Archive for March, 2014


Why don’t I write about Russia more?

March 31, 2014

After answering a large number of similar questions yesterday relating to what I thought the future of Ms Tymoshenko holds – within 13 hours of writing it this part became a reality – though I had given advanced warning prior to that entry of yesterday that such a merger/coalition was inevitable:

“At this point, as I have written before, we should be expecting Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko’s UDAR to merge or join forces prior to the RADA elections. This will provide Poroshenko with a recongised party that has a very active regional infrastructure capable of producing local candidates. For UDAR it provides finance for the RADA elections.

I do not discount the possibility of Klitschko withdrawing from the presidential race with both he and thus UDAR backing Poroshenko in return for a Solidarity-UDAR coalition guarantee in the RADA. It seems logical for all concerned and may result in a first round victory for Petro Poroshenko large enough to dismiss the need for a second round – a result that would underline in no uncertain terms the legitimacy of the candidate within the Ukrainian voting constituency.

If that be the case, Klitshcko may run (again) for Mayor of Kyiv in order to try and mitigate the candidacy of Yuri Lutsenko whom Ms Tymoshenko has encouraged to run for that position – thus beheading her attempt to control the capital.”

Not especially surprising that is what came to pass – or particularly prophetic – for the reasons I gave – it was simply logical.  Whether the rest of what I wrote comes true, we will have to wait and see.

But there has been another regular question from readers that is deserving of an answer –  Why don’t I write about Russia more?

Perhaps a good question considering the military build up on Ukrainian borders, agent provocateurs and (unfortunately outstandingly effective) propaganda campaigns etc.

Well firstly I thought I had written about  The Kremlin quite a lot over the past few months – at least enough to be commensurate to the threats posed, tactics used/to be used and ultimate goal.

Secondly I write a lot – and not only free to read, less than erudite, unedited offerings such as this blog.  I think of this blog as nothing more than a place to write a few thoughts that I may refer to later – or not – and are there for others to read if they are bored.

Anyway, back in January – long before the fall of ViktorYanukovych or the illegal annexation of Crimea – I predicted The Kremlin goal would be the federalisation of Ukraine in order to either break bits off, continually threaten to break bits off, create pseudo Russian protectorates and subsequently control any Ukrainian government should it allow the nation to become too “Europeanised” and upset Kremlin sensibilities which as a result would threaten to stir up secessionist sentiment.

There is also the permanent threat of annexation under the same pretext as Crimea as well as economic and trade “sanctions” under the guise of various false facades – as has happened before.

What more is there to say?  The broad thrust of The Kremlin desires and tactics has already been written.  At best an Austrian solution without the friendly geographical location.

I know I have not mentioned strategy, only the goal of federalising Ukraine and the tactics of what can be collectively defined as “destabilisation” – but that is because I am yet to identify an overarching strategy to achieve the federalisation goal.  I see only destabilising tactics whilst a defined strategy is being worked out.

We can expect The Kremlin to now try and mirror its diplomatic and political actions that followed Georgia in 2008 – whilst it thinks of a strategy that would prove successful – in the hope that the western world will do as it did in 2008 and simply accept the realities on the ground and move on – a mistake then, and hopefully not a mistake it will make again now.

We must also hope that the western world is not bought off by a political hollow success story, such as the chemical weapons diversion in Syria, that has allowed the regime to continue its crimes against its own people.  Every political and diplomatic conversation with Russia must include reference to the illegal annexation of Crimea – The issue cannot be allowed to pass.


The Kremlin goal will remain consistent.  Ukraine and the western world must remain fully conscious of that, regardless of whether The Kremlin goal can be achieved next week or ten years from now (whilst ever Mr Putin remains in charge, and possibly afterward too) that goal will not change.

In reply to The Kremlin question asked of Ukraine,  there can only be a singular Ukrainian answer (hopefully with the assistance over the next five to ten years from Ukraine’s friends).  That answer must be robust, unwavering and most importantly, it has to be seen to be Ukrainian led.   The Kremlin must see a strong, unshakable Ukrainian response.

That Ukrainian answer is that it will become many of the things The Kremlin doesn’t want it to be – starting with being a genuine and consolidated democracy with rule of law, all basic human rights adhered to with integrity, a free media, balanced economy, responsive, good and transparent governance, and the robust rejection federalisation to negate all the reasons The Kremlin wants to impose it.

The Ukrainian answer also has to be to clean out and rebuild its corrupt, compromised and in some cases infiltrated institutions of State – and that means almost every single institution needs critical attention – as I repeatedly tell anybody who will listen.

I have lost count of how often I bang the “institutions of State” drum with EU MEPs who seem intent on concentrating on civil society or the political class in the hope of horizontal or top down instigated institutional change.  I will be frank, I know quite a few heads of local institutions of State in Odessa and most would very much welcome somebody helping them plant and enforce “keep of the grass” signs for the political class to adhere to.


Oversight is one thing – the wanton trespassing upon the lawns of institutional pillars – as currently occurs – is quite another.  Particularly so as more often than not, that wanton trespassing is for nefarious reasons.  In short the Ukrainian institutions of State need direct assistance.

Just as The Kremlin goal regarding Ukraine will not change until it is achieved, the Ukrainian answer cannot be any less robust.  It will take years – perhaps a decade – before that answer will be understood as unequivocal to The Kremlin strategists and planners.  Even then it won’t prevent the pursuit of the Kremlin goal as long as the subjugation of Ukraine remains that goal.

As The Kremlin question of Ukraine is known and will not change – I prefer to concentrate upon the Ukrainian answer when I write.  Until The Kremlin arrives at an identifiable strategy, uses military force within Ukraine (outside of the Crimean peninsula), or really ramps up efforts to destabilise Ukraine far beyond current levels, there is little more of any importance to say about Ukraine’s large neighbour.

Instead of concentrating upon the Kremlin disease,  I will continue to look at the Ukrainian cure.  I trust that answers the question asked of me.


What are the chances?

March 30, 2014

Loathed as I am to write this entry, I do so in response to numerous emails and comments relating to what I think the political  future of Yulia Tymoshenko is.  Firstly it should be irrelevant to a large extent as the Ukrainian constituency seems to have finally turned away from populist personality politics and toward policy.  Hurrah!

Thus I am loathed to write about her as a political personality and wrongly be seen to give her more of my time than any other candidate – but I shall respond due to the sheer number of those who have asked the question.

As regular readers will know, when she was due to be released from prison I advocated for her graceful retirement from politics rather than what would be an undignified fall – acknowledging her ego would never allow such a graceful retirement.

In fact for many years I have advocated the retirement of both Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovych from Ukrainian politics.  Therefore my personal position is already known – though that does not answer the question asked.

So to answer the question.

Ms Tymoshenko is fighting for her political life – she just doesn’t know who she is fighting with and is therefore somewhat adrift.

She no longer has Viktor Yanukovych (or Viktor Yushenko) to argue with and fight against.  All those with any realistic chance of winning the presidency hold the same Europe friendly views as she does, and in the current circumstances resorting to the traditional Ukrainian politics of trashing, undermining or attempting to buy off (with money or promises of position) her political opponents would do her more harm than good.

Those she would have to influence are beating her in the opinion polls, and to be quite frank, would not welcome involvement with her should they come to power.


Secondly, her political party Batkivshchyna, currently has an electoral support rating of 15% – almost double that of Ms Tymoshenko’s own personal rating in the presidential polls, which currently stands at 8.2%.

Stepping back in time we must recognise that Batkivshchyna was created as a political party not around an ideology, but specifically as a vehicle to propel Ms Tymoshenko into power.  It has never developed an ideology because Ms Tymoshenko has always controlled the party in a very authoritarian manner – but as the recent polls show, the party can now – and should make a point of – controlling Ms Tymoshenko.

Nothing good has ever come from a situation where the party personalities are bigger than the party itself – particularly when both personalities and party are devoid of recognisable  ideology to which their supporters expect them to remain loosely tethered.

Her recent speech when announcing her intention to run for the presidency clearly displayed a continued self-centered mantra to the point where she stated, “Ukrainians feel nothing has changed after the revolution” – which is a fairly damning statement to make when her Batkivshchyna Party currently hold the vast majority of the Ukrainian ministerial seats and have installed 10 loyal regional governors.  If nothing has changed then her party holds responsibility for that.

Thus it is implied only she can save Ukraine, not only from external threats, but internal threats also – and included in those threats are the inabilities of her own party it appears.

What she does not yet seem able to accept is that the misrule of Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent Euromaidan has finally propelled the Ukrainian voting constituency away from “me, me , me, I, I , I” personality politics.  They look for policy (and its implementation), ideology they can recognise, democracy, transparency, inclusiveness and tolerance.  The empty rhetoric and zero sum politics personified by Ms Tymoshenko are no longer attractive.

In short, if the elections go ahead on 25th May as planned – and I suspect they will – in the absence of a serious accident happening to Petro Poroshenko, she will the thrashed to within an inch of her political life at the ballot box.  She may not even make it into the second round of voting unless she can overcome Vitaly Klitschko – something that I will get to shortly.  Oh Fortuna!

Looking past the presidential election – then we must look at that last remaining inch of her political life.

New RADA parliamentary elections with the current 15% support for Batkivshchyna may not be enough for it to keep its place as the largest political party in the RADA (since the implosion of Party Regions).

Party Regions is now of course something of a hollow political force – it has just lost 2 million voters with the annexation of Crimea and is naturally very much associated with looting the nation on an unprecedented scale under Viktor Yanukovych in the minds of the electorate.

Nevertheless, no self-respecting Regions voter would ever consider voting for Yulia Tymoshenko or Batkivshchyna.  Some will remain loyal to Regions under a new leader, whomever that turns out to be.  Others will vote for Poroshenko in the presidential elections, but will be faced with no Poroshenko candidate for the RADA elections as his small band of merry men and women have very little regional infrastructure to produce regional candidates.

At this point, as I have written before, we should be expecting Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko’s UDAR to merge or join forces prior to the RADA elections.  This will provide Poroshenko with a recongised party that has a very active regional infrastructure capable of producing local candidates.  For UDAR it provides finance for the RADA elections.

I do not discount the possibility of Klitschko withdrawing from the presidential race with both he and thus UDAR backing Poroshenko in return for a Solidarity-UDAR coalition guarantee in the RADA.  It seems logical for all concerned and may result in a first round victory for Petro Poroshenko large enough to dismiss the need for a second round – a result that would underline in no uncertain terms the legitimacy of the candidate within the Ukrainian voting constituency.

If that be the case, Klitshcko may run (again) for Mayor of Kyiv in order to try and mitigate the candidacy of Yuri Lutsenko whom Ms Tymoshenko has encouraged to run for that position – thus beheading her attempt to control the capital.

Failing that a Solidarity/UDAR merger or coalition immediately after RADA elections seems likely to mitigate the “Tymoshenko factor/fatigue/frustrations” that would certainly follow otherwise with coalitions with Batkivshchyna.

Mr Poroshenko’s Solidarity party currently has 14.9% support according to the same poll that gave Batkivshchyna 15% – in short, parity with Batkivshchyna – but Solidarity lacks the regional penetration of UDAR and I expect UDAR to eclipse Batkivshchyna given sufficient funding for an effective RADA campaign.

For Ms Tymoshenko it presents a problem – and a problem that may see the terminal breath to her political career.

Should a deal be done between Poroshenko and UDAR – and one may have already been quietly agreed – then it may be that the popularity of Poroshenko/Klitschko will result in UDAR being returned as the largest RADA party – or any UDAR-Solidarity coalition forming a majority – relegating Batkivshchyna to the position of minor coalition partner at best, unnecessary outsider at worst.

No doubt many within Batkivshchyna will in no small part put any such dismal result down to being anchored to an unpopular Yulia Tymoshenko who refuses to leave the stage.  Thereafter, just how long before the party necessarily shows her the political exist must be the question?

Perhaps after a disastrous presidential result they may try to convince her to go/stand down as party leader before the RADA elections – if they do, I would expect the party popularity to rise amongst the electorate.

However, Ms Tymoshenko is a ferociously ambitious woman with an ego that simply won’t allow reality to be recognised.  Her immediate plan must therefore be to attack and undermine Vitaly Klitshcko and UDAR, attempting to force a wedge between Poroshenko and Klitshcko, UDAR and Solidarity.  Time to accomplish this is not on her side with elections so near – so her maneuvering will soon become obvious as time does not provide for subtlety.

Her final political breath will probably come only after being crushed at the presidential elections combined with being hit by the falling masonry of a collapsing Batkivshchyna Party RADA result.  Even that may not be enough to convince her that her time is up.  It may prove that it will be necessary to vote to remove her as party leader before she final accepts the message that the party has moved on without her and that she is an anchor holding it back.

It will leave her nothing more than just another MP – or forcibly retired.  I would wish neither upon her.  Quitting politics with dignity between now and the RADA elections  is a far better path to take.

Whether any of this would change significantly if the elections were not to occur on 25th May as planned is very much dependent upon how far into the future they would be pushed and any “incidents” that may occur in that time.

In that regard, Russian and Ms Tymoshenko’s personal interests converge somewhat – the later the elections the better – and with regard to Russia, an economic/trade blockade (in full or in part) with Ukraine must now be a very real possibility in lieu of further direct military action.

All of that said, only a fool would write her off completely – and perhaps I have just been foolish, though being careful not to write her off entirely – but I have answered the question asked as I see it today – mindful that 24 hours is a long time in politics and things can change quickly and drastically.

Perhaps it is too optimistic to believe that she will soon leave the Ukrainian political arena and allow the nation and Batkivshchyna to move on.



Amongst all the headlines, some democratic progress – Ukraine

March 29, 2014

Yesterday was a tumultuous day for headlines in Ukraine – much like any other day these past months – except yesterday there was some real democratic progress.

I am not referring to the UNGA resolution regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine – Voting results: Yes: 100, No: 11 Abstentions: 58


The eleven States voting against – and thus accepting the criminal Russian annexation of Crimea as OK, nor the States that abstained perhaps worse for their cowardice in not taking any position whatsoever – are little consolation or legitimisation for Russia.

Ms Tymoshenko confirming she is going to run for the presidency – well it’s hardly a surprise and therefore not worth mentioning.  Pulling her rhetoric full speech apart is simply too easy – and no doubt the Ukrainian media will do an adequate job of it anyway.

Neither am I referring to the Right Sector march on the RADA demanding the dismissal of the current interim Interior Minister Arseny Avakov over the very suspicious death of Sashko Muzychko also known as Sasha Beliy.

It is not often somebody predicts the manner of their death a few days before.

Sadly the alleged CCTV footage of the incident provides very little clear evidence to prove one theory or another.  Perhaps the RADA Commission inquiry into his death will clarify matters – though probably not,

Neither will I make much of the fact that this protest march on the RADA will have gone some way to undo the favourable headlines that the UNGA resolution vote gave to Ukraine.


I would question the timing of the Right Sector march rather than the reasons for it.  The circumstances surrounding this death are simply uncomfortable.

It was another gift to Russian propaganda when it should rightly have been on the ropes after the UNGA resolution vote.

Whilst I would not claim Right Sector acted directly on Kremlin instruction, there is little doubt it will have been infiltrated by the Russian intelligence agencies just as many Ukrainian State institutions have been.  Russian agent provocateurs amongst the ranks behind the timing of this march in order to mitigate UNGA fallout? – Definitely possible.

The IMF provisional agreement?  No not that either – though after a quick scan through the detail-less text, I wonder how monetary policy will be managed – through inflationary and discount rate tools?  Regardless, there is economic pain ahead for everybody in Ukraine for the next few years – there is no alternative.

The real progress to be found in the shadows of all the headlines yesterday is the successful passing of the law relating to the access to public information – a hard fought for law by civil society – a transparency and thus democracy success story that really should be highlighted – so I have!

Undoubtedly a step in the right direction and one all democracy advocates will welcome!


Electoral environment – Ukraine

March 28, 2014

After the release of several opinion polls relating to the 25th May presidential elections in Ukraine – all of which show Petro Poroshenko in a very commanding position –

pol no 1


I was going to write about the electoral environment in  which any election will take place, and the difficulties in arriving at an election that is deemed free and fair – most importantly to the Ukrainian voting constituency first and foremost.

However, much of what I would have touched upon – in far less erudite manner – has been mentioned here.

Instead we can ponder just how long before Petro Poroshenko and Vitaly Klitschko’s UDAR join forces – for it must surely happen, to the benefit of both.  Before the presidential election?  After the presidential election but prior to RADA elections?  Before the year end?



Human rights, Visa free and another political mess – Ukraine

March 27, 2014

A few days ago, interim Justice Minister Pavel Petrenko publicly announced that the EU had agreed to the dropping of reference to sexual minorities in legislation tied to the Visa free process between the EU and Ukraine.

Ethnic and religious minorities specifically mentioned – but not sexual orientation minorities – in any new legislative text intended to move the Visa-free issue along.

Why would the EU agree to that?

The reasons Ukrainian leaders seek to remove any such reference the LGBT rights is that they would claim there is no way that any such legislation would garner sufficient political support in the RADA containing any such specific reference.  Quite probably a claim that would prove to be true – and has proven to be true historically.

It would also not have overwhelming support amongst society either – despite Euromaidan ultimately ending up as a movement that we can broadly paint as a human rights/human dignity/democracy/rule of law movement.

As for “the Church” – its position toward LGBT issues  is unambiguous – and less than favourable.

Ergo, for an interim government whose legitimacy is questioned both internally and externally by some, and is  thus on somewhat shaky ground, multiplied by the fact that Mr Putin’s Russia attempts to frame itself as the home of “traditional Orthodoxy” when it comes to “Slavic values” – particularly over such “liberal” issues as LGBT rights – there seems little likelihood the interim government would easily survive a falling out with “the Church”, a sizeable voter constituency, and external pressure.

Even if the Ukrainian leadership wanted to include this issue in any legislation, it must be weighed against the reality that politics is the art of making maximum within the limits of what is possible.

Is forcing this issue now worth the risk of such a collapse prior to any elections?

The EU would seemingly have agreed with the Ukrainian leadership’s assessment if we are to believe Mr Petrenko’s statement.

Is further encouraging pro-EU sentiment by way of speeding up Visa-free – and at the same time denying it to Russian citizens – worth scuppering over this specific LGBT legislative issue?

After all, it can be revisited in less stormy times when some external and internal threats have been mitigated or overcome.   The EU will have plenty of levers for a long time to come to force this issue back onto the agenda.

Should not Ukrainian priorities be defending its sovereignty from the Kremlin threat, dealing with its dire economic state and producing a president and parliament with unquestioned legitimacy through new elections?

Should EU priorities not be the same in relation to Ukraine, whilst also enabling all Ukrainians to see and experience Europe for themselves?  Europeanisation through exposure and osmosis.

The EU would naturally prefer this specific group to be included and named in the legislation now – so would I – and it may yet force the issue – for despite the public claims of Mr Petrenko, no official statement confirming his assertion has been forthcoming from the EU – even when you pick up the telephone and ask them – thus at best, dropping the sexual minorities text can only be deemed “under consideration”.

All a bit messy for the moment – and seemingly created and placed into the public realm unnecessarily.

To me, the LGBT rights issue should not even be an issue – like so many other rights issues such as gender equality – but I am neither Orthodox nor a product of a Slavic mindset, nor even particularly socially conservative.

Even when I was rudely dumped from education into the workplace, in what was then a very heterosexual and misogynistic environment, a time when obituaries of the famous and influential read “confirmed bachelor” as euphemism for “homosexual”, did I have the slightest doubt in the validity of these equal rights.

If the political profiling models are in any way accurate, I would be at the liberal end of conservative or the conservative end of liberal – with the bare essential, extremely rare socialist tendencies in moments of inexplicable weakness.

Perhaps if the “pink vote” was concentrated in a specific region and therefore had a real effect on a certain electoral seat (or seats) then there would be at least some robust political advocacy for their cause.  As far as I know though, there is no such concentration in any region in Ukraine, and few MPs would take up the LGBT gauntlet voluntarily otherwise.

However, maybe there is a way to include the minority rights of the LGBT community without labeling them specifically.  Some very clever wordsmithery within the crafting of the legislation may accomplish it, together with the rights of all minority groups – without labeling any specifically but encompassing them all – if great legal minds are set to task upon the issue rather than the usual legislatively slipshod RADA dwellers.

In forcing the LGBT issue on Ukrainian lawmakers, aside from probably further weaken and already weak government it plays into the hands of Kremlin  “gay marriage, homo loving”  propaganda machine (which has worked very well), at a time of great social unease and instability.  Deferring the issue will cause many to question EU commitment to its values – again – or is facilitating earlier Visa-free access to the EU doing nothing more than promoting one of its overarching principles of free movement within the continent of Europe?

Some may ask why is this particular issue attached to Visa-free progress by the EU, when other possibly equally important legislative acts are not?  It is not as though EU membership is on offer for making deep structural societal changing legislation.

Why are some legislative requirements within the Association Agreement given many years for introduction and others demanded immediately when they can be seen as equally important by some.  Why is Visa-free not tied to the ratification of The Rome Statute – Article 8 of the Association Agreement – but to minority rights for example?  Both are justice and rights related.

Is there a fear that the Ukrainian LGBT community will claim asylum should Visa-free be introduced without their rights being specifically protected?  A fear – despite almost 10 years of visa-free into Ukraine for Europeans – that their visiting LGBT communities need specific legislative protection here suddenly?

What to do?  And whom should do it?

The current government, by Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s own admission, is one of “political suicide” that will make a lot of unpopular decisions – Would a decision to legislate for LGBT rights specifically, be any more unpopular than the signing of (parts of) the Association Agreement, or any IMF agreement when it comes – and the anticipated price hikes in utilities, and increased/new taxes?

Would any such LGBT legislation be repealed later on by future governments anyway?

Considering the Constitution is being redrafted, would LGBT minority rights be better sanctified once and for all in any new Constitution – something far harder to change than the repealing or amending of any standard minorities legislation.

The current 2004 constitution makes no mention of LGBT rights (only ethnic and religious minority rights specifically) – but it currently states:

Article 21. All people shall be free and equal in their dignity and rights.

Human rights and freedoms shall be inalienable and inviolable.

A very broad and inclusive text – which could perhaps be used elsewhere?

The 2004 Constitution of Ukraine raises yet further human rights questions.  Should the constitution be expanded to specifically include LGBT rights or reduced to something as short and all-encompassing as that single Article above?  Why be overly complex if simplicity will do?

Why, when ethnic and religious rights are already enshrined in the current constitution, is there a need to duplicate those rights in statute for the EU?  Will the new law expand on those rights (whilst ignoring LGBT rights specifically again)?  What makes the EU think that any new statutory law will be adhered to any more than the supreme law of the land which is consistently manipulated or completely ignored – whether they force LGBT rights to be included or allow Ukraine to defer the matter to a later date?

If  politics is the art of making maximum within the limits of what is possible – we are about to discover the limits of what is possible at this current moment in time for LGBT rights in Ukraine.



Mouth engaged before brain again – Yulia Tymoshenko

March 26, 2014

As is very well known, Russian espionage tradecraft is alive and working very well – as US Ambassador Geoffery Pyatt and Assistant Secretary Nuland are well aware.  Nobody in the EU will forget her publicised “F*ck the EU” statement not long ago made publicly available thanks to Russia.

It should therefore come as no surprise to any of the top Ukrainian politicians, “persons of interest” and “interesting people” – not the same thing – that they too would be subject to such tradecraft, especially so in the current circumstances.

But stupid is as stupid does – and there is nobody in Ukraine better at engaging their rhetorical mouth before engaging their brain than Yulia Tymoshenko when it comes to “persons of interest” to The Kremlin.

Thus the content of this leaked telephone call of Ms Tymoshenko, where she states it’s “time to take up arms and whack those damned Russkis and their leader.”  I shall refrain from translating it all, other than to say that this is by far the mildest of the comments made.  Think scorched earth, flattened Russia, machine guns fired in Russian heads and such.

Blimey how that will help deescalate matters

As I have written time and time again “Ms Tymoshenko knows only autocratic and oligarchical politics. She knows seedy opaque deals. She understands zero sum, conflict and division.”

She later confirmed the authenticity of the telephone conversation in the above tweet – but claimed it had been edited to mislead.

Given the sheer number of so many incredibly stupid statements she has made as a public figure – such as going on television in 2008 stating the global economic crisis would not affect Ukraine – belief in her statements and subsequent spin is somewhat thin.  Thus few will believe her story of the conversation being edited – if it was.

Regardless of any truth in the tale of the conversation being edited – or not – it has very little relevance.  It’s not what you say, but what people hear that counts.

Due to her complete lack of thought of both what she was saying and the medium she was using when she said it, what people will hear in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Odessa, are words from a presidential candidate – and woman widely believed to be very corrupt, far from honest in her oratory, and whom is already thought to be running the country from the shadows – making statements that will only further fuel their Kremlin planted/cultivated anxieties.

Alternatively, it may further spur secessionist sentiment amongst the hard core in western Ukraine to leave the rest of the nation behind if it is seen to be moving too slowly – or not at all.  (At least such sentiment amongst the hard core nationalists that remain alive that is – some even manage to predict their own demise.)

Considering Kremlin attempts to mobilise the south and east of Ukraine must be very disappointing from their point of view thus far, perhaps they will now see a lever that can be engineered to push the west of Ukraine away instead.  Or try both simultaneously.  (The option of pushing western Ukraine away, as pulling southern and eastern Ukraine in seems to be currently failing miserably, is something I wrote about elsewhere a few days ago).

Perhaps once it was leaked, her swift confirmation of authenticity was to make the best of a bad situation.  A swift spin into an attempt to win voters in western Ukraine from the nationalist ranks and such a strong rhetoric may also appeal to the millions of Russian speakers who do not want rescuing by Russia in preparation for the forthcoming presidential elections.  A Ukrainian Boudica of imagery if not action at least?

Whatever the case, it seems there is a competition between Svoboda and Ms Tymoshenko to legitimise everything President Putin wants to plant in the minds of the ethnic and Russian speaking constituency in Ukraine.  Why not just ask these regions to roll out the red carpet for Russian intervention to save them – not from fascists or anti-Russian sentiment – but from unbelievable Ukrainian political stupidity, whilst simultaneously further whipping up any secessionist sentiment in western Ukraine to leave the rest behind.

Considering there is little more divisive in Ukrainian politics than Yulia Tymoshenko – and the ideology of Svoboda – just how incredibly stupid and self-defeating can the current Svoboda/Batkivshchyna Party interim government be?  There seems to be no limits!

Still, a timely reminder for the Europeans, western orientated nations and institutions intent upon supporting Ukraine in the years ahead, of just how very difficult that will be with the incredibly feckless Ukrainian political class and the likelihood of further public unrest  – notwithstanding any Russian attempts to undermine any assistance given along the way.

Although I doubt any within the EU will have forgotten what became known as “Tymoshenko fatigue” a few years ago when she was last in power – if ever they needed a reminder – Yulia Tymoshenko is bound to provide it……time and time again!


Lukashenka on Ukraine

March 25, 2014

Stripping away all the journalistic fluff from this RFERL article, President Lukashenka is bang on the money when talking about Ukraine – as you would hope from a dictator ruling a neighbouring state.

Firstly he agrees with the entire world – less Russia – that the annexation of Crimea sets “a bad precedent” –  Of course it does, for international legal agreements such as the Helsinki Final Act (amongst a list of international agreements) have not only been challenged but clearly ruptured.

It may not be that President Lukashenka has any great concerns regarding the annexation of parts of Belarus, but he will have concerns regarding separatist movements within the Russian Federation that by extension may have detrimental outcomes for Belarus.

When it comes to recognizing or not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, Crimea is not an independent state unlike Ossetia or Abkhazia.  Crimea today is a part of Russian territory. You can recognize or not recognize that, but this will change absolutely nothing.

Nobody would dispute what he says – the reality on the ground speaks for itself.  The only thing really worthy of note is that by stating “Crimea today is part of Russian territory” may infer he holds a belief that may not always be the case – though it seems a very remote and distant prospect.

The next statement I will unpack into separate parts.

“Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest. So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.”

The first – “Ukraine should stay a united, undivided, integral state” .  Here he is absolutely right.  The federalising of Ukraine will do nothing more than create a permanently unstable nation for decades to come.

Secondly – ” that is not a member of any block because it would be very sensitive both for us and for Russia if, for example, NATO’s military would deploy in Ukraine tomorrow, this we can’t allow to happen.  This is our global interest.” 

As I have written before “The political choice offered once again – an officially neutral state that does not “Europeanise” too much and offend Russian sensibilities – or what is left of Ukraine (Lviv and a few surrounding fields that were once Galacia) can do as they will once the south and east have been secured by Russia one way or another.”

President Lukashenka also pushing an internationally recognised neutral status for Ukraine as part of the solution it would seem.

To his last point “So we have to make an agreement that nobody has a right to meddle in Ukraine anymore.” – He is quite right.  The problem now being there is no trust.

Having seen the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum, The Russia-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty and more, simply raped of any meaning unilaterally by Russia – and to be frank rather feebly responded to by the Europeans and certain guarantors thus far – trust in Russia is at an all time low, and trust in a few western nations has been shaken too.

What possible guarantees of non-interference in exchange for non-block neutrality will now be accepted – and from who would Ukraine accept such guarantees in the belief they could be called upon, and a swift and robust response delivered?

The trust problem not only exists between Ukraine and Russia of course.  Who would act as guarantor for Ukraine now, when any guarantor can no longer trust Russia to act reliably and legally?

Sadly President Lukashenka offered no insight into the very serious problem of trust.


What was actually signed? EU and Ukraine

March 24, 2014

A couple of days ago I raised the question of what could possibly go wrong relating to the signing of the political Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

What I didn’t actually state was what – specifically – has been signed between the two parties.

Firstly the preamble was signed.  Thereafter Article I, Article II and Article VII  were signed.  That is it.  No more.

All other Articles of the Association Agreement remain unsigned.

None of these Articles – signed or otherwise – are likely to be ratified by anybody until elections returning unquestioned legitimacy to the Ukrainian political class have taken place – both presidential and parliamentary.  That being so, all outstanding Articles are likely to be signed only once those legitimacy issues have been dealt with.

Thus the document ratification in its entirety – and therefore having full legal force and unambiguous obligations for both parties – seems unlikely to occur much before the year end.  And that time scale is on the presumption that all EU Member States provide a legislative slot to ratify the document in their busy domestic affairs.

Naturally the symbolic nature of the signature, the commitment to political direction are there to be seen – perhaps necessarily so in the circumstances Ukraine finds itself within.  Of course everybody wants to be seen to be doing something – the question is whether there is actually anything sensible that can be done now?  It will appear that “form” remains far greater than legally binding “substance” to many.  Is that sensible?

You cannot help but feel that the current interim Ukrainian government and media are being somewhat disingenuous regarding just how robust this legal anchor to the EU actually is.  A particularly dangerous thing to do considering continued public anger and distrust toward the political class.  The truth will certainly “out” prior to any elections and the damage to certain candidates and/or parties may lead to some very unpredictable and possibly volatile public reactions.

Only one nation stands to gain from that scenario – and that nation is not Ukraine.

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