Archive for the ‘PoR’ Category


The Firtash star falls yet further – Ukraine

November 27, 2016

Whilst all eyes will be upon Mikhail Saakashvili and the inaugural gathering of his newly minted “Rukh New Forces” in Kyiv on 27th November, and its possible political rise – not to be confused with the old “Rukh” political party which may well see a revival simply and deliberately to insure confusion on any ballot paper – the political/influential decline of Dmitry Firtash continues apace.


As previously mentioned in historical entries, Mr Firtash once powerful within the Party of Regions machinery has seen his influence significantly reduced since its collapse.  More so than any of the other oligarchs associated with PoR, such as Rinat Akhmetov or Sergei Liovochkin etc.

He finds himself marooned in Austria following a thus far unsuccessful US attempt to extradite him over corruption accusations.

Though extradition from Austria may have failed, he remains wanted by the US.  Indeed in June, inquiries were made following a request by one close to him, via back channels, regarding any possibility of a change of US policy toward him.  The answer a definitive – No.  Those close to him again last week requested that inquiries be made via the same back channels regarding the possibility of an out-going Obama Presidential Pardon, resulting in another definitive – No.  (A reader would infer that any “pardon” must also relate to an admission of guilt – for how otherwise to pardon somebody who claims to have done no wrong?)

Matters will not improve for Mr Firtash – they will actually deteriorate further.

Mr Firtash has come to light in a German bribery case.

There is a matter of €500,000 cash being provided to ex-Stasi officer Nina Vilkening to facilitate desired outcomes via the Chief Commissioner of the Criminal Police Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, who received €300,000.

No doubt inquiries will continue and as none of the defendants are particularly youthful, it is not beyond the realms of probability that a deal can and/or will be cut with defendants in order to bring to light the full extent of Mr Firtash’s active involvement in bribery among the German institutions.

Thus it may yet prove only to be a matter of time before Mr Firtash is wanted by Germany – an extradition request that will not be denied by Austria.

Whilst this may now be appearing upon the horizon, the Spanish are far ahead of the Germans.

Spain has admirably been pursuing “Slavic” organsied crime for several years.  Russia has publicly decried Spanish investigations, reports and arrest requests for several years.  Ukraine is not exempt.  Only recently a number of Ukrainians, including the son (Stepan Chernovetsky), of the former Mayor of Kyiv, have been arrested for organised criminality and money laundering in Spain.

Bravo Spain – an example for Austrian and UK (in particular) banking and organsied crime investigative bodies to follow.

Mr Firtash, and two other as yet unidentified Ukrainian businessmen, have now fallen foul of Spanish investigations.  Judge Ignacio Sánchez García-Porrero leading the Spanish inquiry seeks Mr Firtash and the two as yet unidentified Ukrainian businessmen’s delivery to a courtroom in Spain.  The are suspected of leading a major money laundering racket in and via Spain (centered in Barcelona and Marbella).

(With the allegations specifically relating to money laundering presumably it is either the UCO within the Guard Civil and/or the UDEF doing investigative the leg-work rather than the broader Spanish organised crime institutions.)

Whether all the dirty money belongs to Mr Firtash, or whether some is from associates will perhaps become apparent as and when he is brought before a Spanish court.

With known associates ranging from Semyon Mogilevych the Russian “Don of Dons”, through the entire former Cabinet of Viktor Yanukovych’s ousted government, a debt and thus beholding to Russia’s Gazprombank of between $4 and $5 billion, and by extension a beholding to Yuri Kovalchuk (who is very close to President Putin) who personally arranged such loans, just whose dirty money Mr Firtash is suspected of laundering is unclear at this stage.


There will be layer upon layer of shell companies, nominal directors, fictitious entities and front men to wade through to find and identify the eventual beneficiaries (ultimately based in the usual offshore havens undoubtedly).

Nevertheless, the Spanish have been diligently working upon the misuse of their territory and legislation for several years when it comes to Slavic organised naughtiness.  Clearly Judge Ignacio Sánchez García-Porrero believes all is now sufficiently clear to officially go after Dmitry Firtash (and the two other as yet unidentified Ukrainian businessmen).

Extradition to Spain, no differently than the possibly forthcoming extradition request to Germany, when received by Austria will be a far smoother, almost seamlessly slick affair compared to the request from the US – as all such matters within the EU Member States are.  That is the entire point of the EU Arrest Warrant and the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.


Therefore, whilst a reader may be caught up with the hype surrounding a possibly rising political party headed by Mikhail Saakashvili, the continued fall of the Firtash star may well become a very messy, public and revealing fall indeed.


Once within Spanish jurisdiction, even if the Spanish case ultimately fails, by that time there will be the existing US request and a probable German case that the Spanish can extradite him to.

The outlook for Mr Firtash currently looks rather bleak – a lesson for Ukrainian kings and pawns alike.


Who is Vadim Novinsky? (To answer a reader’s question)

November 4, 2016

Following yesterday’s entry relating to the coincidences – or not – of current wriggling within the Opposition Block, a question has been asked by a reader about the importance of Vadim Novinsky in the Ukrainian arena.

There has been a lot written about him in Ukrainian and Russian, but little in English, so a brief glossary follows.  (He is perhaps best known to the English speaking reader for his recent Guardian piece – or at least a piece that was published naming him as the author even though he wasn’t)

Before doing so however, as stated in the link above to yesterday’s entry, Mr Novinsky did indeed leave Ukraine today for Greece for a visit to Mount Athos, apparently spending time in the company of some senior Orthodox clergy.  Also, the request by the Prosecutor General to lift the parliamentary immunity of Mr Novinsky has indeed arrived at the Verkhovna Rada and has been passed to the Procedural Committee of the Verkhovna Rada by Speaker Paruby.

The relevant committee will mull the Prosecutor General’s request next week.

Vadim Novinsky

Vadim Novinsky

So to the question of how important is Vadim Novinsky within the Ukrainian arena?  (Aside from being a leading and very wealthy Opposition Block parliamentary personality and extremely conservative member of the Russian Orthodoxy.)

Vadim Novinsky is a Russian “businessman” who was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2012 by former-President Yanukovych.  Despite calls for that citizenship to be revoked due to Mr Novinsky’s very pro-Russian stance (and alleged pro-Kremlin actions), thus far President Poroshenko has refused to do so.  It remains to be seen whether that position will change in the future.

Mr Novinsky is perhaps best known in Ukraine as a junior partner of Rinat Akhmetov via shares in Mr Akhmetov’s MetInvest.  The deal in 2006/7 involved Mr Akhmetov assuming control of a plethora of Mr Novinsky’s mining and metallurgical companies held under the umbrella of Mr Novinsky’s infamous Smart Group (and latterly Smart Holdings), in exchange for a junior share in MetInvest.  (To be blunt neither Smart Group nor Smart Holdings have anything approaching a good business reputation – consistently in the orbit of numerous scandals.)

The outcome of the MetInvest 2006/7 deal was that this gave Mr Novinsky “access all areas” within the Ukrainian political elite – which he clearly wanted.  (The benefits for Mr Akhmetov will not be dealt with in this entry.)

It is necessary however to briefly describe how Mr Novinsky first managed to acquire the ability to own numerous mining and metallurgy assets in both Russia and Ukraine, why he came to Ukraine buying such assets during the 1990s/2000s when all assets worth holding were subject to bloody wars between the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk clans.

Ukraine at this time was not a place for the faint hearted making acquisitions without a significant influential “roof” (guarantor) that could insure property rights in the absence of a predictable rule of law.

Without going into the minutiae of his early business career in Russia, it is sufficient to note that very early on he managed to secure the patronage of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, influential Russian politician Viktor Chernomyrdin, and alleged Tambov mafia gang associate Andrei Klyamko.  The later Mr Klyamko for several decades has been a consistent business partner of Mr Novinsky – a formal business divorce occurring in March 2014 in the immediate aftermath of “The Revolution of Dignity”.

A reader would probably understand that official business divorce to be little more than a facade dictated by circumstances at the time to mitigate volatile public perception.  (Indeed it is rumoured by reliable sources that Mr Novinsky’s name originally appeared in the Spanish Tambov mafia investigations – until Kremlin intervention managed to have his name removed before reports were published.)

Quite how such planets aligned for an engineering management systems graduate from Leningrad who came to Ukraine with Lukoil a reader is left to ponder.

Considering the extremely volatile and bloody warfare between the political and business clans of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk during the 1990’s/2000s, it is perhaps fair to speculate that Mr Novinsky’s entry into Ukrainian assets at that time (and many were physically within the Dnepro/Donbas geography) occurred via the friendship/association of then President Kuchma with Viktor Chernomyrdin.  That is not to infer that President Kuchma had any special relationship with Mr Novinsky other than by extension to that from Mr Chernomyrdin.

President Yushenko who followed however, perhaps can be viewed as far more accessible following Mr Novinsky’s arrival as a junior partner at MetInvest – and this access was further enabled by Mr Novinsky funding a few “pet projects” of President Yushenko.  (Disclosure – it was at about this time Mr Novinsky started rubbing shoulders with acquaintances of this blog – both Ukrainian and foreign.)

The rise to power of President Yanukovych naturally suited Mr Novinsky’s ideology far more than did President Yushenko’s.  Mr Novinsky already close to “The Family” due to business arrangements with Mr Akhmetov quickly went into business with Alexander Yanukovych with several ventures.  It is during this period that the alleged offences of unlawful imprisonment of a member of the Orthodox clergy occurred for which he is now under investigation.  It is also stated that aside from the alleged crime, the goal was to change the leadership of the Orthodoxy in Ukraine and in this he (apparently) played a robust role.

Since then Mr Novinsky has continued his support of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Moscow Patriarchy zealously whilst allegedly simultaneously continuing to exert pressure (and it is also alleged threats) toward the Kyiv Patriarchy.  Indeed, it is no secret that Mr Novinsky was significant in the organisation and financing of what was widely perceived as a Kremlin influence operation during a “peace march” by the Moscow Patriarchy for the celebrations for the baptism of Vladymyr in July.

More locally for Odessa, he is also supposed to be part/”supportive” of the “Odessa Network” of politicians (and a few businessmen) with what are for many constituents particularly questionable definitions of patriotism.

Considering his nationality of birth, circumstances surrounding the evolution of his business career and the 3 wise men that nurtured it from the Russian oligarchy, political and mafia classes, Mr Novinsky is unquestionably trusted far more by The Kremlin, and the wider Russian political, business, religious and organsied criminal classes than the usual suspects such as Messrs Medvedchuk and Firtash – despite their robust connections.

A cynical reader, as well as a few counterintelligence bods, will by now perhaps be questioning the true role of Mr Novinsky, and whether Mr Novinsky is an independent actor with agency – or something else operating for “others”?  Was he in fact propelled into Ukraine quite deliberately so swiftly after it became independent with the long game task of getting access to the body of whomever is president of the day, whilst simultaneously gaining control of GDP and employment percentages within the Ukrainian economy – or has he (willingly or otherwise) simply been co-opted by The Kremlin along the way due to his access to whomever is president and his personal control over Ukrainian GDP and employment percentages – or has he simply volunteered those services, acting as an asset for The Kremlin, considering his ideological alignment?

Although it is possible to continue, the question relating to the importance of Mr Novinsky in the Ukrainian arena has probably been answered sufficiently well for a reader to draw their own conclusions.


The neverending Mriya/Dream (or nightmare) – Ukraine

October 10, 2016

This entry has bumped its way up the “should write a few lines about that” list due to further deterioration of the situation as of yesterday when yet more assets were illegally stripped from the Mriya Agro Holding entity that has become something of an international nightmare for the Ukrainian authorities – despite Mriya meaning “Dream” in Ukrainian.


Where to start this nefarious tale, and which names on the periphery to include or exclude is somewhat subjective.  What happens next is far from clear either.  Whatever the case, there will be many readers left with the perception that the authorities grip upon the rule of law, even with this high profile case involving numerous foreign investors, is more than a little questionable despite innumerable historical and very recent assurances by the authorities to pay special attention to the rights and circumstances surrounding those committing to FDI into Ukraine.

Perhaps most aggravating (aside from an absence of rule of law enforcement) is the fact that this incident is in agriculture – a sector that the Ukrainian authorities view as a leading economic sector to drive and sustain economic growth.

First however, a little historical glossary is required to bring a reader to the present day.

Sometime around 1992/1993 from within the leaderless and lawless rubble of post-Soviet Ukraine Mriya Agro Holdings was created by Ivan and Klaudia Guta.  It went on to become a major agricultural holding in Ukraine – among the top 5 in terms of land under management.

The Guta family, Ivan, Klaudia, Andrei and Mykola remained 80% majority share holders even after a successful IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2008.

Investors such as BNP Paribas SA, Credit Agricole SA and UniCredit SpA, while bondholders include Argentem Creek Partners, CarVal Investors, DuPont Capital Management, Pioneer Investment Management and T. Rowe Price Group Inc piled in, the World Bank and EBRD provided loans for expansion.  Why not?  Mriya Agro was reporting wonderful annual results ($660 million per annum) and reportedly had a truly enormous 320,000 hectares of land under management.

Quite where the due diligence was in all of this is unclear, for Mriya Agro Holdings had within its set up a number of obvious shell companies.  There is nothing wrong with shell companies per se as far as doing business in Ukraine is concerned.  Whilst they may be synonymous with tax evasion and dodgy dealings they also provide Ukrainians with multiple jurisdictions beyond the ruinously corrupted court system that can insure property rights are far from inviolable.

What reader would have left multi-million/billion dollar businesses at the mercy of a thoroughly corrupted Ukrainian judicial system where rights for such entities historically have been temporary in the hands of a suitably selected judge?  Off-shoring is akin to insurance therefore.

Suffice to say that the entirety of the Guta family were shareholders in (at least) 5 off-shore companies, including HF Asset Management Limited which owned the 80% of Mriya and which was subsequently wound up in December 2014 when the company CFO was the infamous Alexander Cherniavsky (see below).

The summer of 2014 found Ukraine with empty cupboards following the Yanukovych regime grand theft, a war with Russia, and the inevitable crash of the Ukrainian currency.  Mriya Agro Holding could no longer service its $ denominated bonds.  (The total debt portfolio across more than 20 lenders exceeded $1.2 billion.)

By December 2014 it was clear to shareholders of the 20% of Mriya not owned by the Guta family, and also Mriya’s lenders that the Agro Holding was being systematically asset stripped with assets being illegitimately re-registered (often back dated) to other companies, whilst other assets were being stolen, hidden and/or sold off with the proceeds disappearing.  A process requiring dodgy lawyers and “black notaries”.

The Guta family and the senior management left Ukraine swiftly when awkward questions began to be asked.

The remaining international shareholders were then faced with acting swiftly not only to deal with the international creditors, but also to prevent the continuing illicit stripping of Mriya Agro Holding.

It swiftly became clear that the accounts of Mriya audited by Ernst & Young (Kyiv office) were hardly a true reflection of Mriya Agro Holdings.  Aside from the ubiquitous VAT scams associated with agriculture in Ukraine, the asset stripping, fraud, accounts manipulation and cash skimming swiftly became apparent.

Indeed the 320,000 hectares of land reportedly under management turned out to be 220,000 – prior to further nefarious reductions.  In short $ hundreds of millions have been misappropriated

The minority shareholders won control over Mryia Agro Holding in the courts, struck deals the creditors, installed new management and began proceedings in Ukraine (and other jurisdictions), leading to former senior employees being declared wanted.  (Indeed Mykola Guta the former CEO had an Interpol Red Notice raised against him, currently sitting under house arrest in Switzerland.)  Legal process is underway to reclaim about 60,000 hectares of land bought with stolen cash from Mriya under the names of other companies.

Mryia Agro Holding today operates with about 180,000 hectares of agricultural land under management with a storage capacity of about 600kt.  It is now profitable, remains one of Ukraine’s largest agro-holdings, is servicing its restructured debts, has an operating capital of over $40 million, and should head to another IPO sometime around 2018 – 2020.

Bravo the much criticised legal system and law enforcement institutions of Ukraine?

Not exactly.

There have been recent “raider” attacks involving companies in one way or another related to the old Mriya management – FID Global Ltd, Global Health FID, FID Global LLC, Dream Leasing, OOO Bud M Haulage, OOO Bud M ATP, Global Feed Ltd etc.

Over the past month the following has occurred – 21st September 2016, the Kyiv Appeal Court lifted a freezing order on 142 units of agricultural equipment worth around $3 million that was illegally removed from the company by the previous management of Mriya when they defaulted on their debt obligations in August 2014.

The Appeal Court’s decision overturned the freezing order imposed by the Pechersk District Court on  July 6th 2016 as part of the main criminal case against Mriya’s previous management and owners.  That freezing order had returned the equipment to Mriya under its current management.

On October 4th, the former management began removing the equipment from a Mriya storage site and did once again on 10th October 2016 (prompting this “should write about one day” entry).

In response to the Appeal Court’s decision, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) has prepared a request for a fresh freezing order. However, bureaucratic inaction by NABU is preventing SAPO’s request from going to court since NABU has (so far) not registered the fact that it is leading an investigation of/within the main criminal case against the former owners and management of Mriya.

The fact that SAPO and NABU are now involved can only mean that those individuals that fall within their legislative remit are involved.  The Category A and B public figures – the political class, judiciary, senior civil servants and SOE executives.  (The $ value of criminality certainly demands an investigation by an organisation perceived as having integrity.)

Nevertheless few such within that elite class would have the influence over the Appeal Court regarding such a highly visible on-going case with international complainants acting within a very sensitive economic sector for Ukraine.

Somebody with very serious clout is behind the above mentioned rulings less than one week ago – but who?  Undoubtedly the door to the Presidential Administration will be getting kicked down (once again) by numerous diplomats connected to the nations of shareholders and creditors – and rightly so.  Thus somebody who considers themselves “untouchable” by the Presidential Administration seems most likely to be behind the ordering of the Appeal Court decision.

Is there anybody in the Mriya Agro Holdings history capable of wielding such influence on such a sensitive case?  Do any such figures stand out from the others as having previously displayed the “right experience”?

From its inception in 1992/3, along the way the Mriya Holding certainly came into contact with numerous infamous names renowned for their less than stringent adherence to matters relating to the law.

For example, during 2003/4 it was associated with Yuri Karmazin who was something of a celebrity lawyer/parliamentarian at the time associated with questionable activities – among which land regularly featured.

Mriya’s association with Mr Karmazin seemingly came via Elena Berezhnaya, an “enabler of privatisation” granted numerous permanent and surprising legal abilities having done the “legal” for Party of Regions head office in Luhansk during post-Kuchma/pre-Orange 2004/5 elections.

Ms Berezhnaya’s daughter, Irina, miraculously found a role within the Verkhovna Rada in 2002 as an “assistant adviser to Yuri Karmazin and headed the Verkhovna Rada Sub-Committee for Synchronisation of Legislation in Ukraine.

While Elena Berezhnaya stayed in Luhansk and built a dubious but exceptionally profitable legal practice, her daughter Irena became something of a star within the Verkhovna Rada.  That stardom was not founded upon her legal qualifications or wily understanding of legislature, but rather that she was the first to bring cleavage to the VR coliseum, the first to bring tits to the theatre of the absurd, the first to bring admirably presented bare bosom to the most elite and feckless business club of Ukraine.

Irina Berezhnaya

Irina Berezhnaya

In short, womanliness was first displayed through fashionable “working apparel” within the corridors and halls of the Verkhovna Rada by Irina Berezhnaya, where conservative female dress code had otherwise prevailed.

To be honest, even as a “leg man”, the 2002 (onward) daily fun-pillow displays Irena presented to parliamentarians certainly caught the eye.  However, neither association with the then power of Mr Karmazin, nor Irena’s rather splendid boobs were her only attractions.  She was also associated with a very dubious notary service (black notary service) called Astra-Service.

By 2004 the illicit practices of this dubious (black) notary service had acquired clients such as VAB Bank, Ukrsotsbank and Mriya Agro Holdings.  To be blunt, such a notary service is rather useful when it comes to acquiring agricultural land rights by hook or by crook.

In 2006 Mr Karmazin lost his parliamentary position and was duly traded in by Irena Berezhnaya for one of Ukraine’s most infamous characters, Boris Fouksman.

Mr Fouksman is long (and strongly) rumoured to have made a fortune smuggling antiques and icons out of the USSR prior to its collapse, for having been involved in gun-running and having close Russian mafia connections – notwithstanding significant influence within Party of Regions at the time.

It therefore follows that the buxom Ms Berezhnaya became a Party of Regions Deputy within the Verkhovna Rada in 2007 under such patronage (collecting numerous honours and awards along the way both within Ukraine and an Honorary Professorship from the International University of Economics Vienna), until 2014 and the aftermath of the Yanukovych regime flight whereby she lost her parliamentary mandate.

It is rumoured that the daughter of Irena Berezhnaya is fathered by Boris Fouksman – though this has not been confirmed or denied.  The godfather of the child is known – the almost universally despised Nester Shufrych.

During her parliamentary period Ms Berezhnaya became “known” for supporting “raids” on corporate entities – for example Tochmash and Sinbias Pharma among several that had dealings with VAB Bank (behind which sat Boris Fouksman).  VAB Bank being one of the first VIP clients of Ms Berezhnaya’s (black) notary service Astra-Service along with Mriya Agro Holding.

Since losing her Deputy’s immunity, she has, perhaps unsurprisingly, having facilitated so much nefarious activity within the elites, not been subjected to any repercussions as far as the rule of law is concerned.  No doubt “insurance policies” of historical transactions exist should she fall under the eye of the law.

She is however, hardly powerful enough to have caused the latest Appeal Court judgement.

What seems most prominent in the history of Mriya Agro Holdings prior to its unsavory revelations of 2014 is the very short term appointment of the infamous Alexander Cherniavsky as CFO between September to December 2014 – the time when Mriya Agro Holdings then defaulted on $1.2 billion of bonds and land and assets where illegally re-registered in alternative company names.

Mr Chernaivsky is associated with Rinat Akhmetov, Sergei Liovochkin and Artem Ershov and in particular to the dodgy dealings surrounding the purchasing of Ukrtelecom many years ago.

A reader may possibly perceive that Mr Chernaivsky was deliberately installed for a specific (and nefarious) purpose considering such a short tenure as CFO and what occurred during that time.  Questions perhaps regarding Mriya’s interaction with Rinat Akhmetov’s FUIB bank may be asked?  (Rumours also circulate regarding Alpha Bank involvement.)

Is Mr Akhmetov the “untouchable”?  If a reader believes that the occupied Donbas will return to Ukrainian control, then it will surely be stewarded by Rinat Akhmentov as the biggest employer in that region.

That said, the vast majority of illicit money channels from scams and schemes did not flee with the Yanukovych regime.  The names of the end recipients simply changed.  Some of those surrounding President Poroshenko have hardly displayed morality or integrity since he came to power.  It is well within the realms of possibility (maybe even probability) that for a large enough fee, the desired Appeal Court decision would be reached upon their nod despite serious and numerous negative implications for the Ukrainian State.

Whether a Ukrainian journalist will attempt to find out the puppeteer behind the Appeal Court ruling, or ascertain exactly who among the ruling elite is playing “roof” for the Guta family and their on-going schemes remains to be seen.  Perhaps in the next few days a name will become apparent.

In the meantime international shareholders and investors continue to get shafted in Ukraine despite favourable court rulings and the instigation of criminal proceedings, whilst criminal proceedings and court rulings thus far have put nobody in jail almost 2 years after they were instigated.


Appeals for the SBU to investigate former Governor Skoryk -2014 events

August 25, 2016

A few days ago Ukraine released audio intercepts of telephone calls between Sergey Glazyev, Krill Frolov and others plotting and scheming the undermining of Ukraine in 2014.

That Sergey Glazyev was a leading figure at the time is hardly a surprise.  Indeed, in an essay written in 2014 by this blog for Routledge/Taylor-Francis with the imaginative title “The Separatist Movements In Eastern Ukraine And Their Association With Russian State Structures”, Mr Glazyev was mentioned within the text of the very first page.  (The essay is unfortunately copyright to the publisher so a reader is forced to buy the weighty tome in which it appears or find it at their website.)

More than two years later, there was no revelation to be found within the released intercepts – the timing of the release perhaps having far more to do with preparatory framing prior to the G20 Summit and influencing any “sidelines/fringes” tête-à-tête that may occur.

Nevertheless the telephone intercepts whilst breaking no new ground or providing no previously unknown information have prompted a reaction in Odessa.

Without going into unnecessary detail the telephone conversations released, and the parts that specifically related to Odessa, have reminded certain parties that the pro-Kremlin elements of the political class in 2014 (and currently) have yet to be held to account for their actions in any way whatsoever – for example be it Kivalov for his titushki and anti-Maidan entities, or the actions of then Governor Mykola Skoryk – the latter being the subject of this entry.  Suffice to say that with both being parliamentarians and thus enjoying impunity and immunity, whilst generally ignored by the local constituency, and the constituency generally ignored by them, little else has happened.  Only occasionally when one or both make a statement that is perceived as a call for separatism – such as promoting the “Odessa Free Port/Porto Franco Operation” both attempted to create in 2014, and still attempt to achieve  post arrival of President Poroshenko.

That Odessa would benefit from a Porto Franco regime/Special Economic Zone status is quite likely – but there are porto franco/SEZs such as Copenhagen or Southampton etc fully under the control of the State., and then there are porto nfranco/SEZs such as those proposed by Messrs Kivalov, Skoryk and Pressman that equate to nothing less than a federal, almost autonomous region.  It is perhaps only because it is these untrustworthy individuals proposing such a scheme that it has not gained traction with a local constituency that is known for being mercantile.

Within the 2014 telephone intercepts released, Mr Glazyev laid down some ground rules to create the necessary smoke and mirrors for Kremlin support – including regional oblast building seizures and votes favourable to the Kremlin narrative.

Mykola Skoryk

Mykola Skoryk

Unsurprisingly former Governor Skoryk indeed called an extraordinary meeting of the Regional Council per the Kremlin play book with a single issue for deliberation – a “State of the Union” styled debate.  A debate entirely beyond the competency of both then Governor Skoryk or the authority of the Regional Council.  Fortunately then Governor Skoryk and the Kremlin play book failed to find a particularly willing or compliant Regional Council.

It appears that what was already known, but is now publicly available as of a few days ago “from the horses mouth” so to speak, has reinvigorated both public and political ire toward Mykola Skoryk – quite rightly.

Skoryk 1

Skoryk 2

An official appeal to the SBU to investigate former-Governor Skoryk’s actions leading up to, and of that March 2014 extraordinary meeting, has been requested – and not before time – but unfortunately it does not go far enough, for Mr Skoryk’s grievous actions against the interests of the Ukrainian State did not end with the failed outcome of that extraordinary meeting in March 2014.

As has been inferred quite heavily in several historical entries, Mr Skoryk has much more to answer for than that – his actions in the lead up to the 2nd May 2014 tragedy are not insignificant.  Those actions are no doubt under investigation now there is a renewed vigour to be found by those investigating that tragic event and the circumstances surrounding it.  Indeed there are several investigations regarding that event but there are questions looming large over their integrity and diligence (notwithstanding timeliness – or lack thereof).

Thus perhaps it would prove to be wise to include that period in any SBU investigation into the actions of former-Governor Skoryk too.

Having written all this, a reader is naturally pondering, when the Ukrainian authorities have obviously had the intercepts since the telephone conversations occurred in 2014, why has no SBU investigation into Mr Skoryk occurred before?  His actions, his affiliations, and his loyalties are all well known in Odessa – as are his business interests and those interests that he manages for others (Messrs Firtash and Lyovochkin) in the region.

It will be interesting to see whether the SBU will pick up the gauntlet officially thrown before it – and if it does, just how diligent that investigation will be.


Zhittya – Rabinovych rebrands

July 27, 2016

In mid-May an entry appeared relating to the less than harmonious departure of Vadim Rabinovych and his “Centre Party” which formed part of, and exited the Oppo Block Party.  Indeed to say it was less than harmonious is to be charitable, with Mr Rabinovych and Mykola Skoryk trading very public, barbed and acrimonious statements.

The “Centre Party” is now no more.  It was renamed and re-branded on 26th July.  It is now called Zhittya (meaning Life in Ukrainian).

The “new” (renamed) political entity will pursue a platform of a neutral Ukraine with pragmatic relations with its neighbours, focusing upon transforming the national economy to one led by agriculture, IT/Hi-Tech, and banking – which is very much the transitional economic trajectory Ukraine is already on.  Ergo no change in the priorities for economic and market development.

The usual declarations of a serious fight against corruption, the defence of human rights, and a splash of populism regarding “extortionate rates” are needless to say also part of the party manifesto and rhetoric.

The party will also court the SME and entrepreneurial votes that are definitely the target demographic of the Dem Alliance and Khvylya too.  It will be a very congested contest for this demographic it seems, and despite the fact that Mr Rabinovich is a sly, prickly, entertaining, certainly not stupid, long-standing politician, it is somewhat questionable as to whether he will gather significant traction within his target voter base.


He is wealthy, but not wealthy enough to finance and promote a new/re-branded political party.  Thus this is either a particularly brave political move, which is doubtful for a politician as long in the tooth as he, or a backer for the Zhittya Party has been secured with sufficient money and influence to promote the party in a forthcoming election that will feature several new and/or invigorated parties.

Mr Rabinovych has already been joined by another (until 3rd June when he left) Oppo Block faction parliamentarian, Evgen Muraev, owner of NewsOne media, who arrived in parliament as an independent.  However, even together it seems unlikely they can fund an effective political campaign without further backing from somewhere, or somebody (probably from behind the curtain).

How many parliamentarians are Zhittya expecting/hoping to have elected when the next elections arrive?  Which seats will it contest, for it is unlikely to pass the 5% proportional representation threshold if standing and financing entirely unsupported by “others”.

If reduced to single seat mandates its electoral successes will be very limited indeed even if its energy draws several frustrated Oppo Block parliamentarians to it who are tired of doing very little in the comatose ranks of the Oppo Block.

Whatever the case its chances of implementing any of its declared political manifesto are naturally zero if alone, and extremely limited as part of a larger vehicle unless there is policy overlap.

Therefore, to which political faction would it gravitate and join?  Will it return to the Oppo Block Party fold as a constituent part despite a fairly fractious recent history – or the more encompassing yet looser association of the Oppo Block faction  – or will Mr Rabinovych head away from his traditional “Regionaires” comfort zone?

Numerous ex-regionaires  feature in Nash Krai.  They also do within Block Poroshenko.  Potential political faction resting places perhaps?  Nash Krai would seem the most obvious alternative to the Oppo Block, but would they want Zhittya and Mr Rabinovych even if he wanted them?

Maybe the issue has already been sorted out prior to the re-branding and it will be from these unknown quarters that sufficient electoral funds and backing will come – with faction membership following thereafter.

Whatever the case, it is always rather fun, albeit occasionally a distasteful experience,  to follow the exploits of Mr Rabinovych – perhaps more so now he will wish to give Zhittya a bit of a PR lift post re-branding.


Mid-term election results Ukraine – What do they mean?

July 21, 2016

It is perhaps time, now that all of last week’s 7 mid-term election results have been declared in Ukraine, to ponder what, if anything, the election results reflect.

Who are the winners, and who are the losers in the big, and perhaps slightly nefarious and opaque picture?

Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party took two of the 7 contests seats, and thus have two more parliamentarians within the Verkhovna Rada.  Not enough to make any difference to party successes – or more accurately stated party failures – within the current Verkhovna Rada.

Alone, and outside the majority coalition it remains an impotent political force within the national legislature, with few other “democratic opposition” parties keen to ally with Yulia Tymoshenko, or alternatively, with Yulia Tymoshenko unwilling to ally with other “democratic opposition” parties.

The result does however, perhaps point to a significant improvement in the Batkivshchyna Party fortunes as and when the next Verkhovna Rada elections occur (be they early or scheduled in nature).  Nevertheless, there would be few genuinely willing political parties keen to join a coalition under Yulia Tymoshenko coming out of the other side of any forthcoming Verkhovna Rada elections.  There is far more to Ukrainian politics than simply winning parliamentary seats – successful coalition building is a requirement on the way to power.

A win for Batkivshchyna, though perhaps of limited current or future use.  What it will do is increase the on-going efforts of Batkivshchyna centre, to find and market future regional candidates early via the party provincial offices.

It was, if not a prima facie good result for the Presidential Administration and presidential parliamentary party, not an especially bad result either.

Irina Konstankevich and Victor Shevchenko, winners in Volyn and Carpathia, regardless of the party label under which they were elected are very close to people who are very close to Ihor Kolomoiski.

So small is the current coalition majority within the existing Verkhovna Rada, it has become apparent that when votes that really matter occur, the Kolomoisky backed “Will of the People” often vote along coalition lines – even if his other political parties and “owned/rented” parliamentarians don’t.

The inference being a grubby deal has struck between President Poroshenko and Mr Kolomoisky behind the curtain to provide “enough” votes when it truly matters.  A reader can only speculate upon the exact nature and scope regarding the reward Mr Kolomoisky gets in return.

Ergo, there will be few that will be surprised if these new, closely Kolomoisky associated parliamentarians vote with the government on crucial issues per grubby Poroshenko-Kolomoisky deals behind the curtain.

Thus far, Ms Tymoshenko is up 2, Ihor Kolomoisky is up 2, and President Poroshenko can perhaps borrow 2 under certain conditions.

Maksym Mykytas and Tetyana Rychkova also won seats running as “independents” with perhaps more than the tacit backing of the Presidential Administration – a clear indication of where their vote will go far more often than not.

Further, Serhiy Shakhov of Nash Krai took Luhansk.  Nash Krai was created by the Presidential Administration as a party of ex-Regionaires that will be reasonably supportive, take the presidential line on crucial votes, and is also a party created to split the old Party of Regions voter base with the intention of preventing it consolidating behind the “Opposition Block” that limply crawled from the ashes of Party of Regions immediately following the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych.

In short, if not by transparent hook, then by an opaque and perhaps grubby hook, the president and his party have not done badly at all.  Through smoke and mirrors they are up 3, with the possibility of borrowing 2 in a crisis.

Which brings about the losers,

The unambiguous loser has been the Opposition Block who traditionally could have expected to win 3 of the regional seats up for grabs where they historically held very safe seats in the nation’s south and east as the former Party of Regions.

Indeed these elections are perhaps most notable not for the electoral gains, be those gains direct or indirect, nor for any shift in power within the national legislature, but for the loses within traditional Party of Regions/Opposition Block political turf.


Opposition Block therefore, perhaps can be perceived to be down 3 – and remain toxic.


Klyuev loses immunity – Start counting the technicalities

June 4, 2015

A few days ago this entry was published regarding the possibility of stripping Sergei Klyuev of his parliamentary immunity, thus allowing for criminal proceedings against him – The whys, whats, and wherefores regarding the alleged criminality can be found in that link.

Today, a day later than anticipated, the Rada voted with 287 votes in favour of stripping that immunity.

Procedural shenanigans within the Rada Committee were not allowed to prevent the Rada vote as it had done the day before.  Whether riding roughshod over the Rada Committee procedures will be cause for an escape via a legal/procedural technicality remains to be seen.

Acknowledging the Rada managed to find the political will to strip Mr Klyuev’s immunity (despite the best efforts of two of the relevant Rada Committee members trying to prevent a vote in the Rada hall), this entry looks more at what happened next.

Mr Klyuev then tried to board a plane to Austria – Vienna to be exact.

Vienna is a natural place to go for corrupt ex-Regionaires when the sky is falling in upon them.  After all, many (Yanukovych, Azarov, Firtash, Klimov etc) all own rather splendid properties there.  Indeed, if London became Moscow-On-Thames, then Vienna became Regionaires-On-Wien.

It may be, following Austria’s decision not to extradite Mr Firtash to the USA, Mr Klyuev fancied his chances of disappearing there and not being extradited back to Ukraine citing “political persecution”.  It is after all, a Ukrainian tradition for politicians finding themselves in a dark hole, to either suddenly fall ill, go to hospital to avoid arrest and then disappear into the night, or simply flee and hide behind extradition proceedings.

It may also be, as Mr Klyuev stated when prevented from boarding the plane at Kyiv, that “he wanted to fly to Vienna to meet with his (or Mr Firtash’s expensive team?) lawyers and offer an official explanation to EU officials on the eve of their considerations regarding the extension of the sanctions imposed against him.  Those deliberations occurring on 5th June in Brussels.

The issue here is whether there was any legal grounds/authority to prevent his leaving the country?

He claims no official preventative measures have been imposed upon his movements. “This is an illegal ban on leaving the country denying me the right of protection and opportunity to convey my position to the authorities of the EU about my persecution in Ukraine.”

Were any legal preventative measures officially imposed on Mr Klyuev restricting his movements.  Has a Ukrainian court imposed any?  Certainly they didn’t prior to his immunity being stripped, for he had, until that moment, immunity (and thus impunity).  Did one do so in the hour or so between his immunity being removed and his attempt to board a plane to Vienna?  If so, was he represented at this court hearing and a defence case made not to restrict his movements?  It seems rather unlikely he would not have a lawyer (or ten) trying to prevent restrictions on his movements at any court hearing.

Thus, is the restriction of his movement by the Ukrainian Border Service illegal (even if understandable)?  Justification is not, and will never be, legitimisation.  Rule of law is rule of law – no matter how tedious and/or problematic it may be for The State to adhere to.  It is a lesson that Ukraine must learn, particularly if it wants to thoroughly and genuinely integrate with Europe.  Short cuts and expediency have legal consequence before an independent judiciary and public perception.

With all due process, and especially high profile cases with defendants that possess vast wealth for an army of top quality legal representatives, doing things by the statute book to the very letter of the law is an absolute necessity.  Technicalities matter – no matter how burdensome upon the State they may be.  It is through technicalities that many a guilty party has walked free from many a European court.

In the case of Mr Klyuev, we can perhaps already begin to count the technicalities upon which even an honest and ethical Ukrainian judge would have “issues” – and that number of technicalities is likely to snowball considering the mess that is Ukrainian legislation.

The Ukrainian State may “blow it” before Mr Klyuev even walks through a courtroom door by no more than an expedient/negligent lack of attention to due process.


Partisan local media – What does it tell us? Odessa

September 15, 2014

A few days ago, this entry about IT belatedly rearing its head within the Odessa Regional Administration, contained this penultimate paragraph:

“Who knows, perhaps an increase in quality regional soft power may also result, helping to negate some of the partisan local media and set an example for the snake-pit that remains Odessa City Hall.”

It raised several emailed questions about the partisanship of the Odessa media.  It therefore means an answer is required.  The obvious answer to the question “Partisan local media – What does it tell us?”, is “whatever it wants to”.  But who decides that?  Owners or editors, or the market place?

To cover every Odessa media outlet on TV, radio or on-line would be an entry of exceptional length.  Therefore apologies to Glass, Plus, Grad, and a dozen others that fail to get a mention, but this entry is not so much a local media review, but a local media review with a point – a few lines on the bigger, and/or more partisan local media players follows in an effort to answer the question posed.

However, first a necessary disclaimer to state that many of the names below listed on either side of the political line are known personally to the blog.

The Dumskaya website and TV station are owned by the newly elected head of Odessa Regional Administration, Alexie Goncharenko, with Editor-In-Chief being Oleg Konstantinov.  Since Mr Goncharenko left the Party of Regions just prior to the killings began at EuroMaidan in Kyiv, the media line is generally pro-Ukraine and naturally caters to the populist side of Mr Goncharenko that can rear its head from time to time.

Trassa E-95 up until the fall of former President Yanukovych was distinctly anti-Maidan.  It is owned by Party of Regions MP Ivan Fursin with Aleksey Silino as Editor-in-Chief.  Since the fall of the Yanukovych regime, this media outlet has become much more centralist in its coverage – most of the time.

Sergie Kivalov, well known Party of Regions MP for many years, currently the Primorsky Rayon MP for Odessa, and personal friend of Viktor Yanukovych is probably deserving of the longest chapter in these summaries.  Firstly he owns the Reporter website and television station.  Reporter holds a distinctly, but not rabidly, pro-Russia position.  It consistently carried an anti-Maidan line and also a “Republic of Odessa” theme for some time.  It takes pains not to go after the Odessa City authorities or political personalities within however, and does report the daily unremarkable Odessite life with some neutrality.   Within the Reporter stable of media outlets are Third Digital radio, Mayak Odessa, the Word newspaper, all of which were pro-Russia and were anti-Maidan at the time.  Then there is Academia TV.  Academia TV is predominantly charged with raising – and rehabilitating when necessary – the profile of Mr Kivalov in his role as Rector of the Odessa Academy of Law as well as his well know philanthropic activity.  Due to this being main purpose of Academia TV, it is generally neutral and stays clear of politics in general.  On the whole, all of Mr Kivalov’s media is broadly pro-Russia, or pro-Kivalov.

Unaffiliated to any major politicians from Odessa is – a site that generally has much more to do with marketing and sales than politics or news, but nonetheless does carry both.  What it does carry is generally pro-Ukrainian.  A reasonable readership due to its core function of sales and marketing.

The next stable of media outlets belong to Igor Markov, leader of the pro-Russia Rodina Party, with Editor-in-Chief Yuri Tkachev at the helm.  The main outlets are Timer media and Art TV.  Thoroughly pro-Russia and pro-separatist.

There is some mystery surrounding the ownership of Info-centre Odessa – it is unclear whether it belongs to Igor Markov, or his brother Oleg.  Hence it was not lumped in with the pro-Russia and pro-Separatist outlets already proscribed to Igor Markov above.  It has, unsurprisingly the same robust pro-Russia, pro-Separatist platform.

There is no ambiguity over the ownership of Otkat which is owned by Oleg Markov.  Otkat however is not a rabid pro-Russia or pro-Separatist and concentrates its ire on the Odessa City and Regional Administrations, and in particular on The current Mayor, Regional Governor and Sergie Kivalov.  Indeed, the outlet represents a falling out of the pro-Russia political class in Odessa with brothers Markov gunning for the others within the editorial parameters of Otkat. is very much pro-Ukrainian and run by EuroMaidan-centric people.

A-political is Odessa Life.  It is very much a local issue outlet generally staying clear of political scandals, intrigue and back-room dealings.  Generally pro-Ukrainian bias if there is any notable bias at all.

Whether Hrabro counts as a media outlet in the same terms as those aforementioned, or those yet to come, is somewhat debatable.  It has a blog-like appearance and is owned by wannabe politician and well known businessman Vadim Cherniy.  It is critical of both previous and current political leaderships.  On the whole, it is pro-Ukrainian.  There are some nasty but unsubstantiated rumours surrounding the activities of some of its staff however, regarding the information the outlet publishes – or more specifically that information that does not make publishing due to financial settlement.

Pro-Eduard Gurvitz, the ex-Mayor of Odessa and current UDAR MP, is All News Odessa and the position is pro-Ukraine.  Even more blatant is View from Odessa in its ownership by Mr Gurvitz and bias, of which Editor in Chief, Igor Stolyarov makes no attempt to mask.  It is critical of the Odessa Regional Governor and current Mayor often in excess, reflecting personal grudges.

Staying with the subject of Odessa Mayors, is owned by the ex Party of Regions MP and current Mayor of Odessa, Gennady Truhanov.  Mr Truhanov is something of a “forceful” businessman, who back in the 1990s was in business with the Odessa mafia godfather Alexander “Angel” Angert, remaining friends with him to this day by his own admission.  Odessit was antiMaidan, pro-Russia and pro-Separatist until May when Mr Truhanov ran for and then became Mayor.  Unsurprisingly when running for and then becoming Mayor of a pro-Ukraine city, Editor-in-Chief Vitaliy Atanasov swiftly changed the editorial stance to one of neutrality. is owned by ex Party Regions members Nikolai Skoryk and Sergei Grinevetsky.  It makes a valiant attempt – or appears to give the facade of doing so – regarding neutrality.  However it carries far too many messages and statements of ex-Party of Regions functionaries to pull it off convincingly.  Messrs  Skoryk, Grinevetsky and Tigipko feature far too heavily.

Pro-Ukrainian Vikna Odessa, edited by Eugene Volokin has always been pro-reformist in nature and remains so.  It is not owned by any political figure.

Well known civic activist Leonid Stekel is editor-in-chief of the pro-Ukrainian Odessa Daily, whilst Peter Galchanskogo’s Odessa Media, tries to hold the neutral line – occasionally failing.  Moderately pro-Ukrainian is Volnorez, edited by Vladimir Grebenyak, is balanced by the moderately separatist Rupor Odessa owned by MP Anton Cisse.  Rupor Odessa tends to deal with urban issues rather than big politics.  A little more forceful in the pro-Russia media is another outlet owned by Anton Cisse, Topor.  As something of an aside, Mr Cisse appears to have the support of the ethnic Bulgarian community in Odessa.

Batkivshchyna Party MP Gennady Chekite owns Pora Gavorite – a vehicle for Gennady Chekite and Batkivshchyna.  Little else.  Pro Ukrainian if you consider the Batkivshchyna Party good for Ukraine.

Vedomosti is something of a strange entity that began as little more than an anti-Regional Governor entity – perhaps indicating that the previously removed regional governor – Nikolay  Skoryk is financing – or not.  Mostly neutral with occasional pro-Russia tendencies.

So what does all that outline – aside from the fact that historically most major local media outlets are/were owned by Party Regions members past or present?

Clearly, for those such as Alexie Goncharenko, there is no moving to the pro-Russia fold.  It would be impossible to undo populist actions such as sneaking into occupied Crimea and unfurling a huge flag of Ukraine atop a mountain for the cameras, anymore than he could delete being the Odessa campaign chief for President Poroshenko.

Otkat identifies the clear and on-going split between the pro-Russia politicians Kivalov and Truhanov from the brothers Markov that occurred during the May national and regional elections.  Kivalov and Truhanov retaining the most overt public offices have notably toned down their pro-Russia, pro-Separatist media mouthpieces.  Anton Cisse media outlets retain only a mild pro-Russia stance.

In short, since Odessa became draped in the yellow and blue of Ukraine, be it ribbons tied to thousands of womens handbags, trisub T shirts, flags adorning windows and cars, shop fronts and restaurants etc – those holding prominent public office, despite their on-going personal pro-Russia beliefs, have necessarily accommodated the mood of the city in their public rhetoric and actions both directly and via their media outlets.  In some cases a rather dramatic editorial change occurred.

A number of independent pro-Ukraine media outlets have also appeared and gained media ground.

Very good, but what will it tell us in the future – particularly in respect of the media owned by Cisse, Tryhanov and Kivalov?

Though many commentators on Ukraine look toward Kremlin military aggression when it comes to Odessa, considering the number of (now somewhat more privately) political appointees currently holding office in the city  that are personally pro-Russia, and/or pro-Separatist, and/or pro-federalist, a covert political assault seems more likely.

It would seem obvious that if or when this begins to actively occur, the pro-Russia rhetoric from the relevant media outlets will begin to grow noticeably louder once more, prior to any of these men overtly coming out once again with their personal pro-Russia biases.   How long it will be before any covert political assault begins is an open question.  Currently it is clear that the public mood would not accommodate any such political shift whatsoever – even if plans have already been made, or personal agreements entered into with The Kremlin.

Will it be six months?  A year?  Maybe two, before the rhetoric returns?  Or will the public mood remain so robustly pro-Ukrainian that the only thing to follow any such political shift is political suicide?  Was the public mood ever in question to anybody other than those who tried to question it?

Whatever the case, the partisan plurality of the Odessa media is laid out above for those that wanted to know – as well as identifying a few potential bellwethers of political change should it try to manifest.  It ranges from the anti this or that, through neutrality (more or less), to the pro this or that.

In a nation State that is attempting to become a consolidated democracy, not a bad thing.  A bad thing is to suddenly clamp down and stop the media that is anti-government after all, – Russia, Turkey or Hungary for example.  The same is true of cities such as Odessa within that nation State.

As long as these media outlets play within the rules, they should be allowed to continue to broadcast their particular framing of events, allowing readers to accept or dismiss their prose, mindful of the European Court of Human Rights ruling “… tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance…..the Court is also careful to make a distinction in its findings between, on the one hand, genuine and serious incitement to extremism and, on the other hand, the right of individuals (including journalists and politicians) to express their views freely and to offend, shock or disturb others.”

(Chamber judgment Erbakan v. Turkey, no. 59405/00, § 56, 6.07.2006)

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