his killers had received money from the  bank accounts of ex-premier Pavlo Lazarenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.

Gennady Moskal, a former police general, says that according to his informers the payment statements revealed so far are incomplete and do not show the entire chain of cash transfers.

According to Moskal, there are documents that some investigators took awat with them when they left their employment. These documents show a very different picture.

"The monies were paid out from the internal income of one of Ukraine's commercial structures ... I do not want to reveal the bank the initial payment was transferred from..and the money then went further.. then further," - said the deputy.

When asked which this bank it was, Mr. Moskal said evasively: "A Ukrainian bank." He noted that the bank belongs to: "The one who today is in the Party of Regions."

OK, the authorities will claim this is disorientation...but one thing is for sure. Bank statements are retained and do exist. There were very big amounts of cash being transferred all over the place...some by large corporations and institutions.

There are paper accounts out there. Hundreds of investigators worked on solving the failed assassination attempt on Pavlo Lazarenko and the killing of Yevhen Shcherban immediately after these events took place.  Moskal says the country's security services are now 'very leaky'..More information will certainly enter the public domain soon and the Shcherban murder case will be even less credible that it is now.

p.s. a former close business partner of Yevhen Shcherban's, Vladimir Karatun, says, in a interview, that "IUD was created to work in conjunction with UESU"

He says IUD could not, on their own, supply gas to the Donetsk oblast.

" agreement was reached according to which IUD and UESU would supply gas to all industrial enterprises engaged in the Donetsk region"

He also states the murdered Shcherban knew Ahat Bragin well, and he had a "close, tight, good relationship" with Rinat Akhmetov.

Strange then that Akhmetov invited Tymoshenko and even warmly greeting her, when the Donbas Arena football stadium was opened a few years ago. Would he have done this had he suspected her of ordering the killing of his close business associate, Yevhen Shcherban?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Witnesses in Yevhen Shcherban pre-trial hearings may have been involved in his murder?

One of my favourite characters in Ukrainian politics is a high-profile opposition politician with unrivalled experience in the country's crime-fighting agencies, Hennadiy Moskal. This straight-talking man is respected and perhaps feared, because knows 'everything about everyone'...

He recently gave an extensive and revealing interview to 'Ukrainska Pravda'.

His comments to the killing of Yevhen Shcherban in November 1996 are worthy of serious consideration.

He gives short shrift to the first two witnesses who gave evidence in the pre-trial hearings into this sensational murder case . As I've posted previously, the first witness, Maryinkov had close business interests with highly placed criminal investigators - he was also the 'armourer' for a criminal gang. His so-called evidence cannot be treated seriously.

The second, Zaitsev, is similarly unreliable - he had a host of criminal cases hanging over his head.

Prosecutors are trying to lump Lazarenko and Tymoshenko 'into one whole'. Moskal rightly explains she was a just a smart businesswoman, whilst he was a powerful regional politician and a highly placed state official - PM, no less. There was a total mismatch in terms of the power each could wield.

These two witnesses Maryinkov and Zaitsev claim they were ordered to remain silent by previous prosecutor-generals about Tymoshenko's now-alleged involvement in the Yevhen Shcherban murder - hence for over a decade and a half her name never figured in any investigation - until now.

If this is true then surely these prosecutors from the mid nineties and early noughties should be brought to account for allegedly suppressing evidence and interfering with the investigation into one of the highest profile murders in the country's history, says Moskal.

Tymoshenko was a hostile opposition leader for many years prior to the Orange Revolution...if there was a case against her, this would have been the time when it would have surfaced.

Moskal also claims that from his sources, the third witness at the pre-trial hearing, Volodymyr Shcherban, governor of Donetsk oblast at the time when Yehven Scherban was murdered, was the prime suspect in the attempted assassination of Pavlo Lazarenko in July 1996. Lazarenko had been appointed PM by president Kuchma just a few weeks prior to this.

Lazarenko was being driven to Kyiv's airport on his way to Donetsk when his car was blown up. He survived and flew to the city later that day, his clothes allegedly still covered in blood...

Moskal claims that once Lazarenko was out of favour Kuchma 'pulled the plug' on the massive investigation on the attempt on Lazarenko's life.

In his evidence, witness Volodymyr Shcherban revealed that a few days before Yevhen Scherban's death, he and his namesake met up. Yevhen told Volydymyr that someone was trying to kill him. As regional governor, Volodymyr would have had immediate access to the head of police, security services, prosecutors...even a hot-line to the president himself. But what did Volodymyr say to the victim - the most important businessman in Ukraine at that time? He said: "Why don't you just fly to America, until all this blows over..." perhaps even knowing that Yevhen would do no such thing. Why did the regional governor not tighten security around Yevhen Shcherban, or at least order a watchful eye to be placed over him?

As I have stated many times, after his death Yevhen Shcherban's assets were very quickly 'divvied up' between his so-called friends and business associates. In the case of Volodymyr Shcherban in a matter of days....

p.s. Moskal's official website here

[More to follow on this interview later]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PoR deputies as cynical as ever [updated]

The cynicism of PoR parliamentary deputies is breathtaking.

After many weeks of struggle by the opposition, kicking and screaming PoR deputies finally agreed to stop the 20 year-old anti-constitutional practice of multiple voting in the parliamentary plenum chamber.

But as soon as they get back what do they do? They carry on doing it. In one of many instances recorded, yesterday Tetyana Bakhtyeyeva voted for former minister for infrastructure, the minister responsible for Euro 2012, thuggish Boris Kolesnikov.

True to form, when opposition MPs assistants challenged Kolesnikov about this he tried to assault one of them, grabbing one of them by his jacket lapels.  

Other Regionals whose cards "voted" without their holders being present included Serhiy Kivalov, and Pavlo Lebedev.

The former is head of the parliamentary committee on judiciary matters, no less. He also holds a whole host a high positions connected with legal affairs.

The latter is the current minister of defence.

Yulia Tymoshenko's legal councillor, Serhiy Vlasenko was unceremoniously kicked out of parliament a few days ago for allegedly having one a** on two chairs, which even provoked an extraordinary debate in the European Parliament. This despite Vlasenko's claims that he had informed appropriate authorities he no longer worked in the legal profession.

When Lebedev "votes" in parliament and at the same time unconstitutionally holds a position in the cabinet of ministers this does not seem to count. Selective use of justice or what?

In Ukraine the law exists only  to crush the ruling party's enemies.

I imagine most European leaders when they watch such antics are thinking: "How can we disentangle ourselves from these habitual petty thieves, cheapskate swindlers and liars with minimum loss of face?

p.s. run the first part of an interesting interview with Yuriy Didukh - a business partner of Yevhen Shcherban's, who was of course, murdered at Donetsk airport in November 1996. Yulia Tymoshenko will probably be tried for this crime at some point in the future.

Dedukh [or Didukh] has featured in F.N. in previous blogs

In the Forbes interview Dedukh claims the swath of killings of Donetsk businessmen commenced just after Leonid Kuchma became president in 1994. He claims it was president Kuchma [and Pavlo Lazarenko] and special forces under his control who were responsible for them, and it was they who organized the murder of his business partner Yevhen Shcherban.

Akhat Bragin's murder was part of this 'zachystka'.

Maybe more on this later from your blogger when another portion of the interview is published.....

No explanation so far for the attempt on Pavlo Lazarenko's life shortly after he became PM though...or why Kuchma did not finish off the job in Donetsk but rather promoted Yanukovych?...And there certainly were many high-profile killing before 1994 too of course.

The relationship between organised crime and law enforcement agencies was considered to be symbiotic in the early and mid nineties in the Donbas region, so special forces may well have been involved in many of the high profile killings. Virtually no perpetrators were ever caught or charged.

Before entering politics Kuchma had been design engineer at the high-tech Yuzhmash, building space rockets. He later held the position of the company's general director - hardly a criminal background. Contrast this with the murky past and 'black holes' in the biographies of the Shcherban's, Bragin's and Yanukovych's of this world.

And, ultimately. who eventually benefited from these killings when everything settled down?

"The Truth is a precious thing and must be protected by a bodyguard of lies" -- Sir Winston Churchill

p.p.s. Regionals are still cheating in parliament - playing musical chairs - voting for their colleagues. If they were children they would have their wrists slapped - as grown ups the deserve a hefty kick up the a**. What a disgrace...


Monday, March 18, 2013

Cui bono?

The influential 'Frankfurter Allgemeine' have run a story - 'Yulia Tymoshenko - the dark side of power' on the background to the Shcherban murder trial.

Their [google-translated] conclusion which I've tidied up:

"Political" dividend went to Yanukovych

In contrast, after Schtscherban's death the biggest part of his business, "went to representatives of the current government." 

So Rinat Akhmetov, the head of the football club Shakhtar Donetsk, and now the richest man by far in Ukraine could only make his ascent in Donbas after the end of Schtscherban. 

His former political agent, the current President Yanukovych, could only in 1997 become governor [of Donbas], after Schtscherban was no longer alive. Thus, according to Tymoshenko's defender, the "economic dividend" of the bloody deed, after 1996, went to Akhmetov and the "political dividend" went to Yanukovych.

Later, when this duo had consolidated power in the Donbas, several accomplices to the murder died under unclear circumstances - one of them in a prison in Donetsk. 

Serhiy Vlasenko [Tymoshenko's lawyer] points out that at that time not only was Yanukovych governor there, but the current chief prosecutor in the case, the prosecutor general, Viktor Pschonka and his deputy  Renat Kuzmin had key positions in Donetsk judiciary.

p.s. Even president Yanukovych's top legal advisor on judicial reform, Andriy Portnov, perhaps out of sheer embarrassment, says the evidence presented so far in pre-trial hearings, all of which is based on hearsay from the mouths of the long-departed, is worthless.

The case is turning out to be a big 'own goal' [maybe not an inappropriate metaphor] for Yanukovych, his cronies, and the entire Ukrainian system of law enforcement. And this is before the European Court of Human Rights pass their judgement on the previous trials of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko...

p.p.s. Nice photo taken, I believe, during the opening of the Shakhtar Donetsk stadium - from an article entitled: 'Innocent victim of the regime..'

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Reforms? What reforms?

Excellent sobering analysis from The Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw:

"From stabilisation to stagnation. Viktor Yanukovych's reforms"

p.s. like most commentators they fail to factor in the possibility that presidential elections in 2015 may be scrubbed.

p.p.s. Ukraine's oligarchs are going to 'take a haircut' in Cyprus?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Who is living in cloud cuckoo land?

An emergency debate on Ukraine took place in the European Parliament in Strasburg late on Wednesday night.

The debate had been directly prompted by the recent termination by Ukraine's Supreme Administrative Court of the mandates of two Verkhovna Rada deputies, including one belonging to Yulia Tymoshenko's defence councillor, Serhiy Vlasenko.

'" reports: "All the participants in the debate spoke of a sharp deterioration in the state of democracy in Ukraine, despite agreements reached at the Ukraine-EU summit."  [my bold lettering]

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule, expressing regret at recent events in Kyiv, including the blocking of opposition parliament, said, on the requirements put forward by Brussels: "As long as questions regarding Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko are not properly resolved, we can't really talk about the implementation by Ukraine of the readiness criteria for signing the Association Agreement."

In a nutshell, the Ukrainian leadership got their a**es kicked for their highly provocative and unjust action against Vlasenko.


Meanwhile, Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced:

"The debate on the situation in Ukraine in the European Parliament held in Strasbourg on 13 March, was the third in the past 10 reveals the high degree of attention this influential European institution dedicates to our state.

Such constant attention by MPs of the European Union is a logical manifestation of the support by the European Parliament for the aspirations of the Ukrainian people. Accordingly, there are high expectations of the European Parliament by Ukraine.

A key conclusion of the debate was the clear testimony of the willingness of the European Parliament to sign, with Ukraine, the Association Agreement during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November this year.

We greet the realisation of the European Parliament of the importance and relevance of this Agreement to the interests of both Ukraine and the European Union. .."

[Your humble blogger wonders if when Yanukovych and his bozo advisers decided to embark on this harebrained plan to deprive Vlasenko of his parliamentary mandate they ever dreamt it would lead to an emergency debate in the European Parliament....and yet another blunder for hapless foreign minister Kozhara]

p.s. E.P.'s official news site declares : 

If Ukraine is still serious about signing an ambitious association and trade deal with the EU by November, then disturbing news such as the recent removal of two opposition MPs' mandates, is not the way forward, said MEPs in Wednesday's debate with Commissioner Štefan Füle, standing for the EU foreign policy chief.

Recent developments pointed to "old Soviet mechanisms being set in motion" and also a lack of commitment to solving systemic problems of democracy and justice, said MEPs. At the same time, they also criticised the unconstructive response of the opposition, which has blocked the work of the Ukrainian Parliament. 

MEPs reiterated the clear requirements set by the EU Foreign Affairs Council, which Ukraine was expected to meet by May, as a prerequisite for signing the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Trade agreement with the EU.

It will not be possible to sign these deals, which would be the most advanced ones that the EU has ever negotiated with a third country, unless the Tymoshenko case and other "selective justice" issues are addressed in coming months, they said.  [my bold lettering]

More optimistically, MEPs confirmed that they had heard the messages sent by the Ukrainian Parliament's resolution on EU integration, which was broadly supported by civil society.

MEPs cited the pro-European aspirations of Ukraine's young people and said that the EU should keep its door open to Ukraine, regardless of its President and government.

Some also said that the EU needs to be more patient and suggested that the deals to be signed could actually serve as tools to "fix the country".

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More bullsh*t from Yanukovych

Moron Yanukovych claims that: "In no country in Europe, in no country in the world can you do this [i.e. be a parliamentary representative and simultaneously hold another job]

He made this idiotic statement today when unconvincingly trying to justify the disgraceful politically motivated treatment meted out to Yulia Tymoshenko's legal advisor, Serhiy Vlasenko, who was absurdly deprived of his seat in the Verhovna Rada by a law court ruling.

In Yanukovych's opinion, Vlasenko was responsible for the worsening of EU-Ukraine relations.

What Yanukovych said was complete bullshit.

For his information:

"Almost 20% of [British] MPs are earning supplementary incomes through second jobs, with some earning hundreds of thousands of pounds through external positions. The 'Sun on Sunday' reports that Parliament's register of interest shows 119 MPs have jobs outside of Parliament, and that Geoffrey Cox – Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon – has earned £560,000 since through his work as a barrister since December. 

Only 315 out of 650 MPs registered no external income" [Source]


"Dozens of MPs are boosting their taxpayer-funded salaries by tens of thousands of pounds by taking second analysis found that as well as drawing their MPs salary of £65,738, many are juggling their political work with jobs in careers such as law, consulting and business and making up to 13 times their annual pay." [Source]

If an MP's second job does not detract from his or her prime duty as an MP there is no problem, provided that the second job bears no relation to the MP's political influence on political decision-making.

All British MPs have to declare their outside financial interests in official registers of interests that are available for public scrutiny, e.g. by journalists.

In Great Britain, Vlasenko's behaviour would be deemed perfectly acceptable - especially as he claims he is receiving no payment for his services as Tymoshenko's legal defender.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Donetski grabbed Shcherban's assets just a fast as they could

In my previous blog quoting information provided by Tetyana Chornovol, I wrote how Volodymyr Shcherban and Yevhen Shcherban had been close business associates. But a couple of months or so before Yevhen's assassination in November 1996, they fell out because Yevhen had switched his support in the upcoming presidential elections from Volodymyr... to Yevhen Marchuk.

Two days after Yevhen Shcherban and his wife's assassination at Donetsk airport, Voldymyr Shcherban's son quite disgracefully withdrew over $2 million from a US business account of a company run by Yevhen's wife Nadia Nikitin - money to which the Shcherban's two orphaned boys may well have had good claim to.

This callous action was an indicator of what was to come.

Eventually the two boys were taken under the wing of another business partner of the late Shcherban's, one Yuriy Dedukh [or Didukh].

Meanwhile the vast portion of their late father's assets, [who was probably the richest man in Ukraine at that time], were being divided up with unseemly haste between his so-called friends and partners in Donbas with little thought of making sure the late Yevhen's inheritors received their rightful share.

Dedukh's name had earlier been linked by law enforcement agencies with the activites of and Estonian firm 'Kolser' through which Yevhen Shcherban laundered money.

Dedukh allegedly had close ties with the first founder of "Shcherban's Aton", Igor Markulov and with a US citizen Paul Tetum who helped Markulov and Shcherban to secure a $50 million loan guaranteed by the Ukrainian government for "Aton". Tatum was with Shcherban in Moscow for pop singer Yosyp Kobzon's birthday party, where they had a very agreeable meeting. Just after this both were shot dead - Shcherban was killed in the Donetsk airport, and Tatum in Moscow - both on the same day.

Dedukh and Yevhen Shcherban's son, Yevhen Jr. eventually came back to Donetsk, probably to salvage what they could of the remains of the late Yevhen Shcherban's assests; but on 22nd September 1997 the vehicle in which they were travelling was shot up, and a bodyguard killed.

A highly placed police general announced in a newspaper article: "Had Dedukh not appeared there would not have been even one similar shooting in the oblast. You judge, in 1994 there were over 20 such shootings; this year, just three. More such ordered hits will not take place this year: Dedukh has gone from Donbas." What starker warning could there be: Don't come back, or else....

The police general was correct in one matter. By this time the cycle of killings that wreaked havoc in the region through the middle of the decade had ended. The governor was now Viktor Yanukovych, and Rinat Akhmetov was undisputed 'king of Donbas'. Lazarenko was in political opposition and Tymoshenko in parliament developing a political career.

In a 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya interview' days after the assassination attempt on Dedukh and Yevhen Jr. the latter was asked: Who of the current politicians in the Donetsk oblast, ex-governor Volodymyr Shcherban, mayor of Donetsk [current VR speaker Volodymyr Rybak] or today's governor [Yanukovych] supported you in those days [following the death of your father]?

He replies: "Nobody..Basically it was [just] dad's business friends."

The logical conclusion is: those who carved up Yevhen Shcherban's assets did so ruthlessly, greedily and just as fast as they could, and to hell with his remaining family.

In the same interview Yevhen Jr. was asked: 'There is an opinion that your father prevented the penetration of structures from Dnipropetrovsk into the Donetsk territory. Could you confirm this?"

He replies: "I don't think that there was any obstacle to structures from Dnipropetrovsk. On the contrary, it was a case of uniting efforts.."

He confirmed the view that by the time of his death, Yevhen Shcherban and Lazarenko and Tymoshenko had a good working relationship. Certainly no motive for killing his father Yevhen...

p.s. A final thought. Who would attempt a spectacular assassination attempt inside a heavily guarded, high security  environment, such as an airport?

The story above does in no way prove 'Donetski' were responsible for Yevhen Shcherban's killing - but it gives an insight into the rapacious and lawless business culture that existed, particularly in that region. It seems that it was they who benefited most from the 'carve-up' of Shcherban's vast wealth...

'Donetski', the same individuals,  now dominate contemporary Ukrainian politics, law enforcement agencies and judiciary...

The current Shcherban murder trial  is a banal attempt to cleanse the past and at the same time destroy president Yanukovych's deadliest foe.

More evidence on Shcherban murder

An new witness, Olelksandra Kuzel, appeared on Thursday in the Yevhen murder pretrial hearing.

Prosecutors allege his killing at Donetsk airport on 3 November 1996 was commissioned by former PM's Tymoshenko and Lazarenko.

Shcherban's wife was also shot dead during the assassination of her husband

Kuzel provides more evidence of the absurdity of the case.

On the eve of the vote in Parliament to appoint  Lazarenko  PM, held on 28 May 1996, Scherban urged members of his parliamentary faction, "Social Market Choice" to support the candidacy of Lazarenko. "Our faction voted in full for Lazarenko. Without Shcherban's command our faction would not have done this because so many were against it."

As I have mentioned many times in my previous blogs, Lazarenko, and Tymoshenko, by the start of that year were on good terms with Yevhen Shcherban. By the end of 1995 gas supply contracts had been signed. In January 1996 Shcherban had invited Tymoshenko and her husband to his grand birthday party.

The death of Shcherban provided no benefit to Tymoshenko's UESU. Quite the opposite, the company lost the one person who represented their interests in the Donbas who had the power to  fend off criminal attacks on their mutual gas business.

In a tv interview, Kuzhel also points the finger at one man who may have benefited from the death of Shcherban - her predecessor witness at the pre-trial hearings - Volodymyr Shcherban.

Volodymyr and Yevhen had been close business partners. Yevhen, possibly the richest many in Ukraine at that time, had intended to support Volodymyr's candidature in the 1998 presidential elections, but later switched in favour of former PM Yevhen Marchuk, making him leader of his party, much to Volodymyr's displeasure.

Two days after Yevhen and his wife's killing, Volodymyr's son Artem took over $2 million out of a US business account of a company run by Yevhen's wife Nadia Nikitin. He could not wait to even sit down with the Shcherban's two orphaned boys, Rusland and Yevhen Jr. to decide how their parents assets were to be divided up.

Kuzhel recalls how Volodymyr Shcherban proposed to formalize the custody of Yevhen Shcherban's children, but they refused his offer. Eventually a business partner of the late Shcherban's, Yuriy Dedukh, was appointed their guardian. A few months after this, in September 1997, Dedukh and the elder Shcherban son, Ruslan survived and assassination attempt in which a bodyguard was killed.

Luckily, with the help of an old friend of their father's, legendary singer Yosef Kobzon, the orphaned children did manage to hold on to a small fraction of their late parents' assets.

Kuzel also believes that the death of Shcherban provided big political dividends to Viktor Medvedchuk (then leader of the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (united)).

"After the murder of Yevhen Shcherban, his political fraction 'Social Market Choice' disintegrated. Before this it had been a very powerful group, as was [Shcherban's] Liberal Party. After some time, Medvedchuk's positions began strengthening and Yevhen Marchuk, who previously served in our party, went over to them," said Kuzhel.

Tetyana Chornovil, in her latest blog,  gives much information on Volodymyr Shcherban and his involvement with namesake Yevhen, and how the latter's children were all but abandoned by their father's most powerful associates, including by the-then oblast governor, Viktor Yanukovych, and by current parliamentary speaker, and the-then mayor of Donetsk Volodymyr Rybak. [Maybe more on this later..]

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Europeans horrified by Vlasenko ruling..and the end of democracy

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has asked the Ukrainian authorities to explain on what legal basis Mr Serhiy Vlasenko, an opposition deputy, was stripped of his parliamentary seat yesterday.

“I find it very unusual that a deputy elected by the people can be expelled from Parliament at short notice and without having committed a serious crime.

I have asked the Ukrainian authorities to provide an explanation for this action which may affect a fundamental principle in a democracy, the sovereignty of a people to elect its deputies”, he said. [Source]

Valeriy Portnikov explains why this week was the one when democracy came to an end in contemporary Ukraine: 

"If presidential elections take place in 2015, Yanukovych will lose, O.P.'s  clearly confirm this . He will lose even if Tymoshenko does not run. He would lose to Yatsenyuk and would lose to Klitschko. Right now he would probably beat Tyahnybok - but this is right now. By 2015, Yanukovych would lose the election to anyone - and he understands this better than Yatsenyuk, Klytschko, or Tyahnybok. 

And if he loses,  in just a few days such fraud, such corruption by the 'Donetski' will be discovered that there are not enough prosecutors and investigatorsin the land  to investigate, or judges to sentence the crimes. 

In contrast to millions of his fellow citizens, he has plenty to lose. That is why he is not going to lose. And those who have hopes for 2015, can relax. There will be no elections in 2015. The time when power in Ukraine changed as a result of elections is over."

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A tragic day in Ukraine's history

 Today's high court ruling to strip V.R. member, and Yulia Tymoshenko's top legal adviser, Serhiy Vlasenko, of his parliamentary deputy mandate will have a very negative effect in parliaments of the European Union members.

Every sitting member of parliament knows how hard they fought to secure their seat. They know how precious it is. To witness this being removed at a whim, by the most dubious of legal means, will merely provide more solid evidence of the selective use of the judiciary in Ukraine for persecution of the opposition. Vlasenko's only 'crime' is that of defending Yulia Tymoshenko.

Last week in Brussels Viktor Yanukovych was given a last chance to sort out problems with this selective use of justice by the end of May.

The court decision was a swift, calculated move - intended to break any illusions and nullify any chance of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement being signed in the Autumn.

European friends of Ukraine are horrified.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Shcherban had no problems with Lazarenko

A television video of an interview with Yevhen Shcherban recorded just a few months before his murder has come to light.

Shcherban speaks highly of Lazarenko: "Pavlo Lazarenko has taken his rightful place (on becoming appointed prime minister). He is a 'top man' [khazyain], he has demonstrated success in his own [Dnipropetrovsk] region. This is a worthy person who has taken up an appropriate position. A man has come to power who shares our views."  Doesn't sound like a man who felt under threat from Lazarenko...

Germany has taken its gloves off and carpeted Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin after Ukrainian authorities stepped up the pressure on Yulia Tymoshenko's defence councillor, parliamentary deputy Sergey Vlasenko.

According to Frankfurter Allgemeinde. the German Foreign Ministry and the Office of the Federal Chancellor  believe: "Ukraine can forget about the much desired association agreement with the EU, if the issue with Tymoshenko's detention is not solved".

This is hardly surprising. The witness testifying in Monday's pretrial hearings in to Yevhen Shcherban's murder, Volodymyr Shcherban, may well be being blackmailed to provide false evidence against Tymoshenko.

In January 2002 he was under investigation by a parliamentary committee for illegal appropriation of property in Sumy, where he was governor. He also allegedly rigged communal heating charges and electricity charges in the town. He was also accused of filling law enforcement agencies there with his own people from Donetsk. This case is falling apart at the seams already. Ukraine's judiciary is daily providing more evidence of its incompetence, and that it is a tool of political oppression.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Shcherban's murder - a Russian connection?

Several days ago Kyryl Kostenko, the mayor of Crimean seaside town Simeyiz, was shot dead.

In recent times, the mayors of other Crimea seaside towns - those of Novofedorivka, Malyi Mayak, and Vesele had all been assassinated or have died in peculiar circumstances. All their deaths were most likely connected to conflicts surrounding 'land distribution', and are a reminder of continuing lawlessness in Ukraine, where conflicts between 'criminal businessmen' are still from time to time resolved through the barrel of a gun.

The apogee of such lawlessness was the period of the early/mid nineties in Donbas. The current authorities are now trying to blame former PM Yulia Tymoshenko with one of the most most prominent murders of that time - that of Yevhen Shcherban.

Unbiassed observers such as Yulia Mostova in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya offers several possible versions for Shcherban's untimely end which has been manipulated by politicians to discredit their political or business opponents, be it Pavlo Lazarenko, Leonid Kuchma, former political high-flyer Yevhen Marchuk, oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and so on. Most of these theories have major defect - lacks of motive and lack of any substantive evidence.

Tetyana Chornovol, in her latest well-researched Ukrainska Pravda blog proposes another, very credible scenario. It helps explain recollections made to your blogger  by people familiar with Eastern Ukraine about the tangible fear of Russian businessmen there, and also the mutual hatred felt between two parts of the steel town and port of Mariupol.

Her account also helps logically explain the chronology of the killings that took place in 1995 and 1996.

Tetyana Chornovol questions why the next witness in the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, Volodymyr Shcherban [and many others] never mention gas war between The Industrial Union of Donbas' [IUD]  and rival gas trader "Itera".

Volodymyr Shcherban [about whom I have previously written], together with Yevhen Shcherban, and mafia capo Ahat Bragin  controlled the economic, political and criminal life of the region as a team.  Volymyr Shcherban provided a 'roof' for illegal activities in the region - this was noted in contemporary official reports in Kyiv.

These three began co-operating soon after the declaration of Ukrainian independence. On November 10 1992 prominent Donetsk businessman/mafia boss Yanosh Kranz, was shot dead. Akhat Bragin, his biggest rival, was suspected of commissioning the killing. Among the places regularly visited at that tine by Bragin, according to police records, where the offices of the "Aton" corporation whose co-founder was Yevhen Shcherban, and offices of the "Ukraina" department store run by Volodymyr Shcherban.

In the next few years, the trio had become wealthiest people in the region. Volodymyr Scherban won the elections for governor, and Yevhen Shcherban had formed a large faction in the Verkhovna Rada. Bragin, unsurprisingly, kept out of sight whilst still pulling the strings.

In early 1996 Yevhen Shcherban declared the next president of Ukraine would be a protege of Donbas - Volodymyr Shcherban. But by the summer of 1996 their relationship cooled considerably because Yevhen Shcherban had changed his position on his favoured presidential candidate, he decided to bet on Yevhen Marchuk [much to the disconcertment of the-then president Kuchma, who saw Marchuk as a major rival].

Volodymyr Shcherban's message when he appears a a witness in the Shcherban murder trial will be simple and clear - the motive for the murder Shcherban was the gas war with  UESU - ie. with Lazarenko and Tymoshenko. But this flies in the face of evidence - by the end of 1995, and during summer 1996, UESU was already working constructively with IUD - the latter had become the gas monopolist in the Donetsk region.  [IUD was the brainchild Shcherban, Akhmetov, Haiduk, and Momot]. By late 1995 UESU sold gas to IUD which in turn, supplied Donetsk companies, charging a small mark-up for themselves. Importantly, IUD could benefit from their strong position in the region by demanding barter payment for gas - products which they could 'turn around' themselves to make huge profits. If their customers failed to pay for gas, part or all of their assets could be grabbed by IUD in lieu of payment..

And it was Lazarenko's initiative that enabled the "Donetski" to create their gas monopoly.Until that time the gas market in Donetsk region was dominated by the Russian companies: "Gazprom" and "Itera". When Lazarenko and the-then Prime Minister Yevhen Marchuk agreed the new scheme of gas supply, the smarter heads in Donetsk realized this would give them a chance to create a monopoly under the government umbrella, enabling them to take full control of the gas market in the region.

How this was done was described in a newspaper interview given by the mayor of Mariupol, Mikhailo Pozhivanov who claimed Yevhen Shcherban even made death threats to secure the gas business of factories in his town.

Volodymyr Shcherban in February 12, 1996, signed a decree stating the only mediator between wholesale importers of natural gas and enterprises of the Donetsk region was the be IUD.

"Itera" fought for every company by offering a lower price and blackmailing directors, e.g. by withholding essential products from certain companies.

By early 1996, the Russians tried to organise a mutiny among the "red factory directors" of Donbas. "Itera" started negotiations with individual heads of Donbas companies who were willing to break contracts with IUD.  In March 1996, "Itera" appointed Donbas specialist Alexander Shvedchenko as its head in Ukraine. He was a man who had had close ties with the, by-then late Akhat Bragin.

Bragin had been blown up at the Shakhtar stadium in October 1995. But it has to be remembered Rinat Akhmetov, Bragin's right hand man, by then had also a big stake in IUD.

Ahat Bragin and Shvedchenko both loved sport: Bragin supported "Shakhtar"  football team and Shvedchenko a basketball team with the same name. Shvedchenko had a stake in the central market of Donetsk, which had been 'overseen' by Bragin; he also owned companies that imported then exotic fruits, bananas, oranges etc. His partner in this business were Sergei Roman and [later PM Azarov's former deputy] Boris Kolesnikov.

In 1996, there were no official successors to Bragin's empire following his murder. Alexander Shvedchenko may have thought the crown could be his if he used "Itera" as a lever. "Itera", according to Russian media were close to influential criminal circles in Russia. Bragin had in previous years almost destroyed the power of mafia from other parts of the former Soviet Union in his own 'backyard', but after his death perhaps the Russians thought they had the chance of restoring their influence with the help of someone who could be a potential heir to Bragin's crown.

In March 1996, three weeks  after starting to work as the chief Ukrainian representative of "Itera", Shvedchenko was shot dead. His partner Sergei Roman fled abroad and was also soon killed.

Lucky for him, the third and sole remaining partner of the Roman-Shvedchenko-Kolesnikov trio, was able to convince Rinat Akhmetov of his fidelity....

At the time of the murder of Shvedchenko it was not only the "Donetski" who were engaged in a war with "Itera" - so where the "Dnipropetrovski".

"Itera", which had ties to "Gazprom" has started to block the supplies of gas from "Gazprom" to "UESU." But the Ukrainian side has a powerful weapon too - "Gazprom" were desperate for large diameter  pipes for pipelines which were made exclusively at the   Khartsyzsk Pipe Plant in Donbas.

To increase the output of pipes at Khartsyzsk, Shcherban and Lazarenko worked to unite the Mariupol Azovstal plant with the neighbouring Mariupol Illich plant - these would provide more raw material for pipemaking. However, the management at "Azovstal" was against such an association. The head of "Azovstal", Alexander Bulanda even asked state security services for protection, as his life was under threat. In early June the deputy director of Azovstal, Fedor Buzhan was killed in a car smash. On June 13, the day of the funeral, Pavlo Lazarenko, by then prime minister, signed a decree to merge the steel giants. This was another example of Lazarenko - Yevhen Shcherban co-operation.

However, the author of this scheme, Alexander Momot, did not witness this victory. On May 16 1996 Momot was shot dead in the centre of Donetsk on his doorstep.

Volodymyr Shcherban today argues that Momot was killed on the orders of Tymoshenko and Lazarenko but can give no motive for this.

Chornovol describes how, when in Kyiv, top people from Donetsk would stay and dine at a ship-restaurant-sauna, the "Poseidon", moored near the Paton bridge over the Dnipro river. [Years later, in 2005 the ship was burned out.]

In 1996 it had been one of the favorite haunts for 'Donetski' because the ship had a Donetsk owner, and was very convenient to use. It even boasted several luxury hotel rooms.

A few days before his death, Alexander Momot met the head of "Itera",  Igor Makarov, on board the ship. The meeting was also attended by Vitaliy Haiduk [who later was a close and trusted associate of Yulia Tymoshenko.]

Yevhan Scherban was supposed to attend too but he refused at the last moment to demonstrate his disdain  toward the head of "Itera". The conversation on "Poseidon" was very bad tempered and rude. Momot was particularly animated and cursed at Makarov. According to criminal codes, this sort of thing was unacceptable. Igor Makarov, according to Russian sources, had been linked to top Russian underworld leaders. Less than a week after this conversation, Alexander Momot was buried.

Shortly before his death Momot had told a journalist that writing stories on the gas market in Ukraine was dangerous. "There are forces, including those in Russia, who want to grasp this market for themselves, to use the convoluted situation with payments for gas for their own interests," said Momot to the journalist.

After the death of Momot, Lazarenko quickly settled his differences with Itera who paid him off.  But the Donbas war with Itera continued

During the spring of 1996, "Itera" started worked with Victor Pinchuk's industrial group. Pinchuk later became son-in-law of president Kuchma, so it is not surprising that the investigation into the murder of Shcherban dried up.

Volodymyr Shcherban started to spend more time abroad after Momot's death. For many, many months Rinat Akhmetov virtually never left his private 'Lux' estate situated in the Donetsk Botanical Garden. Yevhen Shcherban tried to leave for the U.S. but did not because his son Ruslan had been refused a visa. [BTW, Ruslan to this day allegedly employs a phalanx of bodyguards. The had been an attempt on the life of his brother, Yevhen jr, in September 1997, almost a year after the death of his father at Donetsk airport.]

A former deputy parliamentary deputy, Anatoliy Motspan says on September 20 1996 he was approached by Yevhen Shcherban in order to give the Parliamentary Committee set up to fight corruption some incriminating material on the head of "Azovstal", Alexander Bulanda.

Throughout 1996 Alexander Bulanda had taken a highly negative attitude towards Sherban and made great efforts to wriggle out of the IUD gas diktats. His position was to try a get "Azovstal" to return to supplies of gas direct from Russia from which the company had benefited prior to 1996.

Anatoly Motspan said that Yevhen Shcherban introduced him to Serhiy Taruta, who was supposed to explain the documents. "But just don't tell the committee his name," warned Shcherban, "because they will kill him."

"I asked him [Yevhen Shcherban] what were his relationships with Lazarenko like", said Motspan "He told me: like this, and shown me a thumbs up."

Shortly before the murder of Yevhen Scherban, Alexandra Kuzhel [an old time acquainatance of his] met Shcherban at Borispol airport.

"He was flying to Donetsk. I reminded him that he was going to hand me, as a member of the parliamentary commission studying the energy market of Ukraine, documents regarding Itera's criminal behaviour. "He told me: I won't do this - I want you to live. "

Yevhen Shcherban was shot dead with other victims when his private aircraft landed at Donetsk airport having flown from Moscow. It is quite possible his killers had been tipped of when his plane took off. The killers were led by Vladimir Bolotskikh, a Russian.

p.s. IMO Tetyana Chornovol's scenario 'ticks more boxes' that most of the others proposed in this dirty business...It describes how this series of murders were connected to one another.

Where does Tymoshenko figure in all of this? .At the time of Yevhen Shcherban's death she was already actively campaigning for the V.R. - she successfully entered parliament just a few weeks after the killing, and resigned from UESU.