Archive for December, 2013


Some statistical support for my “Shooting the messenger” entry

December 31, 2013

A few days ago, I wrote Shooting the messenger in the Donbass – євромайдан.

An entry that was rather well received amongst the foreign diplomatic community based in Ukraine – US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeting: “Geoffrey Pyatt @GeoffPyatt 44m

@OdessaBlogger Thoughtful post that challenges t/think beyond recently fashionable scare tactics and focus on how Europe will benefit all UA” – and duly noted by the UK Embassy too.

Praise indeed – although to be frank, if you know your message is true to the aspirations of all, and yet it is repelled by some due to the messenger and its associated paraphernalia, then it would seem obvious that a different messenger with different paraphernalia would be appropriate for certain audiences when it comes to delivering that same message.

Not, it has to be said, anything unusual in international diplomacy.  There are numerous examples of Sweden (to name but one nation) representing the British position and getting a far more favourable reception than if the message came directly from the bowels of Whitehall via a Whitehall messenger – despite the message being the same.

The US probably has even greater need to employ indirect/third party diplomacy to pass messages as well.

The suggestion that wrapping what would be a well received “democracy” message in something other than the EU flag and fronting it with opposition politicians in places like Donetsk therefore seemed logical and nothing particularly unusual to the likes of Mr Pyatt I suspect – at least I would hope that is the case!

To add some weight to my statement, and rather fortuitously for me, a fresh public opinion survey has been published that would seem to corroborate my entry – 89.5% supporting democratic reforms as the goal.

Hurrah and huzzah for democracy and all those pillars that support it!  (Polite golf ripple applause for me stating the obvious without statistics at the time to corroborate what was written.)

However, amongst all those interesting survey statistics, it would appear that still only 43.3% support the signing of the EU Association Agreement – showing very little change from the 45% that supported it in October – in fact within the margin of error that would show no change whatsoever.  Whether the EU insistence relating to Ms Tymoshenko is a factor in little change seems unclear – but only 42.1% support the release of Ms Tymoshenko – a figure very similar to the 43.3% in favour of signing the EU Association Agreement.

Now it has to be said that the Delegation of the EU to Ukraine has retreated back into its safety zone of Facebook sharing and retweeting comments of EU politicians and little more (aside from the occasional self-generated expression of concern for Berkut actions and the beating of journalists – in line with EU politicians of course).  Thus actively carrying the pro Association Agreement fight directly to Ukrainian society has stopped as quickly as that policy started.

Perhaps the OSCE Charter weighs on that decision now, when it didn’t before?

Perhaps, the EU Association Agreement must now necessarily play a secondary roll – even if temporarily – as societal opinions and circumstances have changed.

When a robust democracy consolidating 89.5% are in favour of all reforms democratic in nature – if not economic – but only 43.3% in favour of signing the EU AA/DCFTA – then the question relating to the messenger and associated flags takes on great importance – an issue my original entry was designed to raise.

The EU AA/DCFTA is seemingly no longer the main driving cause for protesters – democracy – with all its supporting pillars – is – with or without a signed Association Agreement.

It is now about (European) standards of democratic governance – and I feel obliged to point out that two of the most highly rated democracies in Europe are those of Switzerland and Norway – neither of which are EU nations.

The battle is now where it should be (according to 89.5% of those surveyed).  That battle being for democratic, transparent, inclusive, good and responsive government.  For accountable institutions of State.  A genuine cross cutting cleavage of importance within Ukrainian society – regardless of which feckless political party or political leader they vote for.  A battle that is of ideology and not framed by trade agreements.

Now, like it or not domestically, whether the current leadership, the opposition, or the dark hand of Viktor Medvedchuk – a player in this current act with his own itinerary,  seemingly forgotten by many when it comes to vested interests in the outcome of “notable incidents” and conspiracy theories – the desire for a consolidated and genuine democracy has been given a good dose of miracle-grow by the failure of Vilnius and ill-thought through “now or never” rhetoric that accompanied it, plus a good helping of mismanagement and/or loss of control by President Yanukovych.

As I wrote previously “Not exactly an intractable problem to find or create a different and more acceptable messenger (with or without different and more acceptable paraphernalia) carrying the same core message that would gather public support in the East.” – So let’s see who takes up that gauntlet.  Somebody will – but probably not draped in the EU flag when doing so.


Sorry I won’t be coming, a matter of principle – Євромайдан 1st January 2014

December 30, 2013

Regular visitor as I am to Євромайдан in Odessa, partially in a supportive role of gaining a more genuine, robust and responsive democracy in Ukraine – eventually – and partially due to quite obvious political science interests, I must explain why I won’t be attending the Євромайдан gathering on New Years Day.

This is not going to be due to a lack of sleep or an overindulgence of alcohol.  It is not due to a weakening in my support for the cause of democracy – that remains as robust as ever.

It is due to one simple decision by Svoboda – and by default the opposition parties of UDAR, Batkivshchyna, and civil society through either their firm or tacit support by allowing that day’s gathering to be hijacked.

Svoboda has decided that as 1st January is the date upon which Stepan Bandera was born, it will be a celebration of his birth – and that the gathered  Євромайдан crowds will celebrate it with them.

Well, to be blunt I won’t allow myself to be used in such a way.

I do not stand in the cold and/or rain, talk to people, take photographs and make my support for a more democratic Ukraine known, for it to subsequently be reframed as support for a Ukrainian historical character of dubious deeds and that represents far right nationalism in today’s Ukraine.

Neither will I partake in any nationalist chanting or flag waving.

I am not supporting the democratic ideals behind Євромайдан for it to usher in nationalism – whether it does or not as a result.  And legislation such as this opposition proposal stands a very good chance of being misused if that ever happened!

Whilst I recognise the current need for there to be, if not unity, a working relationship between opposition political parties and their supporters – and I readily accept that Svoboda has far higher demonstrator representation, vis a vis the other parties, than is representative of their national political popularity otherwise – I have no desire to spend that day perceived to be idolising Stepan Bandera or supporting Ukrainian nationalism.

I am no more supportive of far right nationalism than I am of communism.  Both are exceptionally cancerous and damaging ideologies to which I have not, do not, and will not, be associated with by way of misrepresentation should I simply turn up – as I would otherwise have done – for Євромайдан 1st January.

Quite why UDAR, Batkivshchyna and civil society has allowed what would otherwise be a significant day – the first protest gathering on the first day of 2014 – to have its integrity compromised like this is beyond me.

I refuse to be used as a “numbers pawn” in what will only magnify east/west divisions over Stepan Bandera and the OUN, with harm to the integrity of Євромайдан itself a likely result.

Inclusiveness and tolerance are what is needed to unite all of society behind the democratic cause – for that is a genuine societal cross cutting cleavage.  Svoboda’s branding of the New Year’s Day Євромайдан demonstration a celebration of Stepan Bandera’s birthday is most definitely not going to do that.

In fact, if I worked for the forces of Mordor it would be used to as ammunition to further erode Євромайдан support in my traditional voter constituencies.

Thus I shall probably show up at the following Євромайдан gatherings later in January – and with nothing to get up for on 1st January any more – will probably drink a little in excess now too.


The management reserves the right – Євромайдан only brothel

December 29, 2013

Although quite probably part of an obvious and much broader tactic by the authorities to discredit those at – and supporting – Євромайдан  – and therefore more serious in its intent than this post is likely to portray – you cannot help but wonder, if true, whether this alleged Євромайдан only brothel is simply a case of the management reserving the right to refuse admission.

Stage managed and spurious as this may very well be, without wishing to cause offence to the lady in question, you do have to wonder whether custom can be turned away based on an ideology considering the numerous and far more aesthetic/appealing alternatives in that line of work that pre-existed Євромайдан.

What next?  Same sex couples amongst the supporters?  Gay clergy?

Somehow I expect it will be much harder to smear Євромайдан out of existence than the authorities may think.

Nevertheless, a probable staged smear propaganda piece designed to dismay the conservative and religious when it comes to those supporters of liberal democracy.


Shooting the messenger in the Donbass – євромайдан

December 28, 2013

Much of what has been written in this blog over the past few weeks has been євромайдан-centric.  It has been generally supportive and also occasionally critical – as I am a democracy advocate.

Anything peaceful and law abiding that promotes or strives for democracy and all its supporting pillars I would find very difficult not to support.

However, it would be easy to think that the entire country supports the євромайдан cause given the majority western media coverage.  In the interests of fairness, it is necessary to be mindful that it is most certainly not so.

The above YouTube clip – with English subtitles – clearly makes that case.

Or does it?

Marching through Donetsk with the EU flag is probably not the best way to engage many there in open minded dialogue.  The response would be similar to marching through Lviv with the Customs Union flag and expecting an open minded dialogue.

It is not as though people in Donetsk – at least those I know – do not want a more robust and responsive  democracy.  They do.  They want rule of law, a free media, their basic freedoms of speech and assembly and all the other pillars of a democratic society.

The problem for them is not necessarily the message – but the messenger (and the messenger’s paraphernalia).

Not exactly an intractable problem to find or create a different and more acceptable messenger (with or without different and more acceptable paraphernalia) carrying the same core message that would gather public support in the East.


A rent-seeking, feckless, corrupt & predatory State – but terrorist tactics? Ukraine

December 27, 2013

When it comes to the State and its institutions, Ukraine is often a multi-labeled entity.  Rent-seeking, feckless, corrupt and predatory – to name some of those most commonly used.

All are quite accurate and vary only in degree at any time – regardless of which government or president you care to put under the microscope since independence rudely fell into the laps of the Ukrainian elite in 1991.

To say that elite has been very slow to relax its grasp on the nation and allow a genuine democratic space to expand in the controlled manner expected within a textbook transition to a consolidated democracy would be something of an understatement.  It has been positively glacial, and as a result the Ukrainian society has outgrown the political class.

No administration or president has been able to find the will to release the judiciary from its influence.  None have managed to repel the desire to curtail and intimidate the media.  All have gorged themselves at the public trough.  Each and every one has misused their office and immunity with impunity.  Selective justice has been a constant – as has selective lack of justice.  Corruption has not only be tolerated but willfully ignored (and participated in) despite the myriad of laws created by numerous administrations.

Murder, rape and pillage – though not every day events by any means – have literally occurred amongst the elite themselves, of the nation, of Ukrainian citizens and of businesses under (and by some) within every administration with little consequence as a result.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say, trust in the political class is almost non-existent.  Likewise the institutions of State.  Accountability and responsibility are words that exist only in the dictionary for the political class – unless pointing fingers at others of course.

However, “terrorist” is not a label that is associated with the Ukrainian State or its institutions – and rightly so in its academic and/or political sense when it comes to generally accepted definitions – though scholars are divided over precise definitions with regard the “terrorist State”.  Much dependent on the use of State or non-State actors to achieve desired results.

Nevertheless, of late the tactics of the terrorist seem to be a guide to some within “the State” that they are increasingly prepared to employ.

By way of simple analogy, let us consider the following:

Why do terrorists strike at embassies and consulates in foreign lands?

(There are several reasons of course, but this entry is not going to turn into a short essay on terrorism.)

One reason is of accessibility.  It is there, exposed and a physical representation of what has offended them in some way that they are able to target relatively easily.  In attacking it – or threatening to – the message is to the core which is not easily accessible to them, that it is unable to protect itself on the periphery.

It is – and will always be – vulnerable at its edges.

How is the core going to protect its periphery without great expense?  How will it reassure its people they are safe when the periphery is attacked and damage sustained?  How does it respond without being seen as “disproportionate” in its response?

We need only look to yesterday’s entry and the incidents with Tatyana Chernovil and Dmytro Pylypets to see a clear parallel – if we are to decide to connect them to each other and to Євромайдан .

Having tried and failed via the Berkut to end Євромайдан at its core – with very counterproductive results – the obvious strategy is to then look to its periphery and high profile targets.  Especially those making life uncomfortable if they are easily accessible.

In this case Євромайдан coordinator in the PoR heartland of Kharkiv, Dmytro Pylypets, and journalist/ Євромайдан supporter Tatyana Chornivil, were certainly offending for some – and accessible.

Two attacks on 24th December in two separate places of two fairly high profile Євромайдан supporters occurred within only a few hours of each other.

If we consider them connected – even if not coordinated – the clear messages are that safety ends when you leave the  Євромайдан throng.  Євромайдан has no method of protecting you when you step out from behind its barricades.  There is no great financial resource to provide security to protect you when outside – and who knows who is next, so how to protect them?

Євромайдан cannot respond by arming everyone for that is firstly disproportionate, and secondly depending upon how and with what, it pushes the borders of legality to its limits.  Acting legally has been a critical and integral part of the movement, in no small part instrumental in garnering considerable international support and respect.  That cannot and should not be abandoned.

Simplistic analogy complete – How wide is the gap between examples or the mens rea that drives them?

Statements such as this are not scarce on social media:

Evgen Vorobiov @vorobyov 3h

Tetiana Chornovol’s beating sends clear message: “no one is safe”. Contracted violence vs journalists in #Ukraine may become the new norm
Reply Retweet Favorite More Expand

A statement that would please any terrorist – the psychological effect deemed to be successful, regardless of the actual  success of any attack – and sadly both incidents of 24th December were successful in delivering physically damaging messages as well.

However, I suspect it will strengthen, rather than weaken, the resolve of most – similar to the counterproductive attempts via the Berkut.

It may also bring about reprisals and a the worry escalation by some parties.

In the case of Tatyana Chornovil, there are at least clues.  It takes no effort to see the registration number of this Porsche Cayenne.

In fact 2 men have been arrested and a third is sought in relation to her assault – but a Porsche Cayenne is not a vehicle minor thugs drive – or one minor thugs would use for a “hard stop”.  It belongs to somebody with connections – and the money to repair a Porsche Cayenne.

Has it come to the point where to fight the Євромайдан/democratic ideology, terrorist tactics – disguised and seen by most as nothing more than violent crimes – have become the method of choice when it comes to dealing with the Євромайдан issues by some within the State apparatus?

Perhaps these actions and identifying the tactics as those of terrorism – rather than separate or coordinate acts of criminal violence – would be no bad thing.  It would possibly open up additional (terrorism led) legal levers within the EU and USA to pursue – or at least threaten to pursue – the assets of certain figures of interest within and associated with those in power deemed to have sway over the use – or not – of such tactics.

It would take some very creative thinkers in the diplomatic boilers rooms to make these incidents fit far reaching laws based on terrorism – but there are indeed creative thinkers in the diplomatic boiler rooms of many a nation.

It is also not difficult to frame the current tactics recently displayed as those of the terrorist either by employing numerous recent instances to make a more compelling case – far more robustly than I have above using a single example.

It’s all about deciding to make the picture fit the frame or the frame fit (possibly part) of the picture when it comes to desired outcomes after all.

You can imagine the conversation behind closed diplomatic doors now can’t you – even if simply a veiled threat.

“Hello again (insert name), you’re looking well.  Tea?  Coffee?  Please, take a seat.  

Not seen you here at the Embassy for a while.  You’ve been busy I hear.  Glad you could make time to call in.

To matters of import.  Unfortunately it seems those within (Whitehall/Washington/Berlin/Paris/Brussels/delete as appropriate) maybe looking at the recent violent incidents towards (individuals/organisation insert names) as a coordinated and organised act using tactics not dissimilar to those employed in terrorism.

It opens up all kinds of cans of worms for those believed associated directly or indirectly as you can imagine, if that terrorism tinted lens is the lens they decide to view things through in (insert capital city) – I’m sure you can see that.

Of the names floating around, it would appear you have not been spared.  Now of course I hear what you say regarding your lack of involvement and will be glad to convey your assurances of such sentiment.  Hopefully that will be enough to insure travel restrictions, persona non grata, asset freezing etc are avoided as far as you are concerned.  We can but try eh?

As you know it becomes terribly complicated and long-winded to remove people from a list associated with,  of  all things terrorism, once they are placed on it.  Damned bureaucracy eh?  Will take us all to an early grave ha ha!

Thought I would make you aware in the spirit of fair play given our personal relationship.  Give you a chance to truly distance yourself from such a carry-on before decisions are made by those above my pay grade.

Perhaps it won’t come to all that if incidents of such a nature cease.  You know how these things concentrate minds in far off capitals one moment, and are then put on the back-burner when something else comes up.

Anyway, how’s the wife?  How is (insert name)?  The children?


Interior Minister must go after grevious Chernovil assault

December 26, 2013

When this article by Tatyana Chernovil relating to the home of Interior Minster Zakharchenko published at 2138 hours on 24th December results in the photographs below just a few hours later – quite simply you know that by choosing to support the people of Євромайдан, you have chosen the right path.

beaten journo

This incident on the back of the repeated stabbing in the leg of Dmytro Pylypets,  Євромайдан organiser in Kharkiv earlier the same evening.

Quite clearly President Yanukovych (either temporarily or permanently) has lost control of his people in government.

Already under pressure following the unnecessary and disgraceful incidents of Berkut brutality against Євромайдан protesters, Mr. Zakharchenko now needs to resign or be replaced with immediate effect at the Interior Ministry – nothing less will do.

Whether Mr. Zakharchenko is personally behind this heinous incident, whether his underlings through misguided loyalty took it upon themselves to carry out this grievous assault , or in the unlikely event of coincidence, the current Interior Minister’s position is now untenable.

Naturally sincere wishes for a speedy recovery go to Tatyana Chernovil and Dmytro Pylypets.


Unlikely options – Splitting the AA/DCFTA

December 25, 2013

About a week ago, when mulling possibilities looking forward for Ukraine, I wroteWould it be too perverse to consider that by applying and implementing that democracy AA framework now to appease the євромайдан movement and dull the subject as an election issue simultaneously, on the back of today’s Russian economic lifeline, circumstance may conspire to lead to a more democratic Ukraine within a Eurasion Union.

Well, unsurprise, unsurprise!  That very possibility of signing up to the Association Agreement relating to democratic European norms, whilst shunning/delaying the DCFTA section with the EU – presumably in favour of the Eurasian Union or the status quo with regard to trade and trade partners, is now being muted by the Ukrainian leadership.

How seriously it is being worked upon, whether in good faith, or in bad faith to buy time and be seen to be doing something “European” in relation to democratic standards etc, is a different matter.

However, going back in time a few years, (and you can’t say I didn’t forecast the current situation we now see back in 2011) the EU made the Association Agreement and DCFTA an inseparable document on the presumption that the feckless Ukrainian leadership would pursue the DCFTA with little intent to follow through on the “political” Association Agreement.  Business and economic interests would see a large degree of actioning by the Ukrainian elite, whilst the “values” would be left aside.

As I suggested then – over 2 years ago – the Eurasian Union spectre loomed far larger than the EU seemed to recognise, and it would perhaps be wise to provide a mechanism to split the AA from the DCFTA, thus allowing one part to progress if the other was blocked.

So, unlikely as it probably seemed to many readers back then, and unlikely as it is that the EU will split off the AA from the DCFTA, now, for obvious domestic reasons, the AA is seemingly the desired protocol – rather than the DCFTA as the EU then feared – for the government at this juncture, according to Speaker Rybak.

Theoretically how does the EU react to reduced interest in the signing of the DCFTA but a continued interest in signing the political, values driven Association Agreement alone?  Will it prevent the possible signing of a values driven agreement over a trade deal it bolted to it?

The EU has always proclaimed that values (AA) were and are the driver.  Євромайдан is about values and not trade.  Nobody is naive enough to believe that signed or not, some immediately mutually beneficial parts of the DCFTA will be accommodated regardless – if quietly.

Naturally, without the DCFTA the EU has far less levers when it comes to the timely adoption and implementation of the AA – at least levers that would have been contained within the DCFTA would be mute.  But it does have other levers should it decide to agree to sign the values driven AA at the temporary – or permanent – expense of the DCFTA.

It would allow the EU to proclaim a values driven AA victory via an internationally recognised political association.  It would allow the Kremlin to proclaim an economics framed victory – the public framing of the Kremlin’s “brotherly concerns” for Ukraine.  It would, to some degree, blunt some painful political issues for the current President from all sides – though perhaps too late in the day.

A much sought “win-win” (though better described as a draw in such circumstances) if the publicly proclaimed drivers of current positions by all sides are indeed the genuine drivers that shape their policy – or even if they’re not.

If only things were as easy as that eh?

(For those who may think that I may have imbibed a little too much Christmas cheer when writing this – well, you may just be right – but it doesn’t make what is written beyond the realms of possibility when options are few.)


CSTO consider Євромайдан a threat

December 24, 2013

It seems that Євромайдан has been targeted by the (Russian led) Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and identified as a threat similar to “colour revolutions” – which it quantifies as “a special model of the coup using political, information, communication , moral and psychological methods of influence, and its ultimate goal – the complete disintegration of the state, the change of power and the establishment of foreign control over the country” – according to a Kommersant article.

Apparently those pesky “Western opponents of the Russian Federation manipulate international institutions election observation , actively influence the minds of Internet users, through NGOs and the media form a distorted picture of public sentiment.”  – Blimey, I didn’t know we still had it in us to do that collectively.  The EU normally works on the lowest common denominator agreed by all, and it would take a long time to reach such a consensus as described above – particularly when such nefarious deeds are normally a very sovereign affair.

But a threat to the CSTO?  Well of course – both in terms of regional instability to use a broad – and very real –  expression, but also the casuistic democracy gene may infiltrate CSTO society with renewed vigor.  A terribly bad thing to happen for those sat atop a power vertical – the fall is often unsightly from such lofty heights.

The recommendations of this CSTO summit?  The “generation of counter-propaganda tools“.

None of this is a surprise of course.  The only questions are once those counter-propaganda tools have been generated are they used defensively or pro-actively?  Are they strictly used domestically, or projected?

Does it matter?

These days acting pro-actively seems to be the de facto definition of defence.  Perhaps the question would be better worded as to whether they will be used passively or aggressively – home or abroad?

Of course the task is now to counter-propaganda the counter propaganda.

Now, I will wish those readers who celebrate Christmas on 25th December, a very, very merry Christmas!

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