Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swine flu panic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

Foreign Minister Poroshenko on NATO

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

'Minor' presidential candidates put in good performances on TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Presumption of innocence - what's that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ukrainian way of doing business

Today's London 'Times' reports:

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

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

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ukraine not wanted in EU

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Classic disinformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just how low can you get?

"disinformation - 1955, from Rus. dezinformatsiya"

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What worries Ukes

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

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

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