Draft law №2123a “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption”

October 9, 2015

A few days ago this entry appeared which mentioned draft law №2123a “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption” due for tabling for vote within the Verkhovna Rada on 8th October.

In a nutshell, the core elements of this draft law proposed “administrative and criminal liability for violations for the provision or receipt of donations to a candidate submitting knowingly false information with regard to property, income, expenses and financial obligations, and misuse of campaign funds.

It proposes strengthening the instruments available to the Accounting Chamber and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption over the financing of political parties. It aims to limit the amount of contributions to parties by individuals and legal entities, disclose major donors to parties, establish annual internal and independent financial audits of a political party as well as its local organisations that hold legal status.

Further it will oblige all parties to publish a report on the property, income, expenses and financial obligations in full on the official website of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption. It also seeks to introduce State funding of political parties, subject to party discipline and financial statements.”

A fairly significant piece of legislative amendment if it passed and if effectively policed when it comes to forcing some transparency upon Ukrainian elections – particularly so when employed in concert with the roles of anti-corruption bodies, and a move toward open party lists etc.

The draft Bill did indeed garner sufficient votes to pass – albeit only just, with a meager 229 MPs seeing the draft law through to become legislation (a 226 vote minimum required).  The Ukrainian voting constituency may be wise to consider why those MPs who did not support a law that makes electioneering and political party mechanics more transparent decided not to do so.  Inferences perhaps should be drawn.

Unsurprisingly, draft law №2123a that suggested amendments to existing legislation was itself subject to amendment prior to the vote – when is Ukrainian legislation not subject to amendment prior to, or some time after adoption, when vested interests may otherwise suffer?

At the time of writing, being blind to what those amendments actually were – and thus the impact upon the original draft – Interfax reports that “According to the law, state funding will be provided to the parties that passed the 5% threshold at parliamentary elections.

According to the law, the state budget provides funds for the statutory activities of political parties, which are not connected with their participation in elections, and reimburses parties’ expenses related to the financing of their election campaign during parliamentary elections.

The annual volume of the state funding of statutory activities of political parties will amount to 0.02 of a minimum wage, as established on January 1 of the year proceeding the year of the allocation of the state budget, multiplied by the total number of voters who participated in voting nationwide.

An additional 10% will be awarded as a bonus to the political parties which comply with the principle of gender balance.

The law also states that the total amount of a contribution for the support of a party by a citizen of Ukraine in one year cannot exceed 400 minimum wages. The maximum amount of the contribution of legal entities is 800 minimum wages.

According to the law, political parties cannot be financed by government and municipal agencies, as well as legal entities, which have a more than 10% share of the statutory capital, which is owned by the state or local government. Foreign states and foreign legal entities or individuals are forbidden from making any contributions to political parties.

The document lays down the procedure of financial reporting of a political party.”

Whatever the result of the amendments, there is some good and necessary stuff still in there, and throwing out the good in pursuit of the best is not necessarily wise – however there is one issue that seems rather striking – the law will come into effect from 1st July 2016.

Why such a delay?

behind the curtain

It is certainly not for reasons to allow for the completion of the current on-going local election campaigning under the old legislation when the electioneering has already started.  For a start the law cannot be retrospectively applied, and as yet it has still to be signed into law by President Poroshenko and duly published to officially become Ukrainian legislation.  Constitutionally the President has 15 days to sign, veto, or return the law to the Verkhovna Rada with suggested amendments, and should it take a day or two to reach him, then when added to the aforementioned 15 days, the local elections would have taken place under the old legislation anyway.

Is it a nod toward the proposed date for the elections within the occupied Donbas of 21st February 2016 to insure they are over before the new law takes effect?  (If those elections actually take place at all, or if they do take place whether they are deemed to have been free and fair with the results duly accepted.)  Maybe – maybe not.

Would that justify a law passed on 8th October 2015 coming into effect upon 1st July 2016 – almost 9 months later?

Is it to allow time to create another independent body to implement and audit the outcomes that these amendments would generate – despite theoretically there now being no scheduled elections per constitutionally stated electoral terms for several years now?  If that is the reasoning then it is a fairly lame reason, if reason at all, when no elections are officially due until several years after 1st July 2016 when these amendments come into force.

Therefore, is it more likely to relate to yesterday’s entry and to the numerous reasons listed as to why an early Spring 2016 Verkhovna Rada election remains a distinct possibility (or indeed probability)?

Would not a Spring 2016 Verkhovna Rada election therefore fall within the current non-transparent, easily influenced and regularly abused legislation, rather than the legislation just passed that comes into force from 1st July 2016?


Indeed for those with a healthy dose of cynicism, the timing of the of this legislation entering into force would add yet another reason to expect early Verkhovna Rada elections in Spring 2016.  The timing allows for one last corrupt, nefarious, opaque electoral hurrah and huzzah for the national legislature that would greatly assist the retention of certain vested interests for a few years more before succumbing to some form of enforced electoral and political party funding transparency – or subsequently amending these newly passed legislative amendments into essentially meaningless impotence at an opportune moment hence.

Are there any good arguments that can justify the delay of this legislation coming into force until 1st July 2016?  (Other than yet another grubby political deal to provide an avenue to preserve vested interests via shenanigans behind the political curtain for a few more years in any early Verkhovna Rada elections obviously.)

A 9 month delay before this law enters into force takes some explaining.


“Decentralising” the coalition – A centrifugal force? Ukraine

October 8, 2015

Way back in November 2014, almost immediately after the Verkhovna Rada election winners had taken their oaths, this blog opined that there would be new Verkhovna Rada elections in the Spring of 2016.

At the time that prediction was based purely upon historical precedent.  In short, looking back at post-Maidan 2004 Ukrainian parliamentary history, every perceived “western leaning” coalition parliament has become more and more unworkable by the third session, and more or less ground to a stalemated halt by the forth session.  Occasionally the parliament has limped on for a while unproductively, but more often than not early Verkhovna Rada elections have followed.

Naturally historical precedent relates to circumstances somewhat different to those faced by Ukraine since March 2014 and the overt and aggressive Kremlin actions taken in all forms, not to mention a far more mobilised and cohesive civil society – however should any truce take hold in eastern Ukraine it seems likely that the political coalition cohesion will suffer if a “hot war” becomes a far “cooler” war militarily.

The Radical Party as expected when under investigation for numerous criminal incidents, has already left the coalition in order to be able to claim political persecution.  It could hardly remain within the coalition and claim political persecution when investigation into nefarious incidents occurring throughout 2014/15 are all beginning to reach the public realm as prosecutions begin.

The only immediate issue for the ruling coalition was the minor effect this has on reaching a constitution changing (300+ votes) majority for “decentralisation” and assorted other votes that require constitutional change – MPs and Judges immunity repeal, changes relating to the Prosecutor General remit, ratifying The Rome Statue etc.

However with the Opposition Block (possibly soon to be renamed the Party of Peace and Regional Development) supporting the constitutional “decentralisation” amendments, the loss of the Radical Party was no loss to be blunt.

Although it will be difficult, requiring party whips enforcing discipline and attendance (not a single MP expected to vote “for” being sick, lame, lazy or abroad on the day) when the “decentralisation” amendments require a constitutional majority, there is a possibility of forcing the vote over the finishing line, thus allowing for “decentralisation” legislatively (rather than practically) outside of the occupied Donbas in a politically timely manner.

It would be fair to anticipate this timely manner to be entirely politically expedient, and thus immediately prior to the New Year holidays.  The last week of the current session would seem favourite before the Verkhovna Rada closes for a few weeks and there is therefore nobody to demonstrate against within the building.

Undoubtedly matters are to be dragged out over the “Special Law” and “electoral issues” regarding any elections in the occupied Donbas – if they ever take place.

Any legislative fiddling with the “Special Law” and electoral issues pertaining to the occupied region would require a simple and attainable 226 majority to get through the Verkhovna Rada which is entirely doable.

The reasons for the Opposition Block supporting the “decentralisation” amendments are several and to understand them it is necessary to look at the as yet unplayed Kremlin card (that all no doubt are aware of).

Whether or not the “local elections” within the occupied Donbas go ahead, and under whatever law and circumstance, at some point The Kremlin is going to call for Verkhovna Rada elections due to the fact that these regions whilst remaining part of Ukraine, have no MPs to represent them in the Verkhovna Rada.  At some point this Kremlin demand will materialise – and be supported by most western governments as democracy would expect these regions to have MPs in the national legislature.  How could democracy promoting western governments refuse to support such a Kremlin call?

Although it seems highly unlikely that any political parties that rise from within the occupied Donbas will pass the national 5% threshold for the proportional representation vote, it is possible that some first past the post seats could fall to (Kremlin vetted and supported) “republican” candidates.

Whether any such candidates (if successful) would actually take up their seats within the Verkhovna Rada is a different matter.  There may be a Sinn Fein position taken not to sit in the seats won, for any successful MPs would have to swear the oath to Ukraine for a start – but more importantly, it would depend much more upon whether the Kremlin sees more propaganda mileage in a “principled refusal” to take up seats, or have their puppets within the Rada building.

As it seems extremely unlikely any national 5% threshold would be passed by any political parties rising from the occupied Donbas, the Opposition Block that once counted the region as an electoral stronghold will see the opportunity to retake its voter base (and its oligarchic assets) that was decimated by the illegal annexation of Crimea and the invasion and occupation of parts of the Donbas.  A more focused Kremlin outreach to those within the Opposition Block behind the curtain is entirely predictable prior to it playing the “national representation” card.

Thus once the “decentralisation” amendments are passed, the Opposition Block will be seeking early Verkhovna Rada elections – as will at some point The Kremlin, and a democracy promoting “West” will have no choice but to agree with the region being without MPs in the national legislature.

With a Cabinet of Ministers shakeup due imminently, and Ms Tymoshenko never slow to try and force her way up the political pole, it seems highly likely that she will try to put linkage between the Batkivshchyna support for the “Decentralisation” amendments with her becoming Prime Minister – Arseniy Yatseniuk’s days clearly numbered one way or another.  The only question is when and where he then goes – Presidential appointment as EU Ambassador perhaps?

Any such Tymoshenko overture will undoubtedly be dismissed as surely as it will be made.

Firstly it will be dismissed because she leads the smallest coalition party, secondly because she would swiftly alienate western support and international institutions like the IMF (again), and thirdly, to be extremely blunt, her grotesque populism and gargantuan ego have never once served Ukraine well be it politically, economically or socially.  If the 25th October local election results are a litmus test that somehow gives her ego encouragement, she would then be likely to leave the coalition (if the truce holds so as not to be seen to play to the Kremlin efforts for destabilisation).

With the Radical Party already out, should Batkivshchyna also leave, Samopomich may become an even more unpredictable partner (should Ihor Kolomoisky’s courting of it pay dividends) and the Opposition Block being exactly what its name states (most of the time), things will eventually grind to a halt – and as expected they are already becoming more difficult and more strained as historical precedent would predict.

It may also be that the continually assimilating Solidarity Party will look at the local election results as a litmus test and see political benefit in being far more forceful within the coalition caring not if it collapses in the anticipation of gaining in any early Verkhovna Rada elections.

All of these things, individually or several acting in concert, are likely to keep the blog prediction of November 2014 that there will be early Verkhovna Rada elections in 2016 alive and well.  That being so, and whilst on a constitutional amendment course, perhaps it may be worth considering making the Verkhovna Rada tenure shorter than is currently stated?  Perhaps elections every 3 years?  History would infer it is a reasonable suggestion.


Perhaps decentralisation of power to the periphery and local governance will prove to be the centrifugal force for this sitting Verkhovna Rada.


Political technology, who pays (and who pays who pays)? Ukraine

October 7, 2015

At some point over the next week or so, despite better judgement, a final pre-election forecast (guesstimate) will be published for the city of Odessa and also the Oblast.  This in turn, as far as the Odessa City Mayor campaign is concerned, will outline who will enter the almost certain second round of voting now that Sergei Kivalov seems likely to split the Gennady Trukhanov vote sufficiently to force one.

As Svetlana Fabrikant (fronting for Ihor Kolomoisky) seems set to fail convincingly in the first round, the second round will be between Sasha Borovik or Eduard Gurvitz (currently fighting over an overlapping voter base), verses Gennady Trukhanov and Sergei Kivalov (currently fighting over another common voter base).  Hence political technologies employed have insured that the Opposition Block have not entered a candidate for Mayor to avoid further splitting the Trukhanov vote and enabling a slim chance that Trukhanov (which Opposition Block would see as the least worst option), Kivalov (whilst he almost certainly won’t reach the second round is running not only to give his party a bump, but also to give his old friend Eduard Gurvitz a better chance in the second round), and their candidate if one had been entered, all failing to reach the second round leaving a Borovik verses Gurvitz to fight it out – A possible outcome to be avoided from an Opposition Block viewpoint even at the cost of not entering a candidate themselves.

A glance across at Dnepropetvosk on the other hand, sees Solidarity/Block Poroshenko deliberately entering a relatively unknown against a strong Opposition Block candidate in an attempt to insure Boris Filatov, for whom no love is lost in either camp, is not elected Mayor.  It would appear a deal has been cut between Solidarity and the Opposition Block to defeat Filatov with the acceptance that Opp Block emerge victorious.  A case of Kyiv settling for anybody but Ihor Kolomoisky’s friend in an oblast where Kolomoisky was governor and still holds considerable “shadow” influence – even if it means deliberately losing.

Thus far all fairly clear as to who is behind, and paying for, the named runners and riders campaigns.  The political technologies and strategies behind the examples above being fairly clear – if unofficial.  Far more examples exist of deals being cut, of candidates running to deliberately split the votes of others, or to deliberately win or to deliberately lose, etc across the nation.

The same old political games amongst the big players over the big and influential seats in Ukraine.

However, there are a lot of small parties running in the local elections and hundreds of self-nominated candidates for Mayor across the nation too.  By way of example, there are close to 40 registered candidates for Mayor of Odessa City, despite the fact there are only really 4 candidates (5 if still counting Svetlana Fabrikant).

Looking at the other Odessa regions that also have elections for Mayor it is perhaps worthy of listing some of them and pondering where the candidates financing comes from and why some are running – for no election campaign is cheap, and whilst some financial backers are obvious due to major party affiliation, others are simply mystifying.

Belgorod-Dniester currently has no incumbent as Igor Nanovskogo was removed from office in connection with criminal proceedings some time ago.  The Solidarity candidate is Alla Ginak.  The Renaissance Party candidate is a former called Mayor Mykola Datsenko.  The Socialist candidate is a current deputy, Nikolay Dimov.  The People Power candidate is civil activist Sergey Kvitkovsky.  The Strong Ukraine candidate is the current City Council Secretary Vladimir Menzelintseva.  Lastly, the only self-nominated candidate for this district is the former Minister of Ecology Igor Shevchenko.

Ismail is far simpler.  The acting head of the city Andrei Abramchenko is the Solidarity candidate.  Against him run only to self-nominated candidates Ivan Papushenko and Dmitry Schieder – both local businessmen.

Illichovsk seems a little crowded and may well see a second round of voting no differently to Odessa City.  The current Mayor and Solidarity candidate is Valery Hmelnyuk.  The Batkivshchyna candidate is Anatoly Alexandrov.  The Revival candidate is local councilor Vasily Gulyaev.  There are also four self-nominations – Vadim Bely the director of high school in Illichovsk, social activist Gennady Dashko, a pensioner Nikolai Moysyuk and Vladimir Trofimenko who is really hard to label as being anything.

In Kotovsk the acting Mayor is a self-nominee called Anatoly Ivanov.  Another self-nominee also within the current administrative set up there is Nikolai Ivanov.  Opposition Block nominee is Natalia Vlasyuk.   Vitaly Dragomaretsky is the Our Land (Anton Cisse’s party) candidate.   There is then Nikolay Vorsulyak for the Samovydvizhenets Party, Valery Ponepalyuk of BTS, and self-nominees Natalia Ryazanov and Alexander Yaroshenko.

The Teplodarskyu race sees the current mayor Leonid Pechersky running as an independent.  The Opposition Block candidate is the former first deputy mayor Alexander Aleksiychuk.  Current regional councilor Michael Zhovnir runs for the Specific Cases party, whilst the Patriot Party fields Mikhail Pokrovsky.  Sergei Skvortsov runs for Samovydvizhenets.

In the south of the oblast, the acting Mayor Vladimir Nowacki is a self-nominee.  For Strong Ukraine runs Andrey Zelenova,  Our Land has Andrei Onosova, for Svoboda runs Jacob Tchaikovsky, The Party of Ordinary People fields Sergei Kaplina, with other self-nominees being Viktor Shvets, current administration employee Elena Volovenko, adviser to the Mayor of Odessa and the Odessa City Council Deputy Alexander Georgiev, Deputy Head of the Administration of the Seaports of Ukraine Alexander Grigorashenko, and finally pensioner Oleg Sidorenko.

Ananiev sees Solidarity candidate and current head, Paul Makovetskii campaigning against the son of the chairman of the regional council, Alexander Balan of the Opposition Block, Peter Zeykan for Batkivshchyna, Aleksey Medvedev for Anton Cisse’s Our Land, former employee of the regional state administration Irina Ostash runs the Agrarian Party and pensioner Vyacheslav Kiss is a self-nominee.

Artsyz, currently mayor-less after a corruption scandal, puts the Opposition Block Deputy Mayor Olga Dobryakova against Igor Lado of BTS, Vladimir Mihov for the Our Edge Party, and several self-nominees – Leonid Muratkov, Vasily Raichev, Dmitriy Marchenko and Ruslan Cambuur.

Short and sweet in Berezovka where  the current Batkivshchyna Mayor Valery Grigorash competes with his predecessor Yuri Zhelikhovsky and a self-nominated lawyer called Nikolay Morohovich.

Bolgrad which is also currently without a Mayor after Sergei Korolyov was caught in nefarious activities, sees Opposition Block candidate Sergei Dimitriev run against a former Mayor and self-nominee Vladimir Kachanov, with a former district employee called Artur Christ completing a very short list.

Another short list in Vylkove where the current acting Mayor Nikolai Dzyazin, is challenged by the current Chairman of the District Council Matvey Ivanov.

With current Mayor Maksim Pereverzev accused of corruption and deciding not to stand, in Kilie for Solidarity runs former Deputy Head of the Regional Administration Tatiana Boychenko.  Against her runs Oleg Vaydich of the Specific Cases Party, a pensioner Margarita Garate for the Opposition Block,  Vladislav Morozan for Our Land, another pensioner Inna Prokhorov runs for the Patriotic Party, with self-nominees Dmitry Karaj and historian Victor Cenusa.

Kodyma has had a vacancy for mayor for 2 years when Vladimir Sklyaruk resigned.  He has decided to run again as an independent.  The Opposition Block Acting Mayor and city council secretary Tatiana Cooper runs against him as does self-nominee Nikolai Kondratiev, and for Batkivshchyna Vasily Shevchuk.

Over in Reni where Governor Saakashvili wants to put his new road from Odessa en route to Romania, the current incumbent is Sergei Koljevic who runs as an independent, as does former Vice Mayor Victor Kudrev, and Sergei Lukiyanchenko.  Anatoly Makhov runs for BTS, with Igor Plekhov of Batkivshchyna and Basil Saevsky of the Agrarian Party completing the candidates.

Razdelnaya witnesses Mayor Valery Shovkalyuk attempt reelection as a self-nominee running against a former acting mayor (after the arrest of Kindyuka) Palaz Yuri who also goes to the polls as an independent.  Other self-nominees are Igor Dovganenko  and ex- State Migratory Service officer Vitaly Pisarevsky.  For the Opposition Block Sergey Dolgii, for BTS the head of District Council Sergei Krylov and for Trust Deeds Mikhail Luzhny.

Tatarbunary sees Mayor Viktor Shvets decline to participate being on remand for bribery.  Thus for Specific Cases runs Irina Vykhristyuk.  Against her, self-nominee and current Secretary of the City Council Andriy Glushchenko , Power of the People candidate Diana Sergienko, Vladimir Usatenko of STD, with Basil Chumachenko running for Svoboda and Yuriy Chumachenko for the Patriot Party.

Almost all readers will have absolutely no clue who most of the candidates are, why many are even running and who encouraged them to run and to what end, and even less of a clue about any of the smaller parties, let alone who finances them or who finances those that finance them.  As the current law stands, who finances both personalities known and unknown, and parties large and small, insures a more than convenient political opaqueness for the political technologists, grey cardinals and shadowy figures shuffling around behind the political curtain.


If the above local political chaos is mind boggling, it relates to but 1 oblast of 24 that make up Ukraine, all that have countless small parties and innumerable candidates paid for by somebody to participate in a political process that is not exactly cheap, even if only to push a technical candidate simply to split the vote of another to benefit a third party (directly or indirectly), or to insure a minor political party deprives a bigger one of a local council majority for nefarious ends.

However, draft law №2123a “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine concerning prevention and counteraction to political corruption” is due to hit the Verkhovna Rada legislative timetable on 8th October.

This draft legislation proposes administrative and criminal liability for violations for the provision or receipt of donations to a candidate submitting knowingly false information with regard to property, income, expenses and financial obligations, and misuse of campaign funds.

It proposes strengthening the instruments available to the Accounting Chamber and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption over the financing of political parties.  It aims to limit the amount of contributions to parties by individuals and legal entities, disclose major donors to parties, establish annual internal and independent financial audits of a political party as well as its local organisations that hold legal status.

Further it will oblige all parties to publish a report on the property, income, expenses and financial obligations in full on the official website of the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption.  It also seeks to introduce State funding of political parties, subject to party discipline and financial statements.

Should this law be adopted it will not be retrospective and therefore will not throw any light upon this election, leaving many to wonder just who sponsors whom, at what cost and to what end – keeping many cynical voters cynical and the media rumour mill working overtime.

As there still remains a reasonable chance of early Verkhovna Rada elections in Spring 2016, there is a big question over whether this law will be adopted on 8th October 2015 (or ever), for it presents the feckless and nefarious political personalities and oligarchy behind the throne(s) with hitherto absent problems of transparency – notwithstanding keeping those entering politics with goodwill and pure heart being unsure as to what exactly any party they join actually represents.


Redirecting/Managing (de)mobilisation – Ukraine

October 6, 2015

President Poroshenko has given his interpretation of the outcomes from the most recent Normandy Four gathering on 2nd October in Paris.

In short it is a possible, perhaps even probable, move from ceasefire to truce.  The truce to allow for full OSCE monitoring, elections under Ukrainian legislation with Ukrainian political parties competing, Ukrainian media coverage, IDP voting rights guaranteed, and the withdrawal of weapons of a calibre of 100mm and below within the next 45 days he claims.  Time will tell.

The perception he wants to project, certainly prior to the local elections across Ukraine on 25th October, being that the President held firm and that Germany and France are of the same mind.  No amendments to the Minsk II agreements are on the table – although the year end deadline for implementation must surely be more than questionable. Domestically, this projected perception theoretically would be an attempt to avoid moving public mood and votes toward the populist disasters personified by Ms Tymoshenko, Mr Lyashko and the numerous Ihor Kolomoisky fronts.

One wonders just how much this plays into any shared interpretation of the Poroshenko conclusions by France and Germany.  Certainly they would have a clear eyed view of what an unmitigated disaster Ms Tymoshenko gaining any (or even a sniff of) power would become for Ukraine.  If Ms Tymoshenko sees the local elections of 25th October as a litmus test of public opinion before deciding to leave or remain within the coalition and try to force new Rada elections, it seems unlikely any opportunity for encouragement to her ego would be willingly given.

Regardless of pre-election rhetoric or ponderings, whether this interpretation is indeed the shared interpretation of France and Germany – or not – will only be clarified by French and German statements and actions eventually.

Whatever the case, the President has been seen to be seen to uphold the constitution and stand firm (after numerous previous concessions) at least prior to the local elections – and perhaps he will stand firm after them too.  Time and electoral results will tell.

Nevertheless, the possibility of a truce – which does not mean peace nor a return to the pre-war status quo – should focus minds upon what follows thereafter in the immediate months and years ahead, plan for it and decide upon how any plans or policies will be implemented – not only within the occupied Donbas but also across the nation which has mobilised in various forms physically, organisationally and psychologically, to face the Kremlin sponsored and controlled threat in eastern Ukraine.

Naturally there are numerous tangible regional and national issues that will have to be faced – reconstruction, social policies etc., but there is also the psychological issue of how to demobilise society, or perhaps better phrased, how to manage any redirection of the mobilised society where in many cases and over some issues demobilisation is irreversible.

In Russia a clear and unmistakable conflict between keeping society demobilised within the domestic political discourse and yet hyper-mobilised against external threats seems certain to have repercussions that will eventually be beyond the control of The Kremlin.  The notable change of Kremlin controlled MSM propaganda from Ukraine (where matters are not progressing in line with domestic expectations as formulated by several years of Kremlin domestic propaganda) to Syria  is but a redirection of Russian societal mobilisation toward a different external threat – and another diversion from the internal issues within Russia of which a mobilised domestic constituency would cause perhaps terminal issues for the ruling elite.

Ukraine and Ukrainians are not about to look for other external threats should a truce with the occupied Donbas materialise.  It has no need to look for other external threats when The Kremlin will remain the biggest threat to Ukrainian statehood for decades other than the feckless Ukrainian political and oligarchical elites.  Any truce that materialises will push the latter fecklessness to the forefront of domestic discourse in perhaps unpredictable (and possibly volatile) ways whilst the occupied territories will be deliberately kept combustible by Moscow should it need to return to the Ukrainian diversion for domestic reasons.

Arguably the reason no third “Maidan” has already occurred – despite a very poorly perceived reform agenda and even more dire perception of any implementation programme – is that many consider another major public demonstration of Maidan scale would play into the hands of The Kremlin.

epa01022960 General view of a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on 29 May 2007. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has suspended for two days, 29 May and 30 May, his decree on parliament's dissolution to give the Supreme Rada time to adopt laws needed to hold snap elections, his press service said. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

Thus the next “Maidan” should it occur, may well manifest itself within the walls of the Verkhovna Rada when the reforms eventually make a robust and long term stand against the old school – in the full knowledge of unshakable and organised constituency support of which the old guard may fear will manifest physically once again.  This time, if there is a managed and/or redirection of mobilisation of the majority of the Ukrainian constituency including those from the eastern front, obstructionist forces within the Verkhovna Rada may become more willing to release their nefarious grip on the nation.

Issues naturally arise relating to demobilisation of those that served at the eastern front, and the issue of controlling and/or surrendering weapons.  As previously written some months ago – “Discounting lawfully issued weaponry to those on active service, clearly there is a need to review existing firearms laws, deciding what weapons can be privately held and those that will be prohibited by law, how and where they must be registered, how they must be stored and how they can (or cannot) be carried in public places – All the usual parameters to legitimate private firearm ownership. (Whether or not there would be a need for legislative changes after that review remains to be seen.)

Thereafter providing a legal window for those holding currently anonymous/unregistered weapons that they will legally be allowed to hold the opportunity to identify and register those weapons with the State would seem rather sensible – together with an amnesty for surrendering all weapons that will be prohibited by law from being privately held, post any review.

The result being all illicitly held firearms/weapons/heavy weapons – having given the nation opportunity to legalise the currently illegitimate – would fall under the reviewed (and possibly unchanged) firearms legislation – or terrorist legislation where appropriate.

No amount of legislation or amnesty opportunities will account for all the weaponry that has seeped, and will continue to seep, across Ukraine. It would be a fantasy to think that organised crime, vigilantes, or “swivel-eyed underground groups” will not retain weaponry, appoint quatermasters, and secrete weapons for “future operations”/”just in case”. No doubt illicit arms stashes will be found a decade from now, buried, hidden etc., and no doubt many will be used in illegal activity in the years ahead too.”

As any truce and military demobilisation will require dealing with large numbers of illicit and unregistered weaponry that have seeped across the nation, it is perhaps time to once again raise this issue and the options above – and with any amnesty periods (and there should be several over a period of 18 – 24 months) the cash value of the weaponry surrendered should offered as an incentive.

As it would be foolish to think that Ukraine will retain all of those within the armed forces that have fought in the east, and although it would make sense to retain as many as is possible within a contract army that want to remain, there will be a significant number that are not fit to, nor wish to remain, and yet will remain highly mobilised when it comes to changing the country.

But how to manage and where to aim that newly reinforced mobilised society if a truce materialises and the battle-hardened take on a new (and possibly far more difficult) internal political fight (without weaponry)?

It will be important to continually underline constitutional responsibilities and parameters.

Where there was none, there is now an army.  The constitution has not been raped at The Kremlin whim (yet).  Foreign policy is clear.  Those are the major constitutional responsibilities of any sitting president, other than a few political appointments.  To be sure President Poroshenko has made a complete and unmitigated hash of the several Prosecutor/Attorney General appointments during his tenure thus far, and it is that office/institution of State that actively and deliberately prevents any large and influential fish from being fried.

Indeed some may wonder if referring all events from 22nd February 2014 onward to the ICC (the constitutionality of which is questionable after the Constitutional Court in 2001 prevented the ratification of The Rome Statute) was done to facilitate transparent investigation and unbiased due process, or whether it was to simply to circumvent a deliberately obstructive and unethical prosecutors office, and/or just kick something politically prickly into the long ICC investigative grass.

Unless an independent, unbiased and competent Prosecutor General takes the reigns and big fish start to be fried, serious questions about President Poroshenko and his desire for reforms will crystallise on and around the PG/AG office internally and externally of Ukraine.  In short if Ukraine enters 2016 with the same Prosecutor General it is fair to anticipate both internal societal and external (political and diplomatic) pressure to mount significantly and presidential support to fade should that pressure fail.  Likewise any morally weak, managerially inept cronyist replacement will meet the same response.

Many, both internally and externally will wonder why innumerable cases not short of evidence – such as Yuri Boiko’s oil rig scam – have yet to see any progress whatsoever, for that is the size of fish the Ukrainian constituency want to see fry.  Even the corrupt and unlustrated judiciary cannot be blamed for dubious decisions in cases that don’t even reach them.

Other than that, all mobilisation would likely be directed at those that hold the constitutional responsibility for all other governance and policy – the Cabinet of Ministers and the parliamentarians of the Verkhovna Rada that enable or disable any such policies – and rightly so.

It would be an immense mistake to encourage the President to exceed his constitutional authority and attempt to turn both Cabinet of Ministers and parliament into rubber stamp institutions, or cross the constitutional boundaries and interfere in governance where he should not by entering into open and consistent conflict with the legislature and the policies of the Cabinet of Ministers.  Ukraine has been there before many times – each time with dire stagnation as a result at best – regression at worst.  This time western abandonment of the political class would also be a possibility should the current authorities pave the way for the return of populist politicians that have never been anything other than a detriment to Ukraine and an unwanted headache in “The West” and amongst international institutions.

To avoid the perception of a regime change from something close to democratic into either authoritarian or simply chaotic, both President, Cabinet of Ministers and parliamentarians should be actively encouraged to remain fully within their constitutional remits.

Having watched The Kremlin regime change from managed democracy/hybrid democracy to authoritarian, possibly heading toward yet worse definitions, constant reminders to the Ukrainian political class to stay firmly within their constitutional constraints are certainly prudent when it comes to domestic and external perceptions.  Be there no smudging of constitutional roles – then there be no smudging of constitutional responsibility, and thus accountability.  From there let any mobilised society tackle the right institutions lawfully but robustly.

(Indeed, when thinking of regime change in Russia, think not necessarily of the people in charge chaning but of governance style they employ.  If doing that, arguably there has recently been a regime change when authoritarianism replaced “managed democracy”.)

Understandably there is no trust in The Kremlin or its proxies, a trust that is gone for a generation amongst the majority of Ukrainians.  The Ruski Mir/Russian World is no long seen as a soft power instrument but a hard power prelude.  Within Ukrainian psychologically there will not be much of a demobilisation toward The Kremlin for many decades – but there will be a change of priorities and direction of a disappointed but mobilised society should a truce manifest, and a clear aim toward real reform and effective implementation in a far swifter fashion than has so far occurred.

Are the political class in Kyiv ready to deal with a mobilised society that will have it squarely within its sights if a truce arrives and takes hold?  Whilst there may be (or not) a redevelopment plan that moves the Donbas from heavy and unsustainably subsidised industry toward other economic spheres as part of that plan – is there a plan within Kyiv over how to manage, redirect or demobilise the Ukrainian constituency that is getting ever more impatient for effective reform?

Perhaps the local elections are a litmus test for more than just populist politics – perhaps they will highlight the level of regional frustrations too.


A rare public word of thanks for a gathering of minds

October 5, 2015

As regular readers will have noticed, there have been no entries at the blog for the past few days owing to your author being in Gdansk at a gathering of some exceptionally sharp minds (your author naturally excluded from that category).

Being fortunate to have the time to attend many such events when invitations are received should your author choose, few words of thanks and even fewer words relating to what was said (Chatham House Rule notwithstanding) following such gatherings have ever been written here.  It is perhaps time to break that unwritten rule and write a few words of genuine appreciation regarding the quality of the event in Gdansk.

Firstly it is right to thank the City of Gdansk for its support for an extremely high quality gathering in what can only be described as a spectacular and atmospheric historical venue.  The type of venue that adds an additional soberness and sharpening of the mind by default.

Secondly, there is a specific need to thank all panelists and moderators, and especially those who listened so attentively to the panel upon which your author sat and opined for 2 hours – and even more so for some very sharp and insightful comments and discussion.

Therefore, and in no particular order, a name check for one of the most erudite, intellectually challenging and stimulating groups it has been your author’s pleasure to mingle with for a very long time – Adamski Lukasz, Anton Barbashin, Fabian Burkhardt, Marek Cichocki, Slawomir Debski, Adam Eberhardt, Geir Flikke, Evgeny Gontmakher, Jonas Gratz, Olga Irisova, Maria Issaeva, Leszek Jesien, Michal Koran, Kadri Liik, John Lough, Lauri Malksoo, Nikolay Petrov, Hans Joachim Spanger, Rafal Tarnogorski, Sergey Utkin and Ernest Wyciszkiewicz – a heart felt thanks for a weekend where lazy thinking was banished and insightful comment was the branding of the entire event both on and off the official clock.


Indeed thanks to all at The Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding who work in the boiler room behind the scenes and made the event run seamlessly.

Lastly many thanks for the invitations to similar events over the coming months in Warsaw, Prague and London being hosted by other equally erudite organisations which appear to present an equally challenging arena.

Before normal service resumes tomorrow with matters Ukrainian, a special note of recognition to  Slawomir Debski who was an extremely engaging and considerate host.

Bravo to all, a very enjoyable and intellectually stimulating weekend  – how rare it is to leave such a gathering and want to keep all the business cards exchanged (rather than throw most of them away)!


A more worthy suspect? SBU bombing, Odessa

October 2, 2015

Following this entry immediately following the bombing of the State Security Service (SBU) building in central Odessa, an entry that suggested caution when speculating as to offenders –  “Perhaps he is correct in where he apportions the responsibility for this latest terrorist blast, although “The fact that this crime – the work of the FSB of Russia, no doubt” is perhaps a little presumptuous, for some doubt there surely is when making such statements within a few hours of the explosion.

Of the several dozen bombings that occurred late last year and early 2015, all were swiftly blamed by politicians in Kyiv upon The Kremlin, pro-Kremlin groups, or “professional Russians”. (“Professional Russians” are those who become “Russian” for money when a protest, brawl, or other headline grabbing acts are required. They are not a new phenomenon to Odessa, for they can be “professional whatever” for whomever is paying on a different day. Rent-a-mob for rent-a-cause.)”

The following day, a local to Odessa well known for his unfortunate mental disorders claimed responsibility for the bombing“Mikhail Dolgov who identifies himself as the “Virtual head of the Odessa Underground” and claims that “we”, as in the “Odessa Underground” partisans were responsible for the blast.”

As stated, in the above entry – “Whether Mr Dolgov and whomever else “we” consist of actually carried out the bombing remains to be seen.”

Emails to the blog followed asking about the “Odessa Underground” – for it had not appeared on the usual radars.  As far as can be ascertained at the time of writing there is a good reason for that – it appears to be an entirely phantom entity (outside the certified troubled mind of Mikhail Dolgov).  That said, moths gather around a flame and what is phantom today may take on some physical form tomorrow.

Also received was a request to keep certain readers updated with any developments.

Thus for those readers that find matters such as these secondary to the far more interesting, difficult and gargantuan tasks that lay ahead for Ukraine – apologies – your author shares your opinion, but will dutifully adhere to certain emailed requests.


It now appears that the SBU has a suspect in the frame – but with absolutely no direct evidence released to the public (or whispered in private).  The suspect is in the frame due to certain entries on his VKontakte page, such as “This bundle at the back door into your office – is just the beginning,”.

The suspect is a man from Odessa called Pavel Brigadir, born 26th February 1980.  He and two other unnamed/unknown men, now have the SBU’s attention regarding this incident.

Mr Brigadir is a well known holder of very extreme views from the Kulikova Field pro-Kremlin (rather than Soviet nostalgia) groups.

In March 2014 he created a group with radical views called the “Emergency Response Brigade” which he hoped would get the attention of the Russian Secret Services and funding for the group activities would therefore follow.  That funding never came, whether perhaps the Kremlin spooks were not impressed by Mr Brigadir as the leader, whether they felt it was a possible “dangle”, or whether the group’s short lifespan literally prevented any funding prior to its disappearance from the scene remains unknown.

What makes Pavel Brigadir’s self-inferred responsibility more plausible to any previous claims is not his creation of the “ERB”, nor his radical and extreme views that are well known.

What is different about Pavel Brigadir, is that has already been arrested by the SBU for bombing two Bratkivshchyna Party offices in Odessa during 2014 under the “ERB” banner.  The first bombing on 16th April on Pushkinskaya and the second on 18th April on Dobrovolsky.  On 20th April the “ERB” took to lobbing molotov cocktails about on Dovzhenko.

On 25th April 2014, he and several others of the “ERB” were arrested and subsequently charged with offences under Part 2 of Article. 109, Part 1 of Article. 161, Part 1 of Article. 263, Part 2 of Article 258, Part 1 of Article. 258-1 and Part 2 of Article 194 – Conspiracy to overthrow the state power, possession of weapons and ammunition, the creation of a terrorist organization and terrorist attack, as well as destruction of property by arson.

A serious charge sheet it has to be said – and he was duly remanded in custody pending trial.

Thus the “ERB” lasted a little less than two months.  Certainly the Communist 3, Orthodox Cossacks, Black Sea Knights et al, managed to last somewhat longer.  Such groups will continue to come and go.

However, on 14th September 2014, Pavel Brigadir was subject to a “prisoner swap” for Ukrainian prisoners in the occupied territories .  Once released he promptly took up arms against Ukrainian forces in the east.

It is believed within the Ukrainian security services, that aside from actually fighting, he is now involved in briefing and sending those sent to Odessa to carry out terrorist acts.

As such, the two unnamed men that are currently centre frame with the SBU in Odessa for bombing their building are far more likely to be the actual bombers than Pavel Brigadir, who may very well still be, and probably is, in the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

Nevertheless, inferred self-incrimination in the events on VKontakte is not evidence of involvement fit for due process in a court despite a clearly active and recent terrorist past of a very similar nature.  It certainly appears that those who physically planted the bomb are neither of whom that have thus far either claimed or inferred responsibility – any conspiracy charges not withstanding.


As a postscript – There will be no blog entries for a few days as you author heads to Gdansk “think-tanking” with a room full of people far cleverer than he.


Naftogaz loses its monopoly (at last) – Ukraine

October 1, 2015

Legally, with effect from 1st October 2015, the opaque, budget burdening behemoth that is Naftogaz Ukrainy loses it monopoly within the Ukrainian gas market – and not before time.

So many are the entries within the blog going back many years calling for the butchering of this monopolistic monstrosity that there are simply too many to link to.  However an entry last year raised the question (again) over the restructuring of Naftogaz Ukrainy vis a vis bankrupting it, and starting again with an entirely new structure that falls squarely within Ukrainian obligations to the EU Third Energy Package.

“Unbundling the gas transport system from the gas production and the end user network is perhaps one way to restructure Naftogaz. In doing so, it may eventually come to light as to just how this massively opaque behemoth actually manages to lose so much money every year – and when Naftogaz deficits can run at anywhere between 3.3% – 7% of GDP per annum, questions really do need to be asked about firstly how they are actually accrued, and secondly why successive governments continue to finance a structure that is simply a lead weight upon any annual budget?

So big, cumbersome, opaque and costly is Naftogaz to the nation, it appears to have become too big not to fail if Ukraine is to survive economically in the current circumstances – and as the saying goes, “never waste a good crisis”.

Therefore, is restructuring Naftogaz a better option than making the most of the current crisis, and taking the opportunity to declare Naftogaz bankrupt – and then restructuring the hard assets into entities that would fall neatly within the EU 3rd Energy Package, whether those entities be entirely or partly State controlled, or indeed privitised entirely?

It could, of course, be incredibly messy. Does anybody actually know who owes what to Naftogaz, or who Naftogaz owes within its opaque internal structures? How many entities have contracts with Naftogaz? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Who are they, What are they?

Naftogaz is now so big, opaque, unwieldy and economically unbearable, restructuring is an absolute requirement. The question presented to any new leadership is therefore whether partial dismantlement or complete obliteration of this behemoth will be the answer they arrive at.”

So where to go from here when 1st October marks a very significant legislative date regarding Ukrainian energy?

Theoretically and legislatively the liberalisation of the energy sector has now begun.  No longer will the State be able to control either prices or allocation.  The corruption that accompanied such practices will face difficulties going forward as long as new entrants step forward and regulators prevent cartels.  Certainly the corruption that occurred via arbitrage and the capping of domestic production via pricing look set to face challenges.


Market based prices will lead to energy efficiency rather than the wanton waste that currently exists.  Market based prices rely upon ending subsidies, bad debt write offs and endless recapitilisation to Naftogaz Ukrainy in order to create an open and free market – and not before time.

Naftogaz Ukrainy is Ukraine’s largest vertically integrated state-owned oil and gas producer, whose companies provide for more than 97% of domestic production of oil and gas.  Naftogaz Ukrainy is engaged in mining, oil and gas extraction, transportation and sale of petroleum products through its own network of filling stations.  Some clear and obvious dismemberment presents itself that would serve to fulfill the Ukrainian obligations to the EU’s Third Energy Package.

Firstly there is no alternative to separating the transit companies within Naftogaz Ukrainy from the rest of its subsidiaries.  Thus Ukrtransnefta (oil pipelines) and Ukrtransgaz (gas transit) legislatively and corporately are required to stand alone, no longer subservient nor part of Naftogaz Ukrainy, and legislatively proscribed to allow guaranteed transparent and equal access to their transport systems for all market players.  If the government of Ukraine continues to believe that the transit systems are jewels in the State crown and not to be sold, then it will be necessary to create an independent operator per the Third Energy Package.

Alternatively, the government of Ukraine should privatise these entities (which seems unlikely given the deep-seated belief within the political elite that the transit systems are a matter of national security).

Clearly the petrol stations owned by Naftogaz Ukrainy can and should be sold of – as should the trading subsidiaries of Naftogaz Ukrainy.

Is there any need to have a State gas producer having opened the gas market?  Probably not, so the privatisation of subsidiaries such as Ukrgazvydobuvannia (which would undoubtedly sell for many $ billions in and of itself) would be entirely in line with butchering this State monster.  A similar line is desirable within the oil subsidiaries of the Naftogaz Ukrainy.

However, as yesterday’s entry made clear, selling minority shares in these entities is not enough – in fact it could well be a backward step – “Quite simply, aside from other sovereign governments, or those eilite large companies with close relationships and direct channels within their governments, who is going to buy a minority share in entities that will be at the directional whim of the Ukrainian government of the day?

The answer is only those that can directly influence the Ukrainian government of the day – and that remains the existing oligarchy!

As foreign governments and large foreign corporations are not likely to be excited about buying minority shares ranging from 5% to 46% in Ukrainian State owned companies with the major shareholder (Government of Ukraine) being historically either unpredictable or predatory or both (and there is nothing to suppose that cannot return with any election) it seems likely that only an oligarchy that already influences the government will have any serious interest in buying minority shares in State owned enterprises.

After all, holding minority shares in State owned enterprises is nothing new for the oligarchy – and neither is using their influence within the Verkhovna Rada to insure that their interests overrule the interests of the State majority shareholder.”

At the very least, if the State is intent on retaining shares in any of the severed and dismembered parts of Natfogaz Ukrainy, then the State should hold a (significantly) minority share.

Of course, if Ukraine does not provide the right tax stimuli for producers and effective recourse for suppliers when buyers will not/cannot pay, then a legislative end to the Naftogaz Ukrainy monopoly is not going to create an active and vibrant Ukrainian energy market – de facto the monopoly will continue due to lack of competition.

“On October 1, the Law of Ukraine on the gas market will come into force, and it will radically change the system of coordinates and the gas market itself. Naftogaz Ukrainy will lose its monopoly both for the supplies and the sale of natural gas. In fact, we are building a fully European non-monopolized system of the natural gas market, when the supplier may personally determine to whom and where to sell, and when the buyer may personally decide from whom he wishes to buy” – Prime Minister Yatseniuk.

Let’s hope he is proven to be correct, if it is to be so then there are many necessary privatisation and taxation issues to be addressed to support any new market – together with statute guaranteeing any market entrant use of State retained transport systems.


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