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Shawarma and the City Hall snake pit – Odessa

August 20, 2016

Vice Mayor of Odessa Oles Yanchuk is no more.  He has been removed from office by Mayor Trukhanov.

Mr Yanchuk’s crimes, both real and metaphorical, against the local constituency are numerous, and indeed for many grave.  For the past four years he has engaged in a small war with SMEs in Odessa, demolishing small trading booths, closing fast-food establishments and overseeing extortionate “fees” for entrepreneurs that according to statute include licences issued free.  Exactly what you would expect for an individual responsible for urban commerce in a city with a political class of that which Odessa unfortunately suffers.

His methods were aggressive (sometimes literally) and not confined to remaining within any food hygiene or construction permit legislation – as much seemingly occurring without as within the law.

Recently however, he went too far – several times.

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(Former) Vice Mayor Yanchuk recently declared open warfare upon the much loved shawarma and its vendors, in effect attempting to make that food and fast-food outlets illegal (literally).

The assault upon SMEs/entrepreneurs – and the beloved shawrama – brought about public protests from vendors and consumers alike.

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Photos courtesy of Dumskaya

Photos courtesy of Dumskaya

Indeed, it brought about the predictable satire associated with political lunacy a reader would expect from Odessa.

Further, a few days ago, he publicly objected to the changing of the street name Marshal Zhukov as required by the “decommunisation” legislation, to that of The Heavenly Hundred.  His claim was that The Heavenly Hundred had nothing to do with Odessa and therefore an alternative name for Marshal Zhukov should be found.

That the shawrama and its vendors will be saved from the idiocy of Mr Yanchuk was assured following his comments regarding the Heavenly Hundred and their alien status to Odessa, for needless to say it caused outrage, particularly among the most militant and socially active.

Mayor Trukhanov has enough problems without aggravating the militant and socially active yet more.  The Panama Papers, claims of FSB relationship, Russian passports, much decried illegal construction work, nepotism, defrauding the city budget via massive mark-ups to companies associated with himself, a public and bitter falling out with Adnan Kivan, a wily operator, and not withstanding his accepted association with serious and organised crime/mafia historically – an association that may not be as historical, but rather current to some degree – “Messrs Angert and Zhukov both of whom are now predominantly London based, have spent a lot of effort in becoming (mostly) legit.

Those such as Messrs Trukhanov and Galanternik that remained in Odessa, whilst far from legitimising all their criminal dabbling have progressed in legitimising where they can, still unable to entirely walk away.”

Needless to say Mayor Trukhanov wasted no time in ridding himself of Mr Yanchuk from the City Administration, with Mr Yanchuk’s duties will be assumed by Paul Vugelman a loyal Trukhanov ally.

Whatever the case, Mr Yanchuk chose a most bizarre way to commit political suicide many readers would agree – if he expected any response from the Mayor. which perhaps he didn’t.

This raises the question of how fire-proof and secure many within City Hall may (wrongly) believe themselves to be.  That in turn raises questions of who’s who and who looks after who, and is the City Hall snake pit entirely within the control of the notorious Mayor Trukhanov – or not?

First and foremost, the “managing” of the militant and rigorously active falls under the security remit of Vice Mayor Andrei Kotlyar – and it is questionable just how loyal/dependable Mr Kotlyar is as far as Mayor Trukhanov is concerned.  Mr Kotlyar is a Kolomoisky man and not a Trukhanov loyalist.  Thus whose interests he serves when “managing/mitigating” the militant activists is open to both question and circumstance.  In promptly removing Mr Yanchuk from office, Mayor Trukhanov insured no Kolomoisky shenanigans could occur.  To be clear, this removal was not about the activities or oratory of Mr Yanchuk, but a matter of self-preservation for the Mayor before a baying mob.

The Speaker/Secretary of City Hall, and the appointment that assumes the position of Mayor should anything happen to the incumbent is occupied by Alexander Potapsky who is a Goncharenko man.  With Mr Goncharenko being Deputy Faction Leader of Block Poroshenko within the national legislature, by extension, that makes Mr Potapsky the President’s man.

As is often the case, the keeper of all secrets/kompromat is either a lawyer or accountant – and in the case of Odessa City Hall it is Irina Popovshaya, Director of Legal – a necessary ally to all regardless of alliances, and thus a collector of dirt on everybody.

So whose man is Mayor Trukhanov?  The mafia’s man?  The Kremlin’s man?  Perhaps both?  With his history he is certainly not entirely his own man, whatever he may like to believe.

Certainly (Lamposhka) Galanternik has his man in City Hall, questioning the all-encompassing mafia label.  Deputy Mayor Shandryk, who oversees construction in the city, is Mr Galanternik’s man.  Old (and continuing) personal organised crime/mafia association between Mayor Trukhanov and Mr Galanternik clearly are not enough to prevent the requirement to insert Mr Shandryk within the Trukhanov City Hall machinery – and Mr Shandryk has caused discomfort for Mayor Trukhanov over several construction related issues/events.

Although it is possible to go on, the point has probably been made that control is not necessarily always within the grasp of Mayor Trukhanov despite appearances.  Indeed to underline that point should it be required, the fact that Oleg Brynduk is no more than the faction leader of Mayor Trukhanov’s party within City Hall, and not in a position of (official) significant influence should underscore just how many other people’s people are holding the top roles within City Hall.

Indeed it is sometimes easy to forget that Mayor Trukhanov, despite impressions, still has “interests” he has to balance within City Hall – and those “interests” personified are fairly confident in their allocated positions – often to the point of publicly ignoring Mayor Trukhanov by way of his professed policies (such as they are).  Nevertheless there are limits, few as they are, such as those crossed leading to the unavoidable sacking of Mr Yanchuk.

Indeed there have been rumours of alternative candidates to replace him if (through smoke and mirrors or criminal investigations) early mayoral elections can be forced in 2017.  Those names include Oleg Bryndyk – others being Kolomoisky’s Andrei Kotlyar, Valerie Matkovsky, Sergei Kalinchuk and Anatoly Orel.  Perhaps Michael Shmushkovich or Anatoli Urbanski despite their preference for Oblast and not City governance, could be tempted too should Mr Goncharenko decide to run his men – both have been Oblast Rada Chairman.   Maybe Mr Potapsky Mr Goncharenko’s man currently Secretary/Speaker of City Hall?

All of that said, there simply doesn’t “feel” to be any real desire to remove Mayor Trukhanov – yet.  Undoubtedly if Odessa is chosen to host Eurovision, then there will be no desire to do so until after the event anyway whilst the Ukrainian elite put on, and intensely buff, a veneer of respectability to the world peering in.  The ugliness and nefariousness of removing Mayor Trukhanov prior to that event if held in Odessa would be simply unthinkable.

Whatever the case, the events of recent days may yet guarantee the shawarma is served to thousands of hungry “Eurovisioners” next year should Odessa become the host city.

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