Archive for April 27th, 2016

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Odessa Court refuses to satisfy City Council regarding mass events

April 27, 2016

It is not often – or certainly not often enough – that the courts of Odessa fail to satisfy the requests/petitions of City Hall.

Indeed much of the local constituency would perceive the courts of Odessa as being in cahoots with, or at the very least tacitly approving (by way of inaction) many acts of City Hall that would appear to breach the of City Ordnance to which it is meant to comply.

As stated in yesterday‘s entry. there is the possibility of some rather tense moments in Odessa over the coming weeks – the 2nd anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy, the 9th May Victory day events, and the first anniversary of Governor Saakashvili’s appointment.

All of these dates have the potential for mass gatherings and perhaps spontaneous, or agent provocateur instigated, or pre-planned violence, when considering the purely politically and artificially created atmosphere of complete intolerance among the local political class in recent weeks.

The “old guard” is clearly pushing back – Messrs Kivalov and Skoryk are pushing their agenda.  Anton Kisse in the south-west of the Oblast is making “Bessarabian” noises (again).  Mayor Trukhanov is under the Panama Papers cosh, Governor Saakashvili will face anniversary questions of accomplishments (or not), and the persistent mention of both Ihor Kolomoisky and Alexander Angert continues in the local political and underworld circles with regard to continued disservices to the well-being of the city (and region).  This notwithstanding continuing societal discontent over issues such as the perceived lack of rule of law and failure to tackle corruption within the local and national elite.

Considering these dates are upon the immediate horizon, City Hall petitioned the courts of Odessa to ban mass events from 1st – 10th May at Kulikovo Field.

Kulikovo Field, adjacent to the city centre railway station, has traditionally been the location for 9th May Victory Day military parades, and is also the location of Union House, the scene of several shootings and the fire that claimed so many lives in 2014.

City Hall claimed that allowing mass gatherings would “draw the attention of a large number of radical parties with an opposing civil position.”

Perhaps so.  Certainly a legitimate concern for those governing the city, and clearly a symbolic and tragic location.  It is to be duly noted that this was the only location that City Hall sought to ban mass gatherings between the dates identified.

The petition prima facie sought to prevent the opportunity for large scale disorder by preemptively banning large organised gatherings at Kulikovo Field, vis a vis the right of society to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech.

Such decisions are never particularly easy for any authority, albeit in a democracy the default position of a court should lean toward the fundamental rights of the constituency.  The case to curtail such rights must necessarily have a particularly high threshold.  Existing human rights outweighing the potential for human wrongs and all that.

(Reader’s will duly note that democracy and rule of law, and indeed the independence of the courts in Ukraine, can be perceived as somewhat subjective to be charitable.)

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The outcome was that the court in Odessa refused to satisfy the City Hall petition to ban mass events at Kulikovo Field.  The court stated that the City Hall arguments were simply not convincing as only one NGO had notified City Hall of its intention to carry out activities on Kulikovo Field during the period 1st – 10th May.

The NGO that notified City Hall of its intentions at Kulikovo Field was AutoMaidan Odessa, who planned to carry out “military/patriotic education of the youth” and familiarising “the youth” with MMGs (weaponry operation, size, weights etc) including their use and the use of pyrotechnics.

Quite rightly, the court banned the use of MMGs and pyrotechnics during the “military/patriotic education of the youth“, but not the NGO from holding its activities on Kulikovo Field.  It now falls to the police to insure that ban is robustly and uncompromisingly enforced.  (The lack of enforced court rulings across Ukraine is a significant problem – if a case gets to court at all.)

This raises the question of whether those that uphold the rule of law feel able to adequately provide for the safety of the local constituency – or not – when considering the risk of significant public disorder.  A reader may question what input, if any, the police and/or the SBU had in this City Hall petition to the court, and/or what evidence these institutions gave at the court hearing – if any.

All of that said, the vast majority of the local constituency will not be engaging in any AutoMaidan Odessa activities at Kulikovo Field, no differently from the vast majority of the local constituency not partaking in the tragic events of 2nd May 2014.  Indeed the vast majority of the local constituency have not attended any of the numerous 9th May military victory parades at Kulikovo Field of years past either.

It is therefore perhaps not the only the local constituency that City Hall fears when it states Kulikovo Field will “draw the attention of a large number of radical parties with an opposing civil position”.  Indeed, few would be surprised if “concerned citizens” (of various persuasions) external of Odessa were to arrive to “show their support” (to whomever).

Such non-local actors may decide it entirely unnecessary to inform City Hall of their attendance at Kulikova Field of course.  Ergo it may be the case that other organisations may be present.

What, if any, input from the SBU and/or police was given to the court with regard to intelligence is unknown.  The court can only rule upon the evidence and arguments presented.

If 2015 was an indication of what is ahead on these sensitive dates in 2016, then the court decision will certainly prove to be the right one.  That said, 2015 did not see the local political class so openly manipulating events and forcefully pushing their own personal agendas in such a reckless manner – the tragic events of 2014 however, did.

A few days of politically soothing rhetoric, a (perhaps unfortunately temporary) changing of modus operandi for some, and unambiguous stern words behind the curtain would seem in order to aid the court in its decision ultimately proving to be justified by events (or lack thereof) in the weeks ahead, rather than arguments presented upon which after due deliberation, it has now ruled.

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A tense fortnight ahead in Odessa? Yes if the politicians have anything to do with it

April 27, 2016

Ten days ago an entry appeared regarding the gaze of the reform orientated activists moving from the Odessa Prosecutor’s Office, having successfully ejected Nikolay Stoyanov from the role (albeit after he had closed a lot of cases into local vested interests and nefariousness), to that of City Hall and Mayor Trukhanov.

In short, the entry stated that flush with success at the Prosecutor’s Office in Odessa, the social activists would simulate their 24/7 protests outside City Hall.

Mayor Trukhanov (and City Hall) have aroused their ire after entirely inappropriate construction schemes on the historic Fransuski Boulevard, numerous secretive departmental meetings with no public input into decision making, abhorrent, (and in defiance of local ordnance), inconsiderate construction in the historic city centre,  the usual graft and inept use of the city budget, and notwithstanding the 20 (or more) offshore companies the Panama Papers linked to the Trukhanov name, together with his (alleged) holding a Russian passport.

As stated in that entry, the weather gets warmer and the 24/7 protests far easier to endure than was the case for the far cooler and wetter weather during the prosecutor protests.

The problem for Mayor Trukhanov therefore is that the protests are not about to disappear quickly.

Having already employed the Homo Sovieticus modus operandi of ignore, deny, deflect/distract to no avail, the entry stated – “The Homo Sovieticus doctrine regarding steps for further escalation are likely to make matters worse rather than better….”

With the second anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy, 9th May Victory Day, and Governor Saakashvili’s first anniversary on 15th May, the coming fortnight may well become quite tense. It may even boil over occasionally.  Thus escalation outside City Hall, as stated, would make matters worse rather than better in the lead up to so many difficult anniversary dates.

Having a 24/7 protest outside City Hall is clearly annoying for some within – particularly when visiting dignitaries are visibly reminded of the Mayor’s close association with organised criminality, and of the City Hall reputation for generally ignoring the rule of law and its own protocols and ordnance, notwithstanding graft and thievery.

It was with more than a little suspicion that greeted the announcement of City Hall’s politically controlled Praetorian Guard under the banner of “City Watch” which would help the police to police – despite having no legitimate powers to do so outside those granted to any and every citizen of Ukraine during the commission of crimes against a person or property.

Those protesting outside City Hall immediately perceived the “City Watch” entity as little more than a rent-a-mob/titushek/illegitimate paramilitary controlled by City Hall that would inevitably come into conflict with themselves when commanded by the politicians to do so.  The timing of the announcement therefore perceived as a shot across the protester bow then comfortably encamped outside City Hall.

However, the inevitable violence came during the night of 25/26th April.  Having gone without any incident outside the Prosecutors Office in Odessa for 17 days, in far shorter time period outside City Hall the titushek/rent-a-mob struck.

The tents were destroyed, protesters belongings were thrown into the back of a Kamaz truck, the protesters were beaten – some quite badly.

In short, the predicted escalation surrounding the events outside City Hall materialised – and will make matters worse and not better.in all probability.  There is now a further societal complaint – and one which is likely to swell rather than reduce protester numbers – that complaint being the absence of the rule of law even outside the Mayor’s office front door (which “mysteriously” are not caught on CCTV).

A reader may ponder that surely Mayor Trukhanov, albeit Homo Sovieticus to the core, would have realised that such an escalation would have significant risks – particularly as it was the beating of protesters that was the escalation that doomed former President Yanukovych and cemented the resolve of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity.  Even Mayor Trukhanov is not that politically retarded to have failed to have learned that lesson – and even if he is, the wily, politically lithe, poisonous chamberlains that surround Mayor Trukhanov, such as Oleg Bryndak, certainly will not have forgotten.

Then again, maybe it is a double bluff in order to come out looking like the victim when indeed being the instigator.

Nevertheless, if to accept Mayor Trukhanov has successfully suppressed his Homo Sovieticus and organised crime instincts to crack the skulls of those that protest outside his place of work, then who managed to gather together approximately 40 titushek/rent-a-mob to attack the protesters and destroy their belongings in the middle of the night?

Who else gains from this escalation – and how?

The ever-slippery Oleg Bryndak was quick to publicly point the finger at Governor Saakashvili and his team.  His claim being that they need results and to force their agenda before the Governor’s anniversary this attack somehow significantly advances their cause.

Not only that, Mr Bryndak claimed that Governor Saakashvili’s people were behind an RPG-18 attack upon a Pivdennyi Bank headquarters the previous night.

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Naturally a reader now asks why Pivdennyi Bank?

The blog will state only two things.  Firstly there is now a very close association between somebody in the City Hall treasury and the board of Pivdenniya Bank that appears to be questionable in its nature.  Secondly the OCCRP are looking at Pivvdenyi Bank too, although as yet they have published nothing.  The bank is very well run – but neither the OCCRP nor the interest of the Governor’s team is peaked by its daily operations.  There are other reasons.  For now, that is all that will be written regarding Pivdennyi Bank.

Whatever – when throwing accusations around, “in for a penny, in for a pound” it appears.  In short Mr Bryndak claims this is all a continuing provocation aimed at Mayor Trukhanov and City Hall by the Oblast Administration.

Also, the list of those happy to blame the Governor from the Odessa political class is also probably more notable for the few not on it, rather than the majority that are, for example the schism that exists between the reformers that identify with the Governor and the reformers that identify with Alexie Goncharenko, and those reformers that identify with yet others..  A united “reformer” front there is not.

Well perhaps, but Governor Saakashvili has just announced a major political win with President Poroshenko publicly “on board” with the Governor’s road to Romania project.  Prime Minister Groisman has announced a national customs reform programme will be unveiled within two months which seems likely to closely resemble the Governor’s project at Odessa Port.  The Odessa Port project therefore cannot be allowed to collapse under the enormous pressure of vested interests.  Even with a half-competent and reasonably honest appointment to Odessa Regional Prosecutor, and the wind would appear to be blowing (even if only slightly and temporarily) the Governor’s way.

Whether that proves to be enough for the Governor to stay, and whether his anticipated leaving be his decision or the President’s over the coming fortnight remains to be seen.  Perhaps he will stay for a while longer, for there is at least 6 months before any early Verkhovna Rada elections can be seriously contemplated.  How much does it matter?

The battlefield for Misha Saakashvili is far bigger than Odessa, and the “pocket Generals” of Odessa are unlikely to match him in a far bigger war theatre.  Both reformers and vested interests have won and lost battles in Odessa, but it is winning the war that will ultimately decide the fate of those fighting the Odessa battles.

Indeed, it will be a long war with many more battles along the way.  It appears that only the jailing of the Field Marshals of the Vested Interests will in any way change the context in which their regional “pocket Generals” fight.

So if not the Governor or his team, then who?

There are of course the vested interests and “pocket Generals”, some of whom have little liking for either Mayor Trukhanov or Governor Saakashvili – Messrs Kivalov and Skoryk, the protagonists/ideologues behind the political push for an Odessa porto franco being certainly among them, and both having a history employing titushek/rent-a-mob to further their causes.

The list does not necessarily end their either.

This is clearly a politically manipulated titushek-fronted incident.

There are others that would take no small degree of glee from putting Mayor Trukhanov under pressure.  For example former Mayor Eduard Gurvitz, friend of Sergei Kivalov, and not unknown to the Governor Saakshvili camp, has a particular and personal dislike for the man who currently runs City Hall.

There are yet others too but there is no need to go on, suffice to say that there are numerous political interests, some obvious and some less so, that could benefit from the titushek attack on the protesters.

The question therefore is discovering which one is behind this particular incident, and will it ever become known?

It seems that of the 40 people involved in the assaults on the protesters, and damage to their property, 5 were arrested by the police and criminal proceedings against them under Part 4 Article 296 of the Criminal code of Ukraine have begun.

Whether those that hired them will be identified remains to be seen.  Such people can be “professional Russians” one day, “professional animal rights” another, and “professional tree huggers” on yet another – depending upon who is paying for their muscle/actions.

It may very well be that they have no idea who ultimately sponsored/paid for their group, simply turning up, taking the money and doing their deeds.  Alternatively once their faces/names become known, it may well be that they are regularly seen in the company of certain aforementioned personalities.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, looking forward toward the Easter holiday, 2nd May anniversary, 9th May Victory Day and 15th May anniversary of Governor Saakashvili’s arrival, it may well prove to be a very testy time in Odessa – particularly so when there seems to be a good deal of deliberate political agitation currently coming from well known and old school odious personalities.

Governor Saakashvili has asked the President for the National Guard to be deployed – the National Guard has refused stating that the police should be able to cope and that the National Guard does not get involved with politically engineered shenanigans.  (A note to the National Guard, neither should the police, but rule of law must be upheld (as best they can)).

Let us hope that the National Guard is right and that the Governor’s call to the President is something of an overreaction.  Perhaps it is.  Giorgi Lortkipanidze appears a very reasonable police commander.  Neither President nor National Guard/Ministry of Internal Affairs will look particularly clever if despite the best efforts of the police matters spiral out of control, or spread over a wide geographical area however.

Whatever the case, the next week will be well spent politically attempting to defuse what has been artificially and purposely politically created after this recent and violent escalation.  It would be perhaps wise for those behind this political pantomime to remember that among any casualties that may result from their nonsense, they may ultimately be included in that number.

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