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DP World coming to Odessa?

January 18, 2017

Whilst Chinese President Xi Jinping made a valiant defence of globalisation at the World Economic Forum on 17th January 2017, indeed a speech that placed both China and himself as the torch bearers of globalisation in the world (and displaying just how far through the looking glass the world has traveled in the past few years), perhaps insufficiently noted for Ukraine (and Odessa) was not the constructive oratory of the presidents of China and Ukraine, but a statement by Boris Lozhkin.

The former head of the Presidential Administration who now leads the National Investment Council let it be known that long and protracted communication with DP World has progressed somewhat.

DP World is a major enabler of global trade, running 77 marine and inland terminals in 40 countries across 6 continents.  This complimented by a further 40 supporting companies.

Across marine and inland terminals, maritime services, logistics and ancillary services, and technology-driven trade solutions it employs 37,000 people from 110 countries.

A truly global player that has managed to cultivate long-standing relationships with governments, shipping lines, importers and exporters, communities, and many other important constituents of the global supply chain.

Mr Lozhkin let it be known that DP World and its P&O Maritime subsidiary are ready to invest in Ukraine both at Yushni and Odessa Commercial Port.  CEO and Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Salim had already met with the Ukrainian political elite, including President Poroshenko prior to the WEF gathering.  Further discussions will undoubtedly occur at WEF.

The positives to any final deal, if one is reached, is that Ukraine can clearly attract significant FDI that does not originate from international lenders and supportive nations.  With respect to DP World in particular it would attract a company that has experience of dealing with all sorts of dysfunctionality, local shenanigans and general nefariousness and criminality associated with ports globally.  It is also a taxpayer that Ukraine would have little trouble with when it comes to revenue collection.

The negative view however, is perhaps that in attracting DP World to run one port and have a lucrative role at another in Odessa, it is something of an admission that Ukraine itself cannot, or more accurately will not, summon the political will to sort out the management of the ports and the nefarious activities therein for itself.

In short, if any deal with DP World is finalised, it represents an outsourcing of these problems to a global company that has dealt with all of this before many times over, where clearly the Ukrainian authorities failed.

That is not to say that DP World should not be welcomed, nor indeed that if Ukraine recognises that as a State it cannot, or more accurately will not, address the many issues at its ports, that this is a poor option.

Perhaps it is politically more expedient to back a major FDI investor as it attempts to sort out the port issues than it is to take on vested interests directly – but the question is whether there will be robust and unwavering support from Kyiv as and when DP World would want to deal with the flotsam and jetsam within the port personnel, many of whom are de facto impossible to remove when the courts de jure overturn many rightful sackings of the most criminally minded.

Maybe there is a recognition in government that there is no other way to clean up the Ukrainian ports than to have somebody do it for them.  If that be so, (and clearly Ukraine won’t do it itself) then a reader may be wise to keep an eye on the DP World negotiations.

It is far from a done deal, but Mr Lozhkin is not a man who normally makes statements without reasonably firm foundations.  As far as the legitimate economy of Odessa is concerned, DP World’s arrival would be a good thing.  Whether the illegitimate mercantile economics that are ingrained in the life (and culture) of Odessa life would adjust to any new circumstances remains to be seen – though a reader has to suspect it would.

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What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

January 16, 2017

With Vice President Biden bidding adieu in Kyiv having been point man for the out going US Administration, naturally official statements are a mixture of thanks and platitudes for efforts past and also words of hope for the future.

Yet the words used by both President Poroshenko and Vice President Biden at their farewell meeting are hardly the most robust and unambiguous when it comes to confirming continued US policy toward Ukraine.

“We really count on the succession by the new U.S. administration in our common work” and “hope that the Ukrainian issue will further unite the entire American political spectrum and remain among the top priorities” the oratory of President Poroshenko is hardly that of a political leader confident in the future policy of an ally.

Further, despite President Poroshenko’s “hope” it is already fact that the Ukrainian issue will not unite the entire American political spectrum insofar as where Ukrainian issues overlap with Russian issues.  The reverse is abundantly clear.  Divisions are widening within the US political arena where Ukrainian and Russian policy overlaps.

In response, VP Biden stating “I hope that the next administration will also want to be a supporter and partner in your continued progress” does little to convey anything solid either.

Yet more “hope“.

Perhaps one more forlorn “hope” is that the in-coming administration even has a Ukraine policy around which the American political spectrum can either diverge or unite – particularly when it comes to overlapping Russia issues.

What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

Thus what has gone before may have little to offer by way of predicting, and therefore understanding, what is to come.  It may be that there is, as yet, no policy regarding Ukraine as far as the in-coming Administration is concerned, and thus policy drift and/or meandering is what awaits to be exploited by those that seize the moment.

“Hope” no matter how many times it appears in presidential prose is not a strategy.  And it is certainly not a strategy Ukraine will be wise to employ with regard the emissions of the new US Administration.

If “hope” is to play any part in Ukrainian strategy, it is perhaps better replaced with “optimism” and employed within a domestic political and policy context.  “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, or vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not abandon it to his enemy.” (Bonhoeffer).

It may be prudent therefore to deliver some swift, sensible, domestic inspiration by way of policy!

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Odessa gets a NABU Chief (not without history)

January 13, 2017

Odessa has eventually been appointed a regional NABU Chief.

In fact the “Odessa” NABU region covers Odessa, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Kirovograd.  A geographical area larger than some European countries and given the number of NABU mandated public officials within, no small number of fish to shoot at in the regional barrel.

The appointee, following what was probably not a competition but rather a “competition” is Dmitry Rudenko, 15 years in law enforcement in Vinnitsa and holder of 2 law degrees and a further degree in accounting and auditing.

Prima facie a fairly good mixture of education and experience for his future role.

Of course the cynical reader cannot help but note he hails from the same city as Prime Minister Groisman, and Petro Poroshenko’s political stronghold.  One of those “coincidences” that so often occur – no differently than being able to pick the “winner” from “competitions” in sensitive appointments relating to power and regional control almost every time.

Mr Rudenko however does not come without his own skeletons – the largest of which relates to the late, well known human rights activist from Vinnitsa, Dmitry Groisman.

Mr Groisman died a week before a court in Vinnitsa acquitted him of prosecutor nonsense.  Criminal proceedings were opened into those that brought the case which it was stated in court, was fabricated.  Mr Rudenko was one of those against criminal proceedings were opened (and then, it would appear, quietly closed).

Mr Rudenko should of course be wished happy and successful hunting.  There are many fish in his barrel to be easily shot, and some that will require a little more skill.  The cynical reader will also ponder whether some will require tacit political approval or deniable political targeting.

Time will tell whether those close to the leading BPP political lights will suffer NABU attention in Odessa as swiftly or as thoroughly as those that are not.  The perception in Odessa however, will be that Mr Rudenko is already sullied.

(Quite a week for Odessa now President Poroshenko has officially appointed Ihor Kolomoisky’s man Maxim Stepanov as Governor.)

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Return of the King? Kuhiliva returns

January 11, 2017

It has been 6 months since the blog last wrote about the organised criminality of Odessa beyond the usual top tier “untouchables” whose names are occasionally dropped by Ukrainian politicians or raised privately by wandering diplomats passing through.

Long as that last entry was, and there was much ground to cover even superficially, the outstanding and unresolved local organised crime issues raised regarding power struggles following the PNGing of Thief in Law Anthimos Kuhilava in 2012 that left him marooned in Istanbul, have remained more or less constant since the time of writing – until 30th December 2016.

The 30th December 2016 saw the return of Anthimos Kuhilava to Odessa – to the void he was forced to leave behind and that is still not convincingly filled.  That he will replace his crown  and fill that void, either by design or default has to be highly likely.  Having been “crowned” Thief in Law in 1975, undoubtedly it is not a burden.

So how is a major, established organised criminal personality thrown out of Odessa and Ukraine persona non grata allowed to return just 3 years after being ejected?

Naturally a matter of dodgy documents and dodgy courts – and perhaps a little help from some family and friends.

Unsurprisingly Mr Kuhilava was born in Georgia.  Perhaps a little more surprisingly he was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2005, apparently on the back of dodgy documents – or perhaps not.  Almost a decade, an established organised criminal network, (not to mention becoming Godfather to MP Alexander Presman’s offspring) later, Mr Kuhilava was PNG’d and his citizenship cancelled due to aforementioned dodgy documents used to obtain citizenship.

However, such are the ways of Ukraine that the question arises as to which is the most dodgy?

The documents?

The initial court?

Or the Supreme Court of Ukraine that ruled his PNGing and cancellation of citizenship unlawful – thus returning his citizenship and passport?

Any or all of those pulling the strings behind the curtain?

Whatever the case, an organised crime kingpin of Odessa has returned to an underworld not entirely dissimilar to how he was forced to leave it – and he has returned legally, being met by the same “businessmen” of Odessa he left at Odessa airport.

Nevertheless, a known Thief in Law, long established in Odessa and likely to resume his leading role in the underworld being here entirely legally?  That is progress along the road to the rule of law right?

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The Savchenko Lists (Unclassified)

January 10, 2017

It appears Nadya Savchenko has released a long, long list of names for exchange between Ukraine and the “Republics” on her Facebook page.

More accurately she released a long list of 524 names in several categories.  Category 1 prisoners of war, category 2, political prisoners, plus hundreds of missing persons.

A regular reader will note the deliberate absence of a link to her Facebook page for several reasons.  The first is that Nadya Savchenko admits that the list may not be accurate.  The second is that the release occurred without the blessing of the Ukrainian security services – and for reasons that are more than reasonable.

Although it has to be said that the names released are perhaps more de jure classified than de facto, the SBU doesn’t enjoy the absolute parliamentary immunity as Ms Savchenko currently does.  Ergo they have to be mindful of the laws regarding data protection – and unlike Ms Savchenko may well have to deal with any aftermath when it comes to threats, blackmail or confidence tricksters targeting relatives.

Whether or not the tacit nod of the SBU was given is not irrelevant but it not the purpose of this entry.

Further whether there prove to be benefits or setbacks from this release for those held is also not the issue at hand.

What caught the eye was part of a statement made by Ms Savchenko – “An MP has the right to access all state secrets at the highest level.  We MPs are not accountable to the SBU, we can cooperate.  I will continue to cooperate and collaborate regularly with all the services, because they are very much closed. It’s really the power structure that protects Ukraine, so of course I will cooperate with them. And we continue to cooperate.”

Leaving aside the longstanding issue of the absolute lack of accountability of parliamentarians, what is simply striking about her statement is “An MP has the right to access all state secrets at the highest level”.

If that be so Ukraine has no, and will never have, any State Secrets – ever.

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Belarus grants Visa Free to 80 nations (for 5 day periods)

January 10, 2017

Somewhat surprisingly politically, despite the obvious underlying economic intent, the long-standing President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree granting 80 nations Visa-free status with Belarus – albeit on;y for a period of 5 days at a time.

minsk

Now who saw that coming?

Nevertheless, any reader now with a hassle-free chance to visit Minsk should do so!

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Ukraine begins to lobby DC – professionally

January 7, 2017

Many times it has been written that Ukraine would be wise to lobby Washington DC beyond the abilities of its own diplomatic mission and occasional delegations.

So it comes to pass, and probably due to a Trump presidency almost being upon Ukraine, the national leadership has decided to engage professional lobbyists to champion Ukraine inside “The Beltway”.

That said, whilst Ukraine as a State has taken its time to arrive at this decision, many of the Ukrainian elite have long since lobbied their own causes/interests within DC.

personal-lobbying

Ms Tymoshenko outspends all others (despite her meager income according to her e-declaration.)

The Ukrainian State has chosen to spend a seemingly meager sum of $50,000 per month having BGR Group strengthen ties between the USA and Ukraine, and further encourage US investment and/or US investors to look at Ukraine.

bgr

Not before time, and perhaps only because of who the next US president will be, has Ukraine as a State started to spend money where many of its nefarious elites have done so for years.

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The contract would seem to last for the duration of 2017.

Although this is definitely the right policy for the Ukrainian State to engage in – indeed to belatedly engage in – a reader may ponder just what returns can be expected for $600,000 per annum when considering that Ms Tymoshenko spent more than that amount in 2014, that same amount in 2015, and would appear to have very little to show for it – unless her lobbying was intended to insure very little was publicly shown regarding her.

So, what do you get for $600,000 of lobbying inside “The Beltway” (even if leveraged with a cooperative Ukrainian Ambassador and embassy)?  BGR Group and 2017 will provide the answers!

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