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Post Riga Summit – Disappointments yet to come

May 22, 2015

Much has been offered in the media and academia relating to disappointments for Ukraine (and Georgia) at the on-going Riga Summit.

With regard to Visa-free, which both nations, rather too hopefully considering how they benchmark against the required standards, were hoping to get definitive start dates.  In reality, further assessments are likely in the Autumn with a more realistic Visa-free arriving for Georgia by the year end/Spring 2016 and for Ukraine in the summer/autumn of 2016 – fully dependent upon the remaining work being done by both nations, rather than promised to be done.

That being so, even with approximated dates if mentioned aloud and publicly by EU leaders, (albeit no dates being offered in Summit declarations), does not amount to a washout.  It at least would remove the current Kremlin theme that Georgia and Ukraine (not forgetting Moldova that is already Visa-free) offer nothing to the EU, and the EU is not that bothered, despite its rhetoric, about these nations either.  (Russia, however, offers the EU much more by inference.)

Fuzzy, woolly text and words acknowledging “European aspirations” are likely to be the lowest common denominator wording by consensus relating to any potential EU Membership in the decades ahead – and it will be decades as anybody that understands EU budgetary cycles and the costs of enlargement knows.  That is notwithstanding “politics” and “vested interests” of some Member States.

Indeed the Riga Summit itself may not be as disappointing as the aftermath of the Riga Summit.

It is in the aftermath that The Kremlin is likely to try and drive wedges into cracks, and link issues that are currently not linked, in order to get its way in Ukraine.

If the EU and its leaders are wise enough to orate (if not write down) an approximate Visa-free date, be it Summer or Autumn 2016  for Ukraine, that is likely to be both close enough on the calendar, and incentive enough for the Ukrainian population, to insure its continued (and perhaps reinvigorated) desire for those European values of rule of law, consolidated democracy etc.  In short a carrot that every Ukrainian could eat should they chose to when it is served in the not to distant future.

With regard to disappointments, to be brutally frank, it is the aftermath of the Riga Summit, despite any rhetoric that comes tomorrow, that is the concern.

A tailored approach to the EaP nations makes sense, and indeed the policy should be reshaped to account for who seeks what, and attempt to accomplish that as fully as is possible in the years that follow.  However, one has to be concerned that such tailoring will occur when some EU Member States may allow the shadow of the Kremlin to directly or indirectly set parameters upon any such individual planning.  In short, appeasement during a convenient bureaucratic planning phase, prior to plan publication.

Whether this is blatant, or whether it is subtle, matters little.  What matters is whether it is allowed to occur, and by default, allow The Kremlin to set the parameters on EU (foreign) policy/national policy.

There is also, as a possible Iran deal is upon the immediate horizon, Kremlin induced linkage.  Likewise Syria, North Korea and whatever else The Kremlin feels it can link, in particular to, EU-Ukrainian integration which remains a priority to frustrate and negate.

As it appears that President Obama’s only notable foreign policy “win” after two terms in office may be a deal over and with Iran, how likely is it concessions will be made over Ukraine, and pressure thereafter put on Kyiv by the US to accept “peace at any cost” even if it means its own dismemberment- a situation not dissimilar to the pressure put upon Czechoslovakia in 1938 when “accepting” its salami-ing.

Any refusal by Ukraine to accept “peace at any cost” would be spun as undermining the authority of France and Germany (and the USA) naturally.

Of course the military issues in eastern Ukraine will be allowed to boil over immediately before (as an additional lever), or after (as a reprisal), any diplomatic offensive by The Kremlin with the USA, EU, Germany or France.  This, after all, a long practiced pattern throughout the war in Ukraine’s east whenever “talks” have taken place.  Bets upon military action if/when EU sanctions are rolled over to the year end?

In short, for those who felt Minsk II was a disaster for Ukraine (and it certainly wasn’t a good deal), then Minsk II is still not good enough for The Kremlin to insure the war ends on its terms – terms that ultimately would forever prevent Ukraine entering any “western clubs” whatsoever at any time in the future.

A full scale war is still a real possibility too – and perhaps not just with/over Ukraine, but involving it nonetheless.

As previously written, the appeasement that the EU nations is accused of by many, is not entirely accurate – at least when compared to the appeasement of 1933-1939 when Europe’s last annexing dictator called the European bluff.  It may have been late, it may have been meek, it may have been consistently reactionary displaying no will to take the initiative – but appeasement is a difficult case to make thus far considering the EU did act.

What happens in the few months following the Riga Summit, however, may make what was meek, late, and reactionary look positively robust even if existing sanctions are (which seems likely) rolled over to the end of 2015.

Consciously or subconsciously allowing The Kremlin to have any input into shaping the much needed, individually tailored EaP national plans going forward, will be a disaster.  A disaster for the nations involved and a disaster for the EU.

Thus, it is not any notional disappointments based upon unrealistic expectations announced (or rather not announced) at the Riga Summit that is of most concern.  It is what happens in the months following the Summit that may prove to hold the biggest disappointments of all.

Issues of “staying the course” are now going to have to be accompanied by issues of political and diplomatic strength and foresightedness to avoid ambush issues of linkage, and of “peace at any cost”.

If, thus far, events and circumstances have been “a test” for the EU and Ukraine – things are going to get a lot more “testier” for the foreseeable future.

Concessions are not necessarily appeasement, but a natural part of any negotiation.  Appeasement is a process of yielding to belligerent demands at the expense of justice, ethics and honour.  Let us hope that all involved manage to keep clear daylight between what constitutes both.  A bad peace is no peace at all – it is an armistice.   A bad faith negotiation is a contract waiting to be broken.  These are all The Kremlin is offering to the EU and Ukraine.

Thus, when arriving at a bespoke EaP plan for Ukraine, let us hope that EU-Ukraine issues take primacy over Kremlin threats and bullying – and not the other way around.  Now is the time for both the EU and Ukraine to be assertive and ambitious in their reform and integration plan.

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Umbrellas (of the missile kind)

May 21, 2015

A long time ago, an entry appeared here raising the issue of non-proliferation, missiles, nuclear warheads, and all that stuff that gets lumped together under the heading of “deterrents”, for a Ukrainian nation outside of any military alliance, and with little to no chance of being allowed entry into the military alliance of its choice any time soon – if ever.

(If you have the time do click on the link within the above link to the 107 pages of archived correspondence relating to Israel and its notorious “ambiguity” – fascinating reading!)

More recently another entry appeared referencing the Ukrainian ability to arm itself – at least for the most part.

Only a few days ago, in the event of stopping the rot, managing to reverse the situation in The Donbas (leaving aside very difficult Crimean issue for the time being), thus international norms and territorial integrity eventually returning for Ukraine, the question was posed “Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?”  How indeed?

It is an incredibly difficult task to reform a nation in an environment that does not provide it security whilst attempting to so.

Related to all three entries above, yesterday Oleksandr Turchynov, the Ukrainian NSDC Secretary let it be known that Ukraine has embarked – quite rightly – on a missile defence programme.  “We are strengthening border defense against the aggressor. In addition, without violating international agreements, we are restoring our missile shield, the main task of which is defense against the aggression of the Russian Federation.”  

In the absence of any other “inclusive” security guarantees Ukraine has no other choice – and it is very capable of producing its own independent missile defence programme.  Independent, however, may not be enough, as Mr Truchynov, perhaps unwisely at this juncture, goes on to state.

“In order to actually confront the madmen who threatens powerful nuclear potential in the world, the efforts of our country is not enough.  We need interaction and systematic coordination of all leading countries of the world.  This should be a set of economic, political and military measures.  In particular, and strengthen the common system of defense against the nuclear threat and deploy additional missile positions.”

That Ukraine is pursuing a missile, perhaps, was as far as public statements needed to go – if indeed there was a need for Ukraine to announce the resumption of a missile defence programme at all.  Perhaps there was a need if Ukraine thought the Kremlin would “out” such a programme soon with all the accompanying negative inferences, thus it better to announce it yourself and frame the issue first.

However, in stating far more than was perhaps necessary, there appears to be an appeal to shelter under somebody’s (nuclear) umbrella.  If so, whose?  Some form of cleverly manipulated EU CSDP arrangement per Article 7 of the ratified EU Association Agreement?  That seems highly unlikely given the EU Member States are yet to define what the CSDP actually is.  Bilaterally with the French?  The UK?  The US?  The Chinese?  Israel?  NATO – without joining?  If Mr Turchynov is to be believed, then Ukraine is not working on its own nuclear deterrent, for to do so is in breach of the international agreements he states Ukraine is not breaching whilst restoring its (conventional) missile shield.

How then to interpret “strengthen the common system of defense against the nuclear threat and deploy additional missile positions.”?  Does that require or infer “foreign” missiles or technical systems on Ukrainian soil?

The Kremlin seems to think so, being extremely swift in its response yesterday “If he (Turchynov) has in mind that Ukraine is planning to deploy elements of the American missile defense system on its territory this can only be perceived negatively.  For it will be a threat to the Russian Federation.  In case of deployment of elements of the American missile defense system in Ukraine, Russia will take retaliatory measures to ensure its own security.” – Dmitriy Peskov

If there was a need to now disclose the Ukrainian renewal of its missile defence programme, was there a need to say any more, whether conversations with “leading nations” over missile issues had taken place, are taking place, or are simply desirable?

Does it not now place any capable nations in a position of having to confirm, deny, or publicly make “no comment” for the record when asked – entirely unnecessarily?  Lethal defensive arms currently seems a bridge too far for “the West”, let alone incorporating Ukraine into some for of “missile umbrella”.

Does it not play to the Kremlin propaganda machine and reinforce its messaging – particularly to the Russian domestic audience?

In the meantime, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced that Ukraine had severed military-technical agreements with Russia – an act that will have (even if short term) effects on Russian missile production.

Nevertheless, the question of a few days ago still stands regarding Ukraine’s future security – “Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?”

Though Lenin stated “Probe with a bayonet; if you meet steel, stop.  If you meet mush, then push.”,  that doesn’t negate the fact that further probing will occur, despite any large quantities of steel that Ukraine, alone, can produce.

“Statesmen are not called upon only to settle easy questions.  These often settle themselves.  It is where the balance quivers, and proportions are veiled in mist, that the opportunity for world-saving presents itself.”  Winston Churchill.

As a woolly worded Budapest Memorandum II is not going to be easily digested by the Ukrainian public as any form of assurance again, clearly more meaningful guarantees will be pursued.  The question is whether there are statesmen of courage prepared to provide such.

Currently, to play on the words of Sting, “It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always Ukraine that ends up getting wet.”

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Laws 2898, 2899 & Odious Debt and Moral Hazard

May 20, 2015

Yesterday saw the Rada pass Bill 2898 “On peculiarities of transactions with the state or guaranteed by the state debt and the local debt”, and Bill 2899 which allowed for the subsequent amendments to the State budget.

Very well – and it can perhaps be seen as cocking the gun that is being held to the head of the private – not State – creditors of Ukraine.  The full case for the laws was laid out here, having first made the case for “Odious Debt”, and subsequently dismissed any attempt to invoke it with creditors, in Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s address to the Rada prior to the vote for the respective Bills.

“Odious Debt” to be understood as the citizens of a dictatorship being obliged/forced to repay a debt incurred by a dictator for personal and nefarious purposes.  In this case the tens of billions of US Dollars that the Yanukovych regime is said to have stolen from the Ukrainian coffers during 4 years of manic kleptocracy, via the State/State guaranteed borrowing of external loans subsequently disappearing into the mist during its tenure.

Ukraine it seems would prefer to repay everybody everything possible as swiftly as it can – that “swiftly” not being possible to do without some changes to loan agreements.

Ukraine, it appears from Mr Yatsenyuk’s statement, will honour its international debts to peer States – it is the private purchasers of Ukrainian debt that are requested to show some flexibility.  Other options were to default on the private debts, or having passed this law, suspend payments where necessary.  Passing the law, of course, does not mean it will be employed by Ukraine simply because it can.  It exists to be employed if Ukraine must.

However, there is the issue of “moral hazard” undertaken by any private lender/investor.  Simply put, moral hazard is a risk that the borrower might engage in activities that are undesirable from the lender’s point of view because they make him less likely to pay back a loan.  It occurs when the borrower knows that someone else will pay for the mistake he makes – or theft on an extraordinary scale in this case.  This in turn gives him the incentive to act in a riskier way.

Thus we have the IMF, EU, Japan, China and USA (amongst others) making loans and loan guarantees to the current government, which may have, prior to this law being passed, been forced to be used to repay the private creditors of the Yanukovych regime, whose money was quite likely to have been simply stolen – whether or not those private creditors knew it or not.

Should the taxpayers of these nations rightly supporting Ukraine in its seemingly genuine attempts to reform its fiscal and economic systems, have looked on forlornly as that money was otherwise forced to be used to negate the moral hazard undertaken by private companies and individuals this law targets?  One suspects that “western” taxpayers have had their fill of bailing out banks and private investors over the past few years without seeing their money loaned to Ukraine and then watching it do the same thing instead of what it was intended to do.

To be blunt, Ukraine should repay its debts.  All of its debts.  Even the odious debts of the Yanukovych regime.  Every single kopek of its debts, to every single lender.  However, it would have entirely lost its moral compass if it allowed itself to be forced to repay private company’s “punts” with the previous regime with the taxpayers money of the US, or Japan, or the EU, or others that has been offered to assist with internal reform.

As a dysfunctional or unmanaged default would not have helped Ukraine, nor perhaps its current, recent lenders, this law is perhaps the best option that was available to it, which is rather unfortunate if you happen to be a private lender holding large amounts of Ukrainian debt – but then that’s the risk you take when seeking high rewards.

We shall now see, having passed this law, whether a deal will be struck between Ukraine and its private debt holders or not – and whether this law will subsequently employed.

 

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And what of the US?

May 19, 2015

Following on from yesterday’s first entry in a month, it is perhaps worthy of asking a few questions relating to this statement – and what it actually means, and where it leads – if anywhere:

“Indeed, the USA, perhaps due to, and in penance for, its rather expedient interpretation of the Budapest Memorandum, not withstanding witnessing international law being cast aside by The Kremlin, has been politically and diplomatically engaged from the very start in Ukraine when armed Kremlin aggression presented itself.”

Perhaps a little deeper thought should be given to that statement – particularly so in light of the imminent EU/EaP (Ukraine) Riga Summit at which the USA (nor The Kremlin) plays an (overt and vocal) part.

It is a summit at which the EU will probably concentrate on warm, deliberately fuzzy platitudes towards Ukraine, encouraging further painful reform, lauding (particularly amongst the new reformist finance team) those reforms and policy decisions already made during a hurricane of never-ending ill-winds.

It will also bemoan publicly by inference, perhaps even more bluntly, the less than swift reforms that generally relate to rule of law/judicial reform – for aside from financial reform, the EU benefits from neighbours that have the rule of law and an independent and reliable judiciary when comprehensive, ratified, trade agreements enter into force (very soon).

Also, as time passes, the EU regional influence will be forced to rely more and more upon “EU standards” and adherence there to – and less so on its ability to effectively use it weight in many other areas of traditionally projected influence within its neighbourhood – such are the problems of lowest common denominator policy generate by, and acceptable to, a many-headed hydra .  The technocrats and bureaucrats alike require approximated laws, common standards, independent and reliable judiciary, law-abiding/enforcing national pillars within those outside of “the EU club” to insure the interests of its business/economy generating community, and that “standards” are upheld.

Thus, whilst encouragement (and sweetly worded admonishment) will spew forth from Riga, definitive, definite and much sought hard dates will not.  “In the near future….”, “……as soon as conditionalities are met”, “we hope that very soon….” are far more likely to be the fuzzy time lines publicly given to Ukraine regarding issues such as Visa-free, rather than firm dates such as “from 1st January, if requirements be confirmed as met…”.  Indeed the only cast-iron date that will be reiterated from the Riga Summit seems likely to be that relating to the full and unchanged Association Agreement-DCFTA coming into force – no further delays tolerated, no amendments entertained.

What has this to do with US policy toward Ukraine (and perhaps by way of overlap, Russia)?

It is a question that is really rather difficult to answer – for what is the US policy toward Ukraine?

Despite claims to the contrary in some quarters, the US did not plan, instigate and execute the events at EuroMaidan.  It is difficult to see how it even effectively co-opted it once it started – whether it tried to or not.  It may have supported it and encouraged it, but it did not start it.  Indeed it was, once upon a time not so very long ago, US policy to prevent the potentially chaotic disintegration of the USSR and contain demands for “independence” from the constituent parts therein.  Was it sorry to see Yanukovych go?  Probably not.  But then neither were the majority of Europeans, and the majority of Ukrainians shed no tears at his departure either.

Anyway, US policy toward Ukraine since the illegal annexation of Crimea, and subsequent Kremlin shenanigans, has been publicly stated as, generalising, upholding international law, regional European security, and standing by the Ukrainians in their desire to be masters of their own destiny – whether or not The Kremlin likes the fact that it lost the political and governance beauty contest to European norms – and to some degree whether or not Europe likes the fact it was preferred.

However, be it acknowledged or not, there has been an incredible amount of diplomatic (far outstripping the overtly political) energy spent by the US on Ukraine that exceeds what perhaps would normally be expected when international law is broken at the cost to a nation in which the US has, prima facie, few direct interests.

Some may like to believe that the US has spent an extraordinary amount of diplomatic energy (and political time) on Ukraine, simply because Russia is the aggressor and the Cold War competition between the two nations has never really been reconciled on either side – though Russia is not the USSR, and will never manage to return to such status vis a vis the USA.  Indeed that may be true for some personalities involved on both sides.  Too shallow though?  Probably.

The US is simply putting democratic values before interests in this case (due to a perceived lack of direct Ukrainian interests?  Maybe – but maybe there really are fairies at the bottom of my garden too.

It may also be due to the USA recognising, almost immediately, that if left to their own devices, the Europeans would yield to belligerent Kremlin demands, sacrifice Ukraine, and in doing so sacrifice whatever notional ethics, honour and guardians of justice label others may perceive them to collectively hold – and that in turn would impact the USA one way or another, sooner or later, in a time when coalitions and international support are sought for “this and that”.

Perhaps far too much US energy, time, and money, has gone into Europe post 1945, to see it fray (or even collapse) at the sight of the first militarily,politically and economically aggressive dictator on the continent to challenge its very foundations from which European peace in recent history has been built upon – and a challenge by a leader that so clearly states he (and his nation whilst he is in control) do not want to be like the Europeans.  It was, no doubt, felt within “the Beltway” that the Merkel/Hollande tandem would need to be at the very least watched closely, and more than likely need their hand holding, in their dealings with such a leader having been forced (due to lack of volunteers) to pick up the European gauntlet.

If so, having arrived at such a conclusion (probably rightly), what is the US policy for Ukraine if its years of investment in Europe is now intertwined with the Ukrainian outcome, and the Europeans have reached – or almost reached – the limits of their collective responses to The Kremlin mischief – and support for Ukraine?

Will it now be forced to lead from the front when there is so much that can and should be done to both assist Ukraine and also counter The Kremlin subversion across Europe?  If so to where will it lead, and what are the consequences for Ukraine if the US once again has to dig the Europeans out of a quagmire, and with it in all likelihood Ukraine too, when facing down a toxic Kremlin?

Going beyond and behind the rhetoric of rule of law, freedom to choose, and the inviolability of territorial integrity that are genuine interests for most nations, the US being no exception, what are the deeper interests and drivers of the US in the Ukrainian outcome on a continent that is home to the majority of its (sometimes lackluster and feckless) allies?

Does the saving of Ukraine also mean the saving of the Europeans (again), who often form the general chorus line in support of the US on the international stage, or alternatively, does saving the Europeans by extension, mean saving Ukraine?

Once (and if) saved, what then to avoid a repeat in the future?  What are the consequences of failure having now invested so much overt and behind the curtain diplomatic and political energy already?

How long will it allow the current status quo to continue, which by perception only makes the US policy toward Ukraine appear to lack clarity, and thus the strength to get over an unclear finishing line – the lack of both of which suit The Kremlin far more than the Europeans or Ukraine.

 

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Avoiding the avoidable whilst doing the necessary (Long time no blog!)

May 18, 2015

Firstly, long time no blogging from your regular(ish) author.  It will take a few entries to “get back into the saddle” no doubt.  As such, a rather long, yet shallow and less than nuanced entry to get matters going once more.  Prepare for some less than erudite rambling, but hang in there dear readers, hopefully the entries will get better over the next few days and return to their previously barely acceptable standard – or not!

An entire month has past since the last entry written here by your author.  Heartfelt thanks to MWDabbs for stepping into fill the void whenever it was possible, whilst a somewhat personal trek across the Mediterranean nations, visiting locations where Grandfathers fought in trenches throughout WWI, and ending up in the UK visiting places like Bletchley Park where your author’s Godmother (and Aunt) worked during WWII – or not WWII, but the continuation of WWI if we consider the words of Marshall Foch in his commentary upon reading the Treaty of Versailles “This is not peace.  It is an armistice for 20 years.” an accurate and insightful statement.

In short, a personal homage of sorts, honouring and remembering family clan members, now departed, for their sacrifices upon the 70th anniversary of the end of war in Europe took place.  It is an adventure the invoked strange, previously unacknowledged, or perhaps better said, under-acknowledged, feelings.  No doubt other readers have had similar experiences for those that have embarked on such a personal journey.  Nevertheless, it was something that it was felt had to be done with the recent passing of the most elderly family clan member at 96 years of age colliding with such a marked international anniversary.

In keeping with this personal adventure, and continuing with the WWII theme recently embarked upon by the “stand-in author” and considering the many comparisons swamping the social and commercial media  of Messrs Hitler and Putin, (and no such comparisons will you find within this blog), and associations of Auschlus, tactical and propaganda parallels proclaimed, acknowledging Mr Putin’s public change of attitude toward the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact etc., – perhaps a little time should be spent – albeit superficially – comparing the political and diplomatic responses in the years prior to WWII officially commencing by the Europeans (and US) and comparing them to the action taken (or not) now.  (Not that WWIII is likely to arise from Kremlin actions in Ukraine (or its neighbourhood) unless things are allowed to spiral out of control very swiftly and the law of unintended consequences takes root in chaos.)

WWII was also labeled “The Unnecessary War” by Winston Churchill when President Roosevelt was seeking a name for WWII.  There was, if Churchill’s suggested name is to be believed, a mammoth amount of unnecessary death, destruction and injury.  Indeed, the annexing and/or severing of parts of nations and “enslaving” part of its populace, notwithstanding all the desirables that can be carted away, hardly ever comes close to the recouping of costs of war.  Pillaging and plundering do not usually change the bottom line from red to black!

If “unnecessary” be the case, then there is a significant amount of failed diplomacy and/or political catastrophe that be responsible for allowing WWII to happen.

Contemporaneous correspondence and speeches clearly identify that there was an almost consistent theme of missed opportunity from almost 1919 until 1935/36 to avoid war – yet war was not avoided.  Thereafter there were yet further opportunities to delay the war, though probably not avoid it, allowing France, the UK etc., time in which, to some degree, a reversal the policy of disarmament per agreed international instruments could and should have occurred.

Suffice to say, numerous treaties between 1919 and 1939 were broken, thrown under a bus, created, circumvented, undermined (eg: Anglo-German Naval Agreement 1935), and simply ignored both bilaterally and collectively, when breaches were made and/or discovered – mostly justified in the name of “peace” (at all costs).

The good faith and integrity that underpins all international instruments vanished amidst stormy domestic political circumstances within France which had an ever-changing political line-up, a willing and deliberate blindness of the UK political leadership under the MacDonald, Baldwin leaderships, not to mention immense and sustained pressure on France to disarm despite the Versailles Treaty insuring, on paper, its right to military superiority over Germany – regardless of known illegal and considerable German rearmament.  This pressure on France continuing far beyond Germany’s surpassing of parity with the UK air forces in the mid 1930’s, and its blatant general large scale militarisation deep into Chamberlain leadership.

After all, collectively, the UK and France until about 1937 held the belief that together they could handle Nazi Germany whilst continuing to disarm individually.  Peace, and with it security, at all costs and by all methods was the aim – and pacifism ruled the roost as the policy to achieve it, even if appeasement of the aggressor was the easiest route to travel at the expense of (some) others.

Disingenuous interpretations of what was offensive and defensive weapons and military numbers abounded within the understandings and interpretations of the Treaty of Versailles.  Similar disingenuous conversations are no doubt occurring regarding what is, and is not, lethal defensive weaponry for Ukraine.  Is a Javelin anti-tank missile a defensive weapon?  Is it necessarily lethal, or whilst disabling a tank, is it only occasionally lethal?  Does it depend upon whether it is fired from a Ukrainian soldier within a fortified line, or an advancing soldier retaking stolen ground?  In short, does it depend upon whether the man with his finger on the trigger is stationary and holding his ground, retreating, or attacking?  Is there truly any lethal weapon that is entirely and exclusively only able to be used defensively and cannot be used in acts of aggression, no matter how less than optimal such use would be?  Semantics is where the European “powers” found themselves then, and quite possibly where the European nations find themselves now over such decisions.

The Rhineland issues were more or less accepted without political or diplomatic fuss – and certainly without significant consequences.

Mussolini gave Nazi Germany a signal as to European (and the League of Nations) weakness when they collectively slapped on deliberately ineffective sanctions upon Italy following its actions in Abyssinia/Ethiopia/Africa – That the sanctions were deliberately weak, was in order to try and prevent Italy swapping sides and joining with Nazi Germany – Do something, but not enough to annoy The Duce.  As history shows, that attempt failed.

The unanswered creation of Manchuria in China by Japan, also sent signals of an unwillingness to tackle clear violations of territorial integrity by the “powers” of the day.  The September 1931 invasion of China by Japan on the pretext of “local disorder” met with no response by the “powers”.  If the UK had maintained its understandings with Japan, instead of severing them at the US request some years earlier, perhaps this incident and the accompanying signal of collective inaction to the dictators in Germany and Italy may have been avoided.  Perhaps not.

Events in Austria? “Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria, or to conclude an Auschlus”, Hitler 21st May 1936.  “Those aren’t our little green men?”  Mr Putin, February 2014.

After Germany’s puppet. Mr Henlein failed to galvanize sufficient local support in Sudetenland, more coercive and direct bullying tactics were required to achieve and eventually “salami” Czechoslovakia (with no little help from Hungary, Italy, and Poland by its own hand) met with no robust response either – other than collective and individual tutting.

Hitler’s 20th February 1938 speech stated “It was the duty of Germany to protect those fellow Germans and secure to them general freedom, personal political and ideological”.  A repeated meme within Mr Putin’s “Russian World”.  During the early months in The Donbas conflict, echoes perhaps of the early days of Sudetenland, when considering Pavel Gubarev’s equally failed attempts to mobilise the vast majority of the locals, akin to the attempts of Mr Henlein in Sudetenland, forced a more robust, coercive and direct bullying intervention by the respective puppeteers.

In 1938, the European “powers” simply accepted Sudetenland – anything other than doing so may well have brought forward a war they were not prepared for.  Consultations and collective tutting, but no sanctions, no threats of sanctions, and no remotely hostile acts.  Previously wasted and misused time was being bought with European space – unfortunately for those within that effected European space.  Ukraine now pays a similar price.

Indeed the Czechs had no input into the agreement of its “salamiing” amongst the “powers” seeking peace at any costs, and considerable pressure was put upon it to accept the result in the name of continental “peace”.  It’s dismemberment perhaps being ably assisted by France wriggling out of its guarantees to the Czechs “in the circumstances” obliged under the Locarno Treaty.  A notable act of integrity and honour was that of the French General Faucher, so affronted by the French actions/inactions, that he left the French Army, and took up Czech citizenship should fighting begin.

The Baltics, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia that were also party to French obligations under the Locarno Treaty, rightly trembled.

The message ultimately sent by France failing to robustly uphold its obligations and commitments, undoubtedly being received in similar fashion to that of those now looking at Ukraine and pondering the wisdom of nuclear non-proliferation/disarmament, or the robustness of existing security treaties previously unquestioned.   It is probably fair to say that whilst the Baltics, Poland and Romania are hardly trembling today, Kremlin actions in Ukraine have certainly caused their “unsettling” – though those responsible for the security pacts within which they sit have tried, and vocally reaffirmed, their preparedness to honour obligations to them, unlike 1938.

However, when push comes to shove, what should we expect?  Indeed, what faith in Article 5 if it is ever tested in the Baltics?  What exactly constitutes an act of aggression sufficient to activate Article 5 these days?  More importantly – what doesn’t?

Further, is there a common understanding and position taken by all European nations regarding the interpretation of Minsk?  The Kremlin and the US undoubtedly have their own interpretations of Minsk – but they are single actors where positions are more easily reached.  What of the collective European capitals?  Do they share an interpretation of Minsk?  How closely aliened is it to the Ukrainian or US interpretation of Minsk?  How accepting are they of the Ukrainian interpretation of Minsk?  What next, as and when the Ukrainian border is not returned to Ukrainian control and secured?  1930’s styled acceptance and appeasement, simply no further action whilst maintaining existing measures (which most including The Kremlin would interpret appeasement), or a meaningful response?

Ukraine, now of course, following the interpretation of Budapest Memorandum, knows very well what it feels like to have those “powers” whom give assurances, being quite prepared to wriggle out of the spirit of such documents, abiding only by the narrowest politically expedient possible legal interpretation of the actual text.

Ukraine, unlike 1930’s Czechoslovakia, has however, been most certainly included in talks by the Europeans and USA over its own possible “salamiing” at Russian instigation.  Indeed, whilst western reaction has been slow, reactionary and generally meek, unlike events leading to the commencement of WWII, there has been a unanimous decision not to recognise any annexations or proclamations of independence from the very outset that would undermine the officially recognised territory of Ukraine, and numerous international instruments too – and thus, some form of action/reaction.

Indeed, the USA, perhaps due to, and in penance for its rather expedient interpretation of the Budapest Memorandum, not withstanding witnessing international law being cast aside by The Kremlin, has been politically and diplomatically engaged from the very start in Ukraine when armed Kremlin aggression presented itself.  The same cannot be said of WWII – though it has to be said President Roosevelt did, in January 1938, try to intervene politically and diplomatically to prevent the war, by offering to host and partake in a conference between the UK, France, Germany and Italy – an attempt shot down by Neville Chamberlain who was pursuing his own plan to separate Italy from Germany by de jure recognising Italian annexation of Abyssinia in return for a change in Italian alignment.  The rebuttal to President Roosevelt was sent in Chamberlain’s 12th January letter, despite the previously isolationist US quite possibly being able to radically change the equations of the dictatorial European powers involved – an equation the US did indeed, eventually change when it entered the war.

As mystifying as Chamberlain’s actions were (and remain), at least the UK was at the forefront of seeking solutions (even if at peace at any cost and thus poor solutions).  Today, a sign perhaps of the continuing slide in the UK’s ethics and integrity – not to mention clout – upon the international stage, whilst diplomatically the UK may well remain a solid institution within the walls of UK Embassy Kyiv, respected and engaged with by the Ukrainian elite, politically no attempt to lead the way was made over Ukraine.  By default both France and Germany were left to pick up the leadership gauntlet and make a political and diplomatic leadership stand with the US.

As an (interesting) aside, during the ten day period your author was in the UK (5 – 15 May), Ukraine was mentioned but twice on the BBC news.  Firstly when reporting (for about 30 seconds) upon the Russian military parade which “took place in the shadow of events in Ukraine”, and secondly a 15 second acknowledgement of FM Lavrov/Secretary of State Kerry call for “all sides to show restraint”.  That was it – Nothing else.  A dozen words over 10 days, and through a Russian lens – Pitiful!

(Equally as shocking, Syria and Yemen got no mention whatsoever during those 10 days either.  International news via the BBC for the UK domestic audience has clearly decayed far beyond anything approaching “meaningful”, following the long coma it has suffered since Tony Blair began to muzzle it in the wake of the Iraq debacle and David Kelly affair.  The dumbing down of the nation via the public institutions continues.  The two main and repeated international news stories being reported by the BBC news were the second Nepal earthquake, and the saving of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean by the flagship of the UK navy, accompanied by the fact the UK will refuse to take any migrants despite EU proposals to “share the burden”.  Apparently there was no other international news whatsoever of any importance!

Back on topic, despite Von Ribbentrop telling Churchill face to face in 1937 that Nazi Germany intended to enter and annex Belarus and Ukraine, the then UK political leadership continued to believe one broken promise after another regarding territorial claims issued by Herr Hitler at the expense of nations far closer to Germany.  Quite how and why such statements by Von Ribbentrop were ignored, and quite how the UK political leadership expected Nazi Germany to invade these nations without going through others en route is a matter of some pondering.

A shelf-life of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact there obviously was from the moment it was signed – Another agreement made to be broken.  To the point however, in 1937, there was again no meaningful political or diplomatic action taken to dissuade Germany from such an adventure.  The UK and France “consulted” – nothing more.

In 2014, both the US and Europeans did at least make known more sanctions would follow if further territory was taken – albeit when this year further territory was taken in Debaltseve, no further sanctions came.  Perhaps unsurprising, as many onlookers recognise the European unity over sanctions has possibly reached its limitations, and rather than disunity over new sanctions, retaining unity over existing sanctions is the better face to show the world.  We may soon see if The Kremlin will once more call the EU bluff, either prior to, or immediately after the Riga Summit, or prior to, or immediately after, any successful renewal of sanctions as they expire, in the belief that no new sanctions will come having stretched Euopean “unity” to its collective lowest common denominator limitations.  Second guessing any US reaction however, may yet keep the Kremlin somewhat corralled despite any European anticipated failures at extensions or expansions.

The prevailing policy in the 1920s/30s was”Peace at all costs”, “Never again”, and all that.  Appeasement.  Rapprochement between France and Germany – as time passed, years became decades, public attitudes changed – after all a once great Teutonic nation, perhaps should not be as repressed as the Treaty of Versailles set out to do.  Some slack/appeasement, in the name of “peace” and liberal forgiveness, could/should be afforded – and ultimately was, despite numerous very concerned and vocal voices of erudite statesmen from many nations.

Thus, a (former) European “great nation/power” under an all-powerful domestic dictatorship, determined to return to that “great power” status on the world stage after a significant defeat, casting aside international agreements and obligations, annexing nations, redrawing national boundaries under the guise of “race/common peoples” by coercion, bullying and military intervention, rearming/militarising, mobilising, attempting to justify illegal and thus illegitimate action, whilst making promises and further committing to obligations it fully intended to break (and was expected to break by many) along the way, was met with almost absolute appeasement in the name of “peace”.  Meanwhile the other “powers” of Europe sought to, and did – appease and “understand”, whilst they themselves continued to disarm/seeing no requirement to rearm or upgrade, until far too late to prevent a then inevitable war – knowing full well a Germanic march and annexation of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus was upon the immediate horizon as they had been told by Germany in 1937.

Then, as now, should any rearming take place, the cry from the aggressor is one of “unfriendly actions”, and spun to the effect that its own large scale rearmament was thus preemptive and justified domestically having foreseen such events.  Then, as now, great lengths are being taken not to upset the (perceived previously humiliated) aggressor to the detriment of the immediate victims, as well as European collective security and cohesion.  However, now, unlike then, the victim Ukraine, is getting a good deal of support (if not still enough considering the gargantuan tasks it faces) – other than that of the lethal military kind.  Even far more generous (in time, money, political and diplomatic energy) support however, is not likely to be enough to undo what has already been done – at least any time soon – perhaps never.  It may yet also prove not be enough to prevent further losses either.  Time, as it always does, will tell.

“Humiliation”, a familiar (and convenient) theme for those that would equate Germany losing WWI with the Cold War as a similar humiliation to those now running The Kremlin perhaps – with some general commonalities in actions and attempted justifications for the illegitimate responses some may proclaim too.

Continuing, the use of funded and supported political (fascist/allied/sponsored) parties in nations such as Austria, Czechoslovakia, Rhineland etc., in the 1930s occurred, as well as the external promotion and insertion of puppets in various nations domestic politics – something occurring again today many will note.  Thus Europe has, in recent history, been here before.  Can it deal with it any better (or worse) this time?

Perhaps in the context of Ukraine, the most notable event of the Spanish Civil war was not Germany taking advantage of it to practice its first air-raid, but that of Mussolini’s 5 Italian Army brigades that were there – and publicly accepted to be there by many – as “volunteers”, rather than as the Italian Army they so clearly were and privately acknowledge to be by many.  Again there was no robust response from the European “powers” against a European dictator.  This time around when confronted by “volunteers”, the Kremlin military presence and equipment has been publicly and formally called out by politicians, academics and diplomats (though not the BBC news).

Without going on and on, the numerous pre-WWII historical dots similar to those dots of today, the numerous justifications used to excuse the illegitimate as we see on the European continent today with regards to international obligations, and the wiggling out of assurances given as again seen today, the appearance/perception of appeasement (to some) once more, and the fairly rare occurrence of a national leader deliberately publicly lying to his peers (and the public by extension), and admitting to doing so (Yes those “little green men” were ours really – but you all guessed correctly eventually),  the question to be asked is whether the same diplomatic and political mistakes are being made once more – or if not, are being handled in a manner that may yet have disastrous results through timing, tone, robustness, and scale etc?

The illegal annexation of Crimea was met with sanctions – albeit they were late in coming and not as robust as they perhaps could and should have been given the seriousness of the incident and the sacrifice of fundamental international legal instruments at The Kremlin alter of expediency.  Further sanctions followed occurrences in Donetsk/Luhansk, which may or may not have come without the shooting down of MH17, but if Mr Navalny and numerous concurring academics are to be entertained, such meek sanctions did prevent further rapid expansion into Ukraine by The Kremlin.  Maybe so – at least in part, though there are certainly other contributory factors and considerations that can make a similar claim.

Mr Putin, perhaps, is not as capable of bluffing the Europeans as Herr Hitler was between 1933 and 1939 – or perhaps the Europeans have managed to remember, if only just, the lessons that some noticable response was, and remains necessary to avoid a 1930’s rerun.

However, containment if it has indeed been achieved by (in part) sanctions, does not mean reversal of Kremlin policy and small military adventure in Ukraine (thus far), just as it didn’t reverse Mussolini’s Africa policy and small military adventure there.

As the Russian Federation is but a shadow of the USSR, obstructionism, coercion, limited but widespread meddling, bribery, blackmail and corruption are the far more likely weapons of choice than overt large scale military occupations or war.

The diplomacy and politics of 2014/15 in response to military adventurism on the European continent has seemingly, thus far at least, stopped the rot – but it does not mean the returning of any occupied territory is likely any time soon either.   Indeed, it may be that just as the swallowing of the Rhineland resulted in an deliberate period of “digestion” by Nazi Germany before pushing onward, Crimea and what has currently been occupied in The Donbas also requires a period of “digestion”.  There may well be a long, long way to go before The Kremlin reaches its political limits/tolerance with regards to its acceptable costs for military adventurism and political/social/economic interference in Ukraine (and other neighbouring States).

How to insure European unity and Ukraine (as well as other Russian neighbours) can withstand Kremlin aggression in whatever form it comes for as long as it takes to rise out the storm?

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Thus the issue of time and timeliness arises.

To whom time and timeliness is most beneficial depends upon the length of time and events within.  If we expect Mr Putin to be sitting in The Kremlin following another reelection a few years from now, we can be certain Messrs Hollande, Obama and in all likelihood Mrs Merkel – by deciding not to stand again – will have left office.  If President Poroshenko is to be a single term president as seems likely at the time of writing, a new (though unlikely to be pro-Kremlin) Ukrainian President will also be in office.  Perhaps the UK will have left the EU by then too (though hopefully not).

Whilst Ukraine (less the occupied territories) may (or not) get slowly stronger by the day, the EU and the “historical powers” within it may indeed suddenly get politically weaker – even if current sanctions “unity” manages to last for several more years and withstand a few significant national elections.  That said, it seems highly likely the US will return a more robust US President when it comes to its foreign policy, and perhaps one that will take a harder line against Kremlin mischief.

Whether time will best serve a Kremlin dictator or messy and unpredictable democracies remains to be seen.  Which has the long term ability (and will) to remain steadfast on their current course in unpredictable global and regional winds – and will Ukraine make the best use of that time internally to reform and consolidate, making it a far more difficult proposition to Moscow than it faced when initially casting international rule of law aside in 2014?

Will the Europeans eventually arrive at a common understanding of what the CSDP is, to which they have obliged Ukraine to adhere to and engage within via the Association Agreement?

Will the EU at the forthcoming Riga Summit change/adapt its EaP – rightly with the individual EaP nations as the focus, or wrongly to that of “accommodating” Russia at the expense of the EaP nations?  Will Ukraine and Ukrainian issues dominate the EU’s EaP policy arena to the detriment to Moldova or Georgia?

Can or should the lessening of support for EaP nations reforms be accepted?  Reforms themselves are hardly “anti-Russia” even if The Kremlin is not keen on its neighbours creating and eventually consolidating the pillars of democratic nations.

As a result of the EaP Summit, and in its aftermath, will there then be a period of putting together a genuine Russia Policy that accommodates the EaP national policies – or will it sadly be the other way around?

Concessions are not necessarily appeasement, but a natural part of any negotiation.  Appeasement is a process of yielding to belligerent demands at the expense of justice, ethics and honour.  Currently it appears prima facie, the current crop “western” politicians and diplomats are doing today, far more than their predecessors did for Austria, Rhineland, Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia in the prelude to WWII when faced with an aggressive, militarised, (and apparently humiliated) European “power” that is not the same as them – and has no intention of being like them either.

The question remains however, whether their efforts are enough to end an on-going – albeit contained – conventional war on the European continent without appeasement?  Thus far, clearly not.

Tomorrow, hopefully less rambling and a more insightful entry – Well, hope is one of the last qualities to abandon the human spirit after all!

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Taking back the judicial space – The Constitutional Court speaks out

April 15, 2015

A long, long time ago, at the beginning of October 2014 to be more precise, an entry appeared here regarding the poorly written “Lustration Law”, foreseeing all sorts of constitutional issues, and ultimately ECfHR cases as a result.

The entry concluded thus – “Is it a good idea to accept the “OK” when the “good” can be achieved – or a sensible thing to introduce the “OK” when the need to tackle the “bad” is absolute and immediate in the minds of the electorate?

President Poroshenko stated “I am confident that the given law is rather more positive than negative and it will make Ukraine better.” – Maybe so, maybe not.”

Indeed, constitutional challenges were made regarding the aforementioned badly crafter law, as was anticipated – “Under challenge are Part 1 – Clause 6. Part 2 – Clause 2. Part 2 – paragraph 13. Part 3 and Article 3. Thus whilst not striking down the entire Lustration Law, it would certainly seem to hollow it out somewhat.”

Now the issues within the legislative text sit before the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, as indeed they should – but not before the Venice Commission made comment upon the “Lustration Law” in December of 2014 – “Firstly The Venice Commission recommends that body in charge of lustration should be a specially established independent commission – not the Justice Ministry. It stresses that people’s right to a fair trial -including the right to a lawyer, equal rights of the parties, and the right to be heard in court – should be observed, and that administrative decisions on lustration should be postponed during the trial until the final sentence is handed out.

Currently the law on lustration fails to contain some provisions dealing with such guarantees of rights.

It also suggests the provisions of the law containing the list of positions subject to lustration should be revised, and that lustration should only apply to those positions that could pose considerable danger to human rights and democracy, and that guilt should be proven in each specific case – it cannot be considered as proven based on an official’s affiliation with a specific category of public establishment alone.

All of which, again, was entirely predictable – so much so it was predicted at the time.

Legislate in haste – repent, repeal and pay reparations at leisure.”

Thus before the Constitutional Court sits a law that will clearly not find much favour within the ECfHR (considering the comments of the Venice Commission) when thousands of cases make their way forward for consideration should the Constitutional Court allow it to stand – or it is a law that it can rule as, in full or in part, is unconstitutional, ergo, requiring recompense and perhaps reinstatement for many.

(We may ponder, indeed, whether there is mileage in the creation of a temporary “Ukraine Division” within the ECfHR, not simply for internal cases that may make their way in large numbers, but also when Ukraine v Russia cases reach the Strasbourg.)

Perhaps the State will offer those already subjected to “lustration” the option to accept the outcome of that act (which meant most quietly kept their ill-gotten gains upon sacking or resignation), or upon reappointment be subject to criminal corruption investigation where ill-gotten gains will possibly be taken by the State.

However, despite knowing just how poorly crafted the “Lustration Law” is, it appears that some MPs, even government ministers, and law enforcement figures have called, via the media, for a public turnout/protests/petition at the Constitutional Court when the “Lustration Law” goes under the constitutional microscope.  Something that the Constitutional Court has not taken kindly to.

The Constitutional Court has taken the view that such acts (together with others mentioned below) are an attempt to intimidate the court.

“9-10 April media distributed by individual MPs, public figures and law enforcement officials. accusing judges of the Constitutional Court, threats of their prosecution and engagement, appeals to citizens to assemble at the walls of the Constitutional Court on the day of the examination of the referred case.

On the eve of the consideration for such a sensitive public affair, around the sole body of constitutional jurisdiction, artificially there is created a situation of tension and mistrust. It is, in fact, to intervene in the activities of the Constitutional Court, namely the obstruction of the court cases on the constitutionality of certain provisions of the law “On cleaning power”.

Attempts by politicians to extend compromising information concerning the professional activities of judges, calls for rallies and demonstrations under the walls of the Constitutional Court are nothing but pressure on the court. Recall that influence judges in any manner prohibited by Article 126 of the Basic Law of Ukraine.

Any pretrial conclusions or assumptions, including by law enforcement authorities or the media is nothing but pressure on the judges sole body of constitutional jurisdiction, which is prohibited by the Constitution of Ukraine.”

Naturally there is a right of assembly, and a right of expression for those that assemble, in answer to any calls made by the legislatively illiterate that crafted the “Lustration Law” – and they may rightly gather in support of the spirit behind the law, but that will not made poorly crafted legislation suddenly well crafted legislation.

The Constitutional Court will fail in its duty if it does little more than raise a learned eyebrow.  There is now a very visible opportunity for the judiciary to take a step in retaking its rightful democratic space – and as the statement from the Constitutional Court above makes clear, keep the oversized political feet off of the manicured judicial lawns.

Should the Constitutional Court find unconstitutional fault with the “Lustration Law” (and it’s hard to see how it won’t), then those gathered would be perhaps wiser to raise their ire toward the retarded legislature that created such an unconstitutional law, rather than the court.

With all “volunteer battalions” now legitimately within the National Guard, and thus The State retaking its place as holding the monopoly on force in society, it is now time that the judiciary take the opportunity to reclaim its democratic space, so often stomped upon, perverted, and abused by the political class historically.

The State must be prepared to lose within its own legal system if its legislators are not capable of crafting clever legislation that remains constitutional, within Ukraine’s internationally ratified obligations, and meets the requirements of society – and to be blunt, most Ukrainian legislators are not capable.

If this law, in part or in full, is deemed unconstitutional, society would be wise to appropriate the cause where is duly lies – with the legislature and not the judiciary.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Post Script:  Blog entries will become somewhat ad hoc/erratic for the next month despite what will undoubtedly be the usual succession of (dramatic) successes and failures within and without Ukraine, for your author is engaged upon something of a mini-tour of Europe which is unfortunately not all play.

There may also be several “guest author” entries that will undoubtedly be far more informative, witty, and well written than your usual read here.

By mid-May, hopefully, the daily, dull, normal service, will have resumed.

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A price on your head – Odessa

April 14, 2015

Within this entry relating to the SBU rolling up terrorist entities in Odessa a few days ago, lies these paragraphs:

“Rumour from within the SBU mill, is that amongst those of this organisation arrested, were two individuals that had been designated as assassins. Indeed there is/was a “hit list” of 4 names of public figures for “liquidation”, with $150,000 as the fee for these political killings.

The four names upon the list, however, at the time of writing have not been stated officially or even in unofficial passing. Undoubtedly, however, they will make their way one way or another into the public realm over the coming days.”

In order to bring matters somewhat to a close in this particular case, it seems necessary to disclose those that had a price on their head.

The first, unsurprisingly, is MP Alexie Goncharenko, the price being $90,000.  To be blunt, for him it is yet another in a long list of death threats over the years.  He is an ambitious, capable politician who has no problem with being “contentious” or “fractious” amongst his peers or the local community.  He is also, whatever his faults, visibly pro-Ukrainian and prepared to take risks others would not to be provocatively so.  He traveled to Crimea to raise a large flag of Ukraine after the illegal annexation of the peninsula, and to Moscow to march in the Nemtsov commemoration, getting arrested in the process.

Andrei Yusov, leader of the regional branch of UDAR was also on the list.  Yusov survived an attempt on his life last year.  Regarding being a name on the assassination list, he stated “I already know that my name is on the list.  I can say that the list is of good, quite decent people, and I’m honored to be among them.”  Also named is fellow party member Sergey Gutsalyuk, with a $30,000 pay out.

Lastly, “Council of Public Security” leader Mark Gordienko, again with a $30,000 price tag.  This is the third time he has been on such a list.  “In this news, for me, there is nothing new – it has become a routine.

Meanwhile, the SBU appears to be continuing to “mop up”, having now caught up with former deputy of the city council, the former head of the “Regional Committee of Veterans of Afghanistan”, the creator and “Supreme Chieftain” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Cossacks”, Alexander Lutsenko.

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