Archive for the ‘How to in Odessa’ Category

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“Essential” Odessa – Odessa City Website

November 29, 2011

As many of you readers know, Odessa City has its own website to promote or record the events in Odessa. On the whole it is not a bad website. A little dated and boring for the site visitor given the funds that could be made available for an upgrade, but then my websites are not exactly exhilarating to the eye and I could of course spend some money on them. Yes I hear you all shouting “Pot and kettle!”

Odessa City is also on twitter (@odessa_ukraine) but not a tweet from them since I have been following it.

Anyway, on the Odessa City website, on the right hand side under the “Announce” block is a section called “Essential” which lists causes for which the city is trying to raise money via public donation. Now of course it is worthy to raise funds to safeguard Russov’s home as an architectural monument and maybe it is not essential but no less worthy to raise funds to erect a statue to Issak Babel (who wrote Tales of Odessa amongst many other famous works), however I cannot help but feel the “Essential” section could be redirected somewhat to benefit those who are alive today and the issues they are facing and about to face.

For example, energy bills have gone up twice under the current government by huge percentages (at IMF insistence) and there is incredible pressure from them to do so again by another 50%. As Ukraine is absolutely terrible at energy conservation which is normally the base of any energy pyramid, let alone energy efficiency you would think it “essential” in view of recent and projected energy price hikes, that the city website at the absolute minimum, have an idiot’s guide to energy conservation and also energy efficiency for both homes and business premises alike.

It is just as essential to find willing citizens or home owner groups to engage with the authorities over both issues and encourage occupants to engage in energy saving technology. It is surely in the long term interests of Ukraine to subsidise energy conservation and efficiency rather than subsidising energy for it to be simply wasted as it currently is.

This is of course but one example that is “essential” to the city looking forwards if current and future Mayor’s wish to avoid being rudely and publicly carpeted each year by the Kyiv administration for not having enough money to pay Naftogaz as their predecessors have been.

There is possibly an endless list of “essential” issues the city could use the “Essential” section for when it comes to public awareness and public engagement that would benefit both public and city administrators if it had the political will to force any issue into the public debate/awareness arena.

There is, after all, no point in achieving 19% of Ukrainian energy from renewable sources as is the goal, if much more than 19% of energy used is wasted. To conserve and be energy efficient must be economically and environmentally “essential” surely?

As I say, this is but one issue the city could and probably should promote under the “Essential” category. Recycling, preventative health awareness etc. are no different to my example and equally essential to the city. They are probably more essential that a statue to Issak Babel that would be lost amongst the other 250 statues in the city when all is said and done.

Maybe it is just me that thinks the “Essential” category is somewhat misaligned?

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Free land in Odessa…..if the force is with you

November 21, 2011

Well here is a story I have been meaning to comment upon for the past few days, and indeed I have in other parts of cyberspace, but due to pipelines and electoral law changes, it has been kicked down the list of things to comment about until today.

Our dear Mayor, presiding over the most openly scandal prone and nefarious administration in Odessa since I have lived here, used a little known law to grant people known to the administration 1000 square meters of land for free.  This land happens to be in the Otrada area of Odessa which is extremely nice.  In fact Otrada is my favourite beach in Odessa.

Unfortunately and as is happening all to frequently for an administration so poor at hiding its nefarious acts, (unlike the previous one which at least had the good sense to hide what it was doing very well,) the use of this little known law made it to the media.

Yes there is indeed a law that grants every Ukrainian citizen 1000 square meters of land for free if they apply for it.  Of course you need to know which law it is to apply.  Well for all my Ukrainian readers, Statute 40 of law 2949 is what you are looking for.

Anyway, this gaining of free land in a very much sought after part of Odessa could not be ignored once it hit the press so who else but Lord Vader himself to enter the darkest part of a rival evil emipre,  the Mordor Odessa administration and seek out his own free 1000 square meters of land?

As you can see, by the end of the video of his journey into Mordor Odessa City Hall, his application has been made and the force was indeed with him.  Somehow I doubt he will end up with land in Otrada though.

Anyway, it seems the City Administration is stating the allocation of land at Otrada to its friends was a mistake, although they haven’t yet allocated alternative, less valuable land to their friends.  These poor souls are still stuck with prime land in a prime location.

The good woman has decided that when she has time over the next few weeks, she is also going to try and apply for her free land.  I will let you know if she is successful.  If I don’t let you know, it is quite possible the local press will should she be refused.

Should I fear for my little hobbit as she takes on the full force of Sauron in the heart of Mordor?  I think not, for she too has friends who hold rings of power in Donetsk and Kyiv.

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Yet another look at NGOs in Ukraine

October 10, 2011

As regular readers of this blog will have noticed, I often turn my eye to observe the NGOs of Ukraine, their effectiveness or otherwise, their profile, who is behind them, what they set out to achieve, the hidden agendas of those financing them and the perception of them amongst the Ukrainian public.

The above link reads rather well considering what is about to come.

Of course I am not the only one who looks at these things.  Every party with a vested interest in them does as well, meaning both the government of Ukraine and foreign governments amongst others.

Over at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union website, they have published the results of a survey undertaken by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) which corroborates all that I have repeatedly said before.

Whilst it is somewhat gratifying to have a survey that adds substance to what I have already said many times about NGOs in Ukraine, thus making it harder for you dear readers to dismiss my writings as the ruminations of  a disconnected foreigner in Ukraine who knows nothing about what the locals really think, one does wonder why it was necessary to have a survey on the blindingly obvious, unless to inform the financiers and professional managers of the NGOs, in writing and from an independent source, what they already knew.

What is it they already know?  By and large they are completely ineffective.

There are a very large number of NGOs in Ukraine and most Ukrainians couldn’t even name 5 of them.  Few would have very little idea what they did, would be far more suspicious of many foreign NGOs parachuted in from outside than the grass roots NGOs (and grass roots is really where legitimacy of NGOs comes from in the minds of the populous), would be highly suspicious of the motivations of the financiers behind many of the NGOs, particularly the private financiers such as Mr Soros and would generally look to NGOs in areas where there are specific and measurable results on the ground in any particular locality.

Just as with international aid, those that make an immediate and noticeable difference be it with health, education, specific areas such as child welfare or womens issues etc, and in specific towns and cities, are deemed far more valuable and useful than those foreign NGOs abstractly trying to change political systems, media freedoms and all the other “big” areas that are so “big” they are completely and utterly disconnected from the Ukrainian public to the point that they have never heard of them, are suspicious of their motives, distinctly fall into the “others” interfering in “our” structures, not for “our” benefit but “theirs”.

As and when there is a better understanding of NGOs, it will then not be long before Ukrainians see NGOs as a “profession” as it has become in other nations thus giving concerns over the passions behind the “professional leadership” that replaced those who set up the grass roots NGO, who whilst administratively imperfect had a true belief in their cause and did not see it as a job opportunity and a route into governmental dinner parties and embassy “drinkies” to circulate with the “enlightened” and seek out other career avenues that may present themselves whilst networking at such events.

Quite what Ukrainians would think about the rather more nefarious activities of information/intelligence gathering, deniable fronts for foreign government liaisons with people/groups/networks of interest, trawling their social forums etc which is a function of many foreign government sponsored NGOs beyond their declared functions, who knows?

One suspects even more suspicion of foreign NGOs than that which currently exists would be a natural consequence.

The problem with domestic NGOs is that to be effective they have to get close to government which all to often means a compromise at the very core of a NGO belief.  Minor victories for major issues being kicked into the long grass.  Eventually their legitimacy is eroded against their original principles, particularly when professional managers are brought in and ticky box accountability to the financiers needs to show some progress…….somewhere……no matter how little or how peripheral to the original cause.

All rather difficult when in 20 years, very few NGOs have “street recognition” with the Ukrainian public when it comes to who they are, what  they do and what they have achieved.   There are certainly branding and publicity issues for most.

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News for Ukrainian Private Enterpreneurs

September 12, 2011

As I am about to do battle with almost 10,000 pending comments across several websites, of which at least 9980 will undoubtedly be spam, I will leave you with a rather splendid decision by the Ministry of Justice in Ukraine relating to the registering of Private Entrepreneurs. At least a splendid decision in comparison to registration methods currently available.

As always in Ukraine however, decisions by the executive and implementation by the structure and associated agencies often leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness.

Certainly the policy decision itself is beneficial to both government and civil society, the capabilities to implement it however must be open to some doubt.

Anyway, I am now off to deal with more spam than could be found in a decades worth of military ration packs for the entire BAOR.

Hopefully something far more interesting tomorrow for you.

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Out with the old and in wih the new – Ukrainian Visa system changes today

September 10, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new. Well yes and no, depending upon what you read and who you pay attention to.

To cut a long story short 16 Ukrainian Visa types are no longer issued with effect from today and are replaced by only 3, Transit, Short Term and Long Term. Not news to you dear readers as I did tell you months ago this was going to happen and when.

Well, today is that “when” in question.

I also promised to try to keep you up to date about the intricacies where ever possible.

So, click here for the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK announcement and click here for the US Embassy Kyiv announcement.

If you are incredibly brave click on both as there are some inconsistencies and people who are subject to Visas do tend to get quite emotional and frustrated when they are being told different things.

An example being, for those still holding valid visas for Ukraine, the US Embassy states, “If you have a valid visa and OVIR registration but not a residency permit you can stay in Ukraine as long as your current registration is valid. Once you leave the country, however, you will need to obtain a new visa abroad to qualify for legal residency under the new system. Regardless of the expiration date, “old” pre-September 10 visas will no longer be valid for entry into Ukraine after September 10.”

That is not mentioned by the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK and therefore infers that existing Visas will be allowed to run their course until expiry date under the old rules.

That was in fact confirmed by Mr. Andriy Olefirov, Director-General for Consular Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine at an open meeting only a few days ago duly attended by many foreigners currently holding Visas under the old scheme. They do not need to get a new Visa until the old Visa expires.

The US Embassy is therefore apparently misinformed if you work on the premise that the Ukrainian Embassy issuing Visas for applicants from England and Wales and Mr Olefirov of the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine know more about issuing Ukrainian Visas than the US Embassy in Kyiv that doesn’t issue Ukrainian Visas.

I told you some months ago this would not be a seamless process and it would seem an absolute nonsense to make visa holders of the old system, some with considerable time still to run before expiry (indeed some only issued last week), have to buy new visas should they have occasion to leave Ukraine before the expiry dates of the old system visa.

The problems will concentrate themselves in familiar places. The OVIR offices and which Visas, if any, of the old system they will continue to extend (or not) and the height of the qualification bar for the new Long Term Visa as intgerpreted at the issuing Ukrainian embassies and consuls around the planet.

One has to suspect the US and Ukrainian embassies will end up being right half the time, depending on individual OVIR decisions throughout the regions. T’was ever the case the regional interpretation was the only one you were concerned about under the old system anyway.

Nobody has said, as yet, how high the bar for the new Long Term Visa is set. As it replaces most of the 16 Visas that existed before, all of which had different criteria to reach to be granted. Is the bar for the Long Term Visa set at the height of the old IM-1 which required a veritable tome of paperwork from applicant and employer, is it based on an official invitation as per the old Student Visa or God Squad Visa from a recognised national institution, or is it as low as the Private Visa and Business Visa used to be, requiring nothing more than an invitation from a Ukrainian citizen or entity.

The Private Visa was after all requested by many an OVIR prior to registration passed 90 days for those married to Ukrainians who were under the 2 years of marriage point where upon reaching said 2 years, can apply for Permanent Residency.

It is as yet, unclear whether there is a set height for the Long Term Visa or whether, depending upon your reason for applying for it, the numerous different heights still apply.

Feel free to write up your experiences in the comments section for the other readers or simply let me know so I can pass on your experiences of joy or woe.

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Odessa is 217 years old on 2nd September

August 31, 2011

Well dear readers, whilst Odessa is far older, on Friday 2nd September it was officially recognised as a city by Catherine the Great 217 years ago.

Needless to say there is the annual celebration and here is the itinerary for those interested.

I shall indeed make my way to the centre on Friday. Well why not? It is still hot, sunny and there are plenty of good restaurants to rest my weary bones at after perusing the events.

Apologies for the short posts of late, the boy has decided he wants to go to university at LSE in London and I have spent the past few days and a fair amount of money getting him into a top notch college in Moscow that will get him up to the required A Level equivalents and IELTS level English.

Family comes before your entertainment – Sorry!

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Ukrainian Tax Officials available on line for real time consultancy‏

July 19, 2011

Seriously – It’s true. Not tried it myself, but it went live on 15th July.

Anyone wishing to share their on-line experience with this new Ukrainian service, please feel free to leave a comment.

Sorry, the computer says “No”

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