Archive for August, 2018

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UA seeks AD systems from the US – but which?

August 29, 2018

Long ago when Valery Chaly was working as a leading light in President Proshenko’s Bankova administration, the blog once stated that he could become a political threat to President Poroshenko and that a move would probably occur.

10th July 2015 unsurprisingly witnessed Mr Chaly moved from the Presidential Administration and become His Excellency the Ambassador of Ukraine to the USA.

As expected as Ambassador he has done a very good job.

It is difficult think of anybody else within Ukraine that could or would have done a better job.

Thus when he makes public statements they are usually worth listening to – especially if they relate to matters some still consider “sensitive” when it comes to selling/giving arms to Ukraine.

(The blog is clearly insensitive when it comes to the matter of providing Ukraine with defensive lethal weaponry as it very much supports such action.)

Thus when Amb Chaly makes a statement on public radio in the US relating to Ukraine officially requesting what prima facie appears to be modern and significant air defence systems, it is probably an accurate statement.

Further Amb Chaly went on to state that one such system has the price tag of $750 million and that Ukraine would require 3 to meet its current needs.  Nevertheless the statement appears clear enough that at the current time a single unit has been officially requested.

Indeed his statement left no room for misunderstanding, orating that the issue has been discussed between the relevant presidents and John Bolton on more than one occasion.

The US State Department gave its usual (and wise) boilerplate response to requests for further information, or even confirmation – “In accordance with the official policy of the State Department, we do not comment on potential deals on the sale or transfer of weapons and agreements that are at the stage of agreement – before they are officially informed of the US Congress.”  Quite right.

What was also (deliberately) left unspoken was which system Ukraine has requested.

The price tag may give an indication as to which system – or not.  It is unclear whether that price tag is discounted, or whether a proportion of the cost is shifted onto a long term maintenance contract etc. thus blurring the true system price tag.

Whatever the case, as the blog has long lamented the obvious inability of Ukraine to defend its airspace or maritime territory effectively – thus A2AD, EW, more EW, yet more EW, UAVs etc becoming a priority above ground forces – this appears to be a very positive assessment of the current Ukrainian limitations and weaknesses.

That is not to belittle the requirements for more counter-battery and counter-sniper equipment, it is simply to acknowledge that previously (slightly) lesser priorities are reaching the top of the Ukrainian military procurement list – and that in and of itself indicates some form of progress/momentum.

A reader may ponder just how interoperable, or indeed the ability to assimilate (in the future) the requested system with the US (and domestic) systems in neighbouring nations (read Poland and Romania) will be.

How much Ukrainian (or US) thought went into that when the Ukrainians were requesting this system is unknown.  After all, behind price, capabilities, maintenance, and reliability, there are other broader and long term issues to consider.

Whatever the case, discussions behind the curtain have now seen the curtain skirts raised a little by this statement, and the issue is now unambiguously in the public realm – which then raises the question of the timing of this statement for both Ukraine and the US Congress.

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Anton Gerashchenko apologises (A precedent?)

August 26, 2018

It has to be said that the blog is not much of a fan of Anton Gerashchenko.

It is not a personal dislike toward him, for there is always a need to separate message from messenger.  The dislike of Mr Gerashchenko comes from not always being able to easily identify just whose message he is delivering.

Sometimes it is that of the Ministry of Interior.  Others that specifically of the National Police or the National Guard, or other elements within the Ministry of Interior despite each having press officers.  There are also instances where it appears he is the messenger for those within the dubious (vested interests) orbit of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.  Yet others when he is clearly delivering a message directly from Arsen Avakov without attributing it to him – the messages Mr Avakov does not want to deliver himself.  On rare occasions Mr Gerashchenko also delivers his own, sometimes knee-jerk and less well thought through, personal opinions.

Therein is the blog’s problem with Mr Gerashchenko – it is not always clear for whom he speaks and why, and what he does say is sometimes less than accurate.  Those mistakes/miss-speaks and the occasionally deliberate obfuscation seemingly never have an apology attached when discovered/called out.

However, it appears a precedent has now been set with regard to apologies.

It relates to the heinous crime in which Kherson social activist Katerina Gandzjuk was doused with sulfuric acid and suffered horrendous burns covering 35% of her body.  A truly unconscionable and despicable act.

The police initially classified the incident as one of “holliganism”.

The incident rightly caused outrage among the Ukrainian constituency – particularly that of Kherson, as a reader would expect.  Pressure was on for the police and prosecutors to find and remand those directly responsible very swiftly indeed.

Intense pressure was also put upon the police to re-categorise the incident as attempted murder – which they eventually did due to public ire.

Fairly quickly Mykola Novikov was arrested.  An arrest it appears not based upon evidence but rather the political need for a swift resolution.  (A reader may suspect more than a degree of political pressure being applied to the Kherson police and prosecutors to get a result in quick order.)

Mr Novikov was placed on remand and publicly proclaimed the offender by Anton Gareshchenko (and others), despite Mr Novikov claiming he wasn’t even in Kherson at the time of the attack.

It thus followed that police and prosecutors ignored his alibi claim and Mr Novikov sat for 2 weeks on remand in prison – that was until the Ukrainian public began to corroborate his alibi with witnesses from outside Kherson travelling there to give statements proclaiming they saw him at the time of the attack on holiday at their location.

After just over 2 weeks he was released and the case against him closed.

In the meantime 2 others have been arrested for this crime.

Thus in this mishandled investigation, public pressure is therefore responsible for upgrading the original offence classification and also for the release of Mr Novikov who was seemingly otherwise about to be railroaded for a crime he clearly did not commit.  Indeed the acid attack victim, Ms Gandzjuk has publicly expressed her sympathies for Mr Novikov and his ordeal at the hands of the police and prosecutors.  Indeed there is little to indicate just why Mr Novikov was deemed the suspect at all.

Whatever the case, this is an investigative disaster within a high profile case at a time when elections are on the horizon.  Time will tell whether the two individuals who remain in custody are no less innocent – albeit as they were arrested quite some time after Mr Novikov, it is perhaps more likely to be as a result of a better investigation leading to their doors – another reason to suspect political pressure was applied to the police soon after the incident at the expense of investigation quality and to the detriment of Mr Novikov.

Now it has to be said that external pressure, be it from the Ukrainian constituency, civil society, or international partners on the authorities has led to obviously wrong-headed decisions being changed since 2014 – ergo this pressure (and the release of an innocent man) and its effects are not entirely new phenomenon.

However, all those policy, bureaucracy, and investigative “mistakes” subsequently corrected by public pressure have not come with an apology – until now.  Anton Gerashchenko has publicly apologised for the “mistakes” of the police and Prosecutor’s Office (despite he having no weight or authority with the Prosecutor’s Office to speak on its behalf) and also apologising for himself amid the text as well.

It is of course encouraging that those people who saw Mr Novikov on holiday traveled to Kherson to give statements in his defence.  They should be applauded – as no doubt following such arbitrary decisions by police and prosecutors (in all probability to relieve political pressure upon themselves) based upon a poor investigation, there will have been no desire on behalf of the authorities to take witness statements supporting an alibi.

It remains to be seen whether any disciplinary actions will be taken against those within the police and Prosecutors Office for the attempted railroading of Mr Novikov.  It also remains to be seen whether regional police commanders will grow some balls and refuse to crumble before political pressure.

All in all, an unnecessarily messy investigation that does little to inspire confidence in the State or its institutions, but which does bring hope regarding the attitude of Ukrainian society and the environment in which it is prepared to live within.

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Hrytsak – “Moles” (of the espionage variety)

August 23, 2018

Ukraine watchers will be used to regular statements, some perhaps exaggerated, some perhaps relating to staged events/dubious claims from the SBU – there is a propaganda (and annual and institutional budgetary) war going on after all in which a fairly high profile for a domestic secret service will play a role.  As such Ukraine watchers are now used to “success stories” or “no leads” media releases.

Therefore the recent statement of the SBU Chief, Vasil Hrytsak is somewhat unusual, devoid of the usual detail relating to “success” or the shrugging of shoulders “failures” when pressed by the media.

“We found in our ranks, so to speak, a “mole”.  This “mole” was identified, detained, and documented. The precautionary measure chosen is to be held in custody. We have a lot of work to do, unfortunately, we are checking for possible involvement of the Russian special services as employees of the Security Service, as well as other Ukrainian citizens who work or serve in other institutions and paramilitaries.”

There are obvious questions as to why this statement was made at all.  What operational matters required such a statement being made to the public?

It unambiguously infers that if there is any network associated with the SBU member detained, that this network has not yet been rolled up.  A reader will naturally expect that any such network would be on its toes and possibly heading out of Ukraine following the SBU Chief’s statement (perhaps regardless of any Kremlin instruction to stay put and ride out the investigative storm that will now occur – personal survival instinct overriding discipline and instructions and all that).

It also infers that Russian infiltrators within the SBU may also still be within the SBU ranks – which is unsurprising as it is to be expected that infiltration there are – and will continue to be, even if some individuals are successfully rolled up.

Likewise any “Ukrainian citizens who work in other institutions and paramilitaries” will also now be on their toes and making exfiltration or self made escape plans.

What prompted such a statement if the SBU is apparently somewhat unready to efficiently roll up treasonous citizens and/or infiltration agents?

Perhaps there was an expectation that the detention of the “mole” was about to leak and the boilerplate “no comment”, “neither confirm nor deny” media stalling would prevent or delay any damage.

Further as this individual was detained on 18th August, perhaps it was felt that he would have already been missed for too long, sending up the balloon among his cohorts already.

Perhaps this individual had a public profile and their absence would be noticed by the media.

Perhaps there are other operational reasons that have forced this statement to be made, or an inability to keep the matter off of the public court case records.  Perhaps there is no ability for a case to be heard “in camera” and thus those proceedings will be public very soon.

Alternatively, a more cynical reader may ponder certain political issues to be faced by the SBU in the immediate future.  The 2019 budget will soon be thrashed out.  A new/majorly amended law on the role and parameters of the SBU is likely to be in place before the New Year.  The outcome of the latter may well affect the former.

There is also a presidential election in March 2019 and the Russian threat will feature as part of a Poroshenko electoral platform.  The SBU unmasking Kremlin “moles” will help insure the population remains aware the war exists not only on the front line in Donbas.

Naturally some may add all of that together and question the timing of the “mole” being detained when the SBU was seemingly not prepared to roll up the network prior to making the arrest – if indeed that is the case.  Perhaps the SBU were/are prepared but are inferring otherwise for operational or political reasons with headlines of a network roll up to follow shortly/at a politically convenient time.

The SBU will still be playing “Whack-a (Russian)-mole” for years (and decades) to come, but whatever the case, this is a public statement behind which the operational reasons are interesting and currently unclear.

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NABU – A something and nothing statement

August 22, 2018

It is incumbent upon NABU, like all other agencies in Ukraine, to be as transparent as is practicable.

In the case of high profile agencies like NABU it is also wise to keep the public informed as far as investigative integrity and operation circumstances allow.

With that there can be little argument.

It also should be recognised that no news is in fact news.

There are then statistics.

Statistics are fine for statisticians – but for the general public they are often uninspiring or even irritating if there is no specifics offered about what is behind those numbers – or in the case of NABU, the who, where and how much is behind the statistics offered in an attempt to momentarily focus public attention.

The NABU website recently published some statistics.

“As of June 30, 2013, more than 30 people, who are under investigation by NABU, and, according to the detectives involved in investigations, are hiding from the investigations abroad, and about half of them, according to the investigation, are in the territory of the Russian Federation. , probably in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk region and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.”

Further, with regard to the international activities of the NABU, specifically related to the extradition of persons suspected of corruption crimes in Ukraine, out of 30 people who are hiding abroad, 21 have been declared internationally wanted.

In regard to 16 people, extradition requests were sent to other states to facilitate their detention, or to establish a place of stay.  It is not entirely clear whether those 16 are part of the 21 that are currently on the international wanted list.

Who these people are is not disclosed – some perhaps for operational/investigative reasons would not be disclosed at this moment in time, but certainly not all would fall into such a sensitive category.

The who and/or the where is absent even in the broadest of terms.

According to detectives, corrupt officials from Ukraine choose places for” registration “of illegally received funds in states with a simplified registration system, complicated information disclosure procedures and a high degree of confidentiality.  The damage to state interests with the participation of foreign counter-parties is calculated at UAH 1.84 billion, $ 22 , 07 million and EUR12.03 million.”  

A reader will bluntly ponder why anybody involved in industrial scale theft and money laundering would not try to seek out such havens?  There’s little point in stealing it if you can’t launder it and use it.

Related to the nefarious corruption schemes involving the obligatory and numerous shells companies, the NABU press office stated that “many corruption schemes are implemented with the participation of companies registered abroad. The geography of these business entities covers at least 23 countries on three continents.

Which 23 countries?  Whether professional or armchair AML enthusiasts, is there anything lost by NABU identifying those nations – or any patterns between them?  Any reader can rattle off the usual suspects, London, Vienna, Latvia, Cyprus, BVI, Seychelles, Spain etc, – but could they name the 23 linked to corrupt Ukrainian officials?

Further NABU states that “to obtain information on the ultimate beneficiaries of such structures and on the movement of funds withdrawn from Ukraine, NABU sent requests for international legal assistance to the competent authorities of other states. Since the beginning of the investigations, the National Bureau sent 371 requests to 61 countries for international legal assistance and 182 requests have already been fulfilled.”

Would it hurt to know which 61 nations?  Which countries have received the most requests?  Which have fulfilled most requests?  Which is the swiftest at actioning requests?  It is not only a matter of publicly naming and shaming the worst, but also applauding the best.  Is there truly a nation that would be irked by being publicly named by Ukraine as the most helpful in dealing with NABU’s AML/investigative requests?  Would it make a nation any less helpful by naming those where the most problems appear to arise?  Perhaps they are unhelpful/slow for good domestic legislative reason.

What exactly are these statistics meant to convey to the public other than the fact NABU deals with (and instigates) a lot of international bureaucracy that is otherwise almost meaningless (and is certainly fairly dull) to the public without knowing more about what is behind these statistics and ultimately just how successful all that bureaucracy actually is?

Perhaps it is just the blog that sees statistics and immediately becomes far more interested in what is behind the numbers than the numbers themselves – but probably not!

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UA MoD/MIC cruising?

August 18, 2018

On 17th August in the southern-most parts of Odessa Oblast, Olexandr Turchynov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council made claim to successful Ukrainian built cruise missile launches via the NSDC website.

Well bravo – though a reader may consider this a minor achievement for a nation that has a long history of missile development and a proven ability at lobbing satellites into orbit during the dark Soviet days and continuing since independence.

What matters with the claims of “cruise missile capabilities” is not that Ukraine can manufacture them, but rather should there be a requirement to use them, the high degree of accuracy needed for targeting, the consistency of target destruction, and the ability to actually reach the target without being intercepted.

Thus it is noteworthy that the new Ukrainian Neptune cruise missile will apparently employ inertial guidance with an active radar seeker to find its target.  During its final flight time it will be guided to its target by command feeds from an active radar homing head and radio altimeter.  A GOT rather than GOLIS system.

According to Mr Turchinov, the range of the missile is up to 300 Kilometers, with missiles of this class being powerful high-precision weapons “capable of destroying any sea and land targets.  During the test, the maritime target was exactly destroyed at a distance of 100 Kilometers.”

Mr Turchynov went on to state that “with the help of cruise missiles, military and infrastructure facilities could be destroyed – in particular strategic bridges and ferry crossings if they were used by the enemy for aggression against our state.”  A very thinly veiled reference to the newly built Russian Kerch bridge.

As surely as there is no such thing as an impenetrable A2AD, there is also no such thing as a missile guaranteed to get through A2AD.  Nevertheless Mr Turchynov was there to witness and proclaim capabilities and not necessarily battlefield realities.  Further, such capabilities have to be taken into account by an aggressor.  Ukraine is thus far better off having these capabilities than not – regardless of battlefield realities and associated successes thereon.

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Accident by design – Odessa City Hall investigations

August 12, 2018

On 2nd August a car accident, or perhaps more accurately stated a car incident occurred on Svetlaya Street in Odessa involving lawyer and activist Mikhail Kuzakon, and journalist Gregory Kozma.  A Gaz truck rammed the white Toyota they were travelling in head on.

The (as yet unidentified) driver of the truck then fled the scene upon a motorbike waiting at the scene.  The method of the truck drivers egress from the scene clearly indicates that no accident occurred – but rather a deliberate incident.

Some older readers may be reminded of the similar circumstances surrounding the 1999 murder of Vyacheslav Chernovol.

Indeed perhaps it is the intent to draw such a parallel.

However, while the modus operandi may be similar, the outcome is fortunately very different.  Both Messrs Kuzakon and Kozma survived uninjured – and if their murder was not the intended outcome, the potential for serious injury was clearly present.

Messrs Kuzakon and Kozma feature for the prosecution in several NABU cases against Odessa City Hall.

Ergo if causing serious injury was the intention or an acceptable outcome, then either way the mens rea is very likely to be that of witness intimidation.

Initially the police classified the incident as an assassination attempt under Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, however prosecutors have changed it to an attempt to kill (or infringe upon the life of) a journalist due to Mr Kozma being thus employed.

Why both Articles are not being employed in this case remains unclear as Mr Kuzakon is not a journalist.

Nor is it clear why “Witness Intimidation” is also not upon the list of suspected crimes committed/under investigation, for that will have been the minimum outcome expected by those that were involved in this crime – notwithstanding that witness intimidation is probably the easiest to prove.

Following the incident the blog decided to allow the dust to settle before writing a few lines with a view not only to follow the immediate events and the leaking of investigative leads, but also what if anything the authorities decided to do in the aftermath regarding the well-being of those involved in the prosecution case against Odessa City Hall.

Of course any witness to any crime is potentially a target for witness intimidation and/or bribery, however those involved in high profile prosecutions in a nation like Ukraine where national and regional elites still consider themselves above the law, are perhaps to be considered at far higher risk.  In this particular case few readers will be surprised if those responsible for this incident are found to be within, or closely associated to those within Odessa City Hall.

The point to be made here is that of witness protection and witness protection programmes (for those that would accept them) in Ukraine if witnesses are to continue to act as such for prosecuting authorities in high profile/high resonance cases.  Let us be blunt, since 1991, the list of dead and/or seriously injured, and/or intimidated witnesses against the elites is far, far longer than the list of the elites ever convicted.  Metaphorically, the former list would be as long as a toilet roll, whilst the latter could fit on the back of a (very small) postage stamp.

Questions therefore arise over who is responsible for witness protection – a costly endeavor  for anything(beyond simply fitting police monitored panic alarms in homes and hoping that should the alarm go off the police arrive to find live bodies) – and from whose budget are those costs covered?

Without doubt these men will not be the only two (in this case NABU) witnesses to have been intimidated and/or severely injured who are expected to give evidence.

Should each agency/institution protect their own witnesses at their own costs and staffing, or should something more central and dedicated be created solely for the purpose of witness protection?  Would any agency have sufficient trust in another dedicated to such a task if it were created?

How sensible/reasonable would the Ukrainian media be with regard leaving witnesses alone under such protection or any subsequent programme?

As yet it is unclear just how NABU will handle the circumstances surrounding Messrs Kuzakon and Kozma, but there seems to be a reasonable degree of certainty that somebody within or closely associated with Odessa City Hall will have acted in a role that is more than merely preparatory in this incident.

With somebody having taken such a step, and with it being unlikely Messrs Kuzakon and Kozma will stop cooperation with the prosecution, the risk of further incidents surrounding these two men remain.  It will do NABU (nor any Ukrainian law enforcement cause) no good to see their witnesses successfully whacked – partic.ularly after a failed attempt (discounting the issue of intimidation).

T’will be interesting to see how this (and other similar cases with similar witness issues) will be resolved.

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The UA Aero industry takes off?

August 7, 2018

Following agreements with Turkey in over the past few months, it was recently announced that Boeing and Anatov have signed an agreement relating to the supply of parts to circumvent supply-chain issues relating to Russia.  (In particular, for the An-148, An-158, An-178 aircraft, the family of which will be designated An-1X8.)

Previously the Swiss AIR-ION Technologies signed up to the beginning of the bureaucratic process of partnership in hybrid and electric powered drone/UAVs in Ukraine.

It now appears that Odessa Aircraft Plant has reached agreement to begin development and production of aircraft with US Aviastar Investment Corp and the Czech Distar company.

The details of what will be produced remains unclear, however there it is known an agreement to establish an international Regional Service Center for the current and major repair of aircraft and helicopters, as well as the introduction of a number of procedures and processes in the context of organizing training for cadets and pilots under the current NATO programs have also been reached.

In the current European defence climate there would appear to be several obvious weak points where Ukrainian expertise at designing and building large aircraft entirely in country would seem to have a marketplace.  Among those most obvious weak points are the ability to move large amounts of equipment and personnel by air around Europe, as well as a distinct inability for air-refuel on any notable scale.

This European capability gap compared to the US abilities is perhaps most easily explained in broad (and less than nuanced) brushstrokes by the fact the US tends to fight its wars far from home – necessitating the ability to have the logistical/tale end capabilities to move large numbers of troops and equipment large distances fairly swiftly, and keep them supplied and combat operable.

The Europeans are historically far more likely to expect conventional wars to occur on the European continent and for those engagements to include alliances in some shape or form that would at the very least provide strategic bases for deployment and logistical support – be they hot or cold wars.

The outcome of this thinking (leaving nuclear and submariner deterrents aside) is a distinct lack of European ability for air-refueling or large scale air deployment capabilities in comparison to the US over the past 30 years (or more) of military planning.

With trust in the US somewhat eroded in the current European political climate, naturally European military and defence establishment leaders will be looking at what and where the Europeans rely most heavily upon the US – and enormous Ukrainian transport aircraft built entirely within a nation reliant upon good relations with the Europeans would seem a natural situational fit.

Economics aside, for Ukraine to continually seep further and further into the supply chain of the European defence market is naturally something the nation’s leadership will actively encourage.  The more ties to the European Union and its members the better as far as Kyiv is concerned.   Better still if that occurs in sensitive arenas such as defence and defence procurement/supply -chains.

There is also the important matter of tech transfer from which Ukraine will certainly benefit as it seeps further into the defence supply chain of Europe.

After drones and aircraft, the logic extension will be missiles and space (again in which Ukraine has expertise).

It remains to be seen whether the Ukrainian (defence) Areo industry is taking off or not – but prima facie it does appear it may just get its wheels up.

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