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And now for Mayor Trukhanov? Protesters turn their gaze in Odessa

April 17, 2016

Following 17 days of 24/7 protests outside the Odessa Regional Prosecutor’s Office, eventually the Acting Prosecutor General dismissed Nikolai Stoyanov from the role of Odessa Regional Prosecutor to which he had illegally been appointed.

That it took 17 days for the Acting Prosecutor General to count the number of days that Mr Stoyanov had held senior office during the Yanukovych years and was thus barred from public office under the “Lustration Law” is of course neither believable not acceptable, particularly when Mr Stoyanov appears on the Justice Ministry list of “the lustrated”.

Indeed, as the Prosecutor General’s Office circled its wagons, it took President Poroshenko to directly intervene and request the Acting Prosecutor General abide by the law – eventually resulting in the dismissal from post of Mr Stayanov a few days ago. Perhaps the forthcoming Prosecutor General Lutsenko would have acted without presidential interjection – perhaps not.

Regardless, the outcome is  a victory for the protesters and the rule of law – eventually.  A clear defeat for some vested interests.

This battle between the local constituency and the law against certain vested interests has played out against the backdrop of the Panama Papers and Mayor Trukhanov’s name appearing therein.

Mayor Trukhanov

Mayor Trukhanov

As stated on the day the Panama Papers were published – “Mayor Trukhanov will have a far more difficult task in explaining away the data leaked that surrounds him than President Poroshenko will.  Therefore it is unlikely that Mayor Trukhanov will try to explain it away and will simply carry on regardless as none of what has been released changes the existing perceptions about him – despite the revelations surrounding him being (prima facie) a red rag to the Governor Saakashvili bull.

For Mayor Trukhanov the question will be whether previously bottled criminal investigation genies can or will remain bottled – or indeed whether new investigations now begin.

There is also the issue of how to mitigate the “Vichy” perception of a Mayor whose Russian passport details, and thus citizenship, are no longer something known only to the few but were a commonly a belief of the masses, and have become commonly known to the masses.  Neither nationalists nor patriots are likely to let that matter drop.”

As predicted, the Mayor’s reaction follows the usual pattern of those with skeletons in the closet, or perhaps a different (some would say more appropriate) idiom, a reaction that does not want any buried bodies disturbing by those who now believe they know where they are hidden.

Following the classic Homo Sovieticus protocol, at first the issue was simply ignored – but it did”t go away.

It was then denied in a very short and terse statements – but it didn’t go away.

Thereafter the predictable production of a certificate from the Russian Consulate in Odessa duly stating that Gennady Trukhanov was not a Russian citizen – but the issue didn’t go away.

In fact such a swiftly produced certificate from the Russian Consulate only added fuel to the rumour that Mayor Trukhanov has extremely close relations with the Russian FSB.

To be blunt, which 1990’s underworld figures that have survived and flourished didn’t have close relations with the Secret Services of both Russia and/or Ukraine? It was, and remains, a very smudged line between organised crime and the security services to put matters charitably/diplomatically.  That the Russian Security Services would have an interest in a relationship with a senior underworld, and subsequent political figure in a major transit hub is a given.  Especially so when the elite of the criminal underworld of Odessa have solid ties to those of Russia.

The production of the certificate from the Russian Consulate then brought forth further leaks of documents reinforcing the claims that Mayor Turkhanov holds Russian citizenship.

Truk 1

Truk 2

truk 3

Truk 4

This issue has still not gone away, and as stated on the day the Panama Papers were released, the 20 or so offshore companies, the inferred large scale tax avoidance, and mafia linkage disclosed/inferred – all of which were already known by some, or held as solid belief to be the case among much of the local constituency anyway – would be far less of a problem than the documents corroborating the known by some, and widely and strongly held belief among the constituency, that he held Russian citizenship.

There was no societal shock at the contents of any of the disclosures.  The issue at hand is not only that of rule of law when it comes to dual nationality forbidden by Ukraine, but also that of perceived loyalties.

“There is also the issue of how to mitigate the “Vichy” perception of a Mayor whose Russian passport details, and thus citizenship, are no longer something known only to the few but were a commonly a belief of the masses, and have become commonly known to the masses.  Neither nationalists nor patriots are likely to let that matter drop.”

To be blunt, organised crime generally has only one loyalty – to its business’ ability to make money regardless of how, who with or where.  It comes a little more difficult when a person allegedly involved in nefarious matters become high profile and powerful politicians when supposedly holding the passport of a nation fighting a war against the State in which they hold office.

Lo, it has come to pass, having defeated the schemes and plotting of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Odessa, the protesters eye has now turned to Mayor Trukhanov.  The protesters have already been outside City Hall for a few days.

City Hall

Petitions to the President to remove Mayor Trukhanov are already collecting thousands of signatures – 25,000 being the required target to force Presidential consideration.

Amazingly the SBU claims to have carried out a thorough and diligent investigation into Mayor Trukhanov’s alleged Russian citizenship and has declared that such citizenship does not exist.  This in a matter of days when the SBU has yet to carry out a thorough and diligent investigation into 2nd May 2014 tragedy in Odessa, numerous clearly illegal high profile property acts, and obvious high level corruption within Odessa.

Needless to say under such circumstances the SBU “investigation” and proclaimed outcome has been met with derision, skepticism and cynicism in equal measure.

CH 2

If the SBU, Mayor Trukhanov, or those in Kyiv thought a swift (rather than diligent) inquiry would placate the protesters or draw a line under the issue they were mistaken.

It may be that the documents are forgeries/fakes.  If so, who forged them and why?  Were forged documents created to simply cast aspersions upon the character of Gennady Trukhanov?  To what end when the documents create no shock within the local constituency, and thus societal reaction was difficult to predict?

Were they perhaps forged and used to open the 20 something offshore companies by persons unknown in Mayor Trukhanov’s name without his knowledge or consent?  It would be a brave soul indeed to engage in such an endeavour.

Were they perhaps forged and used by Mr Turkhanov to open the 20 something offshore companies?

Perhaps they are simply genuine?  Readers will have to answer such questions for themselves (or not), for only experts would know when in possession of the actual documents.

Mayor Trukhanov, in sticking to Homo Sovieticus handbook clearly has need of a diversion.  “Ignore” as a tactic has failed.  “Deny” as a tactic has failed.  “Diversion” is the next step in escalation.

The question is what diversion and/or toward whom?  Whom or what else is loathed in Odessa that would be a worthy and possible target that would retain societal attention?

Of the Odessa city (in)famous political class there is only one man that fits the bill – Sergei Kivalov.

Thus, entirely predictably, Mayor Trukhanov has announced an inquiry into property technically owned by Odessa International Humanities University (a part of Moscow State University) whose President is Sergei Kivalov, but the property is well known to have been built and used for the personal use of Sergei Kivalov.

Quite what the outcome of any such inquiry would achieve is unclear – aside from the attempt to divert public (and protester) attention away from the Mayor by offering up an equally (in)famous target for sacrifice at the alter of public ire.  This particular target is perhaps unwise, particularly so after the premises were put up for sale many months ago by the university (read Mr Kivalov) after it became clear the true ownership cat was out of the bag regarding its use and implied tax avoidance issues.

There are many ways to divert public ire toward Mr Kivalov for Mayor Trukhanov – he will know how much public funds have been misused by Mr Kivalov’s several educational establishments given grants and funding – yet he chooses old news and an inquiry that has questionable powers and therefore questionable consequences for Mr Kivalov.

Thus the Mayor’s attempt at distraction toward Mr Kivalov will not work, for it is simply insufficient in scale, and also old news.  Those that spent 17 days, 24/7 outside the Prosecutor General’s Office are not about to turn their sights from Mayor Turkhanov after only a few days toward such a limp distraction attempt.

Meanwhile the weather gets warmer every day, as do the nights.  The coming days and weeks will become far more comfortable for the protesters than those colder days and nights outside the PGO over recent weeks.

Igor Firsov

That the protest has recently ejected Block Poroshenko, now former MP Igor Firsov prima facie leading the protester charge will not help Mayor Trukhanov ride out the storm.  If Igor Firsov would not toe the Poroshenko party line and called out the shenanigans within to the point where he was ejected from the faction and stripped of his parliamentary mandate, then Igor Firsov is not about to reach “an agreement” with Mayor Trukhanov.

With Mr Firsov leading of the constituency protester charge also allows Governor Saakashvili, who is undoubtedly enjoying the Mayor Trukhanov showdown, time to concentrate upon defending Yulia Marushevska and the Odessa Port customs project that is no longer suffering from merely intense pressure from old and vested interests, but now is subjected extreme pressure from old and vested interests in an effort to break it while the window of political uncertainty and governance weakness remains.  Certainly the level of engagement between Mr Firsov and Governor Saakashvili is minimal – at least publicly.

Whatever the case, Mayor Trukhanov, as anticipated when the Panama Papers were published, will continue to struggle to make this issue disappear.  The Homo Sovieticus doctrine regarding steps for further escalation are likely to make matters worse rather than better, thus leaving only further diversions of far greater magnitude than Sergei Kivalov’s property hidden within the University assets.

There are innumerable scandalous and criminal diversions Mayor Trukhanov can use as one of two avenues that present themselves.  Either those existing diversions will mean going against the other vested interests within the city which may have very unintended consequences, or playing the metaphorical arsonist and then fire fighter, thus creating diversions to then be seen to be dealing with them effectively.  The latter will swiftly be seen for what they are however.

Fresh from unseating an odious Regional Prosecutor General and forcing the rule of law to be adhered to, a reader may ponder just how difficult it will be for the Mayor to quell a successful and determined crowd outside City Hall.  As predicted, this issue did not go away, and will be remain “a problem” for the foreseeable future.

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