Saturday, April 30, 2011

'Guardian' on Akhmetov's new London apartment..on a busy main road...

"Poor old Rinat Akhmetov. He coughs up £136m for the world's most expensive apartment, on a busy road in central London, then has to find another £60m for carpets and curtains. The Ukrainian billionaire has purchased two flats in the 1 Hyde Park development and will knock them into one 25,000 sq ft pad. The refit will cost another £60m, or so we're told. Perhaps the cutlery tray will be lined with a Persian rug.

Our Peter Beardsley-lookalike, listed by Forbes magazine as "self-made" (it seems he made lots of ties with the country's first post-Soviet prime minister), spends much of his time back in Donetsk, from where he runs a vast conglomerate of steel and mining businesses.

So we thought we'd help out a bit with the refit, and popped along to Peter Jones, down the road on Sloane Square. We looked for the most expensive everything. The priciest sofa; the most luxurious bed; the most absurdly priced pepper pot, that sort of thing.

We found a bedsheet for £160. A blender for £439. A fridge for £12,500. Yep, that's right, there are people, a few ice cubes short of a full tray, who will spend £12,500 on a fridge. But even after scouring the store, our work experience person reckoned she'd struggle to spend a hundred grand.

That left us with £59.9m burning a hole in our pocket, so we headed off to Harrods, perhaps more suitable for your average oligarch. It found us a bathtub, sculpted from flawless white rock crystal quarried in the Amazon and, hey, it's only £500,000. Now we're talking, we thought. But even Harrods admitted it might struggle to fit out a flat and spend £60m.

In Donetsk, the locals might not quite see the funny side. Ukraine is agriculturally rich, but its people are dirt poor. Male life expectancy is just 62. Its economy contracted 15% in 2009, among the worst performances in the world. GDP per head is just £1,485. Put it another way, the cost of that one apartment off Hyde Park represents the annual income of 135,000 Ukrainians. Still, I'm sure Rinat earned every penny of that "self-made" fortune."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crumbs from the table

Just opened the 'Leviy Bereg' site and saw these two stories on the home page:


According to the British 'Telegraph' newspaper, "Mr Akhmetov, whose wealth is estimated at about $16bn, is said to be spending up to £60m on interior work on the three-storey penthouse"

Need to say any more?

p.s. Another one bites the dust..

Early Monday morning PoR parliamentary deputy Mykola Lisin was killed in a high speed crash whilst driving his $165k+ Lamborghini Gallardo. Police say he was travelling at 150km/hour - eye witnesses estimated the speed of the vehicle to be nearer 200km/hr. Skid marks over 200m long seem to support the latter figure. Two lamp posts were knocked over - one flew over 50 metres after it was struck, and the car came to rest against a garage fuel price sign.

Lisin, a big-shot businessman had close ties to the dubious Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Mykola Zlochevsky. The latter prefers Rolls Royces or Bentleys to get around..much safer...

Source: here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

'Segodnya's' view of Yanuk's palace

There's a large article, complete with photographs and video entitled "A flight over Yanukovych's nest: waterfall, classical columns and club house," in today's 'Segodnya'.

The periodical hired a helicopter which flew the same route the president will be taking when flying to 'work?' and back, when the heliport in downtown Kyiv is completed. They had had some difficulty hiring a pilot because of possible security problems, but did find one who agreed to take them along for the short flight.

'Segodnya' calls Mezhyhirya, "the residence of the guarantor [of the Constitution] [is] a mini-town".

It includes a large aircraft hangar, a boating lake with bridges surrounded by parkland and a classical gazebo, all worthy of a 19th century Bavarian king. These can be seen in the photographs accompanying the article.

The 4-storey helipad currently under construction near the Verkhovna Rada is a major construction project in its own right - I'm not sure if any other European capital can boast such a feature for use of its 'top banana'.

The article does declare that: "according to official versions, only one house in the "Mezhyhirya" complex belongs to Yanukovych. Everything else is the property of certain companies. The opposition say that all these firms are in one way or other connected to the family of President and that all the residence is 'de facto' controlled by Yanukovych. The president's people deny any link with the owners of Mezhyhirya".

The article states that their helicopter was greeted enthusiastically by Kyivans as it flew over them, and ends: " It is interesting what conclusions Viktor Fedorovych will make watching for the joyfulness of his fellow countrymen. As a minimum, his mood will probably rise...Unless of course, the opposition, or 'Femen' create some kind of dirty little trick [pakost'] along the way."

Despite promising journalists, in an 'off the cuff' remark, to show them around the place, Yanukovych has prevaricated for many months and has now, most likely changed his mind.

The big-selling Akhmetov-owned 'Segodnya's' editorial position is normally pro-Party of Regions. but I'd bet most of its poorer readers, when they see this will think:..."Megalomaniac..or what?"

These sorts of articles are not published without much thought. LEvko's guess is that this may be a little warning to 'The Family' from other clans..

p.s. Last week Yanukovych's 'mouthpiece', Hanna Herman, said:

"We should make it so the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced in this state. The president is a sincere man, he understands he and his team should live the [same] life which his people live. The people will no longer go with us if we are somewhere on Mount Olympus, while the people rummage through rubbish heaps." She's breaking my heart...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Victimised for student prank

On December 16th last year, twenty-year-old arts and drama student Hanna Sinkova [see photo], together with some friends, as part of an artistic event /prank /demonstration, call it what you will, fried some eggs and sausages on the Eternal Flame Memorial in Kyiv's 'Park of Eternal Glory'.

According to some reports, the students were protesting about the wasteful consumption of gas at the memorial at a time when many WW2 veterans are receiving meagre pension and living on the 'bread line'.

Absolutely no damage was caused to the memorial, and it is debatable if the behaviour of the students, as recorded on this video, could be considered loutish or abusive.

On 29th March Sinkova was arrested, her apartment searched, and her computer and other personal belongings removed. She was questioned at great length and thrown into a cell together with prostitutes and other down and outs. On 1st April she was charged with 'mocking, or disrespecting [defiling, I suppose] a grave'. If found guilty she could face 5 years in prison.

Prosecutors privately admit that Sinkova, a member of the right-wing 'Svoboda' party, is being persecuted because of big pressure on law enforcement agencies by communists, Vintrenko-ites, anti-fascists, and Russian international organisations..

Ironically, the court in which her hearing was held was itself constructed in the mid-nineties on the site of a cemetery which was bulldozed and its human remains dumped, despite protests.

Last Monday an appeal court refused to release this poor girl on bail. A few days ago former president Kuchma was charged with crimes linking him to the murder of a journalist...but he is free to 'swan around' in a chauffeur-driven limo..

Today students in Lviv staged a protest against minister of Education Dmytro Tabachnyk. Some reports say 1000, others say 3,000 took part..History shows it is not a good idea for governments to radicalise students because, in the end, youth always wins out...and Ukraine will never be ruled by ayatollahs..

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The case against Putin

Interesting op-ed piece on Radio Svoboda's site today by the the excellent, high profile journalist Vitaliy Portnykov.

I've loosely translated portions below:

On the eve of the arrival of the head of the Russian government Vladimir Putin in Kyiv today it was announced that a new criminal case was being opened against former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko.

On the face of it it would seem that these two events are not related, except that the criminal case against Tymoshenko concerns the signing of gas contracts with Putin in 2009.

The agreements were called 'the best in the history of Ukrainian-Russian energy co-operation' by Putin, but Viktor Yanukovych sternly criticised these contracts. Once in power, he has persistently fought for their abolition but attempts to revise the Tymoshenko-Putin formulas have invariably met with refusal from the Russian side.

In Kyiv it is suggested that Tymoshenko illegally gave directives which allowed her to sign the agreement. According to Inna Bohoslovska, chairman of the Temporary Parliamentary Commission investigating this matter, Tymoshenko had "personal, specific, secret relationships with the Russian side, which could have impacted on her behaviour". But the Russian side was not an abstraction - it was PM Putin...

The Russian prime minister is in the Ukrainian capital to discuss co-operation in the energy sector, but now negotiations will take place against the backdrop of this new criminal case, which casts doubt on the legitimacy of the 2009 gas agreements.

This statement about suspicion of the damage caused to the Ukrainian state by the former premier was announced by none other than Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin - the same Kuzmin, who is not afraid to bring criminal charges against former President Leonid Kuchma. And Bohoslovska has announced her temporary committee of inquiry has requested the Prosecutor General of Ukraine turns to their Russian counterparts for help in the investigation.

Obviously Putin will not be questioned by the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office, but the mere fact of the opening of the investigation is a hint to the Russian Prime Minister that Ukrainian law enforcers may be accumulating 'kompromat' indicating the use of personal relations with Tymoshenko to create and sign a contract disadvantageous to Ukraine. It is possible that in Kyiv they believe that this hint will help president Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov gain a stronger position in their energy negotiations with Putin.

But it's more than a peculiar calculation as it is well known Putin does not like to be pressurised. [It is well known Putin personally despises Yanuk too..LEvko]

It is possible that Yanukovych may not be calculating not so much on instant success, but rather how to help his colleague Dmitry Medvedev, who is now entered into a competition with his predecessor in the 2012 Russian presidential elections.

And if Medvedev, who gave Yanukovych a gas discount in Kharkiv, wins, he will repay his helper.

p.s. Former president Kuchma was sensationally charged with criminal offences linked to the Gongadze murder on the eve of Tymoshenko's recent visit to Brussels...Additional charges are directed at Tymoshenko on the eve of Putin's visit...can the timing of the declaration of these charges be coincidental? Most unlikely. Ukrainian authorities just don't get it...the law enforcement system is not a tool of politicians. No progress has been made in 20 years...

Monday, April 11, 2011

One example why Ukrainian politicians are regarded with scorn

On April 7 2011 Ukrainian Parliament voted in a new law on the prevention and counteraction of corruption. The voting occurred in a half empty parliament.

From April 6 the official website of Ukrainian Parliament publishes a list of MPs who have signed in on the days parliamentary sittings are held. This site also publishes the results of votes cast by MPs using electronic key cards inserted into readers.

The Anti-Corruption Law was approved by 277 electronic votes deputies, even though only 158 of these MPs had signed in and registered their presence that day. There are 450 MPs in total in the Verkhovna Rada.

Source [in English] here

Proxy voting in parliament is strictly anti-consitutional.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Ukrainian politicians take note...

British prime minister David Cameron are taking an Easter holiday in Spain.

"It is their first foreign holiday since he became Prime Minister last May, and Cabinet colleagues have been urging him to take a break.

The couple aborted plans for a luxury family holiday in Thailand at Christmas amid fears it would appear excessive at a time when thousands were losing their jobs.

It is not known how much they paid for the [scheduled] Ryanair flights, but an equivalent return trip next week would cost £152 each.

They are staying in a three-star family-run hotel, where a double room costs 120 euros (£105) a night."

Source and more information and photos here

They received no special treatment: A fellow passenger took the photograph above of the couple in the departure lounge ahead of the Ryanair flight from Stansted airport to Malaga.

Ukrainian politicians will not believe this story...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Whipping boy Azarov.

PM Mykola Azarov is becoming president Yanukovych's chief whipping boy. This video was posted on the pres's official site.

"Tell me, what happened this year? Why has this work not been done on time? Why didn't we ask the agragrians what problems they face? Why didn't we invite representatives of the motor engineers? The owners or directors of chemical factories who supply fertilizers... fuel and lubricants?"

A miserable-looking, sighing Azarov mutters a few excuses...

Today, at a well-attended presentation on investment reforms, when speaking about a campaign to improve Ukraine's attractiveness to investors, Yanukovych again told off his hapless PM. In reply to Azarov's claims that a programme to attract such investors already exists, the pres. retorts: "...Don't tell me fairy tales. You can tell them to others. I know what I'm talking about."

Such crude heaping of blame and humiliation of subordinates in public looks like something from Mao Zedong's China..

And Azarov had a slanging match with deputy PM Boris Kolesnikov today too...nerves are getting a bit frayed..

Monday, April 04, 2011

Green demo in Kyiv

Blogger Olena Bilozerska reports on what looks like quite a big demo in the Spring sunshine in Kyiv today by what seemed to be a 'rainbow coalition' called 'The Defenders of Kyiv'.

Their main demands are:
  • a stop to further development of the city's green areas,
  • a moratorium on new building construction to protect historical buildings and monuments,
  • a moratorium on the closures or privatisation of museums and libraries, and reassessment of such actions that took place over the last five years,
  • the creation of a decent infrastructure in the city for cyclists,
  • the provision of litter bins, a city 'clean-up', and introductions of fines for dropping litter,
  • a freeze public transport costs and housing utility costs, etc.

Lots of photos at the link above. Unlike several recent 'rent-a-mob' demonstrations paid for by political sponsors, this one looks quite genuine..lots of young people, some with kids..normal folks..not the usual nasty skin-head 'mordati' louts...

People beginning to find their voice again?

p.s. "Boris Nemtsov has published the [must read] fifth instalment of his White Paper series reviewing the manifold failures of the Putin regime. This time, his focus is personal corruption by Vladimir Putin himself.."

"Corruption has ceased being a problem in Russia; it has become a system. Its metastases have paralysed the country’s social and economic life."

This is the system the folks in Kyiv were protesting against I guess...