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Oppo Block leaves the “for Porto Franco” group – Why?

November 3, 2016

On 3rd October 2016 Prosecutor General Lutsenko announced that, (as long anticipated), a request to the Verkhovna Rada to lift the immunity of Oppo Block MP Vadim Novinsky would be submitted on 4th October.

The investigations surrounding him relate to abuse of power and the unlawful imprisonment of high ranking church officials during the rule of the Yanukovych regime whilst attempts were made to “change” the leader – and his “aggressive” entanglements with the some within the church have continued since the flight of the Yanukovych “family”.

Coincidentally – or not – the day that may (or may not) see his Deputy immunity removed, Mr Novinsky is due to leave Ukraine and arrive in Greece where he is to visit Mount Athos in the company of high ranking Orthodox clergy.  A trip that is scheduled to last only the weekend.

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Depending upon who you may talk to within the Opposition Block this is either persecution of a leading Oppo Block MP, or a diversionary tactic of the current leadership to draw attention away from its failing policies, or both.

In Odessa, on the same day as PG Lutsenko’s announcement relating to Mr Novinsky, the local Oppo Block announced it was leaving the “for Porto Franco” group within City Hall to avoid being tarred with the “separatist” brush – this after 2 years of membership.

It is certainly true that despite any possible economic benefits to Odessa becoming a free port (again) the “for Porto Franco” project is certainly viewed as a “separatist” project by many.

This is perhaps unsurprising considering it was swiftly suggested by ex-Regionaries soon after the Crimean annexation,  during the early days of the occupation of the Donbas, and whilst the Kremlin was regularly banging the “federalisation of Ukraine” drum.  This was perhaps aggravated further as the level of free port autonomy sought/expected was similar to that of Hong Kong – rather than that of Southampton or Stockholm.

The immediate withdrawal of the local Oppo Block deputies now leaves on those associated with, or members of, Sergie Kivalov’s local Maritime Party – about half a dozen.

In short, the timing, the sponsors of the project, the degree of autonomy sought/expected, and the general circumstances at inception produced a project that would clearly be perceived as one with more than suspect motivation.  Thus the “for Porto Franco” political group has thus yet to hold a meeting that was not disrupted (and abruptly ended) by local pro-Ukrainian activists at each and every attempt over the past few years.

However, after several years remaining within such a controversial local political group actively attempting to sell the concept to a suspicious local constituency, it is upon the very day that the announcement of immediate attempts to deny Mr Novinsky his immunity that the local Oppo Block became concerned about a perception of being associated with “separatism”.

Such a label has not bothered the local Oppo Block for the past 2 years – and as political coincidence is far rarer that political conspiracy, a reader will ask whether there is a connection?

The answer is probably – if indirectly.

The local (and regional) Oppo Block dances to the tune of Dmitry Firtash’s/Sergei Liovochkin’s man in Odessa – Verkhova Rada MP Mykola Skoryk.  No local policy positions/decisions occur without his consent or instigation.  Therefore the Oppo Block leaving the “for Porto Franco” group within City Hall occurs at the instigation, or with the consent of, Mykola Skoryk.

How is this linked with the events surrounding Mr Novinsky, or alternatively how does it help him?

The short answer is that it isn’t and it doesn’t.

This local act has far more to do with the protection of Mykola Skoryk.

Having now witnessed Mr Novinsky’s immunity removal application submitted, it is widely known that Mr Skoryk is almost certain to be the next Oppo Block parliamentarian to see a request to lift his immunity to answer for past deeds when he was Yanukovych’s Governor of Odessa (and perhaps his deeds in following few months after his dismissal).

Deeds such as alleged involvement/sanctioning in the beating of journalists and protesters outside Oblast Administration in February 2014.

Deeds that are certainly perceived to be associated with separatism and that follow precisely timelines and actions matching the revelations of the Glasyev leaks.  Within the 2014 telephone intercepts released, Mr Glazyev laid down some ground rules to create the necessary smoke and mirrors for Kremlin support – including regional oblast building seizures and votes by regional councils favourable to the Kremlin narrative.

Unsurprisingly in March 2014, former Governor Skoryk indeed called an extraordinary meeting of the Odessa Regional Council per the Kremlin play book and time line with a single issue for deliberation – a “State of the Union” styled debate to result in a Kyiv or Moscow vote.  This despite there being no significant public pressure to do so – in fact the opposite.  It was also a debate far beyond the legal competency of both then Governor Skoryk or the authority of the Regional Council.

Fortunately then Governor Skoryk and the Kremlin play book failed to find a particularly willing or compliant Regional Council.  The council members were clearly far more in tune with the public mood than the then Governor who was following The Kremlin script.

After his dismissal as Governor, there are then deeds that manifested in more than mere tacit support during the events leading up to, and following, the 2nd May 2014 tragedy – which incidentally left him despised by both those sympathetic toward Kyiv and also those sympathetic toward Moscow.  (Should he ever go to jail and there be “protests”, those “protesters” will be turning out for a day’s pay.)

Ergo, with such a potential charge sheet facing Mr Skoryk, when next on the immunity-stripping list it perhaps pays to officially withdraw the local forces under his command from unnecessarily awkward groups.

Most assuredly if Mr Skoryk was not next on the list, the Oppo Block local deputies would have remained in the “for Porto Franco” group continuing to pay no mind to the “separatist” label that has suddenly become an issue – however imminent events surrounding Mr Novinsky dictate the need for preparatory mitigation.

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