Archive for the ‘Life in Odessa’ Category

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Odessa City Hall getting far murkier again? Organised Crime

June 3, 2014

For those who find local matters in Odessa boring stop reading – unless you have an interest in organsied crime, the Odessa mafia and all that – in which case you may want to continue reading.

For better or for worse, the Odessa Mafia has something of a particularly infamous reputation – even in Moscow and St Petersburg who have their own infamous organised criminality.

The “Don” as far as Odessa is concerned was, and probably still is, a man called Alexander Angert – know as “Angel”.

His name is regularly mentioned by former Interior Minister Yuri Lutsenko in particular, whenever something serious and illegal occurs in Odessa – the events of 2nd May for example, despite Mr Angert being a resident of London since the early 2000’s, and remains so it is believed.  So much so that on-lookers may think there is something personal between them – perhaps there is – but assuredly Mr Angert is not behind every nefarious incident in Odessa, whether he remains a resident of London or not.

One of the things it is necessary to understand is that the Odessa mafia does not work like a scene from the Godfather with men sat around in kitchens plotting against other mafia clans.  The Odessa mafia is much more fluid than lines of dedicated nefarious soldiers sitting around awaiting orders.  Most have their own business interests and rarely gather together to agree or plot the future unless there is an absolute need.

The last inter-mafia killing I recall was at the beginning of last month where a Georgian “thief in law” was shot dead in an Odessan restaurant on Ilfa and Petrova.

But what has this, and in particular Mr Angert, got to do with city hall?

The answer is the new Mayor, Gennady Truhanov, previously described in this link as a Dickensian “Bill Sikes” character.

Now the elections are over, it is perhaps time to explain the connection between Mr Truhanov and Mr Angert.

Way back in the very bloody 1990’s that characterised Odessa, the two created a security firm providing “services” to the major businesses in Odessa.  Mr Angert was Vice President of this company.

Ever since that date, Messrs Truhanov and Angert have retained their relationship – with fingers in many pies.  Mr Truhanov being well placed within Odessa Port for example.  Only recently Mr Truhanov stated:

“I have not studied his biography , his past , I did not take a certificate from the district department of his criminal record. I did not care about people’s past.  He worked openly, he was not hounded by the authorities.  In a word, a decent, normal person.  Since then, (1990’s ed) we have a relationship.  He’s a free man, and I do not attach any significance to talk about his criminal past.”

This of course now raises the spectre of a return to rampant organised criminality when Odessa now has a Mayor who attaches no importance to the criminality of those he and his administration will interact with.

Indeed Mr Anhert owns a company (well more than one) called “Рост”  – or “Growth” in English.  It is fronted by a Russian named Alexander Zhukov who lobbies Odessa City Hall on its behalf.

Mayor Truhanov has few words to say about  “Рост”  – “I have no relationship with this company , even though I know it well.”

The Serious and Organised Crime attachés at embassies in Kyiv and Consulates in Odessa hopefully are already very aware of Mr Truhanov, his history and his associations – as they should be Mr Angert.

If not, as this blog is read in many an embassy in Kyiv – they are now.

Looking forward, it seems likely that ” Рост “, the entities of Igor Markov and others on good terms with Mayor Truhanov, are likely to do very, very well over the next 5 years.  That leads to the question relating to the future of Odessa, and just how closely the central government will monitor and “guide” the new Mayor of Odessa relating what seems certain to see an increase in nefarious and organised criminality.

Finding a regional governor with a serious degree of integrity will be required to keep Mayor Tryhanov and associates within certain acceptable parameters, would be a start – and finding one of those is a major task in and of itself.

I tweeted last week, perhaps the first petition newly invested President Poroshenko will receive will be one from Odessa relating to Mayor Truhanov.

In the meantime, some familiar old faces seem likely to be reappearing within the Odessa “business” scene.

 

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In the crosshairs – Odessa

April 19, 2014

There has been much speculation, rumour and conjecture within the media and amongst academic/think tank circles as to the extent of the Kremlin appetite with regard to Ukraine – naturally.  What is happening now on the continent of Europe has become very much a rarity thankfully – and yet not extinct unfortunately.

That speculation has ranged from the complete annexation of Ukraine, to full control through coercive methods, or the control and/or annexation of parts of the nation – either via federalisation before secession, simply establishing hard facts on the ground or de facto protectorates.

novorussia-map

As far back as the end of November/early December rumours abound of The Kremlin attempting to reconstruct Novorussia – which as the above map circa 1897 shows, includes Odessa.

Now Mr Putin, and especialy the Kremlin propaganda machine, has on occasion been a little loose in interpretation and recollection of history at times recently, particularly when attempting to draw parallels in the Kremlin game of “whataboutism” .  The one thing that can be consistently said about “whataboutism” is that it never justifies or legitimises what is happening.  Using any previous wrong as an example to justify another wrong, needless to say, does not make either right.

It is why I am rather shy of using too many examples of comparative politics in entries – comparisons have their limits, no situation is the same – there are always nuances – and whether the comparison is good or poor, it always has a limited use in justification or legitimisation.

Nevertheless, Odessa like all the Novorussia Oblasts of by-gone days as remained consistently in the Kremlin crosshairs whichever scenario is to be played out.

Anyway, despite the very general joint communique emanating from within the bowels of Geneva – which makes you wonder over the devil in any detail as well as whether all parties are negotiating in good or bad faith – during President Putin’s 4 hour telethon, he made a few statements worthy of note.  Much of it was fluff, framing, propaganda and promises for the domestic Russian audience.

That domestic audience it should be recognised, has been prepared for conventional, economic, psychological, technical and religious war on a 24/7 basis increasingly over the past 2 or 3 months.  If it comes the Russian public will not be surprised.

A few statements made by President Putin are clearly of interest to Ukraine – and hopefully Europe and the wider western world in particular.

It was the first time I recall hearing Mr Putin use “Novorussia” in public – which he did repeatedly – and in a manner in which could – and did – infer a desire to rebuild it.

He also confirmed Russian special forces had been used in Crimea – but that is no revelation – simply confirmation of what everybody knew.

“The question is to ensure the rights and interests of the Russian southeast. It’s new Russia. Kharkiv, Lugansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows. Then for various reasons these areas were gone, and the people stayed there — we need to encourage them to find a solution.”

Now we can quibble over whether or not Luhansk and Kharkiv were ever in Novorussia, or whether they were in fact in Little Russia, but what’s the point.

To underline the point he was making somewhat, he also stated “I remind you that the Federation Council has given the president the right to use armed forces in Ukraine.  I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that by political and diplomatic means we will be able to solve all of the sharp problems.”

Ergo, no bite sized federalised Novorussia Oblasts for us to break of as and when we are ready, then I reserve the right to simply take them by force, would seem to be an interpretation many will make.

Of course, if the people of these cities decide not to make the choices seen as optimal to the Kremlin design for Ukraine – or at least the rebirth of the previously Novorussian parts of Ukraine which none other than Mr Putin himself has now clarified clearly as targets of Kremlin desire and therefore undoubted shenanigans, then “We must do everything to help these people to protect their rights and independently determine their own destiny.” – which will undoubtedly be understood as the Kremlin will make the right decision for them.

The questions for Odessa – as well as the other oblasts – is what form the coercion will take, when and for how long they can be endured.  To expect the same modus operandi without deviation as Crimea and as is currently unfolding in Luhansk and Donetsk would be a mistake.  It may come in that form – or it may manifest itself in a very different fashion.

To control the Odessa, Illychovsk and Yushni Ports is to control the Odessa economy.  And to control the ports there is no need to actually be stood dockside.  It can be done via sea blockade just as easily – Yes, that is an act of war, but so was the annexation of Crimea.

The few Ukrainian naval ships now in Odessa?  Whether they would fight or not is a secondary question as to whether they would be allowed to fight by the Ukrainian authorities.  The NATO ships in the Black Sea are clearly unlikely to engage.

Whether the well meaning anti-“little green man” sandbagged checkpoints appearing on the outskirts of Odessa are equipped to prevent anything meaningful trundling into the city from Transnistria (or elsewhere) is also another relevant question.  As yet I have not peered behind them to see what equipment hides behind – if any.

As for the people of Odessa themselves – or the social media savvy amongst them at least – well numerous secret facebook groups, membership of and accessible by invitation only have appeared over the past month or so – both pro a united Ukraine and also federal/Russian leaning.

I didn’t even know there were such things as secret facebook groups until recently.  I am seriously IT retarded and socially challenged quite clearly.

Reading the content of both for and against camps, it seems self-organisation and planning is becoming somewhat more advanced than any policies seen coming from Kyiv with regard the city.

That there seem to be no overt policies coming from Kyiv with regard Odessa may well be doing Kyiv a disservice of course.  They may necessarily be currently kept from the public realm – at least you would hope that is the case, and a strategic plan for Odessa is not to be hurriedly scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet once the shenanigans begin.

Anyway, it seems the oblasts that made up Novorussia have now clearly been identified as Kremlin targets by President Putin himself.  With the “where” “why” and “who” answered – we in Odessa need only think about the “what”, “when” and “how”.

Whether there is any tangible results from the declarations made from Geneva yesterday we have to accept will not change the overall Kremlin goal.

The question of whether the Ukrainian people will accept any deal made would be accepted without further civil unrest is also yet to be asked or answered.

Any new elections are not going to return a Ukrainian president that will advance any Kremlin plan.  Any vote on the unity vis a vis federalisation of Ukraine is also unlikely to produce the federally desired Kremlin results.  Any new RADA elections seem unlikely to return an eastern favouring majority at the time of writing either.

Thus the Kremlin is still faced with only 3 options to retain significant influence over Ukraine – Annexation in part or in full, continued insurgency and destabilisation, or forcing the complete collapse of Ukraine as a State.  For Ukraine it seems it faces the outcome of whether the Kremlin choice is one of coercion via a slow Chinese water torture, or one of rapid forceful violation.

Allowing Ukraine to head westward without significant resistance – if allowing it at all – is not a Kremlin option.  Ergo working on the premise, any pauses for negotiation agreed to by The Kremlin will be done so with a view to mitigating the threats toward it either directly or via third parties – whilst its goal remains the same.

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Something local – Arcadia redevelopment, Odessa

January 5, 2014

Elsewhere in cyberspace some months ago, I noted that the famous/infamous Ibiza nightclub in Arcadia was being demolished – and presumably rebuilt.

Since then, the main thoroughfare has also been completely ripped up and many of the small stores that lined the route demolished too.

What was this

ibiza

is currently this

arcadia

Blimey!  Summer tourist/beach life central looks anything but.

However, reconstruction begins immediately after the Orthodox Christmas – presumably to be completed by 1st June when Arcadia is normally officially opened for the summer season.  (Though it has to be said for those of us who live in Acradia, “officially” means very little as it is home.)

It will be interesting to see the end results, as to be quite honest, it was better than OK (if not fantastic) before Arcadia was deemed necessary for a face lift.  I have certainly been to far worse similar developments in Greece and Spain.

One has to hope that the de facto summer city centre will be ready on time simply for the benefit of the local  economy.

Right, back to matters political/policy led tomorrow.  I simply fancied a change today.

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Lest we forget – Anniversary of the Odessa Massacres

October 25, 2013

Living in Odessa , it is perhaps necessary for me to take a pause and ignore the current politics of the day, for a fleeting moment and look to local history.

This week marked the 72 anniversary of the 1941 Odessa massacres.

These massacres carried out predominantly  by the Romanian army on the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Nicolae Deleanu and Lieutenant-Colonel C. D. Nicolescu – resulting in the deaths of approximately 99,000 Jews between 22 and 28 October 1941, with a further 35000 Jews moved to the ghetto of Slobodka where most died from exposure.

A somber moment for reflection that dictates suspending commentary on the current political shenanigans for 24 hours.

Odessa-2-269-Dec41Monument.

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Odessa International Jazz Festival 19 – 22 September

September 15, 2013

Away from the world of Ukrainian politics and policy – briefly at least – I will draw your attention to the annual Odessa International Jazz Festival that takes place next week over a four day period.

Amongst this years performers are  Yuri Kuznetsov Honored Artist of Ukraine (Ukraine), Anatoly Vapirov (Bulgaria ), Anatoly Vapirov (a frequent guest at the Odessa Jazz Festival), Cuban violinist Omar Puente, German trio Benedict Yanelya (Germany – Spain – Canada), Lisa Henry & Oleg Butman Trio ( USA – Russia ),  Henry Fox, who will perform with a trio of Oleg Butman ( Russia ), Kuba Stankiewicz ( Poland), Dario Pinelli & Binario Swing ( Italy), Benjamin Faugloire Project ( France), Ahimsa ( India – Germany), Roman Tulei Trio ( Switzerland), FKP Trio ( Ukraine), Asea Sool ( Georgia – Ukraine), Samokhin Band ( Poland), Liberty ( Transnistria), Jam Band ( Ukraine), and Odessa’s Swing Dance Studio – to name but a few.

So if you plan to be in Odessa next week and are a lover of jazz – as long as the weather stays dry, as it opens with a concert in the City Gardens – you will undoubtedly have a good time!

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219th birthday celebrations – Odessa itinerary

August 18, 2013

For those readers likely to be in Odessa between 30th August and 3rd September, you will be present as the city celebrates its 219th “official” birthday – it is far older.

Anyway, the itinerary for those few days is as follows:

It includes rock fest, art & flowers exhibitions, music concerts, gala concert etc.
Traditional concert followed by a large firework will take place at Potyomkin Stairs in the evening.

In the network of the celebration, a range of traditional events will be held, including:
– International “Meetings in Odessa” Culture and Arts Festival;
– Gala concert of the XXII “Piqué Vests” Rock Festival in memory of I. Gankevitch at the Kulikovo Field (Chicherina and Skryabin are the headliners of the concert);
– Gala concert at at Potyomkin Stairs;
– open-air “Rakhmaninov by the Sea” concert by Alexei Botvinov by the Vorontsov Palace’s Colonnade;
– open-air “Jazz in Classics. Classics in Jazz” concert by Yuri Kuznetsov in the City Garden;
– flowers exhibition and the 2nd Arts and Crafts Festival;
– “Open-air cinema hall” at Langerone Descent;
– Yerzy Hoffman’s “Ukraine”movie presentation;
– meeting with the legendary Yuri Norstein, the author of bestseller “Hedgehog in Fog”cartoon;
– festive firework.

The traditional Gala-concert at Potyomkin Stairs will feature numerous famous artists, including In-Grid, Potap and Nastya Kamenskykh, BoomBox, Tina Karol, “X-Factor” Show winner Aida Nikolaychuk from Odessa, “Country’s Voice” Show winner Anna Khodorovskaya from Odessa and others.

As and when more details of who on what date and where become available, I will attempt to let you know.

I must admit I do fancy attending “Rakhmaninov by the Sea” and the jazz classics at the City Garden – both of which I hope will occur before the 2nd September when I shall be heading to Crete for a few days.

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And now for something completely different – Odessa Draw Art Exhibition

July 19, 2013

Yes, I know – this entry is a long way away from my usual themes – however, it caught my eye.

Between 23 – 25 August Odessa will be hosting an exhibition of artworks by the world’s best vector artists – OdessaDraw.

Artists from the US, Argentina, Italy, France, Germany, Peru, Japan, Russia, Ukraine and other countries will be taking part in the exhibit, which is taking place in one of the oldest and prestigious museums in Ukraine – The Museum of Eastern and Western art.

od art main

The exhibition is being held under the patronage of Corel Corporation and the Wacom company.

This will the first such exhibition in Eastern Europe, and it is expected to become an annual event.

The exhibition will open OdessaCamp 2014 – one of the most prominent international conferences dedicated to IT, communications and new media in Ukraine.

This year OdessaCamp will introduce a separate section of reports and workshops by digital artists of OdessaDraw project.

Now whilst I am used to visiting the Museum of Eastern and Western Art and gazing at the occasional Caravaggio – which is perhaps more in keeping with the old surroundings offered by the museum than a modern day digital art exhibition – I intend to go and have a look.

I’m not sure it will move me to leave Monet and Lautrec behind, but then again, perhaps if they were alive today they would be painting by pixel as well.

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