Mens rea – The Shufrych incident (and beyond)

October 2, 2014

Yesterday, as the sharp-eyed amongst you readers will have noticed, there was no entry.  That due to a requirement to be in Kyiv.  Whilst away for the day, a very sad incident occurred in Odessa whereby RADA MP Nestor Shufrych was beaten by demonstrators strongly objecting to his presence in the city.


To be very blunt, Nestor Shufrych is indeed an odious little man who would be on a very short list of Ukrainian politicians that would be deliberately shunned if meeting them was going to be unavoidable at any mutually attended event.  There are probably no more than five other such current Ukrainian politicians that would be deliberately avoided across the political party lines.  A small but incredibly obnoxious list.

Indeed some would say – and probably will say – a perverse natural justice was at the very least part served yesterday in Odessa, when considering the willfully blind eye (to be charitable) Mr Shufrych turned to the beatings of, and threats to, journalists and peaceful protesters during his time as Deputy Secretary to the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine under former President Yanukovych, together with his active and highly enthusiastic support for what was perceived as massive fundamental human rights breaching legislation.

That is before taking into further consideration his one and only appearance on 21st June at the negotiations between those fighting Kyiv in the east and the Kyiv representatives.  Mr Shufrych claimed to be there at the government behest, which was denied.  Viktor Medvedchuk, President Putin’s close friend, already holds a similar role as he purported to have, by agreement of all sides.

That said, a perverse interpretation of natural justice is not the justice Ukraine and Ukrainian society needs to pursue.  Rule of law is the only way forward.

It may be, and indeed it was beyond doubt, that Nestor Shufrych was an active participant in rule by law during his political career thus far.  There is no excuse for his actions when in government, and should he return to office in the future, no doubt he will continue to try and rule by law.  That is all he knows.

However, what is notable about the incident, is that no others present such as ex-Regional Governor Mykola Skoryk, who are also part of  the same Sergei Liovochkin sponsored “Opposition Block” to which Shufrych is also aligned, were harmed.  As such prima facie it was not an attack not on the ex-Party Regions members coalescing under Liovochkin’s patronage within the “Opposition Block”,  but one aimed specifically and only at Mr Shufrych – quite possibly for the reasons given above and a form of natural justice.

It may well be that Mr Shufrych was destined for a physical trip to, and depositing within, the industrial sized rubbish bins, that many a corrupt Odessa politician and civil servant have found themselves literally thrown into over the past 6 weeks.  It maybe that was the plan for him too, but matters got out of hand as they tend to do with the most obnoxious and provocative of people.  The literal “binning” of corrupt politicians and civil servants, perhaps a result of a lack of lustration of the old Yanukovych appointed bought and paid for, regularly bribed and currently remaining in post, functionaries of “The Family” regime.  That said, politicians should only be lustrated at the polling stations – the civil service and judiciary is a different matter.

There is, though, another possibility.

Sergei Liovockin is a very, very slick political operator.  He is probably the Ukrainian grey cardinal of real notability operating within dark corners of the Ukrainian corridors of power.  That he is acting as patron for the “Opposition Block” – and thus Shufrych – is worthy of note.  Whilst this group may very well only muster a dozen MPs standing in first past the post seats – Liovockin will be playing a long game politically, whilst in the short term, his team of elected MPs will seek to return the RADA to its old nefarious ways that suit his manipulative skill set perfectly.

Theoretically, Mr Liovockin is Dmitry Firtash’s man – even when he was head of the Presidential Administration under Viktor Yanukovych (resigning from that position before Yanukovych fled Ukraine).  Indeed Mrs Liovockin actively participated in EuroMaidan.  In reality, whilst there is no denying the relationship between Dmitry Firtash and Sergei Liovockin, he is very much his own man.

He is a capable businessman.  He leans pro-Western (and was genuinely surprised when Yanukovych refused the EU AA/DCFTA that subsequently led to his downfall).  His first port of call, for several weeks after resigning as head of the Yanukovych administration, was the USA.  Some may speculate that he went in the knowledge the US had a sealed indictment it was to unseal relating to Dmitry Firtash – or they may speculate that he went to insure he was spared any sanctions – or perhaps for business lobbying reasons.  Speculation is however pointless.  That he employs the services of several top US PR firms and remains in regular contact (far, far more than any other western diplomatic outpost) with the US Embassy Kyiv is a matter of fact however.

Mr Firtash had, up until his arrest in Austria, a very good relationship with the UK – the FCO and “our friends at MI6” in particular (as well as the Russian FSB naturally)  – and probably still does.

It is the way of the world for such people to have such associations.  Nothing is black and white – everything works in shades of grey.

So why would Mr Liovockin, a businessman with keen interest in looking west, a generally western leaning outlook, and EuroMaidan protesting wife, want to act as patron to the “Opposition Block” – aside from his own Russian orientated business interests, and of course those of Dmitry Firtash?

One of several reasons is that he, like this blog, and every western diplomatic presence in Ukraine clearly note, is that there needs to be some form of recognisable political presence from the east in the next RADA.

Sergei Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine may just about cross the 5% threshold for party list MPs, plus any first past the post electoral seat wins – perhaps 25 – 30 MPs if the 5% threshold is passed.  Not much of an official opposition number in any new RADA (and Tigipko is also a fairly central western leaning ex-Regions MP.)  With perhaps a dozen from the “Opposition Block”, that number whilst still very small at least takes a step away from the perception of being entirely absent – and that small number, even if comprising of historically odious characters but that carry name recognition, need to be both tolerated and included where ever political positions more or less align.

What other parties will become “official opposition” remains to be seen.  A combination of Block Poroshenko, Civil Position and the latest Yatseniuk incarnation is likely to be enough to provide a comfortable RADA majority without having to suffer the egos of Mrs Tymoshenko (and Batkivshchyna) or Oleh Lyashko (and The Radicals).  Will they become officially “opposition” if excluded from the majority coalition?

Would it be wise to leave out such dangerously populist egos who can manipulate the (now armed) easily manipulated far right and left?  Including them in a coalition would be a  nightmare (but in doing so also create a guaranteed constitutional majority) – excluding them could also manifest as a nightmare too.

If excluding them form a majority coalition, who will manipulate the easily malleable – and to what ends?  Will a new RADA fall because of the more anti-Kyiv radical elements in eastern Ukraine, or those currently fighting for Kyiv but undoubtedly malleable in the populist hands of Ms Tymoshenko or Mr Lyashko?

How to mitigate that possibility for the centralists?  Disengagement programmes, or deradicalisation programmes?  Individual or group programmes?  The effectiveness and timeliness of either?  What does the majority of society want more – disengagement from currently violent acts, or deradicalisation of the idealism behind them?  Programmes that deal with motivation, disengagement, settlement, reflection and stabalisation of the more extreme, or simply the disengagement from violent acts?  The subject of a future entry perhaps.

Anyway,  there will be some who may speculate – perhaps wisely, or perhaps not – that Mr Liovockin set up Mr Shufrych, whilst all other lesser known “Opposition Block” runners were deliberately left untouched, and that the specific targeting of Mr Shufrych plays very much into the hands of Mr Liovockin, insuring that some voters that would otherwise not have voted, will now come out and vote for the “Opposition Block” in an act of democratic protest less than a month from now.

Whatever the case, Mr Shufrych and his rule by law days have been shunned by the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency as will be reflected in the forthcoming election results.  Now the Ukrainian constituency – even without lustration having yet begun to take place  (the judiciary being necessarily the priority branch to be subjected to it as quickly as possible)  – must deny itself the desire for a perverted interpretation of natural justice too, insisting upon holding those unable to resist a perverse interpretation of natural justice accountable to the rule of law, no matter how much they may sympathise with their actions – or not.

The only way forward is that of rule of law – there are no other acceptable or sustainable substitutes.

The mens rea behind yesterday’s incident will no doubt be subject to speculation – as will the identity of those that implanted any such mens rea within the easily manipulated – but the necessary and singular outcome, however, should be clear to all.



One comment

  1. “odious little man” ….. You’re being kind! IMHO, the second worst individual of those being associated with Odessa!

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