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Ministry of Foreign Affairs to undergo a reorg – And the FISU?

November 20, 2017

Some time ago President Poroshenko let it be known he would be introducing a draft Bill for submission to the Verkhovna Rada with the intent of restructuring/reorganising both structure and process, and terms and conditions, relating to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 20th November that draft Bill was sent to the Verkhovna Rada.

As of the time of writing however, it does not appear upon the Verkhovna Rada website.  Ergo the intricacies and nuances – and perhaps surprises – are not yet fully available in the public domain.

What is reasonably clear, is that the draft Bill seeks to “reform the diplomatic service, bringing it to modern European and world standards, increase the prestige of the diplomatic service and attract new human resources, as well as to unify with the provisions of the law of Ukraine “On Civil Service”.” – per The Bankova.

Quite right.  Legislation relating to the MFA clearly should align with the Civil Service legislation – the staffing is made up of civil servants after all.  Ergo it can be expected that there will be a good deal of legal text defining the legal status of MFA employees, the procedure for admission to, and dismissal from, the diplomatic service, the terms of service (compulsory rotation and tenure terms of any foreign posting), and also the pay scales, additional entitlements/perks if serving abroad, and a host of other contractual issues.

More broadly, it appears that the intent is to establish new legal and organisational principles relating to the structure and processes of the Ukrainian diplomatic service, the professional activity of its officials during the implementation of Ukrainian foreign policy, the protection of its national interests in the sphere of international relations, as well as the rights and the interests of citizens and legal entities of Ukraine in foreign lands.

No doubt there is a requirement to overhaul the inner structure and processes of the MFA.

What is interesting is that President Poroshenko’s draft Bill apparently designates the diplomatic service  “as a special service of the state” – whatever the means.  Perhaps it means nothing, perhaps it has very definite repurcussions, but without the text of the draft Bill to peruse at the time of writing, for now a reader can only ponder upon this phrase.

Whatever the case, the President seems assured this Bill will get sufficient votes in the Verkhovna Rada in December.  And why not?  It directly affects a relatively small number of people and doesn’t tread on, or threaten, any vested interests.  Thus it won’t be too difficult to gather the 226 votes required.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not the only Ukrainian entity with an official remit beyond Ukrainian borders.

Also requiring a significant overhaul (just like the SBU) with regard to structure and process is the ne’er spoken of Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine.  An institution, some of whose members will assuredly sit within the embassies of Ukraine along with the MFA staff.

If the MFA structures and processes, not to mention overhaul of employees terms and conditions, effectively modernises and invigorates the institution – which is entirely achievable considering the relatively small size and number of MFA employees – then clearly there may be questions of moral for the FISU officers if they feel slighted and/or unrecognised.

In September 2017, the FISU saw the former acting Head of the Ukrainian Mission to NATO, Yehor Bazhok made its current Chief (thus granting Mr Bazhok a place at the National Security and Defence Council table too).

(For the sake of detail, Mr Bazhok is a relatively young man, Kyiv born in 1980, who speaks Ukrainian, Russian, English and French, and who holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations and European Policy from the Brussels Free University.)

It has not taken Mr Bazhok long to start making noises about the meager FISU budget.

Naturally a meager budget does not necessarily undermine the quality of Ukrainian spookery abroad, but it may well undermine the quantity.  Considering the scale of Kremlin nefariousness across Europe (and the US) a meager budget may not provide the resources to accommodate all that is perhaps expected to be collected, collated, analysed and disseminated in any European capital.  The world of espionage and counterespionage is really rather busy.

It follows therefore that in order for the MFA to be able to deliver “protection of  national interests in the sphere of international relations” and “the interests of citizens and legal entities” it would certainly not be a hindrance if the FISU was also subject to immediate Presidential attention, with the same motivation to bring it “to modern European and world standards, increase the prestige” and “attract new human resources” per the intention of the MFA draft Bill.  After all, the MFA and FISU share the same office – in Ukrainian embassies around the world.

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The Vory (again) – Another day, and more arrests in Odessa

November 19, 2017

Despite a professional history relating to combating criminality – organised or otherwise – the blog over the many years it has been running has tried not to become centered on organised crime, its policing, and policies that surround it.

In fact there has been a very deliberate effort to make mention of it infrequently, so as not to bore a reader with a single topic  Variety is the spice of life and all that.

However, over the past two years in particular, hardly two consecutive weeks appear to pass in Odessa without the Vory/Thieves-in-Law and/or other organised criminality managing to get themselves into the local or national media.

Memory is fickle, but it is hard to recollect a time this century when the Vory were so often in the local news.

And so it comes to pass that 19th November witnessed yet another Vory related incident in the city – the Thief-in-Law/Vor who ran the group arrested is in fact dead.  Rovshan Dzhaniev aka Rovshan Lankaransky was assassinated in Istanbul on 18th August 2016.

The late Mr Rovshan Lankaransky had a very interesting curriculum vitae.  His early life of crime, incarcerations (never spending more than 3 years in jail for a crime – including shooting a witness in a courtroom) and on one occasion psychiatric internment began in Azerbaijan in the 1990s.

He was “crowned” by (the also assassinated) Mirejmur Abdullayev,.  Through a fortuitous chain of events that saw leading Azeri Vory Hikmet Mukhtarov aka Hikmet Sabirabadsky and Chingiz Akhundov also assassinated in the mid-naughties, and the jailing of Bahish Aliyev aka “Vaha” and Vagif Suleymanov aka Vagif, the late Mr Lenkoransky swiftly became an authoritative Vor.

If not on the pedestal of Aslan Usoyan aka Ded Hasan, he was at a level of Bahish Aliyev aka Vakha, Nadir Salifov aka Lot Gulu, and Yusif Aliyev aka Yuska Shamkirsky. among the Azeri Vory.  Ergo, he was by no means the jester within the court of the “crowned” Azeri.

He was also know to cooperate with the Georgian Vory, in particular the brothers Jemal aka Jemo, and Mamuka Mikeladze.

Quite who assassinated Mr Lankaransky in Istanbul last year remains unknown – but by then he had fallen out with some of the leading Azeri Vory and some of their Chechen associates.

As stated, these latest (and undoubtedly not the last) Vory arrests relate to those that were/are part of the Lankaransky group.

The arrests are related to a shooting in Arcadia in the Spring of 2017, when two men where shot in the stomach while sat in their car – but despite grievous injury survived.

Of the five individuals active in Odessa for Mr Lankaransky, two have now been arrested – a 30 year old make from Dagestan and a 31 year old local.  To complete this ensemble, the other members are a 38-year-old citizen of Armenia, a 29-year-old Georgian and a 29-year-old native of Moldova – Odessa has always been cosmopolitan and mercantile after all.

Needless to say at the time the two were arrested they were found in possession of several firearms, numerous mobile phones and were driving two foreign registered vehicles.

The courts have remanded these two suspects – and naturally it is unlikely they will stay on remand very long.

The courts have also offered bail of UAH 58,000 for the Odessa man, and UAH 128,000 for the citizen of Dagestan – approximately $2200 and $4800 respectively.

Which self-respecting organised criminal group cannot raise $7000 to free two of their creed – particularly one associated with the authoritative, if recently assassinated, Rovshan Lankaransky?

A forceful judicial message is hardly being sent to the increasing number of Vory and their underlings arriving in Odessa.

When bail is made, who will be surprised when these men “vanish” until their next run in with the law?  How many people will be subjected to their criminality during that time?  How many more will be shot?

How many more Vory will be encouraged to try their hand in Odessa with such feeble judicial rulings?

The rule of law (if not necessarily law enforcement itself) is on life-support.

How much longer can the blog continue its current policy of infrequently writing about organised criminality?

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Where was Trukhanov? The natives are getting restless again

November 18, 2017

Things are starting to bubble over in Odessa due to the decisions of City Hall.

City Hall, and in particular Mayor Trukhanov, continue to increasingly ignore their constituency and societal ire is rising.

It may be that the citizens of Odessa will accept paying well over the odds for new pavements and/or road repairs by companies within the orbit of Mayor Trukhanov.  They may also have grown accustomed to the numerous scams (four NABU visits and counting) to Odessa City Hall.

There are then the numerous other scams and schemes that simply do not appear on the NABU radar – such as leasing prime real estate in the historic city centre to City Hall selected lessees with a first right of refusal to purchase in the lease.  A few weeks, or sometimes a month later, those properties are then be sold by City Hall to the lessee – well under valuation – thus avoiding the legal requirement for public tender in selling off such stock.  A reader naturally can presume either backhanders to City Hall, or that the lessee/purchaser is somehow in the orbit of somebody within City Hall.

But Mayor Trukhanov and his City Hall have no real vision for the city, nor it appears much love for it.

There has manifest a litany of construction and/or architectural obscenities that increasingly scar the city centre under his watch.

Sometimes buildings miraculously appear with far more levels than planning permission granted – with City Hall acting (infer deliberately) to prevent such illegal construction far too late.  Other times the Mayor has stated that if such monstrosities were not built on a particular plot, then the plot would not be built upon at all as nobody would buy it.  – Then let it sit empty – better that than the disfigurement of the city centre.!

The disaster that Arcadia has become after Mayor Trukhanov facilitated his (literal) old partner in crime to buy and develop it, notwithstanding an on-going war of exhaustion with the local constituency over the future of The Green Theatre in Shevchenko Park, and the continued attempts of City Hall enabled cultural/architectural vandalism on Fransuski Boulivard should be a warning – and it appears the citizens of Odessa have taken heed.

The latest incident occurred on 18th November – though it was blatantly obvious for the proceeding week that unless there was a formal and forceful interjection by the Mayor it was unavoidable.

There was no interjection by Mayor Trukhanov – indeed he has been entirely absent throughout the buildup to, and during the latest violent incident in the very heart of the city.

Gorsad, or the City Garden, is a much loved and aesthetically pleasing area in the very centre of Odessa, situated just off of Deribasovskaya.  It is a green space, with paths, a bandstand, numerous park benches and a number of very busy restaurants around the periphery.   To say Gorsad is a popular place for the residents of Odessa is an understatement.  People care about it.  A lot.

In one corner of Gorsad is the open air Summer Theatre.  It is here that the latest trouble stirs.

It became known that the Summer Theatre will be developed.  What is not known is what “developed” means.

There are no development plans.  The developer has stated plans will be made public in February 2018.  (For the sake of accuracy, this land plot is subject to a 49 year lease to Soling (Cyprus) for UAH 1.5 million.  Soling is part of a chain of Cypriot shell companies including Maresenia Investments.  Discovering which Ukrainian(s) sit behind this Cypriot trail is currently work in progress.)

In under 36 hours a petition to prevent “development” of the site far surpassed the minimum number of signatures to force City Hall to consider objections.  A record!

In response, Mayor Trukhanov held somewhat hastily organised press conference – at which he personally did not attend.

Indeed so hasty was it that it appears only the media outlets friendly toward the Mayor were present.  Heading the presser was Mark Gordienko, a man who was a leading EuroMaidan light in 2014 in Odessa, who then led the “local self-defence” network of Odessa, and got rather tight with, but was not part of (the fleeting appearance of) Right Sector in Odessa.

Time stands still for no man of course.

Come 2017, Right Sector is a nonentity in Odessa – National Corpus takes what few ideologically driven far right individuals there are.  Further Right Sector apparently fell out with Mr Gordienko relating to allegations it made against over the misappropriation of funds meant for ATO – which he denied.

Between 2015 and 2017, Mr Gordienko (and his adherents) was co-opted by Mayor Trukhanov.  Thus the ATO veterans of Odessa are split between the co-opted Trukhanov/Gordienko vets, and those that claim to be the real “patriots” that won’t be bought off.  Resentment builds.

During the press conference Mr Goridienko assured, despite no official position atop City Hall or as Mayor Trukhanov’s official spokesman, that no high rise and no shopping mall will be built upon the Summer Theatre plot.  Indeed there will not if the violence of 18th November be but a forerunner to any attempt to “develop” the plot under anything other than excruciating, daily, public scrutiny.  Unfortunately for Mr Goridienko, whatever political/moral capital he may have gained during EuroMaidan, now being seen by many as a Trukhanov lackey, that capital has eroded enormously – thus for Mayor Trukhanov there is a diminishing return in putting him before the public in his place.

However, a few nights ago, overnight metal gates appeared at the entrance to the Summer Theatre, and CCTV also.

This aggravated the situation yet more.  Further, rumours circulated throughout the numerous social media groups in Odessa that many trees were to be felled on the plot as well.

Naturally nobody trusts Mayor Trukhanov when it comes to the development of the city.  His track record, aside from overpriced pavements by companies in his orbit, is truly abysmal when it comes to sensitively developing the city.

Thus, a call to protest on 18th November went out.  A lot of people turned up.  A number of late twenties/early thirties (mothers of the next generation) women known to this blog attended – their first ever protest in most cases.  An indicator perhaps at how irked the populous have become with the “city development” under this City Hall.

Clearly the mood was one of anger and agitation – and there was little chance that the newly erected gates preventing the public seeing what was happening inside the land plot, or the newly installed CCTV, would last the day.

The police were outnumbered (and a reader should not be surprised if many of their number hold more than a little sympathy for the cause of the protesters – for the police also live in the city).

As a result, there were mass brawls between protesters and police.  Odessa Police Chief Golovin received head injuries and 6 officers were also hurt.  There were no reports of any protesters being injured.  Criminal proceedings have been opened.

However, the protesters indeed successfully removed the metal gates and carried them to City Hall, where they were left.  The CCTV didn’t last either.

This is not the first time Mayor Trukhanov has been absent when his voters have demanded his attendance and/or action.  It won’t be the last either.  Neither will this be the last protest to turn violent due to the mismanagement/criminality/schemes (delete as appropriate) of City Hall when it comes to (often criminally) disfiguring the city.

What explains the absence of the Ministry of Culture involvement with regard to the historical city centre in particular, is open to debate.

Yet unless within the next 15 months a candidate is found to run against Mayor Trukhanov with a realistic chance of winning, and/or The Bankova decides all previous understandings with Mayor Trukhanov are over, then at the time of writing, his reelection seems an almost certainty.

That being so, once reelected, whatever guarantees or promises that are made now by the Mayor (as and when he resurfaces after all those smelly, poor, ungrateful, angry people have gone) are probably only good until the day after his reelection – if they are worth anything at all.

Perhaps the only certainty ahead is that the police of Odessa will become one of the nation’s most experienced public (dis)order units.

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A JIT system of governance – The SBI

November 16, 2017

On 2nd October and again on 8th November, the blog highlighted the impending deadline of 20th November for the Ukrainian governance machinery to adhere to its own laws or face a possible prosecution disaster relating to investigations into highly placed former or current officials for serious criminality that falls outside the remit of NABU – many cases relating to events surrounding the Revolution of Dignity/EuroMaidan for example.

In summary, on 12th November 2015, the Verkhovna Rada passed Law 2114 (with 241 MPs voting in favour) to create a State Bureau of Investigations.   The remit – “the identification, disclosure and investigation of crimes committed by high officials, judges and law enforcement officials.  Exception is made when the crimes of these persons are related to the investigative jurisdiction of the detectives of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.”

In short, what doesn’t fall under the NABU terms of reference, will fall under the State Bureau of Investigation for all high officials of State.

The law was passed despite no agreement upon how the Chief of this organisation would be chosen.  Who decides, and who decides who decides, is always a significant issue – particularly in Ukraine.

It was later agreed that the President would appoint the Chief upon the proposal of the Prime Minister, after an open competition and the nomination of the commission tasked with assessing the candidates.  Naturally there is then the issue of who comprises the commission – again, who decides and who decides who decides?

Regardless, while investigations continued, a “transitional period” until 20th November 2017 was agreed while the bureaucratic process of creating a bureaucratic process began and ran its course..  Except that it hadn’t run its course by 2nd October per the first link above.  In fact the process had hardly begun almost 2 years after the relevant law was passed.

By 8th November, per the second link above, Prosecutor General Lutsenko began awoke and spoke out – to the point of saying it was now too late and the situation could not be remedied before the 20th November deadline.

High stakes considering some of those subject to investigation still retaining positions within the Ukrainian top echelons – as the names mentioned in the first link make clear.

On 16th November, the commission charged with selecting nominations for the top positions of the State Bureau of Investigations eventually made named the best candidates and forwarded those names to Prime Minister Groisman.

That nothing was done for 15 months and then task completed in a few days may infer to a reader that the competition was in fact a “competition” and that there was “political agreement” around the “winners”.

Whatever the case, Prime Minister Groisman now literally has only a number of hours to ponder and forward (or perhaps not) those names to President Poroshenko to appoint (if he is of a mind to do so) before 20th November per the law.

By unanimous decision of all 9 people upon the commission, Roman Tryb has been nominated as Director of the State Bureau of Investigation.

Mr Tryb is a prosecutor hailing from Lviv, where he worked from 1997 until 2014, at which point he became the Deputy Head of the Prosecutor General’s Office in the  Main Investigation Department (as well as head of the department for investigating especially important cases and deputy chief of the first investigation department).

In April 2015 he left and went into private law practice.

For the sake of accuracy, the commission also nominated Olga Varchenko for the post of First Deputy Director, and Alexander Buryak as Deputy Director.  It is perhaps not necessary that Ms Varchenko and Mr Buryak receive the Prime Minister’s and Presidential nod of approval before 20th November.

Quite what is envisaged as the SBI internal structure is unknown.  If Mr Tryb is not appointed by 20th November in accordance with the law, then the SBI won’t exist at all.

As Mr Tryb is an exercise in JIT (just in time) governance, then perhaps the internal structure, equipment and budget will only be sorted out as he is trying to find a chair to sit on and a desk to sit behind – it never pays to underestimate government incompetence.

Mr Tryb will also require a lot storage, for if Prosecutor General Lutsenko is to be believed, and if successfully appointed by 20th November, Mr Tryb can expect the delivery of over 7000 on-going and/or completed investigations.

If Mr Tryb is a wise man, the first thing he will want to do is review all of those cases and the quality of the investigations.  That will take time.  Will he have the staff and facilities to do that in a timely way?  At what point will the first investigations via the SBI reach a court of law?

Perhaps the entire JIT ethos surrounding the creation of the SBI has been all about deliberate delay (when considering those subjected to investigations)?

If it proves to be that the competition was indeed a “competition” as it appears prima facie, and thus the nominations are indeed “subject of a political agreement” then there can be no real faith in the SBI from day 1 – if there is to be a day 1.

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What about the SBU reform?

November 15, 2017

14th November witnessed the publishing of Presidential Decree 362/2017.

It relates to the replacement of Yuri Goncharov with Vladislav Kossinsky as the head of the SBU in Sumy, and the posting of Yuri Goncharov to head the Chernihiv regional SBU.

This follows the 14th February 2017 (Valentine’s Day massacre) of regional SBU Chiefs when, similarly by Presidential Decree, the SBU directorates in Kherson, Sumy, Nikolayev, Ternopil and Zaporozhye regions all received new leaders.

Indeed Sumy has seen two regional SBU Chief’s in 2017.

The President has every right to tinker with the SBU leadership.  In fact as a matter of good policy it would be wise for any Ukrainian President to rotate or replace regional SBU Chief’s every 4 or 5 years – lest they become “too comfortable” within the corrupt regional fiefdom structures.

Likewise the Interior Ministry would be well advised to rotate the regional police leadership after a similar tenure for the very same reasons.  The 15th November saw the Interior Ministry announce its strategy to 2020 – albeit thus far the blog has been unable to find the strategy document for public perusal.

Nevertheless the public is aware that the Ministry of Interior does have a development strategy.

The announcement of the MIA 2020 strategy, combined with Presidential Decree 362/2017 regarding changes in SBU regional leadership, brings about questions over the Ukrainian SBU (and FISU – Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, an agency that is ne’er mentioned).

Is there a development strategy for the SBU?

Undoubtedly it is involved in many tasks it clearly should not be.  It’s core competency is counterintelligence and counter-terrorism.  Indeed its competencies are defined in law – “The Security Service of Ukraine is vested, within its competence defined by law, with the protection of national sovereignty, constitutional order, territorial integrity, economical, scientific, technical, and defense potential of Ukraine, legal interests of the state, and civil rights, from intelligence and subversion activities of foreign special services and from unlawful interference attempted by certain organizations, groups and individuals, as well with ensuring the protection of state secrets.

Yet the SBU appears to have an ever seeping mission creep – or at the very least, has not surrendered “additional duties” historically dumped upon it to Ukraine’s new and/or reformed institutions.

It is the only government agency with the authority to conduct wire taps – a situation that is completely wrongheaded – and thus conducts wire taps for and on behalf of NABU, police and prosecutors et al.  It also seems to be involved daily in tackling organized crime, drug busts, and any other number of unlawful acts that are clearly not immediately threatening Ukraine’s vital interests.

Is organised crime a national security threat?  Definitely.  Should the SBU keep a watchful eye upon it?  Absolutely.  Should it police it?  No.  That is what customs, the police and specialised police departments therein do.

Hardly a day goes by without witnessing the SBU kicking in office doors with the police when executing search warrants.  The police can kick their own doors down.  If necessary they have their own SWAT equivalent in KORD to help.  Why are the SBU doing/assisting in it (even if they played a part in the investigation)?

Why are the SBU seemingly involved in standard, daily, criminal police work?  The police have a criminal investigation division.  There is NABU.  There are specially trained officers for drugs, people trafficking et al.

Ukraine is in a war.  It is a war that will not end – even if the military engagements stop, the espionage, subversion, active measures, reflexive control, coercive diplomacy, economic sabotage and (ever-failing) attempts at manipulating public opinion will continue for decades.

Counterintelligence and counter-terrorism are far from easy tasks.  For many such agencies it is only when failures occur that they feature in the public realm at all.  Successes go almost unnoticed (if even announced) because devastation and tragedy was avoided.  Such is the Ukrainian neighbourhood that there will be SVR, FSB, GRU officers, agents, collaborators, provocateurs, sleepers, and saboteurs aplenty for the SBU to look at for many decades to come.  Focus and not distraction is required.

The SBU has to stick to its core competencies and not be distracted by police work.  They are not the police.  There will be times where investigations will obviously overlap.  Questions of lead agency will have to be resolved.  But the SBU should not be a daily sight on TV carrying out prima facie very standard policing operations.

Further, when was the last time a reader was informed of any foreign investment into the SBU?  Or training?  Or intelligence sharing?  Or significant international cooperation leading to results of note?

Yes they are a security service prone to a level of secrecy, but the Ukrainian military has received funding, training, equipment, limited intelligence, and numerous opportunities to train with western nations while managing to fight a war – plus its own internal corruption and infiltration.

The police have been significantly reformatted due to significant external funding, equipment, training, continuing scrutiny and benchmarking while still managing to police – and attempting to police themselves internally.

Prosecutor and judicial reform have seen no end of political and diplomatic energy, notwithstanding financial input, again with continuing (and often exasperated) scrutiny from those external of Ukraine – albeit clearly the most disappointing of reform arenas thus far.

It is perhaps time to think about SBU organisational strategy and reform too – except a reader would probably suspect that external friends of Ukraine have already thought about this – and appear have decided to do nothing (or very little).

If they had, then assuredly issues such as equipment or training arriving from foreign donors would be announced by the SBU Chief who regularly appears on TV updating (or misleading) the public over cases, operations or simply PR showboating.

So the question is why is the SBU seemingly being shunned by foreign donors given its obviously critical role in Ukraine?

Firstly of course, it may be that such assistance was offered, but refused by the SBU.

Perhaps the reform strings attached were simply not to the liking of the SBU leadership.  Or perhaps not to the liking of the Presidential Administration.  It maybe that the current SBU operational set up would be required to change too much for those in charge.

The current SBU structure is a central command (within which there are 25 departments), a Main Directorate for Corruption and Organised Crime, 26 regional offices/divisions, a few “special” departments, the Anti-Terrorist Centre, and dedicated education and archive establishments.

It may be that foreign donors would have sought a clear delineation between counter-terrorism and counterintelligence.  Or a clear delineation between analysts and operatives – and/or a heavy bias toward one over another.  Perhaps clear parameters upon the SBU involvement in organised crime – eyes and ears, but not boots through doors was sought.  The surrendering of historical “additional duties” to other new and/or reformed State institutions .  Any or all of the above?

The SBU-Presidential Administration relationship may also be a reason why the SBU has apparently not featured highly on the western donor agenda.  The SBU, prima facie, on many occasions appears to be little more than the Presidential Administration’s politically controlled leg-breakers (metaphorically in most cases).

Indeed it often appears that SBU intelligence does not shape politics, but rather politics selectively uses SBU intelligence to shape further politically directed SBU action.  Often an entirely counterproductive situation for the nation.

It could be that foreign donors simply do not trust the current SBU leadership, or perhaps consider the SBU still far too infiltrated to be able to meaningfully assist at present – that would matter insofar as intelligence sharing, or tech gadgetry, or specialised training is concerned.

That said, foreign nations have tangibly and visibly supported the military which undoubtedly posed similar difficult questions for the same reasons.  An effective SBU is no less critical than an effective Ukrainian Army in defence of the nation and its interests.  Perhaps it was simply a question of having no real choice but to support the military, but there is more scope not to rush with the SBU?

It may be, that because many nations structure their loans and grants into “military” and “civil”, that a security service that is neither military nor civil comfortably falls under any budget header.  Perhaps massaging the budget headers is an option – until a FOIA inquiry discovers the Ukrainian SBU received “x” under a budget header when it doesn’t really “fit” the declared prupose.

Is it simply a question of priorities and it is on both the Ukrainian and “friendly nation” “To do list”?

Perhaps the visible police, prosecutor and judicial reforms, plus urgent military assistance were a reform and/or operational (optics) necessity?  A matter of reforming the spooks and the spookery (domestic and foreign) by its nature being less visible (and arguably tangible), and thus could wait?

If so, then the optics are certainly changing.

For all the SBU sacrifices and the best efforts of those within its rank and file in defence of the national interests, as an organisation it is increasingly perceived as a political tool by some – and simply because it does not stick to its core counterintelligence and anti-terrorist competencies, for others the SBU has become an entirely disproportionate and/or operational policing tool.

It is an issue that requires addressing.

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2018 – The year of The Enlightenment in Ukraine (by Presidential Decree)

November 14, 2017

In the 18th Century the epoch of The Enlightenment within France, Germany and the UK occured.

In broad brushstrokes, it was a century of intellectually and philosophically driven promotion of freedoms, democracy, and of values based society.  An exploration of rights – and of duties.

14th November witnessed President Poroshenko sign Presidential Decree – “I have the right!”

This Presidential Decree – “I have the right!” – is a declared “enlightenment project” relating to the promotion of citizens rights and constituency awareness, to be delivered via public broadcasting and public service announcements both nationally and through regional media channels., notwithstanding a requirement for local government outreach programmes.

Very good – and not before time!

Whether such PSAs are expected to be delivered free by private broadcasters is somewhat unclear.

No doubt many privately owned broadcasters (99.99% of broadcasters) will be loathed to surrender advertising time to deliver a free PSA – and for a PSA to have the maximum impact it requires not only longevity of a campaign, but also to be delivered at peak viewer/listener times.

It is also unclear whether there is any expected “I have the right!” PSA delivery quotas per channel and/or station, or whether a 3 minute slot once a month qualifies as adherence.

Private broadcasters begrudgingly delivering a free PSA “I have the right!” announcement to meet any expected quotas at 0330 in the morning – even if it is every morning for a year – is hardly going to have the impact of delivery during “prime time advertising” slots.

This process of enlightenment has little to do with the existing free legal aid, (though it should certainly include a “reminder” about the free legal aid policy – for no doubt there will still be those that are not aware of its existence) – but appears to be a more proactive project toward educating the Ukrainian constituency about their constitutional and other legal rights.

The goal clearly is providing a far better legal awareness across the entirety of the Ukrainian population.  After all, within the framework of the law, how will they know if they have been wronged if they don’t know what is a right – and how will they know what is their right, if they are under the impression it is wrong?

There is undeniably a need for this programme, for there is certainly a great many Ukrainians who are if not ignorant, then certainly unsure of their legal rights – but which rights will be included in this “enlightenment programme” (aside from Constitutional rghts) – and which will be excluded?

Equal rights?  Fundamental rights?  Constitutional Rights?  Consumer rights?  Land rights?  Property rights?  Search and seizure rights? Labour/employment rights?  And so it goes on.

Does such a positive and proactive education programme have negative effects if some rights are not included – and therefore deemed not to be rights simply by their omission by the constituency?

There will no doubt be an institutional and governance response to this “Enlightenment Decree”.  The 2019 elections for president and parliament follow the 2018 “Year of Enlightenment – “I have the right!” programme, but as always with regard to Ukraine, it is the matter of implementation where failure is most often to be found.

Phone lines/hot lines will undoubtedly be set up (whether they are staffed by people that can definitively provide advice on legal rights is a different question entirely).

Most broadcasters will adhere.  The questions are how, and in what spirit they will adhere?

Leaflets will be printed by the millions – but how and if they will be distributed effectively remains to be seen.

Should Ukrposhta be tasked with delivery to every Ukrainian address?  If so, will the leaflets actually arrive before the end of 2018, if at all, considering its woeful delivery service?

Perhaps the State owned banks (particularly Privat) should be “actively encouraged” to distribute them to bank customers when attending their local branch?

It would certainly be foolish to expect to distribute them solely via local government buildings over the course of a year if impact is to be maximised – the most effective distribution points are where people go often (if leaflets are not to be delivered directly to homes).  That means banks, supermarkets et al

Will there be downloadable e-leaflets – which would begin to provide statistics to measure real distribution – if not necessarily real understanding.

How will this project be benchmarked?  What are the KPIs?

Leaflet distribution to distribution hubs, does not equate to distribution throughout the constituency – thousands of leaflets may stay in boxes under a table for the duration of the programme for example.

How will PSA announcements be monitored across all broadcasters?  What repercussions, if any, will there be for those that don’t comply?

Most importantly of course, is measuring how the level of legal rights awareness expands across the polity – which is the entire point of the programme.  Will it be measured before, during, and after the 2018 programme?  Is it to be measured on breadth or depth of understanding?  What will be deemed too shallow an understanding to be deemed failure?  Or to narrow?

In promoting citizens rights, will the inherent duties of a citizen also be stated?

In the pursuit of excellence it does not pay throw out the good.  However, it equally does not pay to declare a programme failure a success.  If it fails, why did it fail?  How can it be tweaked to be a success?

What were the qualitative and quantitative results of previous “Year of” Presidential Decrees?  Are there appropriate lessons to be learned?  Or not?

The Year of the English language, or the Year of the German language?  What were the results?  How were they measured?  Does anybody know?  Did anything actually happen once those Presidential Decrees were made?

To be fair, there is every reason to expect greater impact and a more active attempt at implementation across Ukrainian society with legal “enlightenment” than that of the previous language decrees – and the blog is as supportive of the “Year of x language” decrees and it is supportive of this “Enlightenment Decree”.

Nevertheless, when it comes to such an important issue as a nationwide understanding of a citizens rights – what will be deemed a success?

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Posturing – Groisman at the Yatseniuk Party conference

November 13, 2017

There appears to be something of a small political stir among some of the Ukrainian social media relating to Prime Minister Groisman attending the party conference of Arseniy Yatseniuk’s People’s Front party on 11th November in Kyiv.

Not only was Prime Minister Groisman unabashed with praise for his predecessor, Arseniy Yatseniuk, but Prime Minister Groisman is not a member of that political party.

In fact he is not a member of any political party, despite being seen by many as a President Poroshenko prodigé – Not that party membership necessarily has much correlation as to who actually rents any particular politician’s soul and vote.  What appears white may be black, or what is black may be white – and generally most Ukrainian politicians can be expediently grey.

Well, prodigé perhaps he is – up to a point (and the student is not yet ready to overtake his mentor).

Truth be told, for as uninteresting and lacking in charisma as Volodymyr Groisman may be, he is proving to be a fairly effective Prime Minister, and one that is clearly attempting to be seen as his own man.  Something he attempted to achieve from the first day as Prime Minister by refusing certain Bankova desires relating to certain personnel they would like to slip into his Cabinet.

In short, after more than a year in office, Prime Minister Groisman is gaining in political weight, and if not overtly championed by the voting constituency, he is certainly not ridiculed or vocally disliked by large numbers of voters either.  If particularly good words about him are lacking in the public discourse, then so too are particularly bad words about him.  A particularly polarising and divisive figure within the Ukrainian constituency he is not.

Why then, was Prime Minister Groisman attending Arseniy Yatseniuk’s party conference?

First and foremost there are reasons of protocol.  He was invited as a guest of honour.  He is the Prime Minister and not a member of any party – so why not?

Secondly, the People’s Front remain the coalition partner to President Poroshenko’s party, which together, form the (slim) majority coalition.  As such his Cabinet of Ministers reflects that coalition.  Ministers for the Interior, Education, Finance etc., hail from the People’s Front.

Prima facie then, the question is not why was he there – but rather why shouldn’t he be there?

It is perhaps the glowing terms he employed with regard to his predecessor and the People’s Front party in his speech that has really stirred public comment rather than his attendance – particularly as noted by the blog many, many months ago, that there was a deliberate public wooing of Prime Minister Groisman by Arsen Avaokov and Arseniy Yatseniuk beginning.

It is perhaps doubtful that Espresso TV (People’s Front TV) will run anything negative about Prime Minister Groisman for the foreseeable future whilst ever these public overtures are necessary.

However, with speeches it is not what you say but what they hear that counts – and it is also not always about what is said, but what is not.

Having outlined some obvious reasons for being wax-lyrical about a coalition partner, there are also some that are less obvious (to some anyway).

President Poroshenko and The Bankova, like most anticipated presidential candidates, are already in pre-election electioneering campaign mentality.  The Bankova appears to be in unashamed power consolidation mode in  preparation to control (and no doubt (ab)use) administrative resources to the benefit of President Poroshenko.  The Rule of P applies – Planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.

Clearly The Bankova are not expecting the best of performances, so preventing a piss poor one ranks highly upon the presidential agenda via “ways and means” if necessary – and it appears they believe it is probably necessary so better to prepare now.

As such, in the immediate term between now and the presidential elections in March 2019 (and beyond to the Verkhovna Rada elections in October 2019), part of that power consolidation poses a seriously threat to Prime Minister Groisman’s Cabinet of Ministers and its composition.

While the President generally gets his way, he doesn’t always get his way – and naturally it is either Prime Minister Groisman or Interior Minister Avakov (and occasionally the Finance Minister) that tend to be the ones to tell The Bankova what it doesn’t want to hear – “No”.

Any votes gained by any People’s Front presidential candidate, or for the People’s Front party with regard to the Verkhovna Rada elections will come from only one voting constituency – that of President Poroshenko.

People’s Front votes will not come from any other political constituency.  Whatever percentage of the vote that may be, even if 3% or 4 %, if opinion polls are to be believed, that lowly percentage may make a very big difference to the fortunes of President Poroshenko in March 2019, and to the Poroshenko party in October 2019.

Hence President Poroshenko cannot engineer the sacking of Arsen Avakov as Interior Minister lest it collapse the coalition and force early elections, and after Prime Minister Groisman’s display at the People’s Front party conference, sacking his one time prodigé to employ a temporary and entirely compliant Prime Minister is not particularly palatable should MR Groisman then join the People’s Front and act as a small vote multiplier for them – further eating into the Poroshenko vote.

In sum, the display given by Prime Minister Groisman at the People’s Front party conference can be interpreted as a warning to The Bankova not to attempt to steamroller the Groisman Cabinet in pursuit of consolidating power.  By the same token that protects those like Arsen Avakov who has a particularly frosty relationship with President Poroshenko (because he leads the only “power ministry” not headed by a loyal Poroshenko appointee, as well as occasionally saying “No” to The Bankova).

Thus attending this party conference does not signal Prime Minister Groisman choosing a political party home – yet.

Any such decision will certainly not be before the summer Verkhovna Rada break in 2018, or perhaps even later, when Volodymyr Groisman formally joins a political party prior to the Verkhovna Rada elections of October 2019.

Whether or not he joins the People’s Front (or whatever it will be re-branded as) remains to be seen – as does the importance whatever small percentage of the national vote he takes with him where ever he goes.

Whatever the case, Prime Minister Groisman’s presence and oratory was not about lauding the recent years and how well the Yatseniuk government did in such difficult times, and nor was it about his or the People’s Front electoral future.  It was a message about the “here and now” to The Bankova and the Groisman red lines relating to Cabinet interference during otherwise on-going preparatory pre-election power consolidation.  The message is fairly clear, such actions will have electoral consequences – prodigé or not!

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