Monday, December 31, 2012

Lutsenko will not be forgotten

Last week I posted a blog on the second anniversary of the arrest and detention of Ukrainian former Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Lutsenko's arrest.

In many countries, he would have been eligible for early release or parole, but the vindictive Ukrainian regime will keep him 'banged up' in prison for just as long as they can in the hope the case will be forgotten about.

They are wrong. His case is being closely studied at the European Court of Human Rights, and many other European Foreign Ministries are also closely following his plight.

Below is a response from the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office with whom I've been in communication:

"We continue to be concerned about this case and about human rights in Ukraine.  During 2012, the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, made two public statements relating to Mr Lutsenko’s case: the first was in February following Mr Lutsenko’s conviction; the second was in July following the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement.  I have attached the Minister’s statements for your information.  [links here and here]

Embassy officials follow developments closely including by attending briefings by Mr Lutsenko’s wife and his lawyer.  We regularly raise our concerns with senior Ukrainian officials and continue to work closely with EU partners in highlighting these issues and in stressing to Ukraine the need to uphold the rule of law and respect fundamental human rights. 

Yours sincerely...

Assistant Desk Officer for Ukraine | Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine Team | Foreign and Commonwealth Office | Room W2.72 | King Charles Street | London SW1A 2AH 

Lutsenko will play a major role in Ukrainian politics in months and years to come...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cheap PR scams discredit Ukraine

In my previous blog I mentioned how the authoritatively-named but entirely bogus Cologne-based outfit  'Zentrum für Interkulturelle Kooperation und Kommunikation e.V'   had recently declared: 'Sergiy Arbuzov Receives the Highest Marks of Any of the Heads of Governments or Central Banks in Eastern Europe' - news which was naturally widely broadcast across Ukraine.

Arbuzov was until recently chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, is now deputy Prime Minister. This trusted member of the Yanukovych 'Family' is widely tipped to head the cabinet of ministers in a few months time.

A recent investigation by 'Deutsche Welle'  has now also confirmed this 'ZIKK' project to be and entirely fraudulent PR stunt.

Incidentally, 'Deutsche Welle' also describe another thinly disguised scam. The phantom Berlin newspaper "Berliner Tageszeitung" which is frequently quoted in the Ukrainian media, particularly in numerous anti-Tymoshenko articles, does not actually exist at all.  Despite extensive efforts, 'DW' have not been able to contact anyone connected with the publication - it has no telephones or faxes, or even active email addresses.

Such stunts further disgrace the Ukrainian authorities... they are just of bunch of 'zhuliki i vory'...swindlers and thieves...

Arbuzov - what a 'banker'*...

The latest edition of 'Korrespondent' contains a well-researched and detailed article on Ukraine's latest  rising star - recently-appointed first vice Prime Minister and a favourite if the Yanukovych clan - Serhiy Arbuzov. Most commentators agree that aging current PM Mykola Azarov is on the way out..and the so-far obscure 36 year-old Arbuzov will soon head the cabinet for benefit of Yanuk himself.

In the last few months of 2012 Arbuzov's podgy face wast thrust upon the Ukrainian man on the street on billboards and light-boxes across Kyiv in a two-month campaign that was estimated to cost up to $500,000.

The Ukrainian State Bank set up a television company, 'Bank-TV',  at a cost of around $1,000,000, to broadcast never-ending panegyrics in praise of Arbuzov and the State Bank which he headed.

A few weeks ago the obscure 'German Center for Intercultural Cooperation and Communication' astonishingly reported:  'Sergiy Arbuzov Receives the Highest Marks of Any of the Heads of Governments or Central Banks in Eastern Europe'

However, '' smelled a rat.  Their investigation revealed the Cologne-base German Centre was merely a highly dubious hollow shell outfit run by a Ukrainian CEO. Nevertheless their glowing reports were widely broadcast in the Ukrainian mass media to build up the young Arbuzov's image....

'Forbes' claim all of these PR schemes were dreamt up at Arbuzov's own initiative...
He loves the aura of power. When he is in Donetsk visiting his old pal - Yanukovych's elder son Oleksandr, his escort includes three vehicles filled with bodyguards...more than even Ukraine's richest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov employs.

This is a serious creep...a real 'merchant banker...*'

p.s. 'Korrespondent's piece omits some of the more sinister aspects of Arbuzov's rapid ascent...

p.p.s. In rhyming cockney slang 'merchant banker' means 'wanker...'

Thursday, December 27, 2012

No leniency toward Lutsenko

Former Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, Yuriy Lutsenko was arrested and immediately detained almost exactly two years ago, on 26th December 2010.

On 27th February 2012 Lutsenko was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment at the behest of his political opponents who are now in power, on what were widely considered spurious and vengeful politically motivated charges. Criticism of the Ukrainian authorities's unjust treatment of Lutsenko emanated from E.U., the U.S. Department of State, and from many well-known international organisations.

On 3 July 2012, the European Court of Human Rights declared the arrest of Lutsenko had violated his human rights and ordered the Ukrainian government to pay 15,000 Euros compensation to Lutsenko for moral damages.

The ECHR are currently are currently assessing the entire case against Lutsenko and may well order his release sometime in 2013.

Since imprisonment, Lutsenko's health has declined and he has been hospitalised on several occasions.

In most civilised countries [e.g. United Kingdom], having served half his sentence for non violent crimes, Lutsenko would have been eligible either for early release, release on parole, or at minimum, transfer to an open prison with a less harsh regime.

But there is little chance of this occurring in Ukraine because Lutsenko's political enemies are sadists. The absence of such a humane gesture [which would undoubtedly improve their image] reveals their absolute contempt of western critics who accuse the Ukrainian authorities of unfairly persecuting  opposition leaders.

p.s. Has any reader of this blog ever heard any word of support uttered by former president Yushchenko in support of Lutsenko?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Six months for looks alone...

Introducing... Ukraine's new Minister for Regional Development, Construction and Housing -

Hennadiy Temnyk

I swear I have seen this guy on a Police Station notice board 'Most Wanted list'...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ukraine's poor image will not be repaired by slick talk

Director of the London Ukrainian Institute, Andriy Hunder, in a VOA interview, reveals what everyone knows already - Ukraine has a very poor image in the English language global mass media. He provides 'advice' on what to do to improve this state of affairs.

Ukraine has a deservedly bad image because it is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and since independence has been lead by greedy, narrow-minded and evil men with no vision. This has little to do with the country's culture, literature, or traditions.

Smart-talking PR hot-shots in foreign capitals who make their money polishing turds may make a few bucks persuading their clients to part with their money in an attempt to burnish the country's image, but this will not change anything.

Ukraine's grubby image will not improve without massive improvements in its governance.

A start could be made when political prisoners are released, prosecutors back off political opposition members and back off the already frail independent media, the president stops spending obscene amounts of money on his eleven palatial residences, oligarchic supporters of the ruling party stop carving up the nation's wealth in fixed privatisation 'sell-offs' etc. etc.

p.s. The London Ukrainian Institute offered a hearty welcome a few weeks ago to ex president Viktor Yushchenko, the man who, as a prosecution witness,  gave highly dubious testimony at  Yulia Tymoshenko's 2010 trial. Yet without Tymoshenko's unqualified support a few years previously during the Orange Revolution it is most unlikely Yushchenko would ever have made president.

One of the reasons Ukraine has such dreadful press is the blatant, widely recognised, politically motivated persecution of political opposition leaders like Tymoshenko by the current administration....aided and abetted, of course, by Yushchenko himself..

The Ukrainian Institute should make its position clear on this instead of 'brown-nosing' the discredited former president..

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A reminder of the evil men who run Ukraine..

Over six years ago [how time flies] I posted a blog about the dreadful kidnap and murder of Roman Yerokhin who was a senior officer from the main directorate of the Adminstration for Fighting Organized Crime [UBOZ].

He had been investigating a large conversion and money laundering operation linked to a Donetsk financial establishment and its alleged links to parliamentary deputies from various political factions.

Robert Stack, in his recent brilliantly researched blog, ties Yerokhin's murder to former associates of one of Ukraine's most rapidly rising political stars, the current 36 year-old head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Sergei Arbuzov.

Arbuzov, who is tipped to become Ukraine's next PM, is universally considered to have close ties with the Yanukovych family clan.

Stack's article is a chilling reminder of the nature of the guys who run Ukraine today . They have more in common with '30's Chicago than the EU. Anyone reading Stack's article will realise how far the country's leaders are from holding normal European values, and from sincerely wishing to adhere to any possible Association Agreement rules.

Why should the IMF or any other international financial institution have any dealings with such people?
Luckily, their gigantic scams are being exposed ever-more frequently.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another slap in Yanukovych's face

Less than 24 hours after announcing he will be meeting president Putin today, president Yanukovych's official site declares the meeting has been postponed...

Humiliating, or what?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yanuk will do the deal with Putin tomorrow...

Tonight big-selling 'Segodnya' reports: " It is expected the question of the new price of Russian gas for Ukraine will be decided at Putin's residence in Novo-Ogaryovo tomorrow night [Tuesday], while at the same time the presidents of Ukraine and Russia will sign documents on the start of Ukraine's accession into the Customs Union..."

This despite frantic last minute 'carrot waving'  from European Commission head Manuel Barosso.. Your are wasting your time, senor..

[p.s 'Segodnya' entitle their link: "Yanukovych will create [sdelayet] a sensation in Moscow..."]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ukraine is in the Customs Union already

I really liked Vitaliy Portnikov's excellent video blog today on 'RadioSvoboda', which was entitled 'Ukraine is in the Customs Union already ' [together with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan]

Here are the main points he makes:

The Custom Union is not a union of economic integration. What its members have in common is a similar economic model with the following characteristics:

No possibility of starting up a major business without the absolute approval of the president or his closest associates. Same goes for Ukraine.

Main source of income for the member countries of the C.U. is sale of raw materials. Same for Ukraine - steel, and chemicals..

Small and medium business enterprises are badly treated by the ruling authorities and not encouraged to grow and develop. All economic growth is controlled and sponsored by the government, or by oligarchic sponsors. Same for Ukraine.

Virtually all of the mass media is controlled and run by the government, or by its oligarchic sponsors. Same for Ukraine.

In other words, Ukraine is already a member of the CU - mentally, politically, economically and socially. Whether Ukraine signs an Association or other agreement with the EU will make little difference under the current administration because they have no intention of changing the rules of the game. Their sole intention in signing any possible Association Agreement is merely to maintain the current status quo.

Only when Ukraine changes internally and leaves behind its current C.U. attitudes will it be ready to sign any Association Agreement with the Europeans.

This is the harsh truth..and the Europeans should take account of it irrespective of geo-political considerations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Forget about Europe, we're heading east...

'' in one headline today, announces

'Yanukovych has led Ukraine to the Customs Union'

In today's video address to the Verkhovna Rada, Yanukovych declared :

Ukraine will gradually join the Customs Union rules, because there are a huge market for Ukrainian goods there. We will do everything in order Ukraine has a harmonious relationship with the countries of the Customs Union,  not only in economic but also in the humanitarian, scientific and social fields.

[.."postupovo pryyednuvatymetsya do pravyl Mytnoho soyuzu"....]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind

Almost exactly two years ago many opposition deputies in parliament were seriously assaulted in the parliament plenum chamber by PoR thugs as they were staging a peaceful after-hours sit-in. No criminal action was forthcoming following these events.
[Video here]

Members of the current ruling majority should have no reason to complain therefore if blood flows again, as it did at today's first session of the new parliament. Opposition deputies will be pleased with their performance today, they have left their mark. Comments on social media sites have been supportive - opposition electors voted for 'Svoboda'. in particular too 'rattle the cage'.

The PoR deputies who mocked and humiliated the opposition in previous months, claiming: 'We toyed with them like kittens', now realise what awaits..

Video from today's session here

Judging by the performance by deputies on this 'first day back at school' I predict the new parliament will soon become unworkable.

p.s. Looking at photos from today's parliament confirms how right Jay Leno was when he said: "Politics is just show business for ugly people.."

Monday, December 03, 2012

Why Azarov resigned today

"KyivPost" reports  Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government have resigned immediately after approving the next year's budget, and President Viktor Yanukovych has, apparently accepted the resignation,

"Azarov and many members of his Cabinet were elected to parliament during the Oct. 28 vote, and had to file their letters of resignation to the president. They will still act as an interim government until the new one is approved. A vote in parliament is required to approve the prime minister, but ministerial appointments do not need such a vote..."

However, in Ukraine nothing is ever quite what is seems to be.

'Glavkom' provides a possible explanation for this manoeuvre, which is intended to provide Azarov with parliamentary immunity from prosecution for the duration of the soon-to-be-sworn-in parliament, and enable him to remain as acting Prime Minister, for quite a few months to come.

Immunity from criminal persecution is important - had Azarov's predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, been in parliament she would have been 'fireproof', but just days after her government was dismissed, criminal proceedings commenced against her. As a parliamentary deputy, Azarov can sleep easy at night for several years to come.

Constitutionally, Azarov can only hold both a parliamentary mandate and be acting PM for a period of two months, but there have been many many cases in the last few years where, by means of blatant underhand trickery, such anomalies have been allowed to remain in place.

Had he not resigned as head of the Cabinet of Ministers, he could not have been sworn in as a parliamentary deputy. This is a reason for today's action.

Update: A top PoR spokesman, the president's official spokesman in parliament, in preparation for this scheme has declared that although Azarov cannot combine two jobs according to 'the rules', this would be  permissible according to higher 'principles'.

Other serious commentators confirm the likelihood of many of the recent cabinet of ministers, including  Azarov, staying in place for quite a while in order that balance of force amongst Yanukovych's team of loyalists remains 'as is', perhaps until the 2015 presidential election campaign.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dynamo Kyiv fans protest against alleged injustice against one of their own

Today, Sunday, a mass protest by many thousands of Kyiv Dynamo football club supporters took place in the centre of the capital. Video here

They were protesting against the harsh sentences passed on two supporters' leaders, Dmytro Pavlychenko, and his 19-year old son Serhiy, who were found guilty of murdering a judge in March 2011.

The victim, Judge Serhiy Zubkov, had previously ordered an extension to their apartment to be demolised.

Evidence presented by the prosecutors at the trial was highly suspect and circumstantial. Another court had ruled against the Kyiv prosecutor's office for flagrant procedural violations during the investigation of the murder.

Zubkov was shot twice and stabbed in what looked like a professional 'hit'. He had previously been involved in high-profile Kyiv property construction disputes, so it is possible the Palvychenko's are merely the 'fall guys'.

More photos from 'Segodnya' here 

Sunday's demonstration seemed to pass by peacefully, but the anger and determination of the marchers was unmistakeable. It is fair to conclude, that if people feel strongly about and injustice, they will go out on the street to protest - a worry for the authorities...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quiet revolution, stage one

I liked this follow-up analysis on last month's parliamentary elections:

"....this election was heavily ruled by the protest sentiments, although they had remained unnoticed by sociologists up until election day. Therefore we believe we have witnessed a quiet revolution. A sort of a latent Maydan * [Maydan (Ukrainian for square) is deemed a symbol of the Orange revolution]. It might not have fully evolved into a revolution yet but it is its first stage because, as we see it, the first stage of the Orange revolution happened when the opposition won the 2002 election. Even though back then President Kuchma's administration managed to snatch the initiative and form the parliamentary majority, two years later the same parliament backed up the Orange revolution....Unless the authorities understand the scale of the protest sentiments, they will be hit by the second wave of the tsunami.."

And with a possible/probable? economic crisis looming....will there be only one way to go?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Break for a week or two..

Your blogger is currently experiencing a few problems, which should be resolved in a week's time or two. Hopefully I will be able continue posting then..LEvko


Monday, November 12, 2012

Kozhara has no credibility

Several brave members of Ukraine's Central Electoral Commission, including its deputy head, Zhanna Usenko-Chorna have been highly critical of the manner in which last month's parliamentary elections were conducted - their comments resonate with the damning assessments produced the OSCE/ODIHR and other international observers.

The head of the CEC, Volodymyr Shapoval, has been critical of judges who had interfered in the electoral process, and has called for them to be punished.

Shapoval agreed with some of his CEC colleagues who wanted results in several constituencies to be annulled, but he, and they were outvoted.

Now Foreign Policy Advisor to the Ukrainian President, Leonid Kozhara, who has been set to visit western capitals to whitewash the election process and results, has publicly criticised these people on PoR's official website: "The CEC is not a political body and its members should stay out of politics. Any inconsiderate frivolous political statements undermine the Ukraine's image in the world, and those who resort to dirty political insinuations have to understand this."

Your blogger considers the CEC's job is to conduct free and fair elections. They have every right to make comments on whether they succeeded or not in their task, and provide details of specific failings.

p.s. Kozhara's trip has been terrible. Last Friday he was torn to pieces by a well-briefed BBC interviewer on the 'Hardtalk' programme. His arguments looked as phony as his dodgy hairpiece....He may even get promoted soon..

Friday, November 09, 2012

Opposition candidates in disputed constituencies will continue to fight despite Azarov's offer

PM Azarov, in an official statement on the government site, has just said:

"The Government is seriously concerned about the situation which arose regarding the counting of votes in the elections to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in some single member districts.

As Prime Minister of Ukraine I've repeatedly spoken out about this.

Meanwhile, succession of events encourages us to officially call upon political parties and candidates, who're caught up in conflicts of counting votes, to stop these conflicts and to start a dialogue with each other."

I watched several opposition candidates from the 13 disputed single mandate constituencies as they were interviewed on Thursday's Mykola Knyazhytsky show on TVi. What struck me was their quiet dignity, intelligence and determination.

The stories they told were all very similar. The 'protocols' resulting from parallel vote counting at the lowest level were generally satisfactory [primarily because when these votes were 'totted up' at polling stations there was little chance of knowing for sure how the vote was going overall in the constituencies.] These protocols are in the public domain.

But once the protocols together with voting slips were delivered to constituency electoral commissions and it quickly became clear from the numbers on the protocols that bad news awaited the pro-authority candidates, the 'funny business' started. This took the form of power cuts and black-outs inside the building, unnecessary 'time-outs' and delaying tactics by the counters, seizure of votes in back-rooms by unknown persons of 'sporting appearance', tampering of bags containing the votes, and so on.

Most of these opposition candidates on the tv show were academics, doctors, bosses of small to medium businesses etc. They were standing against very prominent multi-millionaire businessmen who, in many cases, employ hundreds of persons [including security staff ]in the areas where they were standing for election...

These high-power businessmen say in self-justification of their criminal behaviour: 'Look, I have grown my business here and brought hundreds of jobs...what have these opposition candidates brought, what can they do for you?' As if this gives them the right to cheat...

Encouragingly the opposition candidates who considered they were cheated, declared they will continue their fight for justice using the enormous amount of evidence they have accumulated for as long as necessary. They complained however, that the dozens of law suits already put before judges challenging results, have all been, so far, treated with contempt and ignored.

p.s Yevheniya Tymoshenko on British Channel 4 TV interview here

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The opposition's dilemma

Because the Central Electoral Commission have so far not been able to complete their count in some single mandate constituencies the authorities [under the instruction of the president] have grudgingly approved legally highly dubious reruns of the elections in five of the more than one dozen most hotly disputed simple majority constituencies. These  re-elections could take place, by next March at the earliest, maybe. It seems the three opposition forces that will enter parliament have, kind of, agreed to this.

In your blogger's opinion both the authorities and the opposition are not behaving entirely correctly and are 'jumping the gun'.

According to Ukrainian law, the Central Electoral Commission have until next Monday to produce final election results..The CEC have not finished their task until this deadline is reached - they should not yet be allowed to 'wash their hands' of their responsibilities. The evidence of malfeasance which they must obviously possess has to be passed to law enforcement bodies to deal with.

If the CEC's stance remains unchanged until after next Monday, the opposition should make it absolutely clear - there is solid evidence of fraud in the 13 disputed constituencies and they will not accept the swearing in of any deputies for these constituencies. The opposition should insist any possible rerun election must first be preceded by criminal proceedings against wrongdoers in these constituences whose deeds made it necessary for additional elections to be held.

Mykola Knyazhytsky in his blog describes the opposition's dilemma. It should not tamely accept the authorities' ideas of compromise - but because the legal system in the country is in the firm grip of the president, fair judgements are unlikely too.

He goes on: "For the opposition the position is very uncomfortable. Despite the high vote of confidence which the opposition parties received, they are not strong enough to resist an organised and cynical government machine. It would be better to gather strength and present a united front in the next presidential election [in 2015].

But the government has placed the opposition in a position where it will be impossible for them to acquiesce to cynical fraud in some consitituences. That is why the government must revoke their decision and recognize the unfalsified election results according to the original protocols [which are already in the public domain], or the atmosphere will gradually becomes revolutionary, despite all of the  talk that Ukrainians are most unwilling to take such radical steps. If the opposition agrees to this current brazen lawlessness, it will have to take some of the responsibility for it because it will be with their tacit consent that Ukraine turns into authoritarian regime of the type seen in Belarus and Russia."

p.s. From a cynical point of view many of the so called independents who have won in the single mandate consitituencies [and also the communist deputies] would be delighted to see a finely balanced parliament. It would make their vote far more valuable in monetary terms....

The Communists did surprisingly well too and will be no pushovers....why should the 'independent' new members of parliament declare with whom they will vote if the Communists have not yet made their own position clear....PoR will have to dig deep into their depleted money bags..

p.p.s. A good explanation for the rise of 'Svoboda' here 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Opposition leaders sell out...

There are 13 electoral constituencies were journalists and local opposition forces claim systematic cheating took place during last week's elections:- constituency numbers 11, 14, 20, 90, 94, 132, 183, 194, 197, 211, 214,216, 223. Many serious allegations and much evidence of fraud have been accumulated in these constituencies. Any perpetrators found guilty of election fraud should go to prison for many years.

Yet now Yatseniuk, Klychko and Tyhnybok have timidly agreed to a recount in just five of these - numbers 94, 132, 194, 197, 223, and forgotten entirely about the remainder.

They have sold out...they have sold out their supporters who so bravely have tried to protect their constitutional right to free and fair elections across the country.

They have crumbled so publicly that the electorate will never trust them to carry out any of their manifesto proposals again were they were ever to get into power [not much likelyhood of that now]. Even though the parties of Yatseniuk, Klychko and Tyhnybok received about 48% of votes cast, compared to Regional's 30% by the party lists, even despite this moral victory, they have crumbled, thus providing more ammunition to those who declare the so-called opposition leaders have been 'bought out' a long time ago -  it certainly looks like it.

p.s. Excellent analysis on Ukraine's elections from Mykola Riabchuk here 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

President struck dumb

The situation following last Sunday's parliamentary elections is rapidly spinning out of control. For the sake of a handful of disputed single mandate constituency seats, mainly in the Kyiv area, the ruling coalition are making a mockery of Ukrainian democracy [an oxymoron if ever there was one].

There is a strong possibility that the combined newly-elected opposition forces will rip up their mandates and not enter the V.R. causing a constitutional crisis, probably forcing a second election.

Where is the president? Your are supposed to be an authoritarian fixer, not an indecisive bozo!

Show some leadership!

Have no doubt, the gangsters are back..

'KyivPost' ran this story on Friday:  'Bloody vote count in Mykolayiv Oblast as police clash with opposition'

However, they missed much of the important background to this story...

Just over a month ago I posted a blog about  how V.R. deputy Artem Pshonka, son of current Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka, was trying to seize the Mykolayiv-based 'Agrofirma Kornatskykh' agro-company by the dirtiest of means. 'ORD' website call Pshonka Jr. 'raider No.1 in Ukraine'. His dad Viktor  is an old pal of Yanukovych from the bad old days in Donetsk...

It so happened that  the owner of this agro-company, Arkady A. Kornatsky, was an election candidate in the oblast despite being forced to go abroad because of possible risk of arrest...and he won the election, beating his closest rival, Deputy Chairman of the Oblast State Administration and PoR candidate, Vitaliy Travyanko, by about 4000 votes or 39.66% of votes cast against 34.09%. These results were posted on the official Central Electoral Commission website on 29th October.

'ORD' now describes how after news of Kornyatsky's victory spread, all hell broke loose. The 15,000 hectares of land Pshonka Sr. was attempting to steal from Kornatsky could possibly slip out out of his grasp as a result.

During the evening of 30th  October police stormed the premises of District Election Commission number 132 in Pervomaysk, Mykolaiv led by the Regional Governor, Mykola Kruglov. [Kruglov was PM Azarov's deputy when the latter ran the State Tax Administration]. A squad of 'Berkut' special forces, some still in civilian dress, blocked the entrance of the building, kicked out the head Constituency Electoral Commission, and unknown persons entered to feed 'fresh data' into the election commission computer.  A few minutes later the Central Electoral Commission website was amended and Travyanko declared the winner. These guys did not even bother to change the figures from some stations for other candidates on the list, they added other votes to Travyanko only on the summary page so their fraud was obvious.

'ORD' reports  "In Pervomaysk there is almost a civil war. "KAMAZ" trucks have blocked the centre and all entrances to the city. Twice, on the night of 1st and the 2nd November 2012 "Berkut" troops used tear gas in the premises of the district election commission.  Prosecutor General Pshonka and Governor of Mykolayiv region Kruglov are brutally preventing the declaration of the owner of the Arcadia farm, Kornatsky, as winner of the elections because Pshonka wants to seize the15 000 hectares he owns for for his son."

It is clear that without personal guarantees of immunity from Prosecutor General of Ukraine, from Pshonka himself, no-one would have dared to steal the results in such an open manner or involve "Berkut" in this shocking deed.

There have been many protests, beatings, and much unrest as these crooks, having committed their fraud so crudely, are left with no option but to destroy voting slips favouring Kornatsky.

The brave deputy head of the CEC, Zhanna Usenko-Chorna, has said: "The whole country watched, international observers...electors. For many hours we witnessed that Kornatsky was victor, winning by 4299 votes. Then after a very short time, changes were introduced into the system, and by very peculiar means, data is introduced in favour of Vitaliy Travyanko, votes begin to dribble in from two candidates/donors.".

The head of the Constituency Electoral Commission may had suffered a heart attack...and the CEC are going to 'rework'  the results from the Pervomaysk constituency, 'checking every comma'. [The Prosecutor-General's office will no doubt be informed of any fraud, eh?]

Scenes such as these described have been repeated elsewhere in Ukraine these last few days, though in Pervomaysk thelaw enforcement officials have been particularly brutal and most determined to crush any protests against falsification. PM Azarov claimed these elections to have been the best in the history of independent Ukraine....

p.s. more photos from Pervomaysk here

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Steamroller beginning to stutter?

Interesting discussion in tonight's 'Politklub' with Vitaliy Portnikov on the independent TVi channel.

Below is a summary of some of the comments made by journalists taking part:

On the topic of whether western observers should pull their punches in their election reports:
"We cannot expect [or demand] our decent west European friends to call black white just so Ukraine does not somehow drift eastwards...we should not expect them to compromise their principles.."

Not unexpectedly, there have been significant reports of election fraud during the counting of votes, but we should really scrutinise how seriously law enforcement agencies react and deal with these allegations...this will be the true test of fair elections..

The sentence for election fraud is 3-5 years in prison...and there is great suspicion of the bodies involved in running the election, because of bad experiences in the past...The ugly scenes and battles in several high-profile constituencies, particularly around Kyiv, over just a few seats, risks making things appear much worse that they were. It was therefore a bad mistake for the pro-ruling party candidates to so deliberately and openly attempt to cheat in these few seats. It was widely reported on the day immediately after polling day, that from what western observers saw, the results of elections would be acceptable to EU countries. This prompted a second wave of frauds, particularly in the single mandate, simple majority constituencies, where counting was being deliberately drawn out.

Some of these 'mazhorytarka' candidates are former Party of Regions' deputies who were excluded from their party lists, because they were deemed to be not important enough to figure on the higher rung positions where the likelihood of entering parliament on the party list would be higher. They were left to some degree to run and fund their own campaigns. There are some grounds to assume these guys will take their deputy responsibilities more seriously, having run their own campaigns, and they may even harbour some bitterness toward their party bosses who put them out in the cold to fight their own battles whilst favouring others having 'better connections'.

As a result, the fresh parliament will not be stable....the new boys will have their noses in the air [looking toward the 2015 presidential elections] will be difficult for authorities to maintain a solid majority...every law,..especially those linked to taxation and the economy and affecting the 'madzoritarshchyky;, most of whom are significant businessmen in the own right, will have to be negotiated.  The 50% party list, 50% 'mazhorytarka' system that produced a 'tilted playing field'  may well turn out to have weakened internal discipline inside Party of Regions.

'Svoboda' seem to be the only party not controlled by Ukraine's oligarchic political puppetmasters. They seem to be the only party ready to stand up for the common man against oligarch-controlled parties..including those of the opposition. [The stout defence of their candidates in disputed constituencies bears this out]. This may account for their success particularly in the Kyiv region where, until now, they have been nowhere.

The Communist party was the only realistic place where anti-PoR voters could go in the eastern part of the country, even though everyone was aware they could well side with PoR again. Inside their hearts, the Communists will be bitter that many of their votes were stolen by their probable allies. Their leader, Petro Symonenko may fancy one more shot at the presidency in 2015 - this will also affect his attitude to PoR inn the new parliament.

These views were not all held by the guests on Pornikov's programme, by any means, it's just I thought they seemed to be the most reasonable ones.

p.s. IMO Svoboda may have benefited from the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. Voters who voted for Svoboda because they felt it was time to 'fight fire with fire', may well have voted otherwise -  for Batkivshchyna - had the two opposition leaders been free. Their undoubted electioneering skills would have been most useful during the campaign, it is reasonable to assume therefore that their imprisonment  did affect the result of Sunday's polls.

p.p.s. Polish periodical's estimate of how much was spent on the election campaign:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big beasts await Yanuk in the shadows

In my Monday blog I posted a photo from Party of Regions' swanky central Kyiv hotel press centre and said the party were in a state of shock immediately after polling stations closed and exit poll results declared.

The performances of their representatives on that evening's television programmes were far from those of a party who, as most western media reported: "were closing in on victory". In fact it was never in doubt that the ruling authorities would retain control in the new parliament because of the recent amendments to voting rules. Had the voting system remained "100% by party lists", PoR's deputies would be in opposition right now.

In Ukraine the power of the president is now almost absolute. He has a firm grip on the power structures such as the police and prosecutors' office, security services, constitutional court, the judiciary, customs and border control agencies, tax administration, state bank etc. etc. Only a parliament with 2/3 opposition constitutional majority can hurt him, and this is unlikely to ever be assembled.

Despite all of the money spent by PoR on advertising and bribes, despite control of vast portion of the media which churned out heavily biassed or 'purchased' reports, despite heavy pressure on minority independent media sources, despite locking away leaders of the opposition, despite fixing the composition of local election committees, despite suspect counting in dozens of simple-majority constituencies, despite widespread 'buying' of votes, despite pressure on workers in the public sector, despite a lacklustre and fractured opposition performance, despite generously funded and promoted 'planted' and now disgraced parties like those of Nataliya Korolevska, despite late generous social spending programmes, despite the afterglow and feel-good factor following the Euro 2012 soccer competition, despite all of this, Party of Regions have barely scraped together 30% of votes cast.

What awaits in the months to come is almost certainly a worsening economic situation.

Industrial production has declined around 7% this year. Gas and utility prices will increase soon, as will the price of foodstuffs resulting from poor global harvests. Unemployment on the up...pressure from Russia..pressure from the EU...

The so-called independents entering parliament by winning electoral constituencies will have much to ponder when they take up their seats and as the next presidential elections draws closer....they will still be parliament after the next presidential elections have taken place..

Yanukovych's big hope was the creation of a constitutional majority in the new parliament under his control - this has not happened.  In months to come Yanukovych will be facing a stark choice: become a Lukashenko clone, or face the electorate, and likely demise in the next presidential election... The handful of immensely powerful oligarchs in Ukraine will already be looking at the results of Sunday's voting...and weighing up their options for the future...

F.A.Z. reveals high-power EU mission will blast Ukraine

[google-translated] 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' today reports :

"Selective Justice and inhuman treatment"

30.10.2012 · An EU mission to review the cases against Tymoshenko and two other opposition figures in Ukraine has come to a confidential report on a devastating assessment: The outcome of the process "could have been predicted."

After severe criticism, the Western observer missions have practiced at the presidential election in Ukraine, is now known that the mission of the European Parliament, which has examined the sentences against the opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and some of her colleagues judgment, at a highly negative has come. The mission, led by the former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, the Irishman comes in a 15-page classified report, the FAZ.NET and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is present, to the conclusion that the output processes "could have been predicted," opposition leaders in Ukraine.
Also get the medical treatment of the defendants, all of whom were ill during the process, possibly an "inhuman treatment" as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights the same. Urged Ms. Tymoshenko, who as a leader of the democratic "Orange Revolution" the current President Viktor Yanukovych in 2004 temporarily out of power was and then until his return twice held the office of prime minister, was in October 2011, criticized by an international focus process has been convicted of the alleged abuse of office to seven years imprisonment. - there's more at the link..
[This story was surely held back until  Sunday's election was over and most results counted..LEvko]

Monday, October 29, 2012

PoR in shock....

From 'Ukrainska Pravda's continuously-updated election night special:

28.10.2012 23.45 [less than 4 hours after polling stations closed] - Mustafa Nayem [Report from PoR's glitzy press centre]

All activity in the Party of Regions' press centre has died. There is not one representative of the party in the hall. The last presentation to journalists was one and one half hours ago. No announcements or messages. Only the plasma screens showing the tele-marathon broadcasts [on various channels] are running. No sound."

Gone to massage figures in backrooms?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Will observers pull their punches to prevent Ukraine's eastward tilt?

European leaders have quite correctly declared Ukraine's further European integration to be dependent on how Sunday's parliamentary elections are conducted.

Some are worried that if observers deem Sunday's elections to be unsatisfactory, Ukraine may as a result turn eastward and enter into a customs union with three authoritarian countries - Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

In order to prevent this, they predict: "the official evaluation [of the elections] by EU observers, the OSCE and the Council of Europe will be very cautious."

This is bollocks. The job of official observers is to give neither cautious, nor harsh assessments, but to observe and scrutinise, report on what they see, and provide a conclusion. This is what they will hopefully do.

Western politicians should not respond to Yanukovych's playing of he Russia card: "Go easy on us, or we will turn east" - it is all bluff. Russia will not give Yanukovych anything...even for something. E.g. the Kharkiv Accords agreement has become a taboo subject during this election campaign. Ukraine gave away one of it's crown jewels - the best naval port in the Black sea, and still did not receive a fair gas price from Russia - Ukraine is still paying far more for Russian gas than other customers.

Whether or not Sunday's elections are declared satisfactory on not by independent observers will make little difference to Yanukovych's steamroller. His priority is to maximise the wealth of his family and maximise political power, by whatever means necessary, in order they remain 'on top of the muck-heap'.

Yanukovych said in Kharkiv today:  "The fewer prompters [commentators] who [try to] teach us how to live in our house there are, I have in mind from the outside, the better and more comfortable we will feel in our house, in Ukraine.." Is he suffering from pluralis maiestatis?

p.s. Vice Premier of Ukraine Serhiy Tihipko thinks their could be a national referendum on Ukraine joining either the Customs Union or the European Union. We will see in the weeks to come whether the country will have any choice, or whether there is any point in such a referendum.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ukraine’s Troubling Trends

Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton's op-ed in the 'NYT' provides a link to this recent report:  'The prospects for the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement'.

The report's conclusion?

"The future of the Association Agreement of the DCFTA will strongly depend on how the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, which are scheduled for 28 October, proceed; the EU will not take any strategic decisions before then. If the Ukrainian government continues to violate democratic standards, the European Union’s consent to the implementation of the DFCTA will be very unlikely." [my italics]

...continues to violate.....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Slipping into isolation

Kostiantyn Yeliseyev, Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union, claims Sunday's parliamentary election "will be a good election".

He urges his EU colleagues: "Sign the Association Agreement! Not because we want it, but because we deserve it [?!]. Because it is the best possible guarantee of Ukraine’s way to European standards and its future as an independent and sovereign state." It all sounds rather desperate....

Ukraine lags miles behind normal European electoral standards. The list is large: widespread overt and cynical purchasing of votes by parties and candidates; systematic pressure applied to the already diminished independent information media such as TVi; persistent bias in favour of the ruling party's candidates in the mass media, particularly on television channels almost wholly owned by pro-Party of Regions' oligarchs; frequent appalling harassment and intimidation of independent candidates, e.g. as in this case, especially in simple majority consituencies;  use of dummy party candidates to gain maximum influence in local electoral commissions....the list goes on and on.

And all this is on top of a year's criticism as the result the elimination from public life by means of ludicrous show trials of the top two opposition leaders, Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko.

My view is next Sunday's elections will receive a negative assessment by foreign observers, and the likes of Yeliseyev know this already - it will not be a "good election." I wonder how much worse it would be if the systematic scrutiny by independent observers was not in place..

The claim will be made that the final result generally reflects the wishes of the electorate - but how can anyone be sure about this in the light of the 'epidemic of pro-government PR, 'bought' television news reports, and the 'arm-twisting' of vulnerable voters.

Yanukovych has taken so much flak from western capitals I believe he does not care about this any more.

But Yanukovych's body language and stuttering delivery in this brief video clip during Monday's meeting with president Putin seems to indicate Ukraine will not be receiving any favours, especially on the gas front, from its northern neighbour either. The humiliation continues...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The oligarchic democracy. The influence of business groups on Ukrainian politics

I can thoroughly recommend a superb, recently published piece of work entitled:  "The oligarchic democracy. The influence of business groups on Ukrainian politics", from the excellent Polish 'Centre for Eastern Studies' [OSW]

"A definite majority of papers concerning contemporary Ukrainian politics as a rule disregard or deal with this subject very superficially, while it is impossible to understand modern Ukraine without understanding a number of dependencies existing between the political and business elites there.."

Below is a summary:

The Ukrainian oligarchic system developed into its ultimate shape during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency (1994–2004). Although this system has undergone some form of evolution, it appears to be very durable. Oligarchic clans emerged in the mid 1990s and would gain a dominant influence on the country’s political life over the course of a few years. The Orange Revolution triggered a reshuffle among the oligarchs, but the system itself has remained unaltered. Representatives of big business still have a decisive impact on the politics and economy of Ukraine.

Big business not only controls entire sectors of the Ukrainian economy and the electronic mass media—it also has a vast influence within political parties. It is often the case that the overriding goal of a given grouping’s existence is to represent the oligarchs who sponsor it. A network of mutual connections exists between politicians and oligarchs. In some cases these connections are so durable that it is fair to say that oligarchic groups have been formed (consisting of businessmen, politicians and state officials who support each other). Representatives of big business are often much more important players on the Ukrainian political scene than the politicians themselves. One may risk stating that it is the interplay of the interests of the oligarchs that is the real mechanism which shapes Ukrainian politics. When giving their support for a given political grouping, representatives of big business are guided by nothing more than their own interests, and they do not identify themselves with the views of the political parties and politicians they are offering financial support to. If the political configuration changes, the oligarchs usually have no problems finding common ground with the new government.

Although the oligarchic system does have some positive elements (for example, it contributes to pluralism in political life and the media), it needs to be stated that the overall influence of Ukrainian big business is harmful and hinders the country’s development in both political and economic terms. The monopolisation of the key economic sectors has constrained competition and is one of the causes of the unfavourable investment climate in Ukraine. The dependence of most political forces on big business means that the government in many cases is guided by the interests of the oligarchs who are sponsoring it instead of the interests of their country; this often leads to multi-billion dollar losses in the Ukrainian state budget.

The influence of the oligarchs on Ukraine’s foreign policy is limited when compared to economic or internal policy. They do not seem to have a coherent strategy in external relations, but their actions resulting from their individual interests often have a significant impact on Ukraine’s behaviour on the international arena. Sometimes their influence serves the Ukrainian national interest. However, where the interests of big business come into conflict with the interests of the state, oligarchs lobby (often successfully) for their own benefit.

In some sectors (primarily metallurgy), representatives of big business are the main barrier to Russian capital expansion in Ukraine. Russian business is their key competitor on foreign markets. However, oligarchs are sometimes forced by the circumstances to sell their businesses, and Russian investors are often the only prospective buyers in such cases. Given the high degree of ownership concentration in the hands of relatively few oligarchs, it is very likely that Russia would take control of a number of Ukraine’s strategic companies should an emergency situation arise (for example, the second wave of the economic crisis).

When Viktor Yanukovych won the presidential election in 2010, representatives of one political grouping, the Party of Regions, gained strength to an extent unseen so far in Ukraine’s history, and completely monopolised political power in the country. The coalition partners of the Party of Regions and opposition groupings have been marginalised to a large extent. The network of the groups of influence which emerged after the Party of Regions took power has remained essentially unchanged over the past two years. The government and the presidential administration have been divided between the RUE Group and the ‘Donetsk clan’, currently the two strongest groups.

The emerging business of ‘the family’ – this term is used to refer to the people who are directly linked to President Viktor Yanukovych and his sons – is a new phenomenon. The political and economic expansion of ‘the family’ began shortly after Yanukovych took office as president of Ukraine, and gained momentum in 2011 and in early 2012. Although Yanukovych’s political power is stronger than that of any other president in Ukraine’s history, the financial strength of ‘the family’ is still limited.

A further strengthening of‘the family’s’ position in business atthe expense of other oligarchic groups is very likely to bring about a conflict between Yanukovych and most representatives of big business. The consequences of this are difficult to predict. The concentration of huge political power in the hands of Yanukovych has already given rise to concern among oligarchs, including those who have so far formed his political base.

It seems quite unlikely that a system resembling the Russian model, where big business is subordinate to the government, will be created. Yanukovych’s main weaknesses are the limited number of people who he can see as unconditionally loyal to him and the strength of the other oligarchic groups. It seems that the most likely scenario for the development of the situation in the next few years (at least until the presidential election in 2015) will be the development of a compromise between the oligarchs and President Yanukovych. If this is the case, ‘the family’ would gain an important but not dominant position in the model of power and business in Ukraine.

The political influence of those oligarchic groups which are not linked to the governing Party of Regions has lessened significantly since 2010. However, this has not led to any major ownership changes so far. Other groups have managed to keep their assets, although the government has taken some action aimed against their representatives. However, financial support from big business for opposition political parties has either ceased or been significantly reduced.

Proof of the influence of 'the family' was provided at the Donbas Imternational Investment Summit which was addressed by Yanukovych Sr. today.  His eldest son was constantly in the company of Ukraine's top bananas - photos here

Sunday, October 14, 2012

'Forbes' accuse Fuel and Energy minister Boyko of serial theft

Yuriy Boyko has been Minister of Energy and the Coal Industry of Ukraine for exactly 30 months.

In a recent article, '' allege that during this time, Boyko and companies linked to him, have won contracts from his ministry totalling more than $5.5 billion.

When the state gas company 'Naftohaz Ukrainy' requested tenders for two deep sea drilling platforms their final cost turned out to be $1.4Bn, even though shady 'middlemen' allegedly linked to Boyko paid the rigs' builders only $400m for each one. Much has been written about these 'vyshky Boyka' and the massive 'rake-offs', including by your humble blogger.

But apart from this scandal, Boyko is accused of involvement in four further resonant cases.

The first concerns the 'Yevrotrubplast' trading company. Regional gas companies have allegedly overpaid this company millions of Hryvnya for large diameter pipes. The managing director of the trading company is an old pal of Boyko's. Total loss to the 'oblgas' companies is estimated at 850 million Hryven.

The second concerns the 'Ukrenergomotazh' company which constructs electricity supply networks connecting nuclear and other power stations, and consumers. One of the company's directors runs a fuel trading company - with Boyko's wife. 'Forbes' estimates 'Ukrenergomontazh' have received 3.7 Bn. Hryven 'over the odds' in state contracts.

The third concerns the Cyprus-registered 'Benzol' company which supplies explosives to Ukraine's mines. Once Boyko became minister this company have won the lion's share of all contracts to supply either state coal mines or companies linked to Boyko. Overpayments are estimated at 200m. Hryven.

The fourth concerns payments to 'Truskavetskurort' health recuperation complex which is part-owned by an associate of Boyko's. Ukraine's national insurance agencies, whose management has ties to Boyko, have overpaid 'Truskavetskurort' over 100m Hryven for their services, claim 'Forbes'.

If the president's son can do it, why can't ministers? Yanuk jr. has been registering companies in Switzerland and Holland to minimize payment of taxes when his outfits [for which, according to his dad, he works so hard] export coal abroad.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A bit of history..and Lazarenko - his rise and fall...

Interesting interview with Aleksandra Kuzhel in 'Ostro' recently.

Originally from Konstyantynivka in Donbass, she's been at the heart of Ukrainian politics for many years. She's worked for Kuchma, and Yanukovych in PoR,  as well as for the murdered Yevhen Shcherban.

 Aleksandra Kuzhel was until recently a close confidente of Serhiy Tihipko in his now-defunct 'Strong Ukraine' project, but is now a defender of Tymoshenko.

Tihipko is currently deputy PM, and deputy PoR chairman..

Kuzhel complains bitterly about the two years that 'Strong Ukraine's' leader in Donetsk, Vladislav Dreger, has now spend in jail with no prospect of trial. She claims Dreger probably 'crossed' Yanukovych's son, Aleksander, in a business deal and is now paying the price...
When asked whether Kuchma ordered the murder of Yevhen Shcherban, she replies:

- "Hardly. Kuchma is not capable of such a thing. When Gongadze was murdered, I was the first to confidently declare it was not Kuchma... Kuchma can yell at you and blow you out, but he is a man of the sixties. He could not even send anyone to prison. He did not imprison anyone all the time he was president. Gongadze's murder was blatant provocation. In the Scherban case, I'm sure it was not Kuchma. And it was not Yulia. Look where all his property ended up, and draw your own conclusions."

Kuzhel was asked: "You worked with Kuchma for quite a while you know this man well. Tell me why did he began to push Yanukovych [to head the cabinet, and to run in the 2004 presidential elections]?

Why did Kuchma go with the "Donetskiites?"

- "Kuchma never liked Yanukovych. Never trusted him. On this issue the decision was made more by his team - Litvin, and Liovochkin. They lobbied for Yanukovych. I myself asked Kuchma the question - why such a choice, why not Tihipko, who's from Dnepropetrovsk? Kuchma told me - your Tihipko has been frightened off... a comfortable place as the head of the National Bank suits him. Nobody at the time was ready to fund the authorities' election campaign, except Donetsk. At the same time, everyone knew that there would be a very serious fight put up by the "Oranges", and they needed something to oppose this. They understood the consequences of Yushchenko coming to power. Today Yushchenko says that he did not succeed, and puts all of the blame on Tymoshenko. You know, these are the complaints of an impotent man who blames a woman for his problems. He could never have been an effective president because he was never an effective prime minister."

- "Did you think that Yanukovych would be better?"

- "Do you know the difference between the campaign then and the campaign of 2010? They were built under different presidential powers. Yanukovych has usurped the powers Putin now has, but then Kuchma had it carefully all planned out. They were going to do what Putin and Medvedev did - place Yanukovych into the president's office, with Kuchma appointed as his powerful prime minister. In fact, it would have been a third term for Kuchma."

- "So why did a weak Yushchenko win, and Kuchma and Yanukovych lose?"

- "They lost not to Yushchenko. They lost to the people of Ukraine. He did not have the resources to disperse the huge number of people [who staged the orange revolution] to suppress such a protest. Kuchma would never do that....But Yushchenko was pushed all of his life by other people such as Tymoshenko. Poroshenko, Zinchenko. Without them, he would be a complete zero."


In a few weeks time, after serving a long prison sentence, former PM Pavlo Lazarenko will be released from jail in the USA.

'' run an article about Lazarenko's business empire, the people who assisted in its construction, and what remains of it.

The article contains a small graphic with the following titles: In 1995-1997 Tymoshenko was president of UESU - "Lazarenko's milch-cow". Serhiy Tihipko ensured good cooperation between his PrivatBank, and Lazarenko and his structures.

Tihipko briefly served in Lazarenko's cabinet and also in Yushchenko's cabinet.

All these people became exceeding rich..some are now 'under the wagon, others are still riding on it..'

Anyhow, here's a brief resume of the 'Forbes' item:

When U.S. authorities froze the accounts of the former prime minister and his structures they were officially valued around $ 280 million. Right now this would place Lazarenko in 29th place in the list of richest Ukrainians. Some however, estimate Lazarenko's weath as exceeding $2bn. 'Forbes' say, "Judging from what we know today, it is no exaggeration."

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lazarenko was chairman of a collective farm, in charge of the Department of Agriculture and Food Industry of the Dnepropetrovsk regional committee of the Communist Party.

At that time the heavily industrialised Dnepropetrovsk region was full of armament factories and steel plants; it was the preserve of "red directors" who were all-powerful. However, Ukraine's first president, Leonid Kravchuk got on badly with this Dnipropetrovsk clan, and in their turn the bosses of the defence, chemical and metallurgical enterprises of region hated Kravchuk, who they considered to be a traitor to the Soviet Union and a nationalist.

In March 1992, under strong pressure from the "red directors", Kravchuk agreed to appoint Valery Pustovoitenko, the Dnipropetrovsk City Council Chairman, as his governor in the region. But when the president issued his decree he dumped Pustovoitenko and surprisingly named the 'agrarian' Lazarenko as governor.

Lazarenko improved the local economy but also immediately intensively started 'growing' his own business empire which included, agrobusinesses, petrochemicals, retail outlets, gas stations, restaurants, pharaceuticals, etc. His companies were frequently engaged in barter chains between energy companies, farmers and exporters. He was active in accumulation of property assets via various privatisation schemes.

In September 1995, with the country facing serious economic problems, Kuchma transferred the energetic governor of Dnipropetrovsk to Kyiv, making him first deputy prime minister, in charge of fuel and energy.

As a member of the cabinet, he immediately undertook the redistribution of the most profitable branch of the Ukrainian economy - the domestic gas trade, which was in chaos. The Russian "Gazprom" were receiving little, if no payment for gas, and were demanding order be restored  At the end of 1995, all the regions had been divided between the three Ukrainian mediators who would supply gas to industrial consumers. Two of the most wealthy areas - Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk - were assigned to "United Energy Systems of Ukraine" (UESU),  run at that time by Yulia Tymoshenko. She had worked under Lazarenko previously in the petroleum market in Dnipropetrovsk.

At its peak, UESU was served by 2,000 companies which formed long, interconnected barter chains. "Gazprom" was also paid by barter schemes. In 1996 UESU was turning over around about $10Bn.

Subjugation of the Donetsk region was much more difficult for Lazarenko. It was the only region where UESU had to work through a local broker - Industrial Union of Donbas [ISD]. The local elite rebuffed Lazarenko's appointee, Sergei Polyakov, and in August 1996, the Donetskiites insisted their nominee, Viktor Yanukovych, be appointed Polyakov's deputy.

The fall of Lazarenko was as rapid as his ascent. He had made enemies not only in Donetsk. Kuchma's inner circle, including secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Volodymyr Horbulin and head of the president's office Dmytro Tabachnyk [who is in PM Azarov' current cabinet], where whispering in in ear that Lazarenko was plotting to replace him.

Kuchma was annoyed by the-then Prime Minister's ambitious aims The president sacked the State Property Fund Secretary, Yuriy Yekhanurov, because he had begun to carry out Lazarenko's orders.  [No doubt for a piece of the action.  Yekhanurov claims that at the time he did not know about Lararenko's corrupt schemes...ho,ho,ho...Yekhanurov, of course, replaced PM Tymoshenko when she was sacked by Yushchenko and, as acting PM, arranged shady gas deals himself during the 2005-06 gas war...LEvko]

In the summer of 1997 Lazarenko was sacked, and in September 1998 prosecutors opened a criminal case against him. In December, the former prime minister was arrested in Switzerland. Released from prison on bail after a short stay in the country, he fled to America, where he remains to this day, serving 'time'.

Lazarenko's business empire began to fall apart soon after his departure. Kuchma immediately kicked UESU out of the gas business. Lazarenko later accused Kuchma's son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk of misappropriated nearly everything that owned, including the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant.

Property, hotels and factories in Dnepropetrovsk, passed under the control of former colleagues and allies, especially those in the "Privat" group.

The new owner of one of the hotels, Hennadiy Axelrod was killed in the city several months ago, an event I wrote about in previous blog.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Kuzmin exposes himself as laughing stock [updated]

Ukrainian deputy prosecutor Renat Kuzmin's scandalous letter to Senators? Congressmen? [who cares?] is a joke.

It is so poorly argumented, so poorly translated,  it makes "doctor of law, professor, National Academy of Public Prosecutor of Ukraine, deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine", Kuzmin a laughing stock.

Kuzmin's blind arrogance and incompetence is totally exposed. His unprofessionalism, and that of the Ukrainian authorities, is truly frightening.

Party of Regions and Ukrainian authorities pay U.S. lobbyists and PR advisers hundreds of thousands of dollars which they gladly take..Could not any of them spend a few minutes proof-reading this crap?

Many serious commentators say Kuzmin is blacklisted already in the USA. This letter further reduces any likelihood of him receiving a visa.

But it wasn't written for US politicians really; the true target was anti-western PoR regions voters...

p.s. One commentator described Kuzmin at the recent YES conference, thus:  "He looked like a bandit, behaved like a bandit and spoke like a bandit." We now know he also writes like a bandit...

Update: 'Kyiv Post' have now reposted a upgraded, totally official version of the the letter mentioned above. It is still an embarrassing joke...they have nothing to apologise for...


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Yanukovych Jr's. incredible rise

My previous blog reveals that president Yanukovych's older son, Alexandr, is now the most successful businessman in Ukraine when it comes to winning state tenders.

' 'recently ran a story explaining how his business operates.

Here is a summary:

In the past year Yanukovych Jr.'s wealth almost doubled. In April this year he entered the list of Ukraine's top 100 wealthiest businessmen.

His Ukrainian Development Bank is one of the three most dynamic banks in the country [It's CEO, Valentyna Arbuzova, just happens to be the mum of the chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine].

Companies set up by Yanukovych Jr.'s top managers, or registered at the address where his companies are located, this year won more than  5 billion hryvnias worth of public tenders for the supply of mining equipment and coal.

A significant portion of the companies controlled by Yanukovych, Jr have no website so it was difficult for 'Forbes' to find out the names of the 'brilliant' managers who he claims have made his companies so successful, but 'Forbes's journalists knocked together the graphic above. When it comes to answering questions about the the president's son's businesses, Donetsk businessmen become paranoid. Most refuses even informal communication.

Alexandr Yanuk business empire is run from the top six floors of this Donetsk business centre. [Photos and graphics from 'Forbes']

Monday, October 01, 2012

PoR completely dominate state tendering competitions

'' are systematically gathering information on the persons whose companies have been winning state tender competitions, in terms of value, since the beginning of 2012. Graphs and lots of other information here

Leading the pack is Yanukovych's son Oleksandr; second is Rinat Akhmetov.

Oleksandr Tislenko, Chairman of 'Altkom', linked to lots of Euro2012 machinations, is in third position.

Firtash is in fourth position, then Yefremov, Yanukovych's fixer Ivanyushchenko....and so on.

[More on the shady Altkom outfit, and other names on this list, from the 'Independent' here .]

How can such a bunch of people yield power to political opponents in elections?

Mezhyhirya video

The website of 'Segodnya' newspaper, owned by Rinat Akhmetov, has posted an article and video trailer about president Yanukovych's infamous kitch 'Mezhyhirya' residence...interesting..

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Victims of highly-placed raiders write to Obama

The 'ORD' website describes how V.R. deputy Artem Pshonka, son of current Prosecutor-General Viktor Pshonka, is trying to seize the Mykolayiv-based 'Agrofirma Kornatskykh' agro-company by the dirtiest of means. 'ORD' call Pshonka Jr. 'raider No.1 in Ukraine'. His dad Viktor  is an old pal of Yanukovych from the bad old days in Donetsk...

The workers of the company have written a letter written to the White House, taking advantage of a recent high-power visit to the USA by Ukrainian officials, and Yanukovych's current visit to the U.N. in  New York:

U.S. President Barack Obama
By Congress and the U.S. Senate
To U.S. Attorney General


Dear President Obama,
gentlemen congressmen, senators,
Mr. Attorney General of the United States!

By you are turning the Ukrainian peasants, driven to despair by the Ukrainian authorities, whose leaders are now in the U.S.., the Ukrainian peasants, driven to despair by the Ukrainian government , whose leaders are now in the U.S.. They tell you about their domestic and foreign policy, asking for credits, offering to invest in Ukraine.

Know: everything that they tell — a complete lie, they always say one thing and do quite another. All their policies are reduced to one — a steal as much as possible, to enrich themselves through corruption and capture another’s property. Democracy, justice , freedom of speech, rights and freedoms, human rights in Ukraine this power destroyed.

Yanukovych trampled all this by creating a so-called vertical of power, which is actually organized criminal groups of civil servants. Basically what they do — stealing everything that is possible, including loans to U.S. and international banks. So again the money that you give through “kickbacks” and other criminal schemes go into the pockets of top Ukrainian leaders, and close to

Think — you by U.S. taxpayers finance the Ukrainian mafia, promotes corruption in Ukraine! Immediately criminal cases, arrested and questioned by the Ukrainian authorities, who are in the U.S., for theft in Ukraine from international and U.S. banks, the IMF, the World Bank. Obtained loans from you if you give them will help the current government also distort the results of the parliamentary elections 28.10.12, because everything exclusively all she does is aimed at their

Approximate Yanukovych, including Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Pshonka and Minister of Interior Zaharchenko , with subordinate government officials engaged in massive racketeering business, taking away from the legitimate owners of the property, funds, companies, including foreign ones. A striking example is the process of taking power “Agrofirm Kornatsky” to which we all have relation both workers and landlords.

Over two years, without exception, heads of government, but rather, all the gangsters from public administrations, inspectorates, police, prosecutors, led by Prosecutor General of Ukraine Pshonka falsify against fair nor innocent heads LLC “Agro Kornatsky ‘criminal cases arbitrarily arrested and tortured in no way guilty CFO Lyudmila Nikitkinu, almost completely paralyzed the work of the

They rigged for 15 criminal and administrative dozens of cases not investigated and not submitted to the court, because it is unfounded. The method of falsifying one case followed by another, which involved against Yulia Tymoshenko, applied to business. All Ukrainian state system works to destroy honest business and honest people.

Behold — the real policy of Yanukovych and his gang!

Moreover, pay attention, in our case — in relation to a foreign company, which is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine and the American-Ukrainian Business Council! Destroying operating in Ukraine, Ukrainian absolutely law-abiding business, owned by foreigners, the highest Ukrainian authorities at the same time calling other foreigners to invest and lend — do not trust and do not give because steal and plunder!

Please help us fend off criminal attacks Ukrainian authorities to release prisoner Lyudmila Nikitkinu. She is arrested for personal instruction Prosecutor General of Ukraine Pshonka to obtain, through physical and mental abuse, admissions to non-existent crimes. Woman tortured, kept in transit prison in inhuman conditions, illegally sent to misuse the court to continue the illegal arrest.

The current Ukrainian authorities all polls commit crimes against individuals, against humanity, against the state and the people. These criminals for which you want to create a special international tribunal, the Ukrainian people have therefore sincerely grateful to the international community.

Workers and landlords «Agrofirm Kornatsky »
We are waiting for answers at: village Chausovo-2, Pervomaiskyi district , Mykolayiv region, zip code 55235.

The ORD piece also includes a recent detailed 'Ukraina Moloda' article describing the persecution and arrest of Mrs Nikitin and the alleged abuse of power by the Pshonkas...

Picture of Artem Pshonka, complete with  the usual 'death stare', courtesy of 'Kyiv Post'

p.s. Following the recently-adopted US Congress resolution which threatens political sanctions against members of Ukrainian authorities for the imprisonment of  former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, rumours are spreading that some of Ukraine's top oligarchs are now beating a path to the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, pleading they are in no-way involved with the politically-motivated persecution of members of the opposition...oh, no...nothing to do with us...absolutely not... all the work of that nasty man Yanukovych...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yanuk in the Big Apple

'Segodnya' claims Yanukovych met U.S. President Obama "secretly" on Monday.

During their "personal meeting" they allegedly talked about gas  production on the Black Sea shelf.

Seems rather odd....can the meeting be confirmed or denied?

If either Obama had agreed to meet Yanuk on a basis of strict secrecy - and the story leaked, or the story is bullsh*t, then P.o.t.U.S. will be 'pissed off' either way.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Big money pulls all the strings

Olha Rudenko, in her excellent 'KyivPost' article, highlights what everyone already knows - Ukraine's major political forces are to a large extent a sham - they are generously sponsored by a tiny number of country's mega-rich oligarchs for their own self-interest.

These oligarch's aim is to 'hedge their bets', Whatever the electorate decide, they can be reasonably sure their business empires will remain intact and their massive wealth unassailable.

Valeriy Portnikov points out in a recent article, any sanctions by Western countries against Ukrainian politicians and highly-placed officials in punishment for the roll-back of democracy in the country will not cause much distress for Yanukovych himself, his closest circle, or these oligarchs. Their assets and interests will remain largely untouched.

He concludes:
..Ukrainian society [is a]  a society of collaborators who lose their heads at the mere sight of the illegally enriched 'nouveaux-riches'.

While the opposition looks to the oligarchs for funding, while Ukrainian intellectuals run to them for funds for grants and other handouts, while Ukrainian universities take money from them, and even brag about this, while Ukrainian voters delight in observing giant objects constructed with money earned by unclear- or rather clear means, Yanukovych invincible!
..the people who love to talk about the democracy in the West then sell themselves for pennies, and even justify this all... deserve nothing better.

This is the question - are great swathes of Ukraine really ready for western-style democracy? Do they want this style of government at all?

p.s. So many candidates, particularly in the simple majority constituencies, are handing out food parcels, children's gifts and trinkets that this means of bribing electors is frequently not very productive. Votes simply forget who gave what and when..

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ukrainian television news in English....

If there is anyone out there is interested to see what many Ukrainian news broadcasts are like, and how crappy they are, check out these daily  1/2 hour English language news broadcasts 

Reminiscent of the stone-faced Communist bloc days?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More pressure on independent media in Ukraine

By passing an anti-defamation bill in the Ukraine parliament today that envisages criminal liability for defamation and libel, Yanukovych and his PoR goons are mimicking Putin..

Note: "Criminal defamation has been abolished in the UK since 12 January 2010 when the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force. Section 73 of this Act abolished the criminal defamation offences, which were the offences of sedition and seditious libel, the offence of defamatory libel, and the offence of obscene libel....

One of the main reasons for its abolition was the view that the UK's retention of the archaic criminal offence of defamation justified its use by foreign countries to prosecute and imprison journalists, and to restrict free speech....." Source

Farcical performances by Ukrainian officials at YES

The 9th Annual Yalta Economic Strategy summit ended over the weekend. It was streamed live on the the Euronews site and elsewhere, and made interesting, even compulsive viewing.

'Kommersant' have a good write-up of the event.

Their conclusions: The EU and Ukraine did not hear one another in Yalta...But the most talked about performance was that of the black-hearted deputy prosecutor-general, Renat Kuzmin, who seemed out of his depth during a session about Ukraine and the Tymoshenko case.

This is what 'Kommerant' said:

"After the discussion was concluded, Renat Kuzmin left the forum, leaving its members to exchange their opinions - they were all negative. "This performance was the best anti-propaganda for the Ukrainian authorities. He looked like a bandit, behaved like a bandit and spoke like a bandit," said indignant  Senior Fellow Peterson Institute for International Economics, Anders Aslund. "I have no idea for what purpose he was sent here. I did not find any person, who was convinced." said former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer."

Euronews described the session as "...almost farcical. Supporters of the jailed former Ukrainian prime minister railed loudly that the trial was unfair and political. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister and its Chief Prosecutor [sic] gave lengthy but completely irrelevant answers seemingly designed to play for time.."

Inna Bohoslovska, another member of the panel, countered criticisms of Tymoshenko's imprisonment with a vitriolic and totally irrelevant attack against the Germans. The Council of Europe's GRECO [Group of States against Corruption] "..has shown Germany a yellow card for a third time and are demanding criminal charges be brought against certain persons for exceeding their authority!" she trumpeted. [An unfortunate analogy - according to the rules of soccer, a second yellow card means a player is sent off the field of play.]

An agitated Ukr Foreign minister Hryshchenko, when accused by Tymoshenko ally Hryhoriy Nemyria of prejudicially declaring Tymoshenko  to be guilty before any verdict had been passed by court, pleaded: "I never travelled around the world saying Yulia is guilty or not. I defended our national interests which you you tried to sully...this is my job...and I will do this even if if it applies to my neighbour, my close friend, of even personally to you Viktor [Pinchuk, who was sitting next to Hryshchenko in the front row], I would do the same, if the court found him guilty..."

Former president Kuchma, sitting in the next seat along from his son in law, Viktor Pinchuk,  wittily retorted: "Thank God he didn't get to me...", to wry amusement of the audience...Renat Kuzmin, who was sitting directly opposite Kuchma on the podium, and who had, in previous years tried to 'nail' Kuchma for the Gongadze murder, sat stone-faced through this exchange.

Seriously, 'Kommersant' also claim: 'the Russian vector was strengthened - a significant delegation from Moscow was in attendance..."at the Y.E.S. president Viktor Yanukovych increasingly gravitated not to the West, but to the East".