Archive for June, 2016


Misha’s political party launched? (A quiet pulling of the trigger)

June 28, 2016

Following along seamlessly, albeit coincidentally, from yesterday’s entry and the inevitable creation of a new political force replete with numerous well known reformers under the Democratic Alliance Party umbrella, which stated the following – “Prima facie it seems a very unlikely group for Governor Saakashvili (and his team) to lead in any political party machine going forward, for it is a group far more inclined to work by “committee” and horizontally.  Thus it would seem very likely that as/when/if Governor Saakashvili launches his election based political career upon the Ukrainian national stage within a national party (which will operate upon a vertical)  it will not be, indeed could not be, part of this group.” – a new party has now indeed been formed which includes the “Saakashvili” team.

Currently headed by former Deputy Prosecutors Davit Sakvarelidze and Vitaly Kaskiv, it contains the majority of the well known reformers that were not named within yesterday’s entry, and thus associated with what will coalesce into a invigorated Democratic Alliance political party on 29th June.

Misha Party

Among the “initiative group” behind the new party, aside from Messrs Sakvarelidze and Kaskiv, perhaps the best known personality is Viktor Chumak (who a reader may expect will become something of an unofficial spokesman for the as yet officially unnamed but nevertheless now existing political party).

Undoubtedly Governor Saakashvili will have had a significant role in the creation of this political party looking at those within the above photograph who now form it.  His fingerprints are all over it!  Clearly being a civil servant Misha Saakashvili cannot be publicly and directly associated with its creation or operation whilst still holding the role of Odessa Governor – that he will not only be associated with it, but also lead it (from behind the scenes rather than actually within the Verkhovna Rada)) if/once he has left that position is almost without doubt.

With  reformers Sergei Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayem, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Victoria Ptashnik, Deputy Economy Minister Maxim Nefodov, Deputy Minister of Ecology Svetlana Kolomiets, a former Deputy Minister of Education Oleg Derevyanko, the participants of the Civil Platform Valerii Pekar, Andrei Dligach and Taras Kozak, as well as Basil Gatsko and Maxim Cherkasenko all almost certain to employ the Democratic Alliance as their political party platform in the nearest future in what appears to be a centre-left leaning group, and now the reformist Messrs Sakvarelidze, Chumak and Kaskiv et al., certainly more centre-right leaning, having formed a new political party there appears to be a small outbreak of ideology led, values based, oligarch-free political parties containing well known reformers in Ukraine.

Blimey – Let preparation and planning relating to the probable early Verkhovna Rada elections for these two reformist parties commence!

A question that presents, beyond the obvious centre left – centre right divide and certain egos that are likely to clash, is whether the oligarchy controlled media will allow either new reformist party significant air time during any election campaign when both are likely to do very well across the social media electioneering compared to the “old parties/old political personalities”.

T’will be interesting to observe the party strategies of both reformist parties both individually and perhaps more importantly collectively against a common “Old Guard” political enemy.  To what degree will they compliment rather than confront each other to the benefit of those both would wish to remove from the political landscape?

How with the congregation within the broad church of reform divide between these new reformist orders?

Interesting times.


An ideology based political party? Ukraine

June 27, 2016

Innumerable are the entries over the many years the blog has been running that lament the lack of political ideology within Ukrainian political parties.

Plentiful are the entries stating that Ukrainian political parties (with a few exceptions within the far right and far left of the spectrum) that bemoan the fact that political parties have always been founded and used as a vehicle solely for its leader – and thus party policy being little more than the whim of that leader on any particular day.

Abundant are the historical entries that decry the fact that all leaders are bigger than their political party, rather than the party being bigger than the leader – and thus no party has ever controlled the fecklessness and irresponsible statements and actions of its leader.

Whatever hope there was for Samopomich as an oligarch-less party with an understanding of public responsibility and accountability, ideologically driven and with a holistic view of national politics have been more than somewhat tempered by an increasingly obvious move toward populism and also a belligerence that when now in opposition, it simply opposes – rather than supporting reasonable and/or occasional (if ever rare) good policy and legislation when it appears whilst rightly robustly and noisily opposing poor policy and legislation when it all too frequently is produced.

It is thus necessary to seek out the next attempt at a values and ideology based political entity – for they remain extremely scare.

29th June will see a gathering in Kyiv behind closed doors of many well known reform orientated politicians and civil society members.  Of those reformist public figures, Sergei Leshchenko, Mustafa Nayem, Svitlana Zalishchuk, Victoria Ptashnik, Deputy Economy Minister Maxim Nefodov, Deputy Minister of Ecology Svetlana Kolomiets, a former Deputy Minister of Education Oleg Derevyanko, the participants of the Civil Platform Valerii Pekar, Andrei Dligach and Taras Kozak, as well as Basil Gatsko and Maxim Cherkasenko are expected to attend.  Indeed a total of about 100 public reformist figures are expected to participate.

Prima facie it seems a very unlikely group for Governor Saakashvili (and his team) to lead in any political party machine going forward, for it is a group far more inclined to work by “committee” and horizontally – thus it would seem very likely that as/when/if Governor Saakashvili launches his election based political career upon the Ukrainian national stage within a national party (which will operate upon a vertical)  it will not be, indeed could not be, part of this group.


To be blunt, the reformist church in Ukraine is not a church without schism among both High Chamberlains and/or within the reformist congregation.  The individual egos, (and potential clashes thereof) of reformist preachers aside, there will still be significant differences between left and right leaning members of the reformist congregation.  It would be extremely naive to think otherwise.  Care should be taken to recognise the nuances.

The outcome of the Kyiv conclave of 29th July when looking at the attendees, (whether there be an immediate formal announcement or a continuance of political and organisational powder being kept dry), seems likely to be an ideologically and values based political party with known and committed “ins” and “outs” ready to be launched at any moment deemed most politically expedient.

With Governor Saakashvili likely to lead (sooner or later) an ideologically “reformist centre right” political party that seems certain to gain at least 10% of the national vote, will this group become an ideologically “reformist centre left”?  It is a group that is also likely to garner at least 10% of the national vote too.

Should a clearly reform orientated Samopomich tone down its populist nonsense and become a responsible opposition voting both for and against policy more wisely, there is perhaps some sign of a possibly significant reformist, ideologically “centre” coalition emerging that has far less malignant oligarchical influence than at any other time in the history of an independent Ukraine.  The question then facing centre left and centre right is their ability to deal with the schims within.

The tone and timing of statements following this conclave of reformers on 29th June will be something to keep a watchful eye upon over the summer months.


V4 plus 2? Coalitions of the willing

June 26, 2016

Following referendums and family weddings in the UK over the past few days that are responsible for the lack of entries, it is somewhat pleasing to note progress between Ukraine and the neigbouring States immediately upon its western borders.

For many, many years the blog has expressed the view that if Ukraine is to succeed as an independent State, and particularly so after the events of Spring 2014, there had to be a rapid, robust and genuine deepening of relationships with two key capitals – Warsaw and Bucharest.

V4 map

Lo, it has now come to pass, at (officially) Polish instigation, the Visegrad 4, plus Romania and Ukraine have created an Inter-parliamentary Assembly.  The official announcement of the newly born Inter-parliamentary Assembly is due to be made on 1st July at the Krynica Economic Forum when Poland assumes the Chair of the Visegard 4.

For Ukraine it is a new platform that simply cannot be wasted or ignored.


NAPC – Preventative pro-activity

June 23, 2016

The 15th August is meant to see the e-declarations of those Ukrainian officials holding the uppermost positions within Ukraine.

Wisely, and clearly in a bid to insure both ease of compliance and avoid deliberate or accidental error during completion, the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption is to launch a large-scale information campaign insuring those that must complete e-declarations know how to do so.  The campaign begins on Friday 24th.

That said, undoubtedly completion errors will occur.  Ergo the NAPC being a preventative body, rather than an enforcing/policing body, will no doubt have a lot of “clarification” to make regarding submissions – regardless of how much any training/instruction/explanation of an “Idiot’s Guide to e-declarations” .


How to differentiate between erroneously completed returns with no ill-intent vis a vis erroneously completed returns with deliberate and nefarious intent?

Who decides upon the mens rea of a completing official when an erroneously completed return is in fact a deliberate and calculated act, and worthy of notification to the National Anti Corruption Bureau (NABU)? (Or not.)

Nevertheless, for once in Ukraine this is an instance of a preventative agency acting proactively in an attempt to insure all those that are affected understand what they are meant to do and how to do it – something that simply doesn’t happen enough.  Bravo.


Council of Europe (PACE) issues – Ukraine

June 20, 2016

There seems to be a tempest brewing between PACE and the Ukrainian delegation therein.

Thus far, since the annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine, PACE has taken a (perhaps surprisingly) fairly robust line against Russia – the Russian delegation being stripped of its voting rights.

As a result the Russian delegation therefore sees no reason to attend PACE sessions until their voting rights are restored (not that The Kremlin thinks particularly highly of PACE anyway), and their current voting rights ban is set to continue until the year end.

Theoretically the voting rights ban is up for renewal once again in the later part of the year and albeit despite no change in the situation that brought about the current ban in the first place, there is a perceived weakening of resolve.

Further the very recently released annual 104 page report upon Ukraine seems to have absolutely no mention of human rights abuses within either the occupied territories under Kremlin control in the Donbas, nor any mention regarding human rights abuses within the illegally annexed Crimea.

How so when such human rights abuses feature in so many reports by other entities?

If the Ukrainians are to be believed when confronting this omission, the reasons for the absence of any mention is due to the PACE leadership stating that because they were denied entry to the occupied Donbas and illegally annexed Crimea during the reporting period PACE could not and/or would not make any official comment due to lack of official access and monitoring.


“In our opinion, (Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn) Jagland made a terrible and cynical response, he said that the alleged information on the state of human rights in the occupied Crimea and Donbas is not included in the annual report on human rights because no mission was allowed to enter Crimea and Donbas last year, so no information is entered in the report ” – I.Geraschenko (Permanent Member of PACE Delegation Ukraine)

Ho humm!

Should there be any mention in an official report upon human rights if such abuses have not been witnessed and/or monitored by the reporting entity’s observers?

What of witnesses and witness statements?  Could they not be included even if access is denied?  Are there no witnesses during the past year/reporting period?  If there are, is such testimony excluded due to lack of corroboration and thus no official mention made?

There is a distinction between monitoring and witnessing – monitoring does not necessarily require being a witness, but methodological collection, collation and analysis.

If making no mention of human rights abuses whatsoever in the occupied Donbas and Crimea during the last reporting period as the Ukrainians claim, does that also imply that any territory that is subjected to human rights abuses by State or non-State actors that simply refuses to allow access to PACE (or any other institutional monitors reporting to their associated entities) will also garner no human rights abuse ,mention within the text of official reports because observers have not witnessed and assessed the situation on the ground for themselves?

Should there be citation of official reports by other recognised international institutions in the absence of PACE monitoring to at least make mention of the issues – or not?  How easy now for PACE members to condemn human rights abuses within the occupied Donbas or illegally annexed Crimea with no mention of such in the institution’s latest official report?


The 5T municipal investment “strategy” – Odessa

June 18, 2016

For several months the 5T “strategy” arrived at by the Odessa City Council to attract investment has been occasionally mentioned.

The 5T “strategy”, or perhaps more accurately described as little more than a “slogan” will be officially unveiled on 1st July at an event sponsored and/or organised by the Odessa Development Fund, the Odessa Tourism Association, the Department of Economic Development of Odessa City Council, and the of Tourism and Resort Department of Ministry of Economic Development of Ukraine.

Naturally the municipal investment “strategy” is an attempt to convince investors foreign and domestic that Odessa is a good place to invest with tremendous potential – and indeed it certainly has tremendous potential.

Of course a reader will want to know what the 5 “Ts” actually are when mentioning the 5T “strategy”.

Those 5Ts are – Transport.  Trade.  Tourism.  Technology.  Trust.


Trust per the dictionary definition “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.”?  Odessa City Hall?  A City Hall that currently is seeing all of its long term organised criminality associates consolidate and indeed grow under its patronage?

Trust per the dictionary definition “an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time” – or perhaps better defined as “an arrangement in which someone’s property or money is illegally held or subjected to hostile/very hostile take over by someone else or by an organization (such as organised criminality closely associated with City Hall) usually after a set period of time

Trust per the dictionary definition “an organisation that results from the creation of a trust“.  Something that those in political power in City Hall do not bother with, for why bother to separate their business interests from their political interests?  Odessa City Hall does not run on the concept of the business of politics – it runs on the concept of the politics of (vested) business (interests).

Trust perhaps per “Trust in Deeds” – the Mayor Trukhanov’s personal pocket political party?  Is it a sinister subliminal message to the would-be investor?

An investor should perhaps clarify, and perhaps even codify contractually, just which definition of “trust” the Odessa municipal  5T investment “strategy” actually refers to.   He who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon – and a very clear eyed view of who and what Devil be Odessa City Hall.



The Odessa Review

June 17, 2016

It is perhaps time to highlight The Odessa Review, a recently launched English language monthly journal with two well received editions under its belt in the city (and more widely across Ukraine).

The very high quality printed versions of both editions thus far, (Edition 3 appears soon) can be found decorating many hotel lobbies and restaurants around the city centre – those Editions perhaps pleasingly from the Editor’s point of view (Vlad Davidzon) being “well-thumbed” very swiftly after distribution, and often seen being surreptitiously stuffed into handbags and/or “manbags” (presumably for English practice purposes).

Indeed it is perhaps testament that several EU chums from within the “Brussels bubble” that come to Odessa fairly frequently not only returned to their “bubble” with copies of Edition 1 purloined from hotels and restaurants for their office “waiting rooms”, but have also asked that subsequent Editions be acquired for them to take back in the near future.  Whether it be testament to the quality of the journal, or a testament to the impression Odessa leaves on people – or both – perhaps matters little.

The on-line versions vary slightly from the printed editions, but for a content overview the on-line version of Edition 2 is here.

For the sake of full disclosure, your blog author has made minor written contributions to both published editions, and also the forthcoming publication.  For clarity all contributory prose has been written for free – thus there is no financial incentive behind this entry.

The motivation, for those that may therefore question why provide free content is to support the promotion and knowledge of the English language (per Presidential Decree that 2016 is the year of the English language in Ukraine), and also to provide the many tourists in Odessa something to read in a language with which many will have varying degrees of understanding and familiarity with that eclipses their ability with Ukrainian, or Russian, or the Cyrillic alphabet.

Generally, it seemed like a project worth supporting at the expense of but several minutes taken to write a few lines.  Hardly a particularly arduous or onerous task once a month, and all start-ups require some degree of philanthropy and good will when (hopefully) setting forth on a path to success.

Thus far the content (your author’s prose notwithstanding)  has consistently met a high bar – a literary quality commensurate with the aesthetically pleasing graphics and calibre of the physical attributes (print, paper and production etc) of the journal itself.


The longevity – or not – of The Odessa Review naturally not only relies on the continued high quality of its content and ever changing erudite contributors, but also upon generating revenue.

Falling firmly without the captured oligarchical media ownership common of Ukraine, advertising revenue, donations and various categories of philanthropy (money and/or contributory time freely given) will ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to the fate of The Odessa Review.

As regular readers of OdessaTalk will know, there is a “Donation” facility for those readers who feel they want to buy your author a drink.  Apart from $26.00 for a blog logo/banner, all donations received ($20 here, $100 there – and they all add up) have historically been given to various charities and/or needy individuals at your author’s discretion.  A reiteration of sincere thanks to all those that have donated, and not bought your author a drink as intended, but instead helped the needy recipients of your author’s discretion is once again offered – and inevitably overdue.

It is only right therefore, to advise any and all future donors, that over the coming summer months, and with one wary eye upon the inevitable horizon relating to the longevity (or not) of The Odessa Review, any donations will head its way – for it is a (primarily cultural) cause worthy of support.

Naturally, once the bitter winters return to Ukraine, donations will make their way, as historically they have, to assorted and random pensioners weighing a single potato to see if it falls within their meager pension, or those forced to deliberate over when and whether to turn on their heating at the expense of that single potato.

As for the grant givers with purses allocated to “bridge building” between “the West” and Ukraine, or incoming market entrants to Ukraine, or external entities wishing to attract Ukrainian attention/customers that may be looking for advertising space whilst supporting something worthy of support in the process, then do contact those young and energetic (English, Ukrainian and Russian speaking) people at The Odessa Review (and not this blog).


35% of Ukrainian radio will be Ukrainian language – Law 3822d

June 16, 2016

The French are particularly robust when it comes to defending their culture, passing into statute as France did, the Toubon Law in 1994.  Among many domestic cultural promotion/defence issues within that law, was a requirement for all commercial French radio stations to play a minimum of 40% music of French language – not that the French commercial broadcasters are necessarily supportive of this law.

(Do lyric-less Jean Michel Jarre tracks, who is undeniably French, count as part of that 40% under French statute?)

France is not alone in having this culturally orientated statute upon its legislative books as far as the continent of Europe is concerned it has to be said – and “European norms” are what Ukraine seeks to replicate according to the rhetoric of much of the political class, so why shouldn’t Ukraine follow this policy line?

There are clear cultural and identity building advantages for the State – and also for the creation of a deeper and broader pool of domestic artists, whilst established Ukrainian language artists are likely to enjoy greater longevity too – notwithstanding other benefits (think royalties) in pursuant of this legislation.


Law 3822d is a similar Ukrainian initiative.  The law puts into statute a requirement of a minimum of 35% of all music “on air” via commercial radio stations to be in Ukrainian.  This can be reduced to 25% if at least 60% of the other languages boradcast are European languages (presumably excluding Russian within that 60%).

Clearly the aim of this law (perhaps thankfully for anybody that is forced to listen to popular music) is the quantitative reduction of Russian language music “on air” in Ukraine.  Fair enough, if the French and others across Europe can do it to limit English language music , so can Ukraine with regard to Russian.

As it happens, Russian pop music is generally awful – as to be blunt is Ukrainian.  Even the most red-blooded of heterosexual males will reach the point of turning off the sound and simply watching the music video of exceptionally attractive and often scantily clad females gyrating seductively and/or extremely provocatively on MTV.

Whether there is 35% or even 25% of 24/7 commercial radio music broadcasting that can currently be filled with Ukrainian language music that reaches the standard any radio broadcaster wants to be associated with is perhaps a different question.

This blog takes several taxis every day – day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out etc – and has done so for well over a decade in Odessa.  Ergo it is exposed to numerous random radio stations every day of the taxi driver’s liking – occasionally numerous radio stations as the driver surfs the airwaves between entry and egress of his car.

However there are specialist radio stations – to pluck a singular example, “Radio Roks” – that already have well over 60% of their “on air” time with music that is other than Russian or Ukrainian language – because there are nowhere near as many Russian or Ukrainian rock/metal bands as there are English language rock/metal bands.  Indeed geriatric “rockers” such as Scorpions, Smokie, Uriah Heep, Bonnie Tyler and Nazareth still actively and regularly play Odessa.

Nature abhors a void, but what initially fills a void is not necessarily going to survive in a new environment.

Sticking with the Radio Roks example, there will be a 25% – 35% void to fill with Ukrainian language rock music for Radio Roks producers – every day.

The question for Radio Roks producers is whether there is 25% – 35% of Ukrainian language rock music from a sufficiently deep and wide pool of domestic artists that they feel is of the quality they want to broadcast?

If not will they be forced to fill that 25% – 35% of on air time with a very select few Ukrainian artists that they feel do make the grade, playing the same tracks over and over again – every day?

Is there a 10 minute Ukrainian “Stairway to Heaven” or 7 minute “Bohemian Rhapsody” equivalent deemed of suitable broadcasting quality (per audience appreciation)  that can be used to meet the statutory percentage quotas, whilst a sufficiently deep and qualitative Ukrainian language pool of rock bands materialises over time?

How will that effect their listeners and listener loyalty, and by extension how will that effect their advertisers? – They are commercial broadcasters after all

What of the other specialist radio stations – those that stick with the 1960s – or 1970’s?  Retro FM?

They perhaps face even more problematic issues than those of the Radio Roks example – for it is rather difficult to skip back in time and generate the sufficient quality and/or quantity from that era that meets any new statutory language requirements.

What of dedicated classical music (surprisingly a popular genre in Odessa even among the young) radio broadcasters?  Is there much classical music with Ukrainian lyrics?  How easy is it to reach a 35% threshold even if merging classical and opera genres?

The above (which happens to be your author’s ringtone), unless ears deceive is Latin.  Is Latin classed as a European language for the purposes of Law 3822d?  Would it help in mitigating the broadcasting percentages?

All of the above stated, and considering all of the transitional “issues” – particularly for specialised broadcasters that will undoubtedly arise – it is nevertheless difficult not to be supportive of the spirit behind this legislation.  Not only is culture is a particularly useful foil in defence of, and the solidifying of identity, but also, and equally as important due to perhaps both qualitative and quantitative voids, it is supported for the opportunities (and potential revenues) it creates for domestic artists both current and yet to arrive.

Indeed there may come a time when MTV will not only be watched for the exceptionally attractive females gyrating seductively and/or extremely provocatively on MTV, but the sound may also be on too!

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