Archive for May 5th, 2017

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Rotating SBU heads – Odessa implications

May 5, 2017

Only a few days ago an entry appeared that outlined a perceived, and in all probability actual weakening of Mayor Trukhanov’s position within and without Odessa City Hall directly related to a change of focus by Alexander (Angel) Angert the most (in)famous mafia Don to emerge from Odessa – and a long time friend/acquaintance/business partner of Mayor Trukhanov.

Perhaps Benya Krik is a more famous local mafia Don, but fictional characters from Babel’s The Odessa Tales don’t count for much in contemporary Odessa City Hall.

As stated for all the reasons given in the entry – “That will have consequences.  It will change dynamics of the political understanding made between Mayor Trukhanov and The Bankova.”

Only 6 days later President Poroshenko sacked and/or rotated the Chiefs of several SBU regions, Kyiv and Kyiv region, Lviv, Kharkiv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, Vinnitsa – and Odessa.

Considering the solid results, and in fact successes, that the SBU had achieved within its core competencies of drug and people trafficking, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, etc.  in Odessa under the operational guidance of Mr Batrakov who was dismissed on 3rd May, it was something of a surprise to many.

That said, Mr Batrakov failed in a timely way to intervene in the City Hall decision to repeal former Governor Saakashvili’s renaming of streets per the requirements of the “Decommunism” law.

It can hardly be claimed that a man with some very good results in CI, CT and trafficking would not be aware of, and thus be able to intercede with this City Hall decision with it being clearly in contravention to the “Decommunism” law.

That not withstanding the fact that the City Hall decision occurred only a few days prior to the anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy which no doubt the nationalist contingent would have seen the move as nothing more than a provocation.  This in turn would cause the SBU and law enforcement bodies additional difficulties on the day of commemoration.  Thus the SBU would have undoubtedly been aware of the City Hall plans.

The City Hall decision to return familiar Communist/Soviet street names in contravention of the law, and to the exclusion of names associated with the Revolution of dignity in some cases, was not received well within the Presidential Administration in The Bankova, nor within the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Within approximately 12 hours of the decision, a belated appeal by Mr Batrakov was made to veto the decision.  Meanwhile a local court immediately (no doubt prompted by Kyiv due to its swiftness) declared the Cit Hall decision illegal, and Arsen Avakov sent a messenger from the Interior Ministry to speak to (read confront) Mayor Trukhanov and explain the error of his ways (no doubt armed with innumerable tomes of kompromat on Mayor Trukhanov).

The outcome was that Mayor Trukhanov vetoed the City Hall decision within 48 hours of the decision being he presided over being made.

Considering the previously good results of the SBU in Odessa under Mr Batrakov’s leadership, a reader may perhaps feel that an error of untimeliness relating to a City Hall decision is somewhat insufficient to warrant dismissal.

Perhaps so – but this was not the only sin of Mr Batrakov, albeit it could and was viewed as a symptom of one such sin.

Sin 1 – Mr Batrakov it is said, has something of a historical and on-going “issue” with Vasyl Hrytsak, Head of the Security Services of Ukraine.

Sin 2 – As outstanding as Mr Batrakov’s efforts in Odessa have proven to be, for Mr Hrysak, this “Decommunisum” scandal was yet further evidence of a “softness” toward the political leadership of Odessa on the part of Mr Batrakov.

In short, the service Chief felt/believed/was aware of an overly accommodating/friendliness toward those that he felt the SBU should be pressing far harder in City Hall – and to be frank perhaps he has a point, despite the myriad of successes elsewhere and disregarding any perceived NABU supremacy in the political corruption field.  After all, not all politicians commit only corruption offences for NABU to investigate – some are distinctly organised criminal acts removed from corruption, and thus the remit for the SBU and others.

Sound policy then to rotate regional SBU Chiefs every few years lest they become too familiar with local elites – and a sly way to sack some if there are “issues” among the hierarchy it seems.

Ergo 3rd May witnessed a timely rotation in several regions, and occasional sackings, if that be the policy.

Replacing Mr Batrakov as head of Odessa SBU is Mr Dovzhenko – a man with no “issues” with his boss Mr Hrysak.

Alexander Dovzhenko is particularly easy to understand.  “A servant to the King and a father to the troops” is a fair statement for this career SBU man.  The chances of him becoming “too familiar” with the local political elite are very slim when looking at his history.  Indeed he was given a punishment posting to Chernihiv for taking a lukewarm approach to the Yanukovych regime SBU Chief Yakimenko.  That imposed exile in turn led to a very lenient line during the Euromaidan/Revolution of Dignity toward activists in Chernihiv despite expectations from the centre.

Needless to say this appointment does not bode for a comfortable time for Mayor Trukhanov and his City Hall, already suffering from “Don” Angert’s change of focus.

Indeed a reader may expect Mr Dovzhenko to make an example or two in order to send a message to City Hall regarding any foolish plans similar to those relating to the renaming, or rather repealing and returning of street names that contradict the law, or any intentions those within may have regarding efforts to try and get too close to him.

Aside from hoping that he has the same successes as his predecessor with regard to SBU core competencies in Odessa, perhaps the questions to ask are “who” from the City Hall cesspit, and “how” – without stepping upon the toes of NABU?  “When” is perhaps likely to be answered within a few months.

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