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A summer of friction among the Odessa elite?

July 22, 2016

Odessa is a small city of just over 1 million people.  Indeed the Oblast has only just over two million people despite being a geographical area larger than Belgium.  Like everywhere however, it is in truth a small village when it comes to those of importance.

A few days ago, a list of the top 100 influential people within Odessa Oblast was released.  Though the blog may question the positioning of those upon the list, the content seems about right.  It is fair to say that more than half are friends or are friendly with this blog in the top 10 alone.  Almost 70 of the 100 listed are on friendly terms or at least of cordial acquaintance.  A few can be classed as trusted friends, some seen daily – often for hours at a time.

Of those that have never sat at the same table, and are thus unknown personally, as stated, Odessa is a small village where it counts.  If the blog doesn’t know the remainder, friends of it do and introductions can be made if there was ever a need (unlikely as it is that a need would arise).

Such networks are the same the world over.  There is nothing new regarding the above outline.

Historically whatever friction occurs within this circle of the elite rarely, if ever, makes its way into the public domain in Odessa – at least in the pre-Governor Saakashvili days.  Traditionally, even during the most bitter and blackest of election campaigns involving some upon the above list, those involved have refrained from the publicising of the most murky and personal affairs of those whom they confront.

A few days ago, the latest in a string of entries relating to Mayor Trukhanov and the current issues surrounding him was published.

In summary, it noted the 70 parliamentary signatures upon a new Verkhovna Rada Resolution calling for new mayoral elections in Odessa – of which none of the 16 parliamentarians from Odessa are signatories.

It also highlighted quite specifically a feud that is forever dripping details of an unfolding scandal into the media of Odessa between the Mayor and Adnan Kivan – Numbers 1 and 4 atop the list of the Odessa elite – “Perhaps his biggest threat comes from an ever-bubbling feud with the Syrian billionaire owner of Kadorr Group, Adnan Kivan, (who was/is close to the infamous Odessa MP Sergei Kivalov) and the continued leaking of nefarious detail to the media regarding behind their curtain dealings.

The entry concluding that – “Indeed it appears that Mr Kivan is making efforts to associate/ingratiate himself with President Poroshenko (particularly noticeable on Navy Day when President Poroshenko was in Odessa and met with Mr Kivan), perhaps acknowledging a degree of precariousness regarding his own position – not that Mayor Trukhanov can really afford to be seen to shaft a prominent and major foreign investor in Odessa (albeit his wife Olga and children may dilute the category of “foreign” somewhat).”

It went further to state “However, discounting the feud with Mr Kivan, of the aforementioned issues that may take longer to dissipate that most, is the issue relating to the holding of a Russian passport/citizenship.  Mayor Trukhanov, with his owned and aligned media were hardly supporters of the current direction Ukraine has taken during the turmoil of late 2013/early 2014 – quite the opposite.  That together with his (alleged) citizenship of Russia naturally will take some time to become a background issue for many who simply do not like, nor trust, the cut of his patriotic jib.”

The cut of Mayor Turkhanov’s “patriotic jib“, notwithstanding the quietly submitted Verkhovna Rada Resolution, has been very publicly raised in an uncompromising public statement by Governor Saakashvili a few days ago – “Nobody doubts….Trukhanov is a classic separatist.  This is a Russian officer, he has Russian citizenship and I am absolutely sure that if we delay, he will create enormous problems of Ukrainian state without the Odessa region Ukrainian government will be like without two legs.”

To twist the knife further, Governor Saakashvili publicly raised the association of Mayor Trukhanov with serious and organised crime – once again.  Past associations the Mayor does not deny, unlike any on-going active interaction, which he does.

Nevertheless, a reader may perhaps question the denials of his current interaction when those known associations are doing rather well since Mr Trukhanov became Mayor.  Indeed one such associate, Vladimir Galanternik (aka Lamposhka) now sits 3rd upon the elite list of Odessa – above Adnan Kivan who is by far the city’s most prominent source of FDI throughout recent years.

friction

It appears that the occasional friction that traditionally occurred thoroughly veiled by the “curtain” will become a public brawl between the Mayor, Mr Kivan and the Governor.

Indeed the Mayor appears to be using the regional institutions of State and City Hall to put increasing pressure upon Mr Kivan’s businesses, assets and on-going projects – a typically homo sovieticus response, but one that is at least some way short of the direct “persuasive tactics” employed when he was “hands on” within organised crime.

However, notwithstanding efforts to get close to President Poroshenko, Mr Kivan owns the fairly popular Channel 7 television station in Odessa.  It is a channel that has become noticeably far more “pro-presidential” and “pro-Ukrainian” since the issues between Messrs Kivan and Trukhanov began to spill into the public domain.

Governor Saakashvili has no local media platform of his own – unlike Mr Kivan or Mayor Trukhanov.  Depending upon the owners of local media, depends upon his air time (if any) or how his words and/or actions will be framed in print to suit the bias of any particular owner.

There is very little objectivity or qualitative analysis within the local media when it comes to politics or policy – a sign of media issues more globally perhaps.

There is no reason to believe that either Mr Kivan nor Governor Saakashvili will adopt an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” mentality, yet there is also no reason to discount it either.  Certainly, in the broadest terms, the editorial direction being undertaken at Channel 7 would become one fairly comfortable for the Governor should that editorial trajectory continue to manifest and consolidate – time will tell.  Should it do so, it seems likely that there will become sufficient room for some sort of “understanding” between the two – particularly if the Trukhanov owned media, misuse of State institutions and political bullying continues unabated toward Mr Kivan.

Perhaps the best seller and box office hit in Odessa this summer  will not be born of the 7th Annual Odessa Film Festival, but will be a Trukhanov, Kivan, Saakashvili production in serial format across the local news channels.  A local political sitcom/tragicomedy/farce/satirical exposé upon the local TV channels would certainly bring alternative entertainment to that of the re-runs of Versailles, Game of Thrones and CSI!

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