Archive for June, 2017


Oppo Block Odessa finally splits

June 30, 2017

Several times during 2017 the blog has predicted the splitting/destruction of the Oppo Block (remnants of/inheritors to the Party Regions) in Odessa.

The most recent mention of internal discord was made only two weeks ago, placing the blame squarely upon the incredibly poor and self-serving regional leadership of Mykola Skoryk – a man who’s ego and ambition is far greater than his ability, but who tops the local Oppo Block pile due to his time-served association with and absolute subservience to Sergei Liovochkin (and Dmitry Firtash).

As the relevant last entry to Mr Skoryk’s ability briefly alluded – “Nothing relating to the Oppo Block happens in Odessa without his knowledge – and by extension the many cases intrigues, machinations and filthy political subversion and/or (attempted) sabotage are his creation and/or occur with his explicit approval.

Worse still from an Oppo Block perspective, it continues to under perform under his management, losing seats and leadership positions that many, even today, would expect it to hold throughout the regional district councils.

Not only is he particularly useless as an MP and regional party leader, he is also beyond odious as a personality.”

The Odessa Oppo Block has 23 deputies in the Oblast Rada and 12 deputies in Odessa City Hall, and numerous local district, town and village councilors all under the direct control of Mr Skoryk.

At least it had 12 deputies in Odessa City Hall until yesterday when, due to growing internal discontent with Mykola Skoryk’s poor leadership, Mr Skoryk embarked on a “night of the long knives” among the City Hall deputies rather than accept his own shortcomings.

Mr Skoryk, due to his own ineptitude was forced to embark on his own regional Operation HUMMINGBIRD – to the point that the Oppo Block faction in Odessa City Hall will no longer even exist.

A “Political Council” of the regional Oppo Block which Mr Skoryk heads was called, and of the 12 deputies in Odessa City Hall, 8 of those were expelled from Oppo Block for “for violating party discipline and bringing discredit upon the party“.  In short, for calling out the serious failure of Mykola Skoryk’s regional leadership of the party and not simply accepting his incompetence.  “The Political Council concluded that the number of deputies in the Odessa City Council had lost contact with the party.  Its advice and guidance to party deputies, as a rule, were not fulfilled.  Taking into account this fact, it was decided to expel from the party a group of deputies of the Odessa City Council.”

However, having expelled 8 from 12 City Hall deputies, that is not the end of the damage caused by Mr Skoryk to the regional Oppo Block party.  The law requires a minimum of 5 deputies to form a faction within City Hall.  Only 4, Messrs Orlov, Gorin, Gigani and Ermitsa remain loyal and entirely subservient to Mr Skoryk.

Therefore the Oppo Block also ceases entirely as a political faction within Odessa City Hall – unless another deputy can be found, coerced, begged or borrowed from somewhere before the necessary bureaucracy and announcements are completed.

The expelled deputies will probably coalesce around Oksana Goncharuk which may well cause electoral losses for Oppo Block at the next local elections.

Of those 8 City Hall deputies expelled from the Oppo Block, their belief that Mr Skoryk’s woeful leadership would bring about the collapse of the Oppo Block as a regional political force appears to be manifesting.  It is a belief widely held by many of the 23 Oblast Oppo Block deputies and among those within district and village councils too.

It is perhaps beyond a stretch of the imagination to consider Sergei Liovochkin removing Mykola Skoryk as the regional head of the Oppo Block.  Mr Skoryk has been a creature of Mr Liovochkin for a very, very long time.  Therefore the further disintegration of the Oppo Block between now and the next elections will be something a reader may look forward to with some satisfaction.


The cyber attack post mortem – Ukraine

June 29, 2017

The latest cyber attack that inflicted by far the most damage upon Ukraine, and to be blunt was probably the intention, is now quite rightly subject to an international and domestic post mortem with experts and “experts” offering both wisdom and “wisdom”.  The is a lot of profile enhancing and finance gathering Op-Ed opportunities to be taken in its wake.

The blog is neither “expert” nor expert.  Expect no technical explanations.  That is not the point of the entry.

The “how”, or at least one “how” has been fairly well agreed upon regarding the MeDoc programme as a point of entry.  It was in fact identified very early on.

(There was no need to be expert nor “expert” to look at the attack as it was on-going and from the Ukrainian victims deduct the source was probably some form of accounting and/or invoicing software.  The blog tweeted as much early on during the attack, albeit with no knowledge of what actual programme it would or could be.)

The “who” will be a little more difficult to get experts (rather than “experts”) to officially and publicly commit to – albeit Ukraine wasted no time in attributing a “Russian trace” to the attack.  It is very probably an accurate attribution – based upon what evidence other than circumstantial  it is not yet known.

Corroborating expert and/or attribution by other nations may not come swiftly either.  For example, in March 2016 at a closed door 2 day round table, a world renowned cyber expert told this blog that Russia was behind the 2015 cyber attack that took down Ukrainian infrastructure.  Something long suspected of course, but at that time in 2016, no official public attribution had been made other than by Ukraine.  Ergo what may be privately known – and indeed privately attributed – may not, for whatever reason (political or operational), be done in the public domain for quite some time after the fact – if ever.

That leaves a very scary space where cyber shenanigans, be they terrorist, State actor/quasi-State actor, or organised crime, are converging toward acts that may deliberately or unintentionally equate to casus belli – for not all actors understand where the red lines are, and not all States may have the same red lines.  A very scary thought indeed.

In the case of Ukraine and Russia’s undeclared war upon it, then the latest cyber attack may well normally be classed as an act of war by many States, however having already suffered 2 cyber attacks that disrupted infrastructure, the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the occupation and kinetic engagements relating to parts of The Donbas, it is now an on-going war within which this is simply another high water mark act in the particular theatre of cyberspace.

The political, economic, diplomatic, legal and social war, notwithstanding the contained and managed kinetic war in the occupied Donbas, has waged for more than 3 years quite openly.

The continuous cyber warfare, with hundreds of attacks every month simply doesn’t leave the same public footprint.  It is not possible to look at an equivalent to open source Google satellite photographs over a period of time and witness changes on the ground when it comes to the never ending cyber warfare.  There are no official communiques or court results in the public domain to reference.  As such the level of intensity and public access to the cyberwar is not so easy – and even if most of us could access attacked and attacking code, few would understand what they saw, what it does or did, and how.

Further it is quite necessary to be blunt – neither Russia nor Ukraine (nor any other State) would particularly desire their cyber ops to be in the public domain anyway.

Which brings about the point to this entry.

Thus far almost all expert and “expert” commentary has focused upon the immediate who did it, what exactly did they do, why did they do it as it was done, how was it done and when etc.  All very valid questions that require answers.

Widening that aperture slightly, if The Kremlin is directly or indirectly responsible (as is probable) now for some questions from a blog that knows nothing about this particular theatre of war, but are questions not yet being asked particularly often, if at all – yet at some point will have to be.

How was this attack related to previous attacks that took down infrastructure?  Related not by way of code similarity, but by way of any relation to this attack that can be seen as a result of learning from the previous attacks.  When in the system last time and poking around, what was learned from the attack results and is there a Russian learning cycle that can be identified from such system intrusions?

After the last attacks, was anything left behind to specifically monitor any potential or actual Ukrainian cyber fixes?

Is anything left behind this time to monitor Ukrainian fixes in preparation for the next major cyber attack?

If it is there, is it possible to find it before its work is done?

Has something been left behind that simply need triggering to be the next cyber attack, or to enable it?

When the headline grabbing, all hands to the defensive cyber-pumps attack was going on and fixating the attention of one and all, did something else enter the system unnoticed?  If so, can or will it be found?

Now for perhaps the most interesting question – why were the attacks limited to what they achieved?

What else could have been done whilst in the system but wasn’t – and why wasn’t it done?

With the entry to the system as cleverly done as it was, why was the damage so (relatively) manageable and caused so (relatively) little lasting damage or disruption?

It could have been far, far worse if the intent had been to do so.  Why the limitation?  Is this new high tide cyber mark simply the latest probing and point scoring?  What can Ukraine see that was possible from this attack, but was refused for whatever reason?

At the end of the day, this latest cyber attack does not change the dynamics of the multiple front war of exhaustion to which Ukraine is subjected, but from every battle won or lost in any theatre in which this war is being waged, there are lessons to be learned and questions to be asked – and of those has to be what were the intended objectives, and why were those limitations placed when it could have been much worse?

The post mortem of course continues, and when these questions are eventually asked, it is not particularly likely the answers will be any more forthcoming than the willingness to publicly attribute cyber attacks.


Yet more wetwork – Colonel Yuri Voznyy assassinated

June 28, 2017

Regrettable as it is, following on seamlessly from yesterday’s entry and the assassination of Colonel Shapoval, Chief of Ukrainian Military Special Ops Forces Intelligence, yet another senior Ukrainian intelligence soul can added to that tally of the assassinated.

Colonel Yuri Voznyy of the SBU Counterintelligence Department was assassinated on the same day as his colleague in Kyiv..

Colonel Voznyy, like Colonel Shapoval and other recently assassinated senior UA IC officers met his fate via a bomb in or under the car he was in.

Colonel Voznyy’s assassination occurred in the Konstantinov region of Donbas.  3 colleagues were injured in the explosion.

On 31st March, Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Kharaberiush, Deputy Chief of the Mariupol Counterintelligence Department was also assassinated by a bomb in or under the car he was in.

The entry yesterday relating to the assassination of Colonel Shapoval concluded thus – “Aside from the immediate “who dunnit” however, there are other just as important questions to be asked and answered – or left unanswered.

Which incidents are linked, and which are not?  Is there a single operational decision making centre regarding such acts or not?  If not, which incidents are linked to which decision centers, who do they choose to carry out the wetwork, and why?  If there is more than one operational decision making centre, how many can be identified, and do they have their own unique modus operandi or a common one?  Where are they based?  Who sits within them?  What are the commonalities between victims if any?  What were the victims about to do, or had recently done that may connect them, or may prove to be the specific trigger for assassination?  Are they simply names on a list held by one or more operational centre designated for assassination when the opportunity presents?  Do any of the answers arrived at suggest the most likely next target from among so many potential targets?

There are also internal questions regarding how this happened, what was missed if anything, and if something was missed why was it missed?  What can be done to do better, (both preventative and reactionary) next time? – For there will assuredly be many more next times.”

With regard to the last paragraph, and internal IC operational issues and Ukraine having lost at least 3 senior IC officials to car bombs over the past 3 months, questions will surely be asked about Ukrainian counterterrorism and counter surveillance measures institutionally, but necessarily have also to be asked with regard to vital issue of personal awareness and/or drills relating to counterterrorism and counter surveillance.

It may be that somewhere within the lofty ranks of the Ukrainian IC community there is a Kremlin mole simply handing out names, vehicles registrations together with dates and destinations to facilitate Kremlin wetwork around Ukraine of important IC personnel.  Such is the level of political and institutional infiltration, it is not only possible but indeed probable that The Kremlin has more than one mole in almost any institution a reader may choose.

However, it is equally as likely that surveillance has played more than a small part in identifying personnel, vehicles, routes of travel, as well as noting any counter surveillance and counterterrorism awareness displayed by those targeted – if any were employed.

That the Russian GRU has managed either directly, through collaborators, or via organsied crime (for a fee) to plant 3 bombs in or under vehicles used by 3 senior Ukrainian IC personnel within the last 3 months and in 3 different locations across Ukraine, would tend to suggest some serious flaws within internal institutional, and equally importantly personal countermeasure drills of the most basic kind – as opposed to any display of exceptional GRU tradecraft and subsequent wetwork.

As yesterday’s entry concluded, so shall today’s – “What can be done to do better, (both preventative and reactionary) next time? – For there will assuredly be many more next times.”  


More wetwork in Kyiv – IC Colonel assassinated

June 27, 2017

As Ukraine takes the brunt (probably as intended) of what is rapidly becoming a global cyber attack with India, Spain, France, the UK, USA, Denmark, Norway (and no doubt others as time ticks by) suffering from what appears to be a new strain of the Petya virus -whether it is fought off  (where it can be) and the ransomware paid off in others (through however many Bitcoin wallets there are receiving payment), as a result the assassination of Colonel Maxim Shapoval in Kyiv will not feature as the global or even regional headline.

Colonel Shapoval was an important figure.  He was Chief of the Ukrainian Military Special Ops Forces Intelligence.   Albeit nobody is irreplaceable in any institution or organisation, his assassination is a significant loss.

The Ukrainian authorities have declared that the bomb in or under his Mercedes that was responsible for his assassination is being treated as a terrorist incident.

There have been almost a dozen similar explosion/bombings in Ukraine this year.

In fact only a few days ago a very similar incident occurred in Kyiv but without the fatal outcome.

While all such incidents were seemingly aimed at assassination, the targets and by extension the mens rea have thus ruled out terrorism in some cases.

Business disputes and score settling hiding in among the modus operandi of wetwork tradecraft is not unknown in Ukraine.  The spate of 30 or so bombings in Odessa during the 2014 – 2015 spree were not all the work of “the Communist 3” or a sprinkling of Transnistrians sponsored by Russia.  At least 6, possible more, were business disputes being settled via, and under the cover, of the same modus operandi.

Thus recent exploding cars are sometimes classified as terrorism, and sometimes as murder/attempted murder despite the same modus operandi.

Ergo, having classed this incident as a terrorist act, any personal business intrigues that there may or may not have been are clearly not likely to feature as a priority line of inquiry – and perhaps rightly so.  While ruling everything in until it can be ruled out, the most obvious premeditation relates to the on-going war with Russia and the victim’s professional activities therein.

It is also necessary to acknowledge that since 2014, Ukrainian military intelligence officers have literally had a price on their heads be they killed or captured in and around the occupied Donbas.  The price on the late Colonel Shapoval will have been higher than most.

Therefore many (probably correctly) will look to Russia as the assassin – whether it was carried out directly by the Russian GRU, via a collaborative Ukrainian, or via organised crime for reward.

That the late Colonel was assassinated in downtown Kyiv and nowhere near the occupied Donbas will be something of a metaphorical slap in the face for both counterintelligence and counterterrorism alike – particularly after the assassinations of other high profile/high value victims such as Messrs Voronenkov, Sheremet and the attempt on Mr Osmaev over the past few months, all occurring in Kyiv.

Of course it cannot be discounted that somebody disaffected within  current or former Ukrainian military could also be responsible – whether they have consciously “turned to the dark side” and The Kremlin – or not.

Aside from the immediate “who dunnit” however, there are other just as important questions to be asked and answered – or left unanswered.

Which incidents are linked, and which are not?  Is there a single operational decision making centre regarding such acts or not?  If not, which incidents are linked to which decision centers, who do they choose to carry out the wetwork, and why?  If there is more than one operational decision making centre, how many can be identified, and do they have their own unique modus operandi or a common one?  Where are they based?  Who sits within them?  What are the commonalities between victims if any?  What were the victims about to do, or had recently done that may connect them, or may prove to be the specific trigger for assassination?  Are they simply names on a list held by one or more operational centre designated for assassination when the opportunity presents?  Do any of the answers arrived at suggest the most likely next target from among so many potential targets?

There are also internal questions regarding how this happened, what was missed if anything, and if something was missed why was it missed?  What can be done to do better, (both preventative and reactionary) next time? – For there will assuredly be many more next times.

And so it goes on.


The SFS fight – Round 1 to the PM

June 26, 2017

A few weeks ago an entry appeared relating to the perceived political weight gain of Prime Minister Groisman – and the potential political weight loss looming for him.  It included a few paragraphs regarding the Ministry of Finance, Finance Minister Danilyuk, and attempts to force the State Fiscal Service from its control where it had only been (rightly) placed a few years prior.

“Mr Danilyuk has a terrible relationship with the Verkhovna Rada Finance Committee and a particularly prickly and egocentric Committee leader.  Nevertheless that has been manageable thus far.

However, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to force his resignation, there are now moves (to which Minister Danilyuk is very much opposed) to take the SFS (also without permanent leader whilst Roman Nasirov is suspended and under NABU investigation) from the competency of the Finance Ministry – where it was placed only a few years ago.”

What the entry did not expand upon, for it was not relevant to it, was who and/or what vested interests would wish to eek the SFS from the control of the Finance Ministry (particularly in the absence of the nefarious Roman Nasirov as the institutional head, and for whom it can be expected that every domestic effort will be made to insure he is found “not guilty” – or is handed a particularly light sentence that will clearly not be proportionate to the gravity of his notorious methods).

Why would Prime Minister Groisman and Finance Minister Danilyuk choose to rub against those individuals and/or vested interests that sought to insert Mr Nasirov into the position in the first place?

There may be ideological reasons, such as a genuine desire to reform the SFS from an oppressive and punitive institution into an otherwise unpopular but nonetheless lawful entity.

It may also be that neither Prime Minister Groisman, nor Finance Minister Danilyuk have inherited nor particularly enjoy any illicit (or complimentary/enabling) revenue or favour from it.  Neither are heavily involved in import or export to enjoy favourable VAT and/or tax decisions, or require a blind eye at Customs (controlled by the SFS) for example.

The cynical will rightly state “follow the money” when it comes to the business interests and personal enrichment of the Ukrainian elite – and by extension any associated unwillingness for reform in areas that will significantly affect them.

Lo, a combination of reform ideology and a lack of direct personal vested interest may be a partial driver – notwithstanding considerable external pressure to address the SFS problem by the “friends and supporters of Ukraine”.

There are however, many within the presidential orbit, and the Presidential Administration (not the same thing) that have benefited from an understanding and compassionate (read corrupt)  SFS during the leadership of the nefarious Mr Nasirov.

The absence of Mr Nasirov has thus led to increasingly obvious and blunt attempts to remove the control of the SFS from the Finance Ministry and place it within a more compliant/manageable/understanding ministry and minister.

It seems however that Prime Minister Groisman (and Finance Minister Danilyuk for as long as he can hold on in post) have won the internal battle to keep the SFS within the empire of the Ministry of Finance.

No doubt the Prime Minister will have had some noteable external support via the “supporters and friends of Ukraine” diplomatically suggesting the SFS remain within the Finance Ministry, sufficiently weighted so as to cause the vested interests seeking to eek the SFS (and thereby customs) out from under MinFin to decide this was not a battle worth pursuing by way of current tactics.

There is after all, more than one way to skin a cat (to quote Seba Smith).

Prime Minister Groisman wants to completely restructure the SFS and Customs, and also insure the entirely cancerous Tax Police are an entity that will not see the operational light of day again in Ukraine.

Thus there will be many a tactical opportunity for vested interests to try and insure their continued nefarious gains via such restructuring.  It will be a matter of the PM and MinFin plugging concept and policy holes, legislative or regulatory, as well as fighting the insertion of corrupted souls owned or rented by vested interests within any new structure.

As for process, the more the PM and MinFin can automate the system thus removing nefarious human interference, the more success there will be.  The more vested interests can frustrate any such automation and insert nefarious human interference, the longer their schemes and scams can continue without having to seriously adapt, being forced to find new ways to undermine the system (and thereby the nation).

Thus, Round 1 to the PM, Finance Minister Danilyuk and MinFin – but it is far from a knockout.

Seconds out – Round 2 – will commence shortly.  We will then see just how clever they can box.


“Winter” is coming (and got arrested for trying to recruit SBU officers)

June 25, 2017

That Russian infiltration remains within the political class and institutions of the Ukrainian State is no secret.  Indeed Ukraine as a State is perhaps better working on the assumption that it has no secrets.

Whether Russian infiltration has increased over the past few years, remained constant, or has diminished, is far more difficult to asses – for that would require an understanding of just how many GRU, FSB and SVR officers and their agents were actually in Ukraine to begin with.

Suffice to say the entire governance and State structure was riddled with Kremlin spooks and their networks and probably remains so – at least any counterintelligence officer in Ukraine would certainly work on that assumption, for no amount of lustration, clever SBU work, or simple good luck will clear them all out – ever.

Indeed, arguably those most easily identified are not going to be the greatest threat – and even if a professional spook is identified it certainly doesn’t mean they will immediately become persona non grata and sent back to Moscow post haste.  There are reasons, political, diplomatic, and also perhaps most importantly, domestic counterintelligence, that may very well (and often does) dictate leaving such opposition personnel in place unless they seriously overstep the “acceptable boundaries” of their diplomatic cover (should they be operating under diplomatic cover).

It came as no surprise when former Consul General Valeriy Shibeko of the Russian Federation based in Odessa was PNG’d in July 2015.  Valeriy Shibeko arrived in Odessa as Consul General in March 2014 – at the height of the Novorossiya nonsense, social unrest operations such as the Potemkin “Bessarabian People’s Republic”, and remained in post throughout the bombing campaign of 2014/15 – which ceased almost immediately he was PNGd.

Mr Shibeko’s curriculum vitae, or at least the official legend offered, was particularly dull, grey and uninteresting.  Thus a sudden CG posting at that particular time and within the strategic city of Odessa immediately cast a shadow over its legitimacy for those with a curious mind.   Since being PNGd, Mr Shibenko has once again disappeared into the grey.

To be blunt, his PNG was somewhat overdue as it was common knowledge within Odessa regarding the “assistance” the RF Consulate in Odessa was giving to all manner of anti-Ukrainian activities.

Since that time the Russian Consulate in Odessa has had acting Consular General office holders only.

The illegals placed by the SVR (and occasionally others), being without diplomatic cover, play a slightly more risky game, but even so it does not necessarily follow that they will automatically be jailed or PNGd if identified (at least not immediately – and sometimes never).

This entry is not entirely about professional intelligence officers but also about their agents and networks.

Without going into too much detail, in this particular case (there are cases every other week) a man with the code name ” Зима”, or “Winter” in English, whose real name is Igor Vadimovich Tkachenko, was recruited by the Russians in Transnistria (the Russian enclave/protectorate in Moldova), to come to Odessa and engage in espionage.  Mr Tkachenko holds both Moldavian and Russian citizenship and was once the commander of the Dniestra Battalion in Transnistria.  He was also a GRU unit serviceman many moons ago.

He arrived in Odessa to recruit SBU officers to the Russia cause.  A rather interesting assignment if, as it appears, he had no history of recruiting assets and/or informants, nor of acting as a handler or controller – which would perhaps explain his undoing.

Whether or not the Russian secret services that recruited “Agent Winter” believed he was up to the task or not, who knows?  These days they seem to be taking greater risks – perhaps due to the lack of penalties when things don’t work out, and seeking reward from Moscow Centre when they do.

His motivation was financial.

His money came via Evgene Shultsev the current acting Consular General of the Russian Federation.

This is all known because Mr Tkachenko has been forthright with the Ukrainian SBU since his detention.

(Indeed “Agent Winter” has also given up another with the code name “Гравер” or “Engraver” in English.  For now nothing more will be written about “Engraver”.)

However, as details regarding this incident will turn from a drip into a torrent within the local public domain over the coming days, it remains to be seen whether Ukraine will feel it necessary and/or unavoidable to persona non grata Evgene Shultsev, thus adding another PNGd Russian Consular General to the Odessa list.

Whatever the case, the majority of those deeply embedded within the infiltrated Ukrainian State (and local) apparatus will live to undermine Ukraine another day, whilst inept distractions such as “Agent Winter” continue to offer the easy, low hanging fruit when some harvesting is deemed appropriate.


The re-militarisation of Artsyz airfield (Odessa)

June 24, 2017

1998 saw the military finally leave the former Soviet airbase of Artsyz, western Odessa.

The 840 hectare site, once known as the 206th Airbase was home to the 737 Fighter Wing, and in Soviet times was also the airbase for a military transport squadron.  It was also a reserve space shuttle site.   Popular folklore would also have it that it was a Soviet chemical weapons storage site.

Naturally since the military left the airbase it has been thorough pillaged and ransacked by “local recyclers” and otherwise thrown beyond disrepair and convincingly into ruin.

The last remotely military action at Artsyz was in 2014 when concrete blocks were laid across the runways to prevent the Russians landing if they had a mind to try.

The Artsyz 840 hectare site is now home to 6 AN-2 crop spraying aircraft operated by the company Albatross.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak when visiting Odessa has now announced that 380 hectares of the site will return to military service and be restored (hopefully beyond former “glory” and to something befitting a modern military site for the Air Force).

The designs are apparently almost complete and work will begin in 2018.

“Design will be complete and next year we will start practical measures for restoration.  Now we need this airport” – S Poltorak

So be it.

Artsyz is about as far from Russia as is possible within Ukrainian territory if discounting the ever increasingly militarised illegally annexed Crimea – except it is not possible to discount the ever increasingly militarised illegally annexed Crimea, which in contemporary military terms is but a catapult distance away when it comes to lobbing missiles at a target or flying in those very polite little green men and/or overt Russian military.

Quite what Ukrainian Air Force units and/or equipment will be based at Artsyz has not yet been disclosed, nor has the reason why this abandoned military ruin is now needed (rather than desired).

Thus without knowing what Air Force units will be stationed at the refurbished airbase, it is difficult to understand why it has become a priority for the Defence Ministry vis a vis those already used in the region.

Is it a case of being able to transfer military personnel and equipment to the Ukrainian southwest swiftly – primarily a matter of internal military logistics?

As such is it connected to the recent deployment of the National Guard to Belgorod (under the guise of “community policing”.) – or not?

Is it to provide a deterrent to any future adventurism from the expanding illegal Russian forces in Crimea?  If so, what form will that deterrent take?

Will it include a counterterrorism and/or organised crime capability monitoring the smuggling to and from Transnistria and/or along the Odessa coastline?

It is perhaps reasonable to expect complaints (that will rightfully be ignored) from Tiraspol and/or Moscow regarding Transneistra, as Artsyz is probably the closest (former military) airbase to Transneistra, Moldova and Romania that Ukraine possesses.  (Literally minutes from Moldavian and Romanian airspace.)

Is there a broader, even bilateral/multilateral dimension?  A preparatory act relating to future joint operational capacity with Romania (and/or others) perhaps?  Will it become part of a larger A2AD bubble?

Cynically, which will have a runway worthy of the name first?  Odessa International Airport or Artsyz?


StranaUA searched – Editor Igor Guzhva arrested

June 22, 2017

Many readers aware of the media outlet StranaUA will have perhaps wondered why the search of its premises by the National Investigative Police (not SBU) has taken so long in coming.

StranaUA is hardly what can be called a publication that promotes a western traveling Ukraine.

Igor Guzhva is long reputed to be a creature of Vladislav Surkov, and others close to the publication include Russian journalist Iskander Khisamov who was, and perhaps still is, within the orbit of Gleb Pavlovsky a Kremlin spin doctor.

However, a media outlet is a media outlet and freedom of speech is the shield that protects, even if propaganda and disinformation is espoused, promulgated and disseminated under the cover of freedom of speech yes?

Well actually no – albeit each case must necessarily be assessed on its individual merits.

As Dmitry Kiselev, Russia’s most (in)famous rabid “journalist” recently discovered in a European Court of Human Rights ruling when challenging his sanctions and travel ban as curtailing his journalistic right to free speech, the court stated propaganda is not covered by a journalistic masking of freedom of speech.

So Ukraine has taken action against StranaUA in light of this recent ECfHR ruling and decided to put an end to StranaUA flapdoodle?  Or Kremlin influence?  Perhaps dodgy funding?

Well no.  Prima facie the issue appears to be purely criminal.  Igor Guzhva has been arrested for demanding and recieving a $10,000 bribe to withhold from publication kompromat (incriminating material) of a Ukrainian parliamentarian.  Thus a matter of blackmail it appears.

According to Prosecutor General Lutsenko, the incident is on tape and the bribe has been recovered during the search.

Mr Guzhva will no doubt claim he has been framed, and whether or not he is taken out of circulation it is unlikely that StranaUA will simply disappear as a result – nor change its style of media content  It will claim State institutional pressure on dissenting media.  The muffling of freedom of speech.

Time will tell whether it is indeed a State an engineered incident, or simply a criminal getting caught for a criminal act – or both.

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