Friday, August 31, 2007

PoR getting its repudiation in first..

Below are portions of a statement just released on PoR's official site:

"Statement on preparations to use provocations against Party of Regions in the Ukrainian media

Today, as the election campaign turns into the finishing straight, the political opponents' camp is in a state of panic. With each day it is becoming more obvious, both for Ukraine and for the world community, that PoR will will win the elections and will gain the right to form the next government.

In order to stem the leakage of their electorate, the so-called opposition has been reduced to resorting to absolutely undemocratic, amoral, and often unlawful methods of political fighting, namely - informational manipulations, lying and provocations!

The Party of Regions declares: we are aware of provocations being prepared which will take the form of fasified information, and fabricated video and audio material, whose purpose will be to discredit the Party of Regions and its leaders!

These wretched failures are again acting according to the principle: "Not a day without provocations!"

PoR appeals not only to its supporters, but to all citizens of the world community: take no notice of the provocations and tricks of bankrupted politicians! They will cynically try and trick you again..

We believe that Ukrainians are a wise people which had long ago been learned to separate grains from weeds.

We not permit this bunch of irresponsible blackmailers, slanderers and babblers to return back to authority again in the country! We will not allow the country to slide backwards in its development!
And so on...

LEvko says: Dear oh dear... Did Paul Manafort's outfit write this Stalinist agitprop?
Must be some juicy tidbits in the pipeline..what can they be? Video's from Yanuk's R & R in Altai? Ho ho..just wait till the missus finds out.

Oh, and one very recent OP has PoR at 27.2%, BYuT at 26.8% and NUNS at 10.9%. This may well be a rogue result; but worrying for PoR nevertheless - connected with their panicky statement above?

Yanuk getting a bit worried?

UNIAN, quoting BYuT sources, say that nearly 55,000 people attended Tymoshenko's campaign rally in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Wednesday.

Most commentators agree that the Ukrainian electorate is currently suffering from political cynicism election fatigue, so LEvko suspects a cold shiver passed down the backs of PoR leaders on hearing of the size of the crowd. Possibly the only other person who could have attracted such a crowd would have been senior PoR deputy, Mr Kharkiv himself - Yevhen Kushnaryov - but he was shot dead in a hunting accident last winter.

At last March's parliamentary elections in the Kharkiv oblast, PoR received 51.7% of the vote, BYuT received 12.68%.

Yanukovych is complaining about the dirty 'kompromat' being heaped onto him. A story posted on the 'Obozrevatel' site describes Yanuk's recent R and R holiday in the Altai region of Russia. The holiday was allegedly funded by major Russian businessman, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, owner of the 'Systema' financial-industrial conglomerate, a leading telecom, high tech and real estate player in Russia.

Yevtushenkov, brother-in-law of Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, is allegedly interested in acquiring the Ukrainian "Ukrtelekom", and developing commercial real estate in and around Kyiv. Clearly such major transactions cannot take place without the blessing of the Ukrainian government.

'Oboz' publishes documents which it claims are from the 'Tursib' recreational villas in Altai where Yanuk's entourage stayed from 5th to the 8th August. 20 houses were reserved for them at 'Tursib', including ten 'luxes' for the VIP guests.

Unconfirmed reports say Russian playboy oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, noted for his ski resort carousing, was also there at the time, as were ladies, of the type whose company this man, [and it seems Fedorovych] seems to enjoy.

Another story in Ukrainska Pravda reveals Yanuk's fleet of limos has been upgraded recently to the tune of 14 million hryven - nearly $3 million.

Still, Yanuk and Akhmetov embraced and ran onto the pitch together after seeing Shakhtar Donetsk beat Salzburg to reach the final stages of the European Champion's football league last night.

p.s. Yulka T. should watch what she eats from now on, and especially keep away from sushi..

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yulka reacts to Dniproenergo grab

Whilst campaigning in the Kirovohrad oblast today, leader of BYuT, Yuliya Tymoshenko appealed to the President, to prime minister Yanukovych, and to the State property fund, to react to yesterday's transfer of the greatest producer of electric power in eastern Ukraine, Dniproenergo, to companies owned by Rinat Akhmetov. [See my previous blog for background]

"Yesterday it was announced that Dniproenergo has fallen into the hands of enterprises owned by Rinat Akhmetov for almost nothing, and without any commitment for further investment," said Tymoshenko.

"So practically all of Ukraine's power generation has passed 'from under the hammer' - they acquired it practically for kopecks. And we saw how government works as one with business," added Tymoshenko.

She expressed outrage that not one central television channel in Ukraine has given adequate coverage to this crooked deal, and that there has been a total absence of reaction from any leaders of government.

In the opinion of Tymoshenko, "If this sort of thing continues further, even if there is a change of government, Akhmetov will remain the owner of Ukraine. Such monopolization should be impermissable under any circumstances," she emphasized.
She warned that, "In a month, I think, nevertheless there will be a change in government, and our political force will put in their place all of those enterprises, which are hurredly filling their pockets right now, for next to nothing."

"They will all be returned to state." assured Tymoshenko, adding, "I have never seen such brazen lawlessness as has taken place in recent months in Ukraine."

BYuT's campaign seems to be making an impression. The reputable Luhansk-based Irtafax site asks site visitors: Whose party's electorate is the most active?
To date Socialists have received 'nul points', NU-NS 18 votes, PoR 86, Communists 261, and BYuT 415. Only a bit of fun, I know, but interesting nevertheless.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why Akhmetov sponsors PoR?

Today's 'Delo' business newspaper reports : "Half of power generating [in Ukraine] now under Akhmetov's heel - the state has handed over the country's biggest power-generating company to creditors.

Rinat Akhmetov has become owner of 32,2% of the biggest domestic power-generating company - DniproEnergo. The enterprise, whose main shareholder is the state, was forced to sell its shares to its most important creditors in order to avoid bankruptcy. Amongst these creditors were structures owned by Akhmetov.

On completion of this transaction, the state's portion of DniproEnergo will decrease to 50%, and, as a result of his new acquisition, Akhmetov will control almost half of the country's thermally generated power. Besides DniproEnergo, his companies already manage VostokEnergo. [DniproEnergo is estimated to be worth at almost $1.5 billion, and is one of five electricity generating companies in Ukraine - the others are VostokEnergo, CentralEnergo, ZakhidEnergo and DonetskEnergo.]

Anticipating what was about to take place, on 22nd June 2007 BYuT's press service released this :

"During the last months of its activity Cabinet does everything possible to appropriate the most attractive economic objects and concentrate them in the ownership of the closest comrades-in-arms, in particular those enterprises which provide light and warmth for the Ukrainian houses.

The bright evidence of this is the last decision of Yanukovych government, which allowed one of the biggest power companies in Ukraine, DniproEnergo, additional issue of shares. As a result, the state share will drop down from 76% to 50%. In this case, share of companies which are controlled by the known bilionnaire Akhmetov actually gives control over DniproEnergo management. Akhmetov’s companies beforehand bought up 8,8% of DniproEnergo capital, which allows them to break any meetings of shareholders and depreciates team shares by 87%.

The plan of actual theft from the national property of DniproEnergo foresees buying up of this company debts before other persons for the amount of $200 million and further exchange of these debts for 26% of DniproEnergo capital within the additional issue of shares, to which only companies controlled by Akhmetov will be admitted.
Cynicism and impudence of Cabinet actions are reflected in the fact that market value of the company makes at least $1 billion 750 million; 26% makes $455 million. Thus, in case of successful conducting of this transaction, our state loses about $500 million, and also control over one of the main power companies of Ukraine. Except for that, small stockholders, mainly workers of this company, will be deprived of their rights for the part of the company profit.

According to BYUT information, it is planned that the only buyer of 26% of DniproEnergo will be Donetsk Fuel Energy Company, [DTEK] which belongs to Renat Akhmetov.

In connection with this Yulia Tymoshenko bloc appeals to President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko with a requirement to stop immediately criminals who are selling out strategic economic objects of the state. We require to bring to trial the officials of Yanukovych government whose actions endanger power safety of Ukraine."

Its seems then that BYuT were absolutely correct in their prediction.

A more measured and detailed assessment was provided on June 21st 2007 by 'Kyiv Post'

"The arrival of DTEK as a strategic shareholder may benefit DniproEnergo by providing it with access to thermal coal and improving management, which has proved very efficient at the much more profitable DTEK-owned VostokEnergo.

But, they note DTEK is likely to try to take full control of DniproEnergo, thus reducing the likelihood of a strategic Western investor coming in.

As for the unknown owners of the remaining 15 percent of the shares, it’s unclear what price the will be able to get for them if DniproEnergo stock continues to fall.

Akhmetov, ranked as Ukraine’s richest man, has made serious efforts to improve the transparency and image of his SCM in the West, where he has courted financing to modernize his aging Soviet assets.

On the one hand, it wouldn’t be in his interests to spook investors. On the other, however, boosting his stake in DniproEnergo through a bargain deal could significantly increase the value of DTEK, yielding him the strongest position in the power-generation market in Ukraine’s highly industrialized eastern regions."

Today in Kryviy Rih, Tymoshenko again challenged this deal. "The question is why? On what basis? [And] why to Akmetov? I have many questions," she stated.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For Ukrainians, Honduras more popular that Russia, except in Crimea

In 1997 Russian and Ukraine signed a 20 year treaty, enabling the Russian Black sea fleet to use naval facilities in Crimea. The Russian side wants to extend the treaty, whilst the Ukrainian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Defence have many times complained that the Russians are not fulfilling their commitments on leasing of these naval bases.

Several days ago, an adviser from the Russian embassy in Ukraine, Vladimir Lysenko, allegedly stated that Russia could soon start to review the 1997 agreement, which affirms Ukrainian status of Sevastopol.

Press reports, e.g. in 'Segodnya' stated that according to Lysenko, the agreement could be re-examined, "if the Ukrainian authorities continue to exert pressure on the [Russian] Black Sea fleet, which is based in Crimea."

Lutsenko's remarks prompted a swift response from the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the form of a sternly worded 'diplomatic note'.

Today the Russian ambassador in Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin did some quick 'back-pedalling'.

"The adviser of the embassy could not say such a thing. This is totally inadmissible. Well, simply such a thing could not have taken place, but these thing happen... so the entire outburst - its just emotion ", emphasized Chernomyrdin.

According to Chernomyrdin, the matter may just have been published to suit someone's purpose, or was just an error.

This is a very touchy subject..

Meanwhile 'Korespondent' posts results of an opinion poll which reveals that 61% of Ukrainians are satisfied to have been born in Ukraine. 10.4% would rather have been born in Russia, less that 3% in each of France, Germany, Great Britain or the USA. The only major deviation to these figures was in the Crimean city of Simferopol, were nearly 48% would have liked to have been born in Russia, and only about 40% were happy to have been born in Ukraine.

'Koresondent' also invited its internet site visitors to take part in a straw poll , asking them, "In what country would you like to live?" Up to now, almost 2000 visitors have responded.

Nearly 48% replied in Ukraine, 2.59% in the Russian Federation, 21.06% in any EU country, USA - 8.23%, and, rather curiously, 8.39% in Honduras. On second thoughts, Honduras maybe does have attractions..

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another suspicious poisoning..

UNIAN carries a sinister story today about an unexplained poisoning of Borys Penchuk, author of 'The Donetsk Mafia', the the only book written to date describing the turf wars that took place in the early and mid '90's in Donetsk and their alleged participants. Almost 60 'businessmen' and others came to a 'sticky end' at that time - including members of Penchuk's family. Many of the surviving main players of these wars are now at the top of PoR.. Many of the businesses of the victims are now owned by the same players..

The foreword to the Russian language version can be read in English here. An updated, Ukrainian language version of the book, entitled "Donetsk mafia - reload" has just been published.

Anyhow, here's a loose translation of the UNIAN article:

"The presentation tour of the "Donetsk mafia - reload" book, which was due to take place on 21st August in Lviv and 22nd August in Lutsk, has been suspended because its author, Borys Penchuk, has been taken ill with acute poisoning.

Penchuk's health deteriorated on 20th August after his return from Zhytomyr, where a presentation of the book also took place.

Penchuk was diagnosed with poisoning, but believes that he could not have been poisoned with food because he ate nothing on that day, not even a snack. His temperature rose to 39 degrees centigrade. Penchuk underwent a medical examination in hospital where he was diagnosed with "poisoning with strong-acting substances". Experts are trying to establish what kind of toxin is in his body, but the absence of specialized equipment in Ukraine is hampering diagnosis.

Doctors note that Penchuk's condition is causing concern, and possible consequences are unknown at present."

The books are a rather haphazard collection of numerous postings from various internet sites, investigative TV broadcast transcripts, newspaper interviews, gruesome photos, and so on, but are nevertheless valuable because they provide some insight into what happened at that time. Whether any other author or participant will ever write anything better remains to be seen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Putin and Yanuk talk of 'planes, and more?

The British 'Guardian' newspaper reports:

"Vladimir Putin announced ambitious plans to revive Russia's military power and restore its role as the world's leading producer of military aircraft yesterday. Speaking at the opening of the largest airshow in Russia's post-Soviet history, the president said he was determined to make aircraft manufacture a national priority after decades of lagging behind the west.

The remarks follow his decision last week to resume long-range missions by strategic bomber aircraft capable of hitting the US with nuclear weapons. Patrols over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic began last week for the first time since 1992.

Presidential aides hinted yesterday that Russia could shortly resume the production of Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic nuclear bombers, now that the aircraft are again flying "combat missions". The bombers would be used as a "means of strategic deterrence", a presidential aide, Alexander Burutin, told Interfax.

Mr Putin said Russia would also resume the large-scale manufacture of civilian planes. "Russia has a very important goal which is to retain leadership in the production of military equipment," he said."

The only other government head attending the 'Maks-2007' airshow was Viktor Yanukovych. In total, delegations from 110 countries attended. Putin, Yanuk, and first vice- premier of the RF Sergey Ivanov who is being tipped as Putin's most likely successor, spent more than an hour together at a hurriedly arranged meeting. A planned meeting between Yanuk and RF PM Mikhail Fradkov on 20th August in Sochi, had been cancelled at short notice.

Major Ukrainian aircraft components manufacturers 'Motor-Sich' and 'Aviatsiya Ukrainy' were well represented at the airshow, and the leaders signed a memorandom of Russian-Ukrainian co-operation in aircraft manufacture.

Well, business is business..

Tymoshenko has been 'swinging her handbag' again today. She warned PM Yanukovych, minister of fuel and energy Yuriy Boyko, and chief executive of state company 'Naftohaz Ukrainy' Yevhen Bakulin that they could face criminal charges for betrayal of national interests. "I want to warn Yanukovych, Boyko and Bakulin, that the 111th article of the Criminal Codex envisages 10 to 12 years of imprisonment for betrayal of national interests of Ukraine. They will not receive any amnesty from me."

She said that they want to swap part of Ukraine's gas transport system for "undefined assets of the oil and gas complex of the Russian Federation."

Yuriy Boyko had accompanied Yanuk on yesterday's trip to see the air show..

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yuliya gets personal..

Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, campaigning in Dnipropetrovsk, promised to prosecute her political opponents should the Sept. 30 election return her to power. She specifically mentioned current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of Party of Regions, and Rinat Akhmetov, the wealthiest Ukrainian and the key financial sponsor of the party, as likely targets.

“I would like to tell Viktor Fedorovych [Yanukovych] and Rinat Leonidovych [Akhmetov], if they can hear me, that I am not Yushchenko, I will not sign an amnesty for them,” said Tymoshenko at a meeting in Dnipropetrovsk region.

Several weeks ago Rinat Akhmetov's holding company Metinvest received a loan of $1.5 billion, the largest ever given to a private Ukrainian firm, courtesy of four major European banks.

Don't worry boys, no need to stop the cheques yet, you're money is safe[ish]..

And Yanukovych briefly and 'semi-f0rmally' met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow today. Did they talk about this 'woman trouble', or was the delicate topic of 'man-boobs', sometimes known as 'moobs', discussed?

Monday, August 20, 2007

BYuT's back-stabbing friends..

At a meeting in Pavlograd today [Monday] Yuliya Tymoshenko declared to those present:

"First, do not to scatter your votes.. there are [only] three parties, which count in the elections - they are, unfortunately, Party of Regions, Our Ukraine- People's Self-defence, and our force. There's a big question mark hanging over the Communists since they combined with oligarchic capital."

Replying to a question, whether she believes in her partners "Our Ukraine," Tymoshenko answered:

"I want to believe in our partners, but for greater certainty it would be a good thing if our force obtained 226 deputies [i.e. a VR majority]. And then there would be both a democratic coalition, and the support of the President; and not a situation where they stick a knife in your back, and afterward say that this is friendship".

Tymoshenko complained that for the last 10 years she has been blamed for all of the country's misfortunes: "Well come on, how long can I be that daughter-in-law...? How long was I in power?" she asked the audience. [In family arguments in Ukraine it is always the daughter-in-law that is traditionally to blame for all woes.]

Furthermore, according to Tymoshenko, if a position of power was paramount for her, then she "could have been vice- premier under Kuchma and premier under the orange clans."

Also today, Yushchenko held a rather grand 'alfresco' press-conference. Riding 'shotgun' was his hard-boiled press secretary.. Some good photos here .

When asked about a possible PoR/NS-NU coalition he was vague, to say the least. "I do not welcome any kind of partial uniting of anyone to someone. We need to think what we can unite around. The authorites, to a large extent, should base themselves on key positions which are being formed in the opposition forces." hmm..

At least you know what Tymoshenko thinks of the others, and what she wants.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tymo on 'the box'

Two quite lengthy TV interviews with Yuliya Tymoshenko, recorded on 15th and 17th August, can be downloaded from her website

She is in uncompromising mood in both - well worth watching if you understand Ukrainian.

Next week Yush and Yanuk are to meet and discuss the matter of abolishing criminal immunity for elected officials. If they are so keen on this now, why didn't they support BYuT's effort to pass laws on this in the past?

Last week, on 15th August, Yanuk suggested an extraordinary session of the VR to remove this immunity from all elected officials, including the president, head of government, VR deputies, and judges.

Tymoshenko says that any decision made by a VR which was dismissed weeks ago would be meaningless, and would be subject to legal challenge at a later date - in other words, a cheap trick.

BYuT have made a good start in their campaign, PoR scored an 'own-goal' by their guys in the CEC refusing to accept the BYuT election list. They were forced to rescind their decision after a court ruling.

But BYuT have to show they are not just a one-man band [are they?] They have some able performers on their list who need to be given air-time too.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tymo on Nato

In a recent 'Deutsche Welle' interview Yuliya Tymoshenko was asked about her position on the entrance of Ukraine in NATO.

She replied: "First, I will say immediately that Ukraine is deeply split on this issue. It is impossible not to take this into account when formulating a policy. And therefore today political forces in the Ukraine are obliged to begin broad discussion relative to all systems of collective security in the world. Today even many policians do not know the essence of the work various collective security systems, to say nothing of the man in the street.

And therefore all current discussions on this theme - whether to enter NATO or not to enter, it is very speculative. And our political force will begin such discussions, and we are sure that Ukraine can move to this, or to another collective security system, only after conducting a national referendum. Whether politicians like this or not, they are duty-bound, with such strategic decisions, to be supported by the feelings of the people.

LEvko says NATO is not a vote-winner. Putting a policy to a national referendum some time in the future is the politicans way of 'kicking the ball into the long grass'.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yanuk's hideaway

Several months ago prime minister Yanukovych invited journalists to his none too extravagant 150 sq.m. home to show what a modest, down-to-earth guy he really was.

Some recent fine investigative journalism in 'Obozrevatel' reveals that this had been a cheap and cynical PR deception. Just weeks after the visit by the journalists, the house to which they had been invited was bulldozed to the ground, and a far grander construction project started which includes an artificial lake, tennis courts, a sports complex three times bigger than the house, and a shooting range. In total the property, which could spread over 136 Ha near the banks of the Dnipro river would probably be the most valuable in Ukraine - estimated at about $272 million.

As a comparison, Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov owns an estate comprising 35 Ha set in the former botanical gardens in Donetsk.

Yanuk's new 'pile' will allegedly also include a mini-zoo and greenhouses for growing bananas.

In recent years this state-owned 'gosdacha', called 'Mezhyhirya', in which Yanuk lived, changed its status several times. When Victor Fedorovych arrived in 2003 for the first time, administration of the estate passed to the Cabinet of Ministers.

After the orange revolution, Yanukovych moved out, and the dacha returned to the control of the State Affairs Administration. The head of the SAA, Igor Tarasyuk claimed at that time that Yanuk had almost claimed and privatized all 136 Ha around the gosdacha.

Then President Yushchenko signed the so-called Memorandum of Co-operation with the then oppositionist Yanukovych, and the new authority not only provided Yanuk with use the residence, but the president also passed an edict granting him state protection, even though, according to law, he did not have the required status to merit such protection - he was not occupying any high state post, and was not even a VR deputy. So Yanuk lived in the Mezhyhirya residence from that time.

A year ago the President allegedly issued an edict granting Yanuk lifelong use of the property, but 'Oboz' was unable to find documents to support this. What they did find however, was a KabMin document, signed by Yanuk himself, transferring the building and territory around it to the national state joint stock company 'Nadra Ukrainy' - who are responsible for geological prospecting and exploration investment projects over Ukrainian territory. They also found a document detailing all of the objects that were transferred. These included a sauna, a bird house, hot-houses, a covered pavilion for the orchard, a station for the biological purification of water, fences, road, water pipes and even septic tanks for processing sewerage. When a JSC 'Nadra' administrator was asked about all of this, he denied all knowledge of the transfer. The head of administration of JSC 'Nadra', Eduard Stavitsky is a PoR VR deputy candidate in September's elections.

Oboz suggests that 135 Ha of land around the property will be allocated to 'service' it, providing a simple scheme for its cost-free privatization. Rinat Akhmetov 'inherited' 9.6 Ha of the botanical garden in Donetsk in similar fashion. The government residence of former president Gorbachev set in the garden's grounds were first transformed into the 'Lux' hotel; and then the city executive committee decided to allocate 9,6 Ha of ground to the building.

A waterway from 'Mezhyhirya' to the Dniprovsk -Teterivsk hunting forest, which is located above the Dnipro, with deepened portions and moorages, is being constructed.
Yanukovych likes to go hunting wild boar with former President Leonid Kravchuk in the Dneprovsk -Teterivsk forest. After the death in a shooting accident of Yevhen Kushnaryov, few hunters are now permitted to hunt there, and about half the forest is fenced off.

Oboz reports that a road is being constructed through the forest. Pine trees are being felled, swamps drained, embankments constructed and asphalt laid. About 10 km. of this 'road to nowhere' has already been constructed. Work proceeds even on Sundays.
p.s. Did Yanuk keep his prison uniform after his spells behind bars many years ago? Does he ever try it out for size? Tymoshenko kept her prison crockery as a souvenir.

Update: BYuT are demanding a public explanation on the legality of the transfer of Yanuk's residence to National JSC 'Nadra' - maybe this affair will gain traction after all..

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Neck and neck in the O.P.s

O.P. published in today's 'Donbass' newspaper, which questioned 2700 respondents, has Party of Regions - 27,8%, BYuT - 21,7%, "NUNS" - 11,4%, Communists 5.8%, and Socialists 1.7%.

The rating of Volodymyr Lytvyn's bloc at 3.1%, and Vitrenko's radical Progressive Socialists at 2.9% is intriguing. These two small parties, if they were to overcome the 3% threshold, could play a substantial role in any future VR coalition building plans of PoR and the oranges.

Lytvyn's Narodna Partiya Ukrainy could possibly agree to join an orange coalition, but the 'Vitrenkivtsi' would maybe be too much of a 'loose cannon' and a more troublesome coalition partner for PoR than the Socialists.

The propensity for Ukrainian VR deputies to hop from one political bed to another means that the next VR will probably be unstable too, unless a grand coalition is formed..

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Voting from home for PoR and NUNS

A couple of days ago 'Gazeta po Kiyevski' ran a story on the current Central Election Commission - BYuT conflict, that included this:

"..Behind-the-scenes negotiations are taking place in the CEC between members of the coalition and the opposition. One of the main topics being discussed is the possibility of voters casting their votes from home, without the need for any medical certification. Representatives from PoR and "Our Ukraine" are interested in this because they both have access to 'admin-resurs'. Tymoshenko's people are against it since it is they that would suffer the consequences of any "manipulations" [that these home-votes would facilitate].

It is possible that the registration of the BYUT list will become a bargaining chip for doing away with the need for medical certificates. Tymoshenko at her press conference directly stated that similar proposals had been made to her representatives in the CEC already.

NUNS may also be interested in holding back BYUT's campaign for a while too. It was only about seven in the evening on Saturday that the NUNS party server limited itself to a dry statement just to appease Tymoshenko, calling the CEC's refusal to register BYUT "politically ordered".

Interestingly, the next day after scandal with the BYuT lists, 14 CEC members unanimously affirmed all the VR candidates from the pro-presidential mega-bloc without problem. If the "Nunsivtsi" knew how to correctly provide the required documentation, then why did they not share this information with their associates from BYUT?

The reality is such that in spite of declarations of friendship with Yulia T, the presidential team least of all wants to see her as prime minister. For this they need to gain more, or not many fewer votes than Tymoshenko, but they are fighting over one [orange] electorate.

More and more indirect facts indicate that there are certain understandings between Yushchenko and Yanukovych on the creation of wide coalition after the elections. Tymoshenko feels this and is trying to bring it out into the open. Not without reason did Yuliya T at the press conference hint several times that certain people from NUNS still seem to imagine a coalition with "Regionaly" possible."

Now today the CEC have confirmed that voters who claim to be immobile may cast their vote from home on September 30th, having merely submitted a hand-written request to do so by 28th September. Voting in the CEC was along partisan lines - 8 members supported the proposal. Opposition members had demanded that any request to vote from home should include confirmation based on any documents that would attest to the voter's infirmity.

Echoes already of the 2004 presidential election campaign, when, in total about 1.5 million absentee votes were "cast". E.g. in the town of Mykolayiv about 30% of votes were cast from home.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pres's quick reaction to BYuT's election shut-out

The deputy head of president Yushchenko's secretariat, the pres's representative in the Constitutional Court and in the Central Election Commission, Maryna Staviychuk today emphasized that BYuT's electoral lists submitted and rejected by the CEC, did satisfy the required norms. Staviychuk was deputy head of the CEC for a time also. The statement has been posted on the presidential website.

[For background see this, and my yesterday's posting.]

Eight members of the CEC have today signed a statement declaring: " The organization of public pre-election agitation under the walls of the CEC by those persons who have no right to conduct political electioneering under the law, we consider a provocation. Financing and conducting such actions is illegal."

Several hundred BYuT supporters are picketing the CEC building.

p.s. According to the CEC's official timetable for the September 30th VR elections, nominations of candidates have to be in by 40 days before election day i.e. 20th August...

Another undeserving recipient of honours

Yesterday president Yushchenko awarded Ukrainian Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights Nina Karpachova with the Ukrainian Order of Merit - 3rd degree, on her 50th birthday, for her "significant personal contribution to the defence of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, for many years of fruitful socio-political activity and law-making."

c.f. the following from a 17th May 2007 account from the respectable Kharkiv Human Rights Protection [KHRP] group:

"It is now 100 days since Nina Karpachova began her third term in office. Her second was terminated prematurely by the Verkhovna Rada some seven months (rather than the ten days stipulated by legislation) after she was elected National Deputy (MP) from the Party of the Regions. She was then voted back in by her parliamentary colleagues despite a massive campaign by civic organizations throughout Ukraine, and quite unequivocal statements from officials in the Council of Europe and international human rights organizations regarding the inappropriateness of political engagement and clear conflict of interests in Karpachova ’s standing again."..

The above-mentioned PACE report stated: "On 11 January [2007], the Verkhovna Rada was scheduled to elect the new [Ukrainian Parliament Human Rights] Ombudsperson. To our indignation, however, the ruling coalition parties presented the candidature of the same person [Nina Karpachova] that had discredited the independence of the Ombudsman's office in Ukraine for months."

And again, from the KHRP site:

"During the first 100 days of her new tenure, Nina Karpachova launched only three investigations. And this is despite a Secretariat behind her boasting 120 people. The funding allocated from the Budget, human rights groups believe to be 20 million UAH per year."..

In the 2006 elections Ms Karpachova was second on the candidate list for the Party of the Regions.

Other criticism involves her failure to respond swiftly to human rights abuses and her lack of openness. According to Yevhen Zakharov, the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat has mastered the skills of ping-pong with complaints getting sent to the institutions which are being complained about.

...Kateryna Levchenko, member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on legislative backup for law enforcement work told those present that during her first 100 days in office, Nina Karpachova had several times infringed the principle of impartiality, giving grounds for believing that her actions were politically motivated."

LEvko wonders what game Yushchenko is playing..

Central Election Commission fires starting pistol at BYuT

Yesterday the Central Election Commission rejected BYuT's list of candidates for the September 30th VR elections, ostensibly because they hadn't filled out their forms properly - omitting address details, even though they had been included elsewhere. BYuT claim they submitted their forms exactly as for previous elections. Midnight 10th August was the deadline for submission of lists. As things stand, BYuT cannot take part in the election so this is a big crisis already.

BYuT are challenging the CEC's decision in court, as permitted by the Ukrainian laws on the CEC procedures.

What is it all about? My guess is that the bureaucrats in the CEC are being very 'picky', and the pro-PoR [and possibly NUNS] members thought it would be a good opportunity to rub BYuT's nose in the dirt. Maybe the CEC is just 'flexing its muscles' to show how tough it can be..

Yulka, quite naturally has called the CEC's decision outrageous. Some commentators are saying that it the crisis was deliberately engineered by BYuT themselves in order to gain sympathy of voters. BYuT are especially strong in Kyiv, and if things are not resolved in days, say by next weekend, highly publicized protest demos could raise BYuT's popularity to higher levels.

The CEC have the power to change their own decisions by themselves [according to Article 12, para #7 of the above-mentioned laws] or on the basis of court judgements. Legal challenges are permitted according to Article 12, para #8. The CEC comprises 15 members - 7 CEC members voted to accept BYuT's list, and 7 abstained, so there is some 'wriggle room' to resolve the dispute.

If NUNS leaders stand idly by, it may look as if they are colluding with PoR to gain BYuT's votes. One of their leaders could intervene - delicately criticizing BYuT for not being more scrupulous, but nevertheless supporting their legal challenge. LEvko thinks maybe by mid-week, or before next weekend, BYuT's list will be registered.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Rudkovskyi under attack

"The Our Ukraine - People's Self-Defense [NUNS] bloc has accused Transport and Communications Minister Mykola Rudkovskyi of laundering money through offshore companies.

'Ukrainian News' has learned this from the press service of the People's Self-Defense movement.

Hennadii Moskal, a bloc member and former representative of the President in Crimea, said the Munich police, Germany, contacted the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to request it to check the offshore companies facing charges of laundering EUR 8.8 million and USD 8 million in Germany." For more on this check out the source article from 'Ukrainian News'.

Rudkovskyi, a man known to appreciate the better things in life, naturally repudiates all of Henadii Moskal's assertions, and is threatening to to sue him for slander.

There has been a shadow of corruption hanging over this man, for quite a while - this will not be the first time that he has threatened court action against those who accuse him of corruption.

Rudkovskyi is currently #15 on the Socialist Party's list of candidates for the 2007 early parliamentary elections, so his political future, in any case, could be described as 'uncertain'.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Uncertainty over Odessa-Brody pipeline

These excerpts from today's Russian 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta':

'Ukraine has decided hit Russia with Iraq oil' - The Yanukovych government intends to breath new life in the Odessa-Brody pipeline

Ukrainian authorities do not intend to give up ambitious plans to transform the country into a powerful transit corridor which will break Russian domination in the Eastern European power market.

Interfax yesterday informed that Viktor Yanukovych's government has charged the Ministry of Fuel and Energy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country to carry out negotiations with Iraq and Turkey for creation of a petro-transport corridor through which Iraqi oil could be used to fill the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline.

The route of the project, whose parameters have not yet been revealed, should pass from Kirkuk (Iraq) through Trabzon (Turkey) to the Pivdennyi sea oil terminal (Ukraine), from where the Odessa-Brody pipeline starts [or terminates]. Because of absence of sources of oil, it is currently being used in the reverse direction. Russian companies now transport petroleum via its southern portion for loading to tankers in the Pivdennyi port.

Meanwhile, last Monday the director of the department of economic co-operation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Sergey Korsunsky, declared the necessity of development of the project Odessa-Brody which could be extended not only to Plock or Gdansk in Poland, but also up to Mazheykyaisky refinery in Lithuania. A year ago Russia blocked deliveries to this refinery via the 'Druzhba' pipeline, supposedly because of technical deterioration of the pipeline. In Vilnius the termination of deliveries was regarded as revenge for decision to re-sell shares of the refinery, Mazeikiu Nafta, to the Polish 'PKN Orlen', instead of to a Russian company. Experts understand the aspirations of Ukrainians to be a serious oil transit country, but many difficulties are envisaged.

What is notable about the commencement of negotiations with Iraq and Turkey on realization of plans which could be contrary to Russia plans is that they are being initiated not only by the administration of president Viktor Yushchenko, but also by the supposedly pro-Russian Yanukovych government; but this could just be electioneering and an attempt to appeal to voters in western Ukraine.

Other Russian experts do not consider the project on transportation of the Iraq oil to have any perspectives."

c.f. with the following from 'UKRAINE BRIEFING', Oxford Business Group, London, from 18th July 2007:

" one in Ukraine has ever shown the determination and will to sit down and work out a contract with the Kazakhs, the potentially largest supplier of Caspian oil to Europe and the world."

The problems with striking a deal with the Kazakhs are many, but in general they come down to the strength of the pro-Russian orientation of many of those in the Ukrainian government oil sector and further to the preoccupation of top officials with upcoming parliamentary elections.

No one wants to take the lead in negotiations when it is unclear who will be in the energy power positions after the elections now scheduled for September 30... "The window was open but will soon close because of other developments. Ukraine is on the verge of missing one of the best energy trains ever to leave the station."

Unless Ukraine soon takes strong steps to assure completion of pipeline development in the westward direction, the possibility of increasing demand from China and other far eastern buyers willing to pay a higher premium for Caspian crude could turn Odessa-Brody into a virtually irrelevant footnote in Eastern European energy history."[Thanks Pete..]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Start of campaigning - glitzy conferences

The main political players held their party conferences last weekend. They were all very stage-managed, glitzy affairs, clearly revealing serious involvement of Western spin-doctors. [Good reports in Ukr. Pravda]
How well this kind of thing goes down with the 'man in the street' is questioned in an article in 'Novosti Donestka'.

"Last weekend the congress of the Party of Regions, which ended with a celebratory concert transmitted on Ukrainian TV, shows that the American spin-doctors working with Victor Yanukovych, have finally decided to convert the PoR leader into a pitiful copy of the leaders of the orange Maydan, says Russian polittekhnolog Aleksey Ivanov.

"Yanukovych is being transformed into a sexually attractive, dashing politician. Dances with singers, a mischievous smile, the fireworks which lit up as he moved onto the stage, transparent prompt boards - all these have the imprint of the American school of [veteran US spin doctor] Paul Manafort... But the Ukrainian Yanukovych looks rather absurd, as if in someone else's suit," considers Ivanov.

He considers that the creators of the new Yanukovych are breaking an important principle: the natural basic, organic qualities of a political leader should never be radically changed.

"It is better to replace a leader. The qualities inherent in a leader should be portrayed positively. If Yanukovich is physically imposing and forthright, then this should be portrayed as conservatism, adherence to traditions and trustworthiness - as an illustration of stability. He should stick to being as he is.

"In contrast to Yanukovych, Yushchenko and Tymoshenko remain true to their image, working only on their development. Yushchenko, with his craggy face continues to lead the country Westward, remaining consistent in his policy. And pugnacious Yulia continues to develop her brilliant public qualities. Her congress was also conducted according to the canons of western political norms. But its scale suits her," emphasizes Ivanov.

"PoR decided to advance on the "orange" electorate months ago, using similar orange technology, but it all turned into a wretched parody. Participants of their Maydan simply littered up Kiev and turned most Kyivites against them," says Ivanov.

The Regionaly probably think with the logic of military staff officers: the east is ours, now we have to advance westward, through central Ukraine, moving the front line forward. And, correspondingly, they have prepared for the center and the east another version of Yanukovych - a 'lighter' version, without a clear position on language and NATO, emphasizing only the economy and social development. But in actual fact there is no front whatever, and there is no its territory. There is only one media expanse. And new Yanukovych, while maybe acquiring something in central Ukraine, could lose more in the east."

Some photos from BYuT's and PoR's conferences.

Akhmetov with close associates Kolesnikov and Dzharty..his choice of tie colour is interesting..

Tymoshenko's national costume presents a memorable and wholesome image.

As for Yanukovych - is this a new take on Marilyn Monroe/JFK, 'Happy Birthday, Mr President'?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What some Russians think about the Donetskiites

I've loosely translated this article from the Donbas-based website:

"Kremlin thinking about change of Donetsk oligarchs and economic expansion in Ukraine

The present Ukrainian elite is not carrying out its pre-election promises on friendship with Russia and the protection of the Russian language; therefore Moscow must 'nurture' a new generation of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, in parallel with conducting economic expansion in the former Soviet republic.

Russian GosDuma deputy Dmitriy Rogozin stated on the 'Novyi Region' webite site:
"Russia is a great country and she should have long ago in Ukraine grown either a political force, or politicians, who would be objective with respect to Russia and within a framework of pan-Slavic matters, to do much beneficial work in Ukraine for our common future."

"I consider that Russia must act very firmly on the subject of development of its own partners in the territory of Ukraine, at least in its eastern and southern parts, and to use for this the power of Russian business, purchasing those enterprises in Ukraine, which can be useful from the point of view of development of good neighbourly relations," added Rogozin.

According to him, the Kremlin should not offer any support to Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions in the snap parliamentary election in September.

"We've twice become the witnesses of impudent fraud by Ukrainian politicians, both at the time of Kuchma, and of Yanukovych, with respect to status of the Russian language. The whole of Russia is being taken for a fool - a burdock leaf, slapped to someone's political a** only because one after another, Ukrainian politicians want to use the Russian factor for their victory - we should not be so naive in this game, " Rogozin added.

Those, whom the Kremlin attempts to represent as pro-Russian politicians, these people just use the situation to develop their own businesses. For example, the Donetsk group, I do not consider them long-term allies - because they are interested only in specific benefits e.g. in the pricing policy for gas for their own enterprises. But their aspirations lie to the West, their money lives in the West. And therefore, in such important questions for Russia as membership of Ukraine in NATO, most likely, they will whore themselves and adopt a position that's no good for us." concluded the Russian deputy.

p.s. My enquiries lead me to believe that burdock leaves, which are quite large and have a woolly under-surface, are an agreeable alternative for wiping one's bottom, particularly when there is no paper to hand, 'in the field' etc.

p.p.s. There may be some truth in what Mr Rogozin says..And how many of his GosDuma colleagues think the same way?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Difficulties in preparation of election lists

Soon the main political parties in Ukraine will have to reveal their election lists for the September 30th VR elections. Each party submits 450 names in order from 1 to 450. If a party obtains at least 3% of the votes cast the party in question, then it receives the same percentage of seats in the VR as those cast for that particular party. Clearly the higher up the 'pecking order' any candidate is, then the more chance they have of getting into parliament. Those at the bottom are only 'making up numbers.'

The presence and position of specific names will, to some extent, cast light on the 'internal politics' taking place within the ranks of the main political units, and the direction in which they are headed.

An excellent article in 'Ukrainska Pravda', entitled 'Battle of the Donetsk bulldogs', describes the widening split between the 'businessmen', led by Rinat Akhmetov, and the 'administrators', led by Mykola Azarov and Andriy Klyuyev. I've posted on this several times recently. This article says Akhmetov is demanding at least 50% of the slots on the PoR list for his people, and that Yanukovych, in the event of a PoR victory will no longer receive carte-blanche to form his own team in the Cabinet of Ministers. At present the 'businessmen' have only two of their own in the cabinet - ecology minister Vasyl Dzarty, and coal industry minister Serhiy Tulub.

The writer says there are rumours of an Akmetov-Yekhanurov political project being launched for 2009. If Akhmetov's plans for the current election list are satisfied, then PoR will remain a unified structure after the elections. [Yekhanurov is a former 'orange' PM]. However, in the event that Yanukovych and his 'administrator' friends emerge victorious, then "Akhmetov's hands will be untied, enabling him to float freely away".

An article in 'Obozryevatel' entitled, 'Orange war: 'lyubi druzi' versus Baloha', discusses the internal problems inside the NU-NS bloc.

The foremost of the 'dear friends', Petro Poroshenko, has been excluded from the NUNS list, and next to go may be Oleksandr Tretyakov. Baloha [currently head of the presidential secretariat] is not on the list but is 'pencilled in' for the PM's chair, whilst his transcarpathian former associate, the odious Viktor Medvedchuk, rumoured to be looking for a place on the list, may be going to Russia as deputy head of Putin's presidential adminstration.

Yushchenko is demanding 10% of places on the election list for 'his boys and girls'.

Baloha has has established a good working relationship with Boris Kolesnikov [Akhmetov's closest associate and PoR election campain head] and shares common ideas about a "wide coalition". Head of State Yushchenko is aware of their contacts, and does not consider them problematic.

The article compares the relationship between the "lyubі druzі" and 'transcapathians' with the "old" [administrators] and "new" [businessmen] Donetskiites.

After the 2006 VR election campaign, new bodies have entered within the president's political orbits - first the Industrial Union of Donbas, "Privat" financial-industrial groups, and then people around Baloha, so the material resources provided by previous friends are no longer needed by Yushchenko. Ihor Kolomoysky, is allegedly one of NSNU's main sponsors.

There is still much fevered 'horse-trading' to be done inside the newly formed 9-party NUNS bloc. Although the the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists signed the declaration on formation of the megabloc, they will not be included.

p.s. Worth reading, an exhaustive paper entitled: "Ukrainian Membership in NATO: Benefits, Costs, Misconceptions and Urban Legends" by John Kriendler, From the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

PoR in a muddle

Verkhovna Rada speaker Oleksandr Moroz has postponed the extraordinary Verkhovna Rada session, which he had called for July 31st, until August 7-10th. PM Yanukovych had previously said they 'were no grounds' to the session to take place,
but now declares, "it is necessary to prepare for the special Rada session more thoroughly".

[President Yushchenko dismissed the VR on April 2nd; but just to make sure, he issued two more ukazes on this. It has been rumoured recently that a 4th ukaz may be issued to finally 'kill the beast dead' for good.]

According to the current PoR election campaign boss Boris Kolesnikov, PoR does not plan to form a unified election list with Oleksandr Moroz's Socialist party .

Meanwhile PM Yanukovych today announced in Yenakievo that ‘friends from other parties’ would be seen on the PoR election list.

An article in today's 'Ukrainska Pravda' reveals how PoR are getting their 'knickers in a twist' between Boris Kolesnikov on the one side, and Andriy Klyuyev [head of the 2004 shadow pres. election campaign], on the other.

Apparently, Klyuyev has been "removed from PoR financial streams...for not always behaving correctly with party funds."

It is now Kolesnikov that is most seen with Yanukovych when the PM and president meet.

With just four days to go before the start of the election campaign, the PoR's list is far from sorted. The additions from other parties, including 'traitors' from NU and BYuT, means that there will be losers from amongst some those on last year's list, causing much resentment particularly amongst those at the lower reaches of the list, who may not make it into the new VR.

Klyuyev, with Moroz, would not be unhappy if the elections were postponed, and the disgruntled PoR deputies could well attend the extraordinary VR session in order to give Kolesnikov a 'poke in the eye'.

Moroz would not have dared to call the extraordinary session, which he had claimed on 27th July was at the demand of 179 VR deputies, without some support from within the higher echelons of PoR.

It is no coincidence that when he called it, Kolesnikov was in Moscow [with Mykola Azarov] meeting leaders of the 'Yedinaya Rossiya' party, and PoR fraction leader in the VR, Raisa Bohatyryova, was in the US meeting secretary of state David Kramer, so suspicion falls on Klyuyev colluding with Moroz.

Klyuyev's influence in the party is in decline because of his failure to increase the PoR/Socialist/Communist coalition to 300 deputies. Nevertheless, PoR continue to try and lure orange deputies to their side.

More in English - here.

A straw poll on the 'Donbass' site, which asks visitors whether they will cast a vote on September 30th or not, currently has 54% replying 'Yes', and 38% replying 'No'. Not scientific, but worrying nevertheless for PoR. Voter apathy may be their biggest problem.


The possible brittleness of the NUNS mega-bloc is highlighted in an article in 'Internet Reporter' entitled: 'Light and shadows in the [NUNS] megabloc.' But maybe more on this tomorrow..