Archive for September 5th, 2016

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The interesting repercussions of the “Inter incident”

September 5, 2016

Following on from yesterday’s entry regarding the arson at the Inter TV premises in Kyiv, the repercussions will now begin to play out in various arenas.

It will now fall to Sergei Lyovochkin, (a long time close associate of Inter’s owner Dmitry Firtash), and the Opposition Block to enact the ire of Inter’s owner, who is somewhat marooned in Austria as oligarch-in-exile.  In the meantime Inter’s faithful projection of (variations of) the Kremlin narrative suffered only a temporary inconvenience.

Of course the rule of law, as mentioned in yesterday’s entry, will be under the microscope.  As stated, those guilty of committing, and perhaps others responsible for the commissioning this crime (should their deeds be more than preparatory)  will necessarily have to be subject to due process lest the appearance of the Ukrainian State’s perceived weak grasp upon rule of law be perceived to get even weaker – both internally and externally of Ukraine.  Whatever perceived justification may be put forward, justification does not equate to legitimisation of the crime.

Also under the microscope will be State ministries and State institutions.  As Inter’s Kremlin narrative became more robust, forceful (and perhaps incendiary) in concert with the rhetoric and actions of The Kremlin over the past few months, more calls for its licence removal were directed at the State licencing authorities and regulators – who clearly did not remove Inter’s broadcasting licence or have any tangible effect upon content delivery and associated rhetoric – perhaps rightly, perhaps not.

Naturally after more than two years of war with Russia, those that accept the Kremlin line have long since accepted it, and those that recognise it for what it is have long since dismissed it.  The Kremlin narrative is now something of a Ukrainian domestic sport insofar as spotting and debunking it, an academic exercise from which genuine academic insight will undoubtedly emerge across several disciplines, and also a source of comedy material.  In short, whatever spews forth from Inter, long since stopped converting Ukrainians to the Kremlin cause.  It’s effectiveness at increasing the Opposition Block vote is therefore also questionable.  Perhaps it is a matter of simply maintaining both narrative and voting constituency rather than any effective progression, or perhaps a question of/display of loyalty by the owner to The Kremlin – The Kremlin being the curator of a great deal of “kompromat” regarding the owner of Inter.

Ukrainian media regulators aside however, there are also going to be repercussions among the political class.

Broadly speaking President Poroshenko does not do “leadership”, but rather “management”.  He strikes deals (which is why nobody goes to jail) and attempts to keep the elite fairly happy, or at least equally unhappy – something that disenfranchises the voting constituency as his falling popularity demonstrates.  With appeals to the President to deal with the matter from the Opposition Block to support Inter, and their political rivals  to close it – notwithstanding parliamentary appeals to the SBU and NABU by certain politicians to investigate other politicians over ties and/or associations with Inter, the President has yet another managerial task with voting implications within the Verkhovna Rada.

It is the official appeals to NABU and the SBU by certain politicians that are worthy of note – not for their overt internal squabbling, but for within those official requests to the investigative agencies are mentioned associations with Maria Stoliarova a robust and vocal supporter of the occupied territories and who was briefly a leading light at the very top of Inter, and a man called Igor Shuvalov.

This entry will not concentrate upon Maria Stoliarova.  To be honest she is not that interesting in the scheme of things.  She came to note in 2014 and was eventually removed from Ukraine and banned from reentry for 5 years – PNG’d.  The only thing that Maria Stoliarova did do of interest (rather than doing interesting things) was invite Igor Shuvalov to Inter.

(Of the influential women at Inter, or at Inter until recently, Anna Bezlyudnaya is far more noteworthy.  After all, Patriarch Krill does not give out Orders of the Russian Orthodox Church to just any passing journalist, yet he did to Ms Bezlyudnaya.  It also has to be said that most people would not travel to Moscow from Ukraine via Athens or Berlin every few weeks either, as she was inclined to do.  (A reader can probably hear the “red flags” being waved by the spooks and ex-spooks following the above few lines.))

Unlike Maria Stoliarova, Igor Shuvalov is a particularly interesting person – in fact in truth he is not an interesting person, but rather he is a person of interest (which is an entirely different thing).

For those that know little about the workings of Ukraine behind the curtain, a few lines deserve to be dedicated to Mr Shuvalov.

Igor Shuvalov

Igor Shuvalov

Mr Shuvalov has long been a discreet but permanent part of the Sergei Lyovochkin political furniture.  Mr Shuvalov is also a Russian citizen and a product of his nation’s secret services – a somewhat disturbing if unsurprising fact considering Mr Lyovochkin was former-President Yanukovych’s Head of the Presidential Administration perhaps – but Mr Shuvalov has a much longer history behind the Ukrainian curtain.

Mr Shuvalov arrived upon the Ukrainian scene in (or certainly by) 1998 as a political consultant for Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of then President Kuchma.  Indeed then President Kuchma granted Mr Shuvalov Ukrainian citizenship during the 2002 – 2004 period Mr Shuvalov was working with Viktor Medvedchuk (who is godfather to one of President Putin’s daughters).

That Kuchma granted Ukrainian citizenship was subsequently canceled by Presidential Decree when Viktor Yushenko came to power.

Mr Shuvalov then began what became a very long association with Sergei Lyovochkin – which needless to say brought him into the close orbit of Viktor Yanukovych, Dmitry Firtash and the very elite top tier within the now extinct Party of Regions.

Given the close and long term association between Messrs Lyovochkin and Shuvalov, few will therefore be surprised to find Mr Shuvalov has been instrumental in his “political technologist” role behind the Ukrainian curtain in assisting political projects sponsored by Mr Lyovochkin that go beyond the former Party of Regions and now Opposition Block.  The fingerprints of Mr Shuvalov can indeed be found upon the formative days of the Radical Party too.

Twice since the fall and ouster of the Yanukovych regime efforts began to remove Mr Shuvalov from Ukraine.  The first effort by the temporary leadership immediately following the ouster fell between the cracks, and the second effort was scotched by Mr Lyovochkin within the SBU ranks.  (An indication of the loyalty between the two men that surpasses any common cause/belief.)

With new official requests from certain parliamentarians to NABU and the SBU to investigate the ties of parliamentary colleagues to any alleged wrong-doings of Inter, and specifically any interaction with the named Maria Stoliarova and Igor Shuvalov, a reader may wonder just how many cans of worms, and over how many years, investigations surrounding Mr Shuvalov would open.

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Arson at Inter TV – кому это выгодно?

September 5, 2016

The late afternoon/early evening of 4th September bore witness to another mindless and self-defeating act.

A TV studio used by Dmitry Firtash’s Inter TV channel in Kyiv was subject to arson.  The fire it appears caused by a smoke grenade igniting surrounding material.  It may be that those responsible had no intention in causing a fire, but recklessness is no defence.

Injuries, by way of smoke inhalation, and also reports of a broken limb, circulate.

The editorial line of Inter is consistent with that of the Opposition Block political outlook – which comes as no surprise considering the ownership of the channel – and therefore perceived by many as somewhat less that patriotic.  It clearly causes angst within those of a nationalist disposition – perhaps sometimes quite deliberately.

Six individuals have been arrested quite rightly – whether they are part of a group of 20 pickets (seemingly compromised of members of the 30th Brigade) is as yet to be clarified.

Inter

In fact clarification of events may take longer than it should, for it appears Inter are not (yet) willing to provide CCTV footage of the incident to law enforcement officials – despite the damage to their property and injury to their employees.

Naturally a reader may ponder – why would Inter refuse to provide possible CCTV evidence to a crime of which it is the victim?

“кому это выгодно?” – (Who benefits?)

Perhaps the CCTV footage will eventually be provided – after Inter, the Opposition Block and The Kremlin has used this incident to its maximum PR potential possible.  Then again perhaps it simply won’t be supplied (for any number of reasons – what else is recorded?), or simply doesn’t exist (or soon won’t exist).

Those that clearly do not benefit from this incident are the Ukrainian State, the Ukrainian government, law abiding activists, lawful protesters and society – whether they be those that watch Inter and are sympathetic to its narrative or not.

President, Prime Minister, and Cabinet Ministers necessarily have to be swift and public in their condemnation of this incident despite any ripples Inter may cause in the political and societal pond.  Those arrested if indeed responsible will have to be subject to due process and proportionate sentencing.

This was not a criminal act aimed at making a statement about omnipresent oligarchy owned media (and readers would be perhaps wise to keep a watchful eye upon the ownership (or changing thereof) relating to Kolomoisky’s 1 + 1 media in the near future).

It is not a criminal act aimed at the Opposition Block or changing its political outlook – and it will not return to power any time soon (even if it manages to avoid a seemingly inevitable split).

It is not a criminal act that will diminish the Kremlin narrative that increasingly forcefully spews forth via Inter.

If this be a criminal act by those that consider themselves to be genuine patriots, rather than “patriots”, then it has accomplished nothing more than sufferance of a serious and unnecessary self-inflicted wound.

That said, as has been written here on many occasions, to incite, provoke, and influence the more extreme (of any flavour) is bread and butter security services work, ergo such involvement also cannot be excluded – but nevertheless any such possible involvement does not mitigate the fact that those responsible for this act have failed to ask themselves the most basic question – “кому это выгодно?” (Who benefits?)

Perhaps their picket would have been far better placed outside of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, or the Ministry of Information of Ukraine, if it was felt – and perhaps rightly – that Inter had crossed any broadcasting regulatory red lines?

If it was not felt that regulatory red lines had been crossed, even if ethical lines had, and their picket was thus an exercising of their rights to assembly and peaceful protest, (and peaceful some clearly found too difficult), then the fundamental right of Inter to free speech/expression also requires upholding (unless it too is unable to remain from incitement) in equal measure.

“… tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance…”

”the Court is also careful to make a distinction in its findings between, on the one hand, genuine and serious incitement to extremism and, on the other hand, the right of individuals (including journalists and politicians) to express their views freely and to “offend, shock or disturb” others.” – (ECHR Chamber judgment Erbakan v. Turkey, no. 59405/00, § 56, 6.07.2006) 

The weak grip upon rule of law held by the Ukrainian State was today subjected to an incident that will further reinforce that perception – and over the most fundamental of rights and against one of the necessary pillars of democracy (a free (if often unpalatable and reckless) media).

“кому это выгодно?” – (Who benefits?) – From this incident, nobody that should!

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