Archive for July 17th, 2017

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MH17 and Hawk RQ4 Eyes in the Skies – Ukraine

July 17, 2017

Another year to the day has passed since the shooting down of MH17 killing all on board.

The international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) continues to work toward attributing criminal responsibility.  That Buk 332 of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces will be found the offending unit there seems little doubt.

There is perhaps more doubt when it comes to who exactly pressed the button that launched the missile that murdered so many civilians.

It is possible that the Russian Buk crew fired the missile.  It is also possible that the “separatists” and/or “Russian volunteers” fired it with technical assistance and/or training from the Russian military crew.  However the Buk has been in service since the 1980s and therefore there are also a lot of people that have at one time or another been trained in its operation.  It is thus possible, albeit most unlikely, that the Russian proxies/mercenaries fired it while the current Russian military crew stood idly by.

It will be interesting to see just how far down the chain of command the JIT can go with regard appropriating personal criminal responsibility, as well as how far up.

Whatever the case, the JIT is likely to find the Buk system responsible is that of the Russian military and therefore there is a Russian chain of command responsible for its deployment into the occupied Donbas, and its return to the Russian Federation the following day.

It appears that the JIT criminal investigation will probably appear in the public domain in early 2018 when no doubt many within the Russian chain of command will be personally identified even if the identity of the individual who pushed the button may not be.

As a  result of MH17 there has been no military air sorties in or around the occupied Donbas since, thus keeping military engagement very much land (and occasionally sea) based.

Aerial warfare by all parties has therefore been restricted to the tactical use of low altitude intelligence gathering drones, the fairly frequent hostile EW efforts to disrupt them, or their infrequent shooting down – including OSCE drones.

Or has it?

For example, just before 0800 hours on 16th July, from Sigonella, Sicily, a US RQ4 Hawk UAV made its way toward Ukrainian airspace.  Perhaps part of the on-going NATO Sea Breeze exercise taking place in the Black Sea and within Ukrainian territory?

No.

While heading toward Crimea at about 17000 meters, the Hawk became a blip on the Russian radar system, subsequently leading to the launch of a Russian SU 27 aircraft from the Belbek airfield at approximately 1025 hours.

The Russians it appears had intermittent eye contact with the Hawk for about 2.5 hours as the Hawk, travelling at about 650 kph, constantly changed altitude and course remaining within the Ukrainian airspace of Kherson and Mykolaiv.

Having passed Crimea, the US Hawk then headed toward Mariupol and the “contact line” with the occupied Donbas and then along the “contact line” before heading westward again deep within Ukrainian airspace before it then entered Romanian airspace at approximately 2110 hours in the Chernivtsi region, presumably then onward and returning to Sigonella, Sicily some 16 hours hours after its departure.

How regular, or indeed how infrequent, the US (and/or others) monitor the “contact line” and Crimea in this manner is a matter for a reader to ponder – as are the number of times the Russians decide to scramble – or not – in response.   There is, after all, no gain in shooting down a US Hawk drone in Ukrainian airspace for the Russians.

Nevertheless, this incident perhaps serves as a timely reminder on the third anniversary of the  MH17 crime, that there remains on-going military aerial sorties within Ukrainian airspace.  They simply do not directly result in the criminal deaths of MH17 as events 3 years ago today did.

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Prejudging the judicial reform – Supreme Court (Stage 1)

July 17, 2017

About a week ago an entry appeared that cast a somewhat pessimistic light upon the much needed judicial reform – bemoaning the structure and processes that will deliver judicial reform, but it would appear without reforming the judiciary.

“As such the judicial reform has already set off along a poor path as the structure and process behind what will result will not lead to a truly independent judiciary staffed by morally upstanding and individually independent judges.

The Prosecutor General’s Office will also never convincingly reform whilst ever it is run by a politician (and Yuri Lutsenko was, is, and will always be a politician) and any eventual structure and process reform is likely to leave this institution beholding to those in power.

The reason being that those historically and currently in power simply cannot find it within themselves to surrender the prosecutors and judiciary to genuine independence.  The sword, rather than the scales, seem likely to remain the preferred tool of the State.  For my friends anything – for everybody else the rule of law.”

Needless to say there are some significant issues within the Constitutional Court legislation rushed through the Verkhovna Rada on its final day of its final plenary session before parliamentary summer holidays.   The new legislation does not provide for a structure or mechanism to make the 6 parliamentary, 6 presidential, and 6 Congress of Judges appointments subject to any form of open competition.  Thus the most deserving and successful candidates will remain those politically deserving – no differently to what occurs now.

The new grounds for dismissal are both woolly in interpretation and can be equally politically driven (albeit that dismissal is now the sole purview of the CoJ).  The major pluses to the hurriedly passed  legislation are, well, none.

A dedicated Anti-Corruption Court is not going to appear any time soon leaving the anti-corruption institutions to present cases to an unreformed court – and Lady Justice in Ukraine remains a harlot for hire.

However it is with regard to the Higher Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ) that this entry appears, for 17th July will see it finally conclude its review of all applicants for the new Supreme Court.  The final 6 judges subjected to the probing and prodding of the Public Council on the Integrity of Judges (PCIJ) appear before it.  Among those to be considered is the notorious Judge Vovk, although none of the 6 being considered on 17th are particularly morally upright.

Indeed, whilst the PCIJ continues to highlight lifestyles and assets far beyond incomes, the HQCJ continues to demand proof of corruption.  In short the new Supreme Court will almost certainly not be staffed by those that passed every “sniff test” of a “reasonable person”, but will be staffed by those who, even if “smelly”, at least too much shit did not stick to their blanket under a cursory glance as far as the HQCJ is concerned.

A low moral and ethical bar has apparently been set.

When historically the European Court of Human Rights has said of the Supreme Court of Ukrainethe court believes that the rationale of the Supreme Court of Ukraine can be interpreted only as a” flagrant arbitrariness ” or “denial of justice it is surely not the best way to boost public confidence in the new Supreme Court when the public watchdog says “they smell” but the the HQCJ prefers not to sniff.

Thus far only 25 of those deemed “smelly” by the PCIJ have been deemed “smelly enough” by the HQCJ to prevent their running for the Supreme Court.  In percentage terms only 18% of those thought too smelly have been thought of as too smelly by both PCIJ and HQCJ.  Another 115 judges were allowed to continue to run for the Supreme Court by the HQCJ despite failing the PCIJ sniff test.

To be clear, Judegs Vovk, Marynchuk, Sirosh, Stupak, Okhrimchuk and Invanova that are before the HQCJ on 17th July have all failed the PCIJ sniff test.  Without doubt Judge Vovk is the most notorious and nefarious (and should he be allowed to continue to run for the Supreme Court it will say all a reader needs to know about the process), but smelly is smelly despite the toxicity of the odour.

Indeed, to be clear, of 382 candidates many have passed the PCIJ sniff test as well as the HQCJ hurdles – certainly more than enough to fill the new Supreme Court Judge vacancies and allow for some competition for those vacancies from among the odourless.

Whatever the case, and whatever the outcome, 17th July brings to an end the first stage in the selection of judges for the new Supreme Court – and unsurprisingly the results of the first stage do not bode well for that which will follow.

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