Monday, September 27, 2010

Gangster state

On Friday, on the 'Savik Shuster Live' TV program, former minister of Defence Anatoliy Hrytsenko, who presently heads the Parliamentary National Security and Defence committee, suggested that current Deputy Minister of Defence, Oleksandr Cherpitsky, could be out of a job by the end of the week. Hrytsenko's committee has written to both president Yanukovych and to PM Mykola Azarov demanding his dismissal.

Hrytsenko alleged the SBU, [Security Service of Ukraine] had twice refused Oleksandr Cherpitsky access to state secrets, therefore he was not allowed to attend a recent meeting of his parliamentary committee.

[Incidentally, Oleksandr Cherpitsky's brother, Oleh, was until recently a BYuT deputy but switched loyalties and is now part of the PoR-led ruling parliamentary coalition. Last year he was in the headlines for seriously assaulting a journalist.]

Oleksandr Cherpitsky was appointed deputy Minister of Transport in February this year by the-then PM Yulia Tymoshenko to gain loyalty and support of his sister-in-law i.e. brother Oleh's wife, who was a judge in the Higher Administrative Court. She may have been useful to Tymoshenko when Yulka T. was challenging the result of the presidential elections, having lost to Yanukovych, earlier this year. In the event, the lady judge went 'AWOL' and was of no help.

In April this year, the authorative 'Dzerkaly Tyzhnya', citing official police records, published an article revealing Oleksandr and Oleh Cherpitsky's sinister past.

In 1991 Oleksandr, nickname 'Chepchyk', was a member of a criminal gang 'Kuponshchyky' - and was sought by the police for extortion and other crimes. Two years later he joined the 'Akademiky' gang, and sought refuge in the Czech republic or Slovakia. In 1997 he was placed on an Interpol wanted list and was detained in 1999. In 2001, as member of the 'Vosmynohy' gang, he was linked in police reports to violent robberies.

Many other websites provide lengthy rap sheets for this despicable pair of villains.

Anyhow, perhaps in recognition of his expertise in these fields, newly-elected president Yanukovych quickly appointed brother Oleksandr as Deputy Minister of Defence, and also director of the State Department responsible for "disposal" of surplus land and other military assets. These amount to thousands of vehicles, buildings, many thousands of hectares of land, and most alarmingly, hundreds of tons of weaponry etc. etc.

How may more 'Chepchyks' are are walking through the corridors of power in Ukraine right now, I wonder?

P.s. On the above-mentioned Shuster programme Cherpitsky confronted Hrytsenko and denied that he was ever in jail, or ever associated with such a criminal past. The looks on the faces of most of the guests in the studio suggested otherwise..

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ukrainian soldiers disgrace themselves again..

The current 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' weekly reports that the Ukrainian peace-keepers who are part of the NATO-led KFOR troops in Kosovo, have been involved in a gigantic fuel scam.

In four months in 2009, the 181-strong Ukrainian contingent, equipped with 47 vehicles, used 1,600,000 litres of fuel - over 34,000 litres per vehicle. They claimed each vehicle was driven over 400km every day i.e. about the same distance as the perimeter of Kosovo itself, and their generators were producing almost as much power as all of the generators at HQ KFOR.

KFOR comprises just under 10,000 troops in total.

Ukrainian soldiers also attempted to smuggle 1.5 tons of cigarettes from FYROM. These scams made millions of euros - it is reasonable to assume that it went all of the way to the top of the chain of command.

However, 'Zerkalo Tyzhnya' questions whether Ukraine's Prosecutor General wants to get surprise there then..

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spetznaz in parliament?

On Friday, Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn told journalists that the VR should approve a resolution allowing State Security Service [SBU] and the State Defence Administration [UDO] forces to be employed to maintain order during parliamentary plenary sessions, in direct contravention of the consitutionally approved immunity provided to VR deputies.

Serhiy Leshchenko, comments on this matter in his blog today.

Almost exactly a year ago, when PoR were in opposition and were blocking the VR tribune, speaker Lytvyn declared: " I must tell you that a deputy is immune and you understand very well that no-one is going to introduce bailiffs, spetznaz, or other forces [into parliament]..."

In 2008 the-then PoR opposition and their Communist allies paralyzed the working of parliament for nearly two months. In recent times BYuT have frequently blocked parliament too, but not as many times as PoR.

BYuT deputy Oleh Lyashko doesn't seem to be too worried by Lytvyn's threat. He claims: "It's like trying to frighten a hedgehog with a naked a**hole." Just bravado?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

People are not idiots

Valeriy Portnikov, a well-known independent journalist who frequently appears on Ukrainian television, in an article in Glavred entitled, "Why should we be idiots?", concludes:

"When President Viktor Yanukovych says that he is not aware of any problems with freedom of speech in the country, he takes us for idiots.

When the head of the Presidential Administration [Levochkin] declares he does not understand that there is a problem of conflict of interest when a [prominent] businessman also heads the [Ukrainian Security Service] SBU, and adds that Constitutional rights protect this businessman - he takes us for idiots.

When Levochkin claims that the decline in the Party of Regions' ratings is merely an example of poor work by sociologists, he takes us for idiots. When deputies from the ruling party call journalists who talk of internal squabbles between them slanderers, they take us for idiots.

Why should we be idiots? To make it easier for them to live? So that they can accumulate even more assets, factories, and wealth? A strange explanation for our total stupor. A stupor which they will not await to see in Ukraine."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pensions in the Bermuda Triangle

"Ukraine has agreed to make tough changes to its pensions system as part of a deal to qualify for loans worth $15.15bn from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Under the terms of the deal, Ukraine will introduce a raft of measures to keep people in the workforce for longer, including increasing the retirement age. In the longer term the IMF will work with the Ukranian government to draw up detailed plans for reform." [ Source ]

And yet Ukraine has the second-shortest life expectancy in Europe. One demographer calls Ukraine "a Bermuda triangle for males aged between 40 and 60."

"Donbass" newspaper has been running stories almost daily about rapid increases in the price of foodstuffs and services

Buckwheat, a staple product in the country, has increased in price by up to 70% in a year. Further increases of 10% or more are predicted this month. Officially, speculators are to blame.

[Incidentally, if every country has its own characteristic smell, then IMO Ukraine's is the smell of buckwheat...LEvko]

Over the past two months the price of cheese and other dairy products has risen by 15-20%

Rises of over 8% are predicted in price of bread and pasta, and sunflower oil is set to go up significantly too. Yesterday's 'Donbass' publishes comparison tables showing increases in bread prices in the region.

And bus ticket prices in Donbass are being increased by about 20%

Yesterday's 'Segodnya' reports: "Bread bagettes, meat and butter may become 'elite' products" as these products are removed from lists of items whose prices are regulated by the government.

And there's trouble brewing in Mariupol following Rinat Akhmetov's Metinvest acquision of 75% of Mariupolskiy Metallurgicheskiy kombinat imeni Ilicha (MMK Ilicha)

The current CEO of MMK Ilicha, Voldymyr Boyko, retains 23% of the shares whilst a measly 2% is left for the other shareholders, many of whom are employees and members of the Independent Trade Union at the huge plant. Last Thursday a protest was to be staged directed against Boyko, but on Tuesday four top union activists were detained on, it seems trumped up charges, and their apartments and union offices raided.

Hindering law enforcement agencies from carrying out their duties is a criminal offence in most countries yet Yulia Tymoshenko publicly declared she is protecting former ministers and other highly-placed officials currently on police wanted lists from what she calls political persecution.

With 50% gas price increases and big increases in community charges looming within weeks, it could be a winter of discontent..

p.s. Watching last Friday's 'Shuster Live', the constant barracking by supporters of the ruling coalition of former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and their persistent dismissal of complaints from journalists present in the studio about challenges to free speech in the media, it's pretty clear in which direction democracy is headed in Ukraine, particularly as president Yanukovych recently boasted that Ukraine is like a big automobile...and that today there is only one driver at the wheel.. .

Shuster, at times, was not able to control the studio guests. At one point, at the end of his tether, he seems to lose it: "Gentlemen, you're ruining the country! I've worked with lots of politicians, but I have never seen such a thing [spectacle]! He shouts at one PoR deputy: "You need treatment.."

Tymoshenko may be needing that bag she claims she has already packed for prison if this carries on..

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Only the poor pay taxes

'Segodnya', quoting 'Zerkalo Tyzhnya', runs a story on how Ukrainian VIPs have been allegedly illegally purchasing prestige automobiles from sources in the Israeli embassy in Kyiv.

The vehicles, having a total value of over $3M, were imported under diplomatic cover to avoid heavy import duties and taxes. They include the following models: Bentley Brooklands, Bentley Arnage, Aston Martin DBS, BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz S 65 AMG, Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG, Mercedes-Benz SL 550, Mercedes-Benz S 600 L, Mercedes-Benz CL 550, Lexus ES 330, Lexus LX 470 and Infiniti FX 35 - classy motors indeed..

The alleged crooked purchasers of this pricy metal include the daughter of the current Vice Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko - she went for a Mercedes-Benz SL 550. The Bentley Brooklands was acquired the former Deputy Prime Minister Vitaliy Haiduk, and the Bentley Arnage was bought ex-deputy of the Kyiv city council, Ihor Skosar. The Aston Martin DBS was bought the first deputy head of the Kyiv regional council Yuriy Pavlov, and Luhansk regional council member Serhiy Shakhov favoured a Mercedes-Benz S 600L.

According to an official distributor, about half of all luxury Mercs imported into the country get in 'unofficially'.

The General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs are investigating...will any of the people mentioned above be pulled and charged? Most unlikely..

p.s. Another vehicle fraudster is Stepan Chernovetsky - son of Kyiv mayor Leonid Chernovetsky.

A couple of months ago Stepan acquired a 600 horsepower Porsche Carrera GT supercar- book price just under $ 500K. In order to pay less tax and duty he registered the vehicle as a similar-looking Porsche Carrera S, which costs under $100K. Using this banal deception, he 'has taken' the Ukrainian customs for almost half a million UAH.

A couple of years ago his dad's bank was sold for 500 million euros...

Have the appropriate law-enforcement agencies taken any action? Are you joking?