Holodomor – A street with a million (+) names?

November 28, 2015

The problem with history, certainly when it comes to numbers, is often visualising the horrific loss of human life certain events cause – particularly those events that are “man-made”.

Most people can visualise a dead person, perhaps several.  Some can, and have seen, dozens at a time, occasionally hundreds.  Very few may have witnessed thousands of dead bodies in one place, but beyond that?

Be it any large war, the Holocaust, or the Holodomor, visualising millions and millions of dead is simply beyond comprehension.  The monuments we erect to commemorate such hideous outcomes are often simple and understated, and deliberately so out of somberness, respect and humility – but are therefore mostly forgotten until specific State appointed days of remembrance fall upon the societal calendar.

For how can there be a a monument of suitable scale that is commensurate to the sacrifices, or sacrificed?  How also to bring about remembrance in a more continuous subconsciousness within today’s society outside of the alloted day or hour?

There are museums of course, and libraries and the Internet – all accessible to many, but generally they too fail to adequately impress the sheer number of deaths involved in a manner that makes it digestible and comprehensible with any sense of lasting mental impression.


As these events travel further back in time with each and every passing hour, clearly justice becomes more and more symbolic – as perpetrators and survivors alike reach the natural ending of their days without their day in court.  Justice it seems, is that those who died and/or survived be not forgotten – at least for one day in the year.

It is of course possible to begin belated investigations and perhaps even reach judicial outcomes to cover the events of the past to some degree, and thus to provide some sense of finding of guilt.  If with regard to the Holodomor, Ukraine was to follow the lead of Germany in its ruling against Demjanjuk, a guard at Sobibor, who was found guilty not of any specific act himself, but being part of the “extermination machinery“, then it follows perhaps that there be room to find guilt of Joseph Stalin, the leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the time etc. The question that arises is how far throughout that murderous and repressive apparatus does one go, and/or what parts of the institutions are targeted (apart from the obvious like the political leadership and the NKVD)?

Thus far, with regard to the Holodomor about 800,000 victims have been positively identified amongst figures that range from 3 to 7 million.  No doubt yet more will eventually be identified, and eventually there will be a far more accurate, although never precise, figure reached regarding the actual death toll.

If the names of these known Holodomor victims were individually placed on the average sized cobble stone that makes up Deribasovskaya, the main pedestrian street in central Odessa, it would more than re-cobble the entire street – which thus returns the reader back to the issue of visualising the horrendous and horrific loss of life.

Initially in Germany, and then latterly across Europe, there is something called the Stolpersteine.  It is a project where commemorative stones are laid outside the last known addresses of Jewish victims prior to their deportation (and in most cases extermination).  There are tens of thousands of such stones laid across Europe, outside tens of thousands of addresses throughout Europe.  They are a daily reminder to those now living at the address and/or walking along that street of the dark past it once witnessed – rather than a statue in a pleasantly manicured public space seldom visited.

Imagine, however, all those Stolpersteine laid together along a single public street.

If it is not the graphic images of WWI and WWII in museums or on TV that seem to leave the greatest impact, but when visiting, it is the sight of miles upon miles of headstones in cemeteries across Flanders, Artois and beyond that do, what societal impact would a major Ukrainian street cobbled/paved with individual names of those victims of the Holodomor have on an every day, rather than annual, basis?

Perhaps one day Ukraine will embark upon its own Stolpersteine project and place individual stones outside the addresses of all those known victims of the Holodomor as a daily reminder for those that walk there – or perhaps it will make a bold statement of remembrance where the name of each victim literally stretches from one end of the street to the other.  With 800,000 identified victims from millions, it will have to be a very long street, and rather than being a street with no name, it would be a street of a million names (and more).  Perhaps the boldest act is more appropriate for the victims who will never see justice?  A matter for the authorities (if they ever think of it).


It’s not the hours you put in – It’s what you put into the hours

November 28, 2015

Of the best bosses your author has every worked for, both have been women – and fearsome, professionally demanding, but quite brilliant women they were too – as is perhaps to be expected for those that reached lofty institutional heights within late 1970’s Britain.

One in particular was fond of stating “It’s not the hours you put in – It’s what you put into the hours” – and then continued to work all the hours God sent with incredible and unfailing insight, intuition and accuracy, setting an incredibly high standard for the mere cogs that made up the machinery of the department (such as you author).

That expression however, has remained within the consciousness of your author – albeit today with regard to the blog, it is more a case of “It’s not the minutes that are put in – It’s what is put into the minutes” when producing the daily dirge relating to Ukraine.

white rabbit

All of which brings about this latest statistical barrage relating to the first year’s activities of the Verkhovna Rada.

This convocation worked 89 days, as opposed to its predecessor’s 78.  Over 4780 draft laws or resolutions were submitted – 34% more than the previous convocation.  Of the draft laws and resolutions submitted, 1344 (28%) were actually considered, of which 765 were ultimately successful.

85% of the President’s submissions for consideration to the Verkhovna Rada were successful.  Only 33% of that submitted by the government got an affirmative nod, and a mere 14% made the grade from the MPs of the Verkhovna Rada.

Though the statistics go further and paint an interesting picture, for the purposes of this entry there is no need to go on.

The numbers are mind-boggling.  4780 draft laws and/or resolutions submitted – meaning MPs spent the time (or their boiler room staff and/or “sponsors” spent their time) crafting legal text just over 70% of which was clearly nonsense and not even worthy of serious committee consideration – and duly wasn’t.

Of the 1344 (or 28%) that was given committee time, 579 submissions were also dismissed by the relevant Verkhovna Rada Committees, or failed to garner sufficient votes amongst the parliamentarians to be successful.

What of the exceptionally large number of successful new laws (61%) or adopted resolutions (39%) – all 765 of them over the past 12 months?

Can the printers of legal tomes that adorn the libraries of advocates and notaries even attempt to keep up?  Can the legal system and those that work within it keep up?  What of the institutions of State or the regulators?  By way of example, and without listing all policy areas, there were 65 new successful Tax and Customs Bills, 63 relating to law enforcement, and 51 national security and defence – with another 586 across all other areas of governance, it seems pointless to list them all when the point has been made.

Have any of these newly adopted legal norms been effectively implemented?  If so, is anybody monitoring the effects?  In short, is the newly adopted legal prose working as intended – or is it ineffective, or worse proving to be counterproductive?

If most of the 765 adopted legalese has gone unimplemented, would repealing 765 existing laws have been more beneficial to the Ukrainian constituency instead?  Lord knows the Ukrainian statute book is replete with Soviet legacy legislative (and by extension bureaucratic) hangovers.

(On the subject of Soviet legacy nonsense, why is it still required to show an internal passport to buy a rail ticket from Odessa to Kyiv or Lviv, when it’s possible to drive there or get the bus to these cities without showing any ID?  That such flapdoodle and codswallop persists, and for what purpose other than to continue a Soviet hangover, who knows?)

Now there will be literally thousands and thousands (and thousands) of legislative changes required to facilitate the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU over the next decade – there is no denying this – but it is structured (for if the EU knows how to do anything, it knows how to do bureaucracy).  There are time scales for different areas of legislative integration.

Therefore, within such a framework with specific time lines there are obviously priorities, and it may be that the feckless Ukrainian parliamentarians (that are so incapable of crafting decent legislation that only 14% submitted gets past the Verkhovna Rada committees and their peers in the chamber), will stumble and fumble in the face of legislation that is upon the immediate horizon (despite having 28 existing EU acceptable choices for almost all proposed laws to choose from already in existence amongst the Member States).

It will also be the case that there are domestic legislative acts that are not tied to the Association Agreement that are also deemed priorities (and again the 28 “European examples” will be ignored) that will garner the same entirely feckless response by way of speedily crafted and inept legal prose submissions – but other legislative requirements provide a little more time for consideration and can thus propose to amend entire legal chapters and/or frameworks in a single draft submission, freeing up countless wasted parliamentary hours both of the parliamentarians drafting poor text, and of the Verkhovna Rada Committees refusing – before even getting to a vote.

Less, as they say, is more (on many occasions anyway) – and clearly far less grotesquely substandard drafting, and far more consideration and thoughtfulness would provide for not putting in the extra hours, but increase the quality of what goes into the hours put in.

It’s not as though the additional 11 days this Verkhovna Rada convocation has sat, nor the vast majority of the successfully passed 765 Bills and Resolutions, have come anywhere near meeting even the lowest of expectations of society – and most of those laws and resolutions that come close to having a potentially positive effect have been pushed through by “friends of Ukraine” with carrot or stick, or by the IMF.


Buying an extra gift this Christmas – Odessa

November 27, 2015

It had been mulled as to write a few words about the “decommunisation laws” and the change of street names in Odessa – or not – as none have yet changed as of today.

But something has caught the eye of the blog that seems worthy of a little promotion (and yes there are always charitable and humanitarian causes worthy of raising) in a timely manner.

In Odessa, a scheme has been launched All-Ukrainian Action Group to buy an extra gift this year and/or to act as Santa Claus and/or the Snow Maiden, for children suffering from the effects of the war, economic, and family difficulties – or in some cases a combination therefore.  We are thus talking of orphans, IDPs, children of ATO families with absent parents, low-income families etc.

According to organizers, the most coveted gifts for children are:

  • crayons, paints, markers,
  • colouring, books, games,
  • soaps, toothpaste, shampoos,
  • soft toys, jewelry and accessories, casket,
  • clothes (warm clothes, hats, scarves, mittens, sweaters)

Volunteers of the charity fund “Good Samaritans” will repack all gifts brought into colorful and bright packaging.   During the evening of the Orthodox Christmas 6 and 7 January 2016, all gifts will be handed to children.   The last date for donations being 25th December 2015 to allow for sorting, wrapping and distribution across the oblast.

Last year the people of Odessa gathered 2,500 gifts across the 27 points collection points. This year, there appears to be more collections points than in 2014.

Gift collection points, addresses, telephone numbers and a website are displayed above.

Worthy of a mention as almost 25% of the readers of this blog have Ukrainian IPs and have a month to search their soul – So take the hint!

Back to policy, politics, fecklessness and the usual subject matter tomorrow.


And so begins an internal political Maidan? Maybe

November 26, 2015

Many times this blog has opined over the past year that the next “Maidan” would probably fall within and not without the walls of the Verkhovna Rada.

The last 48 hours has seen some interesting announcements and developments from those within the two largest coalition parties – President Poroshenko’s Solidarity Party and Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s People’s Front.

Firstly the People’s Front announced an impending “coup” designed to unseat Prime Minister Yatseniuk.  If there be such a “coup” then it is perhaps not without political justification.  The Prime Minister is mired in corruption and cronyism allegations ranging from delaying signing off on appointments to important positions within SOEs, defending and stymieing investigations of his friends – most prominently Martynenko who is under investigation in several European nations for possible criminality etc.  There is no need to list everything, the issue is raised.  This notwithstanding the People’s Front deciding not to take part in the local elections of October 2015 due to the fact it was almost inevitable they would fail to pass the 5% threshold – in any Oblast.

The point of the party stating it would support no other Prime Minister than Mr Yatseniuk is perhaps to call the bluff of the coalition partners, as a complete lack of support from all People’s Front deputies would make the Verkhovna Rada more or less unworkable – if all People’s Front MPs acted in unison.

The question is how many are truly loyal to the Prime Minister, and how many are “for rent”, happy to move across to Solidarity (or others)?  There is no ideological boundary as there is no ideology, so how many are immovable from the party ranks?  As an educated guess, less than 30, which is perhaps not enough to hold the coalition to ransom.  The question for the Prime Minister is to how many he would say “Et tu Brute?”  Too many?

But would not an early Verkhovna Rada election have the same dire electoral results for the party as the local elections which they decided to forgo?  Quite probably – certainly if they passed the 5% threshold nationally their numbers would dramatically reduce within the Verkovna Rada.  A dangerous game perhaps.

Could the People’s Front party put forward an alternative candidate for Prime Minister?  Naturally so, but volunteers at this moment may be few with so much prickly legislation still requiring to be passed, and there are potential schisms appearing within the Solidarity Party that if gather momentum could force an early Verkhovna Rada election anyway – thus endangering the People’s Front regardless of its own posturing and deterrence strategy.

The issue with any deterrence strategy is that it only works if it deters.  If it doesn’t deter then there are consequences that must be faced.


Of the possible schism within Solidarity, there is the appearance of a formal “Anti-corruption platform”, comprising thus far of  Sergiy Leshchenko Svitlana Zalіschuk, Igor Fіrsov, Vladislav Golub, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Olexiy Mushak, Pavlo Rіzanenko, Yuriy Solovey Olga Chervakova, Oleksandr Chernenko and Oksana Yurinets – under the stewardship of Viktor Chumak and Mustafa Nayem.

Whether others will join, and whether this will remain a purely internal affair within Solidarity, or whether the former activists, civil society members, journalists and cultural icons so desperately placed on otherwise odious party lists by all parties will begin to make this a cross-party affair remains to be seen – however, should it occur, or should early Verkhovna Rada elections prove to be necessary, there is a real possibility that this internal schism could become a political party in its own right – or at least threaten to do so and force the cleansing of the Solidarity Party lists.  The former seems more likely and would undoubtedly bring across the disillusioned reformers swept into the Verkhovna Rada across all party lines when the parties were trying to provide the public with a thin veneer of change to their respective structures.

This formal creation and announcement was naturally swiftly met with a shot across the bows from the party leadership, and confidant of the President – Igor Kononenko.

Mr Kononenko described the situation as absolutely normal – however he went on to say that if the group conduct work on splitting fractions, then “we will draw conclusions”.  Mr Kononenko stated further that there would be no pressure put upon the MPs that formally announced their participation in the “Anti-corruption platform” but then warned the newly established group of MPs to “stay away from demagoguery, to respect facts and constructively work primarily within the faction.”

A statement that perhaps contradicts himself and certainly may conflict with the aims of the “Anti-corruption platform” within the Solidarity Party.  Viktor Chumak has clearly stated its aims are to fight against corruption “inside the Parliament, both within the parliamentary faction Bloc Petro Poroshenko, and outside.”

Clearly a political head to head within Solidarity is potentially on the horizon, and also more broadly within the Verkhovna Rada itself when these MPs are necessarily noisily washing dirty linen publicly, refusing to back down, and feel forced to take actions that will effect the smooth running of the Solidarity Party and the coalition when the numerous corruption issues they will raise are simply ignored.

There is then the quiet opening of a “satellite office” of “Team Saakashvili” in Kyiv – under the auspices of promoting the “Odessa Package” of desired reforms cooked up within the Governor’s advisory team in Odessa.  It is, nonetheless, the opening of “Team Saakashvili’s” physical presence in Kyiv, and it is a team that has openly called for Prime Minister Yatseniuk to resign numerous times.   It is a team that regularly openly names the corrupt at the highest levels and has traction in the psyche of quite a large part of the national Ukrainian constituency.

“Team Saakashvili”, should early Verkhovna Rada elections occur, will become a political party – for few within are fond of Solidarity or any other existing political entity – and “Team Saakashvili” has a very long list of previously vetted, western education Ukrainian citizens free of corrupt deeds following its recruitment appeal in Odessa that drew applicants from all over.  There are several hundred pre-vetted “clean” Ukrainians to put on a party list that will easily garner far more than the required 5% threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada.

The biggest political losers if this were to happen would be Solidarity and the People’s Front for their is the voter base most susceptible  – albeit “Team Saakashvili” would be loyal the President Poroshenko, it would not be President Poroshenko’s party as Solidarity is.

Thus there are several storms brewing not only within the People’s Front and Solidarty Party rank and file in and of themselves, but also between the People’s Front and Solidarity – neither of which will benefit from early Verkhovna Rada elections with “Team Saakshvili” awaiting its chance in the national legislature.

Likewise none would want to see Prime Minister Yatseniuk removed until the most prickly issues are passed through the Verkhovna Rada, allowing any replacement a more gentle public reception – yet keeping him when enveloped by a deep fog of corruption and cronyism will become much more difficult with a very public and noisy Solidarity Anti-Corruption platform, many well known to the public and many who have the support of external “supporters of Ukraine” that will, to some degree, have their backs.  As long as the “Anti-Corruption platform” shoot straight and hit big targets, it is rather difficult for the external “supporters of Ukraine” not to back these MPs having proclaimed innumerable times corruption is the main enemy of Ukraine.

To hold it all together will take careful management – failure to manage this well will result in either the next “Maidan” occurring within the Verkhovna Rada (rather than outside it) where the reformers simply go head to head very publicly with the old corrupt faces and schemes, or early Verkhovna Rada elections – or perhaps one will lead to the other.

How feasible it will be to manage the ambitions of the “Anti-corruption platform”, or the brinkmanship of the People’s Front, or the unpredictability of Samopomich, or the ego of Yulia Tymoshenko, or the inevitable momentum and national seepage of “Team Saakashvili” now it has opened an office in Kyiv?

Or perhaps the questions should be just how feasible the ambitions of the “Anti-corruption platform”, brinkmanship of the People’s Front, how unpredictable is Samopomich, and how great the patience of “Team Saakashvili” actually are, will probably all be answered by Easter 2016.  (There’s nothing that can be done with Yulia’s ego or populist nonsense.)

Are the seeds of a new “Maidan” within the Verkhovna Rada now sown for germination in 2016,  or will the dark lords and grey cardinals ride to the aid of a corrupt Mordor (and de facto save Prime Minister Yatseniuk in the process)?


Saakashvili on Odessa Customs & Clearance

November 25, 2015

In his usual and characteristic way of stating the issues in a somewhat unpolished manner, Governor Saakashvili gave an interview to “The Day” (День) media outlet regarding the new Odessa Customs set up, e-clearance going on-line with effect from 1st March 2016, and who is and is not seemingly welcome to use Odessa as a customs clearance hub.

He noted, probably rightly, a significant decrease in corruption within customs in Odessa – whilst simultaneously acknowledging that smuggling continues.

He stated clearly that the majority of corruption schemes now operate from Kyiv customs and no longer from Odessa.   “Currently, these flows have switched to other customs, mainly in Kyiv, where the custom clearing goods occur at lower prices.  We want to customs clearance only the loads from the EU, US, Japan, Canada and Australia, because of their origin and the price specified in the declaration of the goods are confirmed at 100%.  But the Chinese and Turkish goods clearance we will refuse because it is impossible to find a real return for them. Let them visit other customs, because it is a potential source of corruption.  When from March 1st, 2016 electronic customs begins, then all will use the cargo customs clearance.”

Now there is little to argue about in what is said factually regarding the transfer of customs clearance flows to a more “understanding” Kyiv customs clearance regime.

To have an e-clearance system in place by 1st March 2016 may be a little ambitious, but it is at least a recognition that his May 2015 statements of e-clearance by 1st November were a technological fantasy as the blog pointed out at the time.  A 9 month install and testing is more realistic from the date he announced e-clearance for Odessa, and it will certainly make Odessa far more attractive to those that regularly use e-clearance globally.

However, with regard to Chinese and Turkish goods, it is surely not “impossible” to find origin and pricing that can be 100% confirmed for a reasonable percentage of what comes through Odessa normally.  Even if only 5% – 10% can only be 100% verified then it would seem perhaps a somewhat undiplomatic choice of words to utter “impossible” – and that percentage of 100% verifiable goods from China and Turkey is probably higher.


Indeed, with all EU, US, Australian, Canadian and Japanese good entering getting an almost immediate pass and almost no inspections, does that not allow more time to inspect Chinese and Turkish goods and test the apparent newly acquired moral fortitude and group ethic of the customs officials in Odessa Port – or is that confidence somewhat limited and therefore politically problematic?

Instead of pushing the corruption from Odessa customs clearance to Kyiv customs clearance, could the corruption not have actually been tackled, rather than simply redirected?  Is it not a somewhat flawed policy to simply move the problem?

If Odessa customs has seen a rapid reduction in corruption, which is probably has, then is it a genuine policy win if Kyiv customs has seen a rapid increase in corruption as a result?  Admittedly Governor Saakashvili is the governor of Odessa, and therefore results in Odessa have primacy amongst the constituents he is responsible for and to – indeed such local results may well be fawned over by many of the Ukrainian constituency seeking a genuine battle with corruption – but in taking Ukrainian citizenship and as a national public political figure (with future national ambitions no doubt), is a shifting of the problem perhaps not the answer they would expect?

That said, is it perhaps easier to deal with such issues in an oblast by oblast manner – for each oblast has its own peculiarities and prominent corruption practices.  A piecemeal approach to those peculiarities may be easier to effectively implement under a broad national umbrella that is otherwise less than effective – particularly when the centre is clearly unwilling to deal with its own corruption.

Governor Saakashvili also has limitations upon the power he wields both within and without the Odessa Oblast.

The question then is perhaps not whether shifting the corruption from Odessa customs clearance to Kyiv customs clearance is a good policy (or not) when it comes to tackling corruption – but whether it was the only strategy available to the authorities of Odessa?


Flattering to deceive? – Ukrainian Foreign Ministry

November 24, 2015

On 18th November, the EU issued its “Review of the European Neigbourhood Policy” which seemed to garner a rather gushing and flattering response from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.


“Since the beginning of the ENP review the Ukrainian side took an active part in this process promoting the necessity to single out the Eastern Partnership as a separate dimension of EU policy with more ambitious instruments which would suit better European aspirations of the Eastern European partners.

….we note the readiness of the European Commission and EU High Representative to define jointly with the partners the shape of the future relationship taking into account particularities of bilateral relations with each of them.

It is important that the reviewed ENP at last pays an additional attention to the security dimension. Temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation as well as blatant Russian aggression in Donbas highlight the need to elaborate efficient mechanisms for dealing with security challenges which are common for the partner countries and the EU.”

All well and good –  Except there is very little in the way of vision in the revamped and far more transactionally orientated review.  The lofty goal of prosperity is joined much more prominently by security and stability – but whose interpretation of security and stability and how that may be achieved is entirely open to question.

For a nation such as Ukraine, the ratified Association Agreement already commits parties to a cooperative and converging foreign and security policy under Article 7 of the agreement:

Article 7 Foreign and security policy

1. The Parties shall intensify their dialogue and cooperation and promote gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), and shall address in particular issues of conflict prevention and crisis management, regional stability, disarmament, non-proliferation, arms control and arms export control as well as enhanced mutually-beneficial dialogue in the field of space. Cooperation will be based on common values and mutual interests, and shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral, international and regional fora.

And as asked more than a year ago, what CSDP?  Does the EU have one?

The ENP review almost entirely ignores the Russia question to the East (or problem nations to its South) – giving the impression that not only does the newly reviewed ENP lack a neighbourhood vision, but also that the EU is still without a “Russia Strategy” (or any prickly “Nation X Strategy” to the south).  Geopolitics – or more precisely an EU geopolitical strategy – it appears, does not play much of a part in the ENP review – nor it seems any EU CSDP to which Ukraine is now treaty bound to cooperate and converge upon.

Without labouring the point, there is in fact nothing within the policy review that is new or indeed exciting for Ukraine – perhaps that is necessarily so with a ratified Association Agreement to work from, and toward implementing.  It is difficult to imagine anything within a broad ENP policy review that is not superseded and more focused in a bilateral agreement of the scale of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.

The question therefore is why the overly wax-lyrical response from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry when absolutely nothing changes for Ukraine?  Such flattery is meant to deceive, or such flattery is meant to curry favour within the EEAS in Brussels?  It all seems rather “over the top” for something that has now (almost) past its “Sell Buy” date as far as Ukraine is concerned.


Power cut-offs in Crimea raise an old disarming question

November 23, 2015

In a very sporadic and ad hoc fashion, throughout 2015 this blog has made numerous comments suggesting that the State get to grips with the illegal actions of certain groups employing the use of firearms and explosives on occasion that clearly falls far outside of the rule of law.

For example “…Right Sector (or anybody else) cannot be allowed to shoot people or blow up police cars without legal consequences…” from an entry in July.  There are several other entries during the year that call for the disarming of illegally armed entities (whatever the brand), and some thoughts upon just how to go about it.

And lo now in Kherson Oblast there is the downing of power lines to Crimea via explosives causing a blackout across the peninsula.  Readers may be right to point out that the Geneva Convention puts the onus on the Occupying Power (Russia) to keep the lights on (certainly in some facilities).  Indeed Russia would (unlawfully) consider Crimea as its territory, thus it is no less obliged to keep the power on for “its” citizenry.

Crimea, like the rest of Ukraine, is not unused to power outages or cut-offs.  The Kremlin has turned off the gas on more than one occasion over the years during the winter months, and Ukrainian power outages are hardly unheard of.  Only a sustained disruption will go beyond a collective “tut” within society.

It is perhaps right to bemoan what appears to be the absence of a “Crimean Strategy” by the Government of Ukraine.  If there is a “Crimean Strategy” then the Ukrainian leadership, as with so many other matters of import, has spectacularly failed to inform the Ukrainian constituency of its existence.  Even if the State policy more or less boils down to sustained international and domestic rhetoric, Crimea orientated sanctions, and then “wait” – then it should be communicated along with the reasons why.

It is certainly right to bemoan the failure to communicate any State “Crimean Strategy” if one actually exists, for it has led to an unofficial blockade of the peninsula, and now the demolition of power lines by “activists”.


Yet the most concerning issue these events raise remains the fact that the State has still not taken on the issue of illegally held weaponry (firearms and explosives), nor those groups that commit acts that fall squarely outside the rule of law.  There has been absolutely no attempt to address the issue since absorbing of those willing into the military, national guard and police.  Those now armed or employing the use of arms and/or explosives outside of the institutions of State are clearly acting unlawfully.

As uncomfortable and prickly as it may be politically, the issue has to be tackled.

That is not to say the blockading of Crimea by protesters has to stop.  It may not be State policy to blockade Crimea – but it may be that State policy is not to interfere with a lawful protest that results in great difficulty in the transit of anything to and from Crimea.  The point being it must be and remain lawful to be tolerated (or tacitly/deniably encouraged) by the State if official State policy is not to blockade for political reasons.

If State policy is to stop the supply of electricity to Crimea so be it.  If State policy is to continue to supply electricity to Crimea, fair enough.   What cannot be State policy is the allowing of activists to illegally blow up the power grid to Crimea and dictate policy to the State through entirely unlawful acts.  The State is obliged to tolerate peaceful protest, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and all fundamental human rights, as well as those it has undertaken via domestic statute, as well as regional and international instruments – it is not obliged to tolerate gross violations of the law, indeed it is obliged to effectively deal with such incidents.

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” – Sir Karl Popper

The issue is that even if Kyiv was considering cutting the electricity supply to Crimea, it can hardly do so now lest it be seen to bow to the illegal actions of a small number of “activists” targeting and demolishing State infrastructure.   It is a precedent that it simply cannot be seen to be set.  Neither can it be seen to tolerate (once again) absolute criminality.  Whatever the justification felt in carrying out the act, it does not equate to legitimisation.

There is a growing and ever increasing urgency for the State to deal with the illicit arms and explosives within its territory, and the groups (of whatever brand) that employ their usage outside the confines of the law.


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