Drama (of the political sort) at the Russian Theatre Odessa

December 6, 2016

The Russki Theatre (Russian Drama Theatre) in Odessa is a longstanding and well known historical venue.


Since 2002 it has been managed by Alyaksandr Kopaygora.

Mr Kopaygora is nothing short of a controversial figure.

To be diplomatic, his management of the Ruski Theatre is far more in keeping with his ideology than managing a premises called Ukrainian Theatre.  To be less diplomatic and somewhat more blunt and also accurate, Mr Kopaygora was a leading ideologue in Igor Markov’s “Rodina Party” in Odessa.

Mr Markov’s party was (it is now officially defunct) robustly pro-Russia.  Indeed Mr Markov is currently living in Russia and actively playing to the Russian propaganda narrative (as a reader would expect).   Mr Markov has stated he will not return to Ukraine for as long as it pursues its “European” trajectory.  (He is also wanted.)  Among that same ideological crowd is Anatoly Wasserman (a man considered by many to be far more odious than Igor Markov).  Messrs Wasserman, Markov and Kopaygora were all leading lights in Party Rodina.

The loyalty to Ukraine is therefore more than questionably thin as far as Mr Kopaygora is concerned for far too many local constituents, and perhaps nominally exists due only to the meager (official) salary he receives from the Ukrainian taxpayer via the State.

(Indeed his anti-Ukrainian activities were reported to the Ministry of Culture in 2015.  As usual when it comes to the Ministry of Culture there was no response – which is why historical architectural buildings in Odessa continue to be bastardised and/or destroyed under the management of a Luddite/Philistine Mayor of no vision, despite the Culture Ministry’s statutory obligations toward protecting many such buildings.)

The Regional State Administration (RSA) of Odessa announced a competition for Mr Kopaygora’s role as his term drew to an end.  Competition (and “competition”) for public roles is now very much en vogue – and for many public positions a matter of law.

Odessa is renowned  for many things, among which are its “intellectual set” and “arty crowd”.  As such there are numerous individuals of suitable calibre capable of managing the Russki Theatre – albeit another was lost to abysmal Ukrainian driving and/or roads only yesterday.  (RIP Dr. Yulia Gomel, composer of symphonies, ballet, chamber and choral music – undoubtedly a loss to the city and Odessa National Music Academy.)

The day the competition winner was due to be announced, 6th December, the Regional State Administration cancelled the contest for the position.

The reason being, it finally succumbed to public pressure.  The public pressure was not aimed at Mr Kopaygora directly – but at the “competition panel”, the composition of which was stuffed with associates of Mr Kopaygora and therefore clearly compromised as far as neutrality is concerned.

Whether a well placed rumour, or a genuine leak, it also became known that law enforcement agencies were quietly taking an interest in the process.  A reader may conclude that if being busted for corruption is a likely outcome, then being busted over a trifling matter of fixing the competition result for the Russki Theatre is probably not worthwhile.  The risk/reward simply isn’t there.

Ergo, 6th December instead of announcing the “competition” result (and probable continuance in the role of Mr Kopaygora), it was announced that the competition had in fact been cancelled.

In sum, a wise decision by those within the RSA.

Clearly efforts will be made to insure the next competition panel is perceived to be far less biased (at least prima facie) and if that be so then it may come to pass that the official relationship between Mr Kopaygora and the Russki Theatre that began in 2002 will ultimately faceits final curtain.

In the meantime as the festive season approaches, the show must go on.




Personnel clashes within the Ministry of Infrastructure – Ukraine

December 5, 2016

All is currently not well within the Ministry of Infrastructure.  The Minister, Vladimir Omeljan on a matter of principle point blank refuses to work with the winner of the “competition” to become the State Secretary of the Ministry, Andrei Galushchak.

Regular readers will be aware, there are Ukrainian competitions and there are “Ukrainian competitions” when it comes to filling political and civil service positions.  With “Ukrainian competitions” a reader armed with a little knowledge of loyalties, and/or personal understandings with “the power”, and/or history with those at the top, can normally be successfully tipped to emerge the winner of a “competition”.


With regard to the “competition” for State Secretary of the Infrastructure Ministry, the results were as follows:  The successful Andrei Galushchak 12.14 points.  In second place with 11.18 points was (former acting Deputy Minister, Chief of Staff Dmitry Romensky, with third place occupied by Oleh Mironenko with 9.46 points.  The “competition” based upon examinations, situational taskings and interviews.

Why would a Minister state “We will not work with him” when the winning candidate came first in the “competition”?  Upon what grounds would he publicly voice such an objection?

Mr Galushchak previously has held positions as Deputy Chief of Lviv Railways and Director of Air Express (a SOE).  Does experience in rail and air management not lend itself toward the Infrastructure Ministry?

The matter of any (proven or unproven) nefariousness and graft synonymous with holding lofty positions within Ukrainian SOEs is perhaps not the issue at hand – rather it is the very close association Mr Galushchak has with Vladislav Kaskiv – who is currently seeking to prevent his extradition from Panama to Ukraine, being wanted for the theft and embezzlement of $ hundreds of millions during the time of the Yanukovych regime.

As an aside,it is perhaps perverse that Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General now seeks to extradite Mr Kaskiv, when historically he could have insured his prosecution as Interior Minister in 2005 following the “Orange Revolution” – prison time for which Mr Kaskiv could still have been serving instead of stealing far greater sums under the Yanukovych system.

For those readers interested, Criminal Case Number 1-337/05 relates to Mr Kaskiv’s involvement in kidnapping, assault, protection rackets and conning UAH millions from the 2004/5 “Orange” protesters when heading a “civil organisation” called “Time” and the “Wild Division of the UNA-UNSO” – whose fund he (with others) also stole.  Despite testimony of victims etc.,  then Interior Minister Lutsenko officially suspended the turning of the wheels of justice for the case.  As there is no record the the case ever being heard or closed, presumably in a dusty box long forgotten in a court or prosecutor’s basement sits this case in suspended animation.  No doubt now Prosecutor General Lutsenko would prefer the decision of then Interior Minister Lutsenko to be long forgotten – for if he had done his job the first time instead of striking whatever grubby little deal he struck, the vastly greater criminal activities of Mr Kaskiv may never have occurred.

Whatever the case, prima facie it seems not a matter of what Mr Galushchak may or may not have historically stolen when in various senior SOE positions, but a case of (probable) guilt by (very close) association with the internationally wanted Vladislav Kaskiv (who is closely associated with MP/oligarchSergei Liovochkin) that is the cause of ministerial angst.

It remains to be seen whether the Cabinet of Ministers will heed the cry of one of their number and refuse to nominate Mr Galushchak for President Poroshenko to ultimately appoint – or indeed whether President Poroshenko would appoint Mr Galushchak upon the Cabinet’s nomination.

Should Mr Galushchak not be given the position having “won” the “competition”, then a reader may expect some form of court proceedings ahead.  In the meantime if Dmitry Romensky is not otherwise committed, as he would have been where “the smart money” placed their bets in this “competition”, it may well be that he will fill the appointment (as many expected).

A cynical reader may therefore consider there to be more than an element of stage managed political theatre to the entire event should it unfold with Mr Galushchak ultimately being unsuccessful.  The question of course – to whose benefit (if beyond a PR stunt) would it have been staged this way?


Command & Control – or criminality? A policing tragedy Ukraine

December 4, 2016

The early hours of 4th December witnessed what prima facie appears to be the worst self-inflicted policing tragedy that has resulted in loss of life in Ukraine since the beginning of policing reforms.

6 law enforcement officers from various units are dead – and the official statements thus far indicate that they managed to shoot each other, whilst those they went to arrest for serious crimes were eventually arrested having fled the scene.

The media space, both main stream and social is rapidly filling up with legitimate questions as well as the usual “experts” of the armchair variety despite internal MIA, National Police and Prosecutor’s Office inquiries having only just begun and having released little information publicly.

Ergo, much of what is written thus far is supposition, informed guesswork or in most cases complete nonsense.

The President has called for a full investigation and for those responsible to be held to criminal account.  A murder investigation is under way.  Whether murder ultimately proves to be the correct and most fitting criminal charge remains to be seen – and to be blunt be it murder, manslaughter, or criminal negligence in operational planning does not have any effect upon how the investigation should be carried out.  Such serious crime is systemic in how it is investigated.

It is currently unclear how CORD, CID and police protection units all managed to be shooting at each other – or whether in fact the criminals CORD went after did any shooting either.  They were arrested having fled the scene with firearms.

Naturally most attention is upon apportioning blame – yet just as important for the future is identifying what went wrong and insuring that procedures for operational planning are amended to prevent any re-occurrence.  Even if the SOPs are proven to be first rate and yet have been ignored either negligently and/or recklessly, there is still a need to reappraise protocols and perhaps insert additional “authorities” required to launch such an operation.

Thus it is a matter of reassessing “text book” operational protocol, the “authorities” required to execute one, notwithstanding the briefing, recording and debriefing of every officer from every operation.

To be honest the “text book” varies from nation to nation, and all provide for operational circumstances allowing for a certain limited amount of discretion.  Some things however remain (fairly) constant.

Having made an operational decision to make arrests in a certain manner – on the street, a “hard stop” in vehicle, or at a premises thereafter every operation begins with a briefing.

The briefing includes all of those that need to be briefed – even if they are not directly involved in a firearms operation.  The local police commanders from all policing branches who may have their rank and file inadvertently wandering “on plot”, or who may be running an operation of their own and/or have good reason to be “on” or very close to “the plot”, or who may have to provide an outer cordon to keep the public out or deal with a concerned citizenry when guns are heard being discharged etc.  Obviously the control room of the local police station has to be managed to deal with all such local issues.  Ambulance and perhaps fire chiefs too.

Many an operation has been blown by differing agencies inadvertently getting in each others way and many hundreds of man hours wasted – yet when armed personnel are anticipating coming up against known violent and armed suspects the potential consequences clearly can result in a loss of more than surveillance hours.

This particular incident prima facie displays a spectacular failure in planning and/or the resulting operational briefing.  If there is a reason not to include some in an operational briefing, then reason need be given to justify it and be recorded.

All those briefed are recorded in the operation log – even if they are not subject to the entire operational briefing when it comes to the intricacies of  the plan for tactical firearms execution.

In the case of this tragic incident, the “plot” is a house and would/should have an armed cordon put around it, generally as covertly in its insertion as possible, so that the armed observing officers forming the cordon can “feature off”.

What is “featuring off”?


The sides of a structure (in this case a house) are given a colour.  White for the front, black for the back, green for the left and red for the right – or whatever colours are standard for “featuring off” in any particular nation.

White is generally associated with being the front of the premises.

“Featuring off” then commences.  For example, White 1.1 is the front door.  White 1.2 is a bay window to the left of the front door.  White 1.3 is a bay window to the right of the front door.  White 1.4 is the garage door etc.

Upstairs, White 2.1 is a large window on the left.  White 2.2 is a large window to the right.  White 3.1 is the next floor and so on.

So it goes on around the entire building until all colours have identified all features on their side.

The point of this is so that everybody knows what is on each side of the house and if an officer calls “Light on Black 2.2” – everybody, be they in the containment cordon but cannot see Black 2.2, or the commander who may not even see the house but be sat in a control room, also knows where a light has just come on.  Likewise “Curtains closed White 1.2” lets all know somebody has just closed the curtains downstairs in the room to the left of the front door.

Further “Female, red hair Black 2.2”, lets all know that either a suspect (if identified) or a known resident, or an unknown, is upstairs in the room to the right if the door is about to be put through.  The door and internal searches and/or arrests are not carried out by those in the cordon, for the cordon exists to (hopefully) catch those escaping.

The result is anybody should be able to draw a basic elevation of any side of a structure based upon “featuring off” and track occurrences seen through any windows etc.

A reader gets the point.

Further such “featuring off” is recorded in the operation log together with any observations of movement, and the ID of the officer “featuring off” and/or observing on that side.  The operation log also records any decisions (and by whom) made during the execution of the operation.

“Featuring off” also helps when it comes to not shooting your own, for those on the cordon will identify their location to all via “the clock”.  Thus 7 o’clock is White slightly left of centre.  11 o’clock is Black slightly left of centre.  3’o’clock is centre of red and 8 o’clock is green slightly lower than centre etc.

Having scribbled down the featuring off as a cordon officer, it is not difficult to thereafter plot the location of your colleagues.   “Officer 1234, 1 o’clock, Black 1.1 60 meters”  would tell all that Officer 1234 is at 1’oclack, which is on the Black elevation and that he/she is 60 meters from feature Black 1.1.

Once every operation is completed, there is a “hot debrief” immediately afterward and a cold debrief some time later – both involving all in the initial briefing.

Lessons are still to be learned even from the seemingly most successful and slick operations.  Those lessons are shared across all regions.  And so it goes on.  Every success and every failure has something to teach those charged with the arrest and detention of the most violent of criminality – and also those that support their operations.

Naturally there are incidents that do not provide for the best of preparation – however the protocol is the protocol and even if ad hoc to begin with, sufficient resources should be activated to adopt the “text book” as swiftly as possible – if possible.  Those with the level of “authorities” within protocols are generally far harder to convince that something needs to be done “today” without sufficient planning if nothing is to be lost by way of life and/or the loss of significant evidence by taking the time to plan properly.  Careers ending and/or criminal responsibility that may result is meant to concentrate the mind.

This very brief (standard) outline of something that will probably have a reasonable resemblance to Ukrainian protocols (albeit it will not be exact).  It is therefore likely to be close to the benchmark that this tragic operational outcome will have to be measured.  Errors have most certainly been made.  There are definitely lessons to be learned.  Most certainly a full review of protocols and the “authorities” within will have to occur.  There may well be disciplinary matters regardless of any criminal culpability at the end of internal reviews and the prosecutor’s investigation.  It is vital that placing the blame on somebody does not prevent all of this from happening if such a seemingly self-inflicted tragedy is to be avoided again.

For now, given the currently limited official discourse a reader is left to ponder whether this tragedy is a result of poor command and control, criminality – or both.


Pfeifer & Langen buy Mriya sugar mills – Ukraine

December 2, 2016

Less than 2 months ago an entry appeared regarding the exceptionally murky, decidedly criminal, and mysterious yet unknown top level protection being afforded by those with incredible clout to the investment disaster/horror story surrounding Mriya Agro Holdings in Ukraine.

An on-going and unresolved nightmare of which those at the very top have made no efforts to resolve – despite the situation going from bad to worse and the ugly image the situation projects.  Having re-read the above link, it really is an investment horror show.

Nevertheless, it appears that Germany’s Pfeifer & Langen have bought (or are imminently to do so)  the sugar mills of Mriya Agro from Prominvestbank that took control of these particular assets as collateral for past and defaulted loans.


To be fair, Pfiefer & Langen are no strangers to Ukraine.  They have been active in the country for a decade via their subsidiary Radekhiv Sugar Ltd.  (Indeed they are active in sugar in half a dozen or more European nations.)

Clearly Pfeifer & Langen will have done their due diligence and therefore feel confident that they will be able to protect their asset – unlike the numerous well known international investors who now own Mriya and look on forlornly as the remains of that agricultural empire are slowly but surely stolen from under their noses piece by piece by previous owner structures with no resulting action by the Ukrainian political elite or law enforcement structures.


The IMF says “No” to Ukraine – as long predicted it would

December 1, 2016

The IMF in very plain words has refused Ukraine the next allocated tranche of $1.3 billion.  The February $2 billion tranche naturally gets kicked further into the future.

This should come as no surprise whatsoever.

In February, April, June and most recently (and at length) in October, the blog has repeatedly written (and stated at closed door forums) that IMF cooperation would be indefinitely suspended due to the fact that Ukraine would no longer be desperate for the money and therefore the motivation of parliamentarians and implementing institutions alike would simply disappear – until such time as the situation becomes so acute that they are once again forced to act.

“…….meeting the November 2016 and the $1.3 billion IMF tranche requirements appears optimistic, then meeting the obligations for the scheduled February 2017 tranche of $2 billion is perhaps as remote as riding a unicorn naked through the centre of Kyiv without once being snapped by a smartphone.”

A told you so statement – and the long list of issues in the above-linked October entry remain to be solved as do the repercussions it outlines.


Though the above entry makes forecast of 2017 IMF related issues, it wisely steers clear of any prophecy regarding a return by Ukrainian to its obligations under the IMF agreement – and thus a return to IMF funding.

It is thus time to be foolish and/or reckless and forecast just how long it will before before the Ukrainian situation becomes once again so dire that parliamentarians and implementing institutions are forced to put their ingrained fecklessness to one side and act with the integrity expected of them – but of which they are consistently absent unless truly without any other options.

Short of something akin to force majeure coming from either The Kremlin or Washington DC dramatically changing the environment within which Ukraine finds itself, there is no urgency to address Ukrainian obligations to the IMF in 2017.

(The only other “incentive” would perhaps be the “Firtashisation” – or privately conveyed possibilities thereof – to powerful and influential Ukrainian figures that nefariously control Verkhovna Rada votes and who have “strayed” within the laws of European nations.)

Certainly nothing approaching obligation compliance will begin before Spring 2017 – the constituency will first be allowed to emerge from a winter under radically increased utility pricing and the application of soothing subsidies – which lends to the ability of the current government and majority coalition to survive the increasingly cacophonous noise relating to early Verkhovna Rada elections.

Realistically (in the current environment) it seems highly unlikely that Ukraine will make any great strides toward getting the IMF agreements back on track until Autumn 2017 at the earliest – if at all in 2017.

Thus predictions for the IMF-Ukraine lending agreement to recommence?

Perhaps 2018.


And the next Odessa Governor is………

November 30, 2016

When former Governor Saakashvilli resigned on 7th November, whilst many a post mortem regarding his achievements and legacy in Odessa, not to mention his future plans filled the media space, the first question the blog raised was who would replace him?

An especially poignant question as the new legislation allows President Poroshenko to either move an existing appointed governor from another region, or instigate a “transparent” selection “competition”.

As that entry made clear, “The new legislation has witnessed this process occur several times since in came into effect.  Would any reader be surprised to discover that the winners in both Kharkiv and Mykolaevskaya Oblasts came from the presidential BPP faction?  (The successful candidate for Mykolaevskaya Oblast is definitely not the sharpest tool in the tool box, so a reader may ponder just how testing the examinations actually are.)

If it is a coincidence that both Kharkiv and Mykolaevskaya Oblasts saw BPP winners, then perhaps that coincidence will continue?

It therefore matters which BPP affiliated candidates throw their hats in the ring.”

On 30th November, Presidential Decree №280 / 2016-rp announced the “competition” for the post of Odessa Governor.  Ergo President Poroshenko having pondered matters for 3 weeks has decided against moving an existing governor from a different oblast to Odessa.

Odessa Oblast Administration

Odessa Oblast Administration

However, despite all the local Poroshenko/BPP loyalist names mentioned in the above-linked entry it is quite clear that not a single one among them is particularly interested in the post.  Should their names appear in the competition it is therefore fair to assume they are “pressed men” to one degree or another – and not volunteers.

Of the one individual that has expressed an interest,  Yevhen Chervonenko is a “colourful character” and perhaps not perceived as loyal as required by President Poroshenko to become the “anointed winner” of the forthcoming “competition”.

A reader may now decide to concentrate upon who enters the competition – and who is specifically the BPP candidate and/or who is historically loyal (enough) to President Poroshenko to be allowed to govern a nationally strategic oblast (and an oblast that is also the font of many, many millions in nefariously accrued US$) – for “coincidence” would appear to dictate that their chances may be somewhat higher than other candidates.

With no willingly obvious and sufficiently loyal local candidate, the runners and riders will be rather interesting to behold – albeit once known picking the winner may not be particularly difficult even before the selection process begins.


Chernobyl reactor entombed at last

November 29, 2016

A very short entry to firstly acknowledge a major piece of engineering, and secondly the symbolic entombment of a toxic Soviet legacy within a western funded and built sarcophagus – (Sarcastic readers are now pondering whether the Verkhovna Rada should be next perhaps?)


The full facts and figures can be found at the EBRD website, together with a video showing the final settling of the sarcophagus in place, outlining what a major feat of engineering the project has been.

Bravo to all concerned.  A truly significant achievement.

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