Archive for April, 2014

h1

Welcome to the jungle – Donetsk, Kernes and rule of law

April 30, 2014

Yesterday evening saw a Ukrainian unity march in Donetsk violently ambushed by the anti-whatever supporters.

By employing the term “anti-whatever”  I am trying to be as inclusive as possible and not derogatory.

“Anti-whatever” therefore covers separatists, federalists, anti-Government, anti-fascists, ultra Orthodox, anarchists, paid thugs, pro-Russia disenfranchised locals, criminals, Russians and whomever else.  Unfortunately the commonly used media labels really don’t do justice to the various drivers that unite these people.

But the at its core, this entry is not about them.  They are all symptoms for the purposes of this entry.

Neither is this entry specifically about the clash between supporters of two different visions of the future.

This entry is about the of rule of law.

This incident occurred during the supposed protection of the rule of law, enforced by a supposedly neutral police force.

donetsk

Yet this photograph taken by my twitter friend and fellow blogger @VoiceofDonetsk who was there and was beaten, clearly shows those who attacked the peaceful Ukrainian unity march carrying police issue shields – which were dutifully returned to the police after the incident according to many national and international witnesses to the incident.

shields

The rule of law therefore not only going unenforced, but its local enforcers also seemingly actively taking a political side in this instance – to the point of lending police equipment and collecting it thereafter.

The rule of law – or indeed the lack of it – lays at the very heart of all of Ukraine’s domestic ills – both past and present.

There is a political class with immunity that all to often abused, and continues to abuse it, thus acting with impunity.  A politically controlled judicial class that acts just the same way.  Court results are bought and sold, police investigations stopped and started for political reasons or bribes paid to halt them where there is no political interest.  The police are woefully underpaid to the point where soliciting bribes are seen as necessary to have an even rudimentary life style.  Organised criminality, nefarious opportunism, politics and law enforcement cavort in the same bed whenever and where ever possible.  Cross the wrong well connected person and a police officer’s career ends immediately.

23 years of independence has done nothing to address this problem – it has been willfully neglected by a feckless political class, all wanting absolute control over the institutions of State when in power..

Now when the nation teeters on the abyss of dismemberment and disintegration, that same feckless political class reaps what it has sown – or perhaps what it failed to sow – and to make mattes worse, the sheer scale of infiltration into the institutions of State by foreign actors over many years aggravates matters even further.

So what are the interim Ukrainian authorities to do in eastern Ukraine?

map

As the above image displays, day by day eastern Ukraine is falling government building by government building, town by town, city by city to no more than a handful of people relative to the local populations.  Attempts by the local institutions of State range from occasionally successfully repelling irregular forces to actively or passively colluding with them.

Would sacking all the local and generally ineffective police help in Donetsk for example?  They would probably be on twice the pay and working for the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” (or whichever town/city) within 24 hours courtesy of The Kremlin – thus providing such illegitimate structures with trained institutions.  Perhaps sacking them – now at least – is not such a good idea.

Would sending in police from regions more loyal to the current interim government (and a united Ukraine) be a better idea?  Obviously not – as I am certain it will have been considered and dismissed but the current leadership.  A fear perhaps of a very adverse effect from sections of the local communities.  Naturally Kremlin propaganda would suggest police from Lviv or Kyiv arriving in Donetsk would be akin to the arrival of the Gestapo sent by the fascists in Kyiv.  It may make matters worse rather than better – and things can always get worse.

Perhaps citizen patrols accompanying the police would encourage them to act impartially and promptly – but then which citizens patrol with the police?  Those that get beaten or those that do the beating?  How would it insure the police act – let alone impartially – anyway?

Do the regional local politicians want their towns and cities to stand against The Kremlin wishes come what may?  Kharkiv stood 2 days ago with a huge Ukrainian unity rally, and yesterday the city mayor, Gennady Kernes was shot and seriously injured.  Who wants to be next to allow their town or city to rebuff Kremlin advances if that is the fate they will face?

This is writing on the presumption Mr Kernes was shot for political reasons – and not over nefarious business dealings with Pavel Fuchs and Alex Shishkin.  More inquiring minds may look beyond the obvious and toward the ЗАО Завод Здоровье company in Kharkiv and a few pharmaceutical deals in Germany and Switzerland involving Messrs Kernes and Fuchs for alternative motive – it remains to be seen which is the case.  Their relationship apparently took a turn for the worse over the past 6 weeks.  Enough said.  Perhaps we will never know if his attempted assassination was due to politics or business – perhaps it is both.

UN peacekeepers are not going to happen – The Kremlin would veto such a move at the UNSC, for it prefers instability rather than stability in Ukraine for the foreseeable future.   The clear Kremlin goal is to prevent or prove illegitimate any elections on 25th May – and thereafter an unstable Ukraine is preferred to a European leaning and democratic Ukraine which any election would bring.

A European police mission similar to that in Kosovo?  The chance of it being sanctioned if the fate of OSCE mission is any guide?

The question of how to effectively (re)install law and order to eastern Ukraine is quite a conundrum with no apparent answer other than to restore order by force – which will have its own consequences that sit  just over the Ukrainian-Russian border waiting for an excuse to cross into Ukrainian territory.

What is quite certain, the further Kremlin antics are allowed to spread, the more it will fill the space left to it – and in its wake – welcome to the jungle!

Advertisements
h1

A charm offensive in the offing?

April 29, 2014

Whilst The Kremlin is engaged in rewriting European geography through force in total disregard to international and regional legal instruments – and in doing so subjecting itself to some serious image damaging fallout – it seems that perhaps some attempt at mitigation may well be in the offing.

2014, the year of Russian culture – So what?  Russian culture cannot repair the damage caused by such irresponsible and reckless acts towards Ukraine today – and by extension the European and international order.

Quite so, it can’t – or at least it shouldn’t – but all things are connected even when they appear not to be in Russian diplomacy.

Currently the world is being reminded of the part Russian culture that creates dissidents, exiles, reactionaries and revolutionaries and a very wary neighbourhood – distinctly negative portraits.  A particularly prickly image and one not welcome on the world stage.

So how best to sooth or remove those barbs?

A partial tactical pivot in soft power employing the use of a very rich and globally renowned culture.

Time to roll out those historical greats across literature, philosophy, music and art – and combine them with the best Russian performers of the present day – projected at extravagant events and well choreographed celebration via the huge network of embassies and consulates across the globe.

Particular attention paid to influential nations naturally, ( but also a time to remind the domestic audience just how great a nation Russia is as the hardships mount up at home).

The international target audience – those who frame national argument.  Those politicians, diplomats, business leaders and media networks that attend such functions and will then leave with a far higher regard – and perhaps understanding – of Russia.

The message being that current Kremlin shenanigans should not colour the empirical view too greatly.

Pure nonsense of course – No matter how great a culture a nation may have, the deliberate and prolonged aggression and destabilisation of a neighbouring State because it has a different vision of its future than the one you would prefer, cannot be removed from the sharp focus the issue currently has on the international and regional stage by a little Tchaikovsky.

Or can it?  Poking around the Internet, there are no end of “useful idiots” great and small it seems.

 

h1

A slip of the tongue or a slippery tongue?

April 28, 2014

A few days ago, the “Mayor” of Slavyansk called the captured OSCE Mission monitors prisoners or war.

It prompted my immediate tweet as follows:

An interesting choice of words.  Not hostages, nor detainees.  Not suspects nor even human shields – Prisoners of war.

It would suggest either a serious lack of understanding of the consequences employing the term – or that behind the scenes sits somebody pulling the strings of a military bent that uses that terminology and that the “mayor” of Slavyansk has either noted and liked or was told to use.

Yesterday, as the Ukrainian SBU have asserted for some time, a video interview with either current or certainly ex-Russian GRU officer Igor Strelkov appeared on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mGXDcO9ugw

If nothing else, amongst the myriad of information and disinformation swirling around the media, it did at least confirm the Ukrainian SBU statements that Igor Strelkov was masterminding events on the ground in Slovyansk.

The reappearance of Strelkov did not get missed by The Chechen Press.  Igor Strelkov managed to garner himself something of a reputation in Chechnya when serving with the 45th Spetsnatz Regiment there.

During the aforementioned interview, Igor Strelkov states that at least one third of those actively participating in the current unrest there are indeed Russians – and considering the small number actually actively involved in the unrest in Slovyansk, without those numbers it would seem improbable that such control could be assumed on the ground.

Now of those responsible for the current uprising in Slavyansk it has to be recognised there is a very diverse make-up.  Discounting professional Russian GRU and spetsnatz on the ground – which there undoubtedly are – there are also numbers provided by the regional criminal fraternity, the religious ultra Orthodox (many of those with long beards), those being paid who would be otherwise unemployed or underemployed, and a few unpaid local patriotically challenged people too.

Considering the composition of these people it is therefore hardly surprising that some acts are clearly highly professional and others somewhat comical in their execution on the ground.

Somebody has to coordinate this mix and match small group of radical people – and it appears to be Igor Strelkov and not the self proclaimed “mayor” of Slovyansk.

The question then arises whether it was on the instruction of Strelkov that the OSCE Mission monitors were captured, or whether some overzealous less aware radicals decided it was a good idea and he then was left to deal with the aftermath?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqaSakthib0

Was it his decision thereafter to have them called prisoners of war, and thus accord them with certain rights that are probably being deprived to the dozen or so journalists, SBU officers, and randomly accused spies?

Why in particular were the OSCE Mission monitors called prisoners of war, when all others detained/kidnapped/held have not been given that specific label?

Do the radical elements and Russian backers see  international prisoners of war as likely to gain more leverage in prisoner exchanges than the other international “detainees”?

Is their negotiation worth genuinely increased because they are representatives of a formal international regional body, rather than domestic legal institutions or media outlets, or is their capture a far greater liability?

Perhaps they will be released very soon – but not before the very simple message that snoopers – international or domestic – will not be tolerated unless they are useful idiots who will advance the cause.

Was the use of “prisoners of war” a slip of the tongue or the deliberate use of a slippery tongue?  The law of unintended consequences or very deliberate consequences anticipated?

I do find it very interesting that this phrase was publicly used for the first time – and of course, any continued use has implications.

 

h1

Meanwhile, in Odessa

April 27, 2014

Another break from matters of national importance to quickly look at an interesting little occurrence in Odessa and the mayoral elections here that take place on 25th May.

It is now quite clear that it is a two horse race between Eduard Gurvitz and Gennady Truhanov – despite other candidates of course.

So we now approach the issue of “technical” candidates – those entered with the intention of splitting the vote of another.

Igor Markov who decided not to run has seemingly thrown his weight behind Gennady Truhanov – which will substantially help his cause by dual name recognition if nothing else – and there will be plenty of “else”.

Particularly interesting is the fact that Oleg Markov – brother of Igor – has been spending a lot of time on Ekaterinaskaya,  the election headquarters of Eduard Gurvitz.

Oleg, thanks to riding on his brothers coattails, has become a well known local politician in his own right.  He has his own – and his more famous/infamous brother’s – name recognition.  To be honest, most voters would simply see the name “Markov” and vote for it or not based solely on the name.

oleg

Oleg Markov has now seemingly decided to run for mayor too – which theoretically will benefit Eduard Gurvitz by splitting the Truhanov vote – a textbook technical candidate.

Quite simply, brand “Markov” voters will traditionally be far more aligned with Gennady Truhanov than Eduard Gurvitz.  Thus Mr Gurvitz doesn’t directly gain, but Mr Truhanov directly loses votes.

This situation seems to set Markov brother against brother unless Oleg Markov suddenly decides not to run –  which would cost Gennady Truhanov a lot of money as well as providing Markov The Younger with a top job within the Odessa City administration – and leaving Mr Truhanov beholding to Markov the Elder for his support. and reliant upon Markov the Younger to remain loyal.

The question seems to be, how high will Gennady Truhanov’s bid need to be to top that which must have already been made by Eduard Gurvitz to have him enter as a technical candidate?

However, brand “Markov” looks unlikely to lose.  Whilst big brother Igor plays on the national stage, it appears that young Oleg has been maneuvered into a position where he can look after big brothers interests locally regardless of who become the Odessa mayor.

With 29 days until elections, and despite the obvious national threats and issues of the moment, I suspect I will return to the local elections once or twice more, so do bear with me on the occasions I indulge in issues of local government.

If, of course, young Oleg has decided to step out from his older brother’s shadow and go it alone, then all the above may well be nonsense – but that will make the Markov family barbecues a very interesting summer event with brawling and rolling around on the manicured lawns.

Tomorrow, back to the big stuff again.

 

h1

Article 51 Charter of the United Nations

April 26, 2014

This is perhaps worthy of a read in the current circumstances.

Article 51 Charter of the United Nations

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Why?

Because Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin raised the issue of Russian troops entering Ukraine under that provision on Russia 1 TV.

Naturally the UN Security Council will be ineffective as Russia holds the power of veto within it should the other Security Council members rally against using this Article for Russian troops to enter Ukraine.

Clearly although the Russian Federation Council has already granted Mr Putin the right to use troops across the territory of Ukraine, the domestic Russian audience needs no convincing that any military incursion into Ukraine would be legal from a Russian perspective – however it seems quite clear that The Kremlin is seeking to find some form of international legality to mitigate/justify/legitimise its intentions.

As I have written already, Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doesn’t cover it.

Does Article 51?  It seems more than a little bit of a stretch!

However, the fact that The Kremlin still seeks to mask its ambitions within the cloak of international law may not be an entirely bad thing – certainly far better than giving up all pretext that international law matters to The Kremlin.

It won’t help Ukraine naturally, as for The Kremlin, Ukraine is – and will remain – a zero sum calculation regardless of the cost.

A Kremlin military adventure into Ukraine to “maintain or restore international peace and security” soon, and also long enough to undermine and negate any chance of a free and fair election on 25th May?

As I wrote yesterday, the clock is ticking for The Kremlin to make decisions amongst a heap of bad options.

h1

Bad options all round

April 25, 2014

I have written a lot about the external and internal threats to Ukraine recently – particularly those on the immediate horizon in the run up to, and immediately after, presidential elections of 25th May.

The problems any new president will face will be enormous.  Economic, social, political, civil, internal, external – you name it, problems exist.

However I haven’t written much about the problems facing Mr Putin and The Kremlin recently relating to Ukrainian ambitions – problems that sit upon an equally immediate horizon.

At the moment Petro Poroshenko appears to be the next President of Ukraine in waiting – according to some polls sitting very close to the magic 50% that would negate any second round of voting.

poro

A disaster for The Kremlin should that occur, dismantling any question of legitimacy and decision made thereafter.

In this situation, the perverse arises whereby both The Kremlin, separatists and the far right all are opposed to the result for various but different reasons.

There is then the issue of a referendum over the unity vis a vis federalisation of Ukraine.  The Kremlin’s vision of a federal Ukraine has only 19% support from those who are determined to vote – 71% of such solid citizens voting for a united Ukraine.  Another nightmare result in the waiting.

25th May being something of a dire day for setting back (but not canceling) Kremlin plans, of course the temptation is to prevent any such voting occurring.

However, despite The Kremlin provoking incidents in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts at present – and making renewed threats of military intervention should Ukraine take robust measures to restore order – a drum it is continually banging – nothing was said about the recent incident in Mariupol when the Ukrainian military repelled an attack on one of its bases killing and wounding several Russian speakers whom the Kremlin claims its actions are to protect.  Not a murmur.

How did that Ukrainian stand fail to garner a very vocal Kremlin response – or even acknowledgement?  Mr Putin failed to mention it during his 4 hour TV phone in too.

If such a Ukrainian response, limiting casualties as far as possible, is to continue to bring with it no outraged local community as “separatists” are necessarily arrested – or shot – what then?  The support for “separatists” is not exactly overwhelming, and less so now they have started taking hostages and being accused of murdering local politicians.

We can be sure that Ukraine will act more robustly – if carefully – within the regions Kremlin sponsored/coordinated shenanigans occur prior to the elections.  Deaths though, there will inevitably be.

If unconventional warfare (and that is exactly what is happening) is having mixed or poor results when it comes to favourable Kremlin traction, a more conventional military intervention beckons?  If so, under the guise of R2P/peacekeepers or simply an invasion?

A small incursion would also have economic effects detrimental to Russia through more market uncertainty, further sanctions and more capital flight.

That being so, if there is going to be a military incursion, why not make it a big one and blame “the west” for the hardships that will follow?

Ukrainian resistance there would be – not only from the Ukrainian military but also from the Ukrainian public according to recent surveys.

How to explain those Russians who would fall in eastern Ukraine to a domestic audience propaganda fed that eastern and southern Ukraine would meet the Russian military with garlands of flowers after saving them from a fascist rule?  Particularly difficult when Russian speaker fights Russian speaker do defend against Kremlin designs, as the truth will out in Russia eventually.

After all, for the past 2 or 3 months the Russian public has been dutifully prepared for war by the political, intellectual and religious classes via the controlled media on an hour by hour, day by day basis, but the enemy -whilst being almost every man and his dog – has not been identified as the Russian speaking Ukrainian citizenry – they are the victims.  Yet Russian speaking Ukrainian citizenry would fight if necessary nd in sufficient number to undermine The Kremlin pretext.

Thus, whilst The Kremlin and Mr Putin quite simply cannot allow Ukraine to plot its own course – for that will ultimately lead to the demise of Putinism, “the Russian World” currently under construction and all the other associated ideological drivers employed to create nothing more than a Russian sphere of influence under various guises  – none of the options to prevent Ukraine remaining free of undue control appear to be particularly attractive in the time frame prior to 25th May.

This is perhaps why we are seeing continued irregular and denied provocation in eastern Ukraine that act as little more than a destabilising mechanism whilst Kremlin thinking caps are donned and scenarios worked through.

What is the least worst option to keep Ukraine on The Kremlin leash?

Time for deliberation is running out in Moscow if it sees 25th May as a significant date – In the grand scheme of things though, perhaps The Kremlin doesn’t see that date having much influence on its designs at all.

 

h1

Cost/benefits of international monitors

April 24, 2014

Regular readers will recall that just over a week ago I was invited to chat with Christian Caryl of Foreign Policy here in Odessa.

Of the notes he took and the quotes he read back to me, much attention was placed on my statement to him that Ukraine should be swarming with international observers, as whilst they cannot prevent what occurs, they can report it, evidence it, and are also seen to be on the ground – which tends to put certain parameters on the actions of some that may otherwise be more unconstrained.  Not all – but some.

I stated swarming Ukraine with observers was by far the cheapest of the options available to the international community when considering on-going Kremlin shenanigans, looking forward to the presidential elections, and hopefully for some considerable time thereafter documenting and evidencing the aftermath – until some form of stability and normality returns across the territory of Ukraine.

Yes that may mean international monitors in Ukraine for several years, but it is still by far the cheapest option for the regional and international communities if they seek neutral assessments and evidence gathering of what will be an on-going territorial, and democratic struggle far beyond any presidential elections or unity referendum.

The costs of not carrying out such a policy may very well be far greater than doing so.  No election and no unity referendum is going to put an immediate end to on-going matters.

Thus it is nice to observe my observation has not been missed by some of the people who make decisions.

It seems somebody within the bowels of US policy making is – amongst many others within the regional institutions/organisations I would hope – having some of the same thoughts as I did when being politely probed by Mr Caryl:

The United States is contributing support and monitors to the OSCE’s election observation mission and other monitoring groups. U.S. funded programs will provide at least 250 long-term observers and over 1,700 short-term observers. 

The US is at least the following my own thoughts up until and including the presidential elections.

The question the paragraph poses, is the longevity of the LTOs that are not election LTOs post elections.

Will their tenure continue after the presidential elections?  If so, for how long?  Will their terms of reference after the elections to remain constant, or are they to be reorientated in some way?  Will those terms of reference evolve as the situation changes during their tenure, or are they rigid in their scope?  Do OSCE and other international/regional organsiations consider their documented and mandated mission parameters “living documents” with “margins of appreciation”/flexibility to some degree?

Clearly it will be a huge error to remove all LTOs from Ukraine after the presidential elections.  The external and internal threats and provocations will not be eliminated.  The elections and any unity referendum are not a panacea that can cure any of the Ukrainian ills that have brought OSCE and other monitors to Ukraine in the first place.

How long can the international community be cajoled into keeping an appropriate number of LTOs in and across Ukraine?  The financial cost in the regional/international scheme of thing is peanuts – the cost of not doing so may be enormous – politically, economically and socially.

Nobody likes open-ended missions or the mission creep that can sometimes be associated with “living documents”/mandates and their flexibility – and yet currently there appears to be no end in sight to the external and internal territorial and democratic threats faced by Ukraine or the ways they will manifest themselves.

What, if any, duration do the international and regional institutions realistically place on LTOs in Ukraine (aside from what is declared in initial mandates)?  Another 3 months.  6 months?  1 year? 2?

At what point does the cost/benefit ratio make LTOs too costly when the threats remain constant?

 

%d bloggers like this: