Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apalling treatment of Chernobyl clean-up veterans continues

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

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

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

Chernobyl protesters taken by ambulance straight from courtroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yanukovych blunders on...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Yanukovych is in power normal rules do not apply.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is sadistic too strong a word?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish...or brave?

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Intrigue on the chessboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Demonstratively brutal treatment of Tymoshenko continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tymoshenko's condition shames Yanukovych and Azarov to action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Demand for new commission to examine "Livela" scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

p.s Video in Ukrainian here

Monday, November 21, 2011

British Foreign Office on Tymoshenko


Room W2.72
King Charles Street

21 November 2011

Dear Mr

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

Tom Whitehead

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Livela exposed,,so what?

This from Thursday's 'Kommersant':

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Was Wroclaw the 'Last Chance' Saloon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was Wroclaw the 'Last Chance' saloon?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Several months ago I wrote:

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Latest Hesinki Committee Report on Tymoshenko Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rewarding a mafia state?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Timeline to AA and DCFRA summit

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

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

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

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

Here's a summary of ""s report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tymoshenko has been officially invited too.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 07, 2011

Millions spent on one person while nation suffers..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Strange way of showing Euro aspirations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

Only old and poor protesting at the moment..

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

Read more here.

And watch some tv footage of what happened here

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wake up call for EU

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

UK government's policy on Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yanukovych living up to his gangster reputation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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