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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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