Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Straws in the wind

Recently the number of metro payment tokens available for sale in St. Petersburg has been restricted.

Residents of Putin's home town, quite sensibly, had been trying to protect themselves from further collapse of the ruble by panic buying huge numbers of these tokens.

These residents know that their government is powerless to halt the fall of the ruble and resultant inflation - and by limiting sale of these tokens is merely providing tangible confirmation of this.

Eventually such a seemingly trivial series of events can turn out to be a last straw that can even trigger revolution..

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DNR shut-out?

President Poroshenko's press service today revealed that after telephone conversations between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France it was agreed a meeting of the contact group on resolution of the war in eastern Ukraine will to take place in Minsk on Wednesday and Friday this week.

One of the Donetsk People's Republic 'capos', Denis Pushilin stated they too were ready to attend in the the contact group format in Minsk, on December 24 and 26 December, but do not know anything further about it.

"Today Ukraine are has not communicated with us and did not coordinate a date for the meeting, however, we are ready for such a dialogue on these dates," said Pushilin.

In other words, so far, they have not been invited to this meeting of the 'grown-ups'.

Ukraine's first president Leonid Kravchuk  quite correctly maintains: "...the signatory countries of the Budapest Memorandum should gather and draw conclusions as to whether the main core of this pivotal document - ensuring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine - has been adhered to. [Such a meeting] should take place - but it should not be ambassadors who attend but rather heads of state who signed the document. Then there will be something to talk about. Everything else is the pushing away any solution."

The heat is now getting to Putin after the week the tide turned and broke his dreams..

Dognat' i peregnat' - 'to catch up and overtake' looks further away than ever..

And without Putin's life support system his ugly creations DNR and LNR will wither.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Russia's radical nationalists in eastern Ukraine

Listen if you can to this 30 minute BBC radio 'Crossing Continents' podcast about the weirdo extremist Russian separatists currently fighting in Eastern Ukraine

"The Knights of New Russia

Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine doesn't all come directly from the Kremlin. The rebellion there may be stoked, and armed, by Vladimir Putin - but it's also become a personal cause for young Russian volunteers recruited by a variety of nationalist and far-right groups. Many say they're motivated by their Orthodox faith - and their dream to restore Novorossiya, or New Russia, the territory which encompassed eastern Ukraine under the Tsarist Empire. 

Passionate members of re-enactment societies, they've spent their weekends reliving Russia's historic battles. But now they're fighting - and sometimes dying - for real, in what they see as a test of their own, and Russia's, "manhood". Tim Whewell has gained rare access to the weird, shadowy world of Russia's radical nationalists. He travels with volunteers from the grand old imperial capital, St Petersburg, to the chaotic, muddy battlefields of eastern Ukraine - and reveals a movement whose leaders have become increasingly influential in Putin's Russia - but is now in danger of becoming an embarrassment to the Kremlin."

p.s. Russians will have followed Putin's grand presser with interest...would have gone out to do their Christmas shopping and quickly come back down to earth as they faced the grim reality that the price of everything is continuing to go up, including sought after Euros and Dollars, and their future is far from certain...

My forebears used to tell me in Soviet times, even under Stalin, when citizens grumbled and complained to one another about shortages, the price of consumer goods and how terrible life had become, often someone would chip in "здесь не Америка" ...[what do you expect]...'this is not America'. 

Maybe this is the reason for Putin's hatred of the west...deep inside he knows "здесь не Америка" 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pressure on Putin continues

From today's Prime Minister's Questions, House of Commons, Westminister, London:

Question: Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):
May I commend to my right hon. Friend some advice from Karl Marx, who, as European correspondent of the New-York Tribune, observed that there were“vital interests which should render Great Britain the earnest and unyielding opponent of the Russian projects of annexation and aggrandisement.”He went on to say that in“the arrest of the Russian scheme of annexation…the interests of…Democracy and of England go hand in hand.”Does my right hon. Friend agree that for the United Kingdom, Europe, the west and indeed the whole world, one of our most important foreign policy priorities for 2015 should be to see that Russia behaves, as one would expect a member of the Security Council to behave, in the interests of international law?

The Prime Minister:
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. I have not spent as much time studying Karl Marx as he has, or perhaps even as the Leader of the Opposition has—I do not know what goes on in Camden these days.

In this respect, Karl Marx was right that the interests of the United Kingdom and democracy go together. We should stand up very firmly against the Russian aggression that has taken place, and we led the way in Europe in making sure that there were sanctions. What the combination of the lower oil price and the sanctions is showing is that it is not possible for Russia to be part of the international financial system but try to opt out of the rules-based international legal system. That is what is being demonstrated, and we should keep up the pressure."

“The only thing Russia can do [to get out of the mess into which Putin has driven his country] is to have the sanctions ended,” which would restore some normalcy to the financial system....I don’t see any other options,” says Anders Aslund.

BBC Economics Editor, Robert Peston says much the same: "Russia is massively leaking cash. And absent an entente with the West over Ukraine, which does not look imminent, it is challenging to see how the hole can be plugged."

This would require giving in to the West’s demands regarding Ukraine, i.e. a spool-back to the Minsk Protocol and holding fresh elections in separatist-held territories in accordance with Ukrainian law.

History shows, political leaders who wield great power seem to be embraced by an invisible impenetrable shield. But eventually, imperceptibly, inevitably, this shield self-levitates..and they then resemble vulnerable mortals...This is now happening to Putin. Bellicose bluster from Putin tomorrow [live feed 9a.m. GMT at this link] will expose his inadequacy even more..

In the weeks and months to come, according to Vitaliy Portnikov, unless Russian elites can somehow persuade Putin to 'get back to reality' and change tack soon, the degradation of the Russian economy, and the resultant break-up of the state, is inevitable. We should all be prepared for the consequences.

p.s . Igor Strelkov/Girkin says almost all humanitarian aid from Russia to the separatist-held territories in Eastern Ukraine is stolen and then mainly comes to light on the market. Is anyone surprised considering the gangster thugs and crazies currently running the place?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why is Ukrainian airspace closed?

Recent Tweet from ConflictReporter:
"It seems, not only DNK, HRK and OZH airports are closed, but the entire eastern Ukrainian airspace too ..."

[LEvko thinks this may be serious stuff...Threat of SAM terrorist attack? Clearance of playing field before possible hostile air attack? Military build-up continues in Donbas..

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Important debate on Ukraine in UK Parliament

In December 1994 the "Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances" was signed by Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

"It is not a formal treaty, but rather, a diplomatic document under which signatories made promises to each other as part of the denuclearization of former Soviet republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Under the memorandum, Ukraine promised to remove all Soviet-era nuclear weapons from its territory, send them to disarmament facilities in Russia, and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Ukraine kept these promises.

In return, Russia and the Western signatory countries essentially consecrated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as an independent state."

The violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity this year by Russian forces and their proxies has caused the greatest crisis between Russia and the West since the fall of the Berlin wall.

It has caused much disquiet in the United Kingdom too, not least because of the obligation the UK has to Ukraine with regard to undertakings given in the Budapest Memorandum.

Several days ago, on December 11, a Backbench Business debate took place in the UK parliament - Ukraine and the UK's relations with Russia. The full transcript of the debate can be read here.

Below I've clipped portions of what was said by the MP's that contributed to the debate:

"The alarm bells are ringing here. Of all the international hot spots at the moment, this is probably the most dangerous and possibly the one that threatens the UK the most....

It is difficult to believe that it was only a year ago that we saw the start of what has become known as the revolution of dignity. On 21 November 2013, after many months of negotiation on Ukraine signing the European Union association agreement, it was announced that it would not actually happen. That is what proved to be the catalyst for the protests, which became known as Euromaidan. The protests may have been sparked by that announcement, but they were not actually about the EU as such; they were, I think, much more about the overwhelming feeling of the people that they could no longer tolerate a corrupt and discredited Government who had sent a clear signal that, instead of moving closer to western values and the freedoms we uphold, they were turning in the opposite direction and moving closer to Russia.....

the situation in Crimea has got worse. We know that large-scale violations of human rights are taking place there. Both pro-Ukrainian activists and particularly Crimean Tatar activists have been persecuted, and a large number of them have disappeared. At the same time, there has been a large increase in the Russian military presence. We understand that some 50,000 Russian troops have moved into Crimea, with Iskander tactical missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and can reach Romania and Hungary......

 the worst thing we in the UK could do would be to use that argument, or say, “Well, we’ve provoked Russia by talking about expanding the EU, and we have taken NATO up to its borders”? That would in some way excuse Russia’s actions and promote the myth—which emanates from the Kremlin—that the situation is somehow our fault rather than squarely down to Russia’s completely unacceptable aggression.....

Russia might seek to move beyond eastern Ukraine and establish the land link between eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and at the same time acquire a seaport at Mariupol. There have been suggestions that that is in the Russian mind, and there is heavy troop build-up that might support the idea, but whether it happens we must wait to see. We must make it clear, however, that were it to take place, there would be severe consequences...."

Meanwhile, "Five Ukrainian servicemen seriously wounded in fighting with pro-Russian separatists will be treated in a British hospital, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond announced Sunday."

p.s. Please listen to this BBC 'From Our Own Correspondent' Podcast about the fantasist crazies from Russia who are now fighting in Ukraine: "for God, Tsar and Nation'. That's the motto of some of those fighting with the pro-Russia separatists...BBC's Tim Whewell talks to them about their dreams of a new Orthodox autocratic state..."

Friday, December 12, 2014

"He who was nothing will become everything"

A Ukrainian forebear of mine who served proudly in the Red Army in WW2, after a brandy or two, would sometimes lustily sing a stirring version of  "The Internationale", in Russian.

Here is a portion... and my translation:

Весь мир насилья мы разрушим
До основанья, а затем
Мы наш, мы новый мир построим, —
Кто был ничем, тот станет всем.

We will demolish the whole world of coercion/violence 
to its foundations; and then we will construct our, new, world. 
Who was nothing will become everything.

After he sang "Кто был ничем, тот станет всем" he would laugh loudly to himself and would explain that at times of revolution,  like the ones he lived through and survived, the misfits, the crooks, the crazies, the inadequates...it is these who seize the moment and come out on top. These guys are the most dangerous of all. The ones who were nothing and become everything....

The reason this has come to mind is I read and saw this:

One of the leaders of the Donetsk People's Republic, DNR Alexander Khodakovskytoday admitted that a large percentage of the militant insurgents  are "the marginalized"  and "antisocial elements".

He stated this at a meeting with students of the Donetsk Technical University.

Khodakovsky also admitted that many serious road traffic accidents in the occupied territories were the result of "stupid bravado" of insurgents.

In yesterday's post I mentioned that the only people who have benefited in this war in Donbas have been the "losers, lumpen proles, loafers, alcoholics and drug addicts - it's their time now"

Кто был ничем, тот станет всем.

P.s. If you have 50 minutes to spare please watch Mark Galeotti's brilliant assessment of Putin's geopolitical strategy, his strengths, and his weaknesses; and why the fate of Ukraine is so important.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Reality of occupied Donetsk

For readers who can read Russian I heartily recommend this article from today's Ostro.ua entitled:

 "From Donetsk to "DNR". The reality of an occupied city"
[Check out the photos too.]

Here is a brief summary:

..a modern city has turned into a dark prison in which the hostages are hungry elderly persons, schoolchildren, students, Donetsk residents returning from forced leave who have failed to find work in other cities, or simply those who have nowhere else to go.

And for those who for 20 years have not been able to find a place in the new realities of a market economy, or just the losers, lumpen proles, loafers, alcoholics and drug addicts - it's their time now.

Suddenly there was a possibility of a social elevation when a parking attendant or car or mechanic could instantly gain power and glory. It is not necessary to work to  buy an automobile, for example. It's enough to have a machine gun and a camouflage outfit.

A mix of Somalia and the Soviet Union in one bottle? Yes, this is Donetsk [now].

We have been transported from the 21st. century into the grey, hopeless '90s. A good part of the city's commercial business rushed to close or move to other regions when the 'Anti-terrorist operation' started, and those that remain have no possibility to carry out their activities normally without re-registration with the DNR . Thus, the largest shopping and entertainment centre ,"Donetsk City" is closed and 'branded' stores are boarded up on the main shopping strips, awaiting 're-registration'. Motor vehicle showrooms are empty, looted by insurgents,  some have had advertisement logos removed already.

Only markets, small private businesses and local supermarket chains now operate in Donetsk.

Entrepreneurs admit that they are afraid to buy stock which is now much more expensive due to devaluation. It then has to be transported under fire and bribes paid at checkpoints,

A very hot commodity are the large chequered bags, last seen after the collapse of the USSR, in which one can quickly gather up a few possessions and get out. [A common sight in the '90's at bus stations across Europe were people surrounded with these large chequered, rectangular blue holdall bags - people returning to countries in Eastern Europe.. F.N]

Also key fobs, lighters, fridge magnets, praising the "DNR", "New Russia" and the USSR are hot right now.

Donetsk probably now resembles the Soviet Union in the last year of its existence.

Armed men are seen everywhere, often drunk. Once familiar traffic jams have disappeared. Smart automobiles are a rarity on the street having been replaced by my much more modest  crumpled Ladas. Many drivers, either from fear or from an excess of pride, "decorate" their cars with DNR flags, stickers and decals.

Nevertheless the city remains clean and warm thanks to courageous service workers who carefully monitor utilities. There have been few power outages and damage to water supply quickly is repaired during the day. The heating season started on time this year.

Night life in the city has markedly declined. Public transport runs only to 20:00 at best, and taxi services take fares only until 23:00. DNR police patrols start to catch curfew violators after 22:00, so after dark people tend to go home quickly.
Some citizens do not turn on the lights in their apartments, so as not to tempt 'crazies' shooting at their windows.

[This video shot today shows one of main streets in the centre of Donesk, Pushkin Boulevard, [which was known for its atmosphere, evening promenades, and restaurants], totally deserted at  7.00p.m. tonight]

A major role in strengthening the power of the DNR was played by former police officers. They quickly changed their name on the buildings of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and city police department.  But what can you expect from such a structure, whose only function was preying on victims of crime as well as the guilty parties?

A lot of Donnetchany are dismayed how they were left at the mercy of separatists by Kyiv, who they consider could have done much more at the very start to hang on to the now-occupied territories.

There is a growing feeling now that a point of no return has been reached. Initially there were not that many supporters of DNR, but thanks to the controversial policies of Kyiv and their inability to offer armed resistance, much has changed.

It should be borne in mind that many Donchany joined the ranks of DNR out of of despair because they were at the end of their tether.

They have come to the conclusion that authorities in Kyiv have already decided to hand over Donetsk forever. The consider the president's decision to discontinue pensions and civil servant salaries and freeze banking institutions is a de-facto recognition of DNR.

It is amazing how a terrorist group of 55 people led by Girkin quietly went to war in our region and was not immediately destroyed by the secret services and the army. In which country in the world is this possible?

p.s. Others have now picked up the themes I raised in my blog yesterday.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Why Scots are smarter than 'Donetski'

Aleksey Polukhin, in a recent 'Novaya Gazeta' article, explains why "Operation Novorossia" is now terminated, and why there will be no Ukrainian banks nor the Russian ruble there. He calls the project "an economic dead end."

Here is a summary:

In accordance with president Poroshenko's decree  "On urgent measures to stabilise the socio-economic situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions," any social and economic activity in areas not under the control of Kyiv was to cease on December 1. In reality, operation and maintenance of ATM bank cards and accounts were discontinued a week earlier. Banks and post offices in the LNR and DNR are paralysed and payments of pensions and benefits were stopped much earlier by Ukraine. 

The economic blockade is the toughest challenge for the unrecognised republics, even surpassing the actual military threat. 

If Russia were to consider the Novorossiya as their own protectorate, even in the long term, it would be obliged to respond to all of this. 

Putin has said that Ukraine, by its actions has separated the the two regions from itself, adding that that Russia doesn't have claim to them either. Statements in the summer by Luhansk and Donetsk leaders promising entry into the ruble zone "in three or four months" have now been conveniently forgotten.

This is in sharp contrast to Crimea, where branchs of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation were set up two weeks after their 'referendum', and by the summer total  transition to the ruble was in place on the peninsula.

In this situation, the unrecognised republics have no choice but to create their own central banks, and either enter the ruble zone without prior arrangement - or create their own currency.

Other frozen conflict zones such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia can stay in the ruble zone because their independence has long been recognized by Russia.

The problem for LNR and DNR is that any unrecognised republic can only exist in a symbiotic relationship with a strong independent player, but such symbiosis with Ukraine has been excluded by Poroshenko's decree. Symbiosis with Russia would be an unacceptable risk [and fiscal burden? F.N.] to Russia, and western sanctions against it strengthened.

Russia will now be forced to accept some responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in  Luhansk and Donetsk, which it seems suits the Ukrainian authorities. "Russkiy Mir" may be even more pitiless than the "Russian war." A few days ago, Prime Minister of Ukraine Yatsenyuk declared a need to resume social welfare payments in the south-east. 

Donbas cannot count on the ruble as currency.  It's the end of the "Unification to Russia" project.

In May this year DNR and LNR held a so-called 'referendum' after which they declared independence from Ukraine. On November 2 its new leaders were 'elected'.

Why did those who voted not ask: What is going to happen to our currency? What is going to happen to our banks..our savings...our pensions?  They unimaginably naively thought the Crimea scenario would be repeated - that Mother Russia would sort everything out. Where were the local businessmen, the civic leaders, the Party of Regions elite that completely dominated that region for over a decade? People who know about such matters. They had all fled with their loot, and screw the 'proles'...

In the recent referendum on Independence for Scotland the pivotal policy question for the canny electorate was just this: What currency are we going to get? What will happen with our banks?  Who will pay our pensions? Will our savings be safe? What will our relationship with the EU be? How will all of this affect our economy..our jobs...our financial security?...The failure of Scottish Nationalist parties' to answer these vital questions satisfactorily was probably the main reasons Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom today.

Meanwhile,  [LNR ] "is not planning in the near future to leave the Ukrainian hryvnia zone, switch to the Russian ruble or create its own currency."

p.s. More on why sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous here

Putin's conciliatory tone belies reality

Watch excerpts from i.m.o. a rather uncertain, hesitant statement from Putin, in this video here. It followed a meeting with president Hollande of France a couple of days ago.

This is a summary from ostro.org:

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande discussed the need to restore economic ties between the Eastern  part and the rest of the Ukraine.

"Both parts of this territory need each other," he said, declaring that a significant portion of Ukrainian energy requirements are satisfied by coal mined in the Donbas.

"Ultimately we need to restore economic relations, it is necessary to send in coal and get electricity back. It is necessary to establish the normal functioning of financial institutions. It can all be done and is needed as quickly as possible.

According to Putin the Minsk agreement is not always being adhered to by either side. "We are for their full implementation. However, we note that neither the authorities in Kiev, and from Donetsk and Lugansk, are fulfilling either of them."

"Hopefully, it will be possible for both Kyiv and Donetsk and Lugansk to emerge with mutually acceptable solutions that would satisfy all parties and, most importantly, would stop the armed conflict."

The president of the Russian Federation expects that Kiev stop its blockade of the east of Ukraine. "Otherwise it is difficult to imagine the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia, as you know, supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine", - he said.

Hollande and other western leaders will see huge disconnect here. Their security services are informing them daily of massive Russia military incursions into eastern Ukraine, but they know they have to go along with the charade to some degree for Putin to emerge from this debacle without losing too much face. Meanwhile Russian heavily armed 'volunteers' continue to flood into eastern Ukraine and pound Ukrainian forces' positions with heavy weaponry.

But Putin was correct in stating that people on both sides of the front need one another to survive the winter. Coal stocks at power stations on one side of the front line [which supply electricity to customers on both sides], are critically low. Mines on the separatist side have about 2 million tons of coal stored at the pit head ready to go, but this cannot be transported because of severely damaged infrastructure and restrictions at borders. Absurdly, some coal is being imported from South Africa and beyond whilst there is plenty available a few miles down the road. These matters may be relatively simple to resolve, but even if hostilities die down for a while, what then?

Administration of civic affairs, health, education etc. has been taken over by incompetent bozos - pals of the thuggish leaders of the LNR and DNR. Many experienced civic administrators have left. Millions of citizens have not received wages and salaries since the summer.

Teachers and doctors are being completely messed about - and are not being consulted or paid. Some are leaving or have left...the remainder are at their wits end and may soon go on strike. 

The Donbas region was by no means the poorest in Ukraine, yet is now on its knees - barely able to provide basic humanitarian requirements to those not able to fend for themselves. Who is to help these people? The thugs brandishing their guns in the swanky bars and restaurants of Donetsk?

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Putin's lack of strategy for Donbas wlll lead to catastrophe

In an article in Gazeta.ru your blogger picked up from Shaun Walker's twitter, the author claims the main reason for the recent resignation of several senior Russian officials responsible for the Kremlin's Novorossiya project in Eastern Ukraine was their failure to achieve greater pro-Russian sentiment there.

One Russian academic reckons the LNR and DNR can now claim to exist [even thought recent elections were 'respected, but not recognised by Moscow] which in his opinion can be considered a success. But according to him, these so-called republics' future is similar to that of Transdnistria but with one important caveat. Maintenance costs will inevitably have to be borne by Russia, although the Ukrainian elites that fled to Russia should make a contribution too.

"But in any case Donbas is turning into a "black hole" for the Russian economy, its politics and geopolitics. There was no strategy for Ukraine from the start. A strategic management axiom states that tactical and operational successes cannot compensate for the lack of strategy; the party that has no strategy, always loses," he said.

A DNR coordinator, observing the situation on the spot agrees that there have been no long-term strategy and long-term plans, either in Moscow nor in the Donbas. "Hence all the mess" with the personnel changes.

"To make far-reaching conclusions from these resignations and reassignments is mere guesswork. It makes sense only to speak only about the presence or absence of a real humanitarian or military assistance in the Donbas.

It's difficult to build confidence in Russia only by providing moral protection, there has to be a physical side this - at least a full scale humanitarian mission, not to mention military aid. Meanwhile the situation for residents of Donbas is only getting worse.

Hundreds of thousands of people cannot be fed and kept warm just with humanitarian convoys. The Russian Federation can provide real help by participating in the restoration of jobs and the financial sector."

In other words the Kremlin "broke it, and is now going to have to fix it"...otherwise they will lose hearts and minds in Donbas...But judging from Putin's pathetic performance on Thursday, they care little about this and are prepared to stand back and watch moronic and thuggish DNR and LNR leaders oversee a looming humanitarian catastrophe...

Friday, December 05, 2014

Putin's speech will not insipire confidence amongst Russians

Many smart people will no doubt pick apart today's Putin's annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

Your humble blogger thought it nervously and rather unconvincingly delivered. Yesterday I wondered whether the pressure getting to Putin? Well maybe it is. [Full text in English here]

Noted Kremlin-watcher Mark Galeotti observed in his Twitter
"After today's speech, clear Putin substituting rhetoric for ideas. But defensive note to fiery words. Is scale of Ukraine blunder dawning?"

Putin declared: "Next year, we will mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Our Army crushed the enemy and liberated Europe. "

He conveniently forgets that in WW2 Ukrainians proportionately suffered considerably more, and contributed more in terms of lives lost, than Russians fighting in the Soviet army...Even the Soviets would not consider such an omission.

The grandchildren of those Ukrainians that fought and perished defeating Hitler are now fighting just as determinedly against a Russian aggressor.

Putin claimed: "No one will ever attain military superiority over Russia..."
Is this what his industrial/military complex and generals tell him? Does he ever look at the numbers? Who is he kidding?

And there was no mention of the 'Novorossiya' project at all, a name that was continually being trumpeted just a few months ago - it all seems to have been quietly ditched...

As for amnesty for funds returned from off-shore havens....I'd bet half the people in the hall listening to Putin have been scheming for weeks to dump roubles, convert them into hard currency and squirrel it away in some secret bank account abroad..Who is Putin kidding here?

Crimea being as sacred to Russia as the Temple Mount is to the Jews?...well this is really something new...Kyiv maybe, but Crimea? Something sucked out of Putin's thumb?

Many Russians who watched will be thinking: "Maybe the old boy is losing it. How many more years have we to put up with him?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Pressure getting to Putin?

During World War 2 one of my forebears was forcibly taken from Ukraine to Germany  to work in coal mines.

He would recount that in conversations with German miners during work breaks in the quieter moments underground many would confess that in their hearts they realised there could only be one outcome to the war. "There are just too many against us," they would sigh...but as loyal patriots they continued to support their "crazy herring" leader. [As Hitler was sometimes called in the Rhineland].

I would guess such thoughts pass through the minds of some Russians now. [Some are returning to analogies with Weimar Germany.]

The scrapping of 'South Stream' by Putin a couple of days ago was a bitter pill to swallow...No self-respecting mafia capo ever, ever, makes a concession, especially a big, expensive public one like this was. Unquestionably a victory for Ukraine.

[BTW, how long will it take European Utility companies and NaftoHaz Ukrainy to form an international consortium to own, upgrade and run the Ukrainian gas transport system complete with its huge underground reservoirs, and enable Europeans, at long last, to purchase Russian gas at one transparent price at the Russia/Ukaine border? This is a big anti-corruption test..]

A couple of days ago a so-called ceasefire was agreed between warring factions in Donbas. "The Head of the Russian representation in the south-east of Ukraine, Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Lentsov" sat alongside his Ukrainian counterpart to announce the [ceasefire} agreement".... which so far shows little sign of sticking. Today Lentsov confirmed that a ceasefire in Donbas can now be expected. Surely this is an overt admission that Russia is behind the separatists, and is trying to pull their strings.

The separatists, LNR and DNR comprise a rag-bag of undisciplined war lords, that I suspect, even Putin cannot fully control. By sending Lentsov he is signalling to the separatists..I'm in charge now. It just maybe dawning on Putin: 'If you are in a hole, then at least first stop digging'.

Meanwhile there are millions of citizens in terrible condition in Eastern Ukraine - who is going to look after their welfare? Who is going to help them survive the cruel winter? Who will help rebuild the destroyed infrastructure? A virtually bankrupt, embattled Ukraine? The temptation to say: "No, we are not taking it back... not in that condition," is gaining ground.

This cartoon showing Obama and Merkel on the bow of the Titanic about to hit the Kremlin iceberg appeared in a Russian newspaper recently:

Russian readers will be well aware it is their currency and their economy that is sinking..and  fast...Euros and dollars are just fine...the rich are fighting over one another to dump roubles...grab the capital flight life-rafts just as quick as they can...They will not miss the irony...poorer passengers on the lower decks of the Titanic were the first to perish...

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Who is responsible for welfare of LNR and DNR?

The humanitarian situation in the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics [LNR and DNR] controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists and Russian military personnel, is quickly becoming dire. Long-term self-sustainability within current boundaries, according to this excellent Hromaske.tv report, is 'near-impossible'.

I wrote previously President Poroshenko has passed a decree to withdraw state support to inhabitants of these regions - this has caused some significant controversy.

The long-time mayor of Donetsk, Oleksandr Lukyanchenko gave an long television interview last week that perhaps deserved more attention than it received. Having been forced to flee from Donetsk for refusing to co-operate with the separatists, he is now believed to be in Kyiv.

He makes it clear that the armed conflict in Donbas should be called a war, not an anti-terrorist operation. "Yes, the Russians crossed the border, and we should call things by their proper name. The Russians are now delivering hundreds of pieces of weaponry, but we still continue to say that an anti-terrorist operation is ongoing. Why don't we call things by their [proper] name?"

He openly stated that people in the area, in his city, never wanted, and do not want to detach from Ukraine.

He suggested that if more resistance had been offered by Ukrainian forces initially during the Crimea take-over, then a similar situation may not have arose in Donbas. He claims 'its not our war, and Donbas is merely a bargaining chip between major powers'.

He calls it immoral that Kyiv has financially cut off the occupied territories in the East and suggest cash could be transferred to individuals bank accounts electronically, so that people could still purchase provisions with debit cards in the still reasonably well stocked major food outlets. He claims that Donbas citizens are fully entitled to pensions, having contributed to state schemes for years.

He states Rinat Akhmetov's relief fund has now sent over 1/2 million 10kg parcels in aid...but that Rinat's TRK television channel is blocked in Donbas. [Lukyanchenko was considered 'close' to Akhmetov for many years.]

He claims up to 50% of industrial capability is now destroyed  and many of the brightest and best amongst  the population have left.

It is difficult not to have some sympathy with those that are left in Donbas, but I think that despite bold pronouncements by president Poroshenko and others that Ukraine must remain a unitary state within the pre-2014 boundaries, there is a growing feeling of 'shadenfreude' amongst some Ukrainians who consider it may be better to ditch the troublesome Donbas for good.

In one article article author Vasyl Rybnikov describes how six months ago many ran through squares in Donbas and Luhansk oblasts and plundered supermarkets, waving flags supplied, allegedly by Rinat Akhmetov's warehouses, in joyful anticipation of the incoming of Putin, who would be welcomed on bended knee.

Somewhere along the way it all went horribly wrong. Humanitarian aid from Putin has been stolen by those supposedly defending the people from the 'genocidal nazi junta'; and the future looks grim indeed.

Donbas which was [erroneously] considered by locals to be carrying the whole of the Ukrainian economy on its back is now not even capable of feeding itself.

And how is it that the great Donbas patriot, king of Donbas, Rinat Akhmetov is now residing comfortably in the heart of the fascist Banderite junta state - the blood-riven capital of Ukraine - Kyiv - and not in his own home town?

The recently-appointed governor of the part of Luhansk oblast under Kyiv control, Hennadiy Moskal, in an interview in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, puts the blame for the dire situation in the East of Ukraine squarely on the Party of Regions' leadership.

"I blame the 'Regionaly' for setting fire to Donbas, for developing the war, and then running from the field of battle like rats from a ship. I blame them totally for all that is going on in Donbas and Luhansk in general. It's their slogans, used by LNR and DNR - Fascists, Nazis, Punishers. They provoked everything, wound up the people, and when they lost control over them they fled, leaving everyone to their fate. Ours is the only oblast in Ukraine where the regional council is not working (it is almost 100 percent Party of Regions). All have fled."

The DNR leadership have promised some social payments will be made to the needy on December 1, but no-one is holding their breath on this.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ukrainian patriotism is honest and decent...and multilingual..

Well-known Russian novelist, Boris Akunin, [who is of Georgian origin] recently attended a big concert at one of London's top venues staged by the legendary Ukrainian pop group Okean Elzy  .

Okean Elzy, who have been popular across the CIS for many years, were at the forefront of last winter's Euromaidan demonstrations in Kyiv. Their concerts have been fantastically well received all over Ukraine since then.

Akunin says he was very jealous of the audience of Ukrainians in London, most of them according to Akunin, Russian-speaking,  They lustily and emotionally sang Ukraine's nation anthem together with the band.

This was honest, unashamed patriotism - pride and joy of being a Ukrainian citizen, and even more so, taking place in London, and not in Kyiv.

Akunin concludes he finally now 'gets it' - what being a Ukrainian really is about. Putin and Yanukovych have unwittingly created great unstoppable national revival across that country.

In the Russian Federation, the many differing lesser ethnic minorities experience discomfort, maybe a frisson of fear when they hear the singing of the Russian national anthem. According to Akunin shouts of 'Glory to Russia!' would only be heard "at a bureaucratic[ally organised]-patriotic events, or at meetings of aggressive xenophobia." Russophone Ukrainians shout 'Slava Ukraini' just as sincerely as their Ukrainophone friends..they are proud of being Ukrainian.

Akunin feels bitter that Russians are not the same as these liberated Ukrainians.

p.s. Also please watch new generation of Ukr politicians on Hromadske.tv in English here 

And some former opposition activists, like Tatyana Chornovol say the occupied part of Donbas "should now be separated from the Ukraine." This is the winning option for the state". I think there will be more and more similar comments made in weeks to come..

President Petro Poroshenko has compared the Holodomor of 1932-33 with the current war in eastern Ukraine, declaring the war is a continuation of imperial genocide against the Ukrainian people.

 Your blogger thinks back to his visits to Ukraine, seeing the vast tracts of arable land, the silos, the lush private vegetable plots with huge amounts of produce...The stores and reserves people have in their cellars, especially in smaller towns and villages...

Hunger? Now in and around Donbas? I can't get my head around this.. The thugs that are in charge of DNR and LNR are are not concerned about the welfare of those incapable of looking after themselves in areas they control..For them humanitarian aid is another get rich  quick opportunity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Should Kyiv provide for the welfare of citizens in LNR and DNR?

President Poroshenko's decree withdrawing state services and aid to separatist-controlled territories at a time of extreme hardship for residents living there has caused much discussion. Many consider it to be a callous and inhumane act   particularly in a country over which the spectre of Holodomor still hangs heavy.

But as journalist Vitaliy Portnikov explains, the Kyiv government should make it clear to everyone: separatist-controlled parts of Donbas are de-facto territories occupied by Russian forces and their proxies. As such, the occupiers are absolutely responsible for the administration all aspects of life there.

Putin claimed yesterday, by way of comparison, that Russia continued to pay welfare payments in Chechnya even during the wars that took place in that region. Such comparison is false - Chechnya was not invaded by any foreign power so responsibility for order, and welfare, remained with the Russian Federation.

As for the true situation on the ground in occupied Donbas, it seems that in larger inhabited centres some relief is being provided particularly by charitable organisations and especially by Rinat Akhmetov's personal relief fund. In Donetsk itself, life is, according to some accounts, becoming more bearable that in August/September.

The greatest problems are to be found in remote, smaller towns where most tragically some people, particularly elderly and infirm, are beginning to suffer and die from malnutrition. Here 'machinations' may be taking place between rival separatist gangs over control of aid from the Russian Federation. Food shops appear to be reasonably well stocked but money is running out for consumers despite financial assistance having been promised by LNR and DNR leaders...

Those that can travel from occupied territories to Ukraine-proper can register there for receipt of social assistance, but for the immobile and infirm this is impossible.

Deputy head of president Poroshenko's Administration, Valeriy Chaliy, has stated that Ukraine is willing to provide any humanitarian aid required to these regions, but this cannot be in the form of cash. There is evidence that such money has been 'skimmed off' by separatists into Russian bank accounts.

Nevertheless it seems essential utilities like gas, water and electricity which criss-cross demarcation lines have not been cut off by the Ukrainian side in these areas

The worsening situation and Poroshenko's decree has prompted savers to hit bank ATM machines hard in Donetsk as savers withdraw cash from their accounts just as fast as they can. One queue comprised 350 persons..

Monday, November 17, 2014

Desperate Donbas inhabitants demand humanitarian aid from separatist thug leaders

 "Late Saturday.. [Petro Poroshenko] issued a decree he hopes will bring the people of the [separatist-controlled] industrial region to their senses: ordering the withdrawal of all state services, including funding for hospitals and schools, from rebel-held areas by next weekend. He has also ordered the central bank to cut the separatists off from Ukraine’s banking and credit-card system." [Source]

Some consider this is a gamble and will cause residents of separatist-controlled regions to hate the Kyiv authorities even more. But as humanitarian conditions deteriorate further these residents have no-one else to turn to but to the DNR and LNR thugs who control every aspect of their lives. They will be  the ones who will inevitably feel that ire of desperate residents, and there are signs this is already happening.

Here are parts of a new report from Liga.net

In Sverdlovsk locals have rebelled against LNR - media

The militants are trying to quell the unrest. Witnesses reported sounds of gunfire but, despite this, more people continue to come to the square

November 17 -  During the first half of the day citizens began spontaneously organized a meeting in Sverdlovsk. They were dissatisfied with the actions of representatives of terrorist LNR. 

According to inhabitants of the city, about 500 people gathered outside the building of the local executive committee, where one of the LNR ruling headquarters is located.. There were questions about salaries (state employees have not received money for an extended period), social benefits, and ration cards promised by the head of the "republic". 

The participants of the meeting, having been driven to despair, were not afraid to openly show their dissatisfaction in city's adjacent House of Culture (also occupied by militants). 

The gates of the military recruiting office, where militants are billeted had blue and yellow paint poured on them.

The militants are trying to quell the unrest; witnesses reported hearing gunfire. But, despite the presence of armed militants more people arrived in the square in front of the executive committee building. By 13:30, there were more than a thousand.

Similarly, in Yenakiyevo a 'mums and kids' protest took place inside the city council building. They were demanding money, which is supposedly due to arrive from Russia. They were told humanitarian aid from Russia and cash was imminent but the truly angry mums were in no way satisfied with the DNR promises.  see videos here

The DNR/LNR meatheads and their Kremlin sponsor do not accept that with power comes responsibility for the millions of people living in areas they control. This is  their part of the 'bargain' they have made...

How Luhansk and Donetsk oblast residents react to their dire circumstances in the weeks and months to come will be a significant factor in this Russo-Ukrainian hybrid war.

If you understand Russian please watch this video filmed by a Horlivka resident who shows how separatists are firing on infrastructure in his city. He calls the separatists losers, the dregs of society who have wrecked his home town in the name of so-called 'Russkiy Mir
[From one of the best twitter feeds on Ukraine,  https://twitter.com/Conflict_Report]

There are reports of great problems for the authorities on 'the other side of the lines' too..

And Putin always has the option of invading under the pretext of  alleviating a humanitarian disaster that DNR and LNR will have been, to a large degree, responsible for.

p.s. The weather forecast for Luhansk this week is daily max of -1 or -2 centigrade....

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Putin pushing for Minsk-2?

Independent journalists confirm large quantities of heavy military hardware have entered, and have been brazenly moving around separatist controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine. This new-stock equipment is undoubtedly Russian in origin.

As Kyiv newspaper 'Delovaya Stolitsa' explains, the new round of escalation in the Donbas region is merely an attempt to repeat of the events of last August when Russia also hugely ramped up military presence to force Kyiv to negotiate with militant separatists.

As a result, after Ukrainian forces' heavy losses in Ilovaisk, the loss of Novoazovsk, and the shelling of Mariupol, on September 5 a ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk. But neither the separatists nor Russia had any intention to adhere to their side of the deal, and have not done so.

The current escalation is similar to these events at the end of August and beginning of September, the difference being the separatist signatories of the Minsk agreement, Zaharchenko and Plotnitsky, had no formal status at that time. Today Russia is forcing Kyiv to negotiate with leaders supposedly "elected by the voters of Novorossiya".

In September this ruse worked, so why not repeat the same stunt and so achieve the legalisation of "DNR" and "LNR"?

The Ukrainian side has not recognised the pseudo-elections held recently in the occupied enclaves, and neither has any one else of significance, but if former president Kuchma or any other authorised person sits at the table with so-called "DNR and LNR negotiators" this would would legalise their status.

The Kremlin needs to show Russians, and the rest of outside world, that Kyiv ostensibly agrees the conflict in eastern Ukraine is of a purely domestic nature; and that after the armed conflict one side is negotiating with the other on equal terms.

One DNR leader claims such a Minsk-2 meeting could take place in a couple of weeks, but there has not been any hint of any such meeting being arranged by the Ukrainian side.

'Delovaya Stolitsa' suggests that if president Poroshenko and the Ukrainian MFA is indeed conducting such secret deals on a possible Minsk-2, many Ukrainians will be shocked by such a back-down.

Minsk-1 was seen by many as a humiliation and was, perhaps, the main reason Poroshenko's Bloc fared worse than expected in the parliamentary elections three weeks ago.

A freshly-elected parliament is due to start work at the start of December; any cave-in by Poroshenko will result in major ructions in the new Verkhovna Rada. Similarly, any more military pressure from the separatist/Russian side will also reduce the likelihood of any Minsk 2 meeting.

LEvko thinks Putin is deliberately and arrogantly sending unmarked heavy military equipment into eastern Ukraine in order to humiliate Ukraine and the Western community who desperately want a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Such moves merely generate even more distrust and anger because all know it was Putin who triggered this completely avoidable and tragic conflict, and it is Putin who continues to fan its flames.

ps Also well worth reading: "Putin Wants Total Victory In Eastern Ukraine — Not A 'Frozen Conflict". Any Minsk 2 would be a sham, just like Minsk 1.

The article concludes:

The Kremlin may be settling in for a very long geopolitical struggle with the West, with plans to apply maximum pressure not just on Kiev but on the West, including military pressure (short of war, in the coming months and years. The goal would be to use support of the separatists in eastern Ukraine, and military and political brinksmanship elsewhere, to divide the West politically, weaken the EU, and weaken NATO.

What makes this possibility so dangerous is that, while the effort is unlikely to succeed, it raises the risks of a military clash between Russia and the West, with all the attendant risks of escalation

The West have no choice but prepare for such a probable scenario.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Russians not keen on LNR and DNR

Interesting Russian Opinion Poll today from Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) - "the oldest and the leading marketing and opinion research company in the post-Soviet space":

Amongst several topics considered,

43% of Russians polled think their country should not intervene, but rather remain neutral w.r.t. DNR and LNR 

Only 11% think DNR and LNR should be incorporated into Russian Federation. Importantly, this figure has gone right down from 6 months ago...

These figures will give Putin much to ponder..

I've clipped and google-translated one portion below:

Do you think what position should take Russia in respect of Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republic (DNI and LC)? (Close-ended question, one answer)
April 2014 *July 2014October 2014
Not intervene to maintain neutrality453643
Recognize the DNI and LC as independent states132623
Take DNI and LC in the Russian Federation181211
Help DNR and LC expand autonomy while remaining a part of Ukraine12158
Kiev authorities to help regain control over the territory of the DNI and LC423
Difficult to answer8912

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Summary of polling day in separatist Donbas

Brilliant summary from RFE/RL:

"Here are some quick takeaways from an eventful day in Eastern Ukraine 

-- As has already been widely reported, today's vote in Ukraine's separatist republics will not be recognized by the West. From the point of view of the leaders of the self-proclaimed "DNR" and "LNR" however, this may be irrelevant, because Moscow has given every indication that it will recognize them. In theory, this will allow Moscow to more publicly deal with the separatists as a government separate from Ukraine. 

-- Drawing official turnout figures will be nearly impossible. Nonetheless, reports on the ground showed long lines of people and in interviews, many were less enchanted with separatist leaders than bitterly angry with Ukraine's leadership in Kyiv. The war in eastern Ukraine has taken a heavy toll and it is clear that many in Donetsk and Luhansk blame Ukraine.

-- In the weeks leading up to this vote, many had talked about it signaling the start of a long-running frozen conflict, with de-facto borders. However, reports that Russian military personnel and equipment are again entering Ukraine in large numbers may mean something altogether different. Separatist leaders have said they plan to reclaim lost territories and also the important port city of Mariupol. And its not just about land -- areas currently in Ukrainian control have  resources that may be necessary to maintain viable services, including electricity. 

-- Russia appears to be testing the West again. The vote today was a clear violation of the Minsk agreement, signed by Russia, which stipulated that early elections in separatist-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk would have to take place under Ukrainian law. Does the EU -- now distracted by other international events -- have the wherewithal to continue, and add to, the sanctions already in place against Russia? What is the EU prepared to do if Russia escalates the conflict militarily?"

p.s. Unless there is a very firm and concerted response from EU leaders who have been ignored yet again, and military assistance is provided from abroad, Mariupol will be under serious threat of attack.

It appears from video clips/photos that few Donbas citizens in the 18 - 30 year age band voted?  At hustings it was predominantly the middle-aged and elderly who were in attendance. Proper revolutions are youth-driven...no? My guess is a huge number of young people, especially those with marketable skills, have now left Donbas, probably for ever. Old men will not rebuild much..and the young win out in the end.

My father used to tell me in Soviet times, on polling days extra food was frequently distributed, [and expected too]  Normally scarce white bread would surprisingly appear! What a treat!

 crowd of voters gathers outside a polling station near a pile of vegetables that can be bought for less than 10 cents after they cast their ballots on Sunday.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Must-see video on Russia's disinformation war

An absolutely must-see Legatum Institute presentation:

"The Menace of Unreality: Combating Russian Disinformation in the 21st Century "

Starts 29 minutes into this youtube video here.


  • Geoffrey Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine, 
  • Oleksander Scherba, Ambassador at Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine
  • Michael Weiss, Editor-in-Chief, The Interpreter
  • Peter Pomerantsev. Journalist and Documentary Producer
  • Anne Applebaum, Director of the Transitions Forum, Legatum Institute
p.s.Also well worth watching, this video of a discussion with journalist Oliver Bullough and Anthea Lawson of Global Witness entitled: 

"Looting Ukraine: The East, the West and the Corruption of a Country" 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Composition of the new Verkhovna Rada

This is an excellent diagram of the configuration of forces in the new parliament.

Most journalists axiomatically believe Opposition Bloc, will form a fraction of around 100+ deputies in the new parliament, and that it will be "pro-Russian".

But this may or may not be completely true. Opposition Bloc is not pro Donetsk People's Republic or Luhansk Peoples's Republic - they are  not separatists and have declared they will continue to work for an united Ukraine.

No major figure from former president Yanukovych's coterie or from Party of Regions, and no Ukrainian oligarch can be found in the upper eschelons of the DPR or LPR.

President Yanukovych refused to sign the Ukraine/EU Association Agreement because of tremendous pressure from Russia to boycott Ukrainian goods, including manufactured goods from eastern Ukraine, and to break the back of industries in that region. After invading Ukraine and trashing much infrastructure, such pressure can no longer be applied by Putin - the damage has been done.  Donbas oligarchs have nowhere else to turn but westward - their financial and industrial might, although much reduced after Russia's proxy-led invasion, is too great for them to remain in serious opposition for long. They know which direction the wind in now blowing and will be constantly attempting to cook deals with the new authorities for their own benefit.

There are reports that both of the two leading parties in the new parliament, People's Front and Poroshenko Bloc, are already working hard to recruit successful single-mandate deputies, [many of whom are outwardly independent but are from the PoR stable], into their own ranks in order to gain stronger hands in the formation of a new government. In total there is 94 such single-mandate deputies.

I suspect quite a few will be recruited.. for the sake of personal expediency, for guarantees of immunity, for money etc. etc.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Opposition Bloc will enter VR but be impotent? [Update]

So 'Opposition Bloc is expected to be the fourth largest party in the new Verkhovna Rada. They should gain a minimum of 30 seats - and probably more if some deputies in single mandate constituencies join them.

There are suspicions that President Poroshenko and his associates gave Opposition Block an 'easy run' in regained territories in Donbas  - possibly part of a under-the-table deal between Poroshenko and Putin. Pro-Russian elements in Ukraine will now have at least some representation in the VR and  may make Putin a little bit more amenable in any resolution of the current crisis. Some experts even hint this perhaps may be not a bad thing.

There could be substance to these suspicions.

There is lots of 'prima facie' evidence than many on Opposition Bloc's list have been involved in vast fraud and corruption schemes in the past and should be facing criminal charges. Everyone in Ukraine has heard about the Opposition Bloc leader Yuriy Boyko's involvement in the skimming of of hundreds of millions of dollars in the 'Vyshky Boyka' scandal. The fact that he is still 'in business' is a total disgrace.

Others in their ranks have inexplicably acquired great wealth also.  [See previous blog].

Serhiy Klyuyev, who will enter the new parliament has had his business assets seized abroad, and is probably under investigation.

But the Opposition Bloc will always be on tenterhooks, and will have to co-operate with the President - as they have already pledged to do.

The reason for this is the new VR could vote to remove their immunity from prosecution. Those who voted for scandalous laws on January 16 earlier this year, [which would have turned Ukraine into a Yanukovych-led dictatorship], and will now return to the new parliament, could face criminal charges.

Poroshenko will have plenty of kompromat on these guys to threaten them with if necessary.

Update: Ukrainska Pravda provide more information in an article "Elections in Donbas - betrayal of the authorities" about the corrupt manner in which discredited and corrupt Yanukovych 'old-guard' allies have again entered the new parliament...with the tacit approval of Poroshenko?

Poroshenko will be under pressure from Putin to ensure a Russia-friendly premier and cabinet is appointed...but the result was clear- Ukrainians absolutely do not want this.

p.s. FT Beyond Brics seem to agree, in parts, with your humble blogger in this article today.

Many of the Opposition Bloc 'big knobs' are not natural politicians at all, rather their main aim is survival and minimising the rapid diminution of their assets. They much prefer making back-room deals than standing on a box addressing a sceptical electorate...and they know that in the so-called Luhansk and in the Donetsk People's Republics they are finished..They have nowhere else to go.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ukrainian forces in good shape in Mariupol, says Shuster

Gordonua.com run an interview with one of Ukraine's most well known television journalists - political show host Savik Shuster.

Shuster, who has had a most interesting and colourful career in many countries, had spent a day in Mariupol.

Here is a portion of his observations from the piece which was entitled:

"Shuster: It will be a surprise for Putin that the 'Russian World' in south-eastern Ukraine is braced to fight against Russia"

- What are your impressions from your visit to the Anti Terrorist Operation area?

- I came back last night, and have not yet fully comprehended and thought over everything, but was absolutely impressed by three things.

Firstly, I saw the real Armed Forces of Ukraine - a powerful, organized and cohesive force. It is  constantly being alleged that the Ukrainian army is weak and demoralized. In Mariupol I did not experience this, rather I felt the opposite: Ukrainian forces are of an incomparably higher standar than those I have seen in other military conflicts in the former Soviet Union - and I was in Chechnya, Ossetia, Abkhazia and Karabakh. In Mariupol the armed powers of Ukraine are really organized. That's impressive.

- What else impressed you at the front line?

- Morale. The guys are driven by patriotism. In Kyiv they do not understand this and  they do not understand the circumstances in which Ukrainian ATO fighters now live and fight.

But most importantly, I felt Putin now has great problem. The Russian president does not understand that the "Russian World", which he expects to rise up in Mariupol, will fight against Putin. In the city most people speak in Russian, but they have a maximum pro-Ukrainian outlook. I think for Putin this will be a great surprise, because he is still convinced that the south-east of Ukraine is for Russia. Its nothing of the kind. The Ukrainian Russophone world is against Putin, against his fighters and against Russian aggression.

Although Shuster does not provide an answer how this war against Ukraine will end, he does conclude: "Intuition tells me Russia will never conquer Mariupol."

p.s . Check out this short RFE/RL video [in English] on the kitsch palaces of two Yanukovych-era 'Naftohaz Ukrainy' executives who cannot explain the origin of their families' spectacular wealth but are now running for parliament - and immunity from prosecution.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colder weather adds to despair in Donbas

Citizens, e.g. in the village of Spartak, near Donetsk, are in despair, as can be seen in this sad video.  Out of 5000 residents, less than 400 remain. There has been no electricity, gas or running water for five months as shelling continues...

Until now the weather in Ukraine this autumn has been warm, but a check on the weather forecast shows that by the weekend daytime temperature in Donetsk will drop to low single digit figures centigrade, whilst -4 and -5 centigrade is expected at night.

The coming of frosts will probably attenuate the intensity of armed conflict as fighters expend more effort to survive the cold...a small blessing

Sunday, October 19, 2014

German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17 [Updated]

Der Spiegel claims German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17

This story will run and run...

p.s. Watched President Poroshenko's being interviewed last night by several Ukrainian journalists. Compared with the stilted, artificial and sycophantic televised press conferences held by Yushchenko and Yanukovych, this was  a proper question and answer session of the sort citizens of any normal western democracy would be familiar with. So, a step in the right direction.

Poroshenko explained one dilemma which was complicating agreement on gas deliveries from Russia. Consumers in the territories held by separatists/terrorists were consuming gas as normal, but Naftohaz Ukrainy [who are responsible for collection of revenue and liable for payment to Gazprom] was not receiving any payment for it, so this was an additional burden for Ukraine to bear. Poroshenko claimed industrial output in these occupied regions was down 70%, and their future as independent but unrecognised entities is not realistic or possible for economic reasons.

Interesting broadcast today on the new English language 'Hromadske International today'. Check it out on YouTube

Professor Timothy Snyder states an "impending, huge humanitarian disaster" [40 minutes into the video] is likely this winter in parts of Eastern Ukraine.

Top journalists Noah Sneider and Christopher Miller who both have spent many days in the region agree with this assessment and add that only brave and determined volunteers are working hard to try and prevent this happening. Should an international humanitarian effort not have been priority #1 in Milan?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Insightful analysis from inside 'Novorosisa'

Great analysis from Ollie Carroll, who has been in separatist-held territory for quite a few days now, posted on his facebook page

His conclusions?

"...if "Novorossia" [will] be unable to provide for its people [i.e. to get through the winter], opinion will move very radically against them."

"..the Russian strategy for me? Keep the DNR / LNR soup simmering, while you get back to the main deal: pressure-cooking Kyiv."
Kyiv has made it clear it will not provide serious funds to sustain and repair the separatist-held territory 'except where there is a Ukrainian flag flying'. The country is all but broke in any case so the possibility of Kyiv paying for any major welfare or regeneration programmes is remote.

And, as Vitaliy Portnikov says, if Putin wants to maintain its influence on this territory which is now being run by his loyalist thugs, or even if he replaces them with saner politicians picked from the local traitors, it will cost Russia a deal of money - we are talking about a war-ravaged infrastructure and millions of people.

But even if does Putin pump the money in, a big if, this being Russia, most of it will be misappropriated in any case.

As I mentioned in my previous blog...a serious humanitarian crisis in Donbas is likely. Those who will suffer most will be the elderly, the infirm, women with young children whose husbands/boy friends have dumped them.... i.e. those least able to fend for themselves.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A terrible warning for Donbas from 2006

This is from the current Wikipedia entry on Alchevsk, a heavily industrialised city in the Luhansk Oblast of eastern Ukraine which has been under the control of separatists since April.

"Winter disaster of 2006

On January 22, 2006, the district heating system of the city almost entirely collapsed after an underground heat pipe line cracked in unusually cold weather (nearly −30 °C). As a result, heating equipment in the majority of Alchevsk's buildings was frozen and ruptured, leaving about 60,000 residents with only the protection of individual electric heaters. A few days later the sewage system also froze due to a lack of warm tap water.
An investigation revealed the massive, long-time negligence of the city authorities. The whole heating system was designed in a hyper-centralized way, depending on only two boilers and few main pipelines. Moreover, the housing company failed to react to the pipe incident properly: the water from the system wasn't immediately dumped to prevent further freezing.
The Ukrainian government took massive emergency actions to protect Alchevsk residents from freezing. Engineering teams sent by cities and industrial companies from other regions of the country were gradually restoring heating appliances in every apartment affected. Hundreds of children together with their schoolteachers were evacuated to the resorts and hotels in the warmer regions of Ukraine. According to the governor of Luhansk Oblast G. Moskal, it has been the worst human-made disaster in the history of independent Ukraine."
The Ostrov website reports that Donetsk regional council deputy Vitaly Kropachev is now strongly advising those who remain on the territory controlled by terrorist/separatist organizations to urgently leave, otherwise they will die in winter from cold and hunger. 
He provides a detailed analysis of the dire situation that exists in the public services sector which he stressed has now reached the point of collapse. Kropachev believes when the cities of Donbas begin to freeze the leaders of the separatists will 'do a runner' and abandon the citizens of these cities to their fate. He says malnutrition amongst some residents is already a problem. 
Ostrov also mentions the 2006 disaster, but on that occasion the Ukrainian government saved the day. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ceasefire in Ukraine is a Mirage

Brilliant analysis from Chatham House:

"Ceasefire in Ukraine is a Mirage"

Putin imaged taking the Donbas would be a straight forward re-run of the taking of Crimea. Ukrainians, including, most importantly millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, have fought back fiercely to defend their country. Ukrainians will continue to fight and defend their country - this is the biggest reason Putin has eased off his assault.

'Догнать и перегнать' - 'catch up and overtake', was the catch phrase sometimes used by Soviet Communists..If Russia is to succeed in this aim its economic growth must exceed that of neighbours in the years to come. Close co-operation with neighbours is vital because Russia on its own lacks expertise and resources in fields such as scientific and technological research and development, in marketing, banking etc. which have to be shared. Its economy in which extraction of hydrocarbons and minerals predominate is most unbalanced. Tackling rampant corruption is vital component if progress is to be made. Smart money essential for investment is already draining away at a precipitous rate.

Putin's adventure in Ukraine significantly adds to the country's problems and will turn out to be a disaster for its people, perhaps quicker than anyone imagines. And it must always be remembered the Ukrainians who have suffered the greatest hardship from this calamity are those from the Donbas region.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

"Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?"

Watch this riveting hour and one and one half video presentation by Karen Dawisha at the Wilson Center, Washington DC, in which she talks about her important new book:

 "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?" 

She suggests near the end that one of the reasons for Russia's invasion of Ukraine was that with the flight of Yanukovych,  major assets in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea owned by Russian billionaires tied to Putin could no longer be considered safe.

p.s. The Donetsk 62.ua site considers that continued fighting at the city's airport suits both sides of the conflict. While Kyiv forces engage and resist the separatists there, it relieves pressure elsewhere.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Why Donetsk airport is so important

BBC's Daniel Sandford posted this photo today of the now devastated Donetsk International Airport. It had been built from scratch just a few years ago.

Despite the ceasefire signed in Minsk fighting for the airport has been prolonged and fierce - the Kremlin-backed separatists have brazenly continually attacked it with ever more heavy weaponry, and it has now become an almost totemic target.

Threats of further EU sanctions against Russia if separatists were to gain the airport have not deterred the attackers.

Former head of Ukrainian Intelligence, Mykola Malomuzh explained on Espreso.tv why the airport is so strategically important to the the Kremlin and the Donetsk People's Republic separatists.

He says the Russian military intend to use it as a major forward base in order to threaten Ukraine further. The build-up of Russian armed forces in Crimea and near Ukraine's easterly borders indicate such a possibility is still very much on the cards, despite the so-called ceasefire.

Ukraine's armed forces will soon have to decide soon whether to continue to defend the airport against ever increasing odds, or destroy as much of its infrastructure as possible before retreating.