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Schisms within Oppo Block (again) – VR election positioning begins

November 10, 2018

It is oft remarked upon as to why so many “also rans” take part in the presidential elections.

Why do so many candidates spend so much time and money running for an office that 99% will never attain as they simply do not have the support necessary to win and never will?

It cannot be denied that some are “technical candidates” – those running simply to split the vote of another in order to insure they fail for favours from the victors further down the road.

However there is more to it than that.

The “also rans” who stand no chance of election are, for the most part, leaders of political parties – and thus their election run and campaign in no small measure will act as litmus test and also pre-electioneering for their political parties.

Some leaders will look at their polling results and transpose them onto the chances (and potential size) of their party in any future Verkhovna Rada.

Others, such as Anatoli Hyrtsenko, traditionally have witnessed their reasonable polling figures dissipate upon polling day – time and again.  Do not be surprised if it happen this time too.

In 2019, the Verkhovna Rada elections are in October – a mere 7 months after the presidential election.  7 months in which to form any necessary situational alliance with other borderline parties, or indeed to forecast any minority or majority within the Verkhovna Rada – and thus who to court, flirt, bribe and coerce into any coalition partnership.

For individual “career” politicians, it can also serve as a guide as to which party and which party leader to prostitute themselves to – let not such issues as principle nor party ideology prevent such practicalities.  As political power undoubtedly corrupts in Ukraine, then reluctantly (sarcasm) Ukrainian politicians will strive to remain atop of that unprincipled heap.

However, occasionally parties begin to fray at the edges, and yet others are so brittle being comprised of competing interests they collapse – or at least will succumb to the centrifugal forces within, only to bind themselves together with duct tape at the last moment to remain relevant.

So (once again) this appears to be the case within the Oppo Block (historically if rather crudely split between the Akhmetov faction and the Firtash faction internally).

Needless to say the current situational alliance between Rinat Akhmetov and Presdient Poroshenko, vis a vis the “oligarch in exile” status of Dmitry Firtash, adds additional spice/interest to any internal divisions and traitorous acts within the internal ranks.

Naturally matters within are not quite so black and white – there are mutual “business interests” not to mention matters of mutual and individual survival within the Ukrainian Colosseum of power to consider.

There are also personal feuds.  Mykola Skoryk (an odious creature of Dmitry Firtash) and Vladmin Rabinovych (a twice convicted and twice imprisoned criminal (theft and gun running) and increasingly aligning with the poisonous Viktor Medvedchuk) have a long standing bitter public and often spurious feud.

Interestingly, Yuri Boyko and Sergei Liovochkin (another creature of Firtash) from Oppo Block seemingly signed an agreement to align with Rabinovych’s small party on 8th November – creating the Opposition Platform – For Life.

(Rabinovych doesn’t poll too badly, albeit nowhere near well enough to become president, yet certainly well enough to gather seats in a future VR election.  He is, as already stated, also getting very close to Viktor Medvedchuk as the increasing number of Medvedchuk apparatchiks surrounding Rabinovych makes clear.)

Humble pie in copious spoonfuls for Mykola Skoryk ahead if an unholy triangle of Firtash-Medvedchuk and Rabinovych results?  A reader can only hope that such a public humiliation occurs!

Whatever the case the next Verkhovna Rada will be a difficult place to build and maintain a functioning majority coalition – and also difficult for the next president (whoever that may be) to influence effectively.

However, Vadim Novinsky, who is a cancerous blight upon Ukraine and business partner of Rinat Akhmetov, has publicly disowned the alliance seemingly made by Boyko and Liovochin with Rabinovych on behalf of the Oppo Block, claiming (correctly) that it has no legal standing for Oppo Block as there were numerous party protocols ignored.

Novinsky’s alternative vehicle within the Oppo Block bubble is a public organisation (but that acts as a political party and may yet turn into one) called the “Party of Peace”.  Behind him in this organisation sits the relatively unknown, yet influential Gol’darb family and a string of forgotten people linked with Yulia Tymoshenko – Messrs Holoshin, Kurcherenko and Kulikov among others.

Whether Novinsky acts alone, or on behalf of, or apparently behalf of, or even merely is perceived to be acting as a front for Rinat Akhmetov is as yet somewhat unclear.

At the time of writing it would appear to be he acts alone – but Mr Akhmetov will have to find something or some way to control or counter the FIrtash move with Rabinovych (and by extension Medvedchuk) within the current flux and convulsions of the Oppo Block.

If he remains distant from the “Party of Peace” misnomer of his business partner Vadim Novinsky – which would seem a particularly wise thing to do given its extremely dubious “manifesto” – it is yet another complication.

(Naturally Mr Akhmetov also has fingers in other parties too – eggs and baskets and all that).

It remains to be seen what Rinat Akhmetov will do about it – and perhaps when that happens it will depend upon what “it” actually is.

“It” may have to show itself before any clear action from Mr Akhmetov becomes apparent.

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RIP Kateryna Handziuk

November 4, 2018

The blog is not noted for its obituaries, nor for its eulogies.

2018 has seen the passing of far too many brave Ukrainian souls in the east and witnessed the passing of numerous cultural and intellectual giants pass.

Few if any such worthy individuals have had words specifically written about them here, nor about the manner of their passing – be they violent, or of natural causes.

Indeed when many readers actually consider the death that we must all eventually face, it is not death itself that we are fearful of – but the manner in which it will occur.

Just how much suffering and pain will we endure and over what period of time?

That is what we are truly fearful of when it comes to our death.

Most would naturally opt for a swift and painless death, preferably in our sleep at a suitably old age having created a catalogue of memories which we will bequeath to those we leave behind in the hope that we will be remembered – even if infrequently.

Some however, whether by our own hand and carelessness, or by the recklessness or villainous intent of others will face not only untimely but also vicious and exceptionally painful deaths.  Of the latter there are some that stand out for their cruelty and barbarity.

4th November 2018 witnesses the sad passing of Kateryna Handziuk, a Ukrainian activist of some societal standing,, from a vile and cowardly acid attack on 31st July.

Clearly there was consideration given to the method and weapon for the attack.  Acid leaving the 30% burns sustained by Kateryna would severely disfigure a woman’s features if she had survived.  The recovery period guaranteed to be very slow and extremely painful.

It was nothing short of a brutal and consciously evil attack – that is now murder.  A murder that is in fact nowhere near being solved.  A truly lamentable state of affairs considering not only the criminal act, nor the unconscionable suffering, but when considering the message the modus operandi was meant to send to others like Kateryna – for as preciously stated, it is not death but the manner in which we will die that causes fear.

A lady and a crime that together required a few lines that are generally left out of scope by the blog.

May the good Lord grant her justice and tend her well-meaning soul.

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Let the regional SBU leadership changes begin?

October 27, 2018

Changes to the parameters surrounding the scope of the SBU have long been advocated by the blog.  There is no need for the SBU to be so actively involved in what otherwise would be classed as normal policing.  Unless directly related to national security, there is no need for SBU involvement in financial crime other than a watchful oversight for economy threatening issues – and so on.

In short a far more watchful and a far less hands on approach to many of the current areas in which the SBU operates that would/should/could fall to standard policing.

As such the forthcoming (though who knows exactly when) changes to the role and responsibilities of the SBU due to be clarified by new/amended statute will be both keenly awaited and robustly scrutinised.  Until then, for many the SBU will continue to be perceived as a generally unaccountable presidential tool with far too broad a scope that is occasionally employed for political expedience rather than national security purposes.  (A matter of here is my problem/offender so go find me his/her crime, and let’s see how he/she can the be manipulated.)

Ergo the new/amended laws need concentrate on both oversight and accountability as well as placing robust yet responsible/sensible parameters upon SBU.  After all, care need be taken to allow the SBU to effectively accomplish their necessary national security role.

In the meantime however, for many the SBU remains an instrument of the president when it functions in what are perceived to be political rather than national security circumstances.

It is perhaps notable with presidential elections upon the immediate horizon that over the past few days there have been several changes to regional SBU Chiefs.

On 25th October, Volodymyr Pakhnyuk was removed as SBU Chief of the Vinnitsa region, being replaced by Oleh Zozulyu, and on 26th October Oleksandr Karpenko assumed the role of the SBU Chief of Luhansk and Donetsk region, replacing Olexandr Kuts – all by Presidential Decree.

Perhaps the beginning of an SBU leadership reshuffle prior to the new/amended laws for any number of reasons?  (Be those reasons reason as logic, reason as motive, or reason as a way of life.)

Maybe a politically expedient move prior to the elections due in late March 2019?

Something else?  A sensible move to rotate to prevent SBU management getting too cosy with the corrupt local fiefdoms?  (Such a policy of regional leadership/management rotation being something that policing, customs, prosecutors etc would also benefit from.)

Is it too soon to interpret these changes?  When all is said and done, two dots on a chart (or two SBU management related Presidential Decrees in two days) do not yet make a trend.

Something to monitor over the coming weeks and months.

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“Persistent hierarchical association” – A euphemism for “organised crime”

October 20, 2018

Currently underway in Odessa is criminal case 420170000000001712 relating to over UAH 4 billion in tax avoidance and money laundering – with money laundering being given the euphemism of “legalising funds obtained by criminal means”.

Roughly translated it states charge reads “Unidentified persons created a persistent hierarchical association of several persons (5 or more) whose members or structural parts were arranged by prior agreement for joint activities with the aim of directly committing serious or especially grave crimes by members of this organisation, leading or coordinating the criminal activities of other persons, or ensuring the functioning of the criminal organisation itself or other criminal groups, that is, they have created a criminal organisation with the aim to achieve tax evasion in especially large amounts, and further legalisation of funds obtained by criminal means.”  The charge goes on to state specific regions of Ukraine (obviously including Odessa) and across the territory of Ukraine more broadly.

So who are the “Unidentified persons” who “created a persistent hierarchical association” (organised crime group)?

The case centers around the activities of Olympus Group International (with whom the EBRD recently became a partner) – a company that was involved in notably expanding the grain handling capacities of Odessa grain shipment infrastructure several years ago.  However, if the Prosecutor’s Office is to be believed, those that invested in this infrastructure either had nefarious motive from the start, or decided that the ROCE/ROI required an expedited (almost immediate) return.

The tale of criminality naturally involves Cypriot offshores (fronted by Gregoriu Andreas and Elena Fotiou but in reality were controlled by Sergei Groza and Volodymyr Naumenko, a director of Olympus Group International), and also Czech and British companies per the above pictured charge.

Yet the charge mentions 5 or more people, and perhaps the Cypriot fronting individuals should be removed from that list.  If so, those involved are apparently Sergei Groza and Volodymyr Naumenko plus others.

So who?

Time, and perhaps court proceedings will tell conclusively.  Perhaps not.

Yet the more educated of guesswork might point toward Viktor Ratushnyak (currently wanted and on the run since the Yanukovych regime collapsed), and two “assistants” to the infamous Odessa criminal/politician Leonid Klimov – Messrs Anatoly Khovansky (Maryland Universal LLP) and Ihor Kadinov (owner of the Black Sea Transport Company) both of which remain close to Klimov.

Naturally, due to the scale of this criminality, some within the Batkivshchyna Party cannot be excluded, for it is the political party with the greatest and most integrated reach into every city and town across the nation – and therefore not only acts as a political party, but also as both a national intelligence gathering and criminal fraternity too.

There was no lack of derision when Batkivshchyna’s Ruslan Tabunshchik managed to get himself appointed to become the head of the “Commission of legal policy, law and order and the fight against organised crime and corruption” in Odessa Regional Council.

Shortly afterward his “assistant” Vladislav Repula was appointed to the “Police Commission of Odessa Region”.

Thus the last name being associated with this nefarious affair (so far) is indeed Vladislav Repula (owner of British Milestone Investments Ltd, Czech Biz-Empire and Romanian Spol.S).

More names to be associated with the organised crime euphemism that is this particular “persistent hierarchical association” (among many)?

Quite possibly.

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A new home for the SVR (or a barracks for an SVR Cyber Troop)?

October 19, 2018

Almost a year ago an entry was published pondering the much rumoured creation of a “Cyber Troop” within the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) of Ukraine.

As the outward operating SVR, perhaps somewhat gratefully, gets little media spotlight compared to the inward focused SBU, when there is occasion to mention it, then the opportunity is usually (but not always) taken by the blog.

The above linked entry concludes (having asked many questions previously) – “Also of note, the rumour circulating once again relates to the long muted “Cyber Troop”, to be built around the FISU (Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine) and Military Intelligence (HUR MOU) – both being proactive/offensive agencies active beyond the borders of Ukraine.

Should the “Cyber Troop” become a structural reality (regardless of any unofficial realities currently), whether or not, and to what extent, it would be involved with the CRC remains unclear.”

19th October 2018 witnessed the formal (rather than real) ground breaking of a new and/or refurbished SVR building complex by Secretary of the National Defence Council, Alexander Turchynov.

“In the current conditions of tough opposition, the intelligence community should have modern technologies for implementing the tasks set by the state. The Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) is confidently moving in this direction, advanced technology of space intelligence using the groundwork of domestic specialists is being developed, serious steps have been taken in cybernetic and other components of intelligence activities” – A Turchynov

Prima facie, the plans displayed (perhaps a little unwisely) do not appear to be large enough for an entirely new SVR headquarters – thus a reader will perhaps hope that bot the refurbished and new areas meet the NATO standards to a minimum of TEMPEST specifications (If not exceeding them) and that the entire building will run a very strict “clean desk” policy.

Whatever the case, if as is claimed, Ukraine is now moving toward a more effective (or at least technologically advanced) SVR in the field of foreign spookery, will the construction of refurbished and new SVR buildings be sufficient (or deliberately) large enough to accommodate the long-rumoured “Cyber Troop” that was to be subordinated to the SVR per the framework document “Principles of providing cyber security for Ukraine” brought into legal being one year ago.

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The resurrection of the late and lamented Dmitry Malinovsky

October 17, 2018

The late and lamented Dmitry Malinovsky has been resurrected – or more accurately found living in a castle he had bought in Dijon, France – together with a classic Rolls Royce and a few Salvador Dali paintings.

He was promptly arrested during a joint Europol, Franco-Ukrainian investigation.  Ukraine has already requested his extradition.

Mr Malinovsky is accused of stealing Euro 12 million (or so) when he worked at the Odessa Port Side plant and then subsequently fraudulently creating his own death bureaucratically – thus disappearing to Dijon, France in 2014/15 ne’er to be seen again (as Dmitry Malinovsky, citizen of Ukraine).

Naturally the crime and particularly the efforts to fake his death on paper have caused some headlines – especially when caught in a French castle he’d bought with stolen funds.

But when, why, how and in what circumstances – and why bother to fake a death on paper when so many in Ukraine steal far more and do not go to such bureaucratic lengths as faking their own death?

Euro 12 million is, after all, small beans in comparison to many other thefts of funds in Ukraine by officials in office.

Perhaps an empirical look at the circumstances and vested interests would shed some light?

A reader need return to late 2014/early 2015 when Mr Malionvsky is suspected of his theft.  Odessa is witnessing the swapping of leadership of institutions and SOEs, not for the sake of combating corruption, but for the sake of redirecting corrupt money flows.  Organised criminality has long withstood the changing of political power in Odessa, but this time things are a little more fluid in certain quarters.  The Rubicon of Ukrainian blood has been spilled during the Revolution of Dignity.  All previously existing agreements with Tatar criminal gangs and Crimean authorities are off due to annexation by Russia and the Russian mob slowly moving in.  The additional attention of dealing with Crimea is not welcomed.  De facto, organised crime in Odessa becomes “patriotic” as a result.

Outside, or on the periphery of organised criminality, opportunities arise for those that know how things work during this period of flux.

At this time (and currently) Odessa Port Side is a State Owned Company that has long been scheduled for privatisation and that still has not been privatised.  In is in huge debt – with a considerable amount (over $200 million) owing to Dmitry Firtash, oligarch in exile in Vienna.

Like most SOE, there are also small shareholders of minority stakes.

There is also a long list of creditors beyond Dmitry Firtash, including OdessaEnergo.

Indeed OdessaEnergo was quite content to allow Odessa Port Side to run up huge debts – the plan being to make OPS bankrupt and seize it as an asset to repay the debt.  Among those behind OdessaEnergo were Alexander (Angel) Angert, Odessa’s most influential organised criminal (associated with Mayor Trukhanov, Leonid Minin, Alexander Zhukov, Alexander Galanternik etc, etc) and also Alexander Babkov, a Russian “businessman” currently under sanctions and the driving force behind VS Group (And VS Energy as a result).  There is also a certain Mr Granovsky, close to President Poroshenko, with “fertilizer interests”

Throw into the mix also the Surkis brothers and behind them Igor Kononenko who seemed determined to prevent the OdessaEnergo plan of claiming Odessa Port Side as payment for accumulated debts via the corrupt courts of Odessa.

In short organised criminality was strong if also in flux, political interest was that of assuming control of corrupt cash flows, the oligarchy and criminal hierarchy were fighting for the future of Odessa Port Side – and so opportunity arises for those with a one-off plan for personal enrichment as all eyes are elsewhere and looking at a bigger picture.

It would appear that Mr Malinovsky took the opportunity to redirect a pre-payment for fertilizer to the tune of Euro 12 million (or so) and redirected it to an offshore.  With or without any assistance or encouragement from those listed above (or others unlisted) is currently a matter of speculation.   Also a matter for speculation is quite whose Euro 12 million pre-payment it was.

Whether it was with tacit approval of any one of the above, it was clearly not done with the approval of all as they were engaged in a battle for control – and who was temporarily holding power over Odessa Port Side at the time is also subjective in judgement.

Whatever the case, the accusation that this theft is from “State Funds” is somewhat legalistic in its nature, for assuredly that Euro 12 million would not have been delivered to “State Funds” but rather redirected elsewhere anyway.

Nevertheless, turning over that stone and peering at what is underneath is unlikely to occur in any subsequent court hearing.  Officially the theft is from OPS and thus “the State”.  Assuredly that is all that will be declared in open court.

A reader therefore might (perhaps rightly) assume that the bureaucratic desire (and accomplishment) of Mr Mlinovsky to fake his own death and produce fraudulent death certificates etc., was not to escape Ukrainian justice – but rather to escape the justice of any number of those named above (or perhaps omitted but with an equal reputation for “robust business”).

Another question is why Mr Malinovsky appeared upon the Europol, Franco-Ukraine radar now?

Odessa Port Side is up for privatisation still.  Mayor Trukhanov at the end of August 2018 appointed Ivan Donchenko in charge of its privatisation locally.  It was something of a surprise (cyncism) that the previous appointee resigned unexpectedly.

Mr Donchenko is a share holder in the minority company within Odessa Port Side.  He is also a small share holder in OdessaEnergo (and thus indirectly associated with VS Energy, VS Group and the sanctioned Russian “businessman” Alexander Babkov) who are hotly tipped to actually purchase Odessa Port Side this time.  Clearly there is no small amount of vested interest at play – and certainly a tacitly turned blind eye by a State wanting to get this loss making asset off of the books.

And it is “of the books” that perhaps sealed the fate, the identification and location of Mr Malinovsky, for there are few able to fake their death without somebody knowing they are still alive and Odessa is a small place the higher up the greasy and nefarious pole an individual climbs.

It was perhaps decided that for the sake of “the books” or a new owner with a penchant for French castle’s in lieu, that Mr Malinvsky was identified to law enforcement.

That said, perhaps the Europol flags were simply raised via standard procedures and protocols – but if so, Euro 12 million is a fairly low bar considering that scale of corruption.

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General Poltorak quits the military to remain Defence Minister

October 13, 2018

As highlighted long ago, General Stepan Poltorak, the current Minister of Defence since the adoption of Law 8068 “On National Security” was faced with the decision to remain in the military and vacate his position of Defence Minister by 1st January 2019, or to leave the military in order to retain his position as Defence Minister.

“In effect, the current Defense Minister, General Stepan Poltorak, will be obliged to vacate the post he has held since October 14th 2014, or to retain it, he will be obliged to leave the military.

Article 16 is devoted to the restructuring of the General Staff and the armed forces.  The positions of Chief of the General Staff and Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are both filled by General Viktor Muzhenko.  The new statute when in force requires two separate individuals to hold the two posts.”

It appears that after 35 years of military service General Poltorak has decided to remain in politics and retain the position of Defence Minister.  He has thus, with effect of 13th October, left the Ukrainian military with immediate effect.

“Stepan Timofeevich Poltorak filed an appropriate report and I, frankly, with a very heavy heart, accepted the report about the dismissal of Ukrainian Army General Poltorak Stepan Timofeyevich from military service.  I appreciate the contribution of Stepan Poltorak to the revival of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and before that to the restoration and establishment of the National Guard of Ukraine, I decided that he should continue to lead the defense department as a civilian minister.” – President Poroshenko

Quite how long Gen (now Retired)/Mr Poltorak will remain as Defence Minister (and by default in politics) remains to be seen – for his position is quite probably directly associated with how President Poroshenko fairs in his re-election campaign.

No doubt should President Poroshenko manage to get re-elected then Mr Poltorak will soldier on (now metaphorically) and maintain his position as Defence Minister.  It seems unlikely that he could or indeed would want to continue under a different president – particularly under certain other candidates.

T’will be interesting to see whether the two Deputy Defence Ministers will change for they too must become and remain civilians with effect from 1st January 2019 per statute.

It must have been a difficult decision for Gen (now Retired)/Mr Poltorak as his future is now as uncertain as that of President Poroshenko in Ukrainian politics – and it is always difficult to leave an institution that requires a certain commitment and mentally.

In leaving the military, Mr Poltorak thanked the soldiers, sergeants, officers and generals with whom he served. “Especially those with whom I served the last four years, because these were the most difficult years in the life of the state and my life.”

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