Poroshenko threatens Martial Law – but for which audience?

February 12, 2015

This entry may seem as though it is meandering somewhat aimlessly, but stick with it – there is a point.

Yesterday, prior to the “Normandy Format” talks in Minsk, President Poroshenko made a public statement  that he was prepared to immediately install Martial Law throughout the nation if escalation of the conflict continued.

Of note, and for reasons that will become apparent, he made no specific mention of eastern Ukraine when referring to conflict escalation.

A statement that no doubt alarmed some in the international community, particularly the “armchair commentators” and “Ukraine experts”, that are permanently anywhere other than Ukraine.  They would claim (based on often entirely faulty western media reporting) that such an act would lose the public support he has, as well as remove a good deal of international support.

That would be true perhaps, if his public statement was aimed at international consumption, or at the Ukrainian public, were it to be implemented in a way that effected the daily lives of the Ukrainian constituency that is far removed from the front lines in  eastern Ukraine.

However, neither the international community, nor the people of Ukraine, were the target audience.

At the same time President Poroshenko made these remarks, Prime Minister Yatseniuk held a gathering of the regional fiefdom leaders.  A gathering that had just seen laws passed  in the RADA insisting upon public transparency relating to the decentralisation of budgets to the regions.  Indeed the Prime Minister implored them to adhere to the new laws – publicly.

That one of these regional fiefdom leaders also received a personal dressing down by the president relating to lax mobilisation efforts prior to this statement – makes the intended audience all the more clear now this context is added.  It was neither the international community, nor Ukrainian public that were the intended audience – the intended audience was the leadership of the fiefdoms, and they needed telling publicly.  “Armchair commentators” and “Ukraine experts” sat anywhere other than Ukraine, and thus who are otherwise unaware of the surrounding events relating to these domestic power issues, take note.

The statement was a direct shot across the bows of the leaders of the regional fiefdoms (and their associated patriarchy) , and any thoughts they may have of seeking “Donbas” styled quasi-autonomy to do as they see fit, prior to any outcomes from Minsk.  In short, the message is forget any such thoughts – now.

President Poroshenko is a uniquely positioned Ukrainian president, in that domestically, regardless of political party names, he has a “pro-European majority” in the RADA, he has an active “Europe facing” civil society, he has a media that is generally supportive, and he has a nation that is prepared to tighten its belts for the cause – for now at least.

However, despite all this horizontal support, it is clear that President Poroshenko, and the presidential administration, are not fully trusting of/or prepared to easily empower the horizontal in a way that occurs within consolidated democracies.  Indeed it seems that where ever power can be sucked into the office of president, or the corridors of the presidential administration, that is what is being attempted/or happening.  A power vertical, albeit far more subtle than that of his predecessor, may well be currently under construction at the expense of the democratic horizontal that currently remains supportive of him – Foolishness!

Hopefully the readers of this blog in Kyiv that have the ear of both the president, and his administration, are also keeping a watchful eye and pushing the democratic horizontal, whilst attempting to allay whatever reservations that prevent the necessary trust to abandon the over-empowered  vertical.

It is, of course, not easy to be at the epicenter of power and devolve much of that power and budgetary freedom to the regional fiefdoms, thus consigning the Soviet bureaucratic structural legacy to history, whilst knowing that many of these fiefdoms are controlled and/or administered by highly corrupt and incompetent people.

As an example, in Odessa, there are indeed seeds being sown over the past few weeks for a project amongst the conspirators, called “Porto Franco”.  In the past 3 weeks, a good deal of money has arrived in Odessa for the promotion of this project when the time to activate it arrives.

Those behind it are the usual political suspects – Messrs Markov (from afar), Presman, Skoryk and Rabinovich.  Their aim is to give Odessa a special status in Ukraine as a free port – as the name “porto franco” infers.  The remnants of Party Rodina are preparing to be activated (now the money is here).  Trolls for the “Odessa Forum” and on-line media are being recruited.  The local media owned by these men is prepping to make the “porto franco” argument   A Bill to be submitted to the RADA seeking a special free port status for Odessa is being drafted in dark conspiratorial corners.

The motivations of these conspirators is naturally not the benefit of Odessa.  The special status has far more to do with yet more nefarious enrichment and far less accountability to Kyiv.  Defrauding and shameless theft of the decentralised Odessa budget sits atop the agenda.  Some of these men are also close to the Kremlin, and thus would have little compunction if the porto franco project was (mysteriously) co-opted by the SVR and GRU along the way.  The money that has arrived in Odessa over the past 3 weeks to finance this project is not theirs – despite them all being obscenely wealthy and capable of financing such an effort.

As yesterday’s entry outlines, any such attempt is one of those few events that would be a direct challenge to the president, prime minister and Igor Kolomoisky simultaneously – all of whom have a vested interest in retaining control over an Odessa with no special status (at least yet in such turbulent times) within a single united Ukraine.

However, returning to the opening paragraph, any such attempt to give Odessa some form of “special status” may be viewed by some in government, as a “conflict escalation” – and as such, whether the Ukrainian government are aware of project “porto franco” or not (and if they weren’t, they will be now), or whether they are aware of another similar project elsewhere, none of the leaders of the regional fiefdoms can state that they were not forewarned that whatever power and impunity they may currently enjoy, can and will be removed at a moments notice should they do anything to escalate destabilisation within Ukraine.

A little bit of domestic awareness far below the radar of the western media reporting, does help put seemingly disproportionate presidential statements in a slightly different context – not that the  “armchair commentators” and “Ukraine experts” sat anywhere other than Ukraine will ever worry about context that isn’t laid before them on a plater.


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