Sunday, July 28, 2013

Heaven and Hell [part 2]

In my previous blog I wrote about Saturday's celebration at the St Volodymyr monument. to mark the 1025th anniversary  of the conversion to Christianity of Kyivan-Rus  The monument is a famous landmark in the city which looks out over the Dnipro River.

On Saturday only a few hundred specially selected and vetted people could join presidents Putin and Yanukovych, and the presidents of Serbia and Moldova, at the service which was conducted by the Patriarch of Moscow, Alexei.

Security was unprecedentedly, absurdly tight - thousands of security goons were out in force lining routes etc. The VIPs were constantly enveloped by swarms of bodyguards.

Today the Pariarch of Kyiv, Filaret, led a procession of many thousands of the faithful to the same place for a service. In marked contrast, there were virtually no security personnel present, only a few dozen policemen along the route, despite the large numbers. [photos here]

Yesterday was about posture and power games played out by arrogant politicians/thugs* was a proper religious celebration in which all believers could participate...

*In the last few days several members of the controversial feminist group Femen have been severely beaten up by unknown assailants. Femen not unreasonably allege that the timing is not a coincidence, and that Putin and Yanukovych are behind these brutal attacks in revenge for Femen's heckling and dissing of Patriarch Kirill  at Kyiv airport last year and Putin in Hannover, Germany a few months ago. It is probable that Ukrainian authorities did not want a messy and embarrassing Pussy Riot-type trial on their hands before the Vilnius summit in November. Much simpler to revert to their preferred  M.O. - sent in the goons and crack a few skulls...knock out a few teeth....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Heaven and hell

From one report on Pope Francis' recent visit to Brazil:

"Pope Francis' decision to shun a major security detail for his visit to Brazil exemplifies his view of what the Roman Catholic Church should be doing: Go out into the streets. Spread the faith. Recapture the dynamism that other denominations have been using to snap up souls.

Upon his arrival in Rio de Janeiro this week, that philosophy helped produce a defining vignette of his young papacy: The pope rolling down the window to touch the adoring crowds who surrounded his Fiat as his driver and bodyguards struggled to get him on his way."

From another report on the same visit:

".. the 76-year-old shunned the bullet-proof Pope-mobile normally used for pontifical visits, instead walking around the Varginha favela, a poverty-stricken community in an area of Rio nicknamed the "Gaza Strip" for its drug crime, violence and gang warfare..."

Compare with reports on Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia's current visit to Ukraine which 'Voice of Russia' describes thus :

"Ceremonial prayer marking 1025th anniversary of Kievan Rus' Christianization

A ceremonial prayer celebrating the 1025th anniversary of Kievan Rus' Christianization is under way on St. Volodymyr's Hill in Kiev. The celebration is broadcast live on Ukrainian television.

Taking part in the prayer are Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and nine heads of local Orthodox churches. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti, and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic are also taking part in the event."

But the dominant characteristic of this event has been the unprecented absolutely, absurdly OTT security arrangements.

Those wishing to attend the outdoor service had to pass through four [!] security screening lines where bottles of water, and even holy communion bread and traditional 'paska' bread were taken away and dumped on the ground from those passing through the cordons .

Lesser VIPs and dignitaries were also subjection to humiliation. Mobile telephone communication was jammed.

Patriach Kirill was constantly surrounded by a massive security detail who remained between him and fenced-off well-wishers.  Security men constantly scrupulously filmed the crowds with video cameras.

Naturally, all of the 'top bananas' arrived wearing black suits and rode in huge black armoured Merc limos....

Lots of photos and video clips of the event here. 

The whole visit is one big 'pokazukha' for the benefit of Yanukovych and Putin who don't give a fig for the ordinary guys in the street. They who can be treated as saps [lokhy] by their rulers...but for how long..

Sunday, July 21, 2013

New Constitutional Court head will entrench Yanukovych in power after 2015

Several days ago Vyacheslav Ovcharenko was elected as a chairman of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine.

Ovcharenko is a 100% Yanukovych loyalist promoted to provide a 'belt and braces' guarantee Yanukovych remains president after 2015, whatever the results of elections to be held in that year.

This is what have to say about this man:

Vyacheslav Ovcharenko worked as a mechanic and was involved in a scandal surrounding the disappearance of criminal case file against Yanukovych 

The 56-year-old Ovcharenko was born in Yenakievo, which is also Yanukovych's home town. From 1983 to 1984 he worked as a legal advisor at the Yenakievo auto repair department of the "Ordzhonikidzeugol" plant. Then head of the plant auto transport depot at that time was Viktor Yanukovych.

Ovcharenko was appointed head of the Yenakievo city court in December 2002 - a month after Yanukovych was appointed prime minister for the first time.

In 2006 he was promoted to the Constitutional Court in Kyiv when Yanukovych headed the new parliamentary coalition [PoR-Communists-Socialists]. After this Yanukovych became PM for a second time.

Following the Orange Revolution there were strong suspicions that in December 2002, during the first premiership of Viktor Yanukovych, Ovcharenko had been involved in the disappearance of documents confirming the criminal convictions of the current president in 1967 and 1969. Yanukovych spent three and a half years in prison for crimes of violence as a result of these convictions. Ovcharenko had claimed the court premises were 'poorly guarded' in the late '80's.

As a high-ranking judge his salary would currently be rather less than $50K p.a. Despite this his has somehow managed to become a very wealthy man. According to his official declarations he owns two homes, a large plot of land, three nearly new automobiles, seven expensive motorcycles including a fancy Harley Davidson, and a tractor.

In February 2013 a photographer snapped photos of Ovcharenko wearing a $27K Breguet Marine Chronograph wristwatch.

According to 'Ukrainska Pravda': Ovcharenko's primary function will be to manage the Constitutional Court in the turbulent months before and after the presidential election. Bearing in mind in 2010 the Constitutional Court gave back Viktor Yanukovych much greater powers than those held by his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, nothing will stop it legitimising any other whims of Yanukovych. These could include election of the president by the parliament; or election of the president in just one round [as opposed to the current two round system]. Or the setting up of  a bicameral parliament and depriving deputies of the immunity which they now possess. Or the setting up an entirely new Constitution.

Another important point - the President of the Constitutional Court is responsible for conducting the swearing in of a newly elected president. In other words, in case of defeat for Yanukovych in 2015 Ovcharenko could block the inauguration of any other possible winner on a technicality.

[Click to enlarge]

Friday, July 19, 2013


Last night about 1000 'Berkut' special forces personnel in full riot gear were sent to clear 200 or so peaceful, tired, lightly dressed protesters from the central Maidan or Independence Square in Kyiv, even though there was no threat of civil disobedience. [videos here also here ]. Several television journalists were assaulted and their equipment damaged in the melee, even though they claim their press ID was clearly presented to the riot police.

The protesters had marched for many days from the small town of Vradiyivka where local police had allegedly been systematically stealing, extorting, raping and even murdering its residents for many years.

The situation came to a head when a local girl was raped and left for dead, resulting in the attempted storming of the local police headquarters. The story hit a nerve and the story was widely reported. There are many subsequent reports of similar situations existing right across the country.

Many Ukrainians now truly fear law enforcement agencies because they are out of control - not accountable to citizen watchdog committees as they are in many countries. Police approval ratings are in low single digits.

Opposition politicians claim law enforcement agencies, police, prosecutors and the judiciary now primarily serve only two purposes: to provide cover for the massive enrichment of President Yanukovych, his 'Family' and their associates, and to crush any possible protest movements, including reasonable, well organised peaceful ones such as the Vradiyivka march.

Policing should have been particularly tactful and sensitive in Independence Square last night, bearing in mind the reason why the demonstrators had gathered and what their demands were. Intimidating peaceful demonstrators with such a large number of special forces troops, the largest number collectively assembled for several years in the capital, was complete overkill...

There is mounting evidence, e.g. as in this video,  that passers-by, even those not known to one another are willing to physically challenge police on a day-to-day basis.

Monday, July 15, 2013

European Court looks into the criminal proceedings against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Tymoshenko

European Court looks into the criminal proceedings against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Tymoshenko [Source]

The European Court of Human Rights has communicated to the Ukrainian Government the application Tymoshenko v. Ukraine no. 2 (no. 65656/12) and requested it to submit its observations on the complaints.

The case is the second application brought by the former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. It mainly concerns the criminal proceedings brought against her relating to contracts for the supply of gas.

Yuliya Tymoshenko, born in 1960, is the leader of Batkivshchyna, one of the strongest opposition parties in Ukraine, and of Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Bloc. She was the Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2005 and between December 2007 and March 2010. In April 2011, criminal proceedings were brought against her for allegedly making an illegal order for the signing of a contract concerning gas imports. On 11 October 2011, she was convicted on all charges, including that of exceeding authority or official powers, and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and a three-year ban on holding public office.

On 29 August 2012, the conviction and sentence were upheld in a final judgment. Ms Tymoshenko’s first application before the European Court of Human Rights (no. 49872/11) concerned complaints related to her detention.

In its Chamber judgment of 30 April 2013, which is not final, the Court held in particular: that Ms Tymoshenko’s pre-trial detention had been arbitrary; that the lawfulness of her detention had not been properly reviewed; and, that she had had no possibility to seek compensation for her unlawful deprivation of liberty, in violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court also found that, in breach of Article 18 of the Convention (limitation on use of restrictions on rights), her right to liberty had been restricted for reasons other than those permitted under Article 5.

The second application, brought on 10 August 2011, concerns the fairness of the criminal proceedings. In particular, relying on Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (b) and (c) (right to a fair trial), Ms Tymoshenko complains of difficulties in defending her case before the national courts and questions their independence and impartiality. She also questions the quality of the provisions of the Criminal Code which were applied in her case, alleging a breach of Article 7 (no punishment without law).

She further claims that the criminal case against her was politically inspired and constituted an abuse of the criminal system of justice, relying on Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights). Ms Tymoshenko makes a number of complaints under Articles 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) and/or Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life): she alleges that a video tape recorded in the hospital where she has been treated since 9 May 2012, showing her in her room and during medical procedures, was published on the Internet and was also broadcast on the majority of regional TV channels. She further complains that at least three other video recordings ware available on the official website of the State Penitentiary Service, and that an audio recording of a telephone conversation between Ms Tymoshenko and her husband was published on the Internet.

She also alleges that she faces difficulties in making any telephone calls from the hospital. Finally, she complains that she has been deprived of any possibility of communicating with the media and the outside world since 5 August 2011, which has had a negative impact on her political life.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

More cheap promises from Yanuk

Following today's Visegrad Group heads of state meeting in Poland which was also attended by president Yanukovych,  the Polish president's official site reports:

"We are pleased to note that President Yanukovych mentioned efforts to find a resolution to this problem [of  Tymoshenko imprisonment] in keeping with Ukrainian laws, in other words either under current laws or by way of an amendment of Ukrainian law by parliament. We connect very far-reaching hopes [i.e. for success of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius] with this statement", declared the Polish head of state.

Yanukovych assured that his country intended to meet all the conditions and announced the introduction of all necessary legislation at latest by September."

F.N.'s comment: Yanukovych will delay any possible release of Tymoshenko for just as long as he can. Some of his advisers think there is a chance the Association Agreement will be signed even if she is still in prison, as long they made undertakings 'to release her just as soon as Ukrainian legislation permits..'

Others warn the president that if he lets Tymoshenko out of prison for medical treatment abroad right now, the Europeans will then immediately press for further concessions, e.g. greater reform of election law. Currently, Yanukovych can fix the election rules in such a way as to provide the greatest chance of success in the 2015 presidential elections. [Note: Manipulation of electoral rules - change to a 50-50 constituency-party list system gave PoR a ruling majority together with their Communist allies, even though the three remaining opposition parties gained a greater percentage share of  votes cast.]

But most importantly, In Yanuk's eyes, the release of Tymoshenko will harm the chances of him remaining in power after 2015...this is why she was locked up in the first place. The logic remains unchanged.

Yanuk has been making cheap promises to European heads of state for the best part of two years now.... he does not negotiate in good can he be taken seriously? He cannot..

Professor David Marples is quite correct - "there is no reason to question the belief that the detention of Tymoshenko is contrived and politically motivated.... her release should be made the sine qua non for the signing of the association agreement in November."

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Will the march of protest reach Ukraine?

One June 27 in the village of Vradiyivka [pop 8,500], near Pervomaysk, Mykolayiv oblast, a young woman was severely assaulted and gang raped by three men, two of which she alleges were policemen, one allegedly the nephew of the local prosecutor. She is very poorly, but stable, in hospital suffering from a broken skull.

The authorities hastily arranged a late-night session in order to 'whitewash' the alleged perpetrators; their family members and 'krysha' arrived in the usual SUV's to 'sort it all out'. However, word soon got around and outraged villagers armed with shovels and pitchforks surrounded the court. Mobile networks in the surrounding area were cut,  as was internet communication.

Tonight over a 1000 villagers have again attacked the the regional centre police headquarters in Vradiyivka demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice and punished. According to some reports all of the windows have been smashed and tear gas and even live ammunition has been discharged. The situation could turn very ugly indeed....

Vradiyivka is just a few miles away from to Chausove -2 and the Kornatsky farm about which I have blogged recently.....

p.s. The gang rape and murder of an Indian medical student in Delhi last December triggered major violent public protests in India.Two police officers may have been involved. Security forces within India are frequent perpetrators of violence against women, according to a report by an UH-affiliated human rights group.

This week's 'Economist' lead story?

"The march of protestA wave of anger is sweeping the cities of the world. Politicians beware.."
No-one can predict what can trigger protests. In Brazil it was a steep increases in bus fares....
In Turkey it was the demolishing of a city park to erect a shopping centre....

Ukrainian authorities can be thankful that Vradiyivka is not near an heavily populated urban centre..