Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More reasons for targetting Kuchma

Just over one month ago, when president Yanukovych had, what was by all reports, a cordial round-table meeting with Ukraine's three former presidents, he must have known, in true Soprano's style, of plans to 'shaft' Kuchma with charges connecting him to the 10 year old murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. He lulled Leonid Danilovych into a false sense of security.

VR deputy speaker Mykola Tomenko, in Mykola Knyazhytsky's eponymous tv programme, claims one of the reasons for going after Kuchma is to press the former president's son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk, who owns three major television channels, into 'redistributing' his media empire. Kuchma's daughter Olena now personally escorts her dad when he is called in for questioning.

Tomenko adds that if Mykola Melnychenko's secret recordings [made in former president Kuchma's office] are fully accepted as material evidence, the current authorities could be opening a pandora's box because many of them, including PM Azarov and Yanukovych, are themselves allegedly heard planning and approving illegal deeds. [Kuchma's lawyers will try and turn the tables on Melnychenko - if the recordings are deemed by the court to be fake or doctored, it could be M.M. who finishes up in the dock.]

'Kommentarii', in an article entitled: "How much will they take away from Leonid Kuchma" also hints at possible mercantile reasons, amongst others, for the recent developments. The case against ex-President Leonid Kuchma "may be dictated by serious financial interest, together with personal resentment by the current head of state", they say.

The article concludes: "When considering the reasons for the persecution of Kuchma, it is not possible to avoid a personal motive. Yanukovych could well bear resentment against the former head of state because of his failure, and difficult five years following the orange revolution. Whatever else, the opening of a criminal case against someone at Kuchma's level suggests that Ukraine has entered a new era, where there are no longer any taboo, 'no-go' areas for the government. Now, even the firmly entrenched PoR political elite must understand that they have no immunity from prosecution by the authorities. Tomorrow any businessman could be invited to the prosecutor's office for tea, may have to "offer" to give up his business , and the day after could be writing a letter complaint from a solitary confinement cell.

The criminal prosecution of Kuchma could be the first warning bell, which may in future push the oligarchs to unite against "The [Yanukovych] Family". But it is hard to believe that all of Ukraine's billionaires would sit down at one table - more likely they will silently wait for the "slaughter" in the hope that it will pass them by. Furthermore, the current campaign against former president Kuchma, without [any perceived] fear of repercussion in the future, could be considered as the action of short-sighted head of state, or of a person convinced that he will be in power for life."

Others suggest Yanukovych's presidential nomination in 2004 by Kuchma was worthy of "400 million thank-yous"...[Does he, or his backers now want these back? Maybe Kuchma hasn't spent them all yet.. At the end of his second and final term in office there were several potentially more attractive candidates Kuchma could have given his blessing to.]

'Leviy Bereg's' Sonya Koshkina says the Gongadze affair is aways aired whenever any government wants to deflect attention from current [economic] problems. If anything, the charging of Kuchma with criminal offences has gained him sympathy in some quarters, despite his odious reputation.

p.s. Birthdays are a big deal amongst Ukraine's political elite - tasteless presents, parties, greetings cards, bouquets of flowers big enough to accommodate a troupe of monkeys are frequently given. Kuchma always got these and more from former colleagues of almost all political colours after leaving power. But not from Yanukovych...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reasons for targetting Kuchma now

"Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation against the country's former president, Leonid Kuchma, on suspicion of involvement in the 2000 murder of an opposition journalist [Georgiy Gongadze]. Deputy Prosecutor-General Renat Kuzmin announced the probe Tuesday, after a decade of pressure from Mr. Kuchma's opponents."

Many observers are speculating over reasons why prosecutors are targetting Kuchma, now, more than ten years after Gongadze's death. Trust in the country's law enforcement agencies - the police, prosecutors, judges and courts, has always been very low, so most concur, with much cynicism, that pursuit of justice is hardly an explanation.

Diana Dutsyk in 'Glavred' lists possible motives for the recent developments:

1. To divert media attention in Europe and elsewhere from Yulia Tymoshenko who will be spending the next few days in Brussels 'bad-mouthing' the current Yanukovych-led Ukrainian administration.

2. The current authorities want to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the international community after much bad publicity and show that there is 'one law for all' in Ukraine.

3. The case against Kuchma may have been reactivated following pressure from the West, and the USA in particular. [Others speculate that the US may provide incriminating evidence linking the former PM Lazarenko, currently imprisoned in the USA, to Yulia Tymoshenko. But in exchange, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have to 'nail' Kuchma.]

4. The ever more powerful 'Donetskiites' are 'muscling in' on other non Donetsk business groups, including those connected to Kuchma's son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk. The current push against Kuchma could be a signal that during this 'redistribution process' no-one is too big to avoid being 'gobbled up'.

5. Revenge for 2004. Yanukovych feels bitter that he was betrayed by Kuchma during the orange revolution, and he holds the former president responsible for 5 lost years between 2005 and 2010. [LEvko quite likes this version - in crime circles betrayal always has to be avenged - it is difficult to believe that this resonant action against Kuchma was sanctioned by any person other than the 'top banana' himself. Seemingly intelligent criminals frequently consider their vengeful and/or rapacious deeds to be completely self-justified. Righting wrongs of the past allegedly done to themselves is a principal justification. Such self-justification may also explain Yanukovych's current vengefulness to political enemies, and the 'compensatory' kleptocratic behaviour of 'The Family' which he heads. Needless to say, such attitudes frequently lead to downfall. ]

6. As a diversion tactic to deflect attention of Ukraine's citizens and others from serious economic problems. Significant demonstrations by teachers and industrial workers took place in several cities earlier this week. [Sonya Koshkina supports this theory and suggests US political advisors may have dreamt up the scheme. Yanukovych had a choice whether to throw the much hated minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk, or Kuchma to the lions..he chose the latter. The blackmailing of parliamentary speaker Lytvyn, who is allegedly linked to Gongadze's murder, could be a useful bonus for Yanukovych too.

7. To take the case against Kuchma to a logical conclusion: find him not guilty in a law court, and absolve him without a stain to his character. The current administration thus shows that 'true' justice is important for them - they cannot be accused of selective justice in the event that Tymoshenko and other opposition leaders will be jailed on the charges they are currently facing.

Other commentators claim current head of the SBU security service, Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, may be returning to the position of head of the customs service. Renat Kuzmin wishes to replace Khoroshkovsky [whom he dislikes] at the SBU - the current high profile PR action against Kuchma puts Kuzmin firmly in the media spotlight.

Because a statute of limitations applies on the charges directed against Kuchma, it is most unlikely he will ever be incarcerated, even if found guilty by a court of law. He did look worried though when he was interviews outside the P-G's's probably all messing up his plans for a Spring cruise on his son-in-law's yacht in the Med.

The case against Kuchma can be 'fine tuned' or even 'kicked into the long grass' according to which individual, or which combination of the above motives become more or less important.

p.s . Ukraine's second president being charged of involvement with murder, Ukraine's third president lucky to survive near-fatal poisoning, Ukraine's current, fourth president served two terms in prison for violent crime...says something about the country?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Protection from prosecution

This story from Saturday's 'Segodnya'

Yanukovych greets his godson, Artem Pshonka, on his birthday

President Viktor Yanukovych wished Verkhovna Rada deputy Artem Pshonka good health on his birthday:"I wish you good health, good family relations, success and achievement in all your good endeavours," said the president's greeting.

Yanukovych also expressed confidence that Pshonka's businesslike qualities, professionalism and dedication would help him carry out his duties as VR deputy.

It was reported on February 17th, that Pshonka had been elected deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on combating organized crime and corruption.

He is the son of the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka.

Pshonka Sr. has in the past denied that Yanukovych is godfather to his son, but "our families are friends." ['Segodnya' is regarded as pro-PoR....]

Their wives, (seen in this photo from link directly above) are very close..

Pshonka's wife allegedly uses the same hairdresser as US billionaire Donald Trump. When the 'NewYorkTimes' was asked to comment on the latter's hairstyle, they called it: "An elaborate structure best left to an architecture critic."

Trump's comment?: "No animals have been harmed in the creation of my hairstyle."
[This is not all true]

Friday, March 18, 2011

Media blackout on 'UkrTelecom' fix

Oleksandr Bondar, former head of Ukraine's State Property Fund, and journalist Tetyana Chornovil took part in the TVi channel's 'Vechir z Mykoloyu Knyazhytskym' programme tonight.

The topic under discussion was the shady, one bidder only, privatisation of the country's fixed line communications monopoly 'UkrTelecom'. [See my previous two blogs for background and more details].

The two studio guests complained of an almost total blackout on reporting or discussion of this massive privatisation in the Ukrainian mass media. TVi itself is a fringe channel, and Tetyana Chornovil's articles appear in 'Leviy Bereg' on the internet.

UkrTelecom, which employs over 30,000 personnel, is in debt. It may well be the loans were deliberately taken out and the money 'dark-holed' [as they say in England], with the intention of artificially depressing the value of the company. Now the sale has gone through, the money can be, allegedly, easily repaid.The CEO of Ukrtelecom, Heorgiy Dzekon, was in the past, according to Bondar, against any privatisation, even at a price of $2Bn. But now Yanukovych is president, he supports the company's sale at $1.3Bn.

Bondar, a parliamentary deputy, claims the talk in the VR's corridors is that UkrTelecom has been purchased by head of the presidential administration, Serhiy Lyovochkin, the entire deal being bankrolled by RosUkrEnergo's Dmytro Firtash..

Bondar adds that UkrTelecom's fixed line network is of strategic importance to the security of the country . It is used by the country's security services, police, by financial and governmental institutions etc. It is totally unacceptable that the owner of such a communications company is not officially known.
Karl Marx knew what he was on about when he said, in October 1917, "Our..forces must be so combined as to occupy without fail, and to hold at any cost, (a) the telephone exchange, (b) the telegraph office, (c) the railway stations, (d) the bridges.."

A request to investigate this privatisation further, in parliament, was declined today...The response of the president and government to this scandalous affair seems to indicate it took place with their blessing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More on 'UkrTelecom' fix

Investigative journalist Tetyana Chornovil, in an article in "Leviy Bereg", provides more circumstantial evidence that the privatisation sale of 'UkrTelecom' to Epic Service Ukraine (ESU) for $1.3Bn [see previous blog] is, most likely, a fix*.


The CEO of Ukrtelecom at the time of sale, Heorgiy Dzekon, and the director of ESU, Illya Solodovskiy, are neighbours in the posh, [what the British call stockbroker belt] village of Lisnyky, near Kyiv. This pair, together with one Ihor Zimin, the father of VR deputy Yevhen Zimin who is head of the parliamentary committee on telecommunications and postal communications, jointly own land together through their company 'Novi Lisnyky'.

The younger Zimin, even though he is a BYuT VR deputy, is considered to be close to Serhiy Lyovochkin, head of the president's administration.

In 2004, when Heorhiy Dzekon was appointed head of 'UkrTelecom', the company was making 759 Million hryven profit. Since then, Tetyana Chornovil alleges the company has been systematically run down and devalued, i.e. "prepared for privatisation", by Dzakon. It is now in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy.

Dzakon and Lyovochkin go back a long way. They can allegedly be heard on recordings, revealed by Oleh Rybachuk, plotting to tap into the electoral commission network to rig the 2004 presidential election results.

There is some hope though - questions are to be asked in parliament on Friday..

p.s. There are nine telecoms companies in the world bigger that Microsoft and bigger than ArcelorMittal, the biggest steel company in the world. Telecoms is a big deal all right, now and for the future.

*fix - Informal . to arrange or influence the outcome or action of,especially privately or dishonestly..

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another shady privatisation [updated]

"On 11 March the Ukrainian State Property Fund sold a 92.79 percent stake in Ukraine's telecom monopoly, Ukrtelecom, for 10.57 billion hryvnia (around $1.3 billion). The shares have been bought by Epic Services Ukraine (ESU), a daughter company of the Austrian EPIC group.

The opposition claims that the company was sold to a pre-agreed buyer (ESU was the only bidder submitting the final tender) and that in reality Ukrtelecom has been sold to Ukrainian businessmen, most probably closely linked to president Viktor Yanukovych. They also accuse the government of setting a far too low asking price for the company. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, claims that the transaction has caused the state to lose between $3 and $4 billion." [Source here.]

The long-running privatisation saga of this company has been a sorry tale indeed. There were times when it was valued at $25Bn. Companies having a state-owned portion greater than 25% were denied permission to bid, so giants Deutsche Telekom, FranceTelecom, Nortelecom and several Russian companies were shut out. Ukrainian mobile 'phone operators MTS and Kyivstar were also officially excluded.

The former head of the Ukrainian State Property Fund, Oleksandr Bondar was asked about the privatisation in an interview with the 'Nashi Hroshi' website on Monday. He claims the ownership of ESU was transferred to a Cyprus offshore company just prior to the sale - who the true end owners will be is therefore unknown. They could be Rinat Akmetov, head of presidential administration Serhiy Lyovochkin, members of the Yanukovych 'Family', or a combination of these and others.

Bondar estimates that in a fair contest, the state should have received at least $2Bn rather than $1.3Bn from the purchasers.

One websites speculates: "There remains uncertainty over EPIC due to persistent speculation that the fund is acting as a front for another, non-disclosed party, previously rumoured to be connected to cellular group MTS, part of Russian conglomerate Sistema, which operates in Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries."

ESU's representative who signed the deal last Friday remained tight-lipped after the company had won this one-horse race.

However, what is clear is that the current State Property Fund and the Ukrainian Anti-Monopoly Committee have both failed in their duty to ascertain who the true owners of UkrTelekom will be.

Update From 'U.P. : EPIC Goldsheider and Wurmbuck (EPIC, Vienna, Austria) have claimed they remain the sole owner of EPIC Services Ukraine (ESU Ukraine, Kyiv) who gained a controlling packet of shares of 'UkrTelekom'.

EPIC is the exclusive owner of EPIC Advisors Ltd (EAL), which via its daughter company EAL is the sole owner of ESU, and has decided to optimise the structure of the holding, adapting it to the privatisation of 'UkrTelekom', by transferring the right of direct ownership to ESU, of the EPIC Telecom Investment Ltd (ETI).

ETI is the 100% owner of EAL. In this manner EPIC remains 100% owner of ESU.

Earlier two reputable Ukrainian newspapers 'Delo' and Dilova Slolytsya' reported that 100% of the statute fund of ESU were transferred from the fund of Epic Advisors Ltd, to the recently-formed Cypriot Epic Telecom Invest

'U.P. say that ETI have not even declared their registered legal address...this whole "alphabet soup" still smells fishy - are they good for the $1.3Bn? LEvko wonders...

They should be...when you consider what they are getting for the money.. the country's entire fixed cable telecom network...the exchanges...many many millions of subscribers...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sport and politics should not mix

European Champions' League quarter finalists, Shakhtar Donetsk, were beaten 1-0 last Saturday in Lviv by Ukrainian premier league rivals, 'Karparty'.

Some of the home team fans displayed a huge portrait of Stepan Bandera and also a banner: "Nothing will hold back an idea whose time has come".

Oh dear....

[Ukraine's Euro-2102 co-hosts Poland, and UEFA will not be happy..]

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ukrainian obshchak

In recent months some of the activities of the current Ukrainian authorities, e.g. grain export quota machinations, selective application of customs control and import duty on petroleum products, etc., below-cost selling off of prime development sites and property to favoured buyers and so on, have been ever more frequently described by some commentators as the creation of an 'obshchak' set up for the benefit of 'those who now must be obeyed'.

The excerpt below from this academic paper provides an explanation of this term.

"Thieves and bandits

The legendary Soviet criminal underworld, the world of thieves (vorovskoi mir), has received a fair amount of scholarly attention. Formed in labor camps and prisons in the early-Soviet times, the world of thieves became a powerful informal organization that survived until the end of the Soviet system.

Thieves observe a complex set of mores and prohibitions that regulate their relations with one another, with authorities and with outsiders. Prohibitions are particularly strong with reference to having a legitimate job and a family, the cooperation with prison or any state authorities, the use of violence towards other thieves unless a collective decision is taken, and personal luxury.

The central element of the world of thieves is the so-called obshchak, the communal fund which accumulates the money acquired by theft and other illegal methods. Having donated the money to the obshchak, the thieve then receives from it his share that makes his living. But the bulk of obshchak is used to support those who serve their prison term. The elite of this underworld consists of the so-called "thieves-in-law" (vory v zakone), whose main function is obshchak management and exercise of criminal justice"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fist fight on live TV over poet [updated]

Watch this funny Monty Pythonesque altercation on the 'Velyka Politika z Yevgeniyem Kiselovym' political discussion programme yesterday between two of Ukraine's most unpleasant provocative commentators..

I love the way the anchor man Kiselyov calls out in a strained voice, after assailant, Oles Buzyna, tries to grab his victim, Serhiy Poyarkov, by the testicles: "Okhrana.." - A stunned audience looks on.

The other speakers with concerned mutterings comically but pathetically try and retain a sense of decorum..

And after fighting starts again near the end of the clip Kiselyov declares: "Reklamnaya pauza.."

The theme of the discussion was Taras Shevchenko...

Buzyna, a 'special correspondent and writer' who works for 'Segodnya' is known for his provocative and frequently scandalous anti-orange, anti-Europe articles. Will he face criminal charges? The video evidence against him is clear. Will he be sacked by 'Segodnya'? He has undoubtedly breached the newspaper's defined terms of behaviour for staff. He is now saying he will only appear on Kiselyov's show again if he receives an apology from Kiselyov himself!?

Managers of other TV stations have already declared they would not be against Buzyna appearing on their programmes. They will show any crap as long as it gets them ratings. To slightly misquote H.L.Mencken, "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the Ukrainian public."

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Grain export madness [updated]

This article from "Ukrainian Week" [in English] explains how the Ukrainian grain–export market is being monopolised by the Donetsk clan.

A company called Khlib Investbud Ltd. (KhIB) last year was granted a major portion of the country's grain export quotas, whilst other big grain export traders were shut out. Agriculture minister, Mykola Prysyazhnyuk, tried to convince the mass media that this was all OK and 'above board' because KhIB was 61% state-owned.

However, the Ukrainian version of 'Ukr.Week', 'Tyzhden' magazine, has documents revealing that the state no longer controls 'KhIB' - which is now Ukraine's main grain trader. It seems 'KhIB' is in the hands of a company linked to business spheres close to the minister himself - 'Kalasar Ltd'.

'Tyzhden' says 'Kalasar's joint owners are Oleksandr Kozyryev [connected to the Yenakiyiv business group], and also Genetechma Finance Limited, an offshore company registered in Cyprus [surprise, surprise]. The latter is a daughter company of the Luxembourg-registered Belevue Industries Sarl, who, in turn, are a daughter company of VEB-Leasing. They are a daughter company of the Russian VneshEkonomBank [VEB]....and the head of the supervisory council of VEB is PM of Russia, Vladimir Putin, no less.

'Tyzhden' calls this classic layering arrangement a new 'RosUkrEnergo', or 'RosUkrZerno'.

The periodical declares: Now Putin's bank has found easy money on the Ukrainian grain market. Last summer, the state lost control of 'KhIB' but nevertheless selected the company to be the state's chief grain trader. 'KhIB' received a contract to purchase 5 million tons of Ukrainian grain for 7 billion hryven [1,400 hryven/tonne], then received the lion's share of grain export quotas. As a result, other large transnational corporations who for years worked in Ukraine were squeezed out of the grain business. 'KhIB' monopolised the market and Ukrainian farmers have been forced to sell their grain to the company at a depressed price. Now the main state exporter sells the same grain inside Ukraine at a higher price. The activity of the 'KhIB' in the domestic grain market is one of the reasons why cheap flour has disappeared from store shelves, and the price of bread has increased.

Last month the Ukrainian Agrarian [strategic reserve] Fund decided to buy well over 2 million tons of grain from KhIB in three batches. It will have to pay 1.55 Bn hryven for each batch - providing a tidy profit the 'KhIB', basically for doing nothing..

Several weeks ago and article entitled: "Quotas threaten 'collapse' in Ukraine grain output" was posted on 'Agrimoney' site.

"The head of one of Ukraine's major farm operators has warned of a potential "collapse" in the country's grains production if it does not repeal quotas which could cost farmers up to $1.3bn.

Eugene Leng, the chief executive of Ukrzernoprom Agro warned that a fall in sowings of winter crops would herald an even greater drop in spring plantings unless the government lifts the quotas which are denying farmers the full benefit of high world crop prices."

Last week the respected Ukraine-watcher Anders Aslund, in a TV interview with Mykola Knyazytsky, stated he was very disturbed about the monopolisation of grain trade in the country -"There is no reason for it", [apart from the obvious.]

Agrobusiness is one of the great hopes for the future of Ukraine, but short-term greed is threatening its future development. In Ukraine export scams such as those described above are still then norm rather than the exception.

Update: A comment note in an article in Wednesday's 'Ekonomichna Pravda' which fleshes out this story], claims the above-mentioned Oleksandr Kozyryev has close business ties, via another company to the daughter's of agriculture minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk and of head of the council of ministers of Crimea, Vasyl Dzarty,

More on the dapper Dzarty from a previous blog here

"50`year`old Prysyazhnyuk is considered to be a member of Yanukovych’s team. He met Yanukovych in Yenakiyevo in the 1980s and at that time Prysyazhnyuk was production manager at Ordzhonikidzevuhillya agrarian economy. Yanukovych was head of its motor pool.

They say Prysyazhnyuk was appointed first deputy head of Zhytomyr Oblast State Administration in 2002 under Yanukovych’s patronage. By that time he founded and became head of the PR oblast organization in Yenakiyevo. Prysyazhnyuk was elected MP from the PR in 2006. In the VR of next convocation he was promoted to the office of head of the agrarian committee.

Prysyazhnyuk’s main business is little related to agrarian sector, though. He mostly profits from extraction of quartzite (used for production of ferroalloys) and gravel. Mass media estimated his fortune as US $80 — 90 mn." source:

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Worst customs service in the world - but smartest uniforms..

Deputy head of the Ukrainian customs service, Serhiy Syomka, appeared in the Friday's 'Shuster live' show which focussed on the theme of corruption. He looked magnificent in his flashy royal-blue uniform, starry epaulettes and gold braid - not one crease on his well groomed, carefree schoolboy-complexion face.

He fended off challenges from other speakers in the studio, on massive scams at Ukraine's ports and customs clearance centres, with smug disdain.

I couldn't help compare his demeanour with this, from one US publication:

"The inventiveness of the [Ukrainian] Customs Service in finding new ways to collect money from companies and individuals trying to do business in Ukraine surpasses that of some of the worst kleptocracies in history. The issue finally boiled over in a July meeting between the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council—representatives of U.S. firms that have operations in Ukraine—and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko.

The overall theme of the meeting was the irreparable harm done to the business environment by the Customs Service. But the specific focus was how their practices are a complete disaster for express mail and parcel services like FedEx, DHL, UPS, and others."

“There are only few countries in the world which ‘outperform’ Ukraine as the worst in the world. It is important to understand the impact of the shipments delayed at Customs which often result in lost revenues, additional costs for companies and the Customs Services itself. It generates numerous complaints from business community and private individuals. Last but not least it constantly deteriorates Ukraine attractiveness among potential investors,” said Vadim Sidoruk from DHL’s office here in Kiev.

“It has become common knowledge that Ukrainian Customs laws regulating express delivery are some of the most, if not the most, complicated in the world,” he complained.

“It is hard to imagine just what would lead the parliament and the Customs Committee to make the changes necessary to remove the roadblocks. However, I cannot help but think that if they understood the many development projects that have gone elsewhere in part because of the antiquated customs procedures, that alone would have a very strong impact on their thinking--and actions.”

In July, DHL moved into a new 8,000 square meter, $12 million package processing facility. It is one of the largest of its kind in the world for the simple reason that backlogs created by Ukrainian customs require this kind of capacity. Of all the packages held by customs in all of eastern and central Europe, 70 percent are being held in Ukraine, according to DHL."

[More at the link above]

Syomin's approval rating, which was constantly being assessed by Shuster's studio audience as he spoke, quickly dropped to percentage figures in the low teens..

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Massive increase in anti-opposition TV air-time bias

This from the 'Telekritika' media watchdog website:

100% of video clips on the [state-run] First National Television Channel are on the ruling authorities - opposition is not represented at all

In February, an imbalance unprecedented since 2002 was recorded

In December 2010, the duration of time granted in news programme [political reports] on Ukrainian TV channels to representatives of the authorities was, on average, 70%. Only 26% was granted to the opposition. Other politicians received the remaining 4%.

These were the results of the Academy of Ukrainian Press [AUP] - "Monitoring of political News: December 2010, February 2011". In February the imbalance increased: 84% to the authorities; 14% to the opposition, and 2% to other politicians.

AUP President Valery Ivanov said that the situation at the First National Television Channel [NTU] was especially disturbing: in December, the news channel [political reporting] was 95% dedicated to politicians in power. In February no-one else apart from them was granted air-time.

He added that bias of this magnitude has not been recorded on any Ukrainian channel since [his organisation] started monitoring television news broadcasts in 2002.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Tymo's fate already pencilled in by 'vlast'...

US Vice President Biden yesterday joined the chorus of spokesmen of Western governments when he expressed concern, personally to Yanukovych, about the importance of "avoiding any selective prosecutions of opposition officials".

Although no names have been mentioned, all of these comments must primarily have in mind leaders of two of Ukraine's biggest opposition parties, former PM Yulia Tymoshenko, who has for many weeks been questioned by the prosecutor general's investigators, and former minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Lutsenko, who has been imprisoned for over two months.

The current authorities recently staged a coordinated PR campaign in the US and Europe in an attempt to allay these concerns, revealing that they take all of this seriously because it damages their reputation.

The pro-Yanukovych 'Segodnya' newspaper speculates about what fate awaits the pair in an article entitled: "Tymoshenko could receive three years, and then be amnestied, adding, ex-PM to be tried next year, and her former minister by Summer."

In some countries this kind of speculation by serious observers would be regarded as highly prejudicial for cases that are 'sub judice', but it exposes the dilemma faced by the current authorities and the pathetic mess the country's law enforcement agencies find themselves in.

Apparently the case against Tymoshenko comprises 180 volumes of evidence of between 250 and 300 pages each. If she familiarises herself with 20-30 pages per day i.e. at a rate of about two volumes a month, as required by Ukrainian law, it would take over seven years to read all 180 volumes ....Lutsenko has 47 volumes to read...but he started last December...

[If a fair trial is to take place shouldn't the judges, prosecutors, defence councils all be forced to endure this nonsense too?]

Anyhow, a source told 'Segodnya' that the prosecutor general's office themselves admit 80% of the stuff is 'makulatura' [waste paper for recycling...(only 80%?)] allowing them to predict the dates for any possible trials to be timed as in the article's headline..[Lutsenko has been detained and arrested for failing to familiarise himself with 'makulatura'!?...LEvko]

Under a sub-heading "Two years for Yuriy, three for Yulia", the newspaper reveals their source in the P-G's office claims, that if found guilty, these are the sort of sentences they could expect. However, according to 'Segodnya' "this is where it gets interesting". All of the experts they questioned say that the pair will not 'serve time', "the reaction from the West would be too harsh" and their sentences will be suspended.

However, according to Ukraininan law, as convicted felons they would not be able to stand for political office in the Autumn 2012 parliamentary elections. This would again cause an uproar, and would provide a reason for some of Ukraine's neighbours to consider the elections illigitimate. The current authorities therefore face a dilemma - if they drop the cases against the pair, or if the cases collapse in court, it would mean that the authorities had been set on repression, but were scared off by Western pressure...quite a humiliation and a moral defeat for Yanukovych, according to one well-known observer, Vadym Karasyov.

[Quite why it would be a humiliation for the government if the case would be thrown out or the pair were found not guilty by truly independent judges is not made clear..]

Karasov surmises that Tymoshenko will be found guilty of the charges against her, will receive a suspended sentence, but will then receive an amnesty, perhaps on Independence Day 2012. "By showing clemency and letting her stand for election, the authorities could claim a moral victory," and resolve their dilemma.

The article declares in Tymoshenko's case, "Experts believe they [the charges] are completely provable, however they are flawed from a political point of view. Any previous prime minister could be prosecuted for the same reasons. They often allowed diversion of funds in order to plug holes in the budget, meeting the shortfall from other sources."

As for Lutsenko, "our sources in the police, say these sorts of things also happened under former ministers to increase the income of people close to them." [Lutsenko is charged with overpaying his driver and promoting him to a rank about his station.]

The Russian 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' claims that the usual " source" has told them former president Yushchenko may soon be appointed prime minister. Introducing "a liberal, a marketeer, and a democrat" would be would be beneficial in terms of negotiations with the EU and the U.S. It would immediately neutralise the Tymoshenko factor in Ukrainian politics and would remove all suspicion of authoritarianism of the new government in the West". Would it really?

p.s. Latest opinion polls have Yanukovych at about 25%, and Tymoshenko at about 15%.

If recent trends in their respective popularity continue, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility these two heavyweights could be 'neck and neck' by next year - could a trial of Tymoshenko be considered anything but political in such circumstances?

p.p.s. 'Segodnya' posts a video of a rather sheepish and uncomfortable-looking Yanukovych making his latest slip of the tongue, confusing the Brazilian cosmodrome in Alkantara, with a fictional place called "Balkantavra"....the video is preceded by.... a beer advertisement. Could this not be regarded as disrespectful...making commercial capital out of the president's poor memory and inability to familiarise himself with his brief?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

'Segonya' online readers unhappy with Yanuk..

Interesting straw poll on the big-selling Akhmetov-owned, pro-government "Segodnya" newspaper's website.

Online readers were asked: "February 25th was the first anniversary of president Viktor Yanukovych's inauguration. How would you assess his first year's work [out of a maximum 5 points] ?"

5 - excellent - 5%

4 - generally working well, but with some shortcomings - 15%

3 - mediocre - pluses and minuses in equal measure - 15%

2 - poor - few successes - 12%

1 - everything absolutely terrible - 54%

[Total votes cast, at time of writing: 2203]

Trouble is, the opposition would probably score no better right now...

On-line readers are by no means representative of the nation as a whole, but they will be younger, smarter, brighter, more dynamic and forward-looking...

p.s. some of the comments at the bottom of the 'Segodnya' article are quite amusing too..

e.g - Wrap the chandelier around his neck...and throw him in swamp..."

and "It's never been worse than now. In Egypt the average wage is $200 - the nation starts a revolution. Here it's $100 and 20% still vote for them...nonsense.."

[only a bit of fun...nothing to worry about..LEvko]

"The Family" - and a toe-rag

The 'Levyi Bereg' website frequently posts reviews of articles from the Ukrainian media. In its latest posting it quotes portions of an article from "Kommentarii" entitled: "The Family has finally secured the Tax Administration for itself"

L.B. says: The term "Family", in relation to top administrators appointed by, and close to the family of President Viktor Yanukovych, is now firmly entrenched in the mass media, even in newspapers.

"The Family" now has loyalists in the Prosecutor-General's office, at the highest levels of the judiciary, in the ministry of internal affairs, [see previous blogs on reasons for not believing the current authorities] and now, it seems, in the Tax Administration.

Below are some portions from 'Kommentarii":

"After the appointment just before the New Year, of Vitaly Zakharchenko as chairman of the State Tax Administration of Ukraine and Andriy Holovach, as his first deputy, [both of whom are linked to Alexander Yanukovych, eldest son of the President] Head of S.T.A.U. in Donetsk region, Olexander Klimenko was also promoted. The new deputy head of the Tax Administration is also considered to be a nominee of the presidential family. Together with Holovach, Klimenko will control V.A.T. refunds and the extraction of taxes from oligarchs at the national level. "

The 'Kommentarii' article includes a note surprisingly linking the appointments of Klimenko and the current head of the National Bank of Ukraine Serhiy Arbuzov, to former president Viktor Yushchenko, all in the context of the "Family".

"30-year-old Olexander Klimenko owes his swift career rise in the S.T.A.U. to his older brother Anton Klimenko, who is still head of the Donetsk regional organization of "Our Ukraine ".

According to rumours, it was he, that after the Orange victory in 2005 managed to set up his younger brother as deputy chief of the specialist state tax inspectorate appointed to concentrate on the major taxpayers of the city of Donetsk.

When the old long-time head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Volodymyr Stelmakh was replaced by Arbuzov, [who is close to the businesss of the Oleksandr Yanukovych], some observers recalled that the 34-year-old Arbuzov had had close ties to the 'Orange' team of Anton Klimenko. Arbuzov was not just an ordinary member of "Our Ukraine" through 2005 and 2006. He was No. 6 on the O.U. list of party candidates in the Donetsk regional council elections, but was not elected because the O.U. bloc failed to overcome the 3% barrier. "

The "Kommentarii" article also describes how some of the 'top bananas' at the S.T.A.U. who had "represented the interests" of PM Mykola Azarov, Rinat Akhmetov, and first VP Andriy Kluyev, including some who had overseen VAT refunds, have been replaced.


On the first anniversary of being appointed president, Yanukovych last Friday invited the three previous presidents of the country for a cup of tea, and a cosy chat.

I wonder did Yushchenko, [and the other three] have a laugh about what mugs Ihor Lutsenko and Yulia Tymoshenko were. Without their massive support, and that of many, many more back in 2004, Yushchenko have never, ever have become president.

Now Ihor Lutsenko is 'banged up' in prison for a third month on the flimsiest of charges, even though nearly one hundred parliamentary deputies have signed a declaration, presented to the prosecutor-general, vouching for Lutsenko if he were to be released on bail before any court trial. Their appeal has been denied.

Tymoshenko is constantly required to present herself for questioning at the P-G's office several days a week since before Christmas.

Did Yushchenko laugh about the thousands and thousands of his fellow citizens who shouted themselves hoarse calling out his name while standing for hours and days in the freezing cold in 2004?

What a toe-rag..