Archive for February, 2015


Time for a swift re-framing during the lull?

February 28, 2015

Though a ceasefire remains far from in effect in eastern Ukraine, it is fair to say there is something of a lull in the fighting.  Indeed there was an entire 24 hours where nobody died, though it is the exception and not the rule.

Today heavy weaponry has started to be pulled back – certainly by the Ukrainian side, OSCE observers yet to confirm the same by the Russian sponsored side at the time of writing.

In the meantime, since Minsk II was agreed, Ukraine has signed a military and defence cooperation agreement with the UAE – which despite Ukrainian pretensions, does not mean the UAE will be sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine, as the above link preempted in its final paragraph.

“Thus we shall have to wait and see what, if anything, the military cooperation deal with the UAE actually amounts to.”

It never pays to take any statement upon face value, as today’s statements from the UAE underline – “The UAE and Ukraine signed an agreement on military and security cooperation… The agreement does not foresee any deals on weapon deliveries between the countries.” – Faris Mazrouei, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Security and Military Affairs.

However, having been overly meek, entirely reactionary – and belated at that – throughout the Kremlin’s military adventures and illegal annexations in Ukraine, perhaps the lull (ceasefire is simply an untruth) can be used for some proactive reframing of the “arming Ukraine” debate by the western hawks.

If both the Kremlin and the West are content to see the current lull as generally in line with Minsk II – then there is a question that the western doves/don’t arm Ukraine lobby must now face.  That question is when to accept the sale of lethal arms to a Ukraine that is not under any embargoes when it comes to its military shopping?

Only the seriously deluded can expect a normalisation of Ukrainian-Russian relations within the next generation – regardless of any perceived win, lose or draw for either nation.  Surely the meek and weak western doves are not so meek and weak as to never to accept Ukraine to arming itself to the benefit of foreign MICs, fearful of the potentially nasty Kremlin response – for a generation?

France has seemingly agreed to supply Ukraine with electronic warfare (EW) and drones via a deal signed with Thales, according to  Oleh Hladkovskiy, First Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.  The more cynical will perhaps believe it only when they see it – or the French/Thales confirm any such agreement.

Drones and EW however, are not high tech defensive lethal weaponry it has to be said – but advanced defensive weaponry it is.

As it is clearly OK for Germany’s Daimler to team up with Kamaz to produce armoured trucks that may well end up in occupied Ukrainian territory, or northern Kazakhstan pulling a howitzer, or Azerbaijan carrying spetsnaz to blow a gas pipeline carrying Azeri  gas to the EU, in the current circumstances, perhaps it is equally OK for Poland to send Javelin firing mechanisms, but no delivery system or missiles, Romania to send delivery systems but no missiles or firing mechanisms, and Lithuania to send missiles, but neither firing mechanisms nor delivery systems to Ukraine – and then claim innocence when they are used for something they, as individual components, have no lethal outcomes?

Sarcasm aside however, the smart western hawks may perhaps point to the lull as compliance with Minsk II (as the weak western doves will), together with the apparent French decision to fulfill part of the Ukrainian weaponry shopping list (from a decidedly timid French administration) as a starting point.

Not a starting point for arming Ukraine during war/conflict as matters are currently framed and/or perceived – but with some swift and nimble soft power and diplomacy, reframing the situation and the issue to that of arming a Ukraine at peace – whilst the lull lasts and it is politically expedient for all sides to pretend Minsk II is being adhered to.

How long the window for any such attempt to reframe the arming Ukraine issue will last – who knows?

As Director of U.S. National Intelligence James R. Clapper stated today, “We do not believe that an attack on Mariupol is imminent. I believe they will wait until the spring before they attack.”  Perhaps so, but tomorrow is 1st March, traditionally recognised as the start of Spring, albeit it is deemed to end 31st May.

It is certainly not in The Kremlin interests to press onward now in any meaningful way.  It too can do with a period of letting the dust settle militarily (even if the war continues on political, diplomatic and economic fronts).  It’s interests may well be best served by playing to the European doves as the more serious/painful EU sanctions are due for renewal between now and June.  If and when it is certain they will be reimposed, then it may decide to continue toward – or around – Mariupol.  If it thinks some of the most important sanctions will be relaxed, then it will wait until they are allowed to expire before pressing onward – knowing that any re-imposition would be questionable once they have expired.

In the meantime those in eastern Ukraine will have to be content with nibbling away at Ukrainian lines without any notable gains, whilst the Kremlin pockets any Ukrainian or European concessions that may be offered or extracted through other levers.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that The Kremlin is prepared to hock eastern Russia to the Chinese in the pursuit of control over Ukraine.

“There used to be a psychological barrier. Now it doesn’t exist any more. We are interested in maximum investments in new industries. China is an obvious investor for us.” – Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich

“Putin is currently in a tough situation. We all know this. One of the ways to help him get out of the mess is trying to improve ties with China.  It has been very difficult for CNPC to do upstream cooperation in Russia under Putin. We have tried numerous times before, to no avail. Now the situation has changed, the chance of doing that is higher.”  said a senior Chinese oil industry official familiar with CNPC’s strategy and Sino-Russian energy cooperation.

(It’s very clear who is negotiating from a position of strength in that conversation).

Returning to eastern Ukraine, there are perhaps 2 months in which to re-frame the arming of a Ukraine at war debate, to one of arming a Ukraine at peace (before war starts again), and setting that perception in the public space.

Whether that can be achieved, whether there is even the will to try, or whether any such reframing will be attempted prior to, or after having quietly armed Ukraine anyway – who knows?

How long before the western hawks call out the doves on any expedient “ceasefire/peace” interpretation and use it as a premise to arm a “Ukraine at peace”?

What is certain is that sooner or later, a Ukraine that is not subject to any arms embargoes will rearm itself with the weaponry it wants – with or without either European or Kremlin consent or tacit approval.  There is always an arms seller/supplier for any buyer – embargoed or not.  That is the world we live in.


Surveying the “Russian World” – FSB Style

February 27, 2015

It’s not often entries appear here regarding the murky world of intelligence and counter-intelligence – and deliberately so.  One reason (amongst several) is that there are some very good blogs dealing with the art of spookery – In Moscow’s Shadows and XX Committee being but two of several.

Sometimes however, things happen that catch the eye and seem worthy of a few, less than detailed or particularly erudite lines.  After all, do any readers need to know the difference between FSB Unit 68240 and 68245?  They may have entirely different roles within the FSB, but they are FSB nonetheless – and unless you are an FSB employee – or somebody tasked with countering the FSB – why would you care?

FSB, SVR, GRU and the rest of the alphabet soup are all Russian secret services tasked with various nefarious tasks – some predominantly domestic, and others almost extensively abroad.  That is about as much as most people know (and want to know).  Who really cares about the unit numbers within the FSB – a spook is a spook to most people, at best they divide these entities into “home” and “away” spookery.

FSB unit 68240, back in August 2010, announced a Ruble 24,000,000 tender to gather an automated mapping of national languages within Russia – Avar, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Cherkessia, Karachay, Balkar and Dargin, from men aged 20 – 60.

The reason – a quick computer generated ability to immediately recognise these languages may well be of benefit to the FSB.  Fair enough.  There may even be some benefits to assessing the emotional state of those speaking too – without readily understanding what is being said immediately.  For any who have undergone training relating to the understanding of NVCs, and then undergone training to mislead through NVCs, regardless of how much credence such things may be given – or not, a good deal of money has been, and is, spent upon it.  Why not a database of little known northern Caucus languages (outside of the Caucasus) within the FSB machinery?

However, there is only limited interest in this linguistic Caucus adventure for those outside Russia – or for most within.  It may still be of limited interest even if you know that FSB Unit 68240 is the “operational and technical management” unit – a unit not unknown for its participation in “interrogations” – and enjoying a budget for “R&D”.  The survey then to identify accents and regional differences in the speaking of Russian, plus regional languages, leading to a more easy identification of those from the northern Caucuses in a rush?  Or perhaps a little FSB domestic exercise hidden behind some opinion poll/survey company to gather intelligence or counter-intelligence information from the region too?  A cover through which to make certain “approaches”?

Perhaps – but there is also the issue of creating methods to help yourself to the Russian State budget to consider.

As a random sprinkling, in 2012 Unit 68420 also announced tenders for creating a photographic databases of all Russian produced vehicles from 2000 – 2012, from every possible angle, at a cost of Ruble 10,000,000 – Project “Code Nine”.  Historically is has also announced tenders for the collection of alloys based on precious metals – Project “Duma 2” at Ruble 1,500,000, as well as Project “Dolomite 2”, valued at Ruble 7,500,000 the purpose of which was to study microbial communities living in soil and dust from different regions.  There was also Project “Audacity”, Ruble 2,885,000, for a psycholinguistic study of extremist texts.  A Ruble 1,200,000 tender for traumatic ammunition supply, a tender for “exploring DNA analysis of micro-biological nature and development of methodological approaches to conducting relevant research in the interests of criminology” at Ruble 5,000,000.  Also a Ruble 6,000,000 tender for the collation and cataloging of 200 species of plants containing psychotropic, toxic and biologically active substances – Project “Dagga-Orbikula”.

No need to go on and on.

The validity of some projects would seem questionable – indeed they would seem designed for little more than rent-seeking/graft.  At best, they are, prima facie, half-hearted attempts at the generation of databases that could be collated at far less cost.

Perhaps “expected tenders” are to be driven by the bored and otherwise redundant FSB officers sat in dull, dank offices in Russian universities scheming over corrupt businesses enterprises with little else to do during their posting, for a small fee – if any.  One has to suspect that certain tenders have many bidders, whilst others only one – and the winners hardly chosen in a transparent manner, regardless.  Nevertheless, motions must sometimes been seen to be gone through.

(At least being FSB within the Russian Orthodox Church almost guarantees a Rolex watch of increasing value as you work your way up the patriarchal tree, or into particularly sensitive positions – perhaps better than the university gig.)

But enough history.

Progressing from the August 2010 project relating to linguistics in the northern Caucasus, it appears that as part of mapping the “Russian World”, FSB Unit 68240 has not restricted itself to domestic territory.  It has now announced a tender for a similar survey of Russian speaking men in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine.  The tender value Euro 200,000, with a project completion date of 2017.

Why survey only men between 20 – 60?  Women and how they speak Russian are for some reason not required/irrelevant?  A “male only” FSB database?  There would seem to be an obvious gender driven intelligence gap in that database for some reason.

Maybe this is just another effort to digitally record, store, and identify (male) accents and regional differences in the speaking of Russian for “intelligence/counter-intelligence purposes” within the “Russian World” – or perhaps it is a public, plausibly deniable and entirely legal method of engaging any “persons of interest”, or reaching out to “interesting persons” who can become something “more”within nations The Kremlin seeks to influence by fair means and foul.

Is, what amounts to Euro 50,000 per nation, money well spent listening to Russian speaking men from the relevant nations recite (presumably the same) text, money well spent?  If it is not the same text, why not simply record illicitly intercepted telephone calls for free?  Perhaps only the linguists within the FSB can answer that.

Whatever the case it is somewhat problematic to try and prevent a thoroughly lawful survey into “Russian-speaking/linguistics” within Russian minorities via whatever tender winning FSB front gets the gig in the Baltics and Ukraine – even when you know it is a FSB sponsored project.

Who would be of a mind to try and prevent it at all anyway.  Some things, once known, are far better left to run and see what becomes of them, prior to any “rolling up” if and when deemed necessary.

Perhaps, given the size of the FSB budget, Euro 200,000 really doesn’t matter – particularly if this is simply a method of budgetary theft.  Allocate and steal – nobody will notice such a small sum.

Nevertheless, an interesting little development – particularly if asked to read a Russian text aloud for a survey over the next 2 years.


The UAE-Ukraine Defence Deal

February 26, 2015

Yesterday Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine had reached a deal whereby the Arab State would cooperate militarily – thus theoretically paving the way for the UAE to send arms to Ukraine.

President Poroshenko making sure to keep strictly to the script of defensive weaponry only stated – “I want to stress that we increase the defensive capabilities of the Ukrainian army only for better defend our territory – to keep our independence, to keep our territorial integrity, to keep our sovereignty. I do not have any plans to attack anybody. I am a president of peace, and we are a country of peace. But to keep the peace, we should have an ability to defend ourselves.”

Thus far there has been no public comment by the UAE – despite acknowledgement that President Poroshenko and Crown-Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held a “one to one” for more than an hour.  The Ukrainian side stating during which “very important negotiations” occurred regarding the facilitation of the United Arab Emirates investment in the Ukraine, and that that the two “signed a very important memorandum about military and technical cooperation.

Thus if the Crown-Prince of the UAE ever arrives in Kyiv, be sure it is because the UAE has found something it wants to invest in somewhere in Ukraine – he won’t be coming otherwise.

Quite what, if any, weaponry UAE can or will supply Ukraine remains unknown.  It prompted a rather sarcastic tweet yesterday:

However, sarcasm aside, it is perhaps worthy of taking a look at what the UAE does produce – particularly as Tawazun Holding, Mubadala Development and Emirates Advanced Investment Group (EAIG) have finalised the formation of Emirates Defence Industries Company (Edic).

Thus Edic comprises of 14 companies from the subsidiaries of Mubadala, Tawazun and EAIG – including Al Taif Technical Services, Tawazun Dynamics and Global Aerospace Logistics.  Edic for want of a better term, an umbrella company for almost all of the UAEs defence manufacturers.  Whether Edic was formed with the Golf Cooperation Council (GCC) market in mind, rather than Ukraine and the global market, perhaps matters not in the circumstances.

(In case you are wondering a list of the 14 companies is as follows; Al Taif Technical Services, Bayanat for Mapping & Surveying Services, Horizon International Flight Academy, NIMR Automotive, Tawazun Dynamics, Tawazun Precision Industries, C4 Advanced Solutions, Global Aerospace Logistics, Naval Advanced Solutions, Secure Communications, Thales Advanced Solutions, Caracal, Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investment (ADASI) and AMMROC.)

However, these companies do not exist in a bubble.  For example Tawazun produces a laser guided missile called the TALON – together with Raytheon.  It also has a joint venture with Denel – South Africas’a largest weapons manufacturer.  Indeed Ukraine has just struck a deal between Motor Sich and South Africa’s Paramount Group to develop the Superhind Mi 24 helicopter.

That raises questions of Ukrainian domestic economics and internal suppliers/partners – and/or having time to create them – or perhaps pursing the option of external partners with ready technology to try and keep the internal thievery to a minimum?  A necessary spreading of investment costs and/or technical know-how?

According to Nadiia Stechyshyna, an advisor to the UkrOboronProm CEO, “Roughly 70 percent of armored car parts that Ukraine imported from Russia have been replaced, a very tough job, and the very heavy lifting has been done in the last few months.”  However,  she stated it was also also seeking foreign partners, like the Paramount Group, with ready technology and production facilities for access to new markets.

So will the war with Russia in eastern Ukraine recalibrate the manufacturing and defense capabilities internally of Ukraine – with any economic boost that may provide – or not?  Will one foreign supplier simply be replaced with another, rather than expanding, retooling, and investing in the existing Ukrainian MIC?

Geopolitics 101 – Be grateful for being in a good neighbourhood.  If you’re in a hostile neighbourhood, make sure you are tooled up enough, and self-reliant enough, to be a challenge – or acquiesce.

The opaque and all too often grubby world of weaponry, arms sales, relationships, and all that.

All things considered, that the equivalent of the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) – page 42 – which became an actor in the Serbian-Bosnian conflict, and had Arab connections, has yet to appear as a nefarious and shadowy intermediary is both a little surprising and perhaps a blessing.  Prima facie, a nation to nation agreement such as that purported between UAE and Ukraine is at least a little more transparent – though transparency and weapons supply rarely have linkage to anything that can be taken “prima facie”.

Thus, quite what, who produces what, and ultimately who supplies and pays for what, that may arrive in Ukraine from the UAE is likely only to be answered once it arrives – and it may well be that the UAE act deniably as something of a facilitator for other nations – or not. If so, what it gains and from whom in return is not likely to be advertised across the Middle-East. The UAE certainly can supply domestically produced drones and secure communications, both of which Ukraine requires.

That the UAE would volunteer its services is perhaps unsurprising considering the umbrage it takes at Kremlin meddling in Syria and Yemen – not to mention a weaponsing relationship with Iran.  It could, perhaps, be argued that the OPEC nations in part lowered oil prices to refocus US attention on the region that had started to drift toward the Asia-Pacific.  This agreement with Ukraine further keeping the region on the US radar.

Whatever the case, UAE motivation currently matters little to Ukraine.  What matters is how much Ukraine has to spend (aside from any military aid it may or may not receive externally, lethal or otherwise).

According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, the nation will dedicate $3 billion to fund both the fighting in eastern Ukraine and realignment of the Ukrainian MIC this year – quite rightly, as has already been written.  Within that $3 billion figure, $110 million has been allocated for buying foreign weaponry.

It has to be said, $110 million doesn’t buy much in the global arms markets, and Ukraine is in need of EW equipment, secure communications, and advanced defensive weaponry in the short to medium term.  None of that comes cheap in the quantities required.

Artillery shells such as “Excalibur”, a GPS guided round with +/- 2 meter accuracy at $76,000 a shot may well be desirable, and such precision ordnance much needed to prevent the needless loss of life and injury commonly referred to as “collateral damage” – but they are clearly not affordable given other priorities (even if the US would sell them to Ukraine).

Thus we shall have to wait and see what, if anything, the military cooperation deal with the UAE actually amounts to.


And what of China in Ukraine?

February 25, 2015

Little has been written here about China and its activities in Ukraine for some time.  That is in part due to China doing what it does in its usual quiet and unassuming way – despite the Chinese Consulate in Odessa being by far the largest and best presented of the almost 30 consulates situated in the city.

Over the past few years, aside from China and Ukraine agreeing to conduct bilateral trade in national currencies (up to 30%) annually, China has been steadily investing in Ukraine.  Apart from R&D, space, weapons, fertilizer and chemical production, not to mention and raw materials, Eximbank has also invested $10 billion in Ukrainian agriculture, setting up a permanent working group to identify suitable projects in Ukraine.  An on-going theme since 2011.

China, it appears, is now about to assist Ukraine in breaking its dependency on Russian gas too.

The Ukrainian delegation that has just returned from China has managed to secure a $3.6 billion line of credit from the China Development Bank via the Chinese Ministry of Commerce specifically to do just that.

Upon his return from China, Volodymyr Demchyshyn, Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine  stated “Our delegation has just returned from China, where we had a meeting with the representatives of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and China Development Bank. The representatives of both organizations confirmed the readiness to open a credit line for our projects.

The projects identified being the modernization of thermal power stations, heating networks and, perhaps, for the construction of coal gasification plant in Odessa.  Whether the proposed coal gasification plant in Odessa will be built the European standards, and whether it will run on coal from the occupied territories of Ukraine, that of Ukraine, that of Chinese owned Ukrainian assets, or perhaps Polish coal, remains to be seen.  Questions for another day.

Whatever the case, there will be no Kremlin reaction to the Beijing decision, unlike the reaction to the Polish announcement to resume gas supplies to Ukraine of 23rd February, which met with the immediate Kremlin response of banning Polish cheese products that very day.

Simply put, The Kremlin is in no way capable of threatening or coercing China to change its decision – despite any assistance to help Ukraine escape from its Russian gas dependency obviously being seen as irksome/somewhat hostile by The Kremlin.  In any Kremlin-China relationship, now or in the future, it is not going to be a marriage of equals.  All the numbers are on the side of the Chinese, as both sides know.

The question, however, is why China has decided to finance and facilitate a further step toward Ukrainian energy independence from Russia?  Ukraine, to be blunt, would have accepted $3.6 billion across an entire range of commodity and/or infrastructure development.  There is a clear political dimension to this Chinese decision over and above “business” and monetary ROCE.  Why invest in/finance a sector that will knowingly irritate The Kremlin more than almost any other?

It is also clear that the Europeans have now got the message regarding such heavy reliance on Russian gas as well.  It seems almost certain that a reduction in – although there is no desire to remove – Russian gas from the energy mix and supply chain will occur over the next decade.  One of the side effects of Kremlin actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has been to cause the Europeans to focus upon, and speed up, the planning to reduce dependency upon a Kremlin that clearly sees the EU as a regional adversary.  That adversarial relationship now being realised in numerous European capitals, with thoughts of meaningful partnership duly being shelved under current Kremlin management.  A transactional relationship, with the lacking of goodwill to be anything more, will prevail for many years to come within some major European nations.

All in all, a net gains, directly or indirectly, for China in Ukraine continue to quietly accrue – as does Chinese strength vis a vis Moscow.  Is China, aware of the newly found European momentum to reduce Russian gas imports, viewing the investment in Ukrainian energy independence as mechanism to help force The Kremlin into a very asymmetric relationship with China?

The net winner of the current mess within the European continent will be China – (and quite probably Iran, but that’s another story).


Ukraine and The Rome Statute (Again)

February 24, 2015

Over the years, several entries have appeared here relating to Ukraine and The Rome Statuteprimarily dealing with the issues of why Ukraine has still to ratify this international instrument 15 years (and a few days) after signing up to it.

Indeed relevant ruminations from this blog have been published by the CICC website historically.

“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 in order 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 very clear 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 – a competence which is likely to be in part responsible for US, Chinese and Russian non-ratification. 

Those few words in the Rome Statute preamble have, and currently still are, preventing Ukraine ratifying a statute it otherwise agrees with and supports.”

The RADA, in February 2014, requested ICC involvement in investigation of crimes of aggression committed against the protesters of EuroMaidan by the Yanukovych regime – an invitation for the ICC to head “out of Africa“, where it appears inextricably anchored.

Since then, of course, the situation has become far more bloody and littered with atrocities along the way that may very well fall within the ICC remit.

On 24th September 2014, Ukraine ratified the EU AA/DCFTA – which has ramifications for its recognition of the ICC.  Article 8 of the Association Agreement is short and to the point:

International Criminal Court
The Parties shall cooperate in promoting peace and international justice by ratifying and implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of 1998 and its related instruments.”

No elastic wording or ambiguity to be found in that text, less perhaps a time parameter in which compliance must occur.  Ukraine has thus obliged itself through the now ratified Association Agreement to ratify The Rome Statute.  Wiggle room, other than the question of timeliness, there is not.

As yet however, despite the abysmal situation in eastern Ukraine, the evidence mounting daily, both from official entities and across social media of events that may well fall within the ICC remit, amending the text to the Constitution to allow the ratifying the Rome Statute, is not topping the RADA agenda.  It’s not even close to the top, despite in doing so it provides Ukraine with an easy win amongst the international community.

It is perhaps no surprise, that almost 15 years to the day since signing up to The Rome Statute, and in the current circumstances in which Ukraine finds itself having already requested ICC investigations, Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, friend of this blog and European Regional Coordinator for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court has mounted a(nother) campaign to push the amending of the Ukrainian Constitution and subsequent ratification of The Rome Statute, which Ukraine is now obliged to do, up the RADA agenda.

Letters to President Poroshenko, those within the Cabinet of Ministers, RADA, petitions etc., now circulating the political class, civil society, and social media, in an effort to force the issue.  Undoubtedly Kirsten will ultimately be successful – but as always, despite its obligations, it is not a question of Ukraine eventually fulfilling its (recent) obligations, but a question of timeliness as to when those obligations will be fulfilled.

CICC CGJ Feb-March 2015 Letter to Ukraine_FINAL

CICC CGJ Feb-March 2015 Letter to Ukraine_UA

CICC Ukraine CGJ_Feb2015_Press release_FINAL



Whilst there is currently a constitution changing majority in the RADA – and for how long that will last remains to be seen – pressure over such easy wins and achievable compliance with ratified obligations are rightly being applied now.

It is, after all, and for the sake of accuracy, 15 years, 1 months and 4 days since Ukraine signed The Rome Statute, 1 year (tomorrow) since Ukraine requested ICC investigations into EuroMaidan, and exactly 5 months to the day on since the Association Agreement was ratified, thereby obliging Ukraine to ratify The Rome Statute.

It is surely far beyond time to deal with the 10 words that have prevented ratification – and get it done.


EU standards – or not/Стандарты ЕС – или нет

February 23, 2015

Almost one year ago, 13th April 2014 to be precise, an entry was published bemoaning the lack of information for Ukrainian manufacturers and service providers regarding EU (and by extension ISO) standards certification.

“For those that are looking westward and desire greater integration, it is surely time to show just how attainable that actually is – in practical and tangible everyday ways.

One example was that of trade and Ukrainian products that already meet EU standards.

Somewhere between 20 – 30% of Ukrainian products already meet, and another 10% or so with simple changes to things like packaging, would meet, EU standards (not to mention ISOs).

Thus EU standards are not only achievable but have already been achieved by certain producers big and small across several market sectors – and yet nobody has produced a consolidated list that publicises what has already been achieved and is easily identifiable to a Ukrainian public that also buys those products.

Why not?

Would it not show quite clearly that European integration is not a pipe dream, but is something not only achievable, it is actually underway in practical and tangible terms?

Is it not an easy public relations win, psychologically fortifying for the believers, irrefutable for the detractors, and also cheap to do?

Considering the tens of thousands of spam commercial comments this blog gets advertising all and sundry each and every year – why, in all the years it has been running, has there never once been a comment offering/advertising a method of attaining EU standards?

Is there a campaign or programme to help Ukrainian businesses over the compliance line? 

If it is policy to talk the talk in an effort to make Ukraine walk the walk – why is it that those that can be held up as examples of success with regard European integration/standardisation aren’t?

That as stated, was written 13th April last year, with the DCFTA, and thus Ukrainian producers expected to meet EU standards by 1st January 2015 when the DCFTA was originally supposed to enter into force.

Yesterday this issue raised its head again when in the company of some business people in Odessa, with implementation of the DCFTA now due to occur on 1st January 2016, having been postponed for 1 year, despite ratification.

Almost a year on from that original entry, how far has this progressed – if at all?

How simple is it to locate direct assistance to Ukrainian business relating to making the necessary information, expert advice, and a simplified bureaucratic guide to achievement?  In short, why could those yesterday not find sufficient and easily accessible information?

The answer appears progress is almost zero – or at least it seems what has been done, has been communicated in such a way as to be an abject failure in reaching the vast majority of the relevant audience.

EU approved

Nobody amongst the business people spoken with yesterday had heard of the “New European Approach”, a way of making EU regulation flexible toward innovation.  None knew how to create “conformity declarations” or when to involve an EU “Notified Body” – let alone where to find an EU “Notified Body” if and when they were required to involve one.  “Assumptions of conformity” and liability if products fail? – No clue from those present.

The only unanimous agreement was that as EU standards are generally in line with ISO standards, more than one market opens up when compliance was met – the issue was how to comply, which was a matter more pressing after the RADA, on 15th January, adopted the law on Technical Regulations and Conformity, designed to implement the European system of technical regulations.

Indeed on both Russian and Ukrainian television advertisements, “Европейский стандарт” – European standard – is used to clearly infer that whatever is being subjected to the sales/marketing is superior in quality to the domestically produced equivalent.  In some cases that is indeed true.  In other cases it isn’t, but the domestically produced equivalent in either nation has not the slightest clue about how to obtain the “Европейский стандарт” it actually meets.

The EU will after all remain a major Ukrainian market.  Complying with the Russian/CIS GOST standards is not an issue regarding that market.

The Ukrainian government has primary responsibility, and the EU has at the very least a requirement of goodwill, if not some responsibility, to effectively communicate what needs to be done for those searching for, and reaching out for, that needed assistance for EU standards compliance.

So what has been done?

The answer it seems, is an interactive questionnaire, recently launched, (22nd January), that forms part of a survey.  “The aim is to assess the level of knowledge and the information needs of manufacturers with regard to the requirements that non-food products must meet to enter the EU market. This concerns the conformity assessment, certification, CE-marking and declaration of conformity.”

Eventually, it appears that a few seminars will be held in several large cities, but when, and how well they will be marketed and promoted, remains to be seen.

Only time will tell whether these seminars will be delivered with sufficient lead-in time for those who receive these pearls of wisdom to act upon the information imparted, and thus meet the required EU standards prior to 1st January 2016 – or whether 2016 will arrive with far too many Ukrainian businesses suffering from a collective governmental/EU lack of timeliness.

A down-loadable idiots guide to the basics, apparently not an option in the meantime it seems.  The publication and promotion of an idiots guide in the local media – which is read far more than the national media – an option perhaps?  Probably not, but you never know.

Perhaps those that read this blog within both the Kyiv and EU bubbles may consider it?  Doubtful, but maybe.

For the purposes of search engines, a few lines below in Russian, directing those that look for such information to the on-line questionnaire and website that is at the very least, a starting point.

Для тех украинских предприятий / производителей с целью получения информации о соблюдении стандартов ЕС и получения сертификата, нажмите здесь в качестве отправной точки.


Konstantine Malyofeev/Malyofeyev – What’s going on there then?

February 22, 2015

As has been written here before, Konstantine Malyofeev (Malyofeyev), a well known swivel-eyed nationalist and ultra-Orthodox Russian oligarch behind Marshall Capital Partners (as well as Russia’s “Safe Internet League”) is known for his financing of those of the far-right/ultra whatever fighting against Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

He is a medium to large sized fish in the Russian pond – but he is no shark.  He is not swivel-eyed enough and/or powerful enough to be a member of the Izborsk Club for example, despite knowing many members within it.

It was the Izborsk Club that arrived at the “Saving Ukraine” plan, published on their website around 8th February 2014, and dutifully republished by the equally far right Zavtra on 13th February 2014.

By 13th February 2014, the time Zavtra republished the Izborsk article, it was of course clear to many (if not certain EU diplomats) that the days of then President Yanukovych were numbered.  Indeed a week later The Rubicon was crossed with the first deaths of protesters at Maidan – as was written here at the time – an event from which there was no going back.

It appears however, that the Izbork Club was not the only group of people making plans for a post-Yanukovych Ukraine in Febraury 2014.

Soon to be released within the Russian media, is a plan allegedly crafted by Konstantine Malyofeev and those around him – a “Scenario for Ukraine”.  Parts of this plan have already been revealed prior to its official publication.

“The events in Kiev show convincingly that Yanukovych’s stay in power may end at any moment.  In such conditions, it seems appropriate to put a bet on centrifugal urges of different regions of the country, with a goal to provoke, in one or another form, accession of its eastern parts to Russia.  The key areas of our focus must be Crimea and Kharkov.

…..First they must require federalisation, or even confederalisation as a guarantee of such regions from interference of pro-Western or nationalist forces in their internal affairs..

Then….accession of eastern and south-eastern regions, independently from Kiev, into the Customs Union.  And after that – sovereignty with later accession to Russia, as the only guarantor of sustainable economic development and social stability.”

As it has never before been published, any such plan in its entirety will be interesting to see, and will undoubtedly take the headlines – but that it has never before been published, clearly raises some questions that are probably more interesting than the contents of the plan.

Why is it now being published, a year after events commenced and it is purported to have been written?  Why has the State run media not published it before, or the last remnants of what passes as independent media for that matter?  If they have not had access to it until now, why have they suddenly been given access to it – and by whom?

Why now, when Konstantine Malyofeev is seemingly within The Kremlin sights, having had his apartment searched only last week when old charges of defrauding VTB Bank in 2007 have resurfaced – something that doesn’t happened without The Kremlin “nod” to somebody like him, as mentioned in an entry last week.

“Konstantine Malofeyev, swivel-eyed nationalist and ultra-conservative Orthodox believer has had his apartment in Moscow searched yesterday. He is the multi-billionaire responsible for a large part of the “separatist” funding.

Prima facie it looks like another attempt to nail him for a scam that defrauded VTB Bank back in 2007, but in a nation that runs by way of “rule by law”, there is no way this would happen to somebody like him without the required Kremlin sanctioning. Thus this occurrence may be interpreted by some as a signal to him to stop the funding in eastern Ukraine. Certainly if his continued funding was required, then this incident would probably not have happened – now anyway. Alternatively his funding of the swivel-eyed far right and ultra-Orthodox within Russia may have exceeded what the Kremlin considers “safe”. Either way, a message about something is being sent to Mr Malofeyev under the guise of an allegation from some 8 years ago.”

Is the publication of this plan now, when it is more or less irrelevant (even if interesting), a Kremlin pointer for potentially expedient scapegoats?  Is it a Kremlin disclaimer as the “Novorussiya” dream shrinks back into little more than another dirt-poor, organised crime riddled, warlord wrecked, retarded region under de facto Kremlin control, akin to a Transnistria 2.0.  As “Novorussiya” has not materialised as envisaged, and has noticeably been dropped from The Kremlin rhetoric, who to blame for this failure?

That this “Malyofeev plan” is not released in the Russian media until Wednesday 25th February, but everybody knows that it will be, then its release is clearly sanctioned by The Kremlin – who never need a week to suppress a story or its publisher when they have wind of something happening they probably won’t like.

Are we supposed to believe that The Kremlin relies on outsiders such as Konstantine Malyofeev for its planning?  That the Crimean occupation and subsequent illegal annexation occurred so seamlessly, and without leaking prior to its execution, does not suggest significant outside input from the likes of Mr Malyofeev prior to its execution.

Mr Malyofeev’s Kremlin connections consist primarily of a close association to Vladimir Yakunin, head of the state-owned Russian Railways concern, and who is known to be a close friend and stalwart ally of President Putin, Igor Shchyogolev, the former telecommunications minister, with whom Malofeev attended university, and who is now a senior aide to President Putin, as well as of the Izborsk Club member Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov.  Hardly access all areas within the Kremlin – and even less so to the body itself, Vladimir Putin.  Inner circle he most certainly is and was not – and that circle has significantly shrunk since February 2014.

Mr Malofeev’s use comes from his connections as a node between those mentioned above, and Igor Girkin/Strelkov, Alexander Borodai, Sergei Aksyonov and Alexander Dugin – all of whom he knows and has known for some time prior to the illegal Crimean annexation.


Given the apparent Kremlin pressure being applied to Mr Malyofeev, who seems now to have served his purpose as a pawn in the game as far as The Kremlin is concerned, we should perhaps wonder whether he and/or those around him, even crafted the plan.  It may well be a fake – not only may it be that he, and those around him, didn’t write it, but that it was also not written in February 2014, but indeed more recently and back-dated.  It is incredibly easy to foresee last week’s lottery numbers this week, and then backdate that prediction to the week before with The Kremlin propaganda machine behind the story.

The Kremlin is, and has long been known for, its “find the man, then find the crime and fit/create the evidence” policy when it comes to its rule by law system.  That is how the Checkist system works after all.

All that said, perhaps he (and those around him) did craft the invasion plan of Ukraine, submitted it via those within the Kremlin circles, and then they were developed and acted upon as opportunity presented itself.  Nobody has the monopoly on (good) ideas, and perhaps the Kremlin had few other plans presented that appealed at the time.

Whether or not it is a positive sign regarding the fighting subduing in eastern Ukraine remains to be seen.  Without the funding of Mr Malyofeev, the swivel-eyed, ultra-Orthodox and far right will need another sponsor.  Perhaps one has already been identified meaning no reduction in the fighting – or not, meaning there may well be a reduction in death, injury, and destruction.  Alternatively, the now threadbare facade relating to The Kremlin’s claims of non-involvement in the east may finally be about to be cast aside, with publishing articles stating regular Russian military are participating in the fighting.  An entirely overt campaign may be about to begin – a campaign where those financed by Mr Malofeev may be seen as a liability, one way or another.

Time will tell.

However, the persecution/prosecution of Mr Malyofeev may well be more domestically orientated.  It may be that having financed a small army of the like-minded, their eventual return to Russia, and the consequences of that, is now being pondered by The Kremlin.  A small, battle-hardened and armed group of people with some loyalty to their pay master, is probably not something The Kremlin is about to accept.

Neither is a transferring of loyalties from the Glazyev/Rogozin nationalist camp to that of Malyofeev.  Lest we forget, Dmitry Rogozin was returned from his political exile as permanent Russian Ambassador to NATO in order to take control of the Russian domestic nationalist movements that turned out in numbers during the “Russia without Putin” protests of 2011/12.  Had they not been involved, Mr Rogozin may still be in political exile as permanent Russian Ambassador to NATO.

This in turn, raises the question of whom would benefit most from the domestic pressure now being put upon Mr Malyofeev?  The Kremlin, or Mr Rogozin – or both?

Perhaps circumstances surrounding Mr Malyofeev currently are little more than a terse reminder from the Kremlin inner sanctum that reasonably large fish – even useful ones (thus far) – are not destined to evolve into sharks and need to remember their place.

The events now surrounding Mr Malyofeev are certainly interesting, if the motivation behind them remains something of a mystery.  Perhaps more will become clear when his plan (or perhaps not his, but one attributed to him) is published by the Russian media in a few days from now.  Whilst the contents of the plan may be interesting, what is actually occurring to Mr Malyofeev personally is something perhaps far more interesting, as regardless of any publication of this plan, the pressure now placed upon him in Russia may well have notable repercussions both within eastern Ukraine, and domestically within Russia itself.


The EU & Russia: Before & Beyond the Crisis in Ukraine

February 21, 2015

Yesterday saw the release of the House of Lords European Union Committee report “The EU and Russia:  Before and beyond the crisis in Ukraine“.  It really is a very good read for those who know nothing about the region and how it has managed to find itself where it is.  For those who are still clueless and with the time to wade through 123 pages, it is thoroughly recommended to do so.

Perhaps the one issue that is not stressed prominently enough within the report, is that Ukraine and Russia are on entirely different trajectories – and have been ever since the dissolving of the USSR in 1991.  The difference are and always have been stark – despite the similarities regarding corruption, oligarchy and rule of law deficiencies.

In which Ukrainian election, other than the May 2014 election when it was clear only one presidential candidate would win from the outset, has an election been predictable?  In which Ukrainian election has an anointed successor by any incumbent actually won?  The only attempt to insure an anointed successor replaced the then incumbent resulted in the “Orange Revolution” in 2004/05 – when Ukrainians took to the streets and overturned that attempt.

Compare that to Russia where election results are predictable.  Anointed successors always win – and in some cases had back the reigns after a term in office to circumvent Constitutional niceties.  But there are no surprises.

In the RADA, the government (and any Ukrainian government historically) has suffered (sometimes unexpected) defeats regarding its submitted legislation.  The Duma, long stuffed with celebrities and sports stars to provide a little theatre, is not exactly known for knocking back anything President Putin submits – because that never happens.

Ukrainian civil society is vibrant – and over the past year has become disciplined, coordinated and gathered some momentum and power within the political space.  In Russia, it is suppressed, (unless it is government friendly), harassed and ignored, with no light at the end of the tunnel for those trying to influence government positively from their perspective.

The Ukrainian media even at its most repressed and censored, was far more free than that in Russia.  Today their respective journalistic freedoms are an enormous distance apart, even if neither is perfect.

Although it is possible to go on, the differences from 1991 to the present day have always been stark.  Ukraine is, and always has been, far more pluralistic in its democracy, far more open with its civil society and media space than Russia, and society far less accepting of dictated outcomes.

The Ukrainian trajectory, as slow and meandering as it has been, is nonetheless one of democracy and Europeanisation to a degree that has never existed in post USSR Russia.  Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have indeed headed in an entirely different direction.

This irreconcilable difference is not stressed prominently enough in the Lords report.  Short of a transactional relationship between Russia and Ukraine in the future, the political and social trajectories of these nations is fundamentally different – regardless of eventual membership of western clubs, or not.

However, it is not what is within the Lords report that is necessarily interesting for those who have a grasp of Ukraine, Russia and the region beyond what can be found in the MSM or western “experts/commentators”.  For those that have no clue, the Lords report is highly recommended reading before making any comments whatsoever.

What catches the eye, for those that notice such things, is that amongst the criticism raised against the FCO in particular, there is an absence of any mention of friction within the ranks – or rather embassies – when it comes to either Russia or Ukraine strategy.

For those that follow HM Embassy Kyiv and HM Embassy Moscow, the FCO, as well as the usual UK delegations to the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE, and prominent political figures etc. on their respective public social media accounts, there are some rather interesting patterns regarding “shares”, “retweets” and the like – or more significantly, the lack of them.

Things such as the tweet below, as one example of many, are not retweeted by HM Embassy Moscow, despite being generated by HM Embassy Kyiv.  Too accusatory perhaps for those who would get summonsed to explain time and again?  The Kremlin wouldn’t notice perhaps if UK Embassy Moscow didn’t “retweet” or “share”?

It is notable that some of the social media publications/e-diplomacy from HM Embassy Kyiv, whilst shared, retweeted etc., by many within the official “UK Plc organs”, HM Embassy Moscow is rather sparing in that department – particularly with subjects that would clearly upset the Kremlin beyond its normal, permanently irritable demeanor.

Having followed this trend for quite some time, some may suspect that HM Embassy Moscow has developed something of an annoyance with some of the HM Embassy Kyiv social media campaigns/content.

Now, having lived in Moscow, it is entirely understandable that HM Embassy Moscow will not take too kindly to HM Embassy Kyiv considerably annoying the Kremlin via social media campaigns/public e-diplomacy.  Naturally, not particularly “helpful” from their perspective.  FSB harassment undoubtedly increases for both UK diplomats and locally employed native staff as a result.  However, FSB harassment is to be expected when in Moscow at the best of times – and this is not the best of times.

Thus we are left to wonder whether a rather discombobulated regional social media approach was either mentioned to the Lords, but not mentioned in the report, whether it has even been picked up by FCO London, or whether it was deliberately not discussed during evidence provided to the Lords, being deemed not important enough, though it clearly has some importance.

Whatever the case, such inconsistencies in public e-diplomacy/social media campaigns by the two lead UK embassies in the region are noticeable for those who have an eye for such things – not that UK Embassy Kyiv should in any way stop any campaigns that are causing annoyance to the Kremlin, even if it comes at the expense of their colleagues in Moscow.

After all, business as usual with Moscow is not about to return any time soon with the UK now washing Kremlin dirty Litvinenko laundry in public anyway – regardless of actions in Ukraine.

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