Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pandora's box

Distinguished Russian Journalist, Maxim Yusin, yesterday, wrote this in 'Vzglyad':

"Yanukovych will fight"

"Ukrainian opposition, united around the Yulia Tymoshenko's "Batkivshchyna" party recently publicly presented its programme in Kyiv. The oppositions' aim - to win parliamentary elections on October 28 and to "start the process of removal of Viktor Yanukovych from power".

Will it be possible to implement this plan? The odds are not that good right now.

First, the opposition themselves admit in order to implement their goals they need to not just to win, but to inflict a crushing defeat, securing at least 300 out of 450 seats. Only then will they be able to start an impeachment process.

Currently polls show the opposition to have only a small lead over Party of Regions - one to four percent.

Secondly, parliamentary elections will be held under the new rules - half the seats in parliament will be taken up by single-mandate candidates who the ruling party will find much easier to manipulate than those who enter parliament on party lists. 'Buying out' of parliamentarians and jumping from one faction to another has long been a tradition in Ukrainian politics. Tariffs in each new Parliament have continually increased, but this time it seems they are lower so the oligarchs that stand behind Viktor Yanukovych will be able to save money.

According to some forecasts  about 150 of the 225 single-mandate MPs will eventually join the 'Regionaly'. This means the opposition will not even gain a simple majority, never mind a constitutional majority.

Third, the Yanukovych government will fight much more desperately than in 2004, when they surrendered to the Kyiv Maidan. The president simply cannot afford to lose power. At stake is his own freedom, prosperity and family well-being, as well as the prosperity of the Donetsk clan.

Today, in Ukraine, violent political habits exist, and a Pandora's box has been opened by the head of state. Yanukovych who can hardly be counted on to be lenient - otherwise he is likely to go the same way as Yulia Tymoshenko. A precedent has been created.

Therefore he must hold on to the bitter end - no Maidan and no mandate without a fight.

Right now though, for Yanukovych, while there is cause for concern, he and his Donetsk clan maintain general control."

Today in Poland, first deputy prime minister Valeriy Khoroskovsky claimed Ukrainians are convinced ex-premier Tymoshenko is a criminal. PM Azarov made similar statements recently too. Unquestionably a significant portion of the population would agree with them, but then again a similar number, or perhaps even more, consider Yanukovych, the cabinet of ministers, and Khoroshkovsky himself to be a bunch of corrupt crooks who should be behind bars too.

Tymoshenko's trial last year on charges of abuse of office should have been impeccably conducted in order to convince sceptics and outsiders alike of her guilt. But the trial was a sloppily conducted farce - hence the reaction by western capitals who concluded the trial was entirely politically motivated. After this any trials on any further charges will not convince either.

Yanukovych today 'played a new card' and revealed that "he had appointed an American law firm to do a legal audit of the prosecution and trial of his great political rival Yulia Tymoshenko." He is wasting even more tax-payers money on a futile whitewashing exercise..How can their findings be other than to satisfy their clients' requirements?

As Yusin says, Pandora's box has been opened..and when Ukrainians snap out of their lethargy its dreadful contents will emerge..

p.s. I really liked this from NYT on EURO 2012

Lots of good comments too: e.g. "Much of the attention [racism]is receiving is surely motivated by the larger perception that awarding the 2012 games to Ukraine has turned out on all levels to be a fundamental geopolitical mistake."

Today the the French minister for sport announced than no member of the French cabinet will be going to the Euros. Ukrainian authorities have already been notified. I expect similar declarations from other European capitals in the near future.

The downtrodden Ukrainian tax payer will have to foot the bill for the Euro 2012 while Yanukovych, Kolesnikov and co. hive off their kick-backs in exotic tax havens..

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Racist behaviour at the Euro 2012 and in England

Last night the BBC broadcast a programme about overtly racist chanting and saluting by Polish and Ukrainian fans at soccer matches.

See the 16-minute portion pertaining to Ukraine here.

A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oleh Voloshyn, today stated the BBC should apologise for the programme. He claimed 'the British side' has never officially protested about the racist displays by Ukrainian fans.

"I recently had discussions with an adviser at the British embassy on the matter of football. On the contrary, we talked about how to protect Ukrainians from British fans who are the most agressive, the most intolerant and racially predjudiced of all the fans in Europe," said Voloshyn.

He is talking with his head up his a***.

Anyone who attends matches in England [like your blogger]  knows English football clubs strove to eliminate the despicable behaviour displayed in the BBC documentary a generation ago, and the UK was the first country to make a concerted effort to rid the game of racism.

Racist chanting or gesturing is almost never seen or heard at matches where about 20% of players are black. Any fan who dares descend to this level would be immediately dealt with and arrested.

Fans who misbehave at matches are banned, e.g. over 1000 supporters from the English Premier League had legally enforcible banning orders applied to them last season.

Volshyn's statement will not reasure any visitor to the Euros.

He should have declared: there will be zero-tolerance at Euro 2012 of racist behaviour, either by home fans or by visitors, and left it at that. His statements will merely dissuade even more England fans from travelling to Ukraine.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pressure on Yanukovych will not abate

Ukraine continues to be perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world and criticism of the authorities' political persecution of former members of the is becoming ever more shrill. E.g. today the European Parliament today called on the Ukrainian authorities to release "figures imprisoned on political grounds."

The U.S. Department of State, in its recently published annual 'Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 - Ukraine', states: "The most serious human rights development during the year was the politically motivated detention, trial, and conviction of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, along with selective prosecutions of other senior members of her government."

Your blogger believes that Yanukovych and his associates thought from the start that if they stand firm, the pressure on them will eventually abate. They have been wrong on this right down the line; and today's E.P. resolution means Europe's politicians can continue to maintain a tough line.

There has been talk both there and in the European media, about freezing the assets and ill-gotten gains of president Yanukovych and his close circle of allies.

The Financial Action Task Force on money laundering, [FATF]  set up many years ago by what was the G-7, is currently investigating oil-rig scams organised by Ukraine's fuel and energy minster, Yuriy Boyko. [I have written about these previously]. They could be "one step away from seizing Boyko's assets."

The possibility of such actions occurring has now increased.

Ukrainian tycoon and Party of Regions' deputy Rinat Akhmetov is normally 'ahead of the game' on such matters. There are credible reports his wife Liliya is interested in becoming a UK citizen. And eagle-eyed journalist photographed a copy of an email which Party of Regions' deputy Yuriy Voropayev was reading in parliament on this topic. [Source - the excellent Gorshenin Institute newletter - one of the best weekly roundups of news from Ukraine]  Both the billionaire's sons study in the UK...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicago Summit Declaration

Chicago Summit Declaration Issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Chicago on 20 May 2012

"...Noting the principles and commitments enshrined in the NATO-Ukraine Charter and the ANP, we are concerned by the selective application of justice and what appear to be politically motivated prosecutions, including of leading members of the opposition, and the conditions of their detention.  We encourage Ukraine to address the existing shortcomings of its judicial system to ensure full compliance with the rule of law and the international agreements to which it is a party.  We also encourage Ukraine to ensure free, fair and inclusive Parliamentary elections this autumn."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why pressure on Ukraine's rulers must be maximised

Vitaliy Portnikov in  says, this week's visits of both PM Azarov to Brussels, and president Yanukovych to Moscow, achieved absolutely nothing.

He concludes:

"That's why right now, [with both Western and Russian leaders complaining about Tymoshenko's imprisonment] paradoxically, we have a historic opportunity.

The ruling authorities, who have decided to shut out Tymoshenko - Yanukovych's biggest rival, using prosecutors [and politically motivated trial], are [now] under total international pressure. Ukrainian society also does not accept it.

The release of Tymoshenko could become the beginning of the end - not even of Yanukovych, but rather the end of Ukrainian authoritarianism in general. The pressure could turn out to be so strong, and the consequences so severe that none of Ukraine's susequent presidents would dare to play the dictator [ever again]. And we can finally change this country.

But for this to happen, Ukrainian society must also be on the same side as the West and Russia. Then Yanukovych will remain on the other side - alone."

KyivPost provides some ideas...                          

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

EU Progress Report on Ukraine 2011

EU  Progress Report on Ukraine & Memo on Ukraine published today

"The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published on 15 May 2012 the annual “neighbourhood package”, consisting of a joint communication (“Delivering on the new European Neighbourhood Policy”)  making an assessment of the first year of implementation of the new  ENP adopted in 2011..."

"The area of  deep and sustainable democracy  experienced a further deterioration in 2011. 

Several leading opposition figures, including former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, were subjected to selective justice, characterised by un-transparent judicial processes. 

Successfully addressing the issue of selective justice would open the way to the signature and ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU."  

Could not be clearer....


Nataliya Prykhod'ko in a article describes the efforts of Ukraine's chief eurointegrators in Brussels, and their possible results.

Here is a summary of some of her thoughts:

She describes Ukraine's eurointegrators as rather unatractive distant relatives who keep turning up regularly, demanding attention and confirmation how good their relationship is. Each bad-mouths one another, and particularly bad-mouths other relatives who used to visit two or more years ago - 'now those guys..they were the real bandits..'

"To be honest, we are all very tired of the visits by representatives of the Ukrainian government," - says one influential Brussels bureaucrat in private conversation. "The pitch is always the same: first a report on Ukrainian reforms, then talk about personal devotion to the cause of European integration, - then complaints about the huge pressure on Ukraine from Russia. We have heard all this millions of times before. Then the visitor is always asked the same question: "Who can influence the decisions of the Ukrainian president?". The Ukrainian visitor looks down and says, "Nobody." And on this conversation ends. However, recently, there has been another version. The Ukrainian guests responds:" His eldest son can influence him." However, for the Europeans, the answer [to all intents and purposes] is no different than the previous one.

The Ukrainians who go to Brussels always make the same pitch:

First. The aim of Ukraine is Europe, and Ukraine will not swerve from this path.

Second. In Ukraine, reforms under way. Usually the talk is about judicial reform and the new Code of Criminal Procedure - because they believe the Europeans like this.

Third. The entire Ukrainian people should not suffer because of one person - Tymoshenko. Ukraine's prospects in Europe should not depend solely on the criminal case against the former prime minister.

Fourth. Yulia Tymoshenko has now become a criminal, and there is a long trail of criminality from her time at UESU.

Fifth. By its actions, the EU is pushing Yanukovych into Putin's embrace, and if Europe does not close its eyes to the Tymoshenko case and sign the association agreement with Kyiv, Ukraine will be forced into economic and political union with Russia.

Ukraine's main Eurointegrationalists are:

- Andriy Klyuyev. the current secretary of NSDC and until recently first deputy prime minister who oversaw negotiations on a Free Trade and Association Agreement.

- Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy. former Minister of Finance and current First Vice Prime Minister Minister.

- Petro Poroshenko - Minister of Economy and former close ally of Viktor Yuschenko.

Ukrainian foreign minster Konstantyn Hryshchenko, who should be leading Ukraine's Euro-integrational efforts has become a marginal or token figure. His aggressive tone towards EU interlocutors has turned them off...he is on the way out.

Ukrainian foreign policy under President Viktor Yanukovych has been reduced to endless maneuvers or ritual dances, playing off Moscow against the EU and vice-versa.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the three main eurointegratists are all very, very rich. A radical deterioration of relations with the EU would significantly compromise their assets, they could lose the opportunity to travel to their European properties or relax at their favorite resorts.

Prykhodko notes that all Ukraine's Eurointegrationary efforts are almost exclusively focussed on Brussels...little work is done in Europe's other capitals..

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mafia States..

 "In recent years, a new threat has emerged: the mafia state. Across the globe, criminals have penetrated governments to an unprecedented degree. The reverse has also happened: rather than stamping out powerful gangs, some governments have instead taken over their illegal operations. In mafia states, government officials enrich themselves and their families and friends while exploiting the money, muscle, political influence, and global connections of criminal syndicates to cement and expand their own power. Indeed, top positions in some of the world's most profitable illicit enterprises are no longer filled only by professional criminals; they now include senior government officials, legislators, spy chiefs, heads of police departments, military officers, and, in some extreme cases, even heads of state or their family members.

This fusing of governments and criminal groups is distinct from the more limited ways in which the two have collaborated in the past. Governments and spy agencies, including those of democratic countries, have often enlisted criminals to smuggle weapons to allied insurgents in other countries or even to assassinate enemies abroad. (The CIA's harebrained attempt to enlist American mafia figures to assassinate Fidel Castro in 1960 is perhaps the best-known example.) But unlike normal states, mafia states do not just occasionally rely on criminal groups to advance particular foreign policy goals. In a mafia state, high government officials actually become integral players in, if not the leaders of, criminal enterprises, and the defense and promotion of those enterprises' businesses become official priorities.

In mafia states such as Bulgaria, Guinea-Bissau, Montenegro, Myanmar (also called Burma), Ukraine, and Venezuela, the national interest and the interests of organized crime are now inextricably intertwined.

Because the policies and resource allocations of mafia states are determined as much by the influence of criminals as by the forces that typically shape state behavior, these states pose a serious challenge to policymakers and analysts of international politics. Mafia states defy easy categorization, blurring the conceptual line between states and nonstate actors. As a result, their behavior is difficult to predict, making them particularly dangerous actors in the international environment."

From "Mafia States" by Mois├ęs Naim,  'Foreign Affairs', April 25 2012

Summary here

p.s. Alexander Rahr seems to be sure Tymoshenko will be released before the Euro 2012 starts...he claims Germany's leading politicians think so too...

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton says she hopes to have good news after her meeting with Ukrainian Premier Mykola Azarov on May 15...

And apparently, the word 'boycott' was not heard at Monday's meeting of EU Foreign Ministers...

Are the EU and Ukraine nearing a deal on 'Tymokha'? But ever since her arrest she has dictated events...and will continue to do so, whatever happens...The press love poking sticks at ugly, greedy bears like Yanuk..

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Clear proof of political discrimination in media by Ukrainian authorities

Arseniy Yatseniuk's 'Front Zmin' reports:

First National State Television Company refused to broadcast the Joint Opposition Forum, which was held at St. Michael's Square in the centre of Kyiv on Saturday.

Leader of "Front of Change", F.Z., Arseniy Yatseniuk sent a letter to the Director General of the First National Television Company of Ukraine, UT-1, Egor Benkendorf, requesting  airtime on the  channel be provided for live broadcast the Forum, between 10.05 to 10.45 a.m.

However, on the eve of the Forum a representative from the First National TV Channel informed 'F.Z.' their request had been denied. It was clear that this was not an independent decision by the channel's management, but rather a directive "from above."

"UT-1  is a state-run TV channel, funded by taxpayers' money and, by law, must provide equal access to information about the activities of both government and the opposition," stressed 'F.Z.'s press service.

UT-1 recently carried a live broadcasts of the Party of Regions' Forum: "Building a new country," a congress of  Party of Region' deputies, and also the 44th Congress of the Communist Party of Ukraine.

UT-1's refusal to broadcast Saturday's Joint Opposition Forum is in clear contravention of broadcasting and freedom of information laws say F.Z's press service.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words, maybe a lot more...

(Reuters) - "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that Ukraine was a "dictatorship" and likened it to Belarus, one of Europe's most isolated countries, in her sharpest comments to date against the former Soviet republic.

Merkel has been an outspoken critic of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich for his treatment of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. But the chancellor's comments in a speech to German lawmakers confirmed the extent to which Ukraine's image has slipped in the West over the Tymoshenko case."

Merkel's opinion is shared across Europe by other prime ministers and presidents.

Meanwhile, today, "President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych believes that the pause in relations with the European Union will do the both sides well. The head of state said this at the meeting with Moldavian President Nikolae Timofti.
Yanukovych reminded that for today Ukraine and the EU have prepared the Association agreement and free trade are agreement. "I would say the EU has offered to take a pause. As far as I understand this break will do us both well."

Yanukovych's statement were intended to pre-empt a possible decision that could be made by EU Foreign Ministers on Monday to boycott the Euro-2012 soccer competition next month.

The disturbing photographs of Tymoshenko in prison taken by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskait─Ś today, will be seen all over the world - burned into the memory banks of  western politicians. It will certainly harden their view that Yanukovych is becoming another Lukashenko..It may even convince UEFA  to move the July 1st Euro 2012 final and closing ceremony from Kyiv to Warsaw..

[Remember this photo?]

p.s.Lead story in United Kingdom's biggest selling paper Friday..

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Corruption at the Euros

Today's 'Sunday Telegraph' in London runs a story "Euro 2012 should be investigated for corruption, says Yulia Tymoshenko - Ukraine's controversial Euro 2012 should be investigated, says jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko"

Few western media sources have picked up [so far] on the massive scams being operated by members of Yanukovych's 'banda', in connection with the Euro 12 tournament, but below is a [Google-translated] recent story  from the public service Danish Broadcasting Corporation, DR, on this topic.

[They also produce superb TV dramas, including the  widely acclaimed 'Borgen' political drama.]

Revealed Corruption at Football Championship
P1 Documentary 03 May 2012 at. 14:03 on P1
Mark Rachkevych is a journalist at the newspaper Kyiv Post in Ukraine's capital. He was born and raised in America, but his grandparents come from Ukraine, and some years after the country became independent in 1991, Mark moved Rachkevych to Kiev. Here he works as an investigative journalist, and in recent years he has written a series of articles about corruption in the country's preparations for the European Football Championship.

In total, invested nearly 100 billion dollars to make Ukraine ready for EM. According to Mark Rachkevych planners originally hoped that 80 percent of the money would come from private investment - more tax money. However, it has been found to be reversed. 80 percent of the money has come from public coffers.

In the four host cities - Kiev, Donetsk, Lviv and Karkiv - had to build new stadiums. But in the years after the country was hosting in 2007 it went very slow with the investment. UEFA chief Michael Platini aired publicly the possibility of Ukrainian was stripped of hosting. In spring 2010 the government created a Ministry of Infrastructure to time in the preparations. The new minister - Boris Kolesnikov - arguing for the reasonableness of that most money for the new building came from the public purse.

- Since the Ministry of Infrastructure was established in 2010, they put forward the argument that these investments will be well spent, partly because they will benefit Ukraine AFTER Championship is over, says Mark Rachkevych to P1 Documentary.

To get started in building the Ministry decided that it would put many construction projects out to tender. You would - via closed betting rounds - hand pick the companies that would be responsible for the construction including the four stadiums, airports and miles of roads. And it meant that millions of dollars have disappeared, says Mark Rachkevych

- I have found that they can not account for how a lot of public money has gone. I have talked to several companies, which says that when companies get a contract awarded, it is quite normal that they have to pay 35 to 50% in kickbacks.

Many buildings have become very expensive. As an example, Mark Rachkevych to a company that normally makes manhole covers in plastic, was awarded a contact to build ten wooden benches for a metro state ion in Kiev. When Mark Rachkevych investigated Agreement, he discovered that the price for each of the simple benches was 45,000 dollars - equivalent to new price for an ordinary car in Ukraine.

The new stadiums have also left more than they are worth. Ukraine's National Audit Office has determined that the new stadium in Kharkiv has cost 150 million dollars for much. Also the new Olympic stadium in Kiev was too expensive, says Mark Rashkevich. Total price $ 600 million. Nearly $ 150 million than the equally large, the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. Both the stadium can accommodate 69,000 spectators and resemble each other a lot.

Mark Rachkevych underwent construction together with experts who considered that it should cost between 300-400 million. The Olympic stadium has been nicknamed Boris-Arena after Boris Kolesnikov, Minister for Infrastructure, the heads of the many new buildings.
The contracting firm AK Engineering, who has been behind the new Olympic Stadium. It turned out that Boris Kolesnikovs lawyer was involved in the company resulting from the minister's hometown, Donetsk. Documents showed that AK Engineering had signed contracts with apparently fictitious companies.

- When you look at the companies that have won these closed betting rounds, then they come mostly from Donetsk. This is where both the president and the minister for infrastructure comes from. And when you try to follow the tracks of these companies, so they lead to offshore companies including Belize and Cyprus with secret owners, said Mark Rachkevych.

Throughout the process, Mark Rachkevych worked with journalists from other Eastern European countries in the network Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. Together they revealed that the company Altkom from Donetsk has been awarded contracts to several 100 million dollars to build roads. Who owns the company is unclear.

For the journalists found out that Altkom is owned by a shell company in England - Eurobalt Limited. whose chief executive is a female yoga instructor in Cyprus. When Mark Rachkevych contacted the woman, he was told that she has nothing to Eurobalt and Altkom to do. But she gets $ 534 a month to be the front man - or woman.

When Mark Rachkevych wrote the revealing stories he told Boris Kolesninov for an interview. The Minister dismissed all charges and said he just tried to have stay at the previous government's negligence, then the country may be ready for EM the 2012th Therefore, you have to pay the price. Mark Rachkevych could not prove who is ultimately served over prices. But in the days after the articles were printed was Mark Rachkevych several calls from the minister.

- He began to threaten me, he said he would destroy me, he would destroy the Kyiv Post, I sue, I know where you're from, you do not like the Ukraine, you are Ukraine's enemy, he says.
Mark Rachkevych shot two of the talks. And he told both his employer - and the U.S. Embassy - about the threats, which made a deep impression on him.

- He spoke like a criminal, he spoke Russian gangster and I did not sleep for several nights. I started taking different routes to and from work and I was paranoid about my phone was tapped. I was really, really afraid for my life, because I know what can happen with critical journalists in Ukraine. They can get chopped off head, says Mark Rashkevich

In 2000, journalist Georgy Gondadze murdered after he had written stories about corruption in their administrations. His body found without the head, police investigation concluded that it was suicide. But Marc Rachkevych has continued to write about corruption. He hopes that EM is a success for the country. But it irks him that so many tax dollars have disappeared.

- For a poor country like Ukraine can not afford for them to cheat people like that. For we are talking about tax dollars that could be where the money could be spent on useful things like IT, hospitals, schools, universities, he says.

With stories like this one and the one above it's no wonder that Europe's policians are loathe to shake hands with  Kolesnikov -  Vice Prime Minister responsible for Euro 2012...

p.s. CNN report :-
  • Amnesty International label Ukrainian police 'criminal' ahead of Euro 2012
  • Say that 'out of control' police could jeopardize the tournament
  • Security concerns raised after multiple bomb attacks near host city
  • European leaders boycotting matches over treatment of former Ukrainian PM

Where is the president - hiding with head head up his a***?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Don't mention the war

Ukraine paper says Germany 'unchanged since Third Reich'

Original 'Segodnya' text here

Basil Fawlty - "Don't mention the war"  here

p.s. does 'Segodnya's owner know about this? When he next flies over 'The Third Reich' he should watch out for stray Messerschmitts... Seriously though, expect a response from 'Bild' and others.... And what sort of reception will he receive when Shakhtar Donetsk are next drawn to play a German club in a European soccer competition?

p.p.s. While the media whirlwind around Tymoshenko's imprisonment swirls around in European press and capitals, Yanukovych and the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs remain silent. Yanuk is tanning his a*** in Crimea...

p.p.p.s. Expect ever-increasing calls for the 1st July climactic final match of the tournament to be moved from Kyiv to Warsaw....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Why Ukraine's Euro 2012 will not be as big a success as hoped

Many members of the former PM's Tymoshenko's cabinet in recent months have been found guilty of abuse of power charges in high-profile criminal trials concocted by ruling authorities' with the intention of 'wiping out' the opposition.

In each case one, or sometimes three judges have decided the verdicts. In Tymoshenko's trial a young probationer judge with two-years' experience singlehandedly oversaw the shambolic proceedings. The tiny courtroom was frequently packed with young persons of thuggish appearance wearing  teeshirts bearing anti-Tymoshenko logos - by western standards the rights of the defendant to present her case properly were disregarded. These trials in no way convinced the 'jury' of observers watching in other capitals of Europe and beyond of the defendant's guilt, hence the international media shit-storm, and talk of boycott of Euro 2012.

Yanukovych and his 'Donetsk banda have consistently underestimated the determination of EU countries not to let the assault on the Ukrainian political opposition pass by unchallenged. Rulings in the European Court of Human Rights on the trials' injustice will only add to the pressure, and although the Euro soccer tournament will proceed, sanctions may eventually be applied against individual officials who organised and managed these disgraceful show-trials.

The flood of fans and tourists from western and central Europe visiting the country for the Euro's will be disappointing for various reasons. In previous tournaments, in my experience, many fans have made an extended holiday of their visits to countries hosting such events; days between matches being spent on the beach, sightseeing, etc. etc. In countries such as Austria/Switzerland or Portugal, where tourism is highly developed, this was an attractive proposition..but, no disrespect intended...Kharkiv? Dontesk?

Europe is currently in the deepest economic crisis since WW2.There is little cash around..not enough to pay the Ukraine's rip-off hotel prices.

Then there's the Olympic games in London later in the year - an attractive draw for sports fans.

International football, particularly in Europe, generally is just not that attractive as in previous years. The English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch leagues are graced by fantastic international players from all over the world. There is greater interest in the Champions' League and other international club competitions where fans and television viewers can watch the greatest players on the planet playing in truly memorable matches. International tournaments tend to produce cautious, and dare I say boring, not particularly attractive soccer. Team players often do not know their colleagues, who may be scattered all over Europe playing for other clubs. The best players from top clubs have frequently played over 50 matches by the end of the season; all they are interested in is a few weeks well-earned rest in exotic locations during the summer break. Being stuck in training camps between matches in Poland or Ukraine is a depressing prospect.

But the tsunami of bad press in Europe's mass media over the Tymoshenko affair will be the final turn-off. Fans will rather stay at home, or, at best, fly in and out for matches, just like they do for European club matches..

What a terrible shame for Ukraine and its people - they have so much to offer...
As someone who lived in a city where matches of a Euro soccer tournament were played I know how much of a 'feel-good' factor such events generate. Goodness knows, Ukrainians could do with some of that right now..

p.s. This video of a Dnipropetrovsk fan being brutally treated and 'tasered' before a recent match in Donetsk is not encouraging...