Friday, August 30, 2013

Kyiv elections should be made 'sine qua non' for signing of AA

Today president Yanukovych announced in a recorded interview to be broadcast tomorrow, that "Ukraine will fulfil all of the conditions required for the successful signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement."

Last December, the Council of the EU made it clear: "Ukraine’s performance will determine the pace of engagement [with the EU], and will be assessed on the basis of progress in three areas: the compliance of the 2012 parliamentary elections’ with international standards and follow-up actions, as well as Ukraine’s progress in addressing the issue of selective justice and preventing its recurrence, and in implementing the reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda. "
[Official document here]

In the nine months since this document was published, apart from the release of Yuriy Lutsenko, to date there has been no progress in 'the three areas' at all. On the contrary, opposition parliamentary deputies have been expelled from parliament on the most dubious of reasons. Opposition rallies and meetings have been disrupted. Parliamentary sittings have taken place with opposition deputies physically excluded. Journalists threatened and harried by thugs who co-operate with law officers. The list goes on and on...

Now everything has now been left until the last moment before November's Vilnius summit. EU leaders should therefore treat Yanukovych's words with scepticism.

The current situation in the Kyiv city hall should add to this scepticism, particularly as one of the conditions set before Ukraine concerned shortcomings in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

According to Article 141 of the Ukrainian constitution:  "Village, settlement, city, rayon, oblast radas shall comprise deputies elected by the residents of village, settlement, city, rayon, oblasts on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. 

The term of powers of the village, settlement, city, rayon, oblasts radas, deputies of which are elected at regular elections, shall be five years. The termination of powers of the village, settlement, city, rayon, oblasts radas shall result in termination of the powers of the deputies of the respective rada."

The residents of Kyiv are being denied their constitutional right to elect their city council deputies at least once every five years. By remaining in office beyond a five year period the current city authorities have brazenly usurped power in the city - the city council rulings have no legitimacy.

The reason for this is that the results of last Autumn's parliamentary election strongly indicated  Yanukovych's friends in the Kyiv city council would be wiped out in any fresh local election. Control of the city will be essential if he were to try to 'fiddle' the results of the 2015 presidential elections.

Even though the EU seem to be going soft on other issues, they should not remain silent. Now is the time for max pressure to be applied on Yanukovych, not for backing off - he cannot be allowed to get away with this. It should be made clear: if a date is not set imminently for fresh mayoral and city council elections in the capital, then no AA.

As for Ukraine's opposition parties', they have not responded resolutely  on this issue. They seem happier just 'swanning about' in Brussels..

There are credible reports that Arseniy Yatseniuk's cousin Voldymyr is co-operating in tendering 'stitch-ups' via shady off-shore companies together with businesses close to 'The Family' in order to secure 1 Bn Hryvnya hospital-building contracts in Kyiv at the Amosov Cardiovascular Institute.

'Svoboda' are also allegedly involved in property machinations in Kyiv running into many millions of dollars...and are actively co-operating with the Communists....

Virtual politics or what?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ukraine - important hub for drugs...BBC documentary

Please watch this excellent BBC documentary on "Europe's Dirty Drugs Secret"..Ukraine..

Most BBC programmes are only available for viewing inside the UK, but it has been posted on Youtube here

"Europe's Dirty Drugs Secret: Stacey Dooley Investigates..

Stacey Dooley travels to Ukraine on Europe's far eastern edge to investigate the struggle to keep drugs out of the UK. Stacey reveals that drug cartels from South America have been using Ukraine as a transit hub to smuggle cocaine into western Europe. To uncover why cocaine shipments are taking this 2,000-mile detour, Stacey visits a new frontline in the war against international drug trafficking - the port of Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea coast. Ukrainian officials show her the tricks traffickers use to hide drugs within cargoes - inside anything from industrial furnaces to excavated pineapples. But she soon learns from a port worker and a former drug trafficker that Ukrainian customs officials are notoriously open to bribes to get cargoes through"

Stacey also discovers that, because the drugs smuggled into Ukraine are too expensive for most local drug users, some are resorting to horrific homemade substitutes. Perhaps the worst is 'crocodile', so called because it rots the flesh of users and turns it scaly. Stacey meets some young addicts as they make a batch from bleach, petrol and tablets bought at the chemist." 

Stacey Dooley's 'naif'  journalistic style cleverly exposes the smug incompetence and disdainful attitude of many of Ukraine's customs and law enforcement services to their work. IMO a very revealing documentary..

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gongs* for gangsters [updated]

President Yanukovych bestowed the traditional state honours on 'worthy' Ukrainian citizens today - the 22nd anniversary of Ukraine's declaration of independence.

The depths to which this man descends never fails to amaze.

One of the most hated politicians in Ukraine, minister of Education, 'Ukrainophobe' Dmytro Tabachnyk, received the Order of Yaroslav the Wise in the 4th degree.

Yuriy Ivanyushchenko, a PoR parliamentary deputy, perhaps one of Yanukovych's most trusted pals from the 'old days' in his home town of Yenakiyeve, was granted an 'Order of Merit' in the 3rd degree, even though he is almost never seen in parliament.

Minister of the Interior, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, received a similar award.

Ivanyuschenko, a.k.a. Yura Yenakiyivskyi or Yurets Maloyi, is one of the most mysterious and sinister characters in Ukrainian politics - he is certainly one of the richest. Until Yanukovych became president no-one even knew what he looked like. He had spent most of the previous decade in Monaco.

There is some evidence he may have led a criminal gang of hit men in the days of the 'wild east'. They were allegedly involved in more than 40 killings including that of Shakhtar Donetsk president Akhat Bragin.

On the rare occasions Ivanyushchenko is spotted in public, he is surrounded by a phalanx of  armed bodyguards and armoured automobiles.

Ivanyushchenko had been denied a US visa for years. To resolve this problem in 2011 he hired, at huge expense, lobbying companies in the USA . Eventually they got him a special UN visa by  putting him a UN official visitor list. Yuriy Y, humiliatingly had to give a detailed itinerary of his 3 day stay in the New York to enable US officials to locate him, if required, any time, day or night.

Yuriy Y, according to some sources is involved in shadow schemes in the coal industry that may be costing his country up to 1 Bn UAH annually.

[Detailed article about Yura Y's shady past and businesses, in English here]

As for the Donetskiite interior minister Zakharchenko, he is the guy who initiated the practice of supplementing lines of law enforcement officers with young thugs during opposition protest marches and rallies etc. They are now known as 'Titushky' after a certain Vadym Titushko  figured in video footage assaulting journalists.  Zakharchenko's almost two years in ministerial office has seen trust in the police decline to low single figures. Men under his control have raped and robbed with impunity... as in the small town of Vradiyivka....Physical assaults on Ukrainian journalist have become a daily occurrence despite appeals to the minister for protection by independent journalists' organisations .

Bandit land extortioner Artem Pshonka, son of the Prosecutor General, known as 'raider No.1 in Ukraine'  also received an award from Yanukovych.

Pass me the sick bag....

Is the EU really going to sign an agreement of association with such people? Will the AA in any way change their behaviour for the better? Are you kidding?

Update: Another bandit receiving an award, that of Princess Olga, was Valentyna Arbuzova, mother of the deputy PM whose son Serhiy is close to president Yanukovych's son.

Arbuzova, is the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Bank for Development, [VBR].

"VBR is thought to be controlled by Oleksandr Yanukovych, the elder son of the president, who appears to have been expanding dramatically the family’s interests in the banking sector." [Source]

Arbuzova was allegedly involved in a major money laundering operation in the early nineties, and possibly even murder.

Excellent investigative article on these sinister people here

E.g. "According to media reports from the time, at a meeting in 1997, the Donetsk regional administration’s committee for combating organised crime, in the presence of top regional and national law enforcement officials, including two deputy heads of the SBU, singled out Valentina Arbuzova for her bank’s money laundering activities, in particular the creation of fictive companies, abuse of loro accounts and hard currency transactions. The regional prosecutor said that criminal cases had been opened against Privatbank officials for implementing money transfers, up to $200,000 dollars per day, on fictive contracts.
In 1998, in an article published in the government announcer, Golos Ukrainy, Ukraine’s then prosecutor general Mikhail Potrebenko singled out Valentina Arbuzova’s bank as having laundered funds for a major organised crime group, using eleven fictive companies with accounts at Donetsk’s Privatbank division."

*British Slang. a medal or military decoration.

Friday, August 23, 2013

EU must not go wobbly on Ukraine

FT reports Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine it would face protective measures from the Moscow-led customs union of former Soviet republics if it forged closer political and trade ties with the EU. According to the FT, the dispute between the two countries could escalate into a full-blown trade war, .

So now is the right time for the EU to get tough with Ukraine too, end the ambiguous statements and make it absolutely clear to Yanukovych that if his country does not meet the conditions that have been set [see previous blog], conditions dozens of countries in Europe and beyond have no problem adhering to, then it is 'no deal' in Vilnius in November - you're on your own with the wolves pal...

Scrapping the habit for postponing elections and setting a date for overdue Kyiv city council elections would be a start...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Scrub the AA

In December 2012 the European Council made signature of the Association Agreement (concluded but not signed in December 2011) contingent upon Ukraine fulfilling three conditions:

  • complying with international standards of electoral practice, 
  • ending selective justice, 
  • implementing the reforms defined in the jointly agreed Association Agenda’

The EU has already described the last Autumn's parliamentary elections as 'a step backward'.

And the EU Delegation to Ukraine was "deeply concerned" by the postponement until 2015 of the Kyiv city local elections after the city council's mandate expired several weeks ago. The previous elections had last been held in 2008.

The result of the 2012 parliamentary elections in Kyiv shows that the capital's electorate can no longer be easily manipulated or bought off with cheap bribes; pro-government forces in the city council are most aware they would be all but wiped out in any fresh local election.

Control of Kyiv, a city whose population is greater that that of some EU countries, will be vital for Yanukovych if he wants to win the 2015 presidential elections hence the cynical postponement of city council elections and the hijacking and violent scenes before yesterday's unscheduled Kyiv city council "session".

Many dozens of paid thuggish louts of 'sporting appearance' were again used by so called "law enforcement bodies" as a first line of defence. These are the same thugs who disrupted the count at many polling stations in last year's parliamentary elections and during 'Arise Ukraine' demonstrations organised by Ukraine's opposition parties. They have been seen actively taking part in regular corporate raids of property during which police usually turn a blind eye.

See disturbing video of these thugs in front of police lines yesterday here

This is just not acceptable in a country striving to meet European standards of behaviour.

Opposition deputies were targeted and assaulted when they wanted to take advantage of their constitutional right to enter Kyiv city hall, breaking an unwritten rule that elected deputies should never be beaten by police.

Head of the National Security and Defence Council and long-time close associate of Yanukovych, Andriy Kluyev was allegedly the organiser of these 'measures'.

  If there is credible evidence of this the EU should ban him from entry into member countries and ensure his substantial financial interests in Austria are scrupulously vetted for legitimacy.

The Vilnius summit when the EU-Ukraine Association could be signed is exactly 100 days away. Two of the three conditions set by the EU are being totally disregarded. Since December 2011 Yanukovych has ignored any concern European bodies have expressed about the country's slide to authoritarianism.

Decent standards of electoral practice have not been adhered to. Selective justice continues to prevail. Opposition politicians are still being targeted, and Yulia Tymoshenko has not been released despite the European Court of Human Rights court ruling in her favour.

The Association Agreement should now be 'pulled' from the agenda of the November Vilnius summit.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Putin's trade war; how will 'kham*' respond?

During his visit to Ukraine a few days ago, at a round table discussion with the odious Viktor Medvedchuk, president Putin declared that 'Ukraine's economic recovery is only possible with the help of Russia'.

The first shots of the current trade war against Ukraine indicate Putin intends to demonstrate this in practice.

Dmitriy Korneychuk in his ' blog entited: "Putin's trade war: a demo-version of life without Russia", explains Putin's motives.

Putin wants to show everyone that Russia will not tolerate any public humiliation of his leadership;  he will always assert Russia's interests; he will always provide 'an adequate response' to those he perceives as enemies.This message is intended for both for Ukraine and the West, and for the Russians themselves, including Putin's entourage, who may be thinking that the leader is getting old and showing weakening resolve.

Second, he want to give Ukraine a demo-version of what relations with Russia would be like after any possible signing of an Association Agreement with the EU. If the AA deal is not signed in November Putin will claim the biggest foreign policy victory for Russia since Ukraine's rejection of membership of NATO, or since the signing of the punitive 2009 gas agreements.

Third, the Kremlin's actions bolsters pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Some even claim they intend to create a powerful pro-Russian political force in Ukraine and put forward their own candidate in the 2015 Ukrainian presidential elections.

Fourth, Moscow is pursuing its strategic gas interests. The 40% reduction on the purchase of gas by Ukraine, its biggest customer for gas, in the first six months of 2013 has seriously alarmed Gazprom. The creation of gas consortium to manage the Ukrainian gas transit system in exchange for cheaper gas has shown little sign of progress even though Russia claims all the documents are 'ready to go'.

But in these days of 'just-in-time' deliveries, such a trade war will very quickly impact Russian manufacturers who depend on Ukrainian suppliers, so Putin has to be selective on the imports he targets.

There are opinions all of this might be just a pseudo trade war, trumped up by the RosUkrEnergo group, their Russian associates and Dmitriy Firtash in their battle with the president's circle.

But Putin's  latest manoeuvres will obviously not go unnoticed in Europe's capitals. It will strengthen the EU's resolve to ensure Yanukovych 'does his homework' and makes progress in satisfying the EU's conditions which were set in order for Ukraine to prove it be considered a suitable partner for the AA. There have been rumours recently that the EU had been going soft on these conditions, even no longer viewing Tymoshenko's release abroad as a 'sine qua non'..

So far, the Ukrainian authorities' response to this developing trade war has been unfocussed - they look disorientated even though it has been brewing slowly but steadily since February.

Since coming to power, Yanukovych has been more interested in destroying his greatest political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko than acting firmly and renegotiating from scratch the ruinous gas deal she was forced to make under great duress in 2009 with Putin. This may have been interpreted by the Kremlin as weakness on Yanukovych's part..

Yanukovych, particularly with his criminal gangland background, should instinctively know he now has to respond resolutely and cannot be seen to cower..He is also aware that if he concedes to Putin and joins the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, rather than clinching the AA deal, he will always have to give way to Putin in the future..And his political future becomes more unpredictable.

An interesting Autumn awaits...

*kham was Yanukovych's 'handle' when in prison. It means lout or boor..

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Passing of a decent man

The website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group announced the tragic death of well-known human rights activist Dmytro Groysman thus:

"On 5 August our colleague, Dmytro (Dima) Groysman died of a heart attack.  He was 41 and had suffered from a long-term heart condition.

Most prominent as Coordinator of the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group, Dima was by profession a doctor and lawyer.  In 1993 he was one of the founders of the Ukrainian section of Amnesty International. From 1994-2000 he worked as coordinator of a national campaign for the abolition of the death penalty in Ukraine. In 2000 Ukraine’s Constitutional Court agreed that the death penalty was in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution. 

In 1998 Dima founded and headed the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group which worked actively in defence of refugees, as well as on other issues.

The human rights community has lost one of its most prominent individuals, a person for whom there could be no restrictions or authorities when confronting injustice.

Dima will be much missed.

Our deepest sympathy to Dima’s wife, Svitlana Poberezhets, his son David, and those closest to him"

In 2009, Groysman was on the "Korrespondent" magazine's list of "Top 100 most influential Ukrainians" as the protector and defender of prisoners and other victims of police lawlessness.

He saved hundreds, maybe even thousands of people from the clutches of sadists and torturers in prisons and police stations. In his eloquent television appearances he always appeared level-headed and most dignified - a man the authorities therefore hated and feared.

In recent years he had been pursued by prosecutors for alleged distribution of pornography. Groysman always said law enforcement officials were out to get him was in order to gain access to the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group files on refugees and asylum seekers. [As in video, in Ukrainian]. The trafficking of human beings from Africa and elsewhere has allegedly become a big business for some members of law enforcement and Interior Ministry agencies.

Groysman had been summoned by prosecutors and investigators to attend a mind-boggling 72 questioning sessions  in connection with one supposedly pornographic image posted on his blog website [that of a small naked male doll in a state of arousal placed on a copy of the Ukrainian Constitution].

His next interrogation, the 73rd, was scheduled for August 7th. This constant police harassment, surely a major source of stress, may well have contributed to his death.

The absurd, fabricated case against him will most likely now be closed, but Groysman's friends are determined to clear his name.

In a decent country Groysman would have received awards for his humanitarian work. In Ukraine he was hounded, perhaps to his grave..

The only people to gain comfort from his passing are the thugs and sadists who run Ukraine's totally discredited and almost universally mistrusted law enforcement agencies, and the scum bags they serve.

For how long are Ukrainians going to tolerate such a situation?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Ukraine much closer to CU than EU

Mr Bruce Rickerson in this article entitled "Tymoshenko, Ukraine and the EU" is correct in his assertion that signing of the the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement is in the balance.

But the 'crime' for which former PM Yulia Tymoshenko was charged and sentenced did not involve personal corruption. She was charged under part 3. 365 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code - abuse of power and exceeding official authority, not "corruption and embezzlement" as is stated in this UPI article. In most democratic countries her cabinet's management of the 2008/2009 gas crisis would in no way be considered a crime.

The European Court of Human Rights have already ruled she was unjustly arrested on the order of trial judge, Rodion Kireyev, prior to her trial. The impartiality of the judge, and the entire trial procedure therefore, can be considered compromised. The ECHU are now determining whether her human rights were abused and the trial itself unjust. It is highly probable in months to come they will declare Tymoshenko was and is the victim of politically motivated persecution.

Evidence produced in preliminary hearings in case against the former prime minister for the 1996 killing of Member of Parliament Yevhen Shcherban, his wife, and two other people, has been risible. There is no case to answer - the case would have been thrown out of any reputable West European court.

Since  president Yanukovych  come to power in 2010, instead of making progress in bringing his country closer to European democratic standards, he has single-mindedly taken measures to seize ever more power and money for himself and his Donetsk cronies.

The point of no return on the country's road to authoritarian may well have already been passed.

Mistrust by Ukrainians by its citizens of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, degraded  since 2010, has greatly increased and is now almost total.

Any Association Agreement should be postponed until such time Ukraine shows itself to be a country where democratic standards are at least comparable to those in the rest of Europe.

As one commentator said, Ukraine already resembles more strongly a Customs Union country than an EU country...apart from what it pays for gas.