Archive for February 3rd, 2010

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The Spy Game……..

February 3, 2010

Yesterday at 19:04 | Reuters Ukrainian and Russian intelligence services traded accusations on Tuesday after Ukraine said it had expelled four Russians for spying and detained another on espionage charges.

The row emerged between rounds of a tense election for president in Ukraine in which relations with the former Soviet master, Russia, is an issue. It also followed closely the arrival of Russia’s new ambassador to Kiev, Mikhail Zurabov, ending a five-month diplomatic rift.

Ukrainian spy chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said the Russians, who included members of the Russian FSB state security service, had been caught “red-handed” in southern Ukraine trying to obtain military secrets from a Ukrainian citizen.

“Ukraine’s security services (SBU) intercepted a Russian intelligence operation on Jan. 27 in the region of Odessa,” SBU chief Nalyvaychenko was quoted as saying by Interfax Ukraine.

“We caught all five operatives red-handed who, with blackmail and threats, tried illegally to obtain Ukrainian state secrets from a Ukrainian citizen,” he said in comments confirmed by an SBU spokeswoman.

In Moscow, a spokesman for the FSB confirmed that one of its employees had been detained in Ukraine.

But it offered a different explanation for contacts with the Ukrainian, saying he had been held, but later released, at a Russian military post in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniestria.

That territory borders the Odessa region and is home to a large Russian peacekeeping force.

“It is surprising that the SBU has hurried to make this incident public since this sort of situation is usually dealt with between the intelligence services themselves,” said the FSB.

Relations with Moscow had deteriorated under President Viktor Yushchenko but he failed to gain re-election in a first round of voting, prompting Moscow to finalise Ambassador Zurabov’s appointment which had been delayed.

Nalyvaychenko said the spy group — which included officers from Russia’s FSB and a Russian soldier stationed in Transdniestria — had kidnapped a Ukrainian in an attempt to gain secrets.

He said four of the Russians had been expelled from Ukraine while an FSB colonel had been arrested on espionage charges. Digital recorders, a video camera disguised as a fountain pen, flash cards, notebooks, instructions and $2,000 intended to bribe the Ukrainian were found, the security chief said.

Well dear readers, some of it is believable……but it does seem rather strange to kidnap someone and then bribe them.  Call me old fashioned but if someone will take a bribe they will take a bribe without being kidnapped.

Alternatively, they are kidnapped and “coerced” into being “helpful” without paying a bribe.

One has to question the $2000 bribe.  It really doesn’t fit the bribery economy which exists.

I will give you some examples:

RADA seat with full immunity – $7,000,000

Land rezoning $46,000 per hectare from agricultral to another use.

Purchase of genuine passports and “citizenship” – Ukrainian $20,000.  Bulgarian Euro 30,000.  Greek Euro 50,000.

Average small administrative fee for extending a balcony etc $5,000.

Driving licence (without test) $500.

This does make buying “state secrets” at $2000 somewhat cheap in comparison don’t you think?

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The Return Of Visa’s?

February 3, 2010

Interfax-Ukraine – Representatives of five parliamentary factions have proposed to establish a symmetrical visa regime with EU countries, the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Canada, Andorra, Vietnam, Island, Monaco, Norway and San Marino in response to “unfair policies” towards Ukraine.

The relevant draft law was registered in the Verkhovna Rada on Thursday, Jan. 28.

“According to approximate data, the decision by President Viktor Yuschenko [on establishing free visa entrance to Ukraine and transit journey through the territory of Ukraine for citizens of the mentioned countries] led to an annual shortfall of over $50 million to the state budget of Ukraine, which citizens of these countries had previously paid to the consular establishments of Ukraine and through which, in particular, the state financed these establishments,” the draft law reads.

The authors of the documents are Hryhoriy Smitiukh and Valeriy Bondyk (the Regions Party faction), Oleh Zarubinsky (the bloc of Lytvyn faction), Adam Martyniuk (the Communist party faction), Anzhelika Labunska (the BYT faction), and Yaroslav Dzhodzhyk (the OU-PSD faction).

Deputy Leader of the Regions Party, Hanna Herman, in turn, told Interfax-Ukraine that this initiative is not a position of the faction and the Regions Party on the whole.

“We are working on simplifying the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens and we hope that the dialog [on this] with western countries will bring results. We want to open the world’s doors for Ukraine and Ukraine for the world,” she said.

According to Herman, the position of MPs Smitiukh and Bondyk is “their protest against humiliating procedures which Ukrainian citizens are facing at foreign embassies, this is the personal position of the MPs,” and the Regions Party faction will not support this draft law.

Now dear readers, I appreciate the sentiment behind this.  After all, for a Ukrainian to get a Visa for the EU or UK they have to produce documents for employment, earnings, bank statements showing they have money, whether any children will remain here or travel with them, whether they own property and if so title deed documents, own cars, businesses…..list and prove all assets as well as personal finances, if they are married, and if so will the spouse also be travelling, why they are travelling, what they will do on arrival, where they will stay, how long they will stay etc etc etc…..and still not be successful having trapsed all the way to Kyiv twice……once to submit the paperwork and be interviewed……and again 2 weeks later, unless they use the very expensive VIP service…….to be told they got the Visa or not.

It is a bit much for a 10 day visit to Disneyland Paris after all!

That said, the EU wants documentary evidence that the average Ukrainian has a reason to return to Ukraine…….and the more reasons they have, the more chance of getting the Visa of course.

As I say, I understand the personal position of these MP’s.  They way Ukrainian people are treated when getting a Visa is an invasion of every part of their privacy and also, at least in the case of the UK, they are pretty shoddily treated.

The last time my wife……as in married to an British citizen…..went for her Visa, we filled in the on line form in English, copied all land documents, house and apartment documents, vehicle documents, passports, got a written statment from OTP Bank stating there was “x” in that account…….in fact we arrived in Kyiv with a document folder an inch thick after enclosing and indexing all that was requested……including copies of expired Visa’s for the UK, Norway, Shengen (Spain) etc etc……we had to wait outside in the snow and -10 temperatures until her allotted time.  When that time arrived only she was allowed in!  Me, a British citizen and married to the woman wanting a Visa to the UK…..was forced to wait outside in the snow and -10 temperatures for another 25 mintues whilst she was interviewed……in Russian!

When asked why she wanted to go to the UK she said she didn’t because it was wet, cold and miserable and if it was not for the fact her husband was british and wanted her to go then she would not bother.

Why didn’t she say she was married to a British man?  She didn’t need to bring all this paperwork…….which is not what the on-line form says at all…….and if they had read the on-line form they would have known she was married to a British man before she even got there anyway!

On the form it asks if you have ever been refused a Visa before and why…….when we returned to get her Visa (which she got) many had been refused a Visa…….but not told why.  How can you complete a form next time saying why you were refused before if you are not told why?

Anyway, having digressed, this tit for tat redintroduction of Visas is hardly going to have much effect on the EU in relaxing the documentation required for getting a Visa……let alone the long term aim of a reciprocal visaless travel process already in place for EU citizens.  It is hardly a big and heavy diplomatic stick to beat or threaten the EU with.

Of course, it is amazing to read that there is cross-party support for this law…..such things very rarely happen in Ukrainian politics…..but it is a move based on principle rather than long term plans.

Issues like this are best dealt with by the diplomats and not the politicians, behind the scenes where national interests can be traded and negotiated out of the public eye.  The problem is of course this issue has been on the table for 5 years since Yushenko cancelled Visas for EU visitors (for tourism) in the hope of a reciprocal agreement occuring during his time in office…..which is now up.

However, the new President, particularly in the case of the Shengen nations, is faced with the EU Super deligation/Embassy in Ukraine…….as well as 27 individual Embassies until some of those 27 nations allow the EU Embassy to represent them in Ukraine.  This all falls under the less than adequate leadership of Baroness Ashton, a woman the more I read about, the more I dispair.  I have no idea when the EU Embassy in Ukraine will eventually be staffed as it is not clear which nations will take which role in which EU Embassy around the world.

Some EU Embassy’s will have more kudos to be in than others.  Do you send sh*t diplomats to Embassy’s where you do not have a key role within that Embassy and quality ones to those that you do?  Who nominates which nation will have the best appointments in the EU Embassy in country X or Y?

How do the Ukrainian diplomats negotiate with a changing and evloving staff in Kyiv?

Which nations will take the key posts in the EU Embassy in Kyiv?  Which nations will remove their national embassies from Kyiv in favour of the EU Embassy and sending their stars in thier national embassy to an EU Embassy in which they have a key role?

How can Ukraine even hope to diplomatically solve this issue when they have no idea who will be here next year?  Who do they press and who do they ignore to achieve this effectively?

Considering many in the EU are happy to ignore Ukraine rather than confront it regarding membership, will they send a weak team here unable to reach agreement through incompetence or will they send a strong team with an unwritten guidline to keep raising the bar and insisting on years and years of “monitoring” once those parameters of complinece are met to avoid further expansion?

All of this time will increase the underlaying support to the law which these MPs have put before the RADA.

Of course it will not get through the RADA this time, let alone get to any eventual President from the elections for signature……..and neither would sign it anyway……at the moment, but if there is one thing I know well about Slavic mentality, Ukrainian, Russian or Belarussian, it is that they do not like to be seen as a victim or a fool.

Whilst the return of Visas for EU citizens is not a major issue for the EU…..or it’s citizens really……. it can only be seen as a step away from the EU……with cross party support for this bill.  Should it ever return, it is yet another “told you so” which will come from the Kremlin and more pro-Russian Ukrainians in the south and east of the country.

As I have said before, this part of the world works on pragmatism and “what’s in it for me”……and Russia fully understands this as it works the same way.  If the EU wants influence on Ukraine it must stop fighting ideological themes and start fighting with pragmatism as Russia does.

A serious look at relaxing some of the systems for getting a Visa……without removing the Visa…….would at least be a pragmatic step on influencing many individual Ukrainian nationals…….let alone the government and president here.  I am quite sure there are a number of pragmatic exchanges Ukraine as a nation would concede should this happen and the nations thinking would certainly become much more EU-centric…….if that is a good thing.

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