Archive for August, 2017

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Perceptions and interpretations – The political Autumn, Ukraine

August 18, 2017

With the Verkhovna Rada set to return in September for the final political season of the year, it will bring with it the official unofficial pre-election electioneering that will wearily grind on throughout 2018 without bring to the fore any politician remotely popular for the presidency, nor indeed is it likely to produce a much needed change to the election laws forcing the opening of party lists relating to the proportional representation system that would produce the possibility of a better Verkhovna Rada.

The electorate is likely to be faced with the same tired faces and the same party lists stuffed with party apparatchiks, faux loyalists, insider dealers, corruptioneers, criminals, and those in desperate need of retaining parliamentary immunity (and impunity).

President Poroshenko, if opinion polls be any guide, will need to do what no Ukrainian president has ever accomplished before – reverse his declining approval ratings.  (Only former President Kuchma managed to “flat line” his ratings toward the end of his second and constitutionally obligatory last term.)

That said, President Poroshenko is yet to confirm he will run for a second term, but on the presumption that he will, (and with a requirement thereafter to insure a second round vote against a rival he can be sure of beating), such is the apparent gap in opinion poll ratings that it remains within his ability to reverse them – but there are only two ways to do so effectively.

The first is to finally seize the opportunity to become a Statesman that will go down in history as a genuinely reformist president, visibly overriding his own vested interests, by driving forward reform at a far swifter rate and insuring reform consolidation making them (almost) irreversible – even when those reforms significantly impede upon his vested interests and of those around him.  This would clearly require an amount of political bravery and selflessness as yet unseen within the Ukrainian political class – ever.

The second way is to employ the State administrative system to inflate his influence and constrain those of his opponents.  To do this it is necessary to do so with no small measure of maskirovka and corrosive political technology in order to avoid deafening internal and external cries of foul play that will be universal and that will stick, whilst simultaneously retaining sufficient internal elite support.

If the opportunity to genuinely reform both the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and create an Anti-Corruption Court are any guide – notwithstanding the political control by Yuri Lutesnko over the Prosecutor’s Office, the complete failure to address the CEC issues, and a clear reluctance to address the electoral laws are any guide, then the President intends to run and at the very least, to be charitable, having at his disposal the State administrative system and a malleable, politically influenced institutional and legislative structure.

But how to go about it?

There are successes about which he can rightly trumpet of course, but they will have lost much of their political weight before 2019 elections.  Familiarity brings contempt – and there is still so much to do and little faith in political promises.  Come polling day he will be judged by many only as well as his last reform – or the lack of it.

So painting with broad brush strokes, and deliberately framing matters within the grey thus leaving a reader to decide between options one or two above (though they are not necessarily always mutually exclusive) what should a reader look for from the Autumn onward by way of preparatory acts?

Obviously there is a need to keep a watchful eye upon the media – as prompted by the recent acquisition of Expresso TV by former Prime Minister and People’s Front party leader Arseny Yatseniuk, and the wives of People’s Front politicians Arsen Avakov and Nikolai Knyazhytsky.

Clearly this acquisition was not made in an effort to save the People’s Front from almost certain evisceration and  political death at the ballot box.

It has either been bought, as carrot or stick, for Mr Yatseniuk to insure that his best people are included in any merger with the Poroshenko Party list (though given the Poroshenko party reduced polling numbers it could only accommodate 15 – 20 People’s Front favorites without pushing out some necessary Poroshenko favorites in the process come election day results) by providing pro-Poroshenko editorial coverage.

That, or it will become a vehicle for a reincarnation of the Yatseniuk/Avakov/Turchynov favoured People’s Front politicians under a new brand in the hope of attracting some other reasonably popular/well known and not entirely odious political figures – Prime Minister Groisman for example (who will increasingly need to see reforms through that encroach upon the vested interests of the presidential circle)..

Whatever the case, most of the owners of national media are within reach of, and likely to provide at the very least neutral, and generally favourable coverage of the President – as the above clip displays.   (A reader need not understand what is said, but simply view who owns what in the diagrams.)

President Poroshenko has a very reasonable relationship with Rinat Akhmetov, is quite amicable as far as Viktor Pinchuk is concerned,  News One by hook or by crook can be brought on side (or bought off) via the ever transactional Vadim Rabinovych.  Ihor Kolomoisky is in a precarious position where court cases may appear – or not.  Even if they appear, those cases can be delayed for innumerable reasons until statute barred.  Indeed it may be only the Firtash/Liovochkin owned Inter that will prove to be negative toward the president (and thus ironically provide a platform for the likes of Tymoshenko).

There is also the regional/local media stations to keep an eye on – for they are owned by the regional and local political class (a microcosm of the national media picture).  The allegiances of the regional and local elites will thus be clear from the positions of the local media coverage.  (In fact the blog can predict now the pro and anti-Presidential local channels in Odessa based upon their political owners.)

There is also the matter of individual politicians, journalists, NGOS and civil activists that may be viewed as far too critical (sometimes rightly, other times not) by The Bankova.  Already unsettling rumour circulates of illicit phone tapping and SBU “chats” occurring not only among the domestic but also some foreign persons that would fall into such a category.  That said, it is possible to take a “big tent” view of these incidents, thus acknowledging they may occur without instruction from the innermost sanctum – or not – if a reader so choose.

With regard to the politicians, then another attempt by Yuri Lutsenko to strip immunity of an increasingly large number of parliamentarians is perhaps to be considered.

Long overdue are the prosecution of parliamentarians such as Mykola Skoryk (for among other things when Governor orchestrating the beating of 20 journalists in 2014, at the very least attempting to enable the Glazyev playbook in Odessa, and latterly the behind the curtain games leading up to the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa).  There are also simply common criminals such as Evgeny Dade.  There will be at least one or two from every region that should rightly be facing prosecution for nefarious deeds conducted now, or in recent history.

However, among those that may appear upon any new PGO list, a watchful eye for those that are predominantly thorns in the presidential side, rather than the most actively corrupt, need be kept.

Equally, the absence of those that clearly should be on a prosecutor’s list (such as Pashinsky) but almost certainly will not be are of equal note.

Naturally any notion of MPs finally removing their own absolute immunity is unlikely under such circumstances.  A climate of self-survival may well seep across all party lines sufficiently well to frustrate Yuri Lutsenko as a result.  Very few MPs would see votes that allowed criminal prosecution, and allowed for arrest, and allowed for detention (it requires 3 votes to achieve all 3 levels of immunity removal).

Nevertheless, the members of the Verkhovna Rada may well be more receptive to the will of the Presidential Administration (read President) as a result of any such list.

Once again, those that do become the sacrificial lambs still have the opportunity to have their cases stalled (and eventually statute barred), or deliberately sabotaged, or receive a sentence far less than proportionate to their crimes, if unfortunate enough to be nominated for to trial prior to elections.

In short, when it comes to preparatory pre-election electioneering from a presidential perspective, for the remainder of the year and well into the next, a watchful eye upon the media and/or editorial policy, individual journalists, civil activists, NGOs (particularly corruption and/or rule of law), the rejuvenation of CEC and election laws, and the “prosecutors list” is worth while.

A reader will then be left to ponder upon their own perceptions and interpretations of the events that will probably soon begin to occur once the Verkhovna Rada returns.  Option 1, President Poroshenko finally seizing the opportunity to become a Statesman that will go down in history as a genuinely reformist president regardless of his own vested interests?  Option 2, employing the State administrative system to inflate his influence and constrain those of his opponents (behind maskirovka that may appear convincing or otherwise)?  Option 3, a mixture of both (despite the ever decreasing lack of reform wiggle room to do so)?

Time will soon begin to tell.

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A civil service surge – Ukraine

August 17, 2017

The word “surge” when associated with government planning is probably most associated with troop surges in places like Afghanistan – which by extension is often then associated with debatable outcomes.

That said there may be a difference between a requirement for a surge for tactical reasons vis a vis a surge for strategic and/or policy reasons.  Questions of goals, expected outcomes and timeliness have a ready inference to any government induced surge.

There is also a matter of effective implementation (whether the policy be good, bad or counterproductive).

Ukraine is about to undergo a governmental surge of its own.

It is a surge aimed directly at the nervous system of the country – the civil service.

Over the years, many are the entries of the blog relating to the Ukrainian civil service.  Comment made in an entry from 2015 remains as valid today as it was then – “It is, when all is said and done, the nervous system of the nation.  It is what makes things happen – or not.

Through civil service departments, agencies and public sector bodies, the civil service acts as the delivery service of current policy.  Presidents, Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers and governments will come and go – but the civil service, a-political and independent of government, remains a consistent functionary.

The civil service is responsible for delivering governmental projects, be they large or small, complex or simple (hopefully) on time and on budget.

Despite the numerous ministries in which the civil service perform, perhaps the simplest way to segregate them is those tasked with issues at home, and those tasked with issues abroad.

The civil servants closer to Ministers are there to give advice and have, theoretically (and often do) influence on policy.  Whether that advice is based upon a broad or narrow view, or somewhat questionable evidence occasionally, is something that perhaps should be pondered a little more than it is.

However, together with political independence whilst delivering government policy of the day, one, if not the major benefit of a civil service is its a-political longevity and thus internal stability – and it is here that Ukraine has major issues to resolve.

As such, existing Ukrainian reform by way of reducing civil service staffing numbers and ejecting the most corrupt is at best, still only partial reform.  Political interference and excessive unwarranted meddling continues unabated.

The frequently unnecessary but politically expedient turnover of (senior) civil servants in Ukraine simply undermines the a-political nature that should underwrite a civil service.  It thus removes any notion of stability from the functionary system by denying longevity, whilst also placing a ceiling upon ambitions of the capable for fear of putting their head above the parapet in the top echelons of the service and the inevitable sacking that follows.  By extension that often means (good, bad or indifferent) policy is ineffectively implemented – which can have counterproductive political outcomes for those who would sack and promote “their people” within what should be an independent policy delivery system (and which when asked should provide a-political policy advice).

Such is the extent of political meddling within the civil service, who then is accountable and for what?  There is the policy issue of administration, and also the issue of the administration of policy.

Confusion and unaccountability abound when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration, conflict or overlaps with the policy for the administration of policy – particularly when subject to continuous politically expedient hirings and firings at the very top of the civil service. – Clear?  Naturally (and deliberately) not, which is partly why policy is rarely effectively implemented in Ukraine.”

Since the time that was written some issues have been addressed, at least by statute/de jure, if de facto that isn’t entirely the case.

Certain government policies have seen more effective implementation than others.

There remain issues of capabilities, ability, culpability, policy (and implementation) ownership and responsibility, and a DNA within the civil service that doesn’t quite realise its role within a European State organism and society.  This is something not helped by a politically epileptic brain that continues to have numerous seizures resulting in self-inflicted injury, as well as a schizophrenic disorder whereby the body politic will speak like European peers but fail to think and act like them.

Nevertheless, political neurological issues aside (and which are probably at least two election cycles away from any realistic chance of remedy), if Ukraine as a State can radically improve both its grasp upon the rule of law (rather than rule by law, or the absence of it) and the functioning of the civil service, the rest of the body will benefit immensely.

So to the issues of capacity and ability.  Clearly there are technical/IT issues that will need to be confronted – and the EU and World Bank are casting their eye there upon.

However it is a surge in personnel that is central to this entry.

Quite what came of the EU touted Reform Support Teams (RSTs) is unclear.  Perhaps the are busy working away in the boiler rooms of the Ukrainian ministries and civil service already, deprived (perhaps happily) of any media mention whatsoever – or perhaps they are yet to manifest at all.

Maybe “RST”s are the foundation, or simply the European name, for “Directorates” that the Ukrainian government is creating for a civil service surge?  And there will be many Directorates.  50 of them, requiring 1000 reform specialists who will be selected by competition.

The applicant parameters?  “Candidates for professional positions should be citizens of Ukraine, proficient in the state language and have higher education, and they must have analytical skills and necessary knowledge.  At the same time, work experience is not compulsory, the bonus will be knowledge of English, which is not yet a mandatory requirement.

Candidates for the positions of heads of expert groups should have, in addition to the above, work experience of three years, but not necessarily in the civil service, and heads of directorates – work experience of five years.”

The role of the Directorates will be profiled to each governmental department, within which there will be members of the Directorate for Strategic Planning and European Integration.  The aim is to create a surge in staffing to bring about timely reform implementation over a period of six months – after which departments will return to their proscribed staffing levels.

A six month surge seems a very ambitious time frame for effective and consolidated reform implementation – and even if that time frame manages to force the implementation of some reform, a reader will naturally question, what of required reforms that are as yet not even legislated for and thus cannot be implemented in a surge?

Yet further, 6 months is hardly sufficient time to correct some damaged civil service DNA when it comes to understanding and remedying its own institutional culture.  A surge may deal with some of the symptoms, but what of the cure?

There is, of course, also the question of timeliness when it comes to the competition and selection of 1000 competent individuals capable of delivering what they are selected to do.  The only competitions that have displayed any sense of timeliness are those that were actually “competitions” where the outcome and successful “candidate(s)” was already known.

Anyway of the 50 Directorates, 40 will be profiled to governmental departments, with pilot projects beginning with the Ministries of Culture, Finance, Justice, Education & Science, Social Policy, Infrastructure, Health, Energy & Coal, and Agriculture & Food – together with some regional development, construction, housing and communal services.

This presumably after the creation of the Directorate for Strategic Planning and European Integration of course.

To add some further interest, also to receive Directorate attention is the Secretariat of the Cabinet, the National Agency for the Civil Service, and the National Agency for E-Governance.

While all this is going on, and surges appear and disappear, a reader is perhaps left to wonder who exactly owns, and is individually responsible and accountable for, the impact and output of the Directorates if the Secretariat of the Cabinet, the National Agency for the Civil Service, and the National Agency for E-Governance are simultaneously subject to Directorate surges too.

Systems and process are a functional requirement of a professional civil service – regardless of the room within for clever and nimble thinking when dealing with and resolving “issues”.  Within a professional civil service individuals are accountable at various level of authority.  But who is individually accountable for “the surge”?

The forthcoming “surge”, if it comes, may very well get some reforms implemented.  That should be welcomed.  But it is likely to be somewhat messy.  It’ legacy toward correcting the long-term civil service institutional deficiencies will also be questionable.

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Rocket Science – Part Deux (Organised Crime)

August 15, 2017

Following on from the last entry relating to rocket science (or not) insofar as Ukrainian supply of RD250 missile engines to North Korea, when it comes to the technical/system parts of the analysis that forms the root of the allegation the blog simply cannot comment upon for it falls far outside any academic or practitioner experience of the blog.

There are however parts, which are perhaps far more in keeping with speculation than analysis, that certainly fall within the practitioner experience of the blog – the inference that the Ukrainian Government and perhaps even the management of Yuzhmash were simply unaware of the theft and transportation of the missile engines, that it was certainly not complicit, and that organised criminality would engage in such a crime without the knowledge of (or assistance by) those without notable political and/or considerable institutional connections and/or influence – “But I want to make one point very clear. I don’t think the Ukrainian government was involved in this at all. I don’t even know that executives from the Yuzhnoye plant would have been involved. This, to me, sounds like criminal gangs were able to access something and export it from either Ukraine or Russia.”

Hmmm!

Firstly to make such a statement is to draw a clear line between the political class, State institutions and organised criminality.  A line that is more than a little smudged in Ukraine, and smuggling and smuggling revenues are no exception.

Nevertheless, to engage in a thought exercise where organised crime and the political and institutional organs of State are clearly separated still raises some awkward questions when attempting to support this theory.

There are not only questions relating only to the actual commissioning of such a crime.  There are preparatory issues to be addressed.

Before reaching the point where the theft and smuggling occurs, first of all the deal has to be struck between the parties concerned.

Ergo, how would that deal be struck?

Anonymously somewhere on the dark net?

Perhaps – but as recent Europol operations display with shuttering Alphabay and Hansa, the dark net is not as secure for criminality as the criminal fraternity may think.  Indeed the Europol operation was a well planned operation whereby it anticipated the instant migration from Alphabay to Hansa and having shut down the first, watched the migration to the second – no doubt gleaning valuable intelligence when that happened – before then shutting down the second.

A reader can be assured that Europol and various agencies had long lurked on those sites and only at a certain point, normally one where the benefits of lurking no longer outweigh the benefits of shuttering them, was the decision made to roll up those sites.  Indeed any conspiracy at proliferation of ICBM missile engines stands a reasonable chance of discovery with the likelihood of with innumerable 3 and 4 letter agencies lurking across the dark net.

Further, Ukraine is still a place where conspiracy to commit nefarious deeds (and a lot of legitimate business) is only ever done face to face to avoid the possibilities of emails and telephone conversations being intercepted.  Deals are struck when looking people in the eye.

To be sure, organised crime does not engage in stealing missile engines and then look for a buyer – it would have to be the other way around – with or without the knowledge of the Ukrainian leadership (and as a reminder the analysis claims the Ukrainian leadership was unaware).

So how would North Korea approach organised crime in Ukraine?  How would they know who to approach?  How to do it without causing attention to themselves? How to accomplish it with the necessary sensitivity to avoid setting off a blip on the SBU radar and/or creating unnecessary loose talk among the organised crime ranks?  After all, they were caught in 2012 trying a similar transaction in Ukraine (see para 47 and 48).

Should it be therefore kept “in house”? If so, how many North Korean citizens are in Dnipro – if the approach is to be made to those closest to the production and storage sites of the RD250 engines?

Should an approach via organised crime in another city be considered – if so why?

How many North Koreans are able to contact those within organised crime capable of delivering such a request discretely and with confidence that a repeat of 2012 would be avoided?  Would those within organsied crime entertain such a request directly from unknown parties?

Proliferation is hardly an everyday request – let alone occurrence. Indeed many proliferation arrests are a result of sting operations.

Further when cigarette, alcohol and amber smuggling rely upon both political and institutional involvement, how easy is it to firstly steal and then smuggle missile engines without similar involvement?  Undoubtedly North Korea is aware of how organised criminality works in Ukraine – and the very smudged line between State and criminality.

Therefore the issue of trust is one that need be addressed long before the commission of any crime.

Organised crime may have only allegiance to the US$ (or Euro or whatever currency), but there remains a necessary level of trust in and by parties involved in any organised criminality.

If a reader sticks rigidly to the inferred separation of State and organised criminality to insure a lack of knowledge of the Ukrainian State (and Yuzhmash executives) per the analysis, and a credible direct approach to organised crime either is unavailable or undesirable to North Korea (post 2012 or any other reason), then who is the interlocutor trusted by both North Korea and Ukrainian organised crime, if not from within the domestic political or institutional organs?

An external yet trusted organised crime group – and if so to what extent are they simply hiring local help for part of the job?  An externally based part of the same organised crime group?  But why would they be any more trusting of a North Korean approach than those based in Ukraine?  A trusted external government or external governmental institution far more familiar with the Ukrainian organised criminality?

How many such individuals and or entities exist that could bring about the trust required?

How many of those interlocutors would enter the particularly risky arena of proliferation (as opposed to remaining within the standard lucrative organised criminality)?

Any reader familiar with Ukraine and who are personally acquainted with any of its people of influence within politics, State institutions, or organised crime (if a reader continues with the notion of that non-existent gap between) will be quite aware that when sitting with them and chatting “off the record”, almost all are quite prepared to describe all about what others are doing, and enjoy explaining the intrigues of such an otherwise opaque world from which most are divorced. Therefore, ultimately there are no secrets.

Thus in reality, with all things above considered, and even before a reader concerns themselves with the ability to actually carry out the crime, the smuggling methods and routes, although it is not impossible, it is fair to say that it is improbable that organised crime would carry out the theft and smuggling of missile engines without the knowledge, or involvement, of at a minimum those within and atop regional politics and/or State institutions – and there would inevitably be gossip that would seep through to the highest echelons eventually if that be the case.

As stated at the start, the blog is not capable of offering any meaningful analysis of the missile technical/systems (so why even try), but playing along with the other organised crime assertions made by way of a thought exercise, it seems improbable (if not entirely impossible) for organised crime to have entered into such a criminal enterprise without the knowledge of some powerful and enabling regional or national figures – who would not do so for free, and who are quite happy to gossip off the record.

Naturally this thought exercise is an entirely pointless exercise in and of itself, for examination of the actual commissioning of the crime itself, especially smuggling route and method, would be required – and this entry concentrates upon the preparatory deal making (too few people bother to think about).

Further such thoughts would need to form part of a holistic analysis together with the credibility of the engine technical/system analysis and any high confidence that the engines are firstly in North Korea and secondly can be nailed down to having been built or modified in Ukraine for it to have any real benefit.

For now the missile wonks have first to settle their differing opinions on the technical/system side of the original analysis.

Suffice to say the conclusion of the previous entry that the analysis is somewhat suspect remains.  The view of the blog is that 2+2=5 in this case – probably without any possible Kremlin involvement in reaching those conclusions.  That said, if there is a way to use it for advantage then naturally that will occur.

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Rocket Science (or not) – Ukraine

August 14, 2017

A story has appeared in the main stream US media asserting that Ukraine is responsible for supplying missile engines to North Korea.  Specifically it identifies Ukrainian company Yuzhmash as the manufacturer of RD250 engines now being used by North Korea in the creation of ICBMs capable of hitting the USA.

Strong insinuations – and certainly not the sort of media coverage Ukraine would want in the USA, or to be subject to a less than informed Trump tweet or two.

Needless to say, Yuzhmash was (exceptionally) swift to refute the supplying of missile engines to North Korea – no doubt prompted by very concerned calls from The Bankova (Presidential Administration).

Indeed, Yuzhmash makes a valid point in that it is not the only manufacturer of the RD250 missile engine – it is in fact an old Soviet design.  Russia’s Energomash (formerly Glushko) is another.  Neither company are strangers to the Soviet missile engine systems RD217, RD 225 and RD250.  There are perhaps stronger historical ties between the Russian Makeyev and Isayev enterprises and North Korea, but they too are decades old.

Whatever the case a US reader is left to ponder whether North Korea is now using old Soviet design missile engines for its ICBM experiments, or indeed whether they have been upgraded or re-engineered in any way since manufacture by Ukraine – or not.   That in turn raises the question of when the engines North Korea possess were manufactured.  It follows that there are questions over delivery dates, and how they were delivered, from and/or via whom.

How did the west miss Ukraine delivering such engines considering the amount of western attention Ukraine is getting?

When all is said and done, neither Ukraine nor North Korea are blind spots for constant on-going security analysis, and certainly in the case of Ukraine in recent years, there has been a lot of both persistent and ad hoc international expertise literally within the military industrial complex and literally wandering around the transport hubs (land, sea and air) – making the slipping out of a few dozen missile engines bound for North Korea unnoticed somewhat hazardous at best, and rather difficult at the very least.

The Ukrainian Security and Defence Council did not delay in denial of such insinuations either, making clear that Ukraine had never supplied North Korea, although it had supplied Russia historically with these engines..

Well indeed it may be that there have been quite a few sat around in storage for years.  The Tsiklon 2 system in which the RD250 engine worked was a reliable system – and thus warehouse storage of complete engines and spare parts for many RD engine systems around Russia would be a reasonable expectation from a logistical point of view.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the NSDC makes the claim that Russia is blaming Ukraine for engine supply to hide the fact that it is The Kremlin supplying these engines – rather than making a more obvious claim that this be a further active measure by The Kremlin, the aim of which is to prevent the arming of Ukraine with defensive weaponry from the USA.

After all, what better way to try an influence political thinking in Washington DC relating to the arming of Ukraine than to slip information into the mainstream that Ukraine is responsible for supplying missile engines for North Korean ICBMs that can reach US territory?

Which brings about the subject of information extraction from within North Korea – or the lack of it.

Now to be fair, North Korea is not the intelligence black hole it is made out to be – but it is certainly an extremely difficult environment – perhaps one of the most difficult from a western perspective.  Nevertheless the usual technologies are employed to glean what can be gleaned.  Those that escape/defect from the regime as always are thoroughly debriefed etc.

Regardless, good intelligence relating to North Korea is hardly a cup that runneth over.  Even less so with regard to sensitive issues such as ICBM engine systems.

That being so, where did the information come from that has led to this accusation?  Is the analysis sound, or does 2+2=5?  If 2+2 does =4, is that the right sum, or should we be looking at 1+3?  Means and ends being of equal importance?

How much confidence does a reader have in the accusations – and  if specific engine systems as originally built have been modified, then by whom where they modified and where?

As critical as this blog often is over Ukrainian policy, policy implementation, and the fecklessness of the national elites (both past, present and unfortunately probably those of the immediate future too), and being of an age to have experienced Soviet active measures, reflexive control ops and the rest of the currently en vogue buzzword bingo inserted into current commentary, the view will be taken on the current information (it is perhaps not even firm enough to use the word evidence) when asking the question if Ukraine is mea culpa, or whether this is another Russian active measure (probably designed to frustrate the US arming of Ukraine) – the latter would be more likely.

Nevertheless, the initial 2+2=5 analysis is favourite.

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Germany sends a “decentralisation envoy” to Ukraine

August 12, 2017

Although now forgotten, during the gathering of the last G7 meeting, President Poroshenko invited those seven States to send experts to Ukraine relating to seven specific reform policy areas.

A reader may be wondering just how much external advice the Ukrainian President requires having attracted many foreigners to (short term) Cabinet positions, having created at least two international advisory councils, engaged in endless communication with the vast number of reform supportive national embassies in Kyiv, and notwithstanding the EU embassy and innumerable EU special missions covering many policy areas, NATO, The Council of Europe, and the Venice Commission etc., – all of which have given advice since his inauguration.

There is then the considerable amount of expertise and energy to be found within civil society at his disposal.

Thus, having received the wisdom of literally dozens of foreign politicians, policy implementers, and academics with a history of national reformation, a reader may take a cynical view regarding this latest invitation to attract yet further international experts.  A case of being seen to be doing something (again) will be the perception of many.

That said, cynical or not, such invitations are worthy of note regarding timing – and November will bring about formal discussions regarding a Marshall Plan for Ukraine (if or however that Plan actually manifests by way of money (or not), strategy, reform priority, and duration et al).

Whatever the case, Germany has taken the opportunity to send a special envoy for decentralisation and governance – despite undoubtedly being aware of the enormous amount of advice already given regarding decentralisation, and most assuredly with regard to governance.

As yet the remaining G6 have yet to take up the invitation of President Poroshenko and appoint new people to give (more or less) the same advice as he has been given for the past 3 years.

Professor Georg Milbradt will visit Ukraine between 14th and 19th August, prior to beginning a one year mandate as the German Special Envoy (specialising in decentralisation and governance) with effect from September.

Professor Milbradt is no stranger to politics, reform and academia – nor indeed is he a novice relating to transition.    In 1990 he was put in charge of Saxony to manage German reunification and the transition from a planned socialist economy to a market economy.  He has also been a parliamentarian in the Bundersrat and teaches at the University of Dresden.  Ergo and experienced and intelligent soul.

Whether that will equip him for an oligarch economy and its (perhaps partial) transition to a market economy remains to be seen – for as all his predecessors that have advised the Ukrainian President will know, it is a matter of internal political will, not a lack of good advice that will dictate outcomes.

If no impact is made, and should his mandate not be renewed, he will certainly have developed some views on oligarchy economies to challenge his students with when returning to academia.

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An agrarian anti-raiding task force – Odessa

August 11, 2017

A reader with a very keen eye will have noticed in a recent post the briefest, but necessary mention of an apparently increasing trend relating to agrarian raiding of small farms.

Such raids can manifest in many ways, from fraudulent documents seizing agricultural land from the rightful owners, to the illicit sale of agricultural equipment, the prevention of access to agricultural land, threats and violence toward farmers and agricultural workers, the theft of harvested crops, or their purchase at far below market value via coercion and/or acts of sabotage or destruction.

Nationally there have been more than 7000 instances (according to an individual who shall not be named but who attempts to monitor these events).

In some instances, the victims have called upon military veterans and civil activists to protect their property and prevent the threats of destruction by paid “rent-a-mobs” under the control of those that would illegally taken control of what is simply not theirs.  Needless to say there have been occasional instances of violence as a result.

It also follows that those that engage in this raiding also expect the courts to rule in their favour and against the interests of the rightful owners – otherwise there would be little point to the raid unless stealing and selling a short-term crop yield was the goal.  Corrupted remains the justice system.

The police, in the absence of physical violence when in attendance generally treat the matter as a civil dispute within which they will not get involved – until fraudulent documents come to light and pressure is brought to bear to do something.

Odessa is no exception to a nationwide problem.

There are a number of criminal proceedings underway regarding raiding upon the small farms across the oblast – particularly in the southwest – raider capture of harvests in Bolgrad, Ananevsky and Tarutino districts are among that number.  (Thus incidents occurring within MP Anton Cisse’s fiefdom that he will assuredly be aware of.)

The issue of agrarian raiding has become a problem in the oblast to the point where a decision has been made to create something akin to an agrarian anti-raiding task force.

Alexander Tereshchuk, Deputy Chairman of the Oblast Rada heads this team, and three mobile units have been created to attend conflicts.  Telephone numbers have been promulgated within local media to report raids (779-40-61, 779-46-91 or 102).

Time will tell if this (necessary) reaction will reduce the number of agrarian raiding incidents or not – for it should be noted, and will come as no surprise, that in numerous cases local village and town officials are involved (on occasion directly and overtly) in the raids.

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Ukraine (will try again) to register all mobile users

August 9, 2017

Currently in Ukraine there is no requirement to supply any identification when purchasing a mobile SIM card.  Vendors are on almost every street corner selling SIM cards for all leading mobile providers.  Many Ukrainians have at least two SIM cards and/or two mobiles – and that in turn could mean four SIM cards (and four mobile numbers) in mobiles that accommodate two SIMs – sometimes even more.

Almost everybody has a mobile phone.  Almost all mobile phones are billed via a pre-paid (pay as you rattle) system rather than by contract.  Payment machines to pre-pay for mobile credit are everywhere, from small shops, to shopping malls, to machines simply on street corners, and of course e-payment options.

All of this means that a mobile phone service provider has very little/no idea as to the identity of  90% of their network users, let alone all the mobile numbers would relate to that individual, unless they are part of the approximately 10% (it’s slightly less) of mobile users on contract services.

In 2015, the Ukrainian government, via The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection (a body within the SBU) under the guise of national security and “terrorism” (read those prone to act on behest of The Kremlin) attempted to pass legislation – which was, as usual, extremely poorly crafted – to force the “certification” of all mobile users.  Its attempts failed.

Prior to that there was a similar attempt in 2012 which also failed.

There is now to be another attempt in 2017.

This time the draft legislation is framed around national security “in the face of cyber threats” (rather than “terrorism” per 2015).

By “cyber threats” there is a clarification – “the situation with the use of a variety of end equipment (iPhones, iPads, communicators, smartphones, mobile phones, etc.) needs attention against the backdrop of a growing range of telecommunications-based services, as the uncontrolled amount of end equipment in circulation contributes to the spread of “mobile fraud” and other cyber crimes.”  

The proposed legislation obliges all providers to “collect personal data of all users without exception“.  It further provides for 3 months to do so.

That appears to be beyond an ambitious timescale, to the point of unattainable to “collect personal data without exception” of users for what could well be up to 90 million SIM cards and/or devices tracked by mobile services.

When it is collected then there is the issue of multiple SIM card/device assignments to such “personal data”.

Further it is also currently unclear what exactly constitutes sufficient “personal data” for providers to be in compliance, or how that “personal data” is to be collected – and verified.

A reader (and an end user) can only hope that when flush with all the “personal data“, the mobile providers are not then themselves subjected to the “cyber threats” and “other cyber crimes” that this legislation purports to mitigate against when gathering it.

There is also a requirement to complete a register of IMEI codes that currently doesn’t exist.

The draft law is really something of a shambles, and the proposed 3 month time frame for adherence by providers, that to remain in compliance would presumably be forced to cut off services to all those whose “personal data” had either not been collected, or that had not been entered into whatever database, or which had not had all cross assignments to accompanying multiple SIMs and devices allocated.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with the policy, but the draft law is simply poor as currently written, and the effective implementation date is quite simply not achievable.

As things stand at the time of writing, another failure awaits.

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