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Prickly agendas? – Odessa City Hall

August 27, 2015

Following along nicely from the previous entry, yesterday’s session of Odessa City Council – not to be confused with the Oblast Council – was canceled.

The City Council session was canceled due to only 56 deputies registering in the session hall, when the minimum number required for a legal quorum is 61.

An issue of squeezing every last moment from the official holiday period by the city deputies perhaps?

No.  The issue was the session agenda, and one particular item on it.

That agenda issue had been submitted by the “For a European Odessa” group of deputies and seeks the City Council to recognise The Russian Federation as an aggressor State.

“Many MPs were afraid of this political issue and decided to ignore the session.  A conciliation board was convened, and all the factions and the group decided to postpone the session until 10th September.” – Oleg Bryndak, Secretary of the City Council.

Duma

So what?

The national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, long since passed a resolution recognising The Russian Federation as an aggressor State – On the 27th January 2015 to be precise.

Therefore, does it matter?

For international purposes obviously not.  The Verhovna Rada resolution as a national parliament was done deliberately to enable international legal machinery that relates to nations identified as an “aggressor State” per UN definition.

Therefore placing this issue on the City Council agenda is clearly a matter of internal politics – but does it matter even then?

Clearly it sends signals domestically within Ukraine, and also to the local constituency – as the efforts to maneuver Kharkiv into recognising The Russian Federation as an aggressor State indicate.

It is no secret that the Mayor of Kharkiv Gennady Kernes is an odious (for many) and nefarious (to almost all) character with more than dubious allegiances.  His support for the Berkut during the violence at EuroMaidan was all to obvious.  There are on-going legal proceedings against him for his alleged involvement in sponsoring and enabling violent anti-Maidan activities against pro-Maidan activists in Kharkiv.  His questionable business portfolio include nefarious business dealings with Pavel Fuchs and Alex Shishkin.  (More inquiring minds may look toward the ЗАО Завод Здоровье company in Kharkiv and more than a few questionable pharmaceutical deals in Germany and Switzerland as a starting point.)

The first two attempts within the Kharkiv Administration failed to recognise Russia as an aggressor State – despite Kharkiv Oblast  having a border with The Russian Federation, the deadly 22nd February bombing of a pro-Ukrainian rally in Kharkiv city centre, and the war-torn Oblast of Luhansk nextdoor.

Eventually however, on 10th July, by 69 to 4, Kharkiv City Council voted to support the Rada resolution adopted of 27th January.  The most obvious question arising was why the “Kernes deputies” (and other aligned) all decided to move from an unfavourable to favourable view?  Do they anticipate the demise of Gennady Kernes at the local elections in Kharkiv in October, and thus were insuring they are “on-side” with Kyiv?  Alternatively, what grubby little deal had been cut between Mayor Kernes and Kyiv to enable that support?

Whatever the case, Kharkiv City Council fell in line, supporting the resolution of the Rada.  A domestic political win for Kyiv within a strategic Oblast and City Administration.

Nevertheless, the Kharkiv regional and city political class, wisely grasped this nettle back in early July, long before the rhetoric and political posturing relating to the local elections in October began.

The Odessa City deputies did not – and now so close to the local elections when (often libelous) black PR, posturing, jockeying, positioning and (often slanderous) rhetoric already abound – the issue has unsurprisingly appeared upon the City Council agenda forcing deputies to vote for or against, (in effect personally) recognising The Russian Federation as an aggressor State before the voting constituency – or not!

A vote for or against taken some months ago, long before the local elections would possibly have less resonance with the voters than the decision to vote for or against now.  That said, the bombings in Odessa have been absent only a few months, and to vote against whilst bombs were going off would not have sat well with the local constituency be they more inclined to favour closer ties with Russia or not.

When push comes to shove, the vast majority on either side do not take kindly to bombs going off in their city.  The pride the people of Odessa have for their city, regardless of political or social orientation, is a cross-cutting cleavage that simply does not support anybody setting off bombs in it.

However, what has been gained by failing to deal with what appears to be a prickly issue for some deputies on 26th August, and kicking the matter to 10th September, a lot closer to the local elections – long after all candidates and party lists for the forthcoming local elections will be known to the voting public?

Is it a question of finding out whether a deputy will be on a list or not prior to any voting?

If so why?

Historically the Odessa City Council is made up of deputies representing the vested interests of far bigger fish.  Ihor Kolmoisky has “his deputies” – but at the forthcoming elections has his own political vehicle in “Ukrop” rather than “his people” being spread across other party lines.

Clearly if Ukrop was in the City Hall Administration now, it would vote for recognising Russia as an aggressor nation – Ihor Kolomoisky very early on tied his colours to the mast of Ukraine.  “His people” under whatever banner they currently sit under will therefore presumably voting in favour of recognition.

How will Igor Markov and “Rodina” deputies manage to represent the interests of Igor Markov now he is absent Odessa and Ukraine at the forthcoming elections?  Will “Rodina” garner any support whatsoever?  Rodina deputies theoretically would vote against recognising Russia as an aggressor State if towing Mr Markov’s line – but would voting against insure political oblivion?.

Will Sergei Kivalov’s Morskaya party glean anything like enough votes to continue to forward his (often nefarious) interests within the city?  How would Morskaya deputies vote?  Kivalov is very anti the current Kyiv leadership (as you would expect from somebody so closely aligned and directly associated with the former Yanukovych regime.  He is also very close to certain Moscow circles too), but he is a survivor with little morality.  Does he try and capture the Kremlin-favouring vote in the hope it produces sufficient City Hall deputies to protect and further his interests, or does he bite the bullet and try to secure a reasonable amount of the vast majority?  The Morskaya vote is for, or against?  How to interpret a block abstention?

How will the current Mayor and his “Party Truhanov” position itself?  His media outlet was decidedly anti-Maidan and displayed a position favourable toward the Kremlin – until he decided to run for Mayor.  Can he stick close to Ihor Kolomoisky, a previous financier of his election campaign, despite the creation of Mr Kolomoisky’s Ukrop?

Will he try and distance itself from the Mayor’s organised crime associates – the likes of Alexander (Angel) Angert (whose company “Growth” does very well from City contracts), or the likes of Vladimir (Lampochka) Galaternik who does very well from favourable land deals from City Hall?  Does he keep them close, or perhaps more to the point, having broken bread with such people, do they let you leave?

How do “Trukhanov’s people” vote?  Follow the Kolomoisky line in the hope for financial backing and future coalition, or with organised crime which naturally gives little care for patriotism when money is all that matters?  Perhaps with Solidarity in the hope of keeping Kyiv on-side but distant enough not to interfere with nefarious interests?

What of the Opposition Block?  How toxic does it remain at a local level?  In favour or against recognition as an aggressor State?

Will enough deputies be returned to protect or advance Dmitry Firtash’s interests under the guidance of Mykola Skoryk?  Just how my pressure (and influence) can the unions so closely aligned to Mr Firtash put upon employers and employees in Odessa?  How would Firtash’s people vote?  For or against?  Abstention?  He cannot afford to offend his associations too greatly in Moscow any mopre than he can afford to risk his ill-gotten gains in Ukraine.

What effect will the assimilation of UDAR and the National Front have when all appear on the “Solidarity” ticket?  Solidarity currently holds the majority in the Oblast Rada, but can it hold onto that and comfortably take City Hall too?

Unquestionably existing Solidarity deputies would be expected to vote in favour of recognising Russia as an aggressor State in line with the Rada resolution – but has it done the public opinion surveys that would forecast comfortable majorities in both Oblast and City councils if doing so now?

Clearly the ‘For a European Odessa” group will include a large number of Solidarity deputies, and it is the “For a European Odessa” group that placed this seemingly prickly issue on yesterday’s agenda.  But have they done the math?

Will this issue be addressed on 10th September, or be further kicked into the local political grass in an effort to go beyond the local elections before dealing with it?  If it is dealt with prior to the elections, what if any, are the ramifications amongst the voting constituency and for the vested interests of the puppet masters?

Now the issue is known to be on the City Hall agenda, what are the implications of refusing to deal with it prior to the local elections within the local electorate?

Will deliberately placing this issue on the local political agenda at this particular time pay dividends for the “For a European Odessa” group – or not?

Ultimately, whether voted for or against, it fails to effect the January 2015 Verhovna Rada resolution, and whilst seeming not an issue for the 56 deputies that turned up at yesterday’s City Hall session prepared to deal with the agenda – for those that did not attend the session it appears to be a prickly issue best avoided.

Perhaps avoidance of the agenda issue says all a voter needs to know?

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