Archive for February, 2014

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Crimean Consternation – Ukraine

February 28, 2014

I closed yesterday’s entry with “Meanwhile a wary eye kept on events in Crimea – it will be telling as to the reception the World Congress of Tatars delegation receives when considering they are based in Tatarstan (part of the Russian Federation)  and the resurfacing of Viktor Yanukovych in Russia under Russian protection.”

This morning Arsen Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs) stated that an “armed invasion and occupation” is underway in and around Bekbek and Simferopol airports:

“Крым. Докладываю положение по итогам ночи, что бы не питались слухами:

1. Аэропорт Бельбек. Заблокирован военными подразделениями флота РФ. Внутри аэропорта находятся военные и пограничники Украины. Снаружи – военные в камуфляже и с оружием без опознавательных знаков, но не скрывающие своей принадлежности. Аэропорт не работает. На внешнем периметре посты МВД Украины. Вооруженного столкновения пока нет.

2. Аэропорт Симферополь. Около 12 ночи группа в гражданском, около 100 человек, назвавшаяся казачьей сотней, преодолев ограждение на территорию аэропорта вышла на поле аэродрома.
Силами внутренних войск и милиции эти люди были оттеснены сначала в здание аэропорта, а затем и вовсе за территорию. Оружие не применялось. Район аэропорта был покинут «казаками» около часа ночи – погрузились на тентованные камазы и уехали.
Около 1.30 ночи в здание аэропорта прибыли на нескольких грузовиках 119 военных с автоматическим оружием в камуфляже без опознавательных знаков. Вошли в здание аэропорта, разместились в помещении ресторана. Не скрывают своей принадлежности к вооруженным силам российской федерации. На вопросы украинских сотрудников мвд « вы военные и не имеете право тут находится» – отвечают коротко – не имеем инструкций вести с вами переговоры. Ситуация статична, оружие с обоих сторон не применялось. Русские военные статично наблюдают за работой аэропорта, прямо не вмешиваясь.

Внутренние войска и мвд Украины усилили наряды в районе аэропорта. Напряжение нарастает.
Противостоять регулярным военным силам органы правопорядка не смогут.

Происходящее оцениваю, как ВООРУЖЕННОЕ ВТОРЖЕНИЕ И ОКУПАЦИЯ. В НАРУШЕНИЕ ВСЕХ МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫХ ДОГОВОРОВ И НОРМ. Это прямая провокация вооруженного кровопролития на территории суверенного государства.
Это уже не компетенция МВД. Это компетенция СНБО.
 Пока еще нет прямого вооруженного столкновения, должны говорить дипломаты.”

Indeed what became a protest for good transparent democratic governance centered in Kyiv, has morphed into a serious and tense separatist problem in Crimea.

With such dangerous events in Crimea making the headlines, perhaps my perceived almost willful ignorance in hardly mentioning it needs correcting – at least in this blog.  Regarding Crimea I been ruminating in several other parts of cyberspace that whilst others were looking to eastern Ukraine as the problem area for national unity, it would be seated with the Autonomous Republic.

Indeed as very fluid and seemingly spontaneous events unfold in Crimea, a few words on one of the more extreme issues facing The Kremlin should it pursue some form of direct – or less than subtle indirect – policy of annexing Crimea, or parts therein.

As stated yesterday, it will be telling to see just what sort of reception the World Congress of Tatars Delegation receives upon its arrival in Crimea given it is resident in Tatarstan – part of the Russian Federation.

Despite all the noise from Kyiv, Crimea itself, Russia, the EU and USA there has until now been silence from a very close and influential player – Turkey.  That, however, has eventually changed – and predictably it supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine in line with the sentiments of the Crimean Tatars.  Who would have thought it would be any other way?

It is no secret that is would be almost impossible for any European nation seeking to become a member of the EU to do so with a frozen conflict or unsettled territorial issues.  Lesson learned from Cyprus as far as the EU is concerned.

Thus any plans to annex Crimea either directly or via the creation of a Transnistria styled frozen conflict would if not delivering a pliant Ukraine to the Kremlin, certainly prevent a Ukraine that will become an EU Member State.  A de facto Russian veto on EU membership whilst ever it kept the frozen conflict going.

Whether the Crimean parliament’s announcement of a referendum on 25th May regarding the expansion of autonomous powers (not quite secession) will prove to be a solution is difficult to answer – especially as the Crimean Tatar are hardly going to welcome the donning of a Kremlin yoke once more, either directly or via subterfuge and proxy governance.

In the worst possible case scenario relating to the (deliberate) creation of a frozen conflict, or the annexing in part or in whole of Crimea, one has to doubt the outcome would be as reliable and subdued as that of Transnistria from a Russian perspective – given the intense desire of the Crimean Tatar to remain Ukrainian – or perhaps better stated, anything but Russian – a Chechen outcome would seem far more likely.

Whilst Russia may realise that it will not get what it wants with regard to Ukraine – it also knows what it doesn’t want.   The question is whether it is prepared to create and then deal with another insurgency by following a very destabilising policy in Crimea?

As The Kremlin is not beyond taking self-inflicted wounds in pursuit of its goals – will this be one of them?

Meanwhile are the lawyers of the USA and UK looking at the Budapest Memorandum with a view to honouring it with integrity – or for wiggle room to avoid their 1994 commitments?

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Committing political suicide – Ukraine

February 28, 2014

With the new leadership in Ukraine already coming under fire from OSCE for media censorship, no money, costly social promises to fulfill from the previous administration – or difficult explanations as to why this administration won’t keep the promises of the last one – external and internal sabre rattling threatening the integrity of Ukraine itself, the newly appointed government is surely committing political suicide with a raft of very necessary and very, very unpopular decisions to make.

A point not lost on Arseniy Yatseniuk it seems.

It will be a challenge indeed to make necessary very unpopular decisions whilst trying to keep a lid on so many simmering and potentially volatile issues.

Regardless of what anyone may think of the new look government – and it contains no UDAR party members – it has a particularly difficult time ahead over the few months we can expect it to last.

However, considering so many gave their lives in recent days, there are worse things than political suicide.

(Meanwhile a wary eye kept on events in Crimea – it will be telling as to the reception the World Congress of Tatars delegation receives when considering they are based in Tatarstan (part of the Russian Federation)  and the resurfacing of Viktor Yanukovych in Russia under Russian protection.)

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EU sanctions – Still needed? Alternatives? Ukraine

February 27, 2014

I have written about the issue of “EU sanctions” already.  Several times actually, so use the search facility if you are that interested.

Eventually when the body count got high enough, all 28 Member States agreed the need for sanctions – except no sanctions were or have been implemented yet.

In fact, thus far, a provisional and collectively agreed list contains only 8 names – with many others as yet far from agreement when it comes to their inclusion.

Who should be on the list? – Mykola Azarov (former Prime Minister), Oleksandr Efremov (Party of Regions MP), Anatoliy Holovin (former President of the Constitutional Court), Yuriy Ivanushchenko (Party of Regions MP, alleged to control Yanukovych’s regional “chiefs”), Serhiy Kliuyev (brother of Yanukovych’s former chief of staff), Oleksandr Klymenko (former Chief of Tax Administration), Vadym Kolisnichenko (Deputy Chairman of Party of Regions), Serhiy Kurchenko (Ukrainian businessman and perceived front for Viktor Pshonka ), Viktor Medvedchuk (President Puntin’s messenger), Volodymyr Oliynyk (Party of Regions MP), Eduard Stavitskyi (former Minister of Ecology & Natural Resources), Dmytro Tabachnyk (former Education Minister), Oleksandr Yanukovych (former president’s older son), Viktor Yanukovych (former President), Viktor Yanukovych Jnr. (former president’s younger son)?

Perhaps it should include Serhiy Asaveliuk (former chief of BBVV special operations), Myhailo Dobkin (Governor of regional administration in Kharkiv, employer of “titushki,”/ hired thugs), Gennadiy Kernes (Mayor of Kharkiv, allegedly linked to titushki use), Valeriy Koriak (former Kiev police chief), Oleksiy Krykun (former senior official in Kiev police), Valeriy Mazan (former senior Interior Ministry official), Oleksandr Popov (former chief of Kiev municipal administration), Andriy Portnov (Yanukovych’s former Deputy Chief of Staff), Viktor Ratushniak (former Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs), Volodymyr Sivkovych (former Deputy Secretary of the National Security & Defense Council of Ukraine), Stanislav Shuliak (former BBVV chief), Volodymyr Totskyi (former head of the SBU’s couner-terrorist “Alpha” squad), Oleh Tsariov (MP Party of Regions) and Oleksandr Shchogoliev (former head of Kiev branch of SBU)?

It surely must begin with Serhiy Arbuzov (former Deputy Prime Minister), Yuriy Ilyin (former Chief of Ukrainian Army), Andriy Kluyev (Yanukovych’s former Chief of Staff), Pavlo Lebediev (former Minister of Defence), Olena Lukash (former Justice Minister), Viktor Pshonka (former Prosecutor General), Oleksandr Yakymenko (former head of Ukraine’s domestic intelligence service, the SBU), Vitaliy Zakharchenko (former Interior Minister) shouldn’t it?

But –

As sanctions are traditionally employed (be they targeted at individuals or nations alike) to change the direction of the leadership and not as a punishment for past deeds – the question now arises as to whether the EU Member States will actually sanction anybody at all.

Certainly there must now be a large question mark over the process – as there will be few EU Member States that will want to move the parameters of sanctions from “direction changing tools” to that of “punishment” after the fact.

For the record, I belong to the school of thought that sanctions are not an instrument of punishment, but of direction.  Ergo, they are not an appropriate tool any more.

Perhaps the mere threat of sanctions was partially instrumental to how everything unfolded as it did?

After all, the fact the word “former” appears before all the titles above clearly dictates sanctions will no longer effect the direction of the leadership, as leadership they no longer be.

However the EU cannot be seen to do nothing – it has already lost a great deal of credibility with the Ukrainian public for doing too little too late.

Perhaps the EU Member States, in an effort to support the “EU brand” in Ukraine, would be wise to make a very public declaration that all assets held within their sovereign territories belonging to, or believed to belong to, any names that would have been on an agreed sanctions list, will now be subjected to criminal investigation regarding money laundering as a far better alternative?

It would certainly be a way to drip-feed the EU consistently into the Ukrainian media over the coming months (and possibly years) as assets are systematically frozen, seized and repatriated (where possible).

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Out of Africa – ICC requested in Ukraine

February 26, 2014

In an interesting development, today the RADA passed a resolution asking the International Criminal Court to try Viktor Yanukovych (and associates) in The Hague.

I have written about the ICC and The Rome Statute before – in fact I have been featured on the CICC website in the past.

Less than a week ago Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, the Regional Coordinator for Europe of the CICC and myself were engaged in discussion over any role for the ICC in relation to the occurrences within Ukraine – in summary then agreeing that the ICC indeed had a role and perhaps an obligation to at the very least collect evidence even if matters remained outside their jurisdiction.

Today changes the dynamic of our discussion quite obviously – but – there are Constitutional issues as I have previously written.

On 20th January 2000, Ukraine signed the Rome Statute and on 27th January 2007 it acceded to an agreement on the privileges and immunities of the ICC – however it has never ratified its signing of the Rome Statute in 2000 – prevented in doing so by a Ukrainian Constitutional Court ruling on 12th July 2001, that stated amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution would be required to do so.

The constitutional “issue” being the provision stating that “an International Criminal Court is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions” (paragraph 10 of the Preamble and Article 1 of the Rome Statute) as eloquently made clear here by Viktor Kryzhanivskyi on 2006, the then Ukrainian Charge D’Affaires to the UN.

That being the only issue within the Rome Statute preventing Ukrainian ratification, despite mention of the loosely worded “crimes of aggression” court competence under which it is likely Vitkor Yanukovych (and associates) will fall foul.

Thus, it may very well be that the RADA vote, despite Ukraine being a signatory to the Rome Statute, is in fact unconstitutional.  To circumvent this possible “legality” for Viktor Yanukovych, perhaps another route should be taken to allow ICC jurisdiction that would have less wiggle room for defence lawyers?

There is a possible solution in that the UN can direct the ICC to investigate this issue and perhaps a RADA appeal to the UN would be wise to run in tandem with the direct request to the ICC itself.

Naturally the UN route is not without problems either – for such a direction must come from the UNSC, upon which Russia sits with veto in hand.

Perhaps OSCE investigations and the European Courts would be an easier route for independent, unbiased judicial due process?

The RADA wisely removing the perceived corruption of Ukrainian courts from the domestic public perception is understandable – but it must be belt and braces secure in the legal mechanisms to do so.

In short, can or should any Ukrainian government offer up Ukrainian citizens – no matter their alleged crimes or how obnoxious they be – to the jurisdiction of a court that its own Constitutional Court prevented the ratified recognition of?  Messy?

Whatever the case, the ICC will be very keen to get “out of Africa” given the opportunity!

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Priorities – or not! RADA Ukraine

February 25, 2014

In yesterday’s entry I wrote “A time for great care when controlling the euphoria of new found power. Legislate in haste and repent at leisure. Inclusiveness and tolerance must prevail – contentious issues allowed to be considered with far cooler and less emotive heads.”

Common sense you would expect on the back of a week that culminated in almost 100 dead, thousands injured, the pendulum swing of power within the RADA, the removal of a president etc.  Deal with the priorities, form a new interim government, hold elections as swiftly as is practicable within the confines of efficiency, transparency and rule of law, look to the immediate economic issues, issues of serious criminality over the past months – and above all, remain tolerant and inclusive whilst the entirety of Ukrainian society adjusts to the new situation.

So what happens?  Yesterday the controversial  language law of 2012 is reversed.  Contentious as it was when passed, and undoubtedly Svoboda need to be fed some legislative victories for their efforts of the past months, you have to ask whether this, in the current circumstances, was a priority?  You have to ask whether this is inclusive and tolerant in a time of flux and societal uncertainty?  An act appropriate for an interim government – or one that should be left to a government with a more robustly tenured mandate?

There is no need to ask why the western international reaction – whilst not directly identifying this issue – indirectly warned against inflaming old political and regional divisions when unity, tolerance and inclusiveness are absolutely vital to retain the integrity of Ukraine at this time.

In light of such an unnecessary political act at such a sensitive moment, it is no surprise that the international community seems keen to get involved before more ill-timed political decisions are made by interim authorities that will further inflame rather than calm matters.

Of course Svoboda must get some reward for its supporters efforts – nobody expects otherwise – but for several weeks its leadership needs to allow the entire nation to accept the current situation – if not the first serious social unrest problems of yesterday in Odessa and Sevastopol during the entire past few months may have simply moved the fighting from Kyiv to the provinces through untimely political posturing.

Calls for the banning of the Communist Party and Party of Regions are also ill-timed.  To remove these parties from the mainstream political discourse when they represent so many millions of voters and legitimately passed the 5% threshold to enter the RADA is simply unhelpful.  Party of Regions may well split and unravel under the weight of its own internal divisions.  It may rebrand.  But there cannot be a political void for those millions who did vote for them lest even greater violence is the desired outcome.

How long before the political class and society calmly reflect upon the fact that what may have begun as protests over the failure to sign agreements with the EU certainly did not end with that as the driver?  How long before cool heads consider the fact that this question is not necessarily settled within the Ukrainian constituency despite the protests.

The result of the protests and aftermath we live through today may well (and I certainly hope) have robustly raised the demands of society for good democratic and transparent governance from the political class – as that was the undeniable driver of the protests at the end – but the EU question is perhaps not as resolved as some may want to think.

I shall close once again with the paragraph from yesterday’s entry ” A time for great care when controlling the euphoria of new found power.  Legislate in haste and repent at leisure.  Inclusiveness and tolerance must prevail – contentious issues allowed to be considered with far cooler and less emotive heads.”

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More haste, less speed – What to support in Ukraine?

February 24, 2014

Matters, unsurprisingly, are moving a great speed in Ukraine.  There now currently – but for how long – exists a super-majority sympathetic to the majority of opposition tactics.  I will deliberately refrain from using the word “strategies” as that infers far greater thought and a future trajectory of policy that currently is yet to make itself known.

A time for great care when controlling the euphoria of new found power.  Legislate in haste and repent at leisure.   Inclusiveness and tolerance must prevail – contentious issues allowed to be considered with far cooler and less emotive heads.

Following on from yesterday’s entry, it is both saddening and worrying that amongst the 3 candidates for Prime Minister of any new (interim) government (be it one of national unity or otherwise) Ms Tymoshenko is nominated together with Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk.

Quite simply a disaster in the making should she get the post.  She has no concept of tolerance, inclusiveness cross cutting cleavages or compromise.  She understands nothing other than oligarchical/autocratic governance and Ukrainian society has outgrown such politics.

No sooner was she released yesterday did she announce her candidacy for president and immediately state that the people were right to refuse to accept the negotiated EU deal brokered the day before – a clear swipe at Messrs Klitschko, Yatseniuk and Tyahnybok who agreed it.

Heartening as it was that her reception in Kyiv was little more than tepid – few people do rhetoric better than Ms Tymoshenko and there is time for her to use that ability to make favourable gains amongst the electorate.  Fortunately most Ukrainians have good memories and will not forget she has been a significant part of a systemic political problem and not a viable solution.

The “West” will also remember their extreme “Tymoshenko fatigue” when she was last in power.  Whilst it may welcome her freedom, it will not relish her return to political power.

Thus returning to my entry yesterday and the necessary end to personality politics in Ukraine, there is quite obviously a need to create a new government – preferably one without Ms Tymoshenko in it.  There is a need for “the west” to be supportive of this government – and not individuals within it.

Once accomplished, there is an equally – if not more – important need for “the west” to support the Ukrainian institutions of state quite separately from the government.  Now is a time for those institutions to firmly plant a “keep off the grass” sign for the political class of Ukraine.  The “west” need to actively encourage the institutions to do so – now – immediately – today.

Now is the time for those institutions to demand the independence necessary for democratic vertical and horizontal accountability.  Now is the time for “the west” to offer robust,vocal and tangible support for any and every institution of state that comes under undemocratic and undue pressure from any new government.

Now is the time that “the west” should make this absolutely clear to the interim and future authorities and the institutions of state – for those that will now assume power and lead these state institutions also have assets in Europe, and Visas that can be revoked for acting against the democratic interests of the Ukrainian people.

Prevention is better than cure – and strategies to instigate immediately – and support – attempts by institutions of state to obtain genuine independence from government must be a priority for the western political and diplomatic class.

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The necessary end to personality politics – Ukraine

February 23, 2014

I am going to allow myself to fast-forward past the next few days and weeks of flux and uncertainty in Ukraine – past lazy western media clichés, past self-praise by external actors over the outcomes of which they have been little more than bit-part players, oft far too late in their actions.

I will look past Constitutional issues, past whether the opposition parties will retain a unity – or even friendly terms – once their common cause has left the political scene.

Instead there is a need to look toward the necessary end to personality politics in Ukraine.

Many times I have written about the need to consign both President Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko to the political rubbish bin/history books of Ukraine.

Quite simply no politician can be allowed to become more powerful than the party they are part of.  A political party must control the ego and ambition of its leaders – particularly so when they are in power.

It was the downfall of Ms Tymoshenko and ultimately the downfall of this President, that neither of their respective parties managed to control either of them.

Needless to say, that whilst I have no issues with the release of Ms Tymoshenko (probably some time today) – guilty or not, her trial was flawed and her 7 year sentence unquestionably disproportionate – her return to political life, considering she has the biggest ego in Ukraine, is not to be relished.  Her time has passed whether she knows it or not.

A distinct and uncompromising move toward party policy, ideology, collective responsibility and accountability is required across the entire political spectrum – less of a journey perhaps for Svoboda and the Communists who are the only political parties with an identifiable ideology, though neither will have a majority constituency amongst the Ukrainian electorate in the near future.  Lesser coalition partners remains their foreseeable future.

Perhaps Ms Tymoshenko will be persuaded to forget running the country either as President or Prime Minister by the current opposition leaders.  Perhaps wise heads within the European Peoples Party will convince her.  I doubt either can quell her ego though.

It maybe that it will be left for the voting Ukrainian public to return such verdict in a far more embarrassing manner than is really necessary – perhaps that is the most appropriate and democratic way – though it is surely not the most gracious.

A Ukraine that looks forward needs leaders – plural – who can work honestly and transparently  together despite differences as a political class, and across party lines.  That requirement simply removes Ms Tymoshenko from any workable political leadership equation, unless she undergoes a personality transplant as well as treatment for her medical condition when she eventually reaches Germany.

However consider that from amongst all those reasonable candidates for RADA Speaker today – following the resignation of Rybak from the position – Turchinov, closest of allies to Ms Tymoshenko, has been chosen as his successor.  You are left to wonder whether the opposition – particularly Batkivshchyna – are aware of what really needs to happen across the broad political landscape of Ukraine.

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