Archive for September, 2013


Symbology of the terraces – Ukrainian nationalists

September 30, 2013

In what is likely to severely scupper somebody’s business plans for the Lviv Arena, FIFA have banned the Ukrainian national football team from playing there until the completion of the 2018 World Cup tournament.

Quite rightly given the breaking of FIFA rules.

The offences committed reminiscent of UK football terraces in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s – pyrotechnics aside, which were never popular and quite simply cost prohibitive in these days.

Anti-social and racist undercurrents were though, almost entirely at club level.  I seldom saw it on trips to Wembley to watch internationals.

The 1980s were the days of 1 in 10 unemployment, plus underemployment, a youth disenfranchised from the political class and most of what was around them.

A time of race riots, poll tax riots and a good deal of generally antisocial behaviour.

Whether there are any parallels that can be drawn from the UK terraces of 1980’s, the high unemployment, the disenfranchised youth, a political class that seemed to offer nothing, the anti-social and racist tone etc – and today’s Ukraine, well that is not for me to make any academic links.

The study of nationalism, racism, mob behaviour and the symptoms of unemployment and disenchantment will all, undoubtedly, be studied somewhere.

Anyway, upon the banning of the Ukrainian national team playing in the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism – Lviv – you have to question the timing of the Ukrainian Youth Nationalists petition to FIFA to allow the symbols of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) onto the terraces,


Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)   upa

and the Galacian Lion-  gal lion

All seemingly inoffensive in and of themselves – but then symbols are simply symbols when all is said and done.

It is the associations people have with symbols – good and bad – that shape their opinions and that of governing bodies.

The question has to be asked however, why there is now a desire to have old political and military symbols on Ukrainian terraces when much of Ukraine does not associate itself with these symbols anyway?  In making this application are the Ukrainian Nationalist Youth aiming to offend parts of Ukraine – or others external of Ukraine?  Perhaps both?

What do these symbols mean to others?

With the next Ukrainian game to be played against Poland – who would have some considerable objection to these symbols one has to suspect – it is perhaps as well that the game will now be played behind closed doors and elsewhere other than Lviv.

The chances of these symbols being rehabilitated by FIFA – well they must be slim.

However if they are rehabilitated, it is perhaps justice that the symbols of Galicia so coveted by the nationalists will not be seen on the terraces of an international match within the Galician region for the next 5 years.

Reap as ye sow!


European Parliament to ratify AA/DCFTA before May 2014?

September 29, 2013

As some people know, many people won’t, and sadly even less will care – the European Parliament elections take place between 22 – 25 May 2014.  Like many parliaments, an active electorate continually in decline numerically, ultimately means a parliament seen by many of its own constituents as more and more without legitimacy.

Matters become somewhat grim for example, if you are the victorious party in an election, and your majority is based on gaining 34% of the vote – from a vote that was composed of only 23% turnout of the electorate.

Any claims to a legitimacy to represent the entire constituency fall on often very deaf ears and indeed necessarily seem shallow.

This is not an issue peculiar to the European Parliament.  It is an issue for many national parliaments within Europe too.  The disconnect between political class and electorate is a European problem through any lens you may want to view it, and the smaller the electoral participation, the more prone democracy is to producing some “unexpected” results.

Anyway, one of the major reasons touted for the Vilnius Summit being a “make or break” time for Ukraine and the AA/DCFTA was the European parliamentary elections next May.  Quite simply European parliamentary and electoral calendars could not guarantee sufficient time to consider Ukrainian issues and support them.

But to write-off 2014 as a year “Europe” would not have time to consider Ukraine as some claimed?  (Mr Fule to be precise).  Even if we further smear the window of opportunity with national elections, there would still have been time found – with political will naturally!

Which national parliaments are unable to find time for voting during any legitimate term of office, be it at the start or end of a term – and which new parliament is so incredibly slow to begin their new rolls they are not up to speed on issues within a few weeks?

We can perhaps expect that votes on major issues – for the sake of good manners – may be delayed from the end of a parliamentary term, and put on the agenda for a new parliamentary term – less an old parliament be seen to bind the hands of a new one.

All of this brings me to the following statement attributed to MEP Zalewski:

Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade Pawel Zalewski has said he believes that the European Parliament will ratify the Association Agreement with Ukraine by May 2014 and that informal consent to the provisional application of certain provisions of the agreement, including its deep and comprehensive free trade area, has already been given.

The question for me here, is not the tacit nod that approval has already been given for the implementation of the AA and DCFTA – or parts there of – prior to ratification.  That has always been expected and I have written as much many times – the question is just how quickly prior to the European parliamentary elections this ratification will occur?

In short, how many weeks prior to the election should good manners delay any ratification vote and avoid binding the hands of any new parliament – even if that new parliament be expected to be very much the same people as before.

Democracy is supposed to be somewhat unpredictable – and you would expect those employed via the will of its constituencies to show a little respect for that unpredictability.

The currently strong EPP may well get an electoral slapping at the polls – either by people voting for other parties, or by people simply not voting at all – quite possibly both!

It would therefore seem somewhat crass for any sitting EU Parliament to ratify the AA/DCFTA in the final weeks of its term – which takes us back into April 2014 to allow for the necessary good manners to be shown to the concept of democracy and unpredictability of the voters choice.

However, the end of April 2014 brings with it the issue of Easter.

Are we to then expect EU parliamentary ratification by mid-April at the latest if the statement attributed to Mr  Zalewski is accurate?

That seems rather ambitious – and a time line that many member states will not meet, even if the EP does.

Nevertheless, better ambitious than modest in the current climate.


Ukrainian Civil Society to speak with one voice – Is that what it’s for?

September 24, 2013

Regular readers of this blog will know that Ukrainian civil society has often fallen within my cross-hairs.

Not in its entirety it has to be said – the small, grass roots civil society actors working directly at the proverbial coal face dealing with issues such as domestic violence, HIV, TB, prostitution, human trafficking et al on a daily basis and in all weathers simply cannot be lauded enough.

The fact they are not is in fact beyond shameful.

There is then actors such as UNICEF and UNDP who do – tangibly – make a difference.

However, the vast majority of Ukrainian civil society is far from civil – It is uncivil, self-defeating, zero sum and perhaps worst of all, has the traction and impact with both government and society similar to that of a freshly made blancmange propelled by a very limp wrist at a concrete bunker – next to zero.

I should perhaps then, take comfort from the recent Annual Meeting of the Ukrainian National Platform where 100 civil society actors, along with governmental representatives and assorted persons of “import” gathered under the headline “Civil Society to speak in one voice“.

How can I have any concerns about that?  It is a good thing that the combined weight of these actors may have more impact than a fresh blancmange.  It is a good thing that civil society demands of government will be streamlined and prioritised – thus are not so numerous as to overwhelm what can realistically be accomplished by the political class.  There is a great deal of benefit from a consolidated approach yes?

Well yes there is – but there is a need for extreme caution given the uncivil nature of Ukrainian civil society.

Since when has it been a role of civil society to speak as “one voice”?

Is it not the role of civil society to speak to the political class on behalf of society?

Does Ukrainian society speak with “one voice”? – No!

As civil society is supposed to bridge the void between society and the political class/government, bringing issues to a perhaps deliberately deaf, busy or distracted leadership that would otherwise be consistently relegated to the “pending tray”, how can civil society speak with a single voice when there are a multitude of voices, causes and opinions – some with polar differences – without ignoring a large part of the society they claim to represent?

If a majority is slim and a minority large – how can either be ignored by civil society any more than by an inclusive and democratic political class?  Does civil society not necessarily require plurality and the championing of competing views and causes, just as any democracy that values civil society also needs plurality and the continual competition of differing policy?

(I rue how easily independent academia ceded its ground to partisan think-tanks that now form part of the civil society landscape – despite my membership of such an organisation.)

As the uncivil nature of Ukrainian civil society is beyond question, are we to expect those that fall without these 100 actors to be metaphorically set upon by way of demeaning/undermining them publicly en masse with tacit approval from the political class when it suits certain policy decisions?

Perhaps these 100 actors will receive preferential access to governmental ears, unofficial patriarchal favouritism by way of access to round tables and committees if they bully the dissenting civil society actors from the arena.   Let us not even talk about opaque access – or not – to funding etc.

How close can these 100 civil society actors get to obtain continued access to government and achieve anything other than peripheral successes historically denied, without eventually being seen as an extension of the political class – and assumed to be assimilated within government by public perception?

The question to myself has to be, should this “single voice” rhetoric actually become anything more than passing rhetoric – and time will tell – is my civil society glass half full or half empty?

To be honest, as my civil society glass is currently all-but empty,  be it half full or half empty for now is of no great concern – I am cautious that this may be the wrong glass for the contents in the first place!

(As an aside dear readers, I am now in Istanbul for a few days – entries may be a little “hit and miss”).


Yes 2013 – Most interesting statement was………

September 23, 2013

As the 10th Yes conference closed in Yalta, after some very entertaining exchanges, speeches, addresses and debates – in fact probably the most entertaining Yes gathering in its history – I am left looking for what, amongst the enormous amount live-streamed and reported dialogue, really framed the immediate core issue facing Ukraine – through a slightly different lens.

Not for the first time – the most interesting statement of them all was short, almost terse, and yet surgically accurate – and it came from Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski who stated:

“President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko know what to do in the next few days.”

Important because whilst all expect movement from President Yanukovych, and indeed he has the lead role to play here – Ms Tymoshenko must play her part in any negotiated solution – and agree to it.

The statement also clearly infers both know what they need to do and have been told as much by EU negotiators in clear terms.

Thus either President Yanukovych or Yulia Tymoshenko can still kill any Ukrainian hopes of EU signatures at the Vilnius Summit by simple belligerence or overreaching their respective positions when it comes to finding and accepting a solution.

As both have a history of belligerence and overreaching to the national detriment – whomever, and one supposes it will be Messrs Cox and Kwaśniewski – do manage to negotiate and implement a deal, then Nobel Peace Prize nominations should not come far behind.  That maybe somewhat sarcastic but it does underscore the difficulty they will have faced.

One also has to question what the EU’s position will be if it becomes clear President Yanukovych will go – or does go –  the minimum distance required and allow Ms Tymoshenko to be released to go abroad for treatment for “humanitarian” or even “national interest” reasons – and she then refuse to go, wanting “more” from any deal.

The question for both protagonists is whether Ukraine’s immediate future means more to either of them than any longer term personal ambitions (and retributions) they may have.

Though the answer would normally be “doubtful” – in both cases – lest there be those who foolishly consider Ms Tymoshenko a beacon of democracy in an otherwise dark place – (for that glimmer of hope we need look elsewhere) – such is the attraction to their egos of a place in Ukrainian and European history –  I do dare to hope.

But – Does the EU have a position should President Yanukovych offer Ms Tymoshenko a way out of jail as per the EU demand – for her to then refuse to go?

Would it still refuse to sign under such circumstances?

As the very astute  Radek Sikorski  makes clear – both of these Kuchma era hangovers can still screw things up for Ukraine……..again.


YES 2013 – The worst address so far? Too much “me” and not enough “U”kraine?

September 22, 2013

At a gathering of politicians, intellectuals, civil society, media and assorted people of note, specifically aimed at Ukraine and its European path, the 10th Yalta European Strategy meeting has produced numerous speeches and addresses.

They have ranged from positions firmly established upon ideological mountain tops to the far less visionary but no less important pragmatic views from the valleys of reality.

Inspirational, cautionary, ideological, pragmatic, optimistic and reflective  – all have had their proponents – and necessarily so if the conference is to actively reflect both domestic and international views of Ukraine and its direction.

The overarching theme however – Ukraine and its future.

Then, we have an address from Yulia Tymoshenko:

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to address you from behind the bars as a person who has always felt herself free. Incarceration – particularly when you are jailed unjustly for dissent and political position – is said to harden the soul. But my spirit, I can say with certainty, has not been withered by my Kafkaesque trial and imprisonment. It has, instead, been liberated because I have been forced to focus on what is essential, what is most human, what is most true – on reflections about my country. My inner feeling of freedom gives me the right to speak with you openly and responsibly.

During these two years, I have not felt myself alone even for a single moment. I have not been left alone to deal with difficult challenges and tests. A white orchid from Dalia Grybauskaitė, short notes from Carl (Bildt) and Elmar (Brok), the unexpected visit of support by Štefan (Fuele) to my prison cell in the Lukianivka, warm meetings with Presidents (Pat) Cox and (Alexander) Kwaśniewski and letters of solidarity from many world leaders – all of these were for me not only gestures of personal support but de facto solidarity and support for my dear Ukraine – the nation that belongs to Europe and deserves a better fate.

This European perspective is being constructed by us, here and now. It depends on us what would be an outcome of this process. The Association Agreement provides an opportunity for change from inside that has been needed for a long time, but in itself it doesn’t guarantee it.

Authoritarianism, disrespect to the rule of law and human rights, and poor economic governance will not disappear by default only because the Agreement is signed.

That is why I would like to call you to look beyond 2013. If the conditions for a consistent and effective implementation of the Agreement are not created, it can, unfortunately, turn into another lost opportunity.

I believe the following political, legal and institutional changes are imperative:

Electoral Legislation

I would like to emphasize the priority of establishing a credible electoral system and rules (Electoral Code) for presidential and parliamentary elections that meet European standards.

I am sure that we will be able to protect our European choice, minimize the risk of massive falsifications and put an end to the authoritarian drift only by joint, transparent and inclusive efforts with the help and contribution from the European Union and the Council of Europe.


We must remove the risk of using the instrument of referendum in the conditions of uninformed society and increasingly authoritarian political system. I support the conclusions of the Venice Commission regarding the Law on Referendum, which was adopted in an unconstitutional way. I insist that we apply all possible legal and political means to abolish it.

The Constitution

The Constitution must be drafted not by some puppet assemblies, as it is done now, but by an open and transparent forum. The most reputable constitutional law experts, representatives of all parliamentary political parties and civil society should constitute the core of such convention. It must be supplemented by a high quality public debate with an involvement of experts from the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission. The Constitution cannot be changed bypassing the Parliament. Any changes to the Constitution must be the result of a wide political consensus between the government, opposition and civil society. The Constitution cannot be changed in the authoritarian environment.

Implementation of the Association Agreement

I am sure that the institutional mechanism for the implementation of the AA/DCFTA could be devised on the basis of the horizontal coordination model that was proposed by my government in 2008-2010. Taking into account the need for deep regulatory convergence within the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area we must substantially increase the role of the parliament and establish an institutional bridge for consultations and coordination between the relevant Committees of the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers. Civil Society must be a guarantor of independent monitoring.

Society of values and law

The European Union is a community of values and law. Ukraine could become an example of successful Europeanization for its citizens and our immediate neighbors only if it implements and consolidates European values and the rule of law. I consider this to be the main factor of the joint success of Ukraine and the EU.

My dear friends,

I want you to know that I haven’t given in and I haven’t given way to the feelings of resentment or revenge. Nothing my jailers do will degrade me, neither in my own eyes, nor in the eyes of the people who love and support me.

I am grateful for your solidarity!

We are stronger together!

I believe in Europe! I believe in European Ukraine!

This seems to be far too heavily orientated towards “me” and far too light on “Ukraine” – particularly for such an educated and erudite audience.   About 50% of this address is Yulia Tymoshenko making statements about Yulia Tymoshenko – and not about Ukraine.


It seems the two years in prison reading Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Hegel, Kant, Schelling, Rawls, Wilber, Hawking, Russell, Gebser, D. Tapscott, and E.D. Williams, has done little to give Ms Tymoshenko any perspective when it comes to her ego – or how to control it.  Sadly it seems this will remain her most self-destructive characteristic – and as equally destructive to those around her.

This address seems so second class compared to the more considered and erudite speeches and address that have come so far.

Fortunately for Ms Tymoshenko, there is yet time for a worse and yet equally self-centered address to be forthcoming – I’m just not sure that such erudite attendees would have speech writer so bad they could do worse!

When 50% of the words to such an enlightened audience are “Me, me me!” it has to be considered a wasted opportunity.


Yalta Conference – Time for today’s democracy lesson – Inclusiveness

September 21, 2013

As of now, the 10th annual Yalta Conference (Yalta European Strategy or “Yes”) is underway.

The list of speakers is both lengthy and impressive – and yet it is highly unlikely that any one of them will not deliver the same very basic message time and again.  Democracy 1 – 0 – 1.  Albeit occasionally shrouded in clever words, imagery and examples.

The consistent repetition we can expect relating to core democratic concepts wrapped in occasionallly softer and perhaps somewhat disguised prose, would tend to lead those who know nothing of Ukraine to believe that the Ukrainian political class have no understanding of democracy past electoral democracy (which they all cheat in).

That is simply not the case.  They all know very well what democracy is and how it should work.

The issue is purely one of releasing control, and the timing of that, by the political elite (across all parties) – It is a standard issue amongst those nations deemed to be in “democratic transition”.  It is not peculiar to Ukraine.

One of the greatest attractions (to me) of the Association Agreement, is that it provides a framework, time frame and domestically neutral mentor/monitor by way of the EU, providing confidence amongst a political elite so distrusting of each other, none have been prepared to loosen the reins bit by bit and allow democracy to truly and irrevocably establish itself.

Anyway, not long ago, I wrote this sentence relating to democracy:  “Is not democracy the continual friction between competing ideology and policy held within the cradle of integrity, decency and rule of law, oiled by that most necessary of ingredients – tolerance?”    Perhaps not as erudite as I could and should have been, but nonetheless all perfectly right – as far as it went.

There is naturally far move to democracy than that when scratching off that broad brush-stroked veneer I painted the governance model with in a single sentence.

There are issues such as inclusion, pluralism,  cross-cutting cleavages, responsiveness, a-political state institutions, the civil space,  basic freedoms of speech and expression etc – all that (and more) omitted from that sentence that together forms part of the very fibre of democracy.

So which to talk about?

As much as I could write about cross-cutting cleavages – there is little point – as no political party shows any interest in the concept, let alone making any attempt at it, despite any rhetoric.  Ukrainian politics has always been polarising and zero sum – and undoubtedly that is going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Very sad and retarded though it is.

However, there do seem to be some attempts, albeit indirectly and displaying an absolute lack of political spine across all parties, at inclusiveness over the past few years.

Stefan Fule talking here about the Crimean Tartar for example.  Progress made – but a long way to go.

Take note of the frame that his speech is draped upon.  The basics of democracy form that frame.  It is a frame those in Yalta will consistently use to hang their varying words of wisdom and deviations of a theme upon.

However there are issues relating to inclusiveness – not to mention tolerance – that are making the Ukrainian political class go into convulsions, whilst in others minority areas progress is being made.

We are talking about the rights of sexual minorities.  LGBT as I believe it has become known by.

Above shows one of what is likely to be very many protests that is both anti-EU and anti-LGBT outside the RADA in Kyiv.

Quite simply, such is the lack of support – which I think is politically genuine rather than one of fear by being associated with this particular minority – it is quite clear that further legislation as requested by the EU to defend LGBT rights will simply not get through the RADA.

It is not as though any political party has “come out” in support of a Bill to insure these peoples basic rights.  In a nutshell the votes are not there.


So much for inclusion in Ukraine.

Or perhaps not.

Somebody has put their creative thinking hat on – and in recognition of the fact any such Bill will simply not fly in the RADA – they are taking steps to put proposals to the EU for an alternative and less public guarantee for the rights of LGBT community.

That somebody, who has taken on the issue – quite rightly in the circumstances – is the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Human Rights.  She has literally gone to the EU and tabled alternative proposals to the EU in the hope that there can be joint work to reach a model that would insure these people their rights without rousing a public perceived to hold robust anti-LGBT positions.

Whether this works or not – and whether it is the right thing to do or not – remains to be seen.  But Ukraine is at least being seen to do something and using some creative thinking to try and achieve LGBT inclusiveness – one way rather than the other.

It has to be said, laws passed or not – even in nations where rule of law is uniformly applied (unlike Ukraine at present) – unless changes come from the bottom-up, and are so driven – societal traction often lags far behind new legislation when a lack of “buy in” occurs.

However the lack of political “buy in” and the lack of any new robust legislation may very well be seen as tacit approval for continued attitudes – even if a deal between the Ukrainian Ombudsman and the EU is struck and implemented very quietly indeed.

Unfortunately, unlike African tribal politics where a great many people with tangible, ethnic or social ties congregate in the same locations – naturally the Ukrainian LBGT community is thinly spread nationwide.

I am quite certain if they were all living heavily congregated in several voting constituencies – a political champion or two would be found – not that I would consider that a suitable option as it is too reminiscent of the ghettos of WWII – it is, theoretically, way to manipulate voting constituencies for minority groups however.

Anyway – interesting as to how this will all work out – hopefully to the satisfaction of all.


Twitter and Interfax – Correcting positions on Tymoshenko

September 20, 2013

Sometimes the media report things that seem to be absolutely contrary to everything we would expect – and yet it is there in black and white, accurately quoted and seemingly in its proper context.  Occasionally it is so seemingly out of sync with everything that has gone before it that some of us would want to find immediate corroboration to give such radically new positions a more solid and believable foundation – but where to get it?

I am fortunate to have a small, bespoke and somewhat specialist twitter following.  Predominantly it consists of European and Ukrainian politicians, diplomats, journalists, fellow bloggers and academics – as well as a few specialised political/policy/foreign policy media sites that syndicate this blog on the rare occasion I write entries that “excites” them.

I consider myself rather fortunate to have such an educated and erudite following to be quite honest.

What is particularly welcome is the fact that my followers do not just “follow” but also “engage” with me – at least most of the time.  They even circulate this blog through their re-tweets fairly frequently.  A grateful hat doffed accordingly!

As relationships grow and trust is earned, it is possible to get direct answers either publicly or privately, from even the most busy and loftily placed people.

Naturally what is said privately remains private for how else can trust be established?  But what is publicly tweeted is just that – public.

Occasionally, for understandable diplomatic and political reasons, where public answers may not be beneficial to relations, there are short conversations like this one where no answer comes:

David Lidington MP @DLidington 17 Sep

Lively dinner discussion on future of #Ukraine with opposition leaders Arseniy @yatseniuk & Vitali @klitschko
Reply Retweet Favorite More

Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 17 Sep

@DLidington @yatseniuk @Klitschko

No Oleh Tyahnybok?

Hide conversation  Reply Delete Favorite More  10:23 PM – 17 Sep 13 · Details

Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 17 Sep

@DLidington Was @o_tiahnybok 2 busy? I know #Miroshnichenko is officially not welcome but interaction with @o_tiahnybok continues though.

Yes an awkward question, but then that is to be expected with such an obvious omission (Tiahnybok) in a public tweet about a dinner with a prominent UK MP.  How could I not ask, even when I did not expect an answer to such a possibly sensitive question?

And then there are those that are much longer.  This particular example making things very clear when media reporting points to contrary position (through no fault of the media – this time anyway):

Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 4h

It would seem #Tymoshenko is less of an obstacle to signing the AA and DCFTA than the threats from #Russia:

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Taras Kyiv @Ukroblogger 3h

@OdessaBlogger @JSaryuszWolski #Tymoshenko off the table??? But wait a minute, doesn’t this contradict the EPP “yellow light” line? #Ukraine

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Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 2h

@Ukroblogger @JSaryuszWolski German election Sunday. No invite would come 4 her before that – good manners – 2 soon 2 speculate about lines.


Taras Kyiv @Ukroblogger 2h

@OdessaBlogger @JSaryuszWolski Unless it’s a face-saving release formula,it really comes as a huge suprise (daylight betw #EU #EPP) #Ukraine


Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 2h

@Ukroblogger @JSaryuszWolski  Possibly. Said diplomat does not speak for the #EPP & there is often daylight between national & #EU rhetoric

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Jacek Saryusz-Wolski @JSaryuszWolski 55m

@OdessaBlogger :



Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 50m 


False as in the diplomat is mistaken, misquoted, or speaking only for certain parties as I suspect?

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Jacek Saryusz-Wolski @JSaryuszWolski 43m

@OdessaBlogger:False,as #EU consensus needed for #UA AA signature,and without free #Tymoshenko there will be no consensus, as simple as that

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Nikolai Holmov @OdessaBlogger 38m

@JSaryuszWolski So the diplomat is clearly over-stretching!

And so there you have it – regardless of what a certain diplomat states and Intefax rightly subsequently reports for public consumption – if you ask the right questions of the right people – in this case @JSaryuszWolski (who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite tweeters) – you can get direct, robust, clear and immediate replies that carry significant political weight contrary to what is being reported.

No doubt some robust, clear and direct dialogue of a similar nature taking place in Yalta right now too!


To pharma or not pharma – That is the question (and the SCM answer)

September 19, 2013

At the end of August, some time around the 20th, my Facebook friend Natalya Yemchenko let it be known that Rinat Akhmetov and his 100% owned investment vehicle SCM were leaving the Ukrainian pharmaceutical market and selling Ukrainian Pharmacy Holding.

Now Natalia would know – she is the Communications and Public Relations Director for SCM.  Her Facebook page, aside from pleasantries about family and children, often contains interesting snippets pointing to the direction in which SCM, DTEK and many other assets of Mr Akhmetov are taking.

As an example, on 15th August:  “Мы начинаем менять подходы к закупкам не только в части корпоративных подарков. Теперь все значительно серьезнее. Первая ласточка – от ДТЭК. Официальное сообщение компании в разделе ТЕНДЕРЫ. Цель – через обдуманную политику закупок стимулировать создание новых рабочих мест в тех городах, где работают наши предприятия”

In English – “We are starting to change our approach to procurement, not only in terms of corporate gifts. Now everything is much more serious. First signs – from DTEK. Official announcement of the company in the tender process. The aim – through the deliberate policy of procurement to stimulate the creation of new jobs in the cities where we operate.”

Interesting if you are one that follow corporate governance issues in Ukraine.

This exit of Mr Akhmetov from Ukrainian pharmaceuticals seemingly confirmed at the end of August with confirmation of the sale.

Since that exit he has furthered his purchases in Ukrainian mining and metals I should note.

However, according to Oleksiy Solovyov, the head of the State Service for Medicinal Products, Ukrainian pharmaceutical exports grew by an impressive 25% in 2012 compared to 2011.

Now I admit to being something of a part time “Rinat watcher” – primarily because I bank with his bank in Ukraine (which kindly made me a VIP account holder – meaning I able to jump the queue and drink tea with branch managers at any branch in the nation amongst other things it seems) .  Therefore I have an indirect interest in how well his entities do lest there be domino-like repercussions for his bank.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, it seems that where ever his interests go, money is made rather than lost.  Profits may rise and fall, but profitable they remain.  Even more unsurprisingly, his investments seem to follow areas in which government subsidies oft follow – solar energy was an example.

It is therefore somewhat surprising that SCM has left Ukrainian pharmaceuticals when 25% growth in exports is being cited by the government.

It maybe that SCM see more grants/subsidies (both domestic and EU)/money making opportunities in energy, mining and metals than within pharmaceuticals across Europe if the DCFTA is signed.  It maybe SCM believes Ukrainian pharma will be crushed by the influx of EU pharma if the DCFTA is signed.

Whatever the case, as I use Mr Akhmetov and SCM as one of a number of a weather veins pointing to what is hot or not in big Ukrainian business, momentarily this SCM move seems out of sync.

Perhaps I am missing something?

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