Archive for June, 2011

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Murky Ukrainian Businesses and Wyoming USA

June 30, 2011

Blimey! This is not exactly what you would want to read in the US Government when preaching about transparency in business, money laundering and other nefarious acts around the world.

No wonder Ukrainian politicians convicted of money laundering in the US have interests in Wyoming!

“Somalia has slightly higher standards than Wyoming and Nevada.” – I’ll bet it’s not just nefarious Ukrainians with business interests in those States then.

Anyway, moving on……..

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Ensreg Atomic Stress Tests – Ukraine Agrees

June 29, 2011

I am sure the hardcore readers of this blog will remember the entry regarding the Ensreg nuclear stress tests that the EU is applying internally to its atomic civilian power producing facilities.

For those of you who have forgotten, to save you searching the archives, it is here.

As I stated at the conclusion of that post, I fully anticipated Ukraine volunteering to take part in the Ensreg stress tests.

Ukrainian participation has now been confirmed together with several other neighbouring states surrounding the EU.

Ukraine has agreed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of risk and safety (stress tests) of its nuclear power plants (NPPs) based on criteria developed by the European Union.

According to the press service of the Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry, Deputy Minister Volodymyr Makukha signed a relevant statement during a meeting dedicated to the re-assessment of the safety of nuclear power plants in Brussels on June 23.

Apart from Ukraine, Armenia, Croatia, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and Belarus agreed to perform stress tests for their nuclear power plants.

It was reported that the EU starts stress tests at their NPPs on June 1. – Interfax

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Black lists, civil rights, communists, KBG and the law‏

June 28, 2011

To continue on from yesterday’s post about “loyalty” and how difficult it can be when the foundations of your life change due to immigration and expatriation, here is an interesting article about the new laws that have just come into force in Georgia.

Georgia has just passed a law that effectively bans former KGB, communist party and Komsomol officials from public office under the new Freedom Charter that came into effect from 31st May 2011. All ex-members of such establishments now have 6 months to register with the Ministry of Interior.

As you will see from the link, the law is exceptionally ambiguous and has drawn the attention not only of the opposition in Georgia, but also organisations like Transparency International, the Georgian Lawyers Association and undoubtedly has been raised by numerous Ambassadors from the EU and USA as well. Civil rights groups will be less than pleased.

Nobody in the above link has mentioned the effect it can and will have on the existing infrastructure and specifically the most senior civil servants within it.

The usual civil service career lasts around 30 years in most nations. Only 20 years ago Georgia was part of the USSR just like Ukraine. There will now be a lot of very experienced and very smart people, who upon the collapse of the USSR chose their native Georgia over remaining in the Russian civil service, and who did so to meet the challenges of setting up a civil service, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Secret Services etc etc for an independent Georgia.

All will have undoubtedly have been members of the Communist Party to hold those positions within the USSR of which Georgia was a part, to the employ that experience gained to construct the necessary independent Georgian institutions when Georgia became independent. Quite simply if they were not party members they would never had been put in the positions they were given.

This new law would seem to now ban them from continuing in their posts, despite having chosen Georgia and the stresses and trials of setting up some very complex Ministries from scratch in some very turbulent times. They could very well have stayed in the Russian civil service and denied their native Georgia their expertise when the nation was rising from the break-up of the USSR.

Not the best way to deal with the loyalty such people showed to Georgia back in the early 1990’s me-thinks. Seems much more like McCarthyism at its ignorant worst. One hopes Ukraine has much more sense than to follow this path!

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A question of loyalty

June 27, 2011

Elsewhere in cyberspace, there is a small debate occurring, predominantly amongst the British who live permanently in Ukraine over the subject of patriotism. At the core is of this would seem to be a question of loyalty. It is quite easy to think that loyalty to your nation comes automatically and no matter how much you may moan or groan about the current state of your own nation, you will always be loyal to it when push comes to shove.

Generally that is quite true when you live in the nation of your birth. It may become less clear cut for a person married to a foreign national having lived in their nation for many, many years. You have a loyalty to your wife, children, extended family and nation you live in which has been sharpened by years of living outside you home nation, whilst at the same time, your interest and loyalty to your own nation may become somewhat blunted, whilst it still remains.

Your perspectives of not only the nation you live in but the nation in which you were born inherently change due to the fact you are no longer on the outside looking in or conversely on the inside looking out. Loyalty, particularly blind loyalty, has the tendency to pass patriotism by and leads to nationalism which can be a very ugly place to find yourself.

The world works in shades of grey. There is no black and white unless you have ventured into the realms of nationalism. That is my position in the aforementioned discussion. Nationalism is nothing more than blind loyalty, patriotism is about integrity.

Retaining integrity makes it far easier to deal with any conflicts of ideas or actions when deciding which side of an argument you take if your loyalties are divided. Fortunately such decisions are rarely an issue for a Brit in Ukraine, so quite why the discussion started I’m not sure.

Still, it is a rather difficult hypothetical question if you judge it from the perspective of loyalty and not from that of integrity.

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Britian at its non-political best in Ukraine

June 26, 2011

It’s Sunday, and the summer sun has been temporarily replaced by rain, a not so glorious Odessa day and your author is going to get a few hours of rain, or maybe sun, as the day goes on.

I’m actually off out with the ball and chain on an exploratory shopping expedition in preparation for her birthday next month which means any rain or sun that will touch these tired old bones will be caught during fleeting moments in the streets of Odessa between shops.

Still, as I contemplate the costs associated with this event and the large dent it will inevitably but in the bank balance, here is a link to HM Ambassador to Ukraine, His Excellency Leigh Turner’s blog amply displaying UK charity involvement in Ukraine without any of those nasty HM Government political and diplomatic dilemmas and interventions.

(I must admit, Leigh looks to have caught the sun himself since I was last with him. Surely that didn’t happen on his recent holiday back in the UK. One can only suppose it has been sunny in Kyiv as well.)

Now I’m off shopping with the trouser-wearer. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…….. (Psalm 23:4

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Pre-trial hearing over Russian gas deal begins for Tymoshenko

June 25, 2011

Well, the public performances are now beginning at the circus that surrounds everything associated with Yulia Tymoshenko.

Yesterday saw the opening volleys and in an unusually open fashion.

Channel 5, one of two TV channels in Ukraine that is judged to be unbiased by international opinion, have been covering the event live on Ukrainian TV from within the courtroom for those few that remain interested and were not bored into a coma months ago by the entire circus.

Also present at the court hearing was EU Ambassador to Ukraine Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, one assumes in a monitoring role. Whether the trial will be fair or not remains to be seen, but it will certainly be public.

Unfortunately it also has all the hallmarks of an American presidential election, namely everyone will be thoroughly fed up with the whole thing being forced fed to them as these things continue to drag along. It will be months before this particular case reaches a conclusion (with two more having yet to reach this stage relating to Ms Tymoshenko) and even that is too soon for Ms Tymoshenko who is accusing the legal system of hurrying things along at the behest of the authorities.

First problem, Tymoshenko, demands the removal of the Judge as he is a political appointee (they always have been in Ukraine) with only two years experience as a judge and is not fit to hear her case. Ho-hum, people shouting over each other to be heard, press cameras and microphones everywhere.

Second problem, much of what is being said is a party political broadcast. There is no direction from the judge. The key phrase to much of it would be “relevance?” The only question is whether she overstepped her mandate by signing the deal with Russia by exceeding her authority and inherently misusing her office or not? According to previous President of Ukraine, Vikor Yushenko, she was told not to sign the agreement and continued to do so.

Whilst there is some interest in the background and circumstances leading up to the need to negotiate and sign a new deal, whether the deal negotiated was a good, bad or indifferent for Ukraine is quite irrelevant as far as that specific question is concerned, and that is the reason why she sits in the courtroom. Everything else is related fluff or party political broadcasting that has absolutely nothing to do with the gas deal at all.

The fact then President Yushenko told her not to sign the deal does not inherently make her actions exceeding her authority or a misuse of office. The 2004 Constitutional Amendments were a complete disaster and blurred many clearly existing lines of authority and accountability that previously existed from the 1996 Constitution.

It was unsurprising that every Presidential candidate of the elections in 2010 stated the Constitution needed to be changed. As it happens the current President reverted back to the original Constitution of 1996 which although returning to clear lines of authority and responsibility, put much more power in his hands to the angst of the opposition parties.

It really is a question of who had the authority to do what and their interpretation of the Constitution as it stood under the 2004 Amendments.

The last problem, given this pre-trial is being shown live around the nation would be if Tymoshenko opted for a jury trial. Not only is the definition of a jury not defined in the Constitution in make-up or number, but who will not have heard or seen something of this circus before they are asked to act as a juror (if the definition of a juror ever gets defined)?

Still, nobody can say this is not being aired live and directly to the public. There are more press in attendance than and court actors added together from defence, accused, prosecution and judicial bench. Behind closed doors, it is not! Today has started in a far more civilised and professional manner, but it is all still fluff. The only question that counts has still not be asked or answered. Did she have the authority or not?

Time to go for a walk amongst the real people as the sun is shining. When I get back, hopefully there will be an A or even B list cast of actors on TV rather than the D list that is currently acting out the farce being broadcast.

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Russia adds to Tymoshenko’s woes

June 24, 2011

When you are under the cosh in in politics in this neck of the woods, you are really under the cosh.

Not only is Ms Tymoshenko justifiably under investigation for several incidents highlighted by Kroll Inc relating to her tie in office, Russia has now dropped another PR bomb on her as well. (I say justifiably under investigation, that does not mean she is guilty, just that there is sufficient reason to investigate the results of the Kroll Inc report).

Whilst in the cabinet of ex-President Kuchma, Ms Tymoshenko ran Unified Energy Systems, a company whose role was very much the same as RosUkr Energy. In other words monopoly vehicles dealing with the import of Russian gas to then be sold on the Ukrainy Naftogaz.

Indeed dear readers, the same opportunities for backhanders, kickbacks, skimming and defrauding the public existed with UES when ran by Yulia Tymoshenko, as existed with RUE a company vilified by Ms Tymoshenko for allegedly doing those exact same things.

Needless to say Ms Tymoshenko’s wealth did not come from a governmental salary and neither did her nickname as “the gas princess”. To many in Ukraine it is no coincidence that an erstwhile ally of the time currently sits in a US jail after being found guilty of money laundering.

Those coincidences aside, she has never been found guilty of any crime relating to her dealing as the CEO of UES and has always claimed the public was never ripped off in her time running the company. She has always made a big point of saying all was above board, nobody ripped off the public of Ukraine and the company didn’t owe anybody anything despite many rumours to the contrary for numerous years.

The last thing you would want when being investigated for several offences of misconduct in office is to the be accused of being a liar by a foreign State and your claims for many years that UES owed no money anywhere to be officially rebutted by a nation you owe money to .

But this situation occurred yesterday with Russia claiming UES owes it $405.5 million from when she ran it.

There followed claims that the letter demanding repayment by Russian was a fake by Ms Tymoshenko’s supporters only for it to be confirmed it was indeed genuine. Difficult. Is it better to say nothing, continue with the historical argument that nothing is owed and say Russia has it wrong, or come clean and admit making repeated false statements. We should remember her statements from the end of 2010 relating to one of the charges she currently faces over the Kyoto affair. Statements of technical admission that her legal team will wish she had never made to the media.

Anyway, this is what Ms Tymoshenko said. “Look at Ukrainian and Russian laws and you will understand that no debt can be reckoned for 15 years. Then again, the debt has never been the size cited.” Hmmm – Not exactly consistent with “there is no debt” as has been the previous and historical line from her.

None of this would really matter at all if it was not for the fact that it reminds the Ukrainian people that any halo she pretends to have in reality should not be there or has lost its luster.

The question is why has Russia done this now? There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Russian foreign policy. That is particularly true of a large neighbour who has given all the signals and actions that it intends to head towards the EU rather than any Russian led group. What is there to be gained by throwing ammunition to the Ukrainian government relating to the past activities of an opposition leader who would also be leading Ukraine away from Russia? The long term loss of influence is neither helped nor hindered by besmirching (or accurately reflecting) the character of Ms Tymoshenko from a Russian point of view. There is no short term deal that will make up for the long term loss by helping the current Ukrainian authorities.

Or is there?

When it comes to Russian foreign policy it is fair to say that is generally well thought out. No nation has a perfect record in foreign policy but Russia is a very good player in the game. Russian foreign policy is usually hard, smart (from a Russian perspective of end results), and very difficult to counter.

It is important to see this action from a Russian perspective and put Ukraine into the background for a moment. From their perspective, regardless of who is running Ukraine from the major parties, it is clear that Ukraine is heading towards the EU. A significant blow in the public arena, not made any less painful by the refusal by Ukraine of various multi-billion $ carrots should it change course and not sign the DCFTA and AA with the EU this year.

If you cannot persuade Ukraine to change its mind, then you try to persuade the EU that Ukraine is not ready and/or suitable for signing such agreements with. The failure to sign these agreements would have not only a very bad repercussion on the current government but also on the mood of the Ukrainian public displaying that the EU has no real love for them in the budding romance.

The EU is already casting a very critical eye over the investigations of past Ukrainian officials. Whilst it has not formally accused the current Ukrainian authorities of absolute political persecutions, it has warned that the appearance as such does not do Ukraine any good.  Quite simply, for now, such accusations cannot be made with DCFTA and AA negotiations continuing as it is hard to justify continued negotiations under such circumstances for some EU members, and this is a geopolitical battle for influence that the EU wants to win.

Can it be that Russia feels that the best way to sink the EU DCFTA and AA with Ukraine is to give enough evidence to insure Ms Tymoshenko is either investigated for even more offences or indeed supply enough evidence of nefarious dealing with them when she was Prime Minister to get her jailed, an action they may see as enough to prevent several EU members from signing and ratifying any DCFTA and AA with Ukraine?

Whilst many commentators will say the Kremlin is siding with the current Ukrainian authorities in efforts to belittle Ms Tymoshenko with the timing of this incident, that looks at the issue from a purely Ukrainian point of view and does not take into account any Russian perspective. When Russian foreign policy does anything, the first perspective to look at is the Russian one.

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