Archive for the ‘Odessa’ Category

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Odessa gets a NABU Chief (not without history)

January 13, 2017

Odessa has eventually been appointed a regional NABU Chief.

In fact the “Odessa” NABU region covers Odessa, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Kirovograd.  A geographical area larger than some European countries and given the number of NABU mandated public officials within, no small number of fish to shoot at in the regional barrel.

The appointee, following what was probably not a competition but rather a “competition” is Dmitry Rudenko, 15 years in law enforcement in Vinnitsa and holder of 2 law degrees and a further degree in accounting and auditing.

Prima facie a fairly good mixture of education and experience for his future role.

Of course the cynical reader cannot help but note he hails from the same city as Prime Minister Groisman, and Petro Poroshenko’s political stronghold.  One of those “coincidences” that so often occur – no differently than being able to pick the “winner” from “competitions” in sensitive appointments relating to power and regional control almost every time.

Mr Rudenko however does not come without his own skeletons – the largest of which relates to the late, well known human rights activist from Vinnitsa, Dmitry Groisman.

Mr Groisman died a week before a court in Vinnitsa acquitted him of prosecutor nonsense.  Criminal proceedings were opened into those that brought the case which it was stated in court, was fabricated.  Mr Rudenko was one of those against criminal proceedings were opened (and then, it would appear, quietly closed).

Mr Rudenko should of course be wished happy and successful hunting.  There are many fish in his barrel to be easily shot, and some that will require a little more skill.  The cynical reader will also ponder whether some will require tacit political approval or deniable political targeting.

Time will tell whether those close to the leading BPP political lights will suffer NABU attention in Odessa as swiftly or as thoroughly as those that are not.  The perception in Odessa however, will be that Mr Rudenko is already sullied.

(Quite a week for Odessa now President Poroshenko has officially appointed Ihor Kolomoisky’s man Maxim Stepanov as Governor.)

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Moldavian meetings

January 5, 2017

For the first time since 2008, a President of Moldova, Igor Dodon met with a “President of Transnistria” Vadim Krasnoselsky.

Whether it proves to be anything more than a symbolic gesture by pro-Kremlin Moldavian President Dodon remains to be seen, for his powers as president are extremely limited (which is perhaps a good thing being a robust supporter of federalising Moldova).

Moldova is a parliamentary democracy with the President having very little sway over policy or legislation.  (As such the Moldavian parliamentary elections of 2018 matter far more than the recent election of Mr Dodon as President of Moldova.)

What was known to be discussed appears to have been all rather sensible – and occurred outside of the longstanding 5+2 format which may or may not further frustrate an already frustrated process.  Nevertheless issues such as agriculture in the Dubasari district, education and diplomas, and the movement of citizens across the Dniester river were discussed.

It is said they will meet again soon with proposal to solving the issues discussed and to set timelines to implement agreed solutions.

Time, as it always does, will tell when it comes to results, particularly as President Dodon would have to have the Moldavian parliament “on side” to actually deliver much (if anything).

With regards to meetings, and perhaps worthy of note for those in Kyiv, on 26th December, 3 days after Mr Dodon’s election as president, the odious and criminal Mykola Skoryk MP (Oppo Block) quietly visited Moldova attending a Party of Socialists event to celebrate Mr Dodon’s success.

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President Dodon had been a long serving Chairman of the Party of Socialists after leaving the Communist Party.  Needless to say the Party of Socialists is a robustly Russophile political entity.

That the obnoxious Mykola Skoryk would surround himself with russophiles is in keeping with his personal views (as inferred in the above link).  As regular readers will note however, it is not his russophile views that make Mykola Skoryk obnoxious.  Quite simply there is nothing about his political history, business activities, or egocentric personality that make him likable – russophile or not.

Time will tell whether Prosecutor General Lutsenko will actually get around to trying to strip Mykola Skoryk of his parliamentary immunity and prosecute him as he stated he would in September – but as yet hasn’t.  Perhaps he has forgotten, perhaps he opened his mouth before gathering sufficient evidence, or perhaps a grubby deal has been struck that he won’t now go after Mr Skoryk.  Neither Messrs Lutsenko or Skoryk have been adverse to grubby (and criminal) little deals throughout their political careers.

The question however is what was Mykola Skoryk doing at a Party of Socialists gathering for, and with, the newly invested President Dodon?  A shared russophilia is unlikely to be the answer in and of itself.  There will be more to it.

Perhaps it is a matter of insuring any cross-border “business” is not interrupted under a new presidency.  Perhaps there are now opportunities to expand “business”.  Maybe an arrangement made for an immediate “bolt hole” from Odessa should Prosecutor General Lutsenko actually put action where his rhetoric already exists.  Per chance some plotting and scheming regarding stirring up matters in “Bessarabia” occurred – as one domestic result of a Trump victory in the USA will probably be an emboldened pro-Russian political voice within Ukraine from those that have generally kept a low profile over the past 2 years – those like Mykola Skoryk.

Whatever the case, Mykola Skoryk did not become the first Ukrainian MP to personally congratulate Mr Dodon on his election simply because of a shared russophilia and as Odessa shares a border with Moldova he thought he’d “drop by”.  He is hardly otherwise a regular face at the Party of Socialists gatherings.

That Mr Skoryk has said very little about his trip probably means that more questions should be asked.

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Odessa Port Side shuts down

December 30, 2016

Having twice failed to privatise the Odessa Port Side plant during 2016, and with debts mounting to creditors such as Naftogaz, the decision has been taken to temporarily, or perhaps better stated indefinitely, close the plant down with effect from 30th December.

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Valery Gorbatko, the plant Director since 1986 has resigned – which for any eventual buyer or State operational reshuffle/efficiency/transparency policy for the plant is no bad thing.  Accepting that resignation promptly would be a wise move.

From now the cost to the State will be dramatically reduced to those of maintenance and salaries – minor costs in comparison to running the plant with a (currently) low global demand for product and high gas demands to produce it.

It remains an open question as to when or even if a buyer (or long term leaser) will be found for Odessa Port Side.

Some 2017 national budgetary discipline implemented before 2016 has ended?

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Odessa – Write your own headline (It would be funny if it weren’t so sad)

December 28, 2016

In local news a headline appeared that simply demanded further reading.  It read “In Odessa region a school toilet was inaugurated:  A ribbon cutting and dancing”.

It has to be said that your author’s parents always took a very dim view of what they termed “toilet humour”, which in their definition had little to do with funny toilets or anecdotes about ablutions and the physical activities that occur within, but rather humour that was more than a little “off colour” or “beyond the pale”.

However, erudite as the readership of this blog is, there will be those that will create their own headlines for this event, and others that will find the entire event “off colour”.

One of the rural schools in Rozdilna Rayon (Odessa Oblast) quite literally had a ribbon cutting event to open a toilet at the school!

The grand toilet opening (Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

The grand toilet opening (Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

Perhaps it is right that toilets in a school are a reason to be celebrated – particularly if there have been none prior.  A reader may ponder just how many student hours have been saved in the absence of “Please Miss, can I go to the toilet?” if there is no toilet to go to.

Nevertheless, most readers would expect that a nation that can provide electricity, heating, teachers and an education at a school in rural Ukraine, to also be able to provide ablutions.  Surely toilets in a school are more of an expectation than something to celebrate?

It has to be said that the blog gets invitations to various events, many of which are nothing more than the official opening of an official envelope, an hour or so of polite chit-chat and perhaps a few nibbles and away.

Not once has an invitation arrived to attend the opening of a school toilet.  Clearly the blog sits upon the wrong distribution/invitation lists for such events.  However, over the past decade or more in Odessa, there is no recollection of a ribbon cutting ceremony for a school toilet.

New school toilets (Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

New school toilets (Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

Readers, ask ye not where are the doors, for no answer can be given.  Perhaps the juvenile sensitivities of rural Ukrainian pupils are far less than those of the juvenile sensitivities of its urban school children.  All things considered, perhaps this is a such a step to modernity (and sanitation) compared to what existed before.  A reader may well ask what existed before.  Perhaps the children were simply defecating in the school playground for the amusement of lost tourists passing by?

(Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

(Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

How many local politicians and dignitaries actually get invited, and turn up, and take part in ribbon cutting ceremonies for school toilets?  Obviously Felix Segal the current Chairman of the District Council decided it was a worthy photo op – as did several other officials.

With such a major blessing being bestowed upon the school, a reader is now wondering where the dancing girls are.  Fear not, some female students indeed put on a dance to celebrate they can now, albeit unladylike owing to the toilet design being little more than a wipe clean hole in the floor, go to the toilet.

(Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

(Photo courtesy of Dumskaya)

What school principle has their teenage females dancing for officials to celebrate the opening of a school toilet – something which the school should have.

How to interpret this entire event?

To be angry and dismayed that school toilets are now ribbon cutting PR events for local politicians?  Undoubtedly.  That school principles have their girls dance in gratitude for such retro-Soviet privacy-less ablutions?  Certainly.

Yet mindful of a father that forever proclaimed “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit” it is still rather difficult not to arrive at numerous sarcastic headlines.

“Pupils who couldn’t give a sh*t before, now do!”

“Ukraine takes another step toward Europe – toilets opened in schools with due pomp and ceremony!”

“Ukraine leaps ahead of Europe with the ultimate socially  liberal “no privacy” toilets for school kids!”

“Environmentally friendly Ukraine bans natural and man-made doors on school toilets”

“Scandal at Ukrainian rural school – pupils resort to wiping their arse with ribbon due to toilet paper shortage” (there’s none in the photos).

Naturally when the costs of the toilets becomes known and the inevitable budget plundering scandal rears its inevitable head, the toilet humour headlines will not end there.

In the meantime, a reader is left to make their choice of dismay that school toilets have become ribbon cutting events with dancing girls (pupils), or whether in the festive period to engage in their own headline writing for this incredibly bizarre PR event.

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Treading on the toes of Angels – Odessa machinations

December 26, 2016

The name Alexander Angert also know as Angel to use his mafia name, has appeared in this blog numerous times (a reader may use the search facility if particularly interested).  How could it not?  His links with Mayor Trukhanov and Alexander Zhukov (father of Daria, the current Mrs Roman Abramovich) among others of notoriety and the numerous joint and associated business enterprises that do well out of City Hall and Ukraine more broadly, demand that every now and again his name is mentioned.

Indeed Mr Angert was mentioned so often by Yuri Lutsenko when he was Minister of Interior in the Tymoshenko government it would be difficult to have seen him as anything other than a personal nemesis.  (A reader may ponder why he no longer mentions it now he is Prosecutor General).  Misha Saakashvili as Governor was also not adverse to throwing Mr Angert’s name about when it came to the organised criminality in Odessa.

Mr Angert no longer lives in Odessa – but he does visit when the situation is serious enough to demand he personal participation in a “negotiation”.  His last know place of abode (for many years) is London.  Indeed if asking the personal assistant of Mr Zhukov who also lives in London, messages can apparently reach Mr Angert through that channel.  (It seems that via this route Leonid Minin can be reached in Rome too).

The full extent of Mr Angert’s (business) interests is very difficult to gauge.  In some cases his control is “unofficial”.  Others there are clearly cut outs who are known associates.  There are overtly known long term business partners like Igor Uchitel.  There are even one or two business where Mr Angert’s name actually appears.  Thus quite where all the metaphorical and literal bodies are buried is unknown – but there are definitely both metaphorical and literal bodies buried.

Perhaps the best way to identify the assets controlled by Mr Angert are those in Odessa that were left alone by Viktor Yanukovych and “The Family” from 2010 to 2014.  Former President Yanukovych did indeed meet with Mr Angert in Odessa and whatever was said between them seemingly saved Mr Angert’s interests from the attentions of “The Family” – or perhaps saved “The Family” from a slighted and vengeful “Angel”.

angel

Of the businesses that are transparently associated with Mr Angert, one is Odessagaz.  It is co-owned by Messrs Angert and Uchitel and has been for decades.  Neither oligarchs such as Firtash or Kolomoisky and not former President Yanukovych have ever made an attempt upon Odessagaz, nor interfered as they have with other regional and national gas companies.

Clearly tangling with those behind Odessagaz was not worth the blood and treasure – even for such odious, nefarious and powerful men.

Any regular reader is well aware of the frequent mention of the business appetites (by hook but mostly crook) of Igor Kononenko, President Poroshenko’s long term friend, occasional business partner and parliamentary “leg breaker”.  He is, to be blunt, as bad as they come when it comes to scams, schemes, and coercion.  His current appetites and methodology as to feeding them have hardly gone unnoticed – neither has the completely absent desire of President Poroshenko to rein them in.

It would appear however that Mr Kononenko is about to go not only where angels and oligarchs fear to tread, but indeed is about to stand on Angel’s toes.

Mr Angert, or more precisely Odessagaz, for many, many years has been trying to bring about the insolvency of Odessa CHP (thermal power plant).  Bankruptcy petitions have been made and various internal nefarious financial acts have been “encouraged” of the employees within Odessa CHP by Odessagaz (Mr Angert).  The net result was to engineer the bankruptcy of Odessa CHP beholding of large debts to Odessagaz who would then take Odessa CHP as debt settlement.

Recently however, that plan has quickly been undone via the purchasing of a significant quantity of Odessa CHP debts by Energomerezha.  This company is controlled by the brothers Surkis who are in turn puppets of Igor Kononenko.  In buying up those debts Energomerezha has therefore taken control of Odessa CHP financials that can either prevent Odessa CHP bankruptcy or assume the role of leading creditor thus undoing the plans of Odessagaz (Mr Angert).

In short when Energomerezha decides to allow Odessa CHP to go bankrupt at a time of its chosing it would be the largest creditor with a claim to taking control of the asset as settlement.  Thus that can be expected when all the ducks are lined up to insure the loser would be Odessagaz – and by extension Mr Angert.

(In the meantime as usual there is a scam whereby an agreement has been reached between Odessa CHP and Energomerezha that enables Energomerezha (read the brothers Surkis and Igor Kononenko) to clear UAH 1000 in profit for every thousand cubic meters of gas).

Quite how this situation will play out remains to be seen when even the appetites of Yanukovych, Kolomoisky and Firtash left the machinations of Angel well alone in Odessa.

Perhaps Messrs Kononenko and Angert will come to an agreement amicably.

offer

Or perhaps there will be made an offer than cannot be refused.

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Odessa investment projects – Berezyne – Besarabyazka rail reconstruction

December 25, 2016

Immediately prior to the festive season getting under way, the blog was invited to the Odessa Regional Administration by a friend who is head of the Investment and Tourism Department, Roman Kozlovskyi.

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He and his team can be found on the 6th (top) floor within the rabbit warren that is the Odessa Regional Administration building.  (Thus any investor that enters this labyrinth is effectively at his mercy when it comes to actually finding their way out again.)

The result was a commitment by the blog to highlight some of the best opportunities for investment from a particularly long list.  It will also bring to the attention of certain project initiators some of the worst project offerings.  Some projects should be pushed as they are good projects for all concerned.  Others should be pushed into the rubbish bin of wishful but financially retarded thinking.

As such, ad hoc, entries will appear over the coming weeks relating to the good, the bad (and some ugly) investment projects within the Odessa Oblast

This entry highlights an investment project that seems viable.

In 1999 the rail connection between Berezyne and Besarabyazka was dismantled for reasons that would seem politically rather unclear, if criminally somewhat more understandable.

The 1999 dismantling of this section of railway thus pushed goods moving between Moldova to and from the ports of Odessa via rail to go through the Kremlin sponsored enclave and smuggling haven of Transnistria, an area that falls beyond the direct control of Government Moldova.

As such the reconstruction of the Berezyne – Besarabyazka rail link would provide a goods rail link avoiding Transnistria entirely.

Accordingly any investor could be assured both Governments of Ukraine and Moldova would be very much in favour of using this reconstructed route for commodities such as coal, fertilizers, oil, black metals and iron ore.  Indeed, reading between the lines, it is almost assuredly the case that such commodities would be immediately rerouted once the new track is in place.

Such assurances would naturally bring about numerous obvious methods for generating a return on capital employed for any investor – whichever method is ultimately agreed with the Odessa Regional Administration (there is certainly a degree of flexibility to accommodate any investor within the ORA).

It is hardly a difficult task to monitor the track usage and tonnage transported when only Ukrzaliznytsia and Calea Feratadin Moldova (both State owned rail entities) will use the track.

As is often the case, investors see most risk in the construction phase of any project.  Indeed for really large investments such as PFI schemes it is common practice to refinance a project after the construction phase is completed and that risk is thus removed.

Thus to some basic numbers – for that is what counts for any investor.  (For a full and detailed numbers breakdown a reader/investor is invited to contact Roman Kozlovskyi via the following email:  rkozlovskyi@odessa.gov.ua or the blog can provide his mobile number more privately.)

Clearly there will not be much environmental impact in the reconstruction of a preexisting rail line.  Most of what is required is already there by way of ground works and utilities.  Thus the laying of 21.5 kilometers (20 in Ukraine and 1.5 in Moldova) of track and whatever ground work is required is not an infrastructure project haunted by unknown and unseen technical issues.  The Odessa Regional Administration figures suggest 9 months to complete the project with a team of 30.

The investment sought is UAH 398256930, or about $15.4 million (exchange rate depending).  Hardly a large sum, and in fact perhaps far too small for some investors to consider.  Nevertheless, such is the low risk nature of this infrastructure project and the obvious methodologies provide that return on investment will be fairly swift and attractive, it therefore falls into the category of a good project for consideration.

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The new Governor of Odessa is (not going to be a media celebrity) Maxim Stepanov

December 20, 2016

A few days ago an entry appeared listing the 31 candidates to replace Misha Saakshvili as Governor of Odessa, and within which made brief observation of the most suitable (and unsuitable) applicants.

After tests, situational tasks, and interviews a winner has emerged.

Maxim Stepanov scored the most points and is now awaiting presidential appointment.

Naturally Maxim Stepanov is not Misha Saakashvili and most readers will have never even heard of him.  The international media are unlikely to be beating down his door for an interview either.

So a few lines about Mr Stepanov.

max-stepanov

He is 42, graduated from Donetsk State Medical University in the late 1990s and then further studied International Economics at Kyiv National Economic University, completing his studies in 2004.

He has worked in both the private and public sector.  His early public sector resume consists of roles within energy.

The last decade has been spent thus; 2003/04 – Deputy Chairman of the State Tax Authority.  2004 -08, Chairman of the National Legal Union.  2008-10 Mr Stepanov was the First Deputy Head of the Odessa Regional Administration, thereafter Viktor Yanukovych came to power and he was banished from political life and exiled in a purely civil service role as the Director of Ukraine Printing Plant – the entity charged with producing passports, driving licences et al. – where he has sat ever since.

Clearly Mr Stepanov is a man well versed in Ukrainian bureaucracy and not indifferent to the politics of Odessa having previously spent 2 years within the Odessa Regional Administration.  Thus the tedious, systematic, boring and predictable work of a governor will no doubt be well within his grasp.

It now falls to President Poroshenko to appoint him and bring him in from political exile to fill the most senior civil service role in the oblast.

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A note to readers – You are all granted a 48 hour hiatus from the daily churn of the blog as your author will be traveling.

 

 

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