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KGB tales – or KGB entrails? (What about the rule of law?)

October 29, 2015

Known for his well established ties to and within organised crime, incumbent Mayor Gennady Trukhanov is being reelected to the role – perhaps/probably/maybe he already has been.  The jury, if there was one in Ukraine (despite the Constitution providing for juries) remains out.

Indeed Mayor Trukhanov is on public record relating to his relationship with organised crime (he’s just not on record about his role within it, despite it being very well known).  The Mayor and Odessa’s top Don Alexander Angert have known each other since the bloody and lawless 1990s and their roles within a “security company” called “Captain Security”.  Any reader with any knowledge of the region will know full well what “security companies” were during the 1990s – and more than a passing “acquaintance” with Mr Angert and his current businesses still remain as far as Mr Trukhanov is concerned.

Of Mr (Don) Angert, Mayor Trukhanov has said ““I have not studied his biography , his past , I did not take a certificate from the district department of his criminal record. I did not care about people’s past. He worked openly, he was not hounded by the authorities. In a word, a decent, normal person. Since then, we have a relationship. He’s a free man, and I do not attach any significance to talk about his criminal past.”

Regarding Mr Angert’s company ROST, which does terribly well with “City contracts” Mayor Trukhanov is on record stating “I have no relationship with this company, even though I know it well.

Certainly his words or not lies – but they are not truths either.

For anybody that has even the slightest clue about organised crime/mafia in Odessa, where, how and with whom Mayor Trukhanov fits is no secret, and any criminal organagram places him nowhere near the bottom of the heap – far from it.  He sits loftily along side Zhokov, above the likes of “Lampochka” Galidilnik and Ruslan Bodelan.

However, it is not of Gennady Trukhanov this entry is written.

There is now a legal challenge by Sasha Borovik relating to Mayor Trukhanov’s first round win, specifically regarding accusations of fraud and electoral violations (and fraud there was – albeit not only by Trukhanov).  At the very least a recount seems likely which may, or may not, cause a second round run off between Messrs Trukhanov and Borovik.  Yet a recount in no way addresses the lawlessness of this election campaign.

If there is a second round, then it is probable Trukhanov will win anyway- and lawfully (so why a first round victory at any nefarious cost) – but the legal challenges, and certainly a recount, should be supported given the flagrant disregard for the rule of (electoral) law during the entire electoral process in Odessa that ran from the very start of campaigning through to ballot counting.  Regardless of who eventually becomes mayor, prosecutions have to occur lest the next elections follow the same illicit route.  Simply moving on will not help Odessa, nor Ukraine.

rule of law

Whether Mr Borovik will win or lose in any second round is secondary to the rule of law being seen to be upheld.  If “The Revolution of Dignity” is rightly named, and during which it saw Ukrainians die, as well as Viktor Yanukovych and his odious courtiers flee, then the rule of law and democracy were certainly a core theme for those that protested (and those that died).  To simply accept unchallenged and without consequences so many violations of electoral law is to fail each and every one of those people.

Yet what seems to have the local social media attention (again) is not the rule of law being treated with the same disregard as it was in elections a decade ago, but the fact that the man who has submitted claims of fraud, and who may or may not force a second round of voting, has a KGB past.

It is indeed a KGB past that he admits to – perhaps in the same half-truth fashion as Mayor Trukhanov admits to the depth and involvement of his organised crime associations – but nevertheless he admits it.  Mr Borovik is on record stating that his father was a fairly high ranking regional KGB officer.  That Mr Borovik himself attended the Dzerzhinsky KGB institution and studied there for 3 years he does not hide.  He then claims to have lied his way out of the Soviet Union on the premise of a chemistry conference in then Czechoslovakia never to return.

Naturally the latter part is raising questions amongst the local media and social networks about what – or perhaps why – his high ranking KGB father remained so placed if his son had gone AWOL in Czechoslovakia during 1989, a time when revolution was in the air?  The inference perhaps being, that having completed 3 years of KGB schooling and with revolution in the air in Czechoslovakia, he was sent, rather than escaped, if his father retained his high position.  What of the secrets Mr Borovik is presumed to have known?  What of his knowledge of the latest KGB techniques and tradecraft?  These are questions asked as if the KGB would never allow such a tale as Mr Borovik tells.

Well, to burst one of those local media bubbles, despite the KGB generally having good tradecraft, what constituted KGB trade-craft was hardly unknown to the West in 1989.  Indeed KGB tradecraft was actually well known and understood in the West.  As for the “latest” in late 1980’s tradecraft and technologies, what it didn’t already know, Oleg Gordievsky could have filled in the gaps with a timely update after his 1985 defection.

Whether Mr Borovik knew any secrets worthy of hunting him down, if he went AWOL of his own accord as he claims, firstly depends upon the presumption that he knew any secrets, secondly rests upon the presumption that any secrets he may have known were actually still unknown to the West or whether the KGB believed them to have already been compromised.  As he wasn’t hunted down – he either knew no secrets worthy of chasing him, or secondly was simply sent to Czechoslovakia by the KGB.  To burst another local media bubble, the West was not that bad at learning Soviet secrets.

The answers to any and all of the rumination above may remain unknown (at least in the public realm), but certainly in 1989 the KGB was a year or two into preparing for the collapse of the USSR.  It at least saw it coming if others didn’t.  The “Chyornaya Kassa” was already filling with funds, the Fifth Directorate (renamed Directorate Z in 1989) was well on the way to creating KGB backed new political parties for the new realities that seemed to them assured (and they were right).

The Fifth Directorate in 1989 was busy putting together both the RNYe Party and Liberalno-Demokraticheskaya Partiya Rossii under the careful eye of KGB General Aleksei Sterligov, and General Filipp Bobkov.  Both parties officially launched in 1990.

Of course Mr Borovik’s father as a high ranking but regional KGB officer will probably have had no knowledge of what was going on in Moscow Centre, and certainly not within the leading echelons of the 5th Directorate – nevertheless, this tells even the most naive that the KGB, and certainly the Fifth Directorate, were aware of the impending collapse of the USSR and were actively preparing for it during the late 1980’s – both financially with the “Chyornaya kassa”, and also creating political parties to step into the void behind which they would remain.

(For those wondering what the “Chornaya Kassa” was for, it was/is a nefarious fund from KGB days of old (and is by many accounts is still operating today) employed to fund bribery, “political interests” wherever and whatever they may be, and launder cash (from the “rents” and official budgets both then and now).

Suffice to say, it is questionable during such times of internal preparation for the foreseen Soviet collapse, and notwithstanding the structural disintegration upon the “Communist fringes”, as to whether the “naughty” Sasha Borovik disappearing within revolutionary Czechoslovakia  warranted any attention, and if it did, whether his father was powerful enough to simply cover it up – or whether he was sent officially and then decided to “disappear”, or whether he was sent and did exactly what his assignment (whatever it was) required him to do.

But in the grand scheme of things, how much does that matter?

If the local media and social sites are going to concentrate upon dissecting either Mr Borovik’s legend, despite his own admission to his KGB legacy, the question has to be to what end?

He is already elected to City Hall as one of the 64 city deputies – regardless of any second round of voting, and regardless of whether he becomes mayor or not.

The most logical and pressing questions for cynics, ex-spooks, counter-intelligence, are not what holes can be found in the history of a self-admitted KGB schooled newly elected local politician, but whether any relationship once held remains active – or not.

If such a relationship remains active, does it actually matter?

Lord knows The Kremlin does not need Sasha Borovik to tell them what is going on within Odessa City Hall, nor what plans (in the vain hope there are any) Odessa City Hall has for Odessa.

Governor Saakashvili stands to gain more by having Mr Borovik spy within City Hall.

How many former or current Kremlin spooks and/or sources sit amongst far higher and far more influential positions within Ukraine?  Who of the very highest Ukrainian elite were not either former Communist Party apparatchiks (be they believers in, or users of the system) back in the day?  If not, whom amongst them were not assisted by organised crime, or the secret services, or both, somewhere along the way to their places at the very top of the Ukrainian tree?

Ukraine as a nation, and Odessa is no different, remains heavily infiltrated by Russian security services.  It would be very wise for Ukraine, its media, its friends, and those simply looking-on, to work from the premise that Ukraine has no secrets from The Kremlin, whether it thinks it has secrets or not.

If your author can find out what is going on within City Hall, or the Oblast Rada, or what Governor Saakashvili is going to say to “diplomat X” before he says it without Sasha Borovik – then be absolutely sure that The Kremlin can too.

If your author can hear of whispered conversation in dark corners of the Verkhovna Rada all the way down in Odessa, be undoubtedly The Kremlin can too.

If the Ukrainian Security Services, for whatever reason suspect Mr Borovik, then that does not mean they have to do anything (overtly) about it – now or perhaps ever.  Counter-intelligence is a slow and patient game.   And to be blunt, there seems little evidence (not even rumour) to suggest the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) consider him a Kremlin agent, asset, source, useful idiot, or sympathiser.

If they did, the question would be whether to let things run, roll matters up, ponder whether any self-admission is a dangle to divert attention away from somebody else, or whether it is simply an admission for the sake of genuine political transparency (and beating the media to any “sensational discoveries”), whether it is to lower SBU interest (what self-respecting spy calls attention to themselves as a spy – or is that a clever plan to write him off as an ex-spook that has long since left the game) etc.  Whatever the case Mr Borovik ends up upon the SBU radar – by virtue his own admissions, notwithstanding any political public figure roles.

Yet the local media and social networks are not (yet) inferring Mr Borovik is an active spook.  They are concentrating upon his history from attending Dzerzhinsky KGB school to reaching Czechoslovakia (not even what he did whilst there).  Thus, the conclusion regarding renewed interest in Mr Borovik’s KGB past (no matter how brief or full, uninteresting or shocking it may be) would appear to have much more to do with raising the psychological spectre of the KGB within the minds of the electorate just in case there is a second round of voting.

Seemingly a known organised criminal holds some inferred higher moral or social standing than those with an association with the KGB.

However, be he ex-spook, current spook, or a shape-shifting Martian, the fact is that somebody has to insure the rule of law is applied to the fraud that occurred in Odessa.  If it is simply accepted, then people died in Kyiv almost two years ago for what exactly?

Of course a self-confessed KGB schooled, newly elected local politician can expect to have their historical closet rummaged through by the media, and all deemed “irregular” thereafter flogged in the realm of conspiracy.  Such things are interesting to the public.  But it is in the public interest (as well as his own of course), whether a voter of Odessa would vote for or against him, that he makes a stand for the rule of law.

Indeed, perhaps the local media (and social media) should be asking themselves why they are not making far more noise about the fraud and corruption that ran throughout the elections in Odessa.  Where are the demands, repeated and angry, for timely action regarding the fraud?  This is about values and principle.  For sure poke around in the closet of Mr Borovik for whatever that is worth, but it is incumbent upon the local media to robustly support the rule of law.

There is a difference between “interesting to the public” and “public interest”.  The latter should have primacy, which means supporting the rule of law, demanding investigations and accountability for legal violations during the recent elections – even if it means certain outlets finding a way to do so without being seen to support Sasha Borovik.

Listening to KGB tales, or trying to read KGB entrails is all very well – but what about the rule of law?

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