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Rocket Science – Part Deux (Organised Crime)

August 15, 2017

Following on from the last entry relating to rocket science (or not) insofar as Ukrainian supply of RD250 missile engines to North Korea, when it comes to the technical/system parts of the analysis that forms the root of the allegation the blog simply cannot comment upon for it falls far outside any academic or practitioner experience of the blog.

There are however parts, which are perhaps far more in keeping with speculation than analysis, that certainly fall within the practitioner experience of the blog – the inference that the Ukrainian Government and perhaps even the management of Yuzhmash were simply unaware of the theft and transportation of the missile engines, that it was certainly not complicit, and that organised criminality would engage in such a crime without the knowledge of (or assistance by) those without notable political and/or considerable institutional connections and/or influence – “But I want to make one point very clear. I don’t think the Ukrainian government was involved in this at all. I don’t even know that executives from the Yuzhnoye plant would have been involved. This, to me, sounds like criminal gangs were able to access something and export it from either Ukraine or Russia.”

Hmmm!

Firstly to make such a statement is to draw a clear line between the political class, State institutions and organised criminality.  A line that is more than a little smudged in Ukraine, and smuggling and smuggling revenues are no exception.

Nevertheless, to engage in a thought exercise where organised crime and the political and institutional organs of State are clearly separated still raises some awkward questions when attempting to support this theory.

There are not only questions relating only to the actual commissioning of such a crime.  There are preparatory issues to be addressed.

Before reaching the point where the theft and smuggling occurs, first of all the deal has to be struck between the parties concerned.

Ergo, how would that deal be struck?

Anonymously somewhere on the dark net?

Perhaps – but as recent Europol operations display with shuttering Alphabay and Hansa, the dark net is not as secure for criminality as the criminal fraternity may think.  Indeed the Europol operation was a well planned operation whereby it anticipated the instant migration from Alphabay to Hansa and having shut down the first, watched the migration to the second – no doubt gleaning valuable intelligence when that happened – before then shutting down the second.

A reader can be assured that Europol and various agencies had long lurked on those sites and only at a certain point, normally one where the benefits of lurking no longer outweigh the benefits of shuttering them, was the decision made to roll up those sites.  Indeed any conspiracy at proliferation of ICBM missile engines stands a reasonable chance of discovery with the likelihood of with innumerable 3 and 4 letter agencies lurking across the dark net.

Further, Ukraine is still a place where conspiracy to commit nefarious deeds (and a lot of legitimate business) is only ever done face to face to avoid the possibilities of emails and telephone conversations being intercepted.  Deals are struck when looking people in the eye.

To be sure, organised crime does not engage in stealing missile engines and then look for a buyer – it would have to be the other way around – with or without the knowledge of the Ukrainian leadership (and as a reminder the analysis claims the Ukrainian leadership was unaware).

So how would North Korea approach organised crime in Ukraine?  How would they know who to approach?  How to do it without causing attention to themselves? How to accomplish it with the necessary sensitivity to avoid setting off a blip on the SBU radar and/or creating unnecessary loose talk among the organised crime ranks?  After all, they were caught in 2012 trying a similar transaction in Ukraine (see para 47 and 48).

Should it be therefore kept “in house”? If so, how many North Korean citizens are in Dnipro – if the approach is to be made to those closest to the production and storage sites of the RD250 engines?

Should an approach via organised crime in another city be considered – if so why?

How many North Koreans are able to contact those within organised crime capable of delivering such a request discretely and with confidence that a repeat of 2012 would be avoided?  Would those within organsied crime entertain such a request directly from unknown parties?

Proliferation is hardly an everyday request – let alone occurrence. Indeed many proliferation arrests are a result of sting operations.

Further when cigarette, alcohol and amber smuggling rely upon both political and institutional involvement, how easy is it to firstly steal and then smuggle missile engines without similar involvement?  Undoubtedly North Korea is aware of how organised criminality works in Ukraine – and the very smudged line between State and criminality.

Therefore the issue of trust is one that need be addressed long before the commission of any crime.

Organised crime may have only allegiance to the US$ (or Euro or whatever currency), but there remains a necessary level of trust in and by parties involved in any organised criminality.

If a reader sticks rigidly to the inferred separation of State and organised criminality to insure a lack of knowledge of the Ukrainian State (and Yuzhmash executives) per the analysis, and a credible direct approach to organised crime either is unavailable or undesirable to North Korea (post 2012 or any other reason), then who is the interlocutor trusted by both North Korea and Ukrainian organised crime, if not from within the domestic political or institutional organs?

An external yet trusted organised crime group – and if so to what extent are they simply hiring local help for part of the job?  An externally based part of the same organised crime group?  But why would they be any more trusting of a North Korean approach than those based in Ukraine?  A trusted external government or external governmental institution far more familiar with the Ukrainian organised criminality?

How many such individuals and or entities exist that could bring about the trust required?

How many of those interlocutors would enter the particularly risky arena of proliferation (as opposed to remaining within the standard lucrative organised criminality)?

Any reader familiar with Ukraine and who are personally acquainted with any of its people of influence within politics, State institutions, or organised crime (if a reader continues with the notion of that non-existent gap between) will be quite aware that when sitting with them and chatting “off the record”, almost all are quite prepared to describe all about what others are doing, and enjoy explaining the intrigues of such an otherwise opaque world from which most are divorced. Therefore, ultimately there are no secrets.

Thus in reality, with all things above considered, and even before a reader concerns themselves with the ability to actually carry out the crime, the smuggling methods and routes, although it is not impossible, it is fair to say that it is improbable that organised crime would carry out the theft and smuggling of missile engines without the knowledge, or involvement, of at a minimum those within and atop regional politics and/or State institutions – and there would inevitably be gossip that would seep through to the highest echelons eventually if that be the case.

As stated at the start, the blog is not capable of offering any meaningful analysis of the missile technical/systems (so why even try), but playing along with the other organised crime assertions made by way of a thought exercise, it seems improbable (if not entirely impossible) for organised crime to have entered into such a criminal enterprise without the knowledge of some powerful and enabling regional or national figures – who would not do so for free, and who are quite happy to gossip off the record.

Naturally this thought exercise is an entirely pointless exercise in and of itself, for examination of the actual commissioning of the crime itself, especially smuggling route and method, would be required – and this entry concentrates upon the preparatory deal making (too few people bother to think about).

Further such thoughts would need to form part of a holistic analysis together with the credibility of the engine technical/system analysis and any high confidence that the engines are firstly in North Korea and secondly can be nailed down to having been built or modified in Ukraine for it to have any real benefit.

For now the missile wonks have first to settle their differing opinions on the technical/system side of the original analysis.

Suffice to say the conclusion of the previous entry that the analysis is somewhat suspect remains.  The view of the blog is that 2+2=5 in this case – probably without any possible Kremlin involvement in reaching those conclusions.  That said, if there is a way to use it for advantage then naturally that will occur.

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Rocket Science (or not) – Ukraine

August 14, 2017

A story has appeared in the main stream US media asserting that Ukraine is responsible for supplying missile engines to North Korea.  Specifically it identifies Ukrainian company Yuzhmash as the manufacturer of RD250 engines now being used by North Korea in the creation of ICBMs capable of hitting the USA.

Strong insinuations – and certainly not the sort of media coverage Ukraine would want in the USA, or to be subject to a less than informed Trump tweet or two.

Needless to say, Yuzhmash was (exceptionally) swift to refute the supplying of missile engines to North Korea – no doubt prompted by very concerned calls from The Bankova (Presidential Administration).

Indeed, Yuzhmash makes a valid point in that it is not the only manufacturer of the RD250 missile engine – it is in fact an old Soviet design.  Russia’s Energomash (formerly Glushko) is another.  Neither company are strangers to the Soviet missile engine systems RD217, RD 225 and RD250.  There are perhaps stronger historical ties between the Russian Makeyev and Isayev enterprises and North Korea, but they too are decades old.

Whatever the case a US reader is left to ponder whether North Korea is now using old Soviet design missile engines for its ICBM experiments, or indeed whether they have been upgraded or re-engineered in any way since manufacture by Ukraine – or not.   That in turn raises the question of when the engines North Korea possess were manufactured.  It follows that there are questions over delivery dates, and how they were delivered, from and/or via whom.

How did the west miss Ukraine delivering such engines considering the amount of western attention Ukraine is getting?

When all is said and done, neither Ukraine nor North Korea are blind spots for constant on-going security analysis, and certainly in the case of Ukraine in recent years, there has been a lot of both persistent and ad hoc international expertise literally within the military industrial complex and literally wandering around the transport hubs (land, sea and air) – making the slipping out of a few dozen missile engines bound for North Korea unnoticed somewhat hazardous at best, and rather difficult at the very least.

The Ukrainian Security and Defence Council did not delay in denial of such insinuations either, making clear that Ukraine had never supplied North Korea, although it had supplied Russia historically with these engines..

Well indeed it may be that there have been quite a few sat around in storage for years.  The Tsiklon 2 system in which the RD250 engine worked was a reliable system – and thus warehouse storage of complete engines and spare parts for many RD engine systems around Russia would be a reasonable expectation from a logistical point of view.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the NSDC makes the claim that Russia is blaming Ukraine for engine supply to hide the fact that it is The Kremlin supplying these engines – rather than making a more obvious claim that this be a further active measure by The Kremlin, the aim of which is to prevent the arming of Ukraine with defensive weaponry from the USA.

After all, what better way to try an influence political thinking in Washington DC relating to the arming of Ukraine than to slip information into the mainstream that Ukraine is responsible for supplying missile engines for North Korean ICBMs that can reach US territory?

Which brings about the subject of information extraction from within North Korea – or the lack of it.

Now to be fair, North Korea is not the intelligence black hole it is made out to be – but it is certainly an extremely difficult environment – perhaps one of the most difficult from a western perspective.  Nevertheless the usual technologies are employed to glean what can be gleaned.  Those that escape/defect from the regime as always are thoroughly debriefed etc.

Regardless, good intelligence relating to North Korea is hardly a cup that runneth over.  Even less so with regard to sensitive issues such as ICBM engine systems.

That being so, where did the information come from that has led to this accusation?  Is the analysis sound, or does 2+2=5?  If 2+2 does =4, is that the right sum, or should we be looking at 1+3?  Means and ends being of equal importance?

How much confidence does a reader have in the accusations – and  if specific engine systems as originally built have been modified, then by whom where they modified and where?

As critical as this blog often is over Ukrainian policy, policy implementation, and the fecklessness of the national elites (both past, present and unfortunately probably those of the immediate future too), and being of an age to have experienced Soviet active measures, reflexive control ops and the rest of the currently en vogue buzzword bingo inserted into current commentary, the view will be taken on the current information (it is perhaps not even firm enough to use the word evidence) when asking the question if Ukraine is mea culpa, or whether this is another Russian active measure (probably designed to frustrate the US arming of Ukraine) – the latter would be more likely.

Nevertheless, the initial 2+2=5 analysis is favourite.

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Germany sends a “decentralisation envoy” to Ukraine

August 12, 2017

Although now forgotten, during the gathering of the last G7 meeting, President Poroshenko invited those seven States to send experts to Ukraine relating to seven specific reform policy areas.

A reader may be wondering just how much external advice the Ukrainian President requires having attracted many foreigners to (short term) Cabinet positions, having created at least two international advisory councils, engaged in endless communication with the vast number of reform supportive national embassies in Kyiv, and notwithstanding the EU embassy and innumerable EU special missions covering many policy areas, NATO, The Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission etc., – all of which have given advice since his inauguration.

There is then the considerable amount of expertise and energy to be found within civil society at his disposal.

Thus, having received the wisdom of literally dozens of foreign politicians, policy implementers, and academics with a history of national reformation, a reader may take a cynical view regarding this latest invitation to attract yet further international experts.  A case of being seen to be doing something (again) will be the perception of many.

That said, cynical or not, such invitations are worthy of note regarding timing – and November will bring about formal discussions regarding a Marshall Plan for Ukraine (if or however that Plan actually manifests by way of money (or not), strategy, reform priority, and duration et al).

Whatever the case, Germany has taken the opportunity to send a special envoy for decentralisation and governance – despite undoubtedly being aware of the enormous amount of advice already given regarding decentralisation, and most assuredly with regard to governance.

As yet the remaining G6 have yet to take up the invitation of President Poroshenko and appoint new people to give (more or less) the same advice as he has been given for the past 3 years.

Professor Georg Milbradt will visit Ukraine between 14th and 19th August, prior to beginning a one year mandate as the German Special Envoy (specialising in decentralisation and governance) with effect from September.

Professor Milbradt is no stranger to politics, reform and academia – nor indeed is he a novice relating to transition.    In 1990 he was put in charge of Saxony to manage German reunification and the transition from a planned socialist economy to a market economy.  He has also been a parliamentarian in the Bundersrat and teaches at the University of Dresden.  Ergo and experienced and intelligent soul.

Whether that will equip him for an oligarch economy and its (perhaps partial) transition to a market economy remains to be seen – for as all his predecessors that have advised the Ukrainian President will know, it is a matter of internal political will, not a lack of good advice that will dictate outcomes.

If no impact is made, and should his mandate not be renewed, he will certainly have developed some views on oligarchy economies to challenge his students with when returning to academia.

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An agrarian anti-raiding task force – Odessa

August 11, 2017

A reader with a very keen eye will have noticed in a recent post the briefest, but necessary mention of an apparently increasing trend relating to agrarian raiding of small farms.

Such raids can manifest in many ways, from fraudulent documents seizing agricultural land from the rightful owners, to the illicit sale of agricultural equipment, the prevention of access to agricultural land, threats and violence toward farmers and agricultural workers, the theft of harvested crops, or their purchase at far below market value via coercion and/or acts of sabotage or destruction.

Nationally there have been more than 7000 instances (according to an individual who shall not be named but who attempts to monitor these events).

In some instances, the victims have called upon military veterans and civil activists to protect their property and prevent the threats of destruction by paid “rent-a-mobs” under the control of those that would illegally taken control of what is simply not theirs.  Needless to say there have been occasional instances of violence as a result.

It also follows that those that engage in this raiding also expect the courts to rule in their favour and against the interests of the rightful owners – otherwise there would be little point to the raid unless stealing and selling a short-term crop yield was the goal.  Corrupted remains the justice system.

The police, in the absence of physical violence when in attendance generally treat the matter as a civil dispute within which they will not get involved – until fraudulent documents come to light and pressure is brought to bear to do something.

Odessa is no exception to a nationwide problem.

There are a number of criminal proceedings underway regarding raiding upon the small farms across the oblast – particularly in the southwest – raider capture of harvests in Bolgrad, Ananevsky and Tarutino districts are among that number.  (Thus incidents occurring within MP Anton Cisse’s fiefdom that he will assuredly be aware of.)

The issue of agrarian raiding has become a problem in the oblast to the point where a decision has been made to create something akin to an agrarian anti-raiding task force.

Alexander Tereshchuk, Deputy Chairman of the Oblast Rada heads this team, and three mobile units have been created to attend conflicts.  Telephone numbers have been promulgated within local media to report raids (779-40-61, 779-46-91 or 102).

Time will tell if this (necessary) reaction will reduce the number of agrarian raiding incidents or not – for it should be noted, and will come as no surprise, that in numerous cases local village and town officials are involved (on occasion directly and overtly) in the raids.

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Ukraine (will try again) to register all mobile users

August 9, 2017

Currently in Ukraine there is no requirement to supply any identification when purchasing a mobile SIM card.  Vendors are on almost every street corner selling SIM cards for all leading mobile providers.  Many Ukrainians have at least two SIM cards and/or two mobiles – and that in turn could mean four SIM cards (and four mobile numbers) in mobiles that accommodate two SIMs – sometimes even more.

Almost everybody has a mobile phone.  Almost all mobile phones are billed via a pre-paid (pay as you rattle) system rather than by contract.  Payment machines to pre-pay for mobile credit are everywhere, from small shops, to shopping malls, to machines simply on street corners, and of course e-payment options.

All of this means that a mobile phone service provider has very little/no idea as to the identity of  90% of their network users, let alone all the mobile numbers would relate to that individual, unless they are part of the approximately 10% (it’s slightly less) of mobile users on contract services.

In 2015, the Ukrainian government, via The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection (a body within the SBU) under the guise of national security and “terrorism” (read those prone to act on behest of The Kremlin) attempted to pass legislation – which was, as usual, extremely poorly crafted – to force the “certification” of all mobile users.  Its attempts failed.

Prior to that there was a similar attempt in 2012 which also failed.

There is now to be another attempt in 2017.

This time the draft legislation is framed around national security “in the face of cyber threats” (rather than “terrorism” per 2015).

By “cyber threats” there is a clarification – “the situation with the use of a variety of end equipment (iPhones, iPads, communicators, smartphones, mobile phones, etc.) needs attention against the backdrop of a growing range of telecommunications-based services, as the uncontrolled amount of end equipment in circulation contributes to the spread of “mobile fraud” and other cyber crimes.”  

The proposed legislation obliges all providers to “collect personal data of all users without exception“.  It further provides for 3 months to do so.

That appears to be beyond an ambitious timescale, to the point of unattainable to “collect personal data without exception” of users for what could well be up to 90 million SIM cards and/or devices tracked by mobile services.

When it is collected then there is the issue of multiple SIM card/device assignments to such “personal data”.

Further it is also currently unclear what exactly constitutes sufficient “personal data” for providers to be in compliance, or how that “personal data” is to be collected – and verified.

A reader (and an end user) can only hope that when flush with all the “personal data“, the mobile providers are not then themselves subjected to the “cyber threats” and “other cyber crimes” that this legislation purports to mitigate against when gathering it.

There is also a requirement to complete a register of IMEI codes that currently doesn’t exist.

The draft law is really something of a shambles, and the proposed 3 month time frame for adherence by providers, that to remain in compliance would presumably be forced to cut off services to all those whose “personal data” had either not been collected, or that had not been entered into whatever database, or which had not had all cross assignments to accompanying multiple SIMs and devices allocated.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with the policy, but the draft law is simply poor as currently written, and the effective implementation date is quite simply not achievable.

As things stand at the time of writing, another failure awaits.

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National Guard to the defend the “judicial system”

August 8, 2017

On 7th July 2017, President Poroshenko issued Decree 178/2017.

In summary it was a mobilisation Decree providing for an unspecified/to be determined number of 20 – 27 year olds to enter the National Guard, the conscription taking place during August 2017.

It was not a mobilisation for the Armed Forces.

The reason for this mobilisation was somewhat unclear – for the National Guard conscripted will not serve on the front line in eastern Ukraine.  Ergo, the mobilisation related to other responsibilities – responsibilities that continue to grow, albeit somewhat under-reported and equally unscrutinised.

It was not until 8th August that some light was shone upon this otherwise somewhat opaque Decree that had been left to fester unexplained for a month.

It fell to the Press Spokesperson of the National Guard,, Ruslan Muzychuk, to state that, the National Guard recruitment related to continuously expanding responsibilities.  “The very reason for the current draft is that the number of tasks is increasing, and therefore it is necessary to increase the number of conscripts to perform these tasks. Now, for example, the National Guard has 19 tasks to be performed.”

A figure of 1000 additional personnel was cited – providing clarity on mobilisation numbers.

It appears that one of the newly invested responsibilities of the National Guard is the security and protection of the” judicial system” – a phrase deliberately chosen rather than “the courts”.

A reader will note that it is therefore not simply a matter of protecting court buildings – although undoubtedly the police have displayed an uneven ability to deal with rowdy and disruptive “protesters”, and genuine protesters alike, at innumerable sitting court sessions throughout the nation.

Such disturbances are perhaps the most visible and frequent manifestations of the revolutionaries displaying misplaced loyalties to former peers that on occasion have crossed the legal line, vis a vis an ever-more comfortable elite that has withstood the revolution which is increasingly returning to blatant nefarious deeds and acts legislative sabotage – thus having long since embarked upon a crawling counter-revolution.  There are are further the numerous cases where the authorities simply do not do what they should and the revolutionary crusaders side with the wronged members of the public making matters somewhat murky.

Needless to say, even the task of defending (and by extension de facto quasi-policing) court buildings will require specialist training.

Yet the remit of the National Guard is broader than guarding and defending the courthouse – and thus far that remit appears a little too woolly in its parameters, at least per what has orated in the public realm thus far.

Aside from the protection (and perhaps the inferred de facto policing) of court buildings, the National Guard will create units trained to protect the “organs and institutions” of the “justice system”.   What exactly constitutes “organs and institutions” of the “justice system” remain to be clarified.

Does it extend to the protection of judges a reader will have to ponder?  If it does, then is that protection a 24/7 VIP affair, or a less intensive protection during working hours?  If the latter when should that protection begin and end?  Should it apply when a judge is en route to work and/or heading home too?  Perhaps it does not include such protection at all.  There is certainly no way 1000 additional National Guards could provide 24/7 security for the number of judges in Ukraine.  Such a number would be insufficient.  Thus clarity regarding “organs and institutions” of the “justice system” requires clarification.

Further the National Guard are tasked with protection and movement of defendants.  Thus “prisoner handling” becomes a training requirement.

So too will some form of advanced driver training – perhaps including counter surveillance and counter-ambush techniques.  If the rule of law ever takes a firm and even grip in Ukraine there will be a large number of defendants in a fairly high risk category when it comes to somebody seeing benefit in their assassination and/or springing them – or both – from differing parties with differing interests.

The ultra-conspiratorial will see an ability to “lock down” every court in the nation at a moments notice, keep tabs on judges, perhaps influence them via an ever-present National Guard security team by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to which the National Guard is subordinate.  However that is to seriously over estimate the current competency of the MIA.  (Indeed the incompetency within the Ukrainian ministries and institutions should not be under-estimated.  When things go wrong, it is not always as the result of some behind the curtain conspiracy, but rather incompetence.)

Quite why this responsibility has been placed upon the National Guard is unclear – although in the current climate there is certainly a requirement to provide for public safety and the ability of the courts to function (such as they do) without frequent mass brawls, threats, intimidation, and unnecessary due process delays, whilst also retaining the right for freedom of assembly and speech.  There also needs to be an authority that provides for a power of arrest when necessary to keep the peace.

Perhaps therefore these responsibilities are something the National Police rather than the National Guard should be tasked with instead?

Whatever the case, and matters are still not entirely clear, it is something of an  interesting development.

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Judicial statistics – Corruption Ukraine

August 7, 2017

As regular readers will know 2017 has followed the trend of 2016 and 2015 etc, as the point is made frequently, no big fish (not one) has been fried on the fires of corruption by way judicial verdict.  Not a single high profile judge, not a single national household political name, nor any significant and influential “businessmen” have been found guilty and given a proportionate custodial sentence for corruption.

The chances of such a conviction and proportionate custodial sentencing for the during the remainder of 2017 are also slim – to be charitable regarding those chances.

The new reform relating to the Constitutional and Supreme Court are far from what they could have been if The Bankova (read President and Presidential Administration) was actually brave enough to release these institutions from its influence and allow genuine independence – but to be blunt, The Bankova is not remotely prepared to grant genuine independence to the judiciary (or the Prosecutor’s Office).  That is not a situation that will change under the current leadership, nor it should be said, under any of the “old guard” political class regardless of political party – as and when, or if, they come to power.

Nevertheless, while all big fish remain un-fried and conviction-less, the minnows and the plankton, perhaps partly as a result of decentralistion and the increased opportunities that come with it, manage to continually get caught in corrupt acts and, in the deliberate absence/delay in creating an anti-corruption court, several thousand corruption cases are now effectively causing a  bottleneck in the judicial system.

So, now for some H1 2017 statistics from the current head of the Supreme Court, Yaroslav Romanyuk  “In the first half of the year, 2237 indictments on criminal proceedings on corruption crimes were received by the courts, of which only 741 were considered.

The remainder, presumably, in a backlog together with other cases from previous years that remain, as yet, unheard.  That said, the wheels of justice inevitably turn slowly even in far more efficient systems replete with far more judges and functionaries of far higher moral codes and group integrity.

Just how large the carryover into 2018 will be by the end of 2017 remains to be seen.  Dozens of minnows and plankton are arrested for corruption on a daily basis as a quick glance across the regional media ably displays.

However, having been offered some numbers by the Supreme Court, it is perhaps necessary to look to the outcomes, statistically (if not at the standard of due process) of the 741 cases that reached the court in H1 of 2017.

Before breaking down the 741 cases, a reader should note that the numbers that follow don’t add up – but they are nevertheless the figures cited by the Supreme Court – thus  any inaccuracies are at least accurately stated.

There were 77 acquittals.

110 companies were closed as a result of judicial verdicts.

469 officials were found guilty of corruption.  Of those 469 officials, 121 went to jail.  33 suffered some form of non-custodial punishment other than purely fines, and 265 were indeed fined.

To get behind the 469 number of officials found guilty of corruption, 101 were middle and lower grade civil servants and/or institutional functionaries.  58 were Ministry of Interior employees, (including police officers), 44 military officials or various ranks, 32 local government officials, 29 law enforcement officials (not police nor prosecutors), 19 city, town and village heads, 18 deputies of local government/local councils, and 13 employees of the State Fiscal Service.

Only 2 prosecutors, a single employee of the court administration (but not a judge) and a single member of the security services also feature within that 469 number.

In short, all minnows and plankton.  The bottom end of the plentiful corruption food chain.

So should a reader be dismissive?  Is it all a matter of perception and subjectivity?  Isn’t any action better than no action?

Surely the food chain has been disrupted, even if it be the minnows and plankton that are the only ones to suffer judicial verdicts?

But are not minnows and plankton at the bottom of the food chain because they are plentiful, not particularly intelligent, and quickly reproducing, in order to keep the food chain ecology consistent?

It is difficult to discern what value, or indeed what $ value, such a multitude of cases subject to the current bottleneck and that associated messaging sends among the regional and local institutions and establishment.

It is also unclear what the $ value in fines and/or confiscated assets are.  (Such statistics for H1 of 2017 are not easy to collate and or corroborate prior to arriving at an accurate answer.)

It is yet further unclear just what prevention message is being sent throughout this class of bottom dwelling criminal corruptioneers by way of delivered verdicts.  Perhaps it is too soon to be able to answer that.

What is clear is that as and when the Ukrainian elite are eventually forced to fry some big fish and prey upon their own kind, frying only one or two (probably politically convenient) fish will be far from sufficient to shift the perceptions of the public.  To shift public perceptions now, more than 3 years into the current mandates of this leadership, it will require a dozen or so large fish suppers, resulting in (proportionate) custodial sentences, for the national constituency to feel satisfied.

Casting the fishing net and opening a raft of corruption cases within the elite just prior to elections will not suffice (and also no doubt would be framed as political persecution).  Custodial convictions (of proportionate severity) are required to change the public perceptions before they enter the ballot box.

It is very unlikely to happen, and even with the slim chance it may, it is likely to be far too little and far too late as far as perceptions of the current authorities are concerned – so in the meantime, a reader, no differently from the Ukrainian constituency, will have to make do with a cursory glance at the corruption statistics via court cases and outcomes every 6 months or so.

Needless to say that the next statistics release is extremely likely to announce that the number of unheard cases stuck in a judicial bottle neck will continue to have grown significantly vis a vis those that are heard and verdicts (regardless of proportionality) are handed down.

In the meantime a reader is left to ponder whether these figures display the glass that is half full, or the glass that is half empty?  Or is this a matter of the actual glass simply being an inappropriate vessel that will continue to be inappropriate following the disappointing judicial reforms?

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