Sunday, September 29, 2013

What do they want from this woman?

Yulia Tymoshenko has been imprisoned for over two years.

Her trial and conviction were adjudged by many international organizations, such as Danish Helsinki Committee, to have been selective and politically motivated.

 On April 30, 2013 the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgement declaring Ms. Tymoshenko’s pre-trial detention had been arbitrary; the lawfulness of her detention had not been properly reviewed; and, that she had no possibility to seek compensation for her unlawful deprivation of liberty.

On September 5, 2013 the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published the report upon their December 2012 visit to Ukraine. The report contains the first official proof that physical force has been used against Yulia Tymoshenko during her forced illegal transportation from Kachanivka penal colony to Kharkiv hospital on April 20, 2012. The CPT investigation concluded that Tymoshenko’s rights had been violated on several Articles of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Last year the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Mrs. Tymoshenko deploring the sentencing of the former Prime Minister, and called for the Ukrainian government to release her unconditionally.

Western politicians, ranging from Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have all called for her release.

The ECHR are currently evaluating whether her human rights were breached during her trial itself. A verdict in her favour, is most likely.

Former President of Poland and co-head of the European Parliament monitoring mission to Ukraine, Aleksander Kwasniewski,  has met Tymoshenko many times over the last months and has stated Tymoshenko is ill and that needs surgery, and given her mistrust of the Ukrainian health service, such treatment should be conducted abroad.

Despite all of this, many serious Ukrainian commentators still consider she should do "the right thing", "confess her sins", ask for forgiveness from her if this will somehow resolve all of the county's ills, permit the signing of the European Union Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine, and open the doors to the EU.

Other serious commentators seem to imagine these agreements will be signed, even if she continues to be detained and that closer ties with the EU will be the main plank of Yanukovych's 2015 presidential re-election platform.

Before her trial and subsequent arrest Tymoshenko was advised by intermediaries to flee the country...she knew what to expect having spent several weeks in prison during Kuchma's presidency, but despite this, did not run. [Unlike Yanukovych and his pals who after the Orange Revolution Yanukovych ran like rats and disappeared for many months...]

What do they want from this woman?

Several years ago I saw, on Polish television, a public service advert for a society for the prevention of cruelty to children. It showed a wimpering little girl with a bruised and bloody face cowering in the corner of a room. A nasty-looking woman, probably her mother, stands over her and scowls: "It is all your see to what you have driven me to..."

ps. The main reason Yanukovych has turned westward is because Ukraine is paying far too much for gas, despite the Kharkiv Accords negotiated by Yanukovych. In this sense both he and Tymoshenko have been shafted by Putin over the price of gas. Yet he is still in his palace, and she is behind bars.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Will Kharkiv Accords be denounced?

Yanukovych realised long ago he was 'shafted' by Putin when he signed the Kharkiv Accords - the 2010 Ukrainian–Russian Naval Base for Natural Gas discount treaty. Ukraine continues to pay an exorbitant price for Russian gas.

There is now fresh speculation that if the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement is signed in Vilnius in November, the Kharkiv Accords could be denounced soon after, and I imagine, an new gas deal negotiated.

Much political capital would be accrued by Yanukovych by such a move.

One writer suggests that during his current brief stay at the UN, support will be offered to the president by the EU and USA on this issue.

Many 'brownie points would be gained by Yanukovych by such a riposte to Russia, but even if this story is true, the AA deal is clinched and Kharkiv accords scrapped, the Tymoshenko issue will not disappear. It will remain a major obstacle to Ukraine's further Euro-integration plans..

[Or is this story merely concocted to give Putin a poke in the eye?]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The buck stops at the president's desk

Judging by remarks  by EU leaders at the just-finished Yalta Economic Summit, unless Yulia Tymoshenko is released [most likely for medical procedures to be carried out in Germany] they will be most reluctant to sign any EU -Ukraine agreement in Vilnius in November.

Yanukovych is demanding some kind of statement from the imprisoned admission of guilt and a plea for clemency, a written request to be released for treatment abroad, payment of huge fines as compensation for pecuniary losses allegedly incurred by the country as a result of the gas deal she made with Putin in 2009, and some kind of undertaking never to return or participate in Ukrainian politics in the future. In other words, Yanukovych expects Tymoshenko to save his face...

To date Tymoshenko, apart from giving a firm blessing to her country's Euro-integration plans, is sitting tight and doing nothing.

Pro and anti Yanukovych supporters are already accusing both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko of 'playing dangerous games' with Ukraine's future...

European leaders and European institutions have long been convinced that Tymoshenko was the subject of crude, politically motivated persecution, that her trial was a farce, and that she has been systematically, physically maltreated during her detainment. This was the primary reason the signing of these deals was postponed in the first place.

Any plea for clemency by Tymoshenko would be meaningless because her lawyers have already made submissions to the European Court of Human Rights complaining her human rights were impinged during her trial. A verdict by the ECHR, most likely in her favour, is expected perhaps next year.

Furthermore, the ECHR has already ruled she was unfairly arrested on the order of the trial judge, calling into question the impartiality of the judge and the soundness of the entire trial procedure.

She was was denied a fair trial to which she was entitled ...The verdict was most dubious and unsafe...this is at the core of the dispute on which Ukraine's geopolitical future hangs.

Sadly, many if not most Ukrainian politicians view Tymoshenko a hostage...a bargaining chip.. a deal clincher to be tossed into any EU-Ukraine deal if/when  this becomes an unavoidable requirement.

As for an undertaking from her to withdraw from politics....every politicial knows: "never ever say never", because circumstances change. Any such undertaking would have no validity or credibility. Who would ensure it would ever be adhered to in the future?

In the most improbable event Tymoshenko and Yanukovych did make some kind of deal, would he trust her to deliver? And vice versa?

Some commentators rather ridiculously suggest Tymoshenko is blackmailing all of the participants in this business: Yanukovych, the EU and even Putin...really? The simple truth is Tymoshenko is behind bars..maybe for a long time. She has no power at all to influence any outcome. Right now her fate is solely in Yanukovych's hands.

The president was already hinting in Yalta that any failure to sign the deal in Vilnius in November would, in part, be the fault of the opposition...."[In the event of non-signing] life will continue, it will not stop....any decision is made by two sides. Ukraine has said its word, we await the response of the EU."

His spin-doctors blame the opposition for bad-mouthing Yanuk before apparently naive and stupid Europeans and putting the outcome of a successful Vilnius signing at risk.......

When asked by Vitaliy Klychko, whether he would resign in the even of non-signature, Yanukovych replied: ""Political processes - they always are either favourable, or hinder. Today they are favourable. that is why I expect you to carry an appropriate share of the responsibility together with me".

Certainly the country now finds itself in a trap, a possible lose-lose situation. But it is entirely of Yanukovych's making. It is he who is shirking his responsibility...someone should put a note on his desk...THE BUCK STOPS HERE..

p.s. Yanukovych also mentioned that just like his questioner Klychko, in his life he has received, and knows how to take a punch...[reminiscing about his shadowy adolescence?] But he forgot to mention anything about delivering blows to the victims he mugged, for which he was twice received prison sentences...His nickname there was 'kham'...[boor or lout in English...]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

'Svoboda' links to crime bosses

Over five years ago  'Kolya Rockero', the memorable nickname of crime boss Mykola Lozynskiy, figured briefly in one of my blogs when he was assassinated in a gangland killing in Lviv.

Recently the reputable site ran an investigative story entitled "Tyahnybok's money-part 3. Boss of 'Svoboda'. It describes the shadowy financial arrangements of the 'Svoboda' opposition party, and its links to murky financial sponsors. Rockero's name also pops up there.

The article claims the party is bankrolled and thus controlled by a [former?] gangster nicknamed 'Vova Morda', but pressure is growing within the party to jettison Morda [which means snout] and his associates. One of these is a current 'Svoboda' parliamentary deputy, Ihor Kryvetskyi, [long known in criminal circles by the name 'Pups']. He was no 13 on their party list during last year's parliamentary elections.

Little is known about Pups, except that he drives around in either a Bentley, a Ferrari, or a Porsche...and flies a Cessna aeroplane.

Pups was a close associate of the late Rockero, but switched allegiance to the above-mentioned crime boss and rival  Morda...he may have even figured in Rockero's 'downfall'.

In 2006 President Yushchenko publicly instructed the deputy interior minister of the day to rid the country of Morda. "How many divisions do you need in order for Morda to no longer exist?" the former president demanded.

Eventually Morda was charged and given a three year sentence....suspended, of course.

Morda allegedly has ties with several important figures in Ukraine, including oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky and Ihor Palytsya. The latter is CEO of UkrNafta, was a former Nasha Ukraina parliamentary deputy, and is now a non affiliated parliamentary deputy. [Hence the rumours 'Svoboda' are somehow funded by Kolomoysky. ]

Tyhanybok and Morda have a mutual hatred for Yushchenko. The former was kicked out of 'Nasha Ukraina' just before the 2004 presidential elections. Morda and Pups have used 'Svoboda' as their ticket into politics and respectability - a means to whitewash their reputations and provide cover for their 'business activities'.

Their generous funding of 'Svoboda' was also useful to their 'criminal partners in crime from Donetsk and their Party of Regions' friends because 'Svoboda' drained a significant number of votes from 'Batkivshchyna' in the last parliamentary elections.

Many local 'Svoboda' officials in Western Ukraine now happily collaborate with government-appointed judges and regional officials in a wide range of corrupt scams and money-making schemes.

'Expres' allege the multinational Chevron were denied the right to gain access to shale gas deposits in Western Ukraine because they refused to 'co-operate' and pay hundreds of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Cyprus, controlled by Pups and Co.

Last year Morda was lucky to survive an assassination attempt after being shot in the head....the driver of the shot-up SUV vehicle, a mobster known as 'Yozhyk', was killed. After this Pups and Morda seem to have fallen out...[hmm]

Pups is also now close to PoR rising star, parliamentary deputy, Vitaliy Khomutnnik, who his head of PoR's youth section and also deputy head of the parliamentary finance and banking activity committee.

Some Svoboda insiders say that matters cannot continue as they are much longer..the party could blow wide open....but right now Tyahnybok needs Pups.... and Pups needs Tyahnybok... and PoR need a puppet opposition party like 'Svoboda' to chip away support from other opposition parties...

All part of Ukraine's  gangster state "virtual politics"....

Ready for Europe? I don't think so...

p.s. The Express newspaper, the biggest Ukrainian language newspaper in the country, has been continuously harassed by the authorities in recent months and years...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Prospects for Tymoshenko, and Ukraine getting worse?

In her latest article in, Sonya Koshkina  discusses the opposition's possibilities in the 2015 presidential elections, and the role the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko may play in them.

Koshkina considers the chances of Tymoshenko being released any time soon has declined from a possible 70% down to 30%. Despite this, those currently in power are reasonably confident [overconfident?] that the EU-Ukraine Association and Free Trade Agreements will be successfully signed in Vilnius in November.

She provides several reasons for the increased likelihood of Tymoshenko remaining behind bars.

The European Parliament's observers for Ukraine - former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski and former European Parliament President  Pat Cox have not been able to guarantee Yanukovych two of his demands. The first was that Tymoshenko, once in Germany for treatment, would remain there and not go 'galivanting 'around the world. The second was to pledge Tymoshenko would not be granted political refugee status once on Germany -  a big black mark for Ukraine.

[Both of Yanukovych's demands are rather peculiar. European Court of Human Rights and Council of Europe rulings and reports have already been highly critical of the manner Tymoshenko has been treated, so a black mark already exists. The ECHR are currently evaluating whether Tymoshenko's trial breached her human rights. It is probable they will rule in her favour.  Cox and Kwansniewski have no power to dictate to sovereign European countries to whom they do or do not grant political refugee status, or whom they permit to enter or leave.]

Party of Regions' are also concerned the release of Tymoshenko could harm Yanukovych's presidential re-election campaign.

At the moment Yanukovych's rating stands at 21% and seems to be quite durable at this level. Second place - VitaliyKlitschko at 16%. Third - 12% Yulia Tymoshenko. Fourth - 9% Yatsenyuk. Behind them - Symonenko five percent, Tyahnybok and Poroshenko at around 4%.

Even if Tymoshenko did not make a second round play-off vote, her support to any opposition candidate could significantly harm Yanukovych chance of winning. Tymoshenko has always done better in elections than predicted by opinion polls.

The signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, although finalised, has been postponed since 19 December 2011, primarily because of the politically motivated criminal persecution, trial, and imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko. The question for Kwasniewski, Cox, and other EU leaders have to answer now is what has changed in Ukraine since that date?

I fear the defence mounted by the European Parliament on behalf of its eastern partners, particularly Ukraine, concerning Russian pressure on these countries,  will be misinterpreted by Yanukovych. The EU has now gone 'the extra mile', [check out this brief video in English] the danger is Ukraine's leaders will not, and the AA deal will be postponed again.

p.s. When asked many years ago what was the greatest challenge for a statesman, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan reportedly responded, “Events, my dear boy, events.”

You make your mark as a statesman by your ability to control events.....failure in Vilnius would now be a disaster for Yanukovych because he has now so firmly committed himself to future Eurointegration. It is in his grubby, capricious hands Tymoshenko is being held..

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Successful Vilnius summit now more likely

Verkhovna Rada Speaker Volodymyr Rybak during a visit to Lithuania yesterday declared that Ukraine will satisfy all the requirements set by the EU for the signing of the Association Agreement and Free Trade Agreement, including the release of Yulia Tymoshenko for medical treatment abroad.

Rybak assured Lithuanian leaders, that whatever the pressure from Russia, Ukraine will not deviate from its aim of successfully signing these  EU-Ukraine agreements in the Lithuanian capital late November.

Rybak is a founder member of PoR, and one of Yanukovych's oldest and most trusted pals, so this story has to be taken seriously.

p.s.Yamukovych is seeking assurances from the EU that if Tymoshenko is released for treatment she will be gagged and no longer able to participate in Ukrainian politics in the future.

After Yanukovych was elected president it was made clear to her that if she remained in Ukraine most likely she would eventually wind up in prison.  But unlike Yanukovych, Akhmetov and many others immediately after the Orange Revolution, she did not run..

Yanukovych is well aware of his biggest opponents' determination...and toughness...this is why he fears her so...Tymoshenko's release will influence the 2015 presidential elections...

Her release, which now may occur, will be at the very last possible moment...but the capricious Yanukovych may yet change his mind yet is all in his hands..

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Tymoshenko was maltreated - official report

Council of Europe -  European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) Report which includes much on Yulia Tymoshenko's maltreatment  here:

This will certainly create a stir...adding pressure on Yanukovych to come to a decision on what to do with Tymoshenko..

But my belief is that the president has yet to do this. He will wait until the very last moment possible..hoping the Europeans go soft on the Tymoshenko problem.

The former PM may be willing to go to Germany for treatment in the next few weeks...but not on the conditions demanded by Yanukovych....There is a battle of wills going on.

I speculated about this several months ago.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

President and V.R. seem unconvincing on satisfying AA conditions

Oleksiy Plotnikov, one of PoR's top economics bods, thinks there is a "99% chance" that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will be signed in late November in Vilnius.

The public utterings of many other Ukrainian officials on a positive outcome of the Vilnius summit have been similarly upbeat.

President Yanukovych in a TV interview promised just a few days ago that all of the conditions set by the EU will be met in good time, including the ending of politically motivated persecution of members of the opposition, which everyone knows means the release from prison of leader of the opposition, Yulia Tymoshenko, [most likely for medical treatment abroad].

But Yanukovych indicated that this is a matter for law-makers - he claimed he himself does not have the authority to resolve 'the Tymoshenko problem'. Yet in his address at today's opening of parliament, he made no mention of any solution.

[IMO the proceedings today all seemed  'wooden' and passionless.....Virtual politics in action? The only Ukrainian politician who can speak with real conviction and sound resolute is Tymoshenko...Maybe this is why she is in prison.]

Nevertheless there are reports from Germany that premises are already being prepared at the elite Charite clinic in Berlin where the former PM may be treated for her chronic spinal illness.

So, will there be what EU Ambassador Jan TombiƄski called "a nice surprise" on the Tymoshenko issue?

Only one man, the president, can decide. Right now he has resolved to wait until the very last moment possible to make a decision.

The timetable is tight.

European Parliament monitoring mission members Cox and Kwasniewski have to present a report on the outcome of their mission, to the E.P. on 30th of September. [They have had their mandate extended twice already.]

On 21st October the EU takes a final decision on Ukraine. The Vilnius summit will take place on November 28-29 th. So, in a nutshell, Yanukovych has three weeks max. to decide how to solve the Tymoshenko problem. Also, apart from this, there is no guarantee other outstanding requirements, e.g. on voting laws etc. will be passed in the Verkhovna Rada either. Should have  been sorted last month in parliament at specially-summoned sessions...but hey, exotic holidays are more important, right?