Friday, December 30, 2011

Corruption scandals of 2011

For those who understand Ukrainian I recommend last Monday's TVi 'Znak Oklyku' round-up-of-the-year programme. Watch it here

Topics include the following resonant scandals, most of which I've written about in my blogs -

The purchase of two deep-sea drilling platforms at twice their proper price via shade offshore companies linked to companies that also provide drug money laundering services...

Yanukovych's opaquely acquired 27,000 hectare Dniprovsko-Teterivske state forestry hunting grounds - now surrounded by high fences, deep moat, control posts complete with hundreds of armed guards..

The never-ending purchase of expensive automobiles, helicopters, luxury train carriages etc. to supplement the president's motor pool..

The construction of expensive and unnecessary helicopter pads up and down the country for the president's use..

The promotion of an allegedly highly corrupt judge, Oleksandr Paseniuk, to the post of Constitutional Court judge - achieved by blatantly corrupt voting of deputies in the Verkhovna Rada. [Paseniuk was the boss of judge Ihor Zvarych who was recently sentenced to many years in prison. Head of the Ivano-Frankivsk Arbitration Court Petro Cherpy admitted he had given Zvarych $150,000, of which $140,000 Zvarych had to pass to Paseniuk, the- then head of the Supreme Administrative Court. .. a good example "Blackmail State", where blackmail is used as an instrument of state control]

And how shady offshore companies who currently rent large tracts of land are using hundreds of students and pensioners as 'pawn's. These are 'bussed' into the countryside in a corrupt 'carousel scheme' to gain options to purchase the much smaller plots into which the land is being divided up, in readiness for yet-to-be-announced privatisation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Political pundits' predictions for 2012

Several days ago emminent journalists and civic leader members of Vitaliy Portnikov's 'Polit Club' talking shop met in a central Kyiv coffee bar for an "end-of-year report/forecast-for-next-year" session .

Two-hour video of the event here

Increasing numbers of protests were predicted in the New Year. Ominously, there are reports that the salaries of some state employees in Kyiv are already slipping in arrears.

The arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, the most significant event of 2011, became a wake-up call not only for politicians and public figures, but also for the oligarchs. A precedent has been set - her fate could be suffered by anyone, so even the richest in the country cannot feel 100% safe.

There was general agreement that inevitably, significant fraud will take place in next Autumn's parliamentary elections because the ratings of the current government [as well as that of Yanukovych himself] have dropped to worryingly low levels. Nevertheless, the competitve nature of Ukrainian politics, which Yanukovych will not be able to modify or destroy, will sooner or later force him out of power.

Like it or not, because of lack of refoms, Ukraine remains very much a part of the post-Soviet space. Recent events in Russia indicate that a lack of perspective for the future coupled with a desire for change is driving the most active members of society onto the streets. Protesters realise that without change disaster awaits and the current state structure is simply not sustainable. Despite its massive resources Russia has not been able to avoid social discontent so the likelyhood of such events taking place in Ukraine, which is in a far worse economic situation, is much greater. Economic turmoil in Europe and high cost of gas imports will only increase Ukraine's woes.

Predicted political chaos will take place when the authorities run out of money; but out of this chaos, hopefully, and new political elite may be formed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Corruption and Authoritarianism

Below is a precis of Vitaly Portnikov's latest blog in 'Korrespondent'

After last week's failure to initial the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, Viktor Yanukovych has tried to put on a brave face on this foreign policy debacle.

Initialing the text of the documents may eventually take place in the months to come, but signing and ratification of the agreement by the parliaments of EU countries members in the current circumstances is just a pipe dream.

Clear conditions have been set by the EU in order to move the Ukraine's Euro-integration forward.

Not only does there have to be a stop the judicial system being used to prosecute the president's main political rivals, but the next elections have to be seen to be fair.

Fair elections in this context means unfettered participation by the opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. This is not just about the decriminalization of articles used to convict her, but about the creation of conditions under which her name can appear in the ballot. And, of course, the government has to ensure voting and counting procedures are 'squeaky clean'.

Given that preparations for falisification are now in full swing, [without them the current ruling coterie cannot retain their power and income] further integration with the European Union can be put back for several years, if not forever.

The summit which has just taken place illustrates what happens when government agencies and institutions exist, but the state itself is absent. There is a president, but he is not really concerned with the public interest, only with his own well-being, residences, hunting lodges, helicopters, and his sons' success.

There is a government, but it comprises billionaires who are concerned only about their own security and the prosperity of their businesses. Most of the deputies in parliament share the same concerns so parliament's role is not to legislate, but exists for other purposes. There are courts, but no-one would turn to them in the hope of a fair decision. Law enforcement agencies exist but their aim is to fulfill the wishes of those in power or to provide cover for groups related to them. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can prepare agreements with foreign counterparts, but their diplomatic work is frequently in vain because of insurmountable political obstacles.

The state should primarily be about values and social control over its agencies and institutions. Neither one nor the other is apparent in Ukrainian society. That is why Ukrainian citizens continue to vote for 'big chiefs', not political ideals and economic programs - and when they become disenchanted with them they feverishly search for new messiahs.

That is why very few people in Ukraine, from the President down to an ordinary citizen, can understand what these pernickety Europeans want from them.

To release Tymoshenko? What do they want her for? - It is costing them closer ties with Ukraine. Surely it is not worth pushing Yanukovych into Russian arms for her? And was the Ukrainian judicial system less politically dependent and corrupt before the arrest Tymoshenko ? These are the questions being asked by authors of internet blogs, by opposition politicians, and propagandists for the power structures. And just setting these questions demonstrates the extent of their non-Europeaness.

There is no doubt, corruption exists in the judiciary in many countries; their dependence on the authorities can be seen in some of the new members of the European Union.

But it is quite another thing when this relationship is used to clear the political field of battle and establish an authoritarian regime. Whatever anyone may say, this is the first time this has happened in Ukraine.

Neither Tymoshenko at the time of her first arrest in 2001, nor Boris Kolesnikov nor Yevgen Kushnaryov in 2005 were leading political figures. Their detentions could give rise to resentment or excuses could be made for them, but it did not fundamentally change the situation in the country. That is why the West reacted cautiously to the arrests of officials which began after Yanukovych came to power, and even to the arrest of Yuriy Lutsenko.

But Tymoshenko's arrest changed everything because it became obvious the main intention of the new President was to deprive the people of the very possibility of choice, to remove from politics the person receiving roughly the same number of votes as himself in the last presidential elections.

This intent is what distinguishes corruption from authoritarianism; and also distinguishes Europe from the former Soviet Union, the methods and principles of which have returned in contemporary Ukraine.

LEvko's comment: The EU was created was to ensure authoritarian regimes led by dictators such as Hitler, Franco, Ceauşescu, Honecker etc. etc. would never be seen again in Europe.

You get elected, put in a shift running the country, then move on. After this it is someone else's turn. If you are in opposition law enforcement agencies and judiciary are not be used to keep you out of power. And once out of power your are not arrested for political decisions that you made.

This is a non negotiable core value in the EU - hence their reaction to Tymoshenko's treatment.

p.s. Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, the European Commission’s Ambassador to Ukraine, recently claimed he had been invited to take part in the widely viewed 'Shuster Live' programme on 14th October, but the invitation was 'pulled' at the last moment. Shuster at that time offered Pinto Teixeira an opportunity to appear on his programme in late December, after the EU-Ukraine summit. A TV appearance by the top EU man in Kyiv would seem entirely appropriate in the current circumstances, but to date, Pinto Teixeira has yet to appear on the show..

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, probably the most popular opposition politician not in custody, has been repeatedly denied access to the 'Shuster Live' show..

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interference and threats from Yanukovych

At his end-of-year press conference today, president Yanukovych commented on the Tymoshenko investigation thus:

"I warned all those ['vykovavtsi'] involved - there was a special meeting - I warned them: you should know that society, the public, experts will be looking at this matter under a microscope..if you break the law you will be held responsible, possibly criminally responsible."

"If there is an investigation [into the Tymoshenko case] - there should be court trial, to dot the i's, as they say."

"I never would never wish to exchange [or switch] investigators or judges. I know what this is. I never, never did this and will never do this..

"I cannot interfere in investigative acts or the work of the legal system, and I advice journalists not to do so."

By calling the "special meeting" did he interfere in due legal process? Who attended? Prosecutors? Investigators? Judiciary? All of them or just some of them?" Was the meeting minuted?

Because the trial was assessed by almost all western observers as a legal shambles, will the 'vykovavtsi' be 'dealt with' by Yanukovych for the embarassment and damage they have caused to the country's reputation?

Is he admitting that he pressurised 'vykonavtsi' to stage a trial even if the investigator's evidence against Tymoshenko was unconvincing?

Or is this merely a slip - an unintentional admission he threatened 'vykonavtsi' at this 'special meeting' to: "Lock her up - do it cleanly - or I will lock you up.."?

The last of these may be the most likely. In a sneering response to a question at the press conference from 'Ukrainska Pravda' journalist Mustafa Nayem on the president's expensive rented helicopter and Mezhyhirya' residence and on connections between the companies who run them and his son, Yanukovych threatened the questioner: "What kind of a sweet life are you talking about, I do not know, and [you] discuss the topic of my family. I want to tell you.. I do not envy you..."

Chuckling, after a pause he added: "Me and you, we know each other well, understand one another. [On] the other thing, you can come to your own conclusion.." [Ostalnoye dodumayte sami..]

Havrysh's gloomy prognosis

Several days ago seasoned Ukrainian politician Stepan Havrysh was interviewed on 'Radio Svoboda'.

Until last month he was Deputy Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, which was all but neutralised by Yanukovych after he was elected president.

Havrych has been around the top politicos for many years, and although he is now out of favour with Yanuk, he opinions are nevertheless worth listening to.

Here is one portion of his interview:

R.S. How realistic will it be for the authorities to keep the socio-economic situation under control until the next elections, taking account of the second wave of the [global] crisis and problems connected to the price of Russian gas?

S.H. - There are dry and not very encouraging statistics. Our current external debt (public and private) is about $135 billion, our budget deficit - more than $30 billion. External debt - which we need to return next year, is almost $ 7 billion. Clearly, in these conditions, without external borrowing, which we are unable to do [we have a problem]. And [as] the IMF has ceased cooperating with Ukraine, this is obvious. The World Bank under these circumstances will not give any money - [and] will not help.

In 2008 there were 17 Western banks which had 40% of the banking system assets working in Ukraine. Today, most of them have left Ukraine, and capital repatriation by foreign investors continues. Notice that Euro 2012 has not attracted major European or American or Chinese investors to Ukraine. Privatization on which we rely takes place between a handful of groups who [deliberately] devalue these assets.. -

R.S. What could be way out of this situation? A change of government? Or a handover of the gas transportation system?

S.H. We stand between the surrender of key assets, and technical default. - One solution really could be selling off of the gas transport system, ie, key assets. And this solution I think, is being actively discussed by the government. The resignation of the government will give only temporary political respite, for 2-3 months, not more. The new government can do nothing without external borrowing, without significant reforms which do not exist ... We stand between surrender of key assets and the technical default of the state.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

PACE calls for charges against former Ukrainian gov't members to be dropped

"The functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine" -

Draft resolution adopted unanimously on 15 December 2011 by the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe .

"1. The Parliamentary Assembly expresses its concern with regard to the criminal proceedings initiated under Articles 364 (abuse of office) and 365 (exceeding official powers) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine against a number of former government members, including against former Minister of the Interior, Mr JuriyLutsenko, former Acting Minister of Defence, Mr Valeriy Ivashchenko, former first Deputy Minister of Justice,Mr Yevhen Korniychuk, as well as former Prime Minister, Ms Yulia Tymoshenko.

2. The Assembly considers that Articles 364 and 365 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code are overly broad inapplication and effectively allow for post-facto criminalisation of normal political decision-making. This runs counter to the principle of the rule of law and is unacceptable. The Assembly therefore urges the authorities promptly to remove these two articles from the Criminal Code and for the charges against former government officials which are based on these provisions to be dropped. The Assembly wishes to emphasise that the assessment of political decisions and their effects is the prerogative of parliaments, and ultimately of the electorate, and not of the courts. It considers that that strict international standards delimitating political and criminal responsibility need to be developed.

3. The Assembly regrets the numerous shortcomings noted in the trials against former government members and considers that they may have undermined the possibility for the defendants to obtain a fair trial within the meaning of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights."

Etc. Etc

EU will not accept authoritarianism

I really liked Vitaliy Portnikov's comments on Monday's non initialling of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement posted on the Radio Svoboda site.

I've loosely translated some bits of it here:

"At today's meeting between President of Ukraine Yanukovych and EU officials what happened is what should have happened: i.e. nothing. No initialling of any Association Agreement with the EU, and no kind of free trade zone.

The real sensation would have been the refusal of Europeans to deviate from their basic principles, their willingness to solemnly initial an agreement with a country whose leaders are carefully constructing an authoritarian Lukashenkovite regime. But the expectation of some kind of diplomatic miracle was in reality a test of morality, not only for the Ukrainian authorities, but also for the Ukrainian opposition, many of whom were calling for continuing European integration in spite of "some case against Tymoshenko"; as if it was not crystal clear that to use judicial levers to settle political accounts would inevitably cast the country far from Europe.

This was a test for many civic activists who presented the same slogans and argued that the way to "educate" Yanukovych was through Europe.

This was a test for Ukrainian journalists who readily repeated and maintained such irresponsible statements. And the results of the test showed that Ukraine has no place either in Europe or next to it, and that the country has returned back to the past.

The country has returned to the past because its society and elite are devoid of moral values or any ability to resist authoritarianism. That's why Yanukovych has been successful. Tha is why Tymoshenko in jail. And if tomorrow Yatseniuk or Klitschko were to wind up in jail what would happen? Nothing. People will get agitated on the internet - and then benignly calm down.

No technical problems existed in the signing of these agreements with the EU. The only one
problem was a moral one. The problem was created by Yanukovych, but Ukrainians could solve it very easily. Had as many people gathered under the court walls as had gathered for the tax demonstrations in the capital the Ukrainian President would personally have come to release the opposition leader, and an obedient pseudo-parliament would have adopted all the necessary changes in the Penal Code.

The authorities spit on Brussels and on Moscow. They are afraid only of their own citizens. Ukrainians have merely explained to one other that they are "not for Yulia," and this is "not their war". That "those at the top are all the same". Even supporters of Tymoshenko are more comfortable holding talks in the presidential administration than addressing public meetings.

And no one wants to understand that all this is not about Tymoshenko. It's about the Soviet judicial system - about authoritarianism.That is a barrier that has descended on Ukraine's path to the civilized world. And the barrier has been lowered not in front of Yanukovych, it has been lowered before all Ukrainians. And has been lowered deservedly ."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zero confidence in Ukrainian health service

Yulia Tymoshenko was recently filmed without her permission in a hospital prison cell while she was visited and examined by white-coated, highly-placed health service officials. The crude and distasteful piece of video 'pokazukha' was leaked and can be seen on Youtube. It shows the former PM being held in what in most West European countries resembles a normal prison cell.

She had been moved there for medical treatment as the result of pressure from European politicians. The Lithuanian president had shamed president Yanukovych into ensuring his political arch-rival had proper medical provision and was provided with what he himself called 'current European standard' prison conditions.

The state of the cell where she had been held before this, during and after her trial are not clear, but it seems it has since been 'tarted up'.

The true opinion of the president were perhaps exposed on the 'Shuster Live' broadcast last Friday by National Security and Defence Council Advisor, Valeriy Ivasyuk who said:"Yulia Tymoshenko's lawyers are exploiting the state of health of Yulia Tymoshenko in a completely unqualified and shameless manner to somehow influence the criminal process of review of the deeds committed by Tymoshenko as former Prime Minister."

He added: "Thousands of people detained inside prisons without air conditioners, and excuse me, with open stool toilets, are dying every day. Why should Tymoshenko benefit from other conditions in prison just because of her previous position?"

Was he really suggesting with this loose comment that Tymoshenko should be locked away in a medieval dungeon in the hope she dies there? LEvko thinks he was - the word sadistic again springs to mind.

The topic of the 'Shuster Live' programme was the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. Most of the questions to the guests present, including Minister of Health Oleksandr Anishchenko, concerned schemes for public procurement of medicines which are generally considered highly corrupt.

At the end of the show the audience were asked whether they believed the government would now be taking [positive] measures in the fight against tuberculosis. Astonishingly, 100% of the audience responded negatively. Not one member of the large audience showed any confidence the authorities would do anything to alleviate the problem of TB in Ukraine.

Ukrainian state healthcare is a dead duck..

p.s. Foreign minister Konstatnyn Hryshchenko, on last Friday's Yevgeniy Kiselov's talk show looked as if he had sh*t his impression is he knows what a national disaster Monday's non initialling of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will turn out to be, and he will be soon be getting the sack...He is probably clearing his office desk - and siphoning gasoline out of the company automobile already...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

High farce [and fence] at Kyiv Court of Appeals

One of Yulia Tymoshenko's main defence attourneys, Mykola Siriy, was today prevented from entering the Kyiv Court of Appeals building where an appeal lodged by Tymoshenko against the verdict on the Russian gas supply contract case was being considered.

The former PM did not attend the hearing because of ill health. BYuT fraction parliamentary deputies were also denied admission despite their constitutional right as deputies, to do so.

Later, Siriy told journalists: "Five minutes before the hearing [was due to begin] I was not allowed to enter, [and] none of the police officers could explain anything. The only way I could participate in court proceedings was to climb over the fence. 'Berkut' special forces began pulling me off whilst the deputies helped me. They wouldn't let me get off on the other side so I had to jump. But the main thing here was not the "flight" of attourney Siriy, [see photo] but rather the closed nature of the trial".

Also about 1:40 minutes into this video.

He added that, fortunately, he did not suffer any injury, and almost immediately after jumping the fence he went into the court hearing.

This appeal hearing will be as farcical as Tymoshenko's trial earlier this year.

Yesterday I blogged about the Ukraine's Minister of Justice 'swanning around' in a Mercedes SUV stolen in Germany by a gang of smugglers. Today, a distinguished lawyer is seen jumping over a high court fence. No wonder the country is considered to be a joke..

p.s. The next session of the Kyiv Court of Appeal is scheduled for...20th December...the day after the Ukraine-EU summit, when, most likely, the Association Agreement will not be initialled. Some kind of fig-leaf 'agreement' will be offered up to avoid complete fiasco..

Everybody knows ratification by European parliaments is improbable for years.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ukraine's Minister of Justice and a 'stolen' Merc

Big-selling German popular newspapers have recently been running a story about Ukrainian Justice Minister Oleksandr Lavrynovych and his top-of the range Mercedes GL 420 SUV - that was reported stolen in Germany in January 2010.

The vehicle is currently being sought by Interpol as part of a wider investigation into criminal racketeering.

Lavrynovych is a stooge of Yanukovych whose star is now in the ascendant following Yuliya Tymoshenko's trial and imprisonment.

The scandal in which his is embroiled came to light as a result of a feud between Lavrynovych and PoR parliamentary deputy Valeriy Konovalyuk.

Konovalyuk 'ratted' on him to Interpol after they had tangled over a shady business deal involving a German company and the supply of state-of-the-art ID cards and other documents. Well over $100 million from state funds may have 'gone adrift'.

German authorities claim huge numbers of vehicles are stolen to order in their country every year for customers in Eastern Europe. If they are intercepted and impounded at the Ukrainian border, instead of being returned to their rightful owners, Ukrainian courts 'legalise' their theft by impounding them and allowing them to be 'passed on' to the 'right people' - like Lavrynovych.
On 14 April 2011, the Ukraine's traffic police registered the Mercedes in question as the property of the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile members of the criminal car-smuggling gang who stole Lavrynovych's merc have been sentenced to five and nine years in prison in Germany..

[Nice photo of Lavrynovych - [that's L-a-v-r-y-n-o-v-c-h] at this link just make sure all western law enforcement agencies 'clock' him]. And a photo of him getting out of his 'panzer wagon' here ]

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Preparing for the worst?

German ambassador to Kyiv Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth posted a significant article in today's 'Ukrainska Pravda'

Here are a few quotes:

"Today the EU finds itself before the question - Will it be possible to conclude an Association Agreement with Ukraine before the end of the year..and this at a moment when serious doubts have sprung up in the EU whether the Ukrainian leadership is truly sincere in its statements on European integration? Doubts are growing daily...

Trials and increased application of arrests of former members of government, are just the tip of the iceberg...other concerns are daily being added: pressure on enterprises from security organs, searches of lawyers' offices, pre-trial detentions, fabricated trials, placement of loyalists into all possible positions etc.

Germany and its partners cannot close its eyes to the development of such events.

All the major political forces in Ukraine wish to conclude an Association Agreement. But those who know the European Union can see that desire itself is not enough to open the way to an Agreement...

If the leadership of Ukraine continually treats with contempt the concerns of the EU and leading European politicians then the country cannot count on success in the EU. This applies both to Kyiv and to other European capitals.

Only after the decision of the Council of Ministers, that is by a consensus of all members of the European Union, will it be ready to sign the Association Agreement and implement procedures for ratification in its parliaments.

For this [to happen] there should again be a dominant conviction that Ukraine is really striding along the path of European integration. And there should be clear steps [made] in this direction.
Every Ukrainian should understand: the path to the EU along which Ukraine will either set out or not set out, entirely and totally depends on the Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian people.
If the Association Agreement won't be signed, the reasons for this should be sought in Ukraine and in the political authorities."

It all sounds like groundwork for failure..

But Yanukovych is doing his utmost to achieve failure too.

Ukrainian parliamentary ombudsman Nina Karpacheva declared yesterday's grotesque 12 hour court session in Yulia Tymoshenko's prison cell, complete with judge in robes, prosecutors and bodyguards was not in accordance with Ukrainian law. "Today any out-of-court session, especially in a investigative isolator cell is a brutal transgession of state law, and point 1 of article 5 of the European convention of human rights." Tymoshenko has been bed-bound for several weeks with a serious spinal condition. European observers have been aghast at such barbaric behaviour too.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

EPP Congress Resolution on Ukraine

EPP Emergency Resolution on Ukraine here

"should any essential and fundamental principle of the Association Agreement be ignored or violated by Ukraine, the EU should develop a mechanism for a temporary suspension of the whole AA"

Will these be just bits of paper?

Because of their inability and impotence in dealing with the looming Euro crisis, the EU may act firmly on Ukraine in order to show they can still 'mix it' and still have 'b*lls. Events in Moscow only encourage such action.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tymoshenko remains centre-stage..

This was the order of speakers at today's session of the 20th European People's Party Congress in Marseilles :-

-EPP President/Président du PPE Wilfried Martens
-Prime Minister of France/Premier ministre de la France François Fillon
-Ms./Madame Eugenia Carr-Tymoshenko....

Eugenia Carr-Tymoshenko received a standing ovation for her speech which included a call for sanctions to be applied to members of the Yanukovych regime...[Congress proceedings were streamed live... ]

According to today's 'Deutsche Welle', German experts doubt that the Association Agreement will be signed at the Ukraine-EU December summit.

"[Human] Rights violations in the Tymoshenko trial haves led to a number of EU countries to now being opposed to signing of the Association Agreement with Ukraine. Experts spoke of this at a [recent] conference in Berlin."

In response, a Kyiv court ruled fresh court proceedings could take place directly in the "investigative isolator" cell where Tymoshenko is imprisoned. She is currently bedridden - suffering from a ruptured disc in her spine - too ill to be transported to a courthouse.
[Deputy prosecutor general Renat Kuzmin claims the conditions in her cell are better than in a hotel room. More from f.n. on this horrible man and his boss Pshonka here]

Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Nina Karpachova called the situation "unacceptable" and contrary to European norms and conventions..

What are these sadists trying to prove? They are rational politicians so it is reasonable to assume this premeditated, dare I say medieval behaviour is a signal by the authorities.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

British Ambassador's clear message

I really liked British Ambassador to Kyiv's recent brief, pertinent speech in Donetsk.

Read it here

"....That is why the UK and other EU member states have made clear that, unless opposition leaders imprisoned as the result of flawed trials are freed from detention and able to take part in political activity, it is unlikely that EU member states will sign and ratify the Association Agreement and DCFTA.

If this situation persists, and Ukraine is unable to reap the immense benefits of the Association Agreement and DCFTA, this will be a catastrophe for Ukraine.

Rather than being on a steady path towards greater European integration, the country will risk being stranded in a grey zone between the EU and the former Soviet Union.

It doesn’t have to be like this"

But maybe Yanuk and co. think being in the grey zone is o.k.?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Investigative journalist exposing Ukrainian corruption receives award

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about 'Ukrainska Pravda's' exposure of corrupt links between First Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuyev and president Yanukovych himself.

Their articles reveal how First Vice Prime Minister Klyuyev allocated state aid from the Ukrainian budget for the benefit of his Austrian-registered 'Activ Solar' business.

The final owner of the Viennese 'Activ Solar' is a Liechtenstein-registered trust that is the nominal owner of Yanukovych's 'Mezhyhirya' palace and also owner of his extensive hunting grounds and lodges in Sukholuchchi near Kyiv.

Several days ago one of 'U.P's authors, Serhiy Leshchenko, received a prestigious award from the Polish Reporter's Foundation, in the presence of the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski, for his work.

Leshchenko, in his blog, informs readers that well-known shit-stirrer Mykhalo Brodsky, who now works for Kluyev, has started a cheapo campaign of invective to discredit him and other 'U.P.' reporters..

Naturally Brodsky does not challenge any of the solid evidence produced in the 'U.P' story - is this because the award-winning piece of journalism is all true?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Yanukovych's attitude to life's unfortunates exposed

From today's 'Independent':

Elton John: On the streets with Ukraine's lost generation

A mixture of intolerance and opportunism threatens to deprive Kiev of the one institution that offers hope to its thousands of young people with HIV

"a searing indictment of President Viktor Yanukovych's attitude to the disease and its victims..."

p.s. Before countries like Ukraine can join the European Union they have to prove certain things: They must show that they treat their people fairly, respect their human rights. and allow them to vote in elections for the politicians they support. They must show their economies are properly run, i.e. their government is sensible about the amount of money it spends and does not interfere too much in the way people do business.

The failure of President Yanukovych and his government to convincingly satisfy the first demand, precisely at a time when they should be "on their best behaviour", is the reason why some of the EU's leaders are reluctant to initial Association and Free Trade agreements at the EU-Ukraine summit on December 19.

If initialling does take place, Yanukovych's conviction that the EU is not really serious about European values will be confirmed. Oppression of opposition politicians, roll-back of democracy, concentration of power in the hands of a tight-knit band of his Donetsk associates will inevitably grow.

If some EU countries are sceptical about the desire of Ukraine to improve its performance on human and political rights or on battling corruption, or if they do not wish Ukraine to become a member of the EU in the foreseeable future for whatever reason, they should 'come clean' on this and stop wasting everybody's time.

In truth, the problem of Ukraine is as nothing for Europe's politicians compared with the massive looming financial crisis in the Eurozone. Its repercussions will almost totally occupy the minds of EU politicians for many years to come.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apalling treatment of Chernobyl clean-up veterans continues

One measure of a civilised society is how it treats its elderly, infirm or disabled citizens, particulary those who have served their communities with distinction.

In my previous blog I described how on Sunday law enforment officials stormed and tried to disperse a small tented protest camp in the centre of Donetsk. The 30 or so relatively elderly camp participants had worked on the clean-up after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. Some of those still alive had been staging a hunger strike since mid-November demanding better pensions. One of the protesters was killed during the police action.

'Unian' reports on how they continue to be scandalously treated. I've loosely translated some portions of their article:

Chernobyl protesters taken by ambulance straight from courtroom

Several protesting Chornobyl invalids are being tried in the Donetsk district administrative court. One of them, the head of the Donetsk Regional Organisation of Chernobyl Disaster Invalids, Nikolai Goncharov, was taken ill and driven away by ambulance.

Donetsk human rights activist Maria Oliynyk said that today, at 15.00, a clerk of the court came to the hunger-striking protesters' camp near the regional Pension Fund offices and handed a subpoena to the protesters ordering them to appear before the court at 16.00. The summons was filed by the State Executive Service.

About 20 disabled Chernobyl led by Goncharov came to court at the allotted time, but were forced to wait until 18.04 for the court hearing to commence.

Goncharov told the court that he was not familiar with the contents of today's subpoena, and said he had still not been handed the ruling of the Donetsk Regional Administrative Court of 23 November prohibiting of their protest action.

He also filed a motion requesting the court adjourn the hearing to a daytime session on any other day, as the current hearing only began after a two hours of delay, at the end of a normal court session. In addition, Goncharov asked for a postponement to the evening hearing because Chernobyl hunger strikers came to court without any lawyer council or lawyer. The court rejected their appeal.

According to M. Oliynyk, Goncharov was taken ill in court, and an ambulance was called.
The human rights activist said that the court would have continued to the hearing but was forced to declare a half-hour break, because the state plaintiffs had not provided the necessary documents referred to in his lawsuit.

Oliynyk described this court trial as: "Cruel maltreatment of the disabled. Bandit norms operate in Donetsk, where courts somehow sit at night. That's how it was when they ruled to prohibit the mass celebration of Independence Day on the streets, when they prohibited all protests, allegedly in connection with the threat of terrorist attack. And the current hearing is also taking place in the dark, " said the human rights activist.

Later another protesting Chernobyl invalid was also taken away by ambulance.

"This is inhuman, brutal treatment of disabled people who had to wait a long time, standing against a wall in the courtroom," said witnesses to the event.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yanukovych blunders on...

Yesterday law enforment officials stormed and dispersed a small tented protest camp in the centre of Donetsk. The 30 or so relatively elderly camp participants had worked on the clean-up after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. They had been staging a hunger strike since mid-November demanding better pensions.

Tragically one of them, 70-year-old Hennadiy Konoplyov, died during the camp dispersal operation. The circumstances of his death are not clear but witnesses say a number of 'heavies' burst into their tent, doused their stove with water, then toppled the tents. The victim may have been trampled, or may have suffered a heart attack as a result of inhaling noxious fumes .

Check out this report entitled "Is this the saddest Occupy in the world? Desperate Chernobyl survivors huddle in one tent in protest against pensions", from the popular British 'Daily Mail' newspaper.

Iryna Stohrin, in her 'RadioSvoboda' blog exposes the cynical hypocrisy of Yanukovych and his thuggish 'sylovyky'.

In April 2005 the Kyiv City Council obtained an injunction banning a pro-Yanukovych tent protest [he was then in opposition] which was taking place in a central Kyiv park. The camp comprised about 150 tents and was causing great inconvenience to the park's regular users. The court's decision was ignored...

In April 2007 Party of Regions and its political supporters set up a large 'tent city' with military-style tents capable of housing many hundreds of demonstrators in Independence Square in the centre of Kyiv. Yanukovych himself visited and addressed the meetings which were held there. [Check out video at the 'RadioSvoboda' link above.] No-one interfered with this protest despite major damage caused to the Square's infrastructure.

Now Yanukovych is in power normal rules do not apply.

At a joint press conference with Polish president Komorowski, the Ukrainian president said: "I have recently heard a lot of comments from the lawyers of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko regarding Tymoshenko's detention in prison, and I have given instructions to all agencies that are dealing with this issue to create the conditions that are currently envisaged at the European level. The issue concerns medical treatment, examination and detention."

What I suppose he meant to say was "...I have given instructions to all agencies dealing with this issue to create conditions for Tymoshenko that are up to current European standards .."

Is it fair to assume, therefore that had Yanukovych's visitor, president Komorowski, not raised this issue, that twice-PM Tymoshenko, arguably the most famous Ukrainian in the world, would still subjected to maltreatment?

Does not all of the above only confirm the opinion some Europeans already have about the Ukrainian authorities? [see previous blog]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is sadistic too strong a word?

I wrote several days ago about the brutal treatment which Yulia Tymoshenko is being subjected to whilst detained in a Kyiv 'SIzo' [Investigative Isolator]. This is a pre-trial isolation unit where prisoners since Tsarist times have been held until they "confessed"... were tried...sentenced..sent to Siberia...executed...etc. Get the general idea?

After being bedridden for about two weeks, she was visited last week by Nina Karpachova, the Ukrainian Parliament Ombudswoman and Commissioner for Human Rights. Karpachova later called the former PM's condition 'extremely serious'.

Early Wednesday morning Tymoshenko was whisked off to a Kyiv hospital were a scan and other examination procedures were conducted.

A report on the reputable 'Radio Svoboda' site quotes a witness who says Tymoshenko was maltreated during this visit. Her head was covered over and even though she could not walk unaided she was not put into a wheelchair but was dragged along.

Hospital administrators had previously cleared medical staff from the corridors so that as few as possible could see what was going on. Staff were warned and threatened with dismissal if they dared to leak any information about what had occurred. Naturally, many of the hospital staff were very distressed by all of this. Other BYuT deputies have since received similar reports from other hospital staff.

Tymoshenko was diagnosed as suffering from a herniated disc - a serious back condition which frequently causes severe back and leg pain. Specialist treatment is normally prescribed.

Question: What purpose does the maltreatment of such a prominent figure serve, particularly when there is world-wide interest in this case?

Answer: To satisfy sadistic urges and to deter the others...

p.s. Those responsible for her maltreatment will say: Well, we offered her a way out, a one-way ticket abroad before her trial and detention...if she was foolish enough to turn it down she only has herself to blame...she knew what to expect...

Foolish...or brave?

p.p.s. Werner Schulz, a German MEP, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Parliamentary Committee on EU-Ukraine co-operation, in a recent article in 'Berliner Zeitung' entitled: 'An immoral proposal', claims Yanukovych offered to free Tymoshenko in exchange for either a €400 million "ransom" [the losses allegedly incurred by Ukraine as a result of Tymoshenko's gas deal], or for a solid EU accession perspective. Another reason for 'turning the screw' on Yu.T?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Intrigue on the chessboard

On Wednesday, reports appeared in some media that president Yanokovych was going to be in Moscow on December 19th rather than in Kyiv where, on that same date, the EU-Ukraine summit is to take place.

A few hours later the European Union's Delegation to Ukraine said that the EU-Ukraine summit hasn't been cancelled at all and was still scheduled for Dec.19th.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said they knew nothing about the participation of Yanukovych at any meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community Council on that day either.

It seemed that not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Rumours immediately appeared that the president's administration had deliberately put the story out to torpedo the EU-Ukraine summit, or at least to indicate that Yanukovych was not going to 'fall over on his back with his feet in the air' for sake of the Europeans. [What a horrible thought..]

Polish and other European media, without waiting for explanations saw this as an indication that Yanukovych was turning away from the EU and heading north.

Later that evening Hanna Herman, who's job it is to explain away her boss's gaffes, appeared on TV, declaring:

"We have to take into account the fact that right now we are at a critical point in Ukraine's negotiations with the EU and the Russian Federation. And it sometimes happens that in such cases it is necessary to make unexpected moves on the diplomatic chessboard. And sometimes one cannot, or should not explain them...How should all of this be perceived by society? We just have to trust the president. To believe that he is doing everything possible to gain the best possible terms for their country, and that the president will make a step in the direction that best suits the national interests of Ukraine," assured Herman.

[Yanukovych's trust rating, incidentally, is currently about 20%, i.e. 80% do not trust him]

On Thursday Yanukovych took a similar line. When asked by journalists in Sumy whether he will be going to Moscow on 19th December, he cryptically replied:

"..The intrigues spread by politicians, we have become accustomed to them, and this is no surprise for me. I did not give any information where I will be on the 19th. I will be where I need to be."

So who is playing games here? How can these comments be perceived as anything other than negative by European leaders?

p.s. It is not wise to make too many unexpected moves whilst playing chess - your pieces can sometimes drop over the edge of the board...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Demonstratively brutal treatment of Tymoshenko continues

I liked this blog from well-known journalist Viktoria Syumar in 'Ukrainska Pravda'.

She describes the conditions in which self-confessed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is currently being held. He is accused of shooting dead 70 young people on a Norwegian island earlier this year.

The prison where his incarcerated has private individual rooms, a state of the art gymnasium, a jogging trail through the silvan prison grounds, interview rooms, well stocked library, CD's etc. etc. Berivik has his own room and bathroom, and can use all of the prison's facilities.

Syumar compares this to the current predicament of former PM Yulia Tymoshenko who was sentenced to seven years in jail having signed an intergovernmental agreement without the approval of her cabinet [which she almost certainly would have received in any case].

Anders Behring Breivik has every opportunity to prepare himself for trial, and can relax and exercise in order to keep fit and healthy.

After being bedridden for over two weeks Tymoshenko was woken up at 5 a.m. today, driven to hospital for examination [an MRI scan and X-ray], then swiftly returned, according to some reports, on a stretcher. An official prison statement was released: " life-threatening pathological changes were indicated..and the condition of her health permits necessary investigations [by tax investigators] to continue..

Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka added: "There is no diagnosis that would threaten the life of Tymoshenko, and that means we can continue investigative actions."

In other words, she may be sick and bedridden, but because her life is not in danger, we do what we like..

All of this is far removed from publicly declared statements by Ukraine's politicians of matching European standards, humanistic principles and so on.

"Why is it that those people with power and money at the head of the state machine behave in this way towards a sick woman over whose fate the world is anxiously watching - familiarising itself with the savageness of Ukrainian reality?" asks Syumar.

She concludes: "Yes, they [the authorities] are afraid. But, by carefully hiding their own fear they are trying to impose fear on us. Who wants to be in opposition? Who wants to become a viable alternative? If you do, the same could happen to you...Hence the irrational and demonstrative cruelty. Human dignity does not enter into their calculations. It is the task of anyone who wants to preserve their own dignity to demand an end to the bullying of Tymoshenko, to make a change in the system, to change the system itself."

Your blogger would add that there is cynical calculation here too. Support for Tymoshenko has been muted inside the country - demonstrations have been thinly attended. They can get away with it. But why the hurry with the current investigations? She is not going anywhere for a while is she?

And a message for what Yanukovych considers as interfering, Western politicians too. We do what we like in our own muck heap. We don't care for your soft liberal values..we prefer the strong fist...this is all he knows..

Tymoshenko's condition shames Yanukovych and Azarov to action

On November 9th it was reported that Yulia Tymoshenko could not move independently or get out of bed because of back problems. State Tax Service investigators continued to question her despite her physical condition. Defence attorneys were denied access because Tymoshenko was unable to leave her cell. There had been reports several days earlier that Tymoshenko was bed-ridden and that her body was covered in large bruises.

On November 14th First Deputy Minister of Health Raisa Moiseenko declared the former prime minister did not require hospitalisation and was prescribed treatment inside the prison. After examination by Ministry of Health officials "medical contra-indications preventing questioning of Yulia Tymoshenko in prison were not found". Prison authorities claimed Tymoshenko had systematically refused to be examined by their in-house medical practitioners, but that necessary treatment was nevertheless being provided.

Despite all of this, last week a Ministry of Health Commission recommended Yulia Tymoshenko undergo diagnostic magnetic resonance scanning in hospital. However, such an examination, according Minister of Health Olexander Anischenko, could only be approved by court decision - i.e. everyone was pointing the finger everyone else [Without a signal from 'vozhd' nothing happens, right?]

Last Sunday Ukrainian human rights ombudsman Nina Karpachova visited Tymoshenko in prison. On Monday, in a TV interview, she called Tymoshenko's condition: "extremely serious" and said she had lost 5-7 kg in weight.

Rather ominously, Tuesday's 'Segodnya' even claimed her symptoms could indicate cancer.
Other reports mention a chronic long-standing spinal condition resulting from an accident that occurred several years ago.

Today, Tuesday, perhaps after an 'earhole bashing' from Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, both Yanukovych and PM Azarov, [those two well-known sadists - element of fear has to brought to fore..etc.] were falling over themselves to pompously declare everything possible would be done to ensure Tymoshenko receives good medical care.

Even former president Yushchenko got in on the act, saying through gritted teeth that every Ukrainian was entitled to proper medical care, including those in prison...

What a shit-bag....when he was famously poisoned in 2004 those now in power were claiming it was 'just something he ate..maybe shushi..' or it was just a reaction to after-shave'... He didn't trust the Ukrainian heath services either. Has he forgotten? When he was in agony for days it was Tymoshenko who carried the Orange Revolution on her own...without her he would have been been nowhere..what a total shit-bag...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Demand for new commission to examine "Livela" scandal

In a TV interview the leader of the "Front for Change"political party, Arseniy Yatseniuk declared that the opposition will demand a new parliamentary commission be set up to investigate the scandal-ridden "Livela" and its related companies.

"..These companies did not pay any taxes, and imported goods duty-free into the territory of Ukraine goods, illegally utilising various schemes. And they did this, of course, under the [protective] roof of law enforcement agencies and the government ", said Yatseniuk.

He noted that the temporary parliamentary committee of inquiry established by himself and by the chairman NUNS, has collected a large quantity of material, confirming the involvement of government officials in the allegedly illegal activities of "Livela." "We dug up so much material that there is enought not just for article 365, for which Tymoshenko was locked up, there's enough there for two dozen such articles."

"There are sufficient documents for the Security Service and Prosecutor General's Office to immediately open criminal cases," he added.

"Livela" failed to pay 2.9 billion hryvnias, [$360million]. However, its affiliates omitted to pay 8 billion hryvnia [$1billion] of taxes. These 11 billion were not paid because "honest" Ukrainian courts approved their exemption," he claimed.

"11 billion - enough not to have to raise the retirement age, or to rebuild an entire network for new children's nurseries and village health centres in the country," said the leader of the "Front for Change".

He said he had demanded the names of people linked to Livela's' activities from the parliamentary investigative commission.

"Journalistic investigations in "Ukrainska Pravda" and television channel TVi exposed two names - Volodymyr Zubyk, a PoR deputy, and first deputy prime minister Andriy Klyuyev. I turned up at the commission meeting and they voted to summon Klyuyev and Zubyk to the commission. But when specific names of specific people began to appear, Party of Regions' refused to vote for prolonging the activities of the commission."

Arseniy Yatseniuk said that some of the judges who carried out the decisions [to grant tax immunity], have since died. We need to determine under what circumstances they died, and what happened to the people who carried out these decisions, he added.

He noted that the government wants to hide the names of those involved - to bury the "Livela" case. "We will not let them do it", - said Yatseniuk.

On November 18, the pro-government majority in parliament did not support the continuation of the temporary investigatve commission's activities in the investigation of "Livela." The head of the commission, deputy Roman Zvarych, was interviewed by 'Radio Svoboda' last week. He said the country's law enforcement agencies had turned away their complaints and queries.
This is such a big case, so much money involved, paper trails all over the place, it will not go away ..and even a hint of "mokryye delà"...

p.s Video in Ukrainian here

Monday, November 21, 2011

British Foreign Office on Tymoshenko


Room W2.72
King Charles Street

21 November 2011

Dear Mr

Thank you for your email of 1 November to [Foreign Office Minister] Jeremy Browne about the conviction of Yuliya Tymoshenko. I have been asked to reply.

The UK is very concerned by recent events in Ukraine. The handling of the cases against opposition figures has exposed the extent to which Ukraine is lagging behind EU standards and expectations in the areas of democracy and the rule of law. As the Minister for Europe David Lidington said in the House of Commons on 25 October, "…if Ukraine wants to make progress with its declared objective of closer integration with the EU, it must realise that that involves a clear and permanent commitment to political reform to establish modern democratic institutions." The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both said publically that the UK sees the politically motivated conviction of Ms Tymoshenko as unacceptable.

The UK believes that the best way to achieve reform and stability in Ukraine is to continue their closer integration with the EU. We also remain strongly committed to offering full membership of the EU to European states which meet the criteria. As you state, Ukraine and the EU are at an advanced stage of negotiations for an Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The UK wants to complete these negotiations to demonstrate the extent of the EU offer to Ukraine.

However, initialling the texts simply means that they cannot easily be reopened; they still have to be ratified by the Parliaments of all Member States and the European Parliament. For this to happen, the Ukrainians must keep to their side of the bargain. Those detained as a result of politically motivated trials must be released as soon as possible and allowed to take part in the political process. We have made clear to the Ukrainian authorities at all levels, including by calling in the Ukrainian Ambassador, that if steps are not taken to find a solution soon, ratification of the Association Agreement will be put in jeopardy. What happens next is down to the authorities in Kyiv.

The UK remains a friend of Ukraine. However, they must understand that respect for the rule of law and human rights are at the heart of the EU and have to be applied consistently. We will continue to deliver these messages to the Ukrainian authorities at every opportunity and watch developments very closely.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Whitehead

Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine Team
Eastern Europe and Central Asia Directorate

Friday, November 18, 2011

Livela exposed,,so what?

This from Thursday's 'Kommersant':

Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry Parliament has found guilty parties involved in abuse of the petroleum market.

Supplies of cheap imported fuel adversely affected the Ukrainian petroleum market.

Interim conclusions by the temporary investigative commission of the Verkhovna Rada investigating preferential imports of petroleum products by the "Livela" company have been seen by 'Kommersant'.

The company's activites incurred losses to the state budget of an estimated at 2.9 billion hryven [about $370 million]. The commission came to the conclusion that the losses were the result of the "negligent" attitude of prosecutors, tax and customs, and has demanded criminal proceedings be undertaken against them.

I have posted several times about this gigantic fraudulent scheme linked to highly-placed officials, including, allegedly, deputy PM Andriy Kluyev. The money was most probably used to fund the PoR's 2010 local election campaign.

Don't hold your breath waiting for charges to be brought....Now had it been the opposition...

p.s. More analysis on the EU/Ukr AA & DCFTA here and here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Was Wroclaw the 'Last Chance' Saloon?

Attempts to change Ukraine's criminal law, and thereby provide a mechanism for release of Yulia Tymoshenko, fell through in the Ukrainian parliament yesterday. The decriminalisation of the 'Tymoshenko article' cannot now be re-examined again in this parliamentary session.

Yanukovych and the heads of state of Poland and Germany would have been well aware of this at their meeting in Wroclaw yesterday.

The are still one or two hurdles for Ukraine before the Ukraine-EU summit scheduled for 19th December when their Association and Free Trade Agreements are, in theory, to be initalled.

The European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs is currently working on proposals for a final resolution on the Association Agreement in readiness for a vote in the EP early December.

A record 164 amendments to recommendations have been proposed by Euro-deputies, indicating huge interest, and concern, over the current situation in Ukraine - not good news. The Committee meets to vote tomorrow on the final draft of their proposals. Tuesday's failure in the VR will surely be affect them.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the European People's Party congress is to be held between December 6th and 8th. Their members could make a dramatic statement which will prevent initialling of the Association Agreement.

Yesterday in Wroclaw Yanukovych rather defensively told journalists there is still some time before the Ukraine-EU summit...but the chances of a successful outcome must surely be diminishing day by day..

Was Wroclaw the 'Last Chance' saloon?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EU-Ukraine going through the motions for sake of appearances only

Today in Wroclaw president Yanukovych gave no hint that Yulia Tymoshenko would be freed from custody and allowed to continue her political activities, as demanded by the EuroParliament recently.

As another snub to the Europeans the Verkhovna Rada gave Yanukovych a present - they refused to decriminalise laws that would have enabled the former PM to be released. All sides know that even if Association and Free Trade Agreements are initialled in December, unless democratic standards are improved in Ukraine, the chances of ratification, particularly in the parliaments of Europe's big beasts, are slim.

If this is the case why continue the pretence? As the EU economic crisis deepens and if the Euro monetary zone crumbles into pieces, as now seems likely, Ukraine's Euro-prospects will be 'off radar' for years. Maybe the Eurocommissioners will come to the same conclusion too.

As one observer explains, as his ratings rapidly decline the paranoid president will be telling himself: I cannot risk releasing the charismatic Tymoshenko now - quite impossible. She would be a catalyst for potentially explosive ferment in the current situation of growing unrest and increasing social tension.

Several months ago I wrote:

In mafia circles the capo di tutti capi is usually the wealthiest of the bunch. Yanukovych looks down on his cabinet of ministers, on his close business associates and sponsors, and thinks: "These guys, whom I have known for decades, are so much wealthier than me...they owe so much to me...surely in my position I deserve to be up there with them too, no?" Hence the Mezhyhirya's with gold sanitary fittings in the bathrooms, the helicopters, executive jets, hunting lodges...etc."Because I'm worth it?"

In this excellent brief video on how 'The Family' are increasing their hold on the country, journalist Konstyantyn Usov attributes the following statement to Yanukovich: "If Akhmetov can leave 5 billion dollars cash to his successors, why can't I?"

"The talent for self-justification is surely the finest flower of human evolution, the greatest achievement of the human brain." [From 'The age of absurdity' by Michael Foley]

p.s. newly appointed Ukrainian tax supremo Oleksandr Klimenko wears a 12,400 Euro wristwatch...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Latest Hesinki Committee Report on Tymoshenko Trial

Latest Helsinki Committee report on the Tymoshenko case has just been posted here:,III,English.pdf

It will be much quoted in the days to come....

'Die Zeit' on corruption in preparations for Euro-championships

This article is from last week's bigselling German newspaper, 'Die Zeit'.
[Google translated...sorry]:

European [football] championship pushes for price wooden bench in the Ukraine to $ 79,000

Before the European Football Championship in Ukraine to push their corrupt politicians, construction contracts, cash and carry off the national debt in the amount.

Ironically, Boris Kolesnikov. Ukrainian Vice Premier, Minister for Infrastructure, vice president of football club Schachtior Donetsk and chief organizer of the 2012 European Football Championship in Ukraine. The Ukrainska Pravda newspaper has revealed that Kolesnikov is also involved in the company AK Engineering. AK Engineering as the only bidder to have a ten-million-dollar government contract for the renovation of a sports area in the Palace of Sports Kiev received.

Ironically, Boris Kolesnikov has probably benefited most from the cronyism.
In about seven months, will kick off in Poland and Ukraine, the European Championship. Around 25 billion dollars on the Ukraine for the construction of stadiums, highways and airport terminals to spend. The football event has triggered a construction boom. Of which benefit mainly Ukrainian politicians. Million dollar government contracts were awarded to carefully selected Ukrainian companies - without public tender. At many companies are involved in those politicians who awarded the contracts.

The nepotism that drives costs up. Infrastructure projects are more expensive by far than planned. "There have already wasted billions of dollars from the state budget," says Ostap Semerak, an MP and member of the Budget Committee.

Government contracts without a lengthy tendering
A government decision in April 2010 makes it easy to politicians and officials in the Ukraine, for bribes and blaming each other jobs. Since last year, the Government may award contracts in connection with the EM without lengthy procurement of hand-picked companies. Therefore, there are 9 billion dollars from the state budget. Semerak says, "to award contracts without competition, it makes it easy to steal public funds." This practice was necessary because the previous government under Yulia Tymoshenko was in arrears with the preparations, replied Boris Kolesnikov.

Kolesnikov is a businessman. He owns several food factories and heard according to the magazine correspondent to the 50 richest Ukrainians. In 2005 he sat in jail for alleged extortion.
Besides Kolesnikov, there are other businessmen in the Yanukovich government. The Minister of Economy and Trade, Andrei Klujew should be involved in several banks. Social Minister Sergei Tigipko is co-owner of an insurance group, and the minister for natural resources has - how appropriate - Shares in steel and oil companies.

Also the company Altcom from Donetsk is entangled in the web of politics and business. The company has picked up in connection with the Euro 2012 government contracts worth billions. If in Ukraine motorways, airports and stadiums are being built, it is usually Altcom involved. Behind the company are to politicians and government officials are. The company structure is unclear, it is up to the Central American state of Belize rich.

A prime example of the lack of transparency and corruption is the stadium in Lviv (Lvov). Originally, an Austrian company to build the football stadium for the equivalent of $ 190 million. This was the city of Lviv but too expensive. The Austrians jumped off, the job went to Altcom. Now, the stadium will cost approximately $ 300 million.

Kyiv more expensive than the stadium in Munich
Even the Kiev Olympic Stadium is $ 550 million construction cost of the most expensive in Europe. The Munich's Allianz Arena with roughly the same capacity has cost only 438 million dollars. It was not like the stadium in Kiev, Munich rebuilt, but rebuilt. At the top it drove the city of Kharkov, which is also EM venue. The city government had bought for a metro station ten wooden benches. The price of a wooden bench in the Ukraine produced corresponds to a midsize car: $ 79,000.

Nearly 50 percent of the EM-cost fall of the Ukrainian state treasury to the load. For taxpayers, a tough load. The Ukraine was hard hit by the financial crisis. The country needs money paid off out of the International Monetary Fund and has billions in loans.

But even for the period after the European Championships in Ukraine, there are already new plans. The Lviv city wants to apply for the Olympic Winter Games 2022nd For the project "Olympic Hope 2022" the government wants to spend an additional four billion dollars.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rewarding a mafia state?

As I state in my previous blog, it is becoming ever-more apparent that since becoming president, Yanukovych and 'the family' of which he is head have gained a firm control over financial flows in Ukraine and are using it for their own and their associates' benefit.

E.g. in a recent radio interview, seasoned politician Oleksandra Kuzhel [a former head of the state committee for regulatory politics and business, a former National Bank of Ukraine advisor, and until recently deputy PM Serhiy Tigipko's no.2.] described how 'the system' is being utilised to 'screw' small and medium-sized businesses.

She claimed bogus criminal cases organised by the State Security Service, SBU, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the prosecutor's office are making it impossible for many businesses to continue operating, frequently forcing them to sell-up. Even worse, 'the system' demands the business owners' personal savings be handed over to 'close the cases' against them.

Businessmen are made 'offers they cannot refuse'. If they fail to co-operate they are put in jail and their property confiscated. After half a year they are released, but their property has gone..."Such a system is now operating", says Kuzhel.

Another observer, writing in the respectable 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' says the civil servants and others who do the pressing at the lower, or 'business end' of the pyramid, previously transferred 60-70% upward. Under the new system, practically nothing is left for them at all...they are being squeezed too...

No wonder 200,000 businessmen are planning a general strike on December 1st, despite threats of criminal cases directed at their organisers if they 'kick up a fuss'..

Hardly a week goes by without ever more major fraudulent schemes being exposed. In the current edition of 'D.T' Serhiy Kuyun reveals how, over a period of just three months this year, about 300,000 tons of diesel and gasoline were imported into Ukraine via the Crimean port of Feodosia. Less than half of this was subjected to import duties, resulting in a huge loss to the state [and big profits for illegal retailers]. In the second half of 2010, according to customs records, not one tonne of gasoline was imported through the port, yet state railway company 'UkrZalznytsya's records show over 50 trainloads of fuel, 127,000 tons were delivered to various regional fuel depots. The impact on domestic refineries of all of this illicit importation is obviously enormous.

Such massive fraud schemes must surely be sanctioned by the biggest bananas in the land - exposing as nonsense the sincerity of their persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko on alleged tax evasion charges in the mid-nineties.

Ukrainian negotiators are insisting a clear perspective of eventual admission into the EU be provided in the soon-to-be initialled Association and Free Trade Agreements. How can this be given to a country well on the way to becoming a "mafia state"?

[p.s. The 'Unian' photo was taken during Saturday's Ukraine-Germany soccer match played in the newly renovated Olympiysky stadium. Pres. Yanuk is being kissed by PM Azarov [yuk..] in the traditional manner while Rinat Akhmetov [left] is not looking....[Whaaat?]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Timeline to AA and DCFRA summit

Reading observations and reports from Ukrainian 'experts' its seems more likely than not that despite great unease in the West, the EU-Ukraine summit set for December 19th in Kyiv will take place as planned and Association and Free Trade Agreements will be initialed, "unless anything extraordinary doesn't happen again"..

[This rather cryptic comment is typical: "I think Barosso and Rompey overdid it slightly, and they understand this, when they altered Yanukovych's visit to Brussels. Unless anything bad doesn't happen, the summit will take place. But if anything good does not happen, the atmosphere will be very cold."]

I think it is worth listening to what former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, a great friend of Ukraine, said at a press conference in Warsaw on Thursday following a high-power conference where prospects of Ukraine’s integration with the European Union were the focus of discussions.

He mentioned two critical events that will ultimately decide what happens on the 19th.

Here's a summary of ""s report:

Ukrainian authorities, by delaying a decision on the issue of the convicted former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, risk of losing the chance to integrate with the European Union for many years.

Kwasniewski called this a key issue in the signing the Association Agreement and said he discussed this matter with the Acting Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk.

Tusk "very clearly stated that if there is no breakthrough in the case of Tymoshenko and promises are not fulfilled, it is difficult to imagine how the EU-Ukraine summit on December 19th will be successfully concluded."

According to the former Polish president, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities promised in early September to decriminalize the articles according to which Tymoshenko was sentenced.

"Time flies. Suddenly, it might turn out that we have reached the finishing line and nothing has happened, nothing will have been signed, and we will have lost the opportunity (for European integration) for many, many years," said Kwasniewski.

He said that the European People's Party congress is to be held between December 6th and 8th. Their members could make a dramatic statement which will prevent initialling of the Association Agreement.

[Note: Over 1000 delegates from 39 countries have been invited to participate at the Marseille Congress, including EPP's 17 EU heads of state and government: Nicolas SARKOZY (France), Angela MERKEL (Germany), Donald TUSK (Poland - EU Council Presidency), Jean-Claude JUNCKER (Luxembourg - President of the Eurogroup), Traian BASESCU (Romania), Viktor ORBÁN (Hungary), Fredrik REINFELDT (Sweden), Yves LETERME (Belgium), Enda KENNY (Ireland), Silvio BERLUSCONI (Italy), Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (Latvia), Boyko BORISOV (Bulgaria), Lawrence GONZI (Malta), Andrius KUBILIUS (Lithuania), Iveta RADICOVÁ (Slovakia), Jyrki KATAINEN (Finland), and Pedro PASSOS COELHO (Portugal).

Tymoshenko has been officially invited too.]

Kwasniewski added that the Polish authorities are nevertheless planning to make every effort to ensure that the agreement was initialed at the December summit, and noted that the Tymoshenko case will be the subject of discussions between President Yanukovych and his Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski [as well as other dignitaries] when they meet in Wroclaw on 15th November.

p.s. I can recommend 'Mafia State' by Luke Harding, a former British newspaper correspondent to Moscow. Perhaps the best chapters are on Russia's new bourgeoisie, and on Wikileaks.

A senior Spanish prosecutor, Jose "Pepe" Grinda Gonzales, told the US Embassy in Madrid in January last year that Russia, Belarus and Chechnya had become virtual "mafia states" - hence the title of the book.

According to a classified cable, Grinda Gonzales predicted Ukraine will become a mafia state too....

Nothing Yanukovych has done since becoming president has made this assertion less credible [see previous blog on how the grip of 'the family' is now almost complete].

The "system" - National Bank of Ukraine - State Tax Service - Ministry of Internal Affairs [i.e. law enforcement] -Prosecutor's Office - the Justice system, is working very efficiently. Tax revenues are up 50% on last year but are, to a large degree being spent on major capital projects gained via fixed tenders by opaque off-shore companies that are almost certainly linked to the highest officials in the land. In order to have a 'hassle-free' existence, enterprises are ever-more frequently 'urged' to use external auditors that have also become, de-facto, part of "the system".
I hope European leaders bear this in mind in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

'Yanukovych's boys' take ever-firmer grip of power

In yesterday's government reshuffle former chairman of the State Tax Service, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, 48, was appointed Interior Minister of Ukraine, replacing Anatoliy Mohilyov.

Mohilyov, in a sideways move, takes the place of recently-deceased Vasyl Dzharty as supremo of Crimea. Both Mohilyov and Dzharty came to prominence in the murky bad old days in Donbas - crocodiles from the past.

31-year old Oleksandr Klimenko replaces his former boss Zakharchenko as head of the Tax Service.

Klimenko and Zakharchenko also come from Donbas, and are considered to be close to president Yanukovych's older son - big-shot businessman, Oleksandr.

Rinat Akhmetov's big-selling 'Segodnya' reports the story thus:

"An 'undercover coup d'etat' is taking place in the authorities"

Parliamentary Deputy Speaker and member of BYuT, Mykola Tomenko commented bitterly: "The president has a clear principle in personnel matters - to take up a position [in government] you have to be born in the Donetsk oblast."

'Segodnya' quotes the usual unnamed 'expert' who claims an significant new trend is occurring in the government:

National Bank of Ukraine chairman Serhiy Arbuzov, Zakharchenko and Klimenko - they are all people of a similar background. All of them are distant from politics and owe their advancement solely to links with the president. This means they are independent of any other group in power.
However, they are also generally on friendly terms with Yanukovych's eldest son Oleksandr -they are 'Yanukovych's boys' and this now seems to be a trend. One might say an invisible, secret coup is taking place in the government.

Last week the president appointed Mykhailo Kostiuk as new governor of Lviv region - also from the same stable. Soon we should expect to see the replacement of many of today's figures in government that are close to major interest groups, with 'Yanukovych's boys. They may also take up other positions connected with security and large capital flows. The president is putting his money on people who he can trust and who are equidistant from business groups. Times are changing.

p.s. Yanukovych visited the Western Ukrainian town of Chernivtsi today. His 30 vehicle cavalcade [gulp!] sped through at high speed and caused two-hour traffic delays.

In the words of an old Kinks song "Paranoia will destroy ya.."
Same true with personnel?

p.p.s. This is a cavalcade..."Aaaay"

p.p.p.s Tymoshenko free for the Christmas hols? - sordid cat and mouse games continue...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Millions spent on one person while nation suffers..

In the last two years over $25 million have been spent on upgrading Yanukovych's state dachas in Crimea, according to investigative journalist Tatyana Chornovil.

Two new helipads have been constructed near dacha no 3, and also near dachas no 9 and 10.

In response to journalists' enquiries, the presidential administration claims that these structures are upgrades to the transport and communications infrastructure along to Crimean coast and are intended to help develop international tourism in this region. All complete bullshit, of course - the helipads are deep inside the territory of the inaccessible dachas; they are surrounded by high electrified fences and fierce armed guards.

What is particularly annoying is that just 7 kilometers armoured-Mecedes-drive away lies dacha no 11 - which already equipped with a top-class helipad.

Dacha no 11, the "Gorbachev dacha", is where the former Soviet president was 'holed up' during the failed August 1991 coup. It was upgraded last year at a cost of over $5 million.

More millions of dollars have also been spent recently on new furniture, china, interior fittings, and what my dad used to call 'duperelky', as well as high-end gym equipment and on the infamous solid marble massage table and ancilliary equipment which cost $70,000 alone.

Yanukovych and his family already own major property assets on the peninsula and in Donetsk, as well as dachas around Kyiv and elsewhere.

Dissatisfaction at street level is increasing and Yanukovych's ratings are falling rapidly. The seasoned, well respected politician Oleksandra Kuzel, who was until recently Serhiy Tigipko's no.2, commented on the recent protests in Kyiv recently thus: "Tension is increasing..Lenin, appearing in Germany three days before the October Revolution said: I do not know when the revolution will take place..."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Strange way of showing Euro aspirations

Ukrainian authorities claim they want closer Euro-integration. They have a peculiar way of showing it.

Kyiv's Pechersky District Court Judge Rodion Kireyev has not allowed co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee to meet with former Prime Minister and Yulia Tymoshenko. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg had also not been allowed to meet with the imprisoned opposition leader.

Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, the European Commission’s Ambassador to Ukraine, claims he was invited to take part in the widely viewed 'ShusterLive' programme on 14th October, but the invitation was 'pulled' at the last moment. The topic of Ukraine-EU relations has, not surprisingly, figured prominently in recent weeks on the programme so an appearance by the top EU man in Kyiv would seem entirely appropriate, it would seem.

After the snub he wrote a letter to Shuster again, offering to take part in his programme to present the EU's attitude to EU-Ukraine relations and ensure viewers were properly informed. He complained that no guest on Shuster's programme had done this in a competent or authoritative manner.

Now Shuster, whose programme appears on the state's own tv channel, has told him:
"I think you would agree relations between Ukraine and the European Union have been complicated as the result of the trial of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and have become particularly tense after her conviction.

"Leaders of the EU Parliament have made harsh unambiguous statements directed to the Ukrainian authorities. We quoted these statements in our programme. We believe that, it is first of all Ukrainians, and particularly Ukrainian politicians who should indicate their views on relations with the EU, so this means it is an internal discussion."

In other words 'Thanks, but no thanks..'

He did offer Pinto Teixeira an opportunity to appear on his programme in late December, after possible initialling of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

This all seems very odd to can hardly see the strings..

p.s. The EU's ambassador did appear on Mykola Knyazhytsky's less widely viewed TV show last week.... 15 minute video clip here

p.p.s. Yesterday's protests in Kyiv and elsewhere may have been cleverly gently manipulated to by 'vlasti' to deflect blame away from the president. The protesters' ire all seemed to be directed against the impotent, neutralised parliament... and not against Yanik

Friday, November 04, 2011

Only old and poor protesting at the moment..

Protesters angry over cuts to benefits and subsidies scuffled with riot police outside Ukraine's parliament building on Thursday. They were joined by squeezed small-time entrepreneurs.

Read more here.

And watch some tv footage of what happened here

Unlike demonstrations elsewhere, most of the protesters in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities seem to be well into grey-haired middle age with their knitted woolly hats and headscarves.

I think it is fair to conclude these folks were demonstrating because they really are desperate...they are at the end of their is is a matter of survival. You have to really feel sorry for them.

But they present no threat, they did not look anything like a violent mob, poor dears..

However if disaffected youngsters in their late teens and early twenties, the sort of people who normally demonstrate, were ever join them... These things are so hard to predict...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wake up call for EU

I really liked this article: "Wake-up call for the EU", from Mykola Ryabchuk.
He predictions on likely 'Belarusization' of Ukraine are entirely credible..

Most EU leaders, in their heart of hearts share this view. They have to make a decision whether to take firm action in an attempt to halt this process. The question they need to sort out in their minds is, is do they do this 'en bloc' in December? Or do individual EU countries take piecemeal action in the months to come?

And which of these will make a difference to the path of the Yanukovych steamroller?

p.s. "The authorities are under the illusion that they will be accepted [ in Europe] even if they do not share these values [of human rights] - they do not understand how deep [this is felt]"...Savik Shuster...last minutes of this behind-the-scenes, off-air 'AfterLive' video clip

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

UK government's policy on Ukraine

Watch this Private Members debate from the Westminster, on the UK relations with Ukraine.

UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Jeremy Browne responds to the debate initiator, Member of Parliament Helen Goodman.

It starts about 3 hours 30 minutes into the video, here:

From the Minister's replies it appears that at the moment UK Government is OK'ing the initialling of EU/Ukr Association Agreement in December.....[about 3hours 57minutes into the video clip...] even though he is very critical of what is going on.

LEvko's view is the minister seemed rather uncertain and unconvinced himself in his conclusions. Maybe Her Majesty's Gov't's position is not 'set in stone' on this..

p.s. Check out this peculiar Wikileaks report of a late 2006 meeting between then-PM Yanukovych and the US Ambassador in Kyiv. Two weird stories from Yanuk - is he a fantasist?

He recently purchased an internally heated solid marble massage table complete with fancy accessories, for 600,000 hryven [about $75,000] for one of his dachas in Crimea.

Yanukovych living up to his gangster reputation

It has often been said that if you want to predict Yanukovych's and his pals' behaviour, look for pointers in the books of Mario Puzo.

Tymoshenko is jailed for seven years - Western leaders are shocked - Yanukovych had given them tacit assurances this would not happen. She is banged up in an old, cold overcrowded Tsarist jail - no 'Hague Hilton' for her.

The conditions in the trial courtroom on some days were described as 'inhuman'. She has been systematically denied individual treatment by her own personal physician.

He tells critics 'we'll let her go..if she confesses and shows remorse'. His advisers spread the same message. Confess, and we'll go easy on you...'

He cryptically suggests to Angela Merkel he will release Tymoshenko, if she pays Tymoshenko's $190 million fine... '

He allegedly distastefully promises Putin he will release Tymoshenko as a birthday present...he can have her as a table ornament..

His associates propose an exchange on a "Shuster Live" show - Tymoshenko for the disgust of the show's host.

The day after the EuroParliament demands her release before the initialing of any association agreements, he sends the thuggish Renat Kuzmin, whose name has darkened my blogs several times over the years, out onto live television. Kuzmin, in a brazen riposte to the Europarliament resolution, rushes to declare three additional criminal cases are currently being investigated against Tymoshenko, including one of murder 15 years ago. Why the rush? She will be in prison until 2018..

Tymoshenko is looking more and more like a hostage - You don't want to pay up? You won't let us join your party? We'll hit her with even more criminal cases..

I believe Yanukovych is losing touch with reality. To him this is a power game. All that matters is retention of thuggish machismo..I think he really believes his behaviour impresses his critics..

Read his weird, totally inadequate reaction to Europarliament resolutions. Surely the presidential administration should be issuing detailed point-by-point responses to matters of such importance?