Archive for January, 2018

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IMF and WB take the stage in the Anti-Corruption Court theatre

January 16, 2018

At the end of 2017 an entry appeared noting obvious Bankova legislative gymnastics relating to the text of the Venice Commission Opinion and the creation of an Ant-Corruption Court in Ukraine, required to complete the Ukrainian domestic anti-corruption architecture.

The issues noted by the blog were, to be blunt, glaring.  So clearly undermining of any potentially independent anti-corruption court was the proposed Draft text, that it was obviously going to draw both ire and irritation from external supporters of Ukraine – be they national, supranational or institutional.

Timed as the presidential submission was to fall after the last plenary session of 2017 had concluded, notwithstanding granting a hiatus from immediate international criticism due to the festive period, that respite has now passed.

The first Verkhovna Rada plenary session of 2018 began on 15th January, by which time both the IMF and World Bank had submitted terse letters to all leaders of The Bankova, Verkhovna Rada, and relevant Ukrainian ministries, outlining the clear perceived failings of the draft legislation – very much in tandem with the blog observations of late December 2017 per the first link of this entry.

Furthermore, it appears that both the IMF and WB interpret the Bankova draft legislation to fail to meet the Ukrainian obligations undertaken with both international lenders.

To be entirely clear, The Bankova will have been very aware of the shortcomings of the submitted legislation, and further it would have been expecting the prickly diplomatic and institutional response of those that have entered contractual agreements and ratified international instruments to support Ukraine during its most dire contemporary times.

Can Ukraine, or indeed President Poroshenko afford to lose the support of those backers?  No.

Does it further the Ukrainian cause to be understood by those backers to be failing in either contractual or ratified agreements?  Naturally not.

Will it in any way win votes for President Poroshenko if the perception seeps through the Ukrainian constituency that such external backing is less than robust and/or that external faith in him has rescinded by any degree?  Hardly.

So what are the options – for despite President Poroshenko stating that the Draft Bill sufficiently accommodates/is in line with the Venice Commission Opinion, it clearly is not (as he will be well aware).

Naturally, Ukraine is a sovereign nation (whatever thoughts The Kremlin may otherwise have).  There are no obligations upon any nation to undertake and implement a Venice Commission Opinion as obligatory.  Said Opinion can simply be ignored.   Ukraine can also decide to breach any clauses within contractual undertakings with the IMF or WB.  It can also renege upon its ratified obligations within any internationally ratified instrument – or indeed withdraw from them.

But there are clearly going to be repercussions in doing so.  That is the entire point of contracts and/or ratified legal instruments.

Should this Draft Bill be forced through the Verkhovna Rada as it currently stands, then both IMF and WB would be well within their rights to defer or desist in providing any further assistance – in part or in full.  Whatever loans and/or grants tied to the “rule of law” and/or “anti-corruption” initiatives via the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement may also suffer, not to mention political relations.  Both the USA and Canada will also express their “disappointment” in tangible ways too.

As such there will be a negative influence over any genuine external (not recycled Ukrainian offshore) corporate FDI into Ukraine.  Trust is a requirement, and trust will not be forthcoming when previous agreements are not honored.

The already unrealistic expectations of privatisation during 2018, (without internal attempts at sabotage of which there appears to be more and more evidence thereof),  will not be met in such an atmosphere – no differently to 2015, 2016 and 2017 privatisation failures.

The Ukrainian constituency will have no trust in an anti-corruption court that those who bailed out Ukraine during its time of absolute need also have no faith in.  Ultimately it would be a vote loser and not a vote winner for The Bankova with such a perception (despite the fact that if and when the court comes into existence it will clearly not be fully functioning until 2020, thus after the next presidential and Verkhonva Rada elections).

Perhaps simply far too politically costly home and abroad to leave the Draft Law as it currently reads?

Yet nothing can be allowed to rock the domestic boat of vested interests either – for the majority of those vested interests will have to align with the current president for him to be reelected – and there are assurances to be given (or threats to be made) for that to happen.

Time will tell just how quickly Messrs Kolomoisky, Bogolyubov and senior PrivatBank officials face criminal investigation for what the NBU has stated is a $5.5 Billion fraud and money laundering “shadow banking” operation per a Kroll report.  How much does President Poroshenko need to keep Mr Kolomoisky (or his media) on side vis a vis any timely prosecution?  What assurances could be given?

Can sufficient number of the 400 individual law suits filed by Mr Kolomoisky (and others) surrounding PrivatBank find their way to a “sympathetic judge” (or several) in order to frustrate criminal prosecution?  After all the entire point of 400 separate law suits is that some will almost assuredly find a “sympathetic judge” somewhere in the system, with the added bonus of causing a due process bottleneck.  Years of civil litigation regardless of criminal investigations.

Ergo, to insure the anti-corruption court is not functional before the 2019 elections are completed, time must be wasted while simultaneously giving the impression that something is being done.

Thus there is a reasonable chance that the Draft Law will be changed during this political theatre.

The Bankova may decide to withdraw the Draft Bill.  It will then take its time submitting another one in order to run down the clock.

A swifter approach perhaps, would be to make the necessary amendments within the Verkhovna Rada – or perhaps not.

The Bankova has sufficient influence within the relevant Verkhovna Rada committees to make that a slow process, notwithstanding delaying its subsequent submission for the parliamentary agenda and any plenary vote.

The entire legislative process within the Verkhovna Rada has to be strung out for as long as possible.

Thereafter the selection process too must also drag on.

This will be one of the most important legislative acts of the year (although perhaps the most interesting for defence and national security wonks will be the creation of the National Bureau of Financial Security – for that will probably herald the long awaited and very necessary reform of the SBU).

The question is when this year the law will finally be passed – and subsequently just how snugly it will fit with the Venice Commission Opinion as well as the expectations of, and perceived commitments to, external supporters and international institutions.

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Unfulfilled budget lines – Privatisation

January 14, 2018

One of the trademarks of recent years has been the overly optimistic expectations of the Ukrainian leadership in relation to privatising State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that have historically been grant and subsidy black holes, mismanaged, wasteful and overly bureaucratic, often hindered by minority shareholding oligarchs, or with supply chains overflowing with oligarch companies, many adding no value but rather acting as a siphon to extract funds.

A recipe for rampant corruption of course.

For example, for the fourth time, Odessa Port Side is scheduled for privatisation in February 2018.  All previous attempts have failed to attract any real interest – which is hardly surprising when there are issues of $527 million to oligarch in exile, Dmitry Firtash.  Even if such a debt was not prohibitive, there is perhaps the “association” issues for any buyer when in purchasing this industrial plant, of having paid such sums to Mr Firtash who is currently wanted by the US for corruption.

Further, to be blunt, this industrial plant probably has an “on the books” value less than that of the Firtash debt.  In the current global market place, a sale price of approximately $350 million is probably there or thereabouts – without any outstanding debts.

Who will buy it in February?  The circumstances surrounding the sale and the contractual conditions of sale have not changed from the numerous previous attempts to find a buyer.

Further, as Prime Minister Groisman acknowledges, there are legislative issues to swiftly resolve.  The Prime Minister expects the adoption of a relevant legislation on privatization that will “unfreeze” the process. “Now we are ready for a new step – the adoption of the law on privatisation.  I think that we have worked well with the parliamentary committee and have reached a balanced solution.  I very much hope that we will be able to make the necessary decisions within January, possibly next week.” 

The 2018 budget foresees a very ambitious UAH 22.5 billion from privatisation – particularly ambitious considering that the previous years privatisation revenues have not come anywhere close to achieving budgetary expectations.  How seamless the process will become after the adoption of any new legislation remains to be seen.

Whatever the case, the “star privatisation” from the schedule for 2018 and slated for June is probably Centrenergo.  78.3% of State shares are for sale.  What is worthy of note is that despite all the usual issues of a Ukrainian SOE, Centrenergo manages to be profitable.  Net profit January – September 2017 was reported as a little over UAH 2 billion.

Well at least it was profitable.

By the end of December 2017, the debt to the State was UAH 670 Million.

It would appear that since Centrenergo was slated for privatisation it has suddenly become one of the biggest State debtors.

A cynical reader may be (rightly) thinking that “vested interests” either do not want Centrenergo to be privatised, or that because it is actually a fairly attractive asset, “vested interests” would prefer to scare away foreign/external interest and capture this asset domestically.

If rumour be any guide, then Centrenergo will not be the only energy SOE to see mysteriously high indebtedness to the State, where once there was little or none.  Certain Oblast energy companies also slated for privatisation are likely to see the same phenomenon.

Those same rumours would suggest that the “vested interests” involved are the brothers Ihor and Hryhoriy Surkis, who are very much within the orbit of Ihor Kononenko – President Poroshenko’s parliamentary metaphorical “leg-breaker” and member of the president’s most trusted innermost conclave.  Mr Kononenko has appetites when it comes to energy assets.

To be very clear, the only effective way to “de-oligarch” the Ukrainian economy is to open it up to major foreign market entrants throughout the economic spheres that are currently captured by the oligarchs.

It is a matter of diluting the market place of their influence – for that oligarch influence will otherwise not be reduced.  None will go to jail, nor will any “asset reallocation” among the domestic elite release Ukraine from such an economy retarding situation.  Ergo, what prima facie appears to be deliberate and current attempt to capture, via preemptive “debt-ladening” attractive privatisation assets will have to be watched very carefully, and called out publicly for the sabotage that it appears to be – not only of the privatisation process itself, but sabotage of the national budget too.

 

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The nationalisation of UkrTelecom – or not

January 8, 2018

In 2011 the Ukrainian State sold 92.79% of Ukrtelecom to a company called ESU for UAH10.6 billion.  ESU was a subsidiary of EPIC, an Austrian company.

In 2011, the UAH – US$ exchange rate was approximately UAH8 = S1, so the sale raised +/- $1.3 billion (for somebody, as this was during President Yanukovych’s reign, so who knows where the funds ended up).

In 2013 Raga Establishment Ltd (formerly trading as Epic Telecom Invest Ltd), a Cypriot company owned by Ukrainian banker (and London resident) Denis Gorbunenko, bought Ukrtelecom from ESU.

Raga also occasionally appears in the orbit of Sergei Liovochkin.  Perhaps unsurprisingly as Denis Gorbunenko was head of Rodovid Bank (until it went bankrupt in 2010) as this bank then orbited around the Firtash empire – and Sergei Liovochkin is a creature of Mr Firtash.

That same year, Raga Ltd sold Ukrtelecom to Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM empire – at $465 million cheaper than the initial 2011 privatisation.

What’s going on?  A reader may well suspect shenanigans between the then leading backers of Party Regions via a trusted intermediary (Mr Gorbunenko and his Cypriot offshore vehicle).  Living rather nicely in London, Denis Gorbunenko did not become a former Ukrainian banker worth in excess of $230 million by losing money – but he probably became one by facilitating perhaps nefarious transactions before the bank he ran went bankrupt.

2014 brought about the ouster of President Yanukovych (and an on-going war with Russia).  Many of SCM’s assets have fallen behind enemy lines and have subsequently been legally declared beyond the control of SCM.  Needless to say, financial forecasting made in 2013 has little relevance to today for SCM.  Loans and bonds to Oschadbank and Ukreximbank (to name but two) relating to UkrTelecom have not been repaid when due in March 2017.

These two State owned banks had their loans backed by shares in UkrTelecom.

Whatever the failures of reform and policy change in Ukraine, the cleanliness and transparency of banking sector, though not perfect, has dramatically improved.

Thus claims against SCM and Ukrtelecom were forthcoming, and Ukrtelecom and SCM lost in the Ukrainian courts – twice.

The second hearing occurring almost two months ago, provided for the State (via the State Property Fund) to take control of Ukrtelecom.  However The State has not yet taken control, pending a final appeal in the Ukrainian courts the result of which is imminent.  Perhaps the more “out of favour” oligarchs would not be treated so graciously.

However, prior to the await exhaustion of Ukrainian due process, Raga Establishment Ltd (or Mr Gorbunenko) has now made a claim against UkrTelecom and SCM for breach of the sale contract, claiming only $100 million has thus far been received – and that $100 million was paid in 2013.  Raga, being a Cypriot registered company made a claim through the Cypriot courts, freezing $820 million of SCM (thus Rinat Akhmetov) assets.

A reader may rightly ponder just why Raga (or Mr Gorbunenko) has said nothing of apparently outstanding $ hundreds of millions until now?

The why now is clear – to make the claim before the Ukrainian State can take control of UkrTelecom.  The mens rea behind the timing, a reader may suspect has nothing to do with any outstanding funds – if there are any that were ever meant to be repaid regardless of what any contract may say.

A reader may rightly suspect that this Cypriot action has been instigated to either prevent the nationalisation of UkrTelecom or to frustrate and dissuade any potential buyer interest in a future privatisation.

In short a last minute, deliberate legal muddying of the waters – perhaps on behalf of, and to the benefit of Mr Alkhmetov – despite the initial perception of the Cypriot court decision.

Mr Akhmetov’s lawyers are currently in Cyprus.  No doubt the waters will be yet muddier by the time they have done their work.

A reader will be mindful that Ihor Kolomoisky and the on-going PrivatBank court cases will also not be “resolved” until after the 2019 elections.  Perhaps “solutions” may be found should Mr Kolomoisky’s media empire be favorable to the current presidential incumbent during campaigning (which has unofficially started).

Thus if a cynical reader is perhaps wondering why the State (via the SPF) had not already assumed control after two court decisions in its favour, (rather than wait for the last appeal to be exhausted in the immediate future), and thus allowed a last minute legal intervention, then it would be wise to recall that Mr Akhmetov also owns some rather influential media – media that would be perceived to benefit President Poroshenko if it were on his side for the 2019 elections.  “Solutions” regarding UkrTelecom may therefore be found should legal gymnastics drag on (and on, and on) relating to SCM debts to the State owned banks if President Poroshenko is reelected – depending upon favorable media coverage, or not.

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Odessa NABU Regional Chief finally appointed (after 20 months of trying)

January 5, 2018

Vladimir Deulin, a former police officer (internal affairs) and the Deputy Head of PR and NABU personnel applications for the Odessa region,, has been appointed regional NABU Chief for the Odessa region – Odessa, Mykolaiv, Kherson and Kirovograd.

His appointment, now authorised by NABU Chief Artem Sytnik, brings to an end a 20 month saga – and four previous and failed attempts to find a regional NABU Chief.

On the fifth attempt to fill the vacancy, Mr Deulin has been appointed.

The first attempt in April 2016 saw Deputy Head of Odessa Customs Semen Krivonos win the competition – only for him to refuse the position after criminal charges of extortion and bribery came to light.  He decided to remain in Customs.

In July 2016, the next competition for the Odessa NABU Chief vacancy competition collapsed as literally no applicants met the requirements.

In January 2017, Dmitry Rudenko from Vinnitsa won the competition – however Mr Rudenko was involved in a scandal surrounding the death of human rights defender Dmitry Groisman several years earlier.  The NABU executive decided not to appoint Mr Rudenko.

A fourth competition was held in the late Spring of 2017 – which again met with failure as all applicants were rejected due to either low professional acumen and/or severe doubts about the integrity of the applicants.

Finally, after 20 months and at the fifth attempt, an applicant from within NABU has managed to fill the NABU management void in the Ukrainian south-west.  A reader can only ponder why existing NABU personnel did not apply before.

It’s to be hoped he doesn’t resign or manage to get himself sacked – for it could be years until another suitable candidate would be found to replace him!

Nevertheless, wish Mr Deulin bon chance, (or bonne chance) for there is no shortage of work for NABU within the Odessa region.

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Crystal Ball gazing 2018 – reshuffling the President’s men

January 3, 2018

Loathed as the blog is to embark on crystal ball gazing for 2018, (simply because there is every chance that progress will be minimal and defending previous gains will become the meme for 2018), in response to a reader’s email, there are a few possibilities worthy of note.

It appears President Poroshenko will base his 2019 reelection campaign upon the defence and national security platform – where to be fair, those running against him will have the most difficulty in undermining his tenure.

The front line along the occupied Donbas is now entrenched – literally – and further Russian/Russian sponsored surges into Ukrainian with the objective of taking and controlling more Ukrainian territory unlikely.

This is a war of political and societal exhaustion being waged by The Kremlin, and as such there is no political or societal need to make any further territorial gains for the sake of either improving its negotiating position or wearily attempting to grind away at Ukrainian public resolve.

Neither is there any end to this war in sight.  Ukraine matters more to The Kremlin than any other expedition it has, or may yet embark upon.  That was, is, and will remain the case.

However, while the armed forces are certainly far more professional, experienced, better equipped and trained than when President Poroshenko began his first tenure, there is still a very long way to go in order to meet and/or approximate with the numerous NATO standards which President Poroshenko has repeatedly (and rightly) stated is the aim.  Article 3 of the Washington Treaty is a worthy (and necessary) goal – albeit Article 3 should be viewed not only as a military goal, but also political, societal, and economic target too, for national resilience is much than having a respectable military.

As such the oligarch capture of large sections of the economy, and with corruption unambiguously being a national security issue, there is clearly a long way to go before Ukraine gets anywhere near Article 3 compliance and/or approximation.

Nevertheless, the teeth arms have radically improved in quality and ability over recent years, even if corruption and waste (often intertwined) in military logistics and production remain problematic.  The 2018 military budget is a record UAH86 billion – it remains to be seen (or perhaps not seen) just how much is lost to waste and/or corruption.  It further remains to be seen just what external lethal weaponry will begin to appear – and from whom (aside from Lithuania currently, and the US soon).

With the military being the most trusted of State entities by the public, clearly President Poroshenko will also spend more time embedding himself with the military in an attempt to reap the benefits of voter psychology.

This however will not be enough.  With a defence and national security electoral platform, President Poroshenko will have to be seen to be doing something (other than spending UAH86 billion) and rightly lauding those brave souls on the front lines, and getting defence and national security legislation passed and onto the statute books.

Ergo, with NATO standards as the declared objective, and electoral political framing and action a requirement, it seems almost certain that General Stepan Poltorak will either leave his post as Minister of Defence, or he will leave the military to remain in post.  The NATO normative is that a Ministry of Defence is headed by a civilian, which discounts General Poltorak whilst ever he remains a serving military officer.

The chances are he will be replaced – albeit there will be other military orientated openings to fill.

Who will replace him?

When Yuri Lutsenko was shoehorned in as Prosecutor General, it was clear that it occurred for a few reasons.  First his loyalty to President Poroshenko.  Secondly his ability as a “time served” Grey Cardinal to strike grubby deals behind the curtain (and subsequently not manage to jail any “big fish” during his tenure (how ever long that might be).  Lastly, he clearly wanted to return to the Cabinet of Ministers and the top of Ukrainian politics, but there were no suitable positions for a Grey Cardinal and former Interior Minister.  Prosecutor General was a high profile “parking” position.

Mr Lutsenko will want out of the Prosecutor General’s role as soon as is practicable.  That not one “big fish” has been convicted and gone to jail despite Mr Lutsenko’s oft bellicose public proclamations is hardly doing what is left of his political capital much good.  A role where “achievements” manifest is desired.

Thus moving Mr Lutsenko (perhaps Spring/Summer) to replace General Poltorak would deal with numerous issues for President Poroshenko.  Firstly a NATO normative will have been met.  Secondly yet more delays in (successful or otherwise) prosecutions relating to “sensitive individuals” may be further justified as any new appointment “familiarises” themselves in a new role.  Lastly, Mr Lutsenko returns to top tier politics and the Cabinet of Ministers (as well as a seat on the NSDC) leading a Ministry of Defence with its biggest ever budget.

There are also on-going issues within Ukroboronprom that may possibly see the current CEO, Mr Romanov (and others) removed.  There will probably be very senior vacancies for Poroshenko-loyal “government” and “military” personnel who may be looking for “parking” positions within six months.

As stated months ago, there is also a long overdue requirement to reform the SBU, which spends far too much time dealing with matters that are not its core competencies.  For example, in areas such as organised crime (which is a national security issue) its activities go far beyond “oversight” and intelligence, and manifest in almost daily operations that the police are more than capable of carrying out and investigating.

As such, SBU reform will require the surrendering of some responsibilities to other existing agencies – and if the new National Bureau for Financial Security comes into being, then economic intelligence is about as far as the SBU remit should go.

To be blunt, there is enough counterterrrorism, counterintelligence, and counterespionage work for the SBU to concentrate upon that an overseeing and intelligence gathering ability upon organised crime and economic issues from a national security perspective should mean all SBU resources are constantly very busy – without getting involved in daily “policing”.  Whether the current SBU Chief, Vasyl Hrytsak shares that view (having previously headed Department K – the corruption and organised crime department within the SBU) is perhaps going to be irrelevant.

In meeting NATO standards with a civilian as defence minister, is there a likelihood that the Ukrainian spook agency may also see a civilian head too.

The issue here being that with any civilian Minister of Defence by definition will be a politician as a Minister (perhaps Mr Lutsenko, perhaps not), while the head of the Ukrainian spook service would ideally be a civil servant rather than a politician.  The point being that intelligence is supposed to assist in shaping policy, and policy/politics should not shape intelligence product.  Ergo an a-political civil servant rather than a politician will be perceived as the “intelligent” way forward in the absence of a career spook heading the service.

Unfortunately the SBU has always been a political instrument of any sitting Ukrainian president – and remains so today.  Should Mr Hrytsak be replaced it will be because he is not “political enough” – despite his loyalty to President Poroshenko.  Who would replace him is simply speculation – but politician rather than civil servant would seem more likely.  It would be somebody with all the right clearances.  Perhaps somebody that will not be required to play a major role in the presidential reelection campaign and thus not missed, but by virtue of being actively within the Bankova already has presidential trust (which matters more than ability)?

The most likely candidates to run the Poroshenko reelection campaign would appear to be Ihor Rainin or Alexandr Turchynov – as to be blunt there are not that many people in Ukraine capable of running a national reelection campaign for the incumbent who can raise the money, strike the grubby deals, spend the money (without stealing it) effectively, do not require micromanagement, and have a vested interest in the incumbent winning and are yet coercive enough and without too many (current) sworn enemies.

The question is where Mr Turchynov sees his future, and how much of the People’s Front would follow him down a Poroshenko path, or whether Mr Rainin would frustrate the assimilation of the “best of the bunch” from the People’s Front and simultaneously make the final year of the Verkhovna Rada unworkable as the coalition fell apart.

The crystal ball now becomes more than a little blurry – and will perhaps stay that way until late Spring/Summer 2018 when President Poroshenko will have to decide who will run his reelection campaign.

Nevertheless, predictions within the next 3 to 9 months with regard to defence and national security in particular – Out will be some of the executive leadership of Ukroboronprom, and in particular the CEO, Mr Romanov.  Also out will be General Poltorak as Defence Minister.  Yuri Lutsenko wants away from the PGO and a return to top-table politics as a politician, and Mr Hrytsak’s SBU position could well be in danger as while politically subservient, he is not “political enough”.

Thus there will be vacancies to fill within the defence and national security framework, and Yuri Lutsenko as Minister of Defence answers political many problems – so maybe that will happen.  Whether General Poltorak or Mr Hrytsak would entertain a senior role at Ukroboronprom – who knows?  As there is no longer a requirement for formal legal qualifications to become Prosecutor General, there are numerous possibilities for a Lutsenko replacement – but a Poroshenko political animal it will surely be.  Perhaps somebody from within The Bankova.  There will also be a role to fill as head of any new National Bureau for Financial Security – if Mr Hrytsak is deemed to be “not political enough” to remain SBU Chief, would the same view apply for this new role?  That is open to question – if he were interested in the position at all.

Aside from that, the prediction for 2018 is that it will be a very difficult political year where domestic progress will be slow, and defence of what has already been achieved will become a priority – such will be the nature of a year where all domestic political eyes (and vested interests) look to the presidential and then Verkhovna Rada elections of 2019.

Naturally the external Russian threat will remain omnipresent – and expect cyber issues to cause more problems than military ones, though they will not be the only way Kremlin shenanigans manifest within Ukraine.

It will be necessary to keep the faith.

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Coincidence or conspiracy – The Nozdrovska murder

January 2, 2018

The murder of lawyer and activist Irena Nozdrovska is yet another high profile death that has captured headlines in Ukraine.

Thus far the usual suspects that are  publicly bellicose with high profile cases – Anton Gerashchenko and Yuri Lutsenko –  normally followed by silence when no progress occurs, appear subdued.

A hopeful sign of increased professionalism in 2018?  Alas hope is normally the last human emotion to leave, and an emotion that can take a severe and repeated battering despite no change in circumstance.  No doubt the usual less than circumspect or objective commentary will soon be gushing forth from both men once again.

What has resonated within Ukrainian society is that Ms Nozdrovska’s murder follows threats made against her while seeking justice for her sister – killed by the nephew of a Judge who was head of the Vyshhorod District Court from 2007 to 2010, and then Acting Head from 2015-16.

The circumstances surrounding that case and the threats made to Ms Nozdrovska are summarised in English by KHPG.

Two days after her latest court appearance seeking justice for her sister – Ms Nozdrovska disappeared and was later found murdered.

Naturally a reader may assume that the court ruling of 27th, together with numerous threats made against her by the defendant, as well as friends and family of the defendant, would suggest some conspiracy to murder Ms Nozdrovska a few days later.

Well perhaps.  That is hardly a theory that can or should be ignored.

But to “assume” can bring about an “ass – u – me” outcome.

There will be numerous other individuals to rule “in” or “rule out”.  Individuals that fall outside any professional advocacy Ms Nozdrovska was involved in.

Thus investigations take time – even flawed investigations.

Further, and cynically, due to the blood ties of the defendant to the Ukrainian judiciary, relating to the death of Ms Nozdrovska’s sister, many will also presume that “impunity by bloodline” even if not offered, will be sought and will have been expected by the defendant.  Thus far that “impunity” and/or “professional favour” does not appear to have manifest on his behalf – yet.

(Having previously “categorised” the types of judges active in the Ukrainian judicial system, there is that rare breed – the honest Ukrainian judge.   Honest judges are oft mentioned, but seldom named – so, just for precedent, the blog will name one that prima facie appears to be that rarest of creatures – Judge Irina Puchkova in Odessa.  This lady, it is known, does not entertain prosecutors or defence lawyers outside the courtroom – ergo no illicit deals can be easily struck.  It is also undoubtedly why she has never received a case that would “resonate” with the public, or a case that would require “specific outcomes” for political expediency or “vested interest” benefit.)

Nevertheless, based on assumptions or presumptions, and no doubt a cynicism well founded upon historical and recurring judicial and investigative negligence and/or shenanigans, several hundred people demonstrated outside the Ministry of Interior in Kyiv demanding a thorough, integrity based investigation into the murder of Ms Nozdrovska – as is their right.

Unusually for a high profile murder in Ukraine, there appears to be numerous possible suspects where normally there appear to be few (if any).  The pressure to successfully prosecute a suspect will be great.  Society must allow the investigation to progress unhindered.  The investigation will equally have to be seen to be done with the utmost integrity.

A case to watch not only for the way the investigation is conducted but for the way it is communicated.  A murder of coincidental timing – or a conspiracy to murder?

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