Archive for the ‘Yatseniuk’ Category


Yatseniuk resigns as Prime Minister (cue Groisman)

April 10, 2016

Entirely unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Yatseniuk announced his resignation from the post on Sunday 10th April – on cue.

As this blog tweeted last week:


On 7th April the blog received confirmation from those same people behind the Odessa curtain that Prime Minister Yatseniuk would resign (officially) on 12th April.  He has now announced that intention.


Absolutely no surprise to quite a few, for it has been a fairly poorly kept secret.

For those pondering his replacement, it will be the current Verkhovna Rada Speaker and President Poroshenko prodigy, Volodymyr Groisman – 100%.  It has been his future role for at least the past 3 weeks, despite any rumours surrounding Natalie Jaresko.

For those that do not closely follow Ukrainian politics, effectively Ms Jaresko ruled herself out when stating she would only lead a technocratic government – for there will be snowballs in hell before a purely technocratic government leads Ukraine.

Ergo between the lines that statement not only ruled herself out of the PM race, but also makes it particularly difficult to continue as Finance Minister in a Cabinet of Ministers that is anything other than technocratic.  If she would only lead a technocratic government, why would she remain part of a government that clearly will not be?  The Ivy League lecture circuit awaits perhaps?

Indeed the composition of the new Cabinet of Ministers is also known – at least to this blog (and probably quite a few others – barring last minute changes that could derail the whole thing of course).  Unfortunately readers will have to wait for its official unveiling, or leaking elsewhere, for that composition was conveyed in the strictest of confidences.

Nevertheless, almost all was settled by 7th April – settled other than the issue of sorting out money among the odious shenanigans behind the curtain that is.  That issue is now almost entirely settled too.  Hence Prime Minister Yatseniuk announcing his resignation per the Grey Cardinal script(ure).


Volodymyr Groisman will become (the second Jewish) Prime Minister of Ukraine very, very soon.  (For the sake of interest, Ukraine’s oldest serving MP Yukhym Zvyahilsky was the first Jewish PM).  He is actually very competent.  A good listener, a good negotiator and generally a fairly decent man.  His main drawback is being seen as the President’s prodigy.  That said, because of that perception, lack of reforms henceforth will clearly be laid at the presidential door, with little wiggle room to explain failure.

The new perception

The new perception

Needless to say, Mr Groisman and his new Cabinet will enjoy some Verkhovna Rada support – initially.  Ukraine will need to make the most of this support and spurt along the reform path before the dysfunctional norm returns within the walls of the Verkhovna Rada.

Ms Tymoshenko is clearly already in electioneering mode and will not hold off with her populist political flapdoodle for very long.  Nevertheless, she will tone down the rhetoric briefly for the sake of political appearances.

Assuredly Prime Minister Groisman and Cabinet will have a minimum of 6 months before they can face a vote of no confidence.  His Cabinet may last 12 months – seeing Ukraine through to the other side of the Brexit referendum, US elections, and perhaps it may last long enough to get beyond ballots in Germany and France too.  If so that would be a good result.  However, it seems very unlikely that his time as PM or the new Cabinet will last until the end of this full parliamentary term.

Ergo, it is hoped that there are clear priorities for what will be a limited window of reformist opportunity.  Undoubtedly Prime Minster Groisman (when he takes office), his new Cabinet (when announced) the new (slim) majority coalition, and “external supporters” of Ukraine have priorities that align fairly well – if not exactly.

Mr Groisman’s challenge is to get civil society back on board, continue a good relationship with “external supporters”, and get as much reform accomplished as is practicable (and sensible) within 12 months (if he, his Cabinet and a new coalition lasts that long).

There will probably be a fair bit of “good news” emitting from Ukraine after several weeks of “bad news” in the immediate months ahead.  The road will however remain long, winding and bumpy.  There will still be backward steps occasionally.  Early elections still remain highly likely at the time of writing.  Nevertheless, progress there will (once again) be.

All eyes will now be upon who is in the new Cabinet of Ministers (expect those of this blog for reasons stated above).

The appointment that this blog is looking at is that of the next Prosecutor General, for reform within the PGO in parallel to PM Groisman and a new Cabinet moving things along, may just prolong the lifespan of both and mitigate against early elections.

The question is whether President Poroshenko will nominate a Prosecutor General that will serve both the public and assist his prodigy as Prime Minister – rather than another chained, loyal, Presidential dog.

(As for Arseney Yatseniuk, having been allowed to leave head held high, he can rehabilitate and reinvent himself concentrating on policy without having to defend vested interests.  A squeeze on Kolomoisky and Akhmetov to follow?)


Circling the ethical toilet bowl of Ukrainian politics – BPP

March 27, 2016

Following on seamlessly from yesterday’s entry regarding the Verkhovna Rada and President Poroshenko resorting to the passage of democracy affronting legislation to correct party political errors of the recent past for the sake of expediency, another day seemingly brings another circling of the toilet bowl of Block Poroshenko/Solidarity Party ethics.

Having successfully managed to remove Andrei Bogdan (the immediate political problem) together with Malovatskoho, Malashenkovoyi, Ryabykina, Vovk, Friedman, Raupova, Ilyashenka, Tarasovtsya, Revenko, Byedovoho, Leshyka and Velimovskoho from the official and CEC recognised party list under the presidential flag on 26th March, the Poroshenko faction is also seeking to employ an obscure, and never before used constitutional party/faction “loyalty Article” – presumably Article 81 of the Constitution of Ukraine – to rid itself of two troublesome MPs within its faction.

The two MPs in question, the experienced Mykola Tomenko and novice Igor Firsov have seen their faction vote to remove their mandates and have them replaced.  Their political sins are not rolling over for the Party Whip, being rather too vocal about the lack of action against corruption, and for actually highlighting corruption and naming names.

A reader may rightly ponder just how long reformist, anti-corruption, and democracy advocates such as Mustafa Nayem, Serhiy Leshchenko (and numerous others of similar ideology and moral fortitude) can continue to remain within the Block Poroshenko faction and retain their integrity and perceived moral high ground.  Clearly it seems that removing them in a similar manner to Messrs Tomenko and Firsov is currently seen as far too problematic given their high domestic and international profiles.  How many other morally upright and ethically sound new MPs would follow them out of Block Poroshenko if they left?  Enough to cripple the faction and party – thus perhaps forcing elections far sooner than Autumn 2016/Spring 2017?  Would it have sufficient resonance to change “western minds” regarding early Verkhovna Rada elections?

Mr Nayem et al., are no less critical of their own Block Poroshenko faction than those now subjected to the virgin use of the constitutional “faction loyalty clause”.

Indeed, Mr Nayem, having been somewhat successful when last calling the Ukrainian people to the streets in Autumn 2013, has once again called for them to demonstrate on 28th March demanding the removal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin for the blatant sabotaging of reform and due process obstructionism with which he is nationally and internationally associated.

If it is difficult to see how presidential popularity will stop its increasingly swift downward trend without a genuine (rather than rhetorical) turn toward reform, it is yet harder to see how Block Poroshenko/Solidarity will survive if it continues along its current path.  The speed at which it now circles the political toilet bowl of ethics is increasing exponentially – far swifter in fact than its loss of constituency support which is nothing short of dramatic.

Some may ponder what outcomes if only those unethical means were designed to reach far better ends.  If such manipulations had removed the odious MPs with mandates and replaced them with reformers in an internal clean up, perhaps polling ratings would have turned favourable for the presidential power(s) – a flight of fantasy to be sure considering the ends for which such means have been created and employed.

Thus the speed at which the Poroshenko faction and political party now circle the ethical and political toilet bowl dictates just how quickly the reformers spin away in a centrifugally forced separation.

As and when they do, it will leave behind an ugly turd that will inevitably, and finally, display the President without his clothes – for what remains will be nothing more than the corrupt old guard that was drawn to power for the sake of self-preservation and/or continued self-enrichment.

In short Block Poroshenko is not a party nor a faction of shared ideology, nor even a collection of the reasonably like-minded, but nothing more than a collection of differing interests all of which used it as a platform to pursue very different ends – some noble and some nefarious.

What is perhaps most ominous for members of the Block Poroshenko/Solidarity Party is that both those they currently seek to repress through the virgin use of the “constitutional loyalty clause”, and the genuine reformers that will inevitably split off, will find a political home that will see them returned to the Verhovna Rada at any new elections.  That cannot be said for the rest of Block Poroshenko/Solidarity as it will certainly lose a lot of seats at the next elections – perhaps to the point of failing to be returned as the largest party in the Verkhovna Rada.  The most likely casualties being the middle strata of the odious.

It is for this reason that the President wishes to avoid new elections.

It is also why it has been so hard to replace Prime Minister Yatseniuk.  It is necessary to be blunt and state that should all concerned have been confident that Block Poroshenko/Solidarity could have accommodated most of Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s MPs within the Verkhovna Rada after any early elections, the usual theatre of faux loyalty to the end, swiftly followed by party hopping would have already occurred.

Clearly the legislative political expediency as well as the sullying of the currently virgin Article 81 are designed to purge political missteps and replace those too difficult (one way or another) to insure far, far stricter party discipline and personal subjugation.


This is not the first incarnation of the President’s Solidarity Party, it will perhaps not be the last either – but certainly this political phoenix is starting to look rather sickly and the ashes seem to beckon it sooner rather than later.


Politics. like comedy, is about timing – Saakashvili’s momentum

March 7, 2016

The previous two entries have pondered the appointment of Natalie Jaresko as the next Ukrainian Prime Minister and a new Cabinet of Ministers in an effort to prevent/delay early Verkhovna Rada elections. They briefly outline both the difficulties and the opportunities that would be presented – though it is still unclear if/when Prime Minister Yatseniuk will go.

If he goes voluntarily (or at least prior to any personal vote of no confidence in him), then it will be a matter of a week – maximum.  If he forces a vote of no confidence in him then perhaps a little longer (it appears the number of votes to remove him are there or thereabouts) depending upon the swiftness of the Verkhovna Rada to organise the vote.

As stated in the entries linked above, a PM Jaresko will certainly see an interim duration of 6 months minimum, perhaps 12 months, before any Verkhovna Rada elections could be seriously contemplated again, unless she and Cabinet resign en masse voluntarily prior to that.

None of that means there will be a workable Verkhovna Rada for that length of time after any appointment however.

Nevertheless, if it comes to pass that she become the next Prime Minister, and there is then a minimum of 6 months of her tenure, may be 12 months (or more), what then for Governor Saakashvili whose political momentum has seemed to be gathering pace in anticipation of early Verkhovna Rada elections well before the year end?


Politics, like comedy, is about timing.

When he was appointed in May 2015, the President’s “unveiling speech” to the constituents of Odessa contained a curious statement regarding assessment in a year – which is now not far over the horizon.  There are numerous reasons for that caveat to be have been made at the time (however surprisingly during a public appointment) with both positive or negative connotations.

Odessa has certainly not noticeably suffered under his governorship, and does not yet seem ready to see him go/move on – though to be blunt, since he embarked on national anti-corruption tours the capable hands of Maria Gaidar have held the reins (and done the Oblast work).

It is also clear that a slow burning scandal within the police in Iliychovsk/Chernamorsk may well be, or may be manipulated to be, a public death by 1000 cuts for Giorgi Lortkipanidze the Oblast Police Chief (who is beyond doubt the most transparent and public spirited Police Chief in the modern history of the Oblast).  Further there is likely to be an increased campaign against Davit Sakvarelidze the Odessa Prosecutor launched soon over the lack of successful prosecutions in the Oblast (despite no reform of the corrupt judiciary, and with “lustration” of the local judiciary simply not occurring – which puts any prosecutor at a disadvantage).

The plan to remove Governor Saakashvili by certain political forces/actors clearly includes trying to remove those around him and further frustrate any efforts at confronting vested interests before the “1 year and what has he achieved campaign?” reaches a crescendo.   The thinking is that if either Mr Lortkipanidze or Sakvarelidze be toppled, Misha will throw in the towel in an tantrum claiming “impossibility of progress” under such onerous and nefarious conditions.

How well such a plan will work against what are two of the most unsullied civil servants the Oblast has ever had remains to be seen – but such a plot there certainly is.

This notwithstanding the public trashing of the “Odessa Customs experiment” (and by extension Yulia Marushevska’s efforts) publicly in Kyiv.

How effective the Oblast reforms have been, is of course a matter of perception (hence the political dark arts are concentrating for Misha’s first anniversary).  The results are undoubtedly not what they could be, however the resistance of the entrenched vested interests in both Odessa and Kyiv should not be underestimated vis a vis the actual powers Governor Saakashvili legitimately can wield.

Fortunately for Governor Saakashvili, being able to point to several tangible reforms is far more than any predecessor could do – which undoubtedly he would highlight.  There are also the intangible perceptions to consider within the constituency – which remain mostly positive toward the Governor for the aforementioned reasons.

That said, politics is a grubby business and grubby deals, particularly with regard to Odessa airport, have already been struck by the Governor with the relevant nefarious interests – albeit those deals not necessarily being unlawful, they are certainly questionable regarding their integrity for many.

Indeed there seems to be something of “an on-going issue” regarding the interests of a certain notoriously nefarious character, “Lamposhka” Galadilnik who is believed to own the “City Center” shopping mall, and be involved in ownership of Privos, together with the redeveloped Arcadia beach – and is associated with Mayor Trukhanov – all of these assets “coincidentally” which seem to have fallen under the prosecutor’s eye for reasons that may not have anything directly to do with the almost certain dodgy issues surrounding any of these assets.  Rumour circulating both within “the underworld” and some political circles, claim such pressure is applied to allow the Governor to force the release of 25% interest/ownership in Odessa airport supposedly held by those very close to the aforementioned individual.

Another rumour that will not currently die is the sale of Defence Ministry property and land on Fransuski Boulevard to a certain developer (who built the Islamic Centre here) in return for PR throughout his media institutions and also funding for “campaigns”.  To be clear, it was the Governor’s responsibility to “sign off” on an already agreed sale of State (and not municipal) property/land – it is the PR and funding rumour as the price of that “signing off” that now burns along side the previous grubby airport deals and current claims of selective pressure.

Also increasingly problematic for the Governor is that as a Presidential appointee, and old chum of the President, he is seen as the “President’s man” (albeit one he struggles to control) – yet it becomes increasingly clear that the President is not exactly assisting reforms as he might, nor shedding his entourage that are clearly intent upon doing business in the same odious and corrupt manner that it was done pre-Yanukovych ouster.  How long can he remain both quiet and/or give the perception of loyalty to a President whose anti-corruption talk is far from being matched by his anti-corruption walk even within his own Presidential Administration?

If Natalie Jaresko becomes PM, then assuredly the “deposed” Arseniy Yatseniuk without early Verkhovna Rada elections will become a “Grey Cardinal”, and also far more at liberty to enter a public and very dirty spat with the Governor when freed from the constraints of “high office”.  Oligarchy media space will be amply provided.  (Indeed Mr Yatseniuk’s “reform credentials” may be tested more outside office than within, should he assume the odious “Grey Cardinal” role.  If he is to reinvent himself for a political comeback as they all seem to do, staying clear of that role would seem appropriate – albeit very unlikely.)

With a newly installed PM Jaresko and Cabinet, the Governor will also need a new “anti-corruption” target to retain his national campaign momentum – the current target of Mr Yatseniuk and Cabinet will have gone.

If early Verkhovna Rada elections remain his goal, then the next corrupt political establishment after Mr Yatseniuk and his Cabinet, as well as discounting his friend the President (for now), plus the necessary grace period given to a new PM and Cabinet, leaves only the parliament itself.  That means the oligarchy that is behind the parties and numerous individual parliamentarians.  It seems to be the only immediate choice.

The alternative is to slow the momentum, or even pause it, in the hope of gathering momentum once more some time in the future – whilst perhaps getting tarred with a Presidential brush of worsening hue, unless Poroshenko actually changes his current flaccid stance toward corruption.  If the next Presidential appointment as Prosecutor General is nothing more than a president-loyal chained dog, rather than a generally accepted competent, independent character, can Governor Saakashvili continue to remain supportive of President Poroshenko?

Ideologically, such as any political ideology actually exists in Ukrainian politics, Governor Saakashvili, and many of those that surround him, are far more comfortable bedfellows with Samopomich than the President’s party Solidarity.  Currently whatever political vehicle Misha may employ should early Verhovna Rada elections occur, it seems almost certain a coalition between it and Samopomich (and the Democratic Alliance) would result.

It may be possible to slow his current momentum for the (first) 6 months of any PM Jaresko Cabinet without any serious political or electoral consequences, but should she last 12 months or longer (which she may do), would it be as easy to regain the current momentum – whether still “with” President Poroshenko, or being Governor – or not?

Can he keep his powder dry, or will it prove to be the case of having gone off half-cocked already?

Mr Saakashvili is a wily politician, but there can be little doubt that the longer early Verkhovvna Rada elections are delayed, the more problematic it will become for the timing of his current preparatory maneuvering and clear societal momentum.

For the local political class of Odessa, it also means something of a state of purgatory, as all wait to act once they know what he will do – and when.

His anti-corruption theme will remain constant, but the personality focus upon which it is so often concentrated (and gains resonance) will have to be redirected in the absence of PM Yatseniuk (and Interior Minister Avakov) should they leave centre stage if momentum is not to be lost.

Perhaps more will become clear by the summer.


A PM Natalie Jaresko – A unique opportunity?

March 5, 2016

Following on from yesterday’s entry that highlighted the rumour (which is gaining momentum) of a new Cabinet of Ministers by 15th March and possibly a new Prime Minister in Natalia Jaresko, aside from the problems faced by any new appointees that were faced by the current incumbents, there is perhaps one unique, albeit unlikely, possibility that presents itself – and yes, pigs will probably fly first.


As stated in the aforementioned entry, “Nevertheless, regardless of any subsequent Cabinet composition or new PM, whatever policy then flows from it will require the support of the current parliamentarians (and those behind many of them) for it to be effective – and those policies are not likely to be very different from those of PM Yatseniuk and current Cabinet as many are shaped by IMF and Association Agreement obligations.” – In short, would the oligarchy that support so many political parties and dozens of individual parliamentarians, provide more support for similar policies from a Jaresko Cabinet than it has offered to the current incumbents?

That Ms Jaresko would be probably the only consensus candidate to replace PM Yatseniuk was stated in October last year – “To be blunt, Ms Jaresko would be the only realistic possibility that could gather a domestic political consensus and also enjoy the support of friendly external supporters and donors in a change of Cabinet (rather than elections) – but is she interested?  She would probably take the role out of a sense of obligation to Ukraine to avoid internal implosion, but that does not equate to wanting the role.  Notwithstanding a serious corruption fumble between now and any ouster/resignation of PM Yatseniuk, she is perhaps the only “consensus alternative.”

She is the only possible consensus domestic candidate for she is the only realistic possibility not beholding to a specific oligarch or the oligarchy collectively.  She is free of nefarious political history or business dealings in Ukraine, and entered Ukrainian politics at the behest of the Ukrainian political class.  She would also enjoy, and does enjoy, support from all of Ukraine’s external supporters and institutions.  In this regard she would be absolutely unique as a Prime Minister as far as Ukraine is concerned, for all previous incumbents have either been oligarchy themselves, or beholding to one or more oligarch.  No previous incumbent has been so politically clean.

Whether her Cabinet lasts 6 months or 12 (or perhaps longer) very much depends upon the individual and/or collective will of certain oligarchs via the parties and individual parliamentary votes the “own”.

The opportunity, as slim and as unlikely as it may be, is a chance to negotiate with the oligarchy to remove/dramatically reduce their odious presence in politics and contain them within the business/economic sphere where they belong.

For those that have ever had the opportunity to speak to the oligarchs alone (and many of the minigarchs), there seems to be a general consensus that all would (theoretically) reduce their political machinations if only they could be certain the others would do the same.  Most seem quite aware that society will suffer their continued games only for so long.  They are getting older and there is an ever-growing politically active younger generation that simply holds them in contempt.

The next Maidan happens either within the Verkhovna Rada or with the oligarchy (and their puppets) as the target of public ire.

(Indeed sooner rather than later perhaps, it seems probable that Governor Saakashvili is going to have to call out President Poroshenko for hindering reform and anti-corruption efforts.  As Governor Saakashvili is constitutionally barred for many years hence from becoming President, he may well back Andri Sadovy, (head of Samopomich and Lviv Mayor) in the next Presidential elections with a view to becoming his Prime Minister.  We may also see Yulia Tymoshenko lurch to the political left in an attempt to gather in the unrepresented socialist/communist voters via her usual populist policy necrophilia (populist policies that have long since proven to be dead but which she cannot let go of).

A persistent problem regarding negotiations with the oligarchy has been one of trust.  The oligarchy do not trust each other, and as one or several have always backed any sitting President or Prime Minister to the cost of the others, there has been limited (or no) trust in any political leader when it comes to negotiations and guarantees of solutions to remove them (and the costs they incur) from politics thereafter.

What has been consistently lacking is somebody that they can all trust – or perhaps better written, somebody none of them distrust.  Somebody that does not work with any of them and is beholding to none of them.  Somebody who will also defend the interests of the State whilst also defending the interests of business – or in the case of the oligarchy, big business, fairly.

Ms Jaresko has given none of them reason to distrust her.  Neither is she somebody beholding to any of them.  She answered the call of the Ukrainian State yet clearly has an understanding of the interests of big business.  Further Ms Jaresko is clearly a more than reasonable negotiator, having reached agreements with the IMF and those holding substantial Ukrainian debt successfully.  Even if those negotiations have done little more than kick the can 5 years or so down the road, kicking that can was successfully achieved in very difficult circumstances.  It was in fact essential.

If a Prime Minister Jaresko is to become reality – and it is by no means certain – then she is uniquely placed to attempt to have these discussions with the oligarchy.  They may even take her up on the offer of renegotiating the political and economic rules if their concerns are somehow met.

The first concern is that any reduction in influence occurs across the oligarchical board at the same time and to the same level.  A strong driver for their continued interference is to be able to protect their (questionably/nefariously acquired) property rights.  Political influence and oligarchical property rights ebb and flow in unison historically, depending upon who backed who at the political pinnacle of any incumbent power.

Ergo, the sensitive topic of guaranteeing their already misappropriated and misused assets from future State and peer attempts to remove them would seemingly be a prerequisite.  In short, a line drawn over historical acquisitions of years past, yet a line that clearly defines further nefarious acts as unprotected by the agreement.

It is not something this blog would necessarily agree with, but it is a policy option that could provide the opportunity of removing/reducing the oligarchy within politics by agreement.  Over the next few years there seem few alternatives other than to see the oligarchy swinging from lampposts due to an angry mob, or to simply allow matters to continue (perhaps until they are all dead due to old age).

If that option be pursued, the question is then how such property rights are guaranteed without their nefarious and cancerous hands pulling the strings within Ukrainian politics.  Passing such a law is of course no problem should they all agree considering the parties and individual parliamentarians they control – but setting such a deal in law sits extremely uncomfortably with the blog (and no doubt many others).  Ergo some form of legal contract (rather than law) between “the State” and the oligarchy could be reached, the penalties within so onerous on either party to that contract, that breaking it would be folly.

In short the creation of conditions whereby the oligarchy have more interest in playing in business than in politics – and that seemingly requires a guarantee of property rights for existing assets first and foremost.  It will also require an end to government subsidies, bad debt write-offs and State recapitalisations across all State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) both in which the oligarchy currently own shares and also those they do not (yet) to both avoid temptation for one party, and ease the economic burden for the other.

A Prime Minister Jaresko, though unique in her distance from oligarch contamination, would still require extremely robust and forceful external support (and perhaps deal guarantors) not only to be successful, but perhaps simply to begin such negotiations.  (Rumours of yet more sealed indictments or money laundering probes ala Firtash perhaps?)   Some of those external guarantors would be hesitant to put it mildly – but if any Jaresko government is to succeed it requires the oligarchy not to obstruct it, and for her to treat them all equitably in return.

This is of course, all hypothetical.  Firstly PM Yatseniuk still sits in his chair as PM.  Secondly a PM Jaresko would want to take such a negotiation path and strike such a grubby deal.  The oligarchy would also have to want to negotiate too.  Lastly any deal made over irrevocable property rights for a significant and permanent political retreat would require guarantees (and guarantors) that would last far into the political future.

Looking past the possibility of a Prime Minister Jaresko appearing in the next few weeks (for however long that tenure prove to be), and to the results of any early Verkhovna Rada elections, there are but few even remotely possible outcomes that would produce any Prime Minister free from oligarchy influence.  Mikhail Saakashvili or………?  Certainly not Andri Sadovy, for his eye remains firmly on the presidency.  If, (and it is an if given the political mathematics and undoubted TV campaigning issues he will face) a PM Saakashvili were to appear, would the oligarchy rue having missed the chance to negotiate a deal (with guarantees and guarantors) with a PM Jaresko, (and in doing so also insured her tenure lasting longer)?

Nevertheless, despite the fact that a PM Jaresko and Cabinet may have a short tenure ahead due to the probability of early Verkhovna Rada elections prevailing, she would present a unique opportunity to negotiate with the oligarchy that has previously never presented itself.

Flying pigs, naturally, are more likely however!


A new Cabinet of Ministers by 15th March?

March 4, 2016

Rumour has it that on or before the 15th March a new Cabinet of Ministers will have been formed and the horse-trading, shuffling behind the curtain, and sorcery of the party “Grey Cardinals/High Chamberlains” will have concluded.

Those rumours include the replacement of Prime Minister Yatseniuk, whether he voluntarily resign or is subjected to a personal vote of “no confidence”, his government having collectively only last week surviving a collective vote of “no confidence”.

Whether he would survive a personal vote of “no confidence” we will soon see – but it seems unlikely.

Tipped to replace him is the current Finance Minister Natalia Jaresko.

For regular readers of this blog with a reasonable memory, this should come as no surprise.

On 26th October 2015, when it was already clear Mr Yatseniuk’s days in office were numbered, this blog stated – “To be blunt, Ms Jaresko would be the only realistic possibility that could gather a domestic political consensus and also enjoy the support of friendly external supporters and donors in a change of Cabinet (rather than elections) – but is she interested?  She would probably take the role out of a sense of obligation to Ukraine to avoid internal implosion, but that does not equate to wanting the role.  Notwithstanding a serious corruption fumble between now and any ouster/resignation of PM Yatseniuk, she is perhaps the only “consensus alternative.”

This blog also predicted early Verkhovna Rada elections before the year end 2016 too – immediately after the October 2014 Verkhovna Rada elections – That prediction was based solely upon the fact that almost every single parliament Ukraine has had since independence in 1991, has effectively ceased to function within 2 years of election.


Whether a reformatted Cabinet of Ministers and a Prime Minister Jaresko will change that prediction will very much depend upon the Cabinet composition that is forthcoming and the desires of those behind the Ukrainian political curtain.  That it will prevent early Verkhovna Rada elections at some point is very unlikely, but the timing of such may change.

A Prime Minister Jaresko and new Cabinet may manage to see Ukraine through the UK Brexit referendum (and therefore perhaps a more outward looking UK on the other side), a new incoming US President, and elections in both Germany and France in 2017 with their respective outcomes.  For the powers before and behind the Ukrainian political curtain, these events, with the removal of PM Yatseniuk and several ministers, may be enough to reconsider the almost inevitable early Verkhovna Rada election time frame predicted almost for this Autumn almost 2 years ago – or not.

It is rumoured that Boris Lozhkin, and Dmitry Shymkiv, both currently Head and Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration respectively, will become Deputy Prime Ministers, and that the current Deputy Economy Minister Yulia Kuznetsova will become Energy Minister.  If true a reasonable start, and far from the worst of possible suggested Cabinet reshuffles.  Other names will be undoubtedly “leaked” over the coming days/week.  Your author will know more on Sunday.

Nevertheless, regardless of any subsequent Cabinet composition or new PM, whatever policy then flows from it will require the support of the current parliamentarians (and those behind many of them) for it to be effective – and those policies are not likely to be very different from those of PM Yatseniuk and current Cabinet as many are shaped by IMF and Association Agreement obligations.

All change – or no change?  A new lease of sustained productive parliamentary life – or a stay of parliamentary execution?

Let’s see who forms the new Cabinet and how long it lasts.


Back to the Civil Service – Ukraine

March 2, 2016

2nd March saw the publication of a Cabinet of Ministers Decree, “Approval of rules of ethical conduct for civil servants’ – Number 65” which states the following –



of 11 February 2016 r. number 65


On approval of rules of ethical conduct for civil servants

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine resolves:

  1. The rules of ethical conduct for public officials annexed.
  2. To determine the effect of this ruling applies to managers of state enterprises.

Prime Minister of Ukraine A. Yatsenyuk                                                                        

Ind. 19

Approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine of 11 February 2016 r. Number 65

Rules of Ethical Conduct for Public Servants

I . General

1 . These Rules govern the moral foundations of civil servants and are in compliance with the principles of civil service ethics.

2.  Civil servants are led by ethical principles of public service, based on the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine, laws on civil service and prevention of corruption, namely:

1) serve the state and society;

2) decent behavior;

3) Integrity;

4) loyalty;

5) political neutrality;

6) transparency and accountability;

7) integrity.

3.  In the civil service, a person acquainted with these Rules and must observe them in their future performance.

II.  The principles of civil service ethics

4.  Serving the state and society stipulates:

1) honest service and loyalty to the state;

2) the public interest in the performance of tasks and functions of the state;

3) the promotion of the rights and legitimate interests of man and citizen;

4) create a positive image of the state.

5.  Decent behavior includes:

1) respect for the dignity of others;

2) politeness and respect for high culture communication;

3) goodwill and prevention of conflicts in relations with citizens;

4) prevention, including outside the public service, action or behavior which may harm the interests of public service or adversely affect the reputation of a civil servant.

6.  Integrity provides:

1) focus action to protect public interests, the priority of the common good over individual citizens, private or corporate interests;

2) the inadmissibility of the use of state property for personal purposes;

3) preventing a conflict between public and private interests;

4) non-disclosure and non-use of information that has become known in connection with a public official of his duties, including after the termination of public service, except when required by law;

5) avoid providing any benefits adherence and identify certain individuals and entities, political parties, public and religious organizations.

7.Loyalty provides:

1) good faith to implement the decisions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, President of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the state body which is a public servant, regardless of their own beliefs and political views;

2) refrain from any form of public criticism of government bodies and their officials;

3) the correct attitude to managers and employees of the public body in the performance of his duties by a public official.

8.  Political neutrality provides:

1) prevent the influence of political interests on the actions and decisions of a public servant;

2) rejection of the public display of political views and sympathies;

3) the requirements concerning restrictions on political activity by law in respect of certain categories of civil servants;

4) avoid the use of symbols of political parties in the performance of his duties by a public official;

5) transparency in relations with persons performing political functions.

9.  Transparency and Accountability provides:

1) openness and accessibility of information on the activities of the civil servant, except in cases determined by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine;

2) for civil servants first and second category:

keeping records of telephone conversations and personal meetings with representatives of political parties, people’s deputies of Ukraine, entities or their authorized persons, and providing information about such conversations and meetings in accordance with the laws on access to public information;

accounting facts of vehicles, property and other tangible and intangible assets provided by individuals or legal entities for official purposes.

10.  Integrity provides:

1) fair, honest and professional performance of his duties by a public official, detection initiative and creativity;

2) constant improvement of their professional competence and improvement of performance management;

3) prevention of evasion of decision-making and responsibility for their actions and decisions.

III. Responsibility for violation of these Rules

11.  Violation of these Rules state officials bear disciplinary responsibility according to law.

Although somewhat “woolly” in places, and perhaps micro-scripted in others, the general principles are standard fare throughout Europe.  The Ukrainian Decree is not departure far flung from that of the UK Civil Service Code for example.

An a-political civil service does not publicly criticise the policy of the government of the day, nor openly and actively support opposition policy, thereby through inference de facto criticising existing policy.  To do so publicly is to compromise its necessary a-political nature.  It exists to facilitate and implement the policy of whatever government of the day is actually government of the day – whether that policy ultimately prove to be good, bad or counterproductive.

It is for the political opposition, civil society and society to publicly criticise the policy of the government of the day, and when that government be replaced and the next government policy is to overturn previous government policy, it is the same a-political civil service will be tasked with implementing that policy reversal – also without public criticism.

It may well be that the civil service as an institution, or a considerable number within, considers most policy produced from whatever government of the day be as mad as a wasp, bad, or worse counterproductive, but its role is to implement it impartially and with integrity (on time and on budget – hopefully).

That is not to say that senior civil servants with accumulated years of policy wisdom under numerous governments, ably supported by an institutional legacy collected through decades and centuries of experience, do not, and cannot influence policy.  Indeed it happens – and necessarily so – but it happens in a professional and private manner so that the government of the day may consider the issues raised – or not.

The civil service is the nervous system of the nation, it is not the brain that generates the policy the nervous system transmits.  Policy comes from elected officials, not career functionaries.


The publication of the Decree seems to have caused something of a storm (in a tea cup) among some Ukrainian commentators who rightly point out this is a method imposed by Prime Minister Yatseniuk to prevent public criticism – and certainly a narcissist such as the PM will happily reap the a-political silence that will (or should) be forthcoming from the Ukrainian Civil Service henceforth – but that does not make the Decree wrong if “Europeanisation” of the Civil Service is the goal.

The issue with this Decree is the timing and possible outcomes for outspoken appointed current civil servants like Odessa Governor Saakashvili at a time when he is at public political loggerheads with PM Yatseniuk (not that it will stifle the Odessa Governor’s public criticism, nor will continued criticism lead President Poroshenko to sack him for breaching the rules within the Decree).  Most people identify Mr Saakashvili as a politician and not a civil servant despite his current post, and thus it seems unlikely PM Yatseniuk will gain much traction in the public realm if using this instrument to try and silence the Governor.  A political mess is sure to follow almost immediately.

Clearly those that would claim it is not “European” either don’t have much clue as to what is expected of an a-political/European (Western) styled civil service (or civil servant), or have little desire for a truly compatible/comparable civil service.

All such nations have a Civil Service code of conduct/ethics protocol that prevents public criticism by the civil service (and its members) of current policy and/or policy makers.  When becoming a civil servant, you are expected to keep your personal politics to yourself and/or in a very private domain.  Professionally and publicly an a-political stance is necessary and expected by the entire political class, civil service peers, and the constituency alike.

It is for this reason that the memoirs of senior civil servants are normally a good read – having left the civil service they can enlighten all (subject to official secrets etc) regarding policy advice given at the time, subsequently ignored by ministers, and the hapless consequences coming to fruition as they predicted.

The publication of this Decree however is a timely reminder that one of the few outstanding (in comparison to the usual half-arsed) laws passed that significantly reforms the Ukrainian Civil Service comes into effect from 1st May 2016.  As stated by this blog when the law made it through the Verkhovna Rada in December 2015 and remained fit for purpose – “It now falls to civil society and the diplomatic corps to defend this law from politically sabotaging “amendments”.

Sadly, as with every well crafted and fit for purpose law in Ukraine (and there aren’t many emitted by the Verkhovna Rada), there are seemingly going to be attempts to sabotage this law via amendments as predicted by the quote above.

These amendments will seek to allow the re-politicisation of what will become an (almost entirely) a-political body with effect from 1st May.  Amendments will be tabled that will allow the vested/political interests to insert “their man” into the civil service system in positions of influence.  Necessary amendments to numerous other laws will be delayed so as to frustrate and impede the proper functioning of this good (if falling short of very good) civil service law.  There will be amendments tabled to delay the 1st May implementation date.  In short, civil society and the diplomatic corps will indeed have to defend this law from amendment sabotage in the coming weeks and months.

Yet perhaps the issue that should concentrate both civil society and diplomatic minds today is the fact that Anna Onishchenko (who is close to the Prime Minister) has yet to deliver a long promised (and expected) root and branch civil service reform strategy – let alone one that will come close to delivering the national “Europeanised” nervous system the December 2015 law and the March 2016 decree seek to do – and few “in the know” are expecting anything competent to emerge when/if such a strategy is forthcoming.

A smooth road does not appear to be ahead for civil service reform.


Back in the saddle again

February 23, 2016

So after 1 month wandering fairly aimlessly across Asia, your author has returned to Ukraine having made only a single entry whilst away.

Despite jet lag, a swift recap of what can only be described as a particularly dire month for Ukrainian policy and politics can be summarized by several key events:

Perhaps most important of all was the inexplicable and ominous dilution (almost to impotency) of the October 2014 law regarding e-declarations for officials (and their immediate family members).  The amendments made to this law by Bill 3755 have no positives for the Ukrainian constituency, nor external supporters of Ukraine.  Indeed the only beneficiaries of this law are the corrupt officials the October 2014 law sought to place parameters upon.  To make matters worse, if that were possible, it appears this “dilution Bill” was created hastily within the Presidential Administration, and then went on to circumvent all Verkhovna Rada procedures (Committees etc), before being adopted.  An ethical and procedural disgrace .

There is now also 6 months of terminal convolutions of the current government which is devoid of a majority coalition with Samopomich and Batkivshchyna having terminated their membership thereof.  Should early Verkhovna Rada elections now occur it seems likely that Samopomich, “Team Saakashvili”, and Batkivshchyna would all poll above the President’s Solidarity (and in that order).  Prime Minister Yatseniuk’s People’s Front still facing political oblivion.  The Opposition Block would also gain (unless it divides into a Firtash Liovochkin “Party for Regional Development & Peace” and whatever Akhmetov backs under whatever name – in short splitting Opp Block).

Whatever the case, a previously feckless and dysfunctional Verkhovna Rada may well become more (rather than less) unworkable.  The October 2014 predictions of early Verkhovna Rada elections in Spring or Autumn 2016 made by this blog appear to still be on track.

The resignations of Abromavicius (and deputies) as well as Kasko were significantly politically expensive for President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk with the external supporters of Ukraine – notwithstanding causing notable ire amongst Ukrainian civil society and the broader constituency.  The resignation of Mr Shokin post Kasko resignation fails to mitigate the political costs – particularly when any replacement will have to be an enormous improvement upon President Poroshenko’s three previous appointments.   Whether the next appointment be a servant of Ukraine, or a servant of somebody/vested interests in Ukraine, will go a long way to determining continued external support/reduced support for the current political leadership dependent upon external goodwill for survival.


To be entirely blunt, the Ukrainian constituency now requires the external supporters of Ukraine to adhere to a strict, itemised, programmed, reform for assistance quid pro quo.  Any retarded backward steps resulting in reduction, rather than continuation, of assistance.  More for more if progress is made.  More for less cannot be tolerated if the supporters of Ukraine intend to support the Ukrainians in tackling their odious political class, and the oligarchy sitting behind the political curtain.

With German FM Steinmeier calling for political stability and reforms when in Kyiv on 23rd February, a reader may perhaps ponder whether he is fully aware that political stability is dependent upon the oligarchy either being removed from Ukrainian politics, or alternatively appeased by Ukrainian politics.  If so, as many of the required reforms will not serve the oligarchy well, and appeasement therefore is not the way to go, perhaps a more robust external policy toward the Ukrainian oligarchy and their international assets/interests would be a policy worthy of consideration.

All in all, the month your (regular) author has been wandering around Asia has been something of a domestic political and policy disappointment – albeit a month that has produced no real surprises that were not foretold.

Now follows a few days of re-immersion into the political squalor (and the overcoming of jet-lag), so be kind enough to make some allowances as your author climbs back into the blogging saddle once more – the blog entries will get better.

On a final note, many thanks to MW Dabbs for keeping the blog ticking over whilst your author was away – a true gent!


Too much, too little, too late? Probably

February 5, 2016

Your author having promised himself to blog as little as possible whilst wandering somewhat aimlessly around Asia for a month, has tried to let the resignation of Aivaras Abromavicius go without making any comment – however, as this entry exists, it was impossible not to write a few lines regarding the matter.

To state this resignation is a political disaster for both President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk is to be entirely frank.  It is also a disaster for the Ministry of Economic Development too – for there were several good Deputy Ministers unlikely to remain either.

Regular readers will have been aware of Igor Kononenko, presidential “enforcer”, the President’s long-term business partner, and leading member of the current “High Chamberlains/Grey Cardinals” nefariously  shuffling about behind the Ukrainian political curtain – as this previous entry (of several) made clear.

Indeed a reader may rightly wonder just how seamlessly interchangeable the names Poroshenko and Kononenko are at times domestically, when it comes to matters political, nefarious, or both.

That the maneuvering of Mr Abromavicius out of the Ministry of Economic Development would occur prior to any privatisation of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) was also predicted immediately after the political festive break by this blog.

“Indeed, if Aivaras Abromavicius is “rotated” during the Cabinet reshuffle and moved elsewhere in government – he is too good to be discarded – then it will be for purely nefarious reasons.”

Those purely nefarious reasons relate to the “management” of the privatisation process, and also the “management” of SOEs.

His removal as Minister from the ministry that will oversee such matters was clearly a matter of necessity for the dark powers behind the Ukrainian political curtain.  An honest man and a squeaky clean privatisation of SOEs is clearly not in their interests – even if an honest man controlling a squeaky clean privatisation programme is unquestionably in the interests of Ukraine.

The issue was how to remove Mr Abromavicius from the privatisation and SOE management appointment process when he was and is so highly thought of by Ukrainian civil society, society, and major donor nations to Ukraine.  Sacking him was clearly out of the question, so political dark arts were required.

Among a chain of events, Mr Abromavicius states he and his ministry were subjected to pressures under which the ministry could not work effectively.  Indeed it is claimed that a “Kononenko man” simply arrived as a newly appointed Deputy Minister to oversee Naftogaz and SOE management appointments – in short to oversee the corruption and money flows associated with state subsidies, recapitalisation and bad debt write-offs that flow into Naftogaz and SOEs, and then onward into nefarious pockets.

Mr Abromavicius stated the pressures placed upon himself and his ministry were from specific people – “These people have names, I will say one of these names – Ihor Kononenko”.

And thus a public and politically prickly resignation occurred.   Bravo Mr Abromavicius for having the moral fortitude to cause significant political damage to both President, Prime Minister and the “grey cardinals” lurking behind the curtain alike – not before time!

The political damage caused was swift in coming (within a matter of hours) via a public note signed by 10 Ambassadors to Ukraine from extremely significant nations as far as President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatseniuk, and Ukraine as a nation are concerned.  An unusual occurrence, but a necessary one, for the resignation of a much respected minister, and the public claims he made, could not and should not have gone without significant diplomatic response.  That it was so swift and public is a credit to those Ambassadors who did not quibble about signing up immediately.

Naturally President Poroshenko was forced to act swiftly in response, having a private meeting with Mr Abromavicius in an effort to have him retract his resignation and mitigate the already significant damage caused.

To be blunt, it seems unlikely that Mr Abromavicius would retract his statement.  He appears to have far too much integrity and moral fibre to return to office simply to save presidential, cabinet and Ihor Kononenko blushes.

He may well return to office (and hopefully he will) – but almost certainly not within the current government.

If he does, what assurances are there that Mr Kononenko, now under public scrutiny again (having been accused of nefarious acts not so very long ago by the then SBU Chief Nalyvaichenko – Nalyvaichenko was subsequently sacked shortly after making accusations against the President’s chum) will not undermine reforms once more?

Ihor Kononenko

Ihor Kononenko

In his defence, Mr Kononenko is now playing political theatrics in an attempt to mitigate the very real and significant political damage this has caused to his friend President Poroshenko and his relationships with the nations he is reliant upon.

Mr Kononenko has resigned as First Deputy Chairman of the President’s party – as if this is meant to signify in any way a reduction in his actual power within the party, or access to the President.  He has also “insisted” that both he and Mr Abromavicius undertake a lie detector test over statements made that Mr Kononenko refutes.  Further, he has also offered unconditional cooperation with the National Anti-Corruption Bureau over the matter.

The damage however is done.  None of this will mitigate for the resignation of Mr Abromavicius within certain capitals and their respective diplomatic missions, whatever may yet appear in the public realm, or whatever actions are taken.

The embassies of all the signatory nations to the note expressing ire over Mr Abromavicius’ resignation will all be very much aware of what Mr Kononenko is and has been doing since becoming the Presidential “High Chamberlain” (just as all were, and are, aware of the actions of Martynenko before the Prime Minister forced him upon his political sword).  As those embassies will be very aware of what he has been doing and with whom, when urgent questions were asked from respective capitals, those capitals are now very much aware of what Mr Kononenko has been doing, and with whom.

Mr Kononenko, and his friend President Poroshenko, will also be very aware that a good deal of what nefarious and/or odious actions Mr Kononenko has taken (in the President’s name, or by inference) are also now known and at the forefront in the minds of international interlocutors – and in a lot of detail too.

The choice therefore facing Mr Kononenko and President Poroshenko is one of Mr Kononenko’s political suicide (per Prime Minister Yatseniuk sacrificing Martynenko) or President Poroshenko taking significant and lasting (perhaps fatal) political damage among the nations he is relying upon for support.

Those nations are already clearly not going to settle for conversations that can be summarised as “And what about corruption President Poroshenko?” to be answered “Look at the Russians in Donbas breaking their agreements and killing us still” as an answer.

As President Poroshenko has not “released” the Prosecutor General, Mr Shokin, despite very robust public comment by international partners of note bluntly inferring he should go, is it likely that his old friend, business partner, political party “enforcer” (a role that will continue regardless of any formal position) Mr Kononenko will be sacrificed – or will President Poroshenko take more needless (and this time perhaps fatal) political damage?

What seems long ago, immediately after President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yatseniuk both took office, it was stated here in the blog that they would and could take Ukraine only so far along any reformation road, for both would be either unable and/or unwilling to completely severe the nefarious ties to, or forgo entirely the corrupt money flows, of the old corrupt and cancerous system.

Thus far, despite the undeniable (slow) reform progress made (at least on paper), neither President nor Prime Minister have given any resolute indication (discounting rhetoric) that they are personally willing to do “whatever it takes” to build a nation upon the solid, rather than rotten, foundations any nation building requires.

It is already probably far too late for Prime Minister Yatseniuk to convincingly lead another government making claims of “reform” and “anti-corruption” as the agenda toppers.

The attempts by Mr Kononeko to mitigate the fallout of the Abromavicius resignation via his hollow political theatrics will fool nobody, and thus President Poroshenko has a definitive decision to make over his own presidential political future if he is in any way entertaining the thought of a second term (or perhaps seeing out a full first term).

It seems the current political class remain determined to snatch their own defeat from the jaws of their own victory.  Fortunately for Ukraine, it will survive and eventually reform in spite of, rather than because of, its current political class.

Now, back to the Asian sunshine whilst awaiting a “new” Cabinet of Ministers – or not.

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