Friday, September 30, 2011

"You have to be completely devoid of political sense of smell, not to sense tension"

Alexandra Kuzhel, deputy head of the Serhiy Tihipko-led 'Strong Ukraine', would not advise anyone to start up a business in Ukraine right now. She said this in a TV interview on Thursday.

Kuzhel is a prominent Ukrainian politician, a sometimes maverick spokesman for small and medium-size businesses, and former head of a government business development committee. She says she voted for Yanukovych in the last presidential elections.

"At the moment the average business is in one of two states. In the first a [criminal] case has been opened against you, and you are somehow, sorting out the issues, so you are not thinking about protest actions. In the other, your business is about to be taken away and you have to save it, and in this case you also will not be demonstrating either," said Kuzhel.

"Both states, however, can not last long, they will develop into something. Tension is growing," added Tigipko's deputy.

'Shock-jock' blogger Oles' Buzynya, who posts on the 'Segodnya' website, and is known for his anti Ukrainian nationalist, anti-'orange' views, [as well as the occasional fist fight on television] posted the following blog after last week's rowdy demonstrations by Afghan war veterans outside [and almost inside]the Verhovna Rada building.

Pre-revolutionary situation?

Last week Afghan war veterans nearly took the Verkhovna Rada by storm. The demonstration by the former took the government completely by surprise.

No political party sponsored this action. The "Afghans" arose themselves, because they wanted to take away their benefits, and you have to be blind not to see how many benefits are grabbed by those sitting under the dome of Parliament and how they are setting a budget for their own benefit.

The authorities feared Yulia, but it turns out that need to fear their own people, tired of waiting for improvements.

After the demonstations a fence has been hurredly constructed around the parliament building.

Buzyna continues: This fence is a symbol of the terrible boundary which now stands between the upper and lower classes. A pre-revolutionary situation has now arisen. But it is still not revolutionary..

Those at the top can still operate as before, separated from the electorate by a fence, and the lower classes in the main seem to have agreed to be patient for a while. But tension in the country is growing, like the mercury in a thermometer when flu takes a hold. The air smells of rebellion.

You have to be completely devoid of political sense of smell, not to sense it. No pickets can not save those who rule us if the economic situation worsens. Kiev includes 4 million new residents. These are people who who have to escape from the provinces that have been devastated over the past twenty years. They have nowhere else to run. They are young, strong and active. As soon as the economic collapse starts, they will take down not only the fence, but also the walls and government buildings.

And then talk that our labour force is too expensive will be redundant - it's our bureaucrats and oligarchs that are too expensive. And if the authorities continue to be more expensive than the people, this could be very costly for the government. And for the people too.

And '' reports: Ukrainian farmers soon will hold protest rallies demanding the cancellation of the grain export duties in effect until the end of 2011, Hennadiy Novikov, head of the Agrarian Union of Ukraine said at the annual food industry forum in Kiev on Thursday. He said that the union's council made the decision at a meeting held earlier.

"Farmers have been brought to boiling-point. They decided to hold a rally: strikes and block roads with machinery," he said.

Novikov said that export duties have led to unprofitability of grain production.

p.s. Some excellent pieces of analysis entitled "Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw - fears and hopes"from here

Kiryeev's lunchtime phone call?

Just before midday today Rodion Kiryeev, the presiding judge in the Tymoshenko gas trial, announced that the court would be cleared when the court's sentence was to be passed. Only journalists [their cameras] and the trial's direct participants would be allowed to be present. This was interpreted by many present as confirmation of an guilty verdict.

All that remained before sentencing was a statement of conclusion from Tymoshenko, so the clear expectation was that the handing down of a sentence was soon to take place. A few minutes later the judge turned down the former PM's request for an adjournment until Monday to enable her to prepare this statement, but in response, declared a break until 2.00 p.m.

On return to the courtroom Tymoshenko again asked him for more time to prepare her final statement. Kiryeev's denied her request and proposed Tymoshenko continue with her last chance to address the court....

Tymoshenko retorted: "You have no other argument than that timetable painted for you by the president's administration."

Kiryeev then announced that he would be 'returning to his consulting rooms' until October 11th.

The impression throughout this week was that the court's verdict would be delivered today, so the only conclusion that can be reasonably drawn from this sequence of events is that, most likely, Kiryeev received a 'phone call during the lunch recess from Warsaw where Yanukovych had crumbled under the onslaught from EU leaders...

Had Kiryeev planned to adjourn proceeding until 11th October earlier, he wouldn't have made his statement about clearing the court before lunch would he?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yanukovych's gas losses in 2004 greatly exceeded those of Tymoshenko in 2009

While the Ukraine's media, and that of other countries is completely focused on the Tymoshenko gas case, 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya', in a sober and well investigated recent article, revealed that Yanukovych and his close associates Yuriy Boyko and Andriy Kluyev, allegedly played fast and loose with Ukraine's laws and made decisions in the Russian-Ukrainian gas trade which cost the country many times more than the $190m Tymoshenko alleged 'screwed up' on.

In the April-August 2004, a Yanukovych-led cabinet of ministers concocted a scheme to repay Gazprom debts incurred by Ukraine between 1997 and 2000 for gas which was consumed but not paid for.

Earlier, on November 15th 2001, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine ratified an "Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Russian Government on additional measures to ensure the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine" (Law № 2797-III), in accordance with Art. 9 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which subsequently became part of national law.

This intergovernmental agreement determined a mechanism for repaying Naftohaz Ukraine's debt to the Gazprom by means of issue of standard corporate Eurobonds with maturity dates between 2004 to 2013. The agreement also defined the initial principal amount of debt - nearly $ 1.4 million. Later the Russian side determined the debt to be $ 1.26 billion, but with penalties, fines and other payments the final debt figure was set at $ 1.62 billion. For Ukraine, this scheme of gas debt repayment was most beneficial. It allowed repayment of all debts to be completed by 2013 in a gradual and predictable manner without worsening the financial situation of Naftohaz Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Finance appointed The Bank of New York [London] to handle the entire business, and international legal consultants White and Case to provide oversight.

However, as subsequent events showed, the decision taken later by top Ukrainian officials, in clear violation of the law, resulted in Ukraine being saddled with huge additional costs.

Gazprom never fully accepted the intergovernmentally agreed method of settling the unpaid debt, and during the protocol negotiations of August 6, 2002 between Naftohaz and Gazprom, the-then Naftohaz chairman Yuriy Boiko and deputy chairman of Gazprom, Alexander Ryazanov nominated the Russian VneshEkonomBank (VEB) as sole financial consultant in this matter; legal counsellors White & Case were added into the mix. They began to implement what was to be a disastrous plan to change the scheme of repayment from Eurobonds to pure cash.

White & Case warned Naftohaz that the new plan was far from optimal for settling its debt with Gazprom, and that risks were involved. The Ukrainian Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Economy and European Integration of Ukraine, and Ukrainian tax authorities all protested too, but Yuriy Boiko and the-then Deputy Prime Minister, Andriy Klyuev ignored all these objections and continued to do away with the fixed repayment plan, which had also included an early settlement of debt option.

Naftohaz Ukraine chiefs then 'legalised' a new mechanism which they had set up jointly with Gazprom and VEB [whose Supervisory Board Chairman, incidentally, was Vladimir Putin].
Naftohaz's board agreed to Gazprom's proposal to transfer all of their debt (the principal sum, penalties, fines and arbitration collection) to VneshEkonomBank, contrary to the previously developed scheme. This was all approved by a resolution of the Cabinet of Ukraine № 1002 of 06.08.2004. But 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' asks the question: Was the law violated when the-then Prime Minister V. Yanukovych, signed the allegedly illegal resolution?

According to this Cabinet resolution, Gazprom gave Naftohaz Ukraine an advance of $ 1.25 billion as partial payment for transit of Russian natural gas across Ukrainian territory for the period 2005-2009.

As a result, Ukraine would have pay for the 5 billion cubic meters of gas per year [the cost equivalent of transiting Russian gas to Europe] for those five years out of its own pocket, in exchange for the cancellation of the debt from the previous decade when gas cost $50 per thousand cubic metres. [A major portion of the total cost of transiting gas is the price of the gas used to drive the gas turbine pumps situated along the length of the pipeline.]

However, in the period between 2006 to 2009 gas prices rose from $ 90 to $ 450 dollars for thousand cubic metres, so Yanukovych's fiddling of the initial 2002 agreement cost Ukrainian consumers an additional several billion dollars...

Tymoshenko's deal, made under duress in 2009, for which she may be jailed for seven years, allegedly caused losses of under $200 million..

LEvko thinks the date of the Cabinet of Ministers' resolution is interesting...there have been many allegations, e.g. in Andrew Wilson's "Ukraine's Orange Revolution", that Russia spent between $ 600 and 900 million on Yanukovych's 2004 presidential election campaign, a portion of this allegedly channeled via Gazprom and Naftohaz..

Update: Excellent analysis from Anders Aslund in 'Moscow Times' on the current Ukraine/EU/Russia situation here

Make your mind up time approaching - East or West?

Summary of comments made by Mykola Knyazhitsky, Director-General and a presenter of the TVi television company during a public debate on Ukraine's geopolitical choice:

He was sure the euro-integrational aspirations of Ukraine's current authorities is wholly egotistical in nature, intended to benefit PoR's oligarch sponsors. The desire to co-operate with Europe is driven solely in order to benefit their personal economic schemes, and the values and institutions essential to fully integrate into European society are of no interest to the government or president.

Nevertheless, the time has come for the Ukrainian nation to finally make up its mind. The country must decide whether it wants to live under the paradigm of a Byzantine court, as adopted by modern Russia, or strive to develop a European vector with its values of democracy, freedom and justice.

Before making a final decision, the country should reflect on the fact that there is not one undemocratic country in the EU, and there is not one democratic country in the Customs Union.

So...sukhari*, or oranges for Tymoshenko?

*dried bread crusts.. a reference to going to prison in Russia and Ukraine

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ukraine's leading lights try hard in Brussels, but Yanik more interested in the money

From European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle's speech at conference: "Ukraine 20 years on: challenges for the future" European Policy Center Brussels, 21 September 2011

"There has been a lot of good news about Ukraine in the last twenty years. Unfortunately there have also been some difficult moments, which have brought the wrong kind of publicity. We are living through such a moment, and there are some basic problems which all of Ukraine’s key partners want to see addressed. Its ability to successfully overcome these problems would give a strong incentive to further consolidate the rule of law in the entire region. I know that - with the right will -Ukraine can surmount these obstacles, which are creating so many questions right now between us.

As I explained in Yalta, the on-going trials against opposition politicians appear to be politically motivated and damage Ukraine’s reputation. In order to change the negative picture of Ukraine that is emerging, I urged the leaders of Ukraine to work harder to ensure the judiciary’s independence. They need to show that they embrace the values underpinning political association with the EU. They need to convince us that Ukraine is serious about democracy, the rule of law, and that Ukraine is serious about the Association Agreement currently being negotiated with the EU.

The Association Agreement is based on political association. It involves a clear and effective commitment to the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law to which Ukraine has committed itself, towards OSCE, the Council of Europe and also the EU. It is a concern in itself that so many opposition figures are now facing legal action. But in addition, legal experts have criticised the conduct of the trials. Judicial processes need to be clearly unbiased, and it goes without saying that defendants should have a fair chance to prepare their cases. A weak, opaque justice system is a worry to all who value human rights and European values. It is also a deterrent for foreign investment since businesses need to be reassured about property rights and the functioning of the Courts.

But this negative development is not irreversible. Through my close contacts with Ukrainian counterparts, I am convinced that the Ukrainian leaders have understood the gravity of the situation, and are able to turn things around, and choose a different track. Ukraine can clearly demonstrate that weak rule of law is a remnant of the past. Ukraine can show that European values are at the heart of its European choice. This involves fair and transparent trials of former opposition leaders. But it also involves beginning serious work on a comprehensive justice reform. This is an ambitious project that requires determination and commitment over many years. The EU stands ready to continue supporting you in this endeavour..."

Also brief 5-minute video here

In her write-up of the event, 'Lyeviy Bereg's' Sonya Koshkina describes the efforts of first vice prime minister responsible for economic development and trade, Andriy Kluyev, as well as those of Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk , who try their utmost to put a brave positive spin into their presentations in support of euro-integration.

She says the Party of Regions' oligarchs have long been pro-Europe, but the president was slow to react to BYuT's lobbying in European circles on behalf of Tymoshenko after she was charged. Yanukovych failed to react right up to Independence day, by which time opinion had hardened in Europe that Tymoshenko was indeed being politically persecuted. By that time it was too late to change opinions and now the Europeans will be scrutinising events most carefully and critically before Ukraine's future in Europe is decided.

Koshkina's transcript of Fule's statement at the conference indicates he took a much stronger line, perhaps ad-libbed during his presentation, than that offered in the official print-out above.

Her article ends with rumours that over the last few months, whenever euro-integrational themes have been raised with Yanukovych, his response has been: 'Explain, why is this necessary, personally, to me? What will I have from this? In other words: where's the money?

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?"

"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]

LEvko wonders...Did Yanukovych and his close advisers really think Europeans would ratify association and trade agreement deals at a time when Ukraine's opposition leaders were in jail?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only one choice for Ukraine

I really liked Vitaliy Pornikov's latest analytic article in 'Lyeviy Bereg' so I thought I would [loosely] translate portions:

Winter time has come early to Ukraine. Although it will not be cold for several months we are witnessing the first signs of social unrest at home and tough ultimatums from neighbours abroad...

Europe, and the West in general want little from Viktor Yanukovych - just a bit of sanity.

Our European partners do not want to encroach on the Yanukovych government's authority or on the decision-making mechanisms in the country. In actual fact they have closed their eyes to the constitutional coup which took place after the incumbent won the last presidential election - the Europeans explain all this away as mere growing pains.

But they can not, and will not be able to accept the demonstrative limitations on freedom of speech, and the destruction of the political opposition using judicial levers. We should not have illusions about this.

If the criminal case against Tymoshenko is not terminated the Europeans will not sign anything with Kyiv that would even allow any talk of a conditional presence of Ukraine in the European club. And this is a sound decision on their part, primarily in the interests of Ukraine, and then in the interest of Europe.

Such a decision shows the Ukrainian authorities that if they want to sell the products of local oligarchs in European markets, if it want to crash their cars outside Monte Carlo casinos [as a daughter of one high-up Ukrainian official did recently], and if it wish to continue to sunbathe in the best resorts and rub shoulders in high society circles they will have to give way and stop raping the country over which they have inherited control. This is what they were trying to explain to Yanukovich in Yalta.

And this is precisely what neither Yanukovych nor Ukrainian politicians can understand - that the question of values cannot be compromised, at least not in public.

The people who have to sign agreements with Yanukovych are accountable to their fellow citizens. Elected deputies who have to ratify any agreements in local parliaments are accountable to their constituents and these voters have a clear idea about what is good and what is bad. Europeans have a conscience. That's why what happened at Yalta should be considered a terrible embarrassment for Ukraine.

When European officials were trying to explain to Yanukovych is that on questions of values there cannot be any compromise. Ukrainian policians, who are supposed to be protecting the interests of their European-minded voters, were demanding their Western interlocutors commit political suicide by signing an agreement with a country that ignores the basic values the European Union. This is a clear indication of the political immaturity of Ukraine - its lack of readiness not only to join the EU, but even to get close.

Russia [on the other hand] wants far more from Yanukovich than Europe does - the surrender of the country's economy, its gas transport system, and its strategically important businesses.

Viktor Federovych will not succeed and get Medvedev and Putin to change track. But this certainly does not mean that if Ukraine does not now make any concessions to its European partners and does not 'stumble' into Europe, it will finish up in Russia's 'zone of influence'.

In reality no such 'zone' exists. Russia, cannot come to any agreement, even with its partners in the Customs Union, Belarus and Kazakhstan, so what talk can there be about Ukraine?

Russian zone of influence? It's Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, but even there Moscow cannot work with the local leaders. And Ukraine is so much bigger.

Russia simply has no money to sponsor Ukraine, so cannot significantly reduce the price of gas.

Yanukovich absolutely does not need to be a Russian governor of Ukraine. He does not have the technical ability to be this, and his oligarchs will oppose any restriction to their possibilities for trade. Then there is the membership of Ukraine in the World Trade Organisation, and Ukrainian authorities indeed want to head in the European direction.

Medvedev and Putin do not understand this. We are fortunate that during a period of absolute weakness amongst the Ukrainian authorities Russia is run by people of an equally poor intellectual potential who sincerely believe that any normal person considers Ukraine to be merely 'a misunderstanding' which should be integrated back into the imperial structure.

So they will not seek compromise with Yanukovych, they will pressurise him and humiliate him, and he, already considering himself to be a tsar, will fly into a rage and not agree to anything, so we should forget about the myth of a choice between Europe and Russia which, supposedly, the Ukrainian authorities have to take.

We should just support the efforts of our European friends who are trying to prevent our country's slide into authoritarian morass. It's as simple as that....

p.s. On Saturday Yanukovych flies to Moscow to try and get a better gas deal - Medvedev is going to play hard-ball and the chances of success for Yanukovych, as stated by Valeriy Portnikov above, are slim. What some have called the 'Russian vacuum cleaner' is getting harder to resist - but closer ties with the EU would have provided a hand-hold.

Now, according to Ukraine's arrogant leaders it is the fault of the Europeans' that things are going wrong there too..

Former President Viktor Yushchenko recently warned in the 'WSJ' that the European Union's reluctance to offer a clear path to membership puts Ukraine at risk of falling into Russia's orbit and style of governance. [Nothing to do then with erosion of democracy and indications of political repression in Ukraine...of course not...not at all...]

Now 'walking disaster' adviser to the President, Hanna Herman believes that the European Union should offer a hand and give Ukraine a clear signal of future EU membership too.

"We see our future in the European home. In the home - not in the entrance hallway. And if our Western partner will not give us a clear signal that the doors to the European lounge are open, we need to think firmly: what we gain from kicking our heels in the hallway? " said Herman.

She added: "..We hope our western partner will give us a hand, and that Ukraine will accept this hand...Ukraine stands before a choice, and from its choice possibly depends all of the future of the geopolitical map of the continent."

She must have had her head up her arse not to have heard the 'clear signals' in Yalta...and perphaps read too many interior design magazines like 'House and Home' on the flight home...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yanuk could leave Ukraine wandering in the wilderness

Steven Pifer, in an excellent article describes a means of resoving the Tymoshenko problem:

"Does Yanukovych now get it? Maybe. His answer to the Tymoshenko question [at the Yalta European Strategy conference] - which was carefully worded and most likely thought through in advance - opened a door to a possible solution by noting that the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) will examine certain provisions of the criminal code and may decide to remove them. Rada deputies have already proposed dropping the law that is the basis for the charges against Tymoshenko.

This could offer an elegant way out of the mess. If the Rada removes the relevant provision from the criminal code, it would eliminate the grounds for the Tymoshenko trial. Ukrainian analysts and Western diplomats at the Yalta conference expressed some optimism that the door to a solution might now be open—though one skeptic observed that the door had opened to a long corridor. All politics in Ukraine are transactional.

Tymoshenko’s release certainly would not erase all the Western concerns about democratic backsliding. Indeed, EU officials make clear that she must be freed and also allowed to participate in politics, including running in future elections..."

The body language of the government's mouthpieces on ICTV's 'Svoboda Slova', where the topic of decriminalisation of economic crimes [to solve the Tymoshenko problem] were under discussion, revealed their discomfort at having to eat humble pie. Their attempts to place the blame on deficiencies in the country's current laws was unconvincing.

An astonishing statement was made by Presidential Adviser Hanna Herman. She claimed Tymoshenko's arrest, which took place when Yanukovych was on vacation, was not only wrong, but was also an act of sabotage intended to discredit the president, carried out by someone whom she "would strangle with her own hands"...

'Kommentarii' suggests this may be an indication that members of Yanukovych's inner circle are beginning to plot against one another. Herman has had to take the flak for the plagiarism fiasco surrounding the book 'wot Yanukovych rote' - perhaps one of his inner circle was responsible for exposing Herman as the book's instigator. It could be she did not travel to New York with the president this week, as punishment.

[According to Kommentarii it may have well been First Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine Renat Kuzmin, who 'screwed up' on Tymoshenko. For successfully 'putting her away', the black-hearted Kuzmin was seeking promotion as head of the Ukrainian Security Service - the SBU].

Sonya Koshkina in 'L.B' claims:
"The European integration of Ukraine, and with it the entire future of the country as a whole, is under massive question ." This is the biggest and most depressing conclusion of the eighth of Yalta European Strategy conference.

She concludes by saying Europeans have finally understood that key decisions in the country are being made by one person, the president, and that public opinion and the position of the elites are irrelevant to that man. PoR's oligarchs are willing to go along with Yanukovych's decisions, whatever they are, and are probably frightened that he may wish to become as wealthy as they are..

Yanukovych does not really understand why Ukraine should be in Europe. He could have been the Moses who leads Ukraine to the promised land of the EU, but his chance for a place in the history books could be blown for reasons of political revenge and personal greed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dark clouds over Yalta

'Kommersant' newspaper, not known for sensationalist reporting, runs a story today with this heading and first paragraph:

Europe indignant about the [Tymoshenko] case

EU makes future of [relations with] Ukraine dependent on the future of Yulia Tymoshenko.

The annual Yalta European Strategy conference took place in Yalta on 16-17th September. Its main events were talks between President Viktor Yanukovych and European policy-makers concerning the prosecution of ex-premier, leader of the "Fatherland" party, Yulia Tymoshenko.

It is believed in Brussels that Kyiv will agree to a complete rehabilitation of Ms Tymoshenko. However, the EU is preparing a "plan B" whereby the the process of rapprochement with Ukraine could be completely halted.

So, it's getting serious..

Yanukovych tried to 'vybrekhatysya' [lie his way out], but failed...

p.s. Two of the guests at the YES conference were Andriy Kluyev, first vice prime minister of Ukraine responsible for economic development and trade, and Stefan Fule, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy.

Kluyev and his younger brother Serhiy are very wealthy businessmen - they own two executive jets. Nevertheless, Andriy chose to fly to Crimea to attend the YES conference in a specially chartered aircraft paid for by the government [at an estimated cost for the return trip of up to $20k]

Fule flew economy class on the Frankfurt-Simferopol flight..

Former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko has been imprisoned since last December in connection with charges alleging he overpaid his driver by a few thousand dollars..

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tit for tat over Tymoshenko?

The first reading of the draft report of the European Parliament’s recommendations to the Council, the Commission and the EEAS on the negotiations of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has been postponed from the 26 - 29th September pleniary session, provisionally until 16th November.

The Tymoshenko gas trial, which had been in its final run-in last week, was sensationally adjourned on Monday, until 27th September. A verdict was imminent and therefore would probably have been announced on Friday 30th September, or more likely, on Monday 3rd October, i.e. just after the European parliament session.

Now after this postponement in the European parliament, a further adjournment in the Tymoshenko trial could be likely, as I suggested in my previous blog.

'Lyevyi Bereg' editor-in-chief Sonia Koshkina reckons it could almost be the New Year before a sentence is passed in the Tymoshenko trial, and claims the former PM can be regarded as a hostage or a bargaining chip, serving to focus both Brussels' and Moscow's attention on to the looming gas war; to be released once a new gas price for Ukraine is settled.

President of European People`s Party Dr. Wilfried Martens met President Victor Yanukovych today. He had been denied access to the incarcerated Tymoshenko earlier in the day.

The big-selling pro-PoR 'Segodnya' concludes an article describing his visit thus: "..the European politician yet again made clear that a decision on the Association Agreement with the EU depends on the court's decision on Tymoshenko.

'Segodnya', quoting a recent 'Ukrainska Pravda' piece, says: "It's difficult to land up behind bars on the "Tymoshenko [criminal] article", media reports -The defendants usually get off with a fine or a 'suspended' sentence....They are preparing their readers for a soft landing for Lady Yu, as they sometimes call her..

Monday, September 12, 2011

Turning point for Tymoshenko today?

Today could turn out to be a pivotal day in Ukrainian politics.

Since the start of the Tymoshenko trial in June the presiding judge has done his utmost to force proceedings at break-neck speed. Day after day court sessions have frequently started at 9 a.m. and continued almost without a break into the early evening. Tymoshenko's team have been constantly denied the right to call dozens of expert witnesses, despite their frequent appeals to do so. Requests for additional time to prepare the case for the defence have been almost invariably denied, as have requests to present detailed evidence such as Naftogas external auditors' reports.

In a word, it has been blinding obvious that the prosecution, judges and their political puppet-masters hads all intended the trial to come to an end and a guilty verdict to be pronounced just as quickly as half-decently possible.

But, to the astonishment of virtually all commentators, when court was re-convened today, the presiding judge announced a two-week adjournment until September 27: "to guarantee the rights of the defence and provide extra time." Significantly, the prosecuting council who had previously protested the granting of any slack to the defence, offered no challenge to the judge's decision.

In other words a complete about-face..

At a meeting of big-shot 'Regionnaires' recently, the whispers were that most of the talking was about finalising the details of the denouement of Tymoshenko's career. Most media observers considered a guilty verdict and a hefty sentence to be imminent, and the trial to be wrapped up by the end of this week. There had been lots of speculation over how heavy the sentence would be, and whether president Yanukovych would amnesty his deadliest political foe in order to attenuate the unprecendented pressure from abroad. Either way Tymoshenko's political career looked all but doomed.

My impression is that Yanukovych has been told in no uncertain terms by Western leaders: If Tymoshenko's political career is terminated, i.e. if a guilty verdict is announced at the end of the trial, we are not messing about...we are closing the door on any further business...Yanukovych has now been forced to make a stark choice.

At the moment Tymoshenko is not guilty of anything and can be released by a snap of the fingers of sourcerer's apprentice of a judge. But a not guilty verdict would be just too much to bear for the current authorities, so the Tymoshenko trial could be suspended for an indefinite period,,..allegations remaining hanging over her. The pressure from abroad, however, would immediately subside.

A guilty verdict in the Tymoshenko trial immediately after the Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw, which is to take place September 29-30, reduces the chances of ratification of any EU-Ukraine agreements initialled in Warsaw because the two-week adjournment announced today in the Pechersk court would be regarded as a cynical ploy intended to temporarily deceive EU leaders.

Yanukovych will be at the United Nations General Assembly next week, so the delay helps avoid embarrassment in New York too.

p.s. But there again, who knows what goes on in the heads of the people who got themselves into this mess in the first place? Tymoshenko's political career was in decline, the opposition were demoralised and fractured, European perspectives were looking rosy, and after the Kharkiv agreement, things were set fair with did it all go wrong?

It woz the 'mother's union' that fixed it.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Medvedev says gas formula is universal and applies to Ukraine and other countries - and 'Tymo', 'Lutsyk' to be free soon?

Yesterday president Medvedev of Russia was interviewed by Euronews.

Below is a portion of that interview:

Euronews: Another winter is coming, and once more there is another conflict between Russia and Ukraine about gas.

Dmitry Medvedev: Well, so far there’s no conflict, rather there are differences that might lead to various developments.

Euronews: Could that lead to problems with the gas supply to Europe, for example?

Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I hope that after all the recent experiences our close partners and friends must learn that you can’t torpedo existing contracts – even if you don’t like them, like when our colleagues and partners, the president of Ukraine or the Ukrainian Prime Minister say that a contract is unfair and bad and they won’t honour it.

It is completely unacceptable. All agreements, as long as they are not refuted in court or abandoned by the parties, must be carried out.

And I hope that our partners, our Ukrainian friends will likewise stick strictly to the framework agreement concluded in 2009. As for the future, I have repeatedly said that we are willing to discuss various cooperation schemes with our Ukrainian colleagues. Including advanced plans, based on the integration of Ukraine in the Customs Union.

But they, for some reason, say that the WTO prevents them from being in the Customs Union – but it’s a little strange, as the Customs Union doesn’t prevent us from joining the WTO. But that’s their own view.

Or we could discuss integration based on some other approaches, including our investment in Ukraine’s economy or gas transport system.

If we can agree on this, we will probably be ready to consider change in the scheme of cooperation. But at the same time the immutable principle remains that gas cooperation is always based on a formula. The formula is universal, and it applies to Ukraine and other countries. Talk like “we’re paying more than other countries” isn’t based on anything. This is pure propaganda.

Ukraine pays by the same formula, and pays commensurate with the price paid by other European consumers. Current prices are high, that’s true. But they can also be extremely low sometimes. And then it’s a problem for the energy supplier. So, in summary, I hope Ukrainian consumers will keep following the contract properly, and we’ll come to an agreement about our future business.

It is unlikely what Medvedev says about Ukraine's gas payments is far from the truth. On top of this Yanukovych gave up Sevastopol for several decades to the Russian Black Sea fleet in exchange for a gas discount..

So why is Tymoshenko being charged and imprisoned for negotiating a bad gas deal with a monopolistic supplier under extreme duress, in 2009?

[A most informative, up-to-date concise explanation of the Ukrainian-Russian gas dispute can be read here ]

This article from 'Ukrainian Weekly ' explains the backstreet gangster tactics being employed to eliminate Tymoshenko from Ukrainian politics...What else can be expected from these thugs?

p.s. Interesting and intriguing statement on the president of Poland's official site today following a meeting between himself and president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy on Friday afternoon, during which Ukraine's European perspectives were discussed.

"After talks with President Yanukovych [on Thursday ] I can have a limited, but reasonably, optimistic point of view on the prospects for development of the situation (in Ukraine), also in the context of the Yulia Tymoshenko's case.... We will continue to take actions which should ensure the success of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw, but also [provide] an exit for Ukraine from a difficult situation in which it has found itself, in the opinion of many EU member states, due to the ongoing trial of Tymoshenko, said president Komorowski."

Hmm....Has Yanik made certain pledges or undertakings?

Saturday Update: 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' thinks some kind of 'fudge' or as they call it, 'ersatz -variant' is likely in the Tymoshenko and Lutsenko cases too...

Yatsenyuk's 'Front Zmin' having its balls sqeezed too...

Arseniy Yatsenyuk's 'Front Zmin' reports the head of their Donetsk oblast organisation, Oleksandr Yaroshenko, was arrested late Wednesday night in Kyiv. They claim he has been taken by automobile to Donetsk, but no-one has been able to contact him.

The party says the arrest took place immediately after a visit by Yatsenyuk to the Donetsk oblast where he 'severely criticised the actions of the president, govermnent, and city council'.

Yaroshenko is the head doctor in dermatology clinic in Mariupol and over the last few years has set up several diagnostic medical centres in Ukraine, so sounds like a 'regular guy'.

Neither the Kyiv police nor the Ukrainian Security Service, SBU, seem to know anything about Yaroshenko's arrest..

If Yulia Tymoshenko is found guilty and sentenced to a prison 'stretch', as most observers predict , Yatsenyuk, whether he likes it or not, will become 'leader of the opposition' and a most realistic challenger to Yanukovych..

The authoritative 'Kommentarii' weekly considers this shady Yaroshenko business to be part of a co-ordinated campaign, already underway, intended to frighten off Donetsk businessmen who may be sympathetic to 'Front Zmin'.

Yatsenyuk's party have been landing some heavy political blows in the region lately, and 'Kommentarii' suggest that if it were not for his immunity from prosecution provided by his parliamentary deputy status, young Arseniy may have been in the same 'hot water' as Tymoshenko already..

Loosely paraphrasing 'Kommentarii's' conclusions:

..many of the rich 'Frontovyky' [in the Donetsk area] are now encountering problems with enviable regularity to make them realise that it makes not the slightest sense to financially support 'Front Zmin'.. to 'lean on them', but if they persist, [to let them know] their businesses can be taken off them. The [biggest] threat the authorities' tactics pose to Yatsenyuk himself right now is loss of financing... forcing him to consider seeking a"roof" provided by one of the Party of Regions' oligarchs and becoming a PoR-operated glove-puppet opposition [leader].

In other words: 'Front Zmin' are being "made an offer they cannot refuse" who said that?
Two of Yanukovych's biggest rivals, Tymoshenko and Lutsenko, are behind bars.. A third majpr party led by a potential future president, Tihipko's 'Strong Ukraine', has recently 'melded' with PoR. Now Yatsenyuk is being gotta admire these guys...straight out of Mario Puzo..

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The book 'wot Yanukovyhc rote'

So the translator of Yanukovych's latest book, 'Opportunity Ukraine', has now taken the blame for this piece of blatant plagiarism.

After denials of plagiarism by presidential administration spokesperson Hanna Herman and the subsequent scandal that flared up in the international press, someone had to be made the fall guy.

The translator of the book, Konstyantyn Vasylkevych, now admits he omitted references to sources because: "It was necessary to make the book more convenient to read."

LEvko says everyone knows that Yanukovych is not a well-read man capable of writing book of several hundreds of pages. Nothing wrong in that. I recall when Yanukovych had to write a comment in a visitors book several years ago in a European city, he discreetly pulled out a little crib-sheet to make sure he did not make any spelling mistakes...Nothing wrong with that either..
But to claim authorship of a trashy piece of plagiarism shows Yanukovych is losing his sense of reality, and is becoming self-delusional, which is dangerous..And a panglossian book, intended to encourage sceptical foreigners and hard-nosed businessmen to invest in Ukraine, will have quite the opposite effect..

p.s. "The book what I wrote" is the title of a book about two well-loved British comedians - so, strictly no plagiarism in this blog..

Update on oil platform scandal

In late May and early June I posted several blogs [here, here, here] about an alleged scam, exposed by the 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' newspaper, involving the purchase of an oil drilling platform for hundreds of millions of dollars via a highly dubious off-shore company, all overseen by odious energy minister Yuriy Boyko.

Now Stan Gorin, a director of the off-shore name-plate company, 'Highway Investment Processing LLP', whose registered offices are over a plumber's merchant between a Chinese take-away and a tattoo parlour in Cardiff, Wales, claims he has received no money, has never been in Ukraine, and has nothing to do with drilling platforms, even though Ukrainian National Joint Stock Company'Chornomornaftogaz' has has already paid $202 million into his company's bank account 'up-front' for the drilling platform.

At the time the story broke, Boyko claimed the story had been 'commissioned' in order to discredit him. He promised to refer the matter to the Ukrainian State Security [SBU] for investigation so that the instigators of this 'disgraceful muck-raking' could be revealed.

Its now seems that the matter was investigated - not by the SBU, because they are headed by Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, a financial/political associate of Boyko's, but by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

To date no-one has been named as the alleged [fictional?] commissioner of this story, and 'Dzerkalo Tyzhnya' has not been told to retract their story..

Saturday, September 03, 2011

European leaders not bluffing...

At an informal meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of 27 EU countries in Sopot, Poland today, discussions were held on preparations for the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, [scheduled for 29-30th September in Warsaw] where association and free trade agreements with Ukraine could be finalised.

Today, Reuters reported the meeting thus: "European Union members could block an agreement on closer ties with Ukraine if Kiev continues with a "show trial" against the country’s former leader, senior EU diplomats said on Saturday"

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, in a separate press conference, said: “The majority view (in the EU) is that the agreement can be finalised only if the Tymoshenko case is solved..It means having a free and fair trial and abandoning the unjustified charges against her.”

Many similar declarations have been voiced for many weeks now. However, reading stuff in Ukrainian newspapers and listening to Ukrainian TV and radio, so-called experts, representatives of 'vlasti', and maybe even the man in the street, all consider these to be empty threats and bluff.

E.g. well-known German Eurasia expert, Alexander Rahr, appearing in a recent 'Bolshaya Politika' talk show , said the sorts of responses heard today in Sopot are merely 'ritualistic' and declared that in politics, apart from moral, there are also absolutely cynical, 'realpolitik' judgements to be made.

According to Rahr, Europeans big fear that Ukraine could slip back into Russia's sphere of influence and a new Russian empire could reemerge. To prevent this, free trade and association agreements will, sooner or later be signed between the EU and Ukraine. Geo-political interests need to be served even if Tymoshenko has to 'go to the wall'.

LEvko's view is that 'big-beast' foreign ministers do not bluff...they have have made too many big decisions, sent their young persons to war too many times in recent years to have to do this... There is domestic political capital to be gained by standing up for democratic principles...protecting the imprisoned fairy princess from the brutal ogre etc...'Realpolitik' is applied in different measure according to each individual country and situation..

Most likely there will be a verdict in the Tymoshenko trial by the time of the Eastern Partnership Summit, so not long to wait for its messy resolutions ...

p.s. Tymoshenko, in a recent letter co-written with Hryhoriy Nemyria, said: "It is our fervent belief that Ukraine's future lies in Europe. Our government displayed our commitment to this goal by initiating talks for a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the EU, which is due to be finalized this year. And while we do not want Mrs. Tymoshenko's or her associates' political show-trials to deflect Ukraine from its European path, it is worth noting that never before has the EU entered into such a far-reaching free-trade agreement with a non-democratic state. Sadly, this is exactly what Ukraine is becoming."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Cunning plan to save Yanik's face?

'Kommentarii' weekly claims that according to their sources, Ukraine's ruling authorities will never give up on putting Tymoshenko behind bars. But in order to reduce the degree of criticism from the West, the presidential administration has dreamt up a plan to extricate themselves from the bind they find themselves in as a result of the criminal cases in progress against Tymoshenko and former internal affairs minister, Yuriy Lutsenko.

The plan is as follows: Tymoshenko is to be found guilty and convicted, but Lutsenko is to be released, and, at worst, is to receive a suspended sentence.

In order to "enhance and confirm the objectivity and impartiality of the Ukrainian judiciary", some of Party of Regions' lesser fish are to be caught and arrested on charges of corruption.

In addition, slimeball parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, who has recently been 'fingered' by alleged perpetrator Oleksiy Pukach for commissioning the murder of Georgiy Gongadze, could be made to 'take a fall' for this offence.

All this is supposed to get Yanukovych back into the 'good books' of the West.

Only a thuggish numbskull moron could come up with such a hare-brained scheme, so your humble blogger attaches no credence to this story at all....but there again....

Recently 'Der Spiegel' declared: "As alarm grows in the West over the trial against former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, German politicians are threatening to withdraw their support for an agreement that would strengthen ties between the European Union and the former Soviet Republic.."

Everyone's gaze is only on queen bee...

p.s. How ironic that Ukraine's government is threatening to file lawsuits in international courts regarding its gas disputes with Russia, when, at the same time, its own domestic courts are bungling the Tymoshenko gas trial at home... maybe she should be tried in an international court too...what would the verdict be there, I wonder?

Will Yanukovych accept any ruling e.g by the European Court of Human Rights on the political show-trials taking place in Ukraine right now?
...stupid question...

Why cases against opposition are seen to be politically motivated

According to the pro-Yanukovych "Segodnya'" newspaper the inevitable 'source close to Yanukovych' exposed the president's calculations by claiming:

Polish president Komorowski is not interested in Tymoshenko herself - he is perfectly well aware that by signing a gas contract in 2009, Yulia T. worked for the benefit of Russia as well as for herself in the presidential race, but this topic had to be raised to take account of a strong BYuT lobby the European Parliament.

The only important thing is which argument tips the scales - the need to mitigate the situation around Tymoshenko, or the need to draw Ukraine into the EU because of the serious pressure being strongly applied by Russia onto Ukraine.

For Komorowski the choice is clear already - drawing Ukraine into the EU is more important than Tymoshenko, and his opinion as the current head of the EU is influential, but it is also clear that there are more powerful heads of state in the EU.

However the Polish President will make every effort, because he understands that Ukraine will either receive an association agreement under his Presidency, i,e. by the end of 2011, or it will it be postponed indefinitely.

At the same time, a 'Segodnya' BYuT informant claims that it was made clear to the president of Ukraine in Gdansk that the EU integrates only with democracies, or those countries moving toward democracy; and a country where the opposition leader is behind bars can not be considered democratic.

Neither of these viewpoints are strictly correct - no leader is above the law.

The criminal cases against both Tymoshenko, and Lutsenko, are fundamentally weak - that is the reason why they are seen to be politically motivated. In countries with independent judiciary there would have been no trial in either case, or the trials would have collapsed very quickly.

Furthermore, even though these trials are being carefully scrutinised, they have been conducted from the very beginning in a completely shambolic and prejudicial manner, so any verdict cannot be considered sound.