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What to do with all those call-signs?

August 20, 2014

Much has been written about Kremlin abilities – or not – to create some form of frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine.  It was first muted here way back in March and has been mentioned several times since.  Likewise, in the event of failing to do so, questions have also been raised here regarding what The Kremlin should do with all the returning leaders of the “separatists”.  Questions asked here at the end of June.

The rotation out of those Russian leaders is well underway, with Ukrainians taking their place – unsurprisingly after much international ridicule about who was leading the separatist charge in “The People’s Republics”.

If a frozen conflict is to occur, The Kremlin is beginning to leave it very late in the day to force/engineer a ceasefire and engage Kyiv in dialogue with political structures that remain under its construction in the eastern regions.  From the viewpoint of Kyiv, the later any ceasefire is forced, the better.  Despite the heavy costs, the Ukrainian military has the momentum.

The increasingly obvious diplomatic push to provide at least facing saving – if not exactly spin-able wins – for all parties concerned (directly and indirectly) with the war in eastern Ukraine may well bear fruit in some, shape or form fairly soon.  Perhaps by the month end when reading between the somewhat hopeful lines – and on the presumption the subtext doesn’t change dramatically, with the caveat of “Events dear boy, events”.  There is always the risk of an incident that will snuff out any glimmer of light and return the all participants to a dark void – particularly so when also considering the seemingly never ending mendacity of The Kremlin as an ever complicating factor.

Whether any eventual outcome results in some form of frozen conflict, or whether the Kremlin will opt for numerous other subversive, coercive and wholly problematic tactics available to it in order to continue to frustrate and obstruct Ukraine remains to be seen.  Ukraine will undoubtedly remain a Kremlin project – if not for inclusion in its own grand schemes, then certainly to prevent, or at least radically slow, Ukraine from getting too cozy with others.

Discounting Crimea – which will remain a bone of contention in and of itself for many years, not only between Ukraine and Russia, but Russia and the “west” as well – should the option of a frozen conflict fail to materialise for whatever reason, of the many political, economic and social questions that then arise for Ukraine, amongst them remains security and what to do regarding any remnants of those who wholeheartedly fought against Kyiv, but remain on Ukrainian soil?

What are the options?

Some form of entirely domestic and specifically limited Operation Wrath of God derivative restricted to Ukrainian soil to remove specific Ukrainian “call-signs”?  The likes of “Tsar” and “Motorola” etc – that took a lead role in fighting against the Ukrainian Army, and thus are not best left in circulation – be that within prison circulation, or at large?  “Persons of interest” to be a little more professional in description, who will remain grave threat to The State.

Ukraine is unlikely to want to leave a chain of command of capable individuals at large (and perhaps not in captivity either if they are truly capable).   A somewhat grotesque thought of State cleansing perhaps – but not beyond possibility.

There will be many “call-signs who despite their attempts at anonymity,  have already been identified – and that is before the lesser “interesting people”, criminals and minions start trying to cut deals with the authorities by identifying and/or corroborating the identities of “people of interest”.

In short, the criminals who have taken up arms and/or used violence and/or committed crimes over the past few months – “interesting people” – need be sifted from those who were decisive in organising, running, controlling and taking an overly active role within the genuine “separatist/terrorist” structures – the “persons of interest”.

“Interesting people” to go to the police – “Persons of interest” to go to the SBU.  Undoubtedly such lists have already been drawn up – and will be consistently updated.

Discounting processes such as truth and reconciliation commissions and amnesties which seem very unlikely,  hopefully all captured will make it to court, regardless of the status they are given by the authorities,  and be subjected to due process within strict adherence to the law, with appropriate verdict and sentencing where applicable.

But will they?

Some will undoubtedly genuinely put up a fight when the authorities come for them and be killed in the process of their detention.  Others – particularly of the “person of interest” variety,  may suffer the same fate, though the circumstances may be far more suspect.   There are only so many deaths that can be believably attributed to those who would violently resist arrest when open warfare ceases.

Returning to strict adherence to the law, there is the question of what to do with all those found guilty?

Ukraine has no dedicated separatist/terrorist prison like the UK had with The Maze in Northern Ireland.  Are those found guilty to be all housed together?  What are the risks of doing so?

Are they to be spread out across the prison population nationally in Ukraine?  What then of family visitation rights? (No need to potentially fall foul of the ECfHR without due consideration).  What are the risks of taking that option of placing them amongst the existing prison population?  An expanded network of separatists/terrorists?  Revenge attacks on the separatists/terrorists by the existing prison population?

How much forethought has gone into the outcomes of the legal processes that lie ahead?

What to do with all those undesirable Ukrainian “call-signs”?

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Slow/no progress and rotations

August 19, 2014

Last evening/night saw the meeting in Berlin of the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in what appears to be another diplomatic push to reach a solution in eastern Ukraine – unlikely as that is, given the limited wiggle room for all sides to emerge with a minimum of face-saving outcomes, let alone what can be believably be spun as wins for all concerned in the eyes of their respective publics.

That said, it was a meeting of Foreign Ministers and as such, no major diplomatic or political announcements were ever going to happen.

Serious and/or major announcements are always choreographed for national leaders – not for Foreign Ministers. The net result – Kremlin humanitarian aid now enters Ukraine by agreed mechanisms days after Ukrainian humanitarian aid was distributed by the ICRC.  A propaganda victory of sorts for both sides. That, however, is as far as it goes – at least in the public realm for now.

That being so, a political solution and ceasefire appear to be some way off – perhaps necessarily so.  A bad temporary fix will certainly not last.   A meeting again next week in all probability in the same format.

Therefore the most critical problem of securing and controlling the Ukrainian borders with Russia remains – and whilst that is the case, the flow of more and more weaponry together with additional and rotational personnel.

Eastern Ukraine is currently undergoing yet another rotation of personnel within the anti-Kyiv factions.

What began with the local criminals taking up self-proclaimed positions backed by a mixture of local lawless armed marauders (with GRU guidance) and Russian “adventurers” and “deniables” in eastern Ukraine, was swiftly rotated for more competent leaders (many of whom are Russian citizens) and imported, more professional and better armed deniable “volunteers”.

As the Ukrainian military began to make gains  (albeit in small towns, villages and rural land),  yet another rotation amongst the more professional and better armed imported personnel was underway too.  Ukrainians nominally replaced Russians at the top of local political structures after international ridicule.  Now, as military push comes to military shove around the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, clearly there is more sophisticated equipment and professional personnel who can use it, crossing the Russian border into Ukraine by the day.

The chance of an undeniable – rather than currently denied – clash between Ukrainian and overt Russian military has grown considerably.  No doubt the need to avoid that is one of the reasons for the newly invigorated diplomatic push – official recognition of – or perhaps more importantly, the ability to deny – such a direct and overt engagement would be no good for any party.

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Make no mistake.  There is a war on-going between Russia and Ukraine in the east – but understandably, to some degree or another, it suits both to avoid formally declaring war.  Both are content with their current labels of “ATO, terrorists” and “separatists” at the formal level.

Nevertheless, with the continued influx of advanced weaponry and the professionals who can use them, together with dead and/or leaving “volunteers”, it makes this a particularly dangerous rotation of anti-Kyiv fighters in the east.  Very soon whatever labels Ukrainian and Russian politicians and diplomats may use, even the most gullible and willfully blind of on-lookers will recognise war as war between the two States.

As such, the meeting yesterday was probably as much about prevention in a very specific direction, as it was about cure for existing ills.

23 years after independence was more or less dumped upon it, Ukraine now fights its war of independence that history so often decrees as necessary – but nobody wants to baptise current events that way – yet.  Perhaps they never will.

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Distancing and positioning – electioneering preparation

August 18, 2014

Following along from yesterday’s entry regarding the “New Batkivshchyna – Old Heart” anticipated campaign slogan, it appears other political personalities of the far more swivel-eyed variety are also engaged in some distancing and positioning in advance of the official starters gun being fired.

The first is Oleh Lyashko, who swiftly banned a member of “Team Poroshenko” from his Facebook page for posting this photograph:

lyashenko

The other politician in the photograph is Sergei Kivalov, a well known, (in)famous Party of Regions politician from Odessa and well known (perhaps no longer) friend and close associate of ex-President Yanukovych.

The photograph is not one dug up from years ago in an attempt to besmirch the reputation of Mr Lyashko via ancient associations prior to the forthcoming RADA elections  – it was taken in Odessa one month ago, and widely reported locally.

Being a rabid political populist has costs as well as rewards – but if upon reflection Mr Lyshko regrets co-headlining an event with a politician who was formally closely allied to ex-President Yanukovych only one month ago, deleting photographs on Facebook will not help.  In fact it simply draws further attention to any regretted incident.

Today, Dmitry Yarosh of “Right Sector” made threats that he would withdraw the “Right Sector” fighters from the front line in eastern Ukraine and march on Kyiv within 48 hours unless the Ministry of Interior begin an immediate lustration of the police ranks.

He may or may not be aware more than 17,000 have been sacked already, but he is right to believe that there are a lot more that need to be shown the door for various (mostly criminal) reasons.  The question is why now this threat is made?

There is a reasonable argument to be made that – at least in part – it is to remain politically relevant with RADA elections to be called soon.  Mr Yarosh is already firmly in the shadow of “Semen Semenchenko”  founder of the Donbas Battalion when it comes to media and military traction in the east.  Thus questions about the future path of Mr Semenchenko are far more pertinent than those asked about Mr Yarosh based on current momentum.

Therefore Mr Yarosh need try to remain politically relevant – even if gifting The Kremlin another “Right Sector” media frenzy in doing so by threatening to march on Kyiv.

That said, the future is not necessarily bleak for Mr Yarosh, but he need engage in careful thought.

In the meantime, all eyes look to Berlin this afternoon and the meeting of Ukrainian, French, Russian and German FMs.  The top priority for Ukraine remains the closure and control of its eastern borders.  Let us see what – if anything – will be accomplished toward that end today.

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“New Batkivshchyna, Old Heart”

August 17, 2014

With the current RADA almost guaranteed to be dissolved sometime between 24th and 26th August, it seems that the Batkivshchyna Party are already getting into campaign strategy mode.

The most likely new slogan for Ms Tymoshenko’s party is going to be “New Batkivshchyna – Old Heart” – at least at the time of writing, those within Batkivshchyna believe that will be the slogan ultimately chosen.

The “new Batkivshchyna” will naturally be led by Yulia Tymoshenko, with Alexandr Turchynov,  Arseniy Yatseniuk, Arsen Avakov, Sergiy Pashynski  and Sergei Sobolev, as the heart around which it will build – thus the “new Batkivshchyna” will be created around an old – and easily perceived as less than entirely healthy – heart.

Indeed, in the event that the elections occur under existing electoral laws, it is likely that at a very minimum, 80 – 85% of the current RADA will be returned to the legislature once again.

Ergo whatever “new Batkivshchyna” is supposed to grow around this “old heart”, it is likely to come almost entirely from any electoral gains (and retirement replacements), rather than a much needed internally driven lustration process within the Batkivshchyna ranks.

That said, it would be quite wrong to ignore the fact that if 80 – 85% (minimum) of the current RADA will probably be returned (not necessarily under the same party banners as they currently sit), there is a chance of 15 – 20% (maximum) of new blood to enter the pantomime in the RADA.  That would be about 90 new faces in the RADA – albeit many will come from the regional minor leagues, pre-stained and pre-corrupted.

Any “new Batkivshchyna” that may emerge after the RADA elections on 26th October is therefore much more likely to appear “new” via electoral gains – the more substantial the gains, the “newer” the appearance – than via any much needed clear out of the currently feckless within the party ranks that would produce something approaching a genuinely “new Batkivshchyna”.

Let us be blunt – a “new Batkivshchyna”, to be anything other than a misnomer, requires extensive surgery on its “old heart” to be far more believable.

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29th August – A politically important date?

August 16, 2014

The 29th August seems a long way away – and in the current circumstances, it is – and yet it may be a very important date.  Particularly so if the much talked about meeting of Presidents Lukashenko, Putin and Poroshenko in Minsk fails to occur prior to then.

Prior to that date, there is every expectation of the official dissolution of the RADA in line with the Constitution of Ukraine sometime between 24th and 26th August, the delivery – or not – of Russian humanitarian aid, as and when mechanisms are agreed between all parties including the ICRC, yet more shenanigans and military action, continued Russian military machinery, weaponry and personnel entering and egress Ukraine on a whim, as well as further probable rotation of prominent Russians for Ukrainians in leadership roles within the “People’s Republics”.

Perhaps, although unlikely, the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk will be back under Ukrainian control by then too – together with the entirety of the Ukrainian border.  Forecasting such specific events in the broader scheme of things is more than a little difficult to timescales.

There is also ever-growing speculation within the Moldavian media that the military within Transnistria will become active on 26th August.

Some of the above will occur with a fairly high level of certainty – much of it remains entirely open to question.

However, as of the time of writing, 29th August is the next date when Presidents Putin, Poroshenko and Barroso will all be in the same place at the same time.  They will all be in Slovakia to officially attend the commemoration the uprising against the Nazis.

Not since the Normandy commemorations in June have the Presidents of Ukraine, Russia and EU hierarchy had the opportunity to meet on neutral territory and on the sidelines of a regionally choreographed event.

A political and diplomatic opportunity that will be wasted?

That seems highly unlikely with winter on the horizon and European concerns regarding gas, as well as the opportunity to try and make some headway in the current situation regarding the war in eastern Ukraine where any progress, no matter how small would be welcome, and however unlikely that may currently seem, the opportunity will be missed.

It appears that Boris Lozhkin, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration is acting as interlocutor on the Ukrainian side to try and facilitate some form of meeting on the sidelines during this commemoration.  He is well known to all sides, and if true, has relegated Viktor Medvedchuk to yesterday’s man.  To be blunt however, Mr Medvedchuk was always going to be Sideshow Bob.  He perhaps no longer even has that role to play.

It would be a very hopeful soul who would believe that much of substance will come from any meeting on the sidelines – certainly immediately, if at all, at the time of writing.  However 2 weeks is a very long time in these parts, and quite clearly all sides seem to have run out of ideas, leading to a continuance upon their present trajectories and relying on current tactics – the winners and losers from which is somewhat subjective.

Anyway, in the absence of any major changes in circumstances over the next fortnight, inquiring minds may contemplate the chances of instigating any sidelines encounters and what positive outcomes – if any – it may bring.

 

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Habeas Corpus – Strelkov/Girkin and insurance policies

August 15, 2014

Yesterday evening saw several reports appear regarding the serious injury to Igor Strelkov/Girkin, the now (in)famous Defence Minister of the People’s Republic of Donetsk – or denials of injury.

The usual information-misinformation that is now a daily serving from that part of Ukraine.  However, Itar-Tass who reported the “grave wounding” has an uncanny habit of predicting the near future amongst the Russian State media – unfortunately for Mr Strelkov/Girkin.

Proof one way or the other will be arrived at by way of habeas corpus – be he alive and well, injured, or deceased, “show me the body”.

However the incident, regardless of how truthful, raises the issue (previously raised months ago) as to what to do with the likes of Mr Strelkov/Girkin in the future from a Kremlin perspective?

“What to do with Igor Girkin/Strelkov, Igor Bezler or Alexander Borodai, to name but a few Russian citizens that have self-declared themselves into prominence in eastern Ukraine, ably supported and projected to “hero” status by the Russian media?

Perhaps they will not return. Perhaps The Kremlin may decide it better they do not return. The return of well known nationalist leaders, popular enough to challenge The Kremlin narrative and definition of “nationalism” as well as the official approved version of events in eastern Ukraine may be quite problematic.

Those returning will be well armed. Some will not be mercenaries or criminals fighting for money. Some will be genuine, extreme, nationalists who will eventually realise they have been used by The Kremlin in eastern Ukraine. Should they return and have well known leaders from the same fight to rally around, this clearly creates a problem for The Kremlin.

Buy their silence and/or obedience? Jail them for one reason or another to take them out of circulation? Insure they do not return, nipping a potential problem in the bud on Ukrainian soil? Allow their return but cut them off from MSM coverage and propel them back to the fringes of social media from whence they came – hoping that the cannot rally the like-minded around them? Can they be effectively and efficiently “mothballed” pending other such adventures in Ukraine or elsewhere?”

In asking those questions of The Kremlin, there is then an obvious question facing Igor Strelkov/Girkin – How to mitigate the possibility (remote or otherwise) of becoming a subject of Kremlin agency “wet work”?

One can only presume that Mr Strelkov/Girkin has not only been privy to a large amount of extremely sensitive information during the months he has led the fight against Kyiv in Donetsk – but that he has also complied and secured that information to employ as “kompromat” in the future when bargaining with those that would perhaps prefer to have him erased, should matters come to that.

A particularly wise Mr Strelkov/Girkin may have arranged to have that “kompromat” released into the media by a trusted third party in the event anything particularly “untimely and/or unfortunate” awaits him at the hands of The Kremlin.

This in turn takes us to the issue of timing.

Naturally to discretely inform The Kremlin of an such “insurance policy” is better done either from neutral or Russian soil.  To do so in Ukraine would invite a successful assassination for which Ukraine would be blamed.  If from Russian soil, then immediately prior to, or after, making any such delicate declaration to The Kremlin, an immediate public appearance is necessary so the world knows a return to Russia occurred – followed by a reasonably low profile existence whilst negotiations about the future take place.

If The Kremlin is convinced of the dangers within any such “insurance policy” being revealed, it may grant a minor political career for a one-time hero, or a rather generous pension – conditional to a fairly reclusive, if somewhat mildly eccentric, retirement in a leafy suburb, whiling away of those autumns years in life, subject to an agreed silence on all matters Ukrainian.

That presents the problem of a return to Russia/arrival on neutral soil – something perhaps better organised privately without State involvement to insure safe arrival.  Accomplishing that may mean plausibly dropping off of everybody’s radar for a short time – perhaps during the confusion of reports of serious injury.

Too John Le Carre?  Perhaps – but the question though does remain – How does Igor Strelkov/Girkin insure his future when he becomes surplus to Kremlin requirements and/or fails in Donetsk?  (Presuming he does not succumb to any injuries he may have actually received.)  What is his insurance policy?

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Does being lame duck mean lame legislation? RADA Ukraine

August 14, 2014

As seems clear, and as was predicted months ago, the current RADA is likely to be officially dissolved in full compliance with The Constitution of Ukraine, on (or about) 24th – 26th August (11 – 13 days from now), in order to meet political time tables to allow for new RADA elections to take place on the same date as the scheduled local elections – 26th October.

As such, whilst the current RADA is as yet not officially a lame duck, it is certainly a lame duck in waiting – and knows that it is such.

It would be fair to say that many current RADA MPs are unlikely to return following the 26th October polling.  Those who are not returned will lose their immunity and thus ability to act with absolute impunity.  Understandably many of those that will be rightfully sacrificed at the alter of public opinion are less than willing to play an active and productive role for the remainder of their terms.

Others, who will survive, continue to churn out truly dreadfully crafted legislation.  There is nothing unusual in that, for the feckless bunch have consistently churned out truly awful legislation, despite having a choice of 28 European nations with similar legislation to copy – or at least plagiarise – with a few Ukraine-centric nuances and tweaks.

One would be forgiven for wondering just how difficult that apparently is – despite more than a few plagerised dissertations behind the academic awards held by some of these legislators.

Yesterday at the RADA, a dismal example of a lame duck (in waiting) legislature combined with the usually atrocious crafting of legislation, came to pass.

Bills on electoral reform – not necessarily well timed so close to an election albeit understandable – and a law on lustration failed to get adopted – That lustration laws were not adopted is unsurprising when many soon to be ejected from the RADA by public vote are likely to be subjected to any lustration law.  Turkeys and Christmas and all that.

Three or four laws did pass – with acceptable, or below par crafting naturally.

However, perhaps the most odious and clearly draconian law of the day was adopted at its first reading.  A law specifically designed to censor the media.  Perhaps well meaning during this time of war and obscene porpaganda, but entirely wrong nonetheless.  It prompted this immediate response from OSCE:

“I call on the members of the Verkhovna Rada to drop the provisions of the law endangering media freedom and pluralism and going against OSCE commitments on free expression and free media.

“I fully understand the national security concerns expressed by the Government of Ukraine in relation to the ongoing conflict, but this should not justify a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of the media.  The measures included in the draft law represent a clear violation of international standards and thus directly curtail the free flow of information and ideas – the concept that lies at the heart of free expression and free media. The draft law effectively reverses much of Ukraine’s progress in media freedom.

All citizens must have the right to access all available information, irrespective of its source, without interference from the authorities and regardless of geographical or political boundaries, so that universally recognised human rights and democratic processes can be reaffirmed and strengthened.” – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović

Quite rightly too – the law is absolutely awful as currently written and desperately needs to be rethought or rewritten to keep Ukraine within the international obligations under numerous Charters and Treaties it is a ratified signatory of.

If a genuine and consolidated democracy is where the current leadership and political class have finally decided to take Ukraine, then that – in part – requires adhering to the international obligations it has undertaken with integrity (even when they are not politically expedient to uphold).

The Ukrainian political class need to put an end to rule by law and act within the rule of law, even in the circumstances Ukraine currently finds itself.  Basic freedoms and democracy are not something that can be shelved and replaced by Soviet-esque diktats in difficult times – especially so in difficult times – if they are to ever become the consolidated spine of the nation.

A lame duck RADA does not need to produce lame legislation – particularly when that legislation is crafted by MPs that are likely to survive the culling at the ballot box in October.

Fortunately, whilst there be a war on in the east keeping the attention of many, plenty of domestic and international good governance/democratic eyes remain focused on the activities of the RADA and the legislation it produces.

Perhaps, following on from yesterday’s entry, there is some scope within, to produce a programme that would teach the feckless political legislators how to craft robust, clearly defined and unambiguous laws, that hold fundamental justice, State integrity, fairness and proportionality at their core.

It could be named “Legislate in haste – repent at leisure” – as now the RADA is faced with the choice of passing this law at the second reading and forcing the President to veto it, dropping it altogether, or significantly rewriting it in way that that it could and should have been written in the first place.

Significant European and international support for Ukraine will be lost should this law make it all the way onto the statute books.

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