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The President on anti-corruption (NABU fallout)

December 8, 2017

This week, perhaps rightly given the gravity of events, the blog has concentrated upon the events surrounding NABU and more broadly the anti-corruption institutions current and future.

It is appreciated that for some readers this is something of a bore, and indeed to focus on what is a policy of sabotage and/or vengeful targeting of the NABU Chief in the battles that lay ahead – for they are certainly not over – is not why all readers spend their time pursuing the blog during a coffee break.

Further, while the author has a history in CT and organised crime, and thus finds policy and operational matters surrounding these arenas both interesting and often questionable, the blog was never intended to focus on such matters to the exclusion of all else – and it hasn’t.

An eclectic commentary upon issues that do not grab the headlines was the goal.

Indeed this week while NABU related issues could not be ignored, the blog has failed to mention the deals struck with China by Prime Minister Groisman to the tune of $7 billion, and the declaration that 2019 will be “The Year of China” in Ukraine – however that will manifest.

It has also failed to mention the passing of a law that prima facie not only runs directly against the obligations of Ukraine regarding the EU Association Agreement, but also, by interfering with the Prozorro public procurement system, has particular implications for continued corruption and lack of transparency.  While this law will seemingly have to be vetoed or seriously amended to comply with the AA and providing anything like transparency, the more interesting questions would be why those who voted the law through did so, and who lobbied them to do so if anybody?  The major beneficiaries are probably to be found in the provinces due to decentralisation after all.

Both of these occurrences (and others such as tax law changes and the 2018 budget adoption) are all worthy of scrutiny and posing questions this week – but this is not a news outlet and your author is not a journalist.  One entry per day, for the sake of a hobby, is all you get.

Following on from the previous NABU related entry of yesterday and the ousting, or sacrifice, of Mr Sobolev within the “Positions-Interests-Needs negotiation model, (depending upon how a reader may view the discussions held the night previous to his removal from his position), the 8th December witnessed a NABU related statement by President Poroshenko while hosting the fearless (and thus respected) Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

There are certainly things to note from the President’s oratory.

The President stated “I declare that I will not tolerate any dangers regarding political interference with the activities of the anti-corruption institution.”  Quite right.

The Europeans, US and Canada also made it perfectly clear that they too will not tolerate such political dangers either, after the parliamentary leaders of the Presidential faction and its coalition partner People’s Front, jointly authored a draft Bill that would have actively facilitated “political oversight” – a euphemism for political subordination in Ukrainian parlance – over NABU.

The President went on to say “over two and a half years of anti-corruption activities, all, including the leaders of these bodies, claim that there was never any interference with the activities of these bodies on the part of the president.”

A reader is therefore expected to infer from the presidential comment above that President Poroshenko and The Bankova disassociate themselves from the draft Bill that the two leaders of political parties that form the coalition had submitted that was intended to sabotage the independence of NABU.  Further the actions of an undeniably politically subservient Prosecutor General and SBU in the NABU environment occur without, at the very least, tacit approval/awareness.

It is customary that such legislative sabotage is generally submitted via draft legislation by little known deputies who, should a draft Bill bring a particularly volatile reaction, can simply withdraw it under the instruction of fatherly Bankova advice for the sake of deniability.  There is no deniability or claims of ignorance to be found when the parliamentary leaders of the two coalition parties submit a joint Bill that is so obviously a blunt assault upon an institution’s independence.  It simply would not happen without the knowledge of those at the very top the political elite – The Bankova and the President.

Hence the international community threatened severe consequences via some very hefty policy sticks that led to the Bill not being put to the vote.  Only a fool would believe that those within The Bankova, and President Poroshenko himself, were not aware of the draft Bill, or the substance of the foreign reaction.  Micromanagement is the political signature of this Bankova after all.

It is perhaps worthy of note that The Bankova and President Poroshenko are not exactly the same thing and therefore necessarily interchangeable labels.  Indeed, arguably The Bankova does not necessarily consist only of those that work within it.  It is perhaps better defined as a collection of interests – sometimes competing, sometimes aligned, but all joined by situational needs, headed by President Poroshenko.

At the press conference The President further stated “On the contrary, I believe that it is necessary to accelerate the appointment of the audit, it is necessary to provide effective protection against any political interference of politicians in the work of the NABU and politicization of the work of any law enforcement agencies and the desire to influence their work.”  Again, quite right.  Upon such principles are nations built.

Here we come to the crux of Positions-Interests-Needs negotiation and the hefty stick diplomacy of 6th December – and whether Mr Sobolev was sacrificed – or not.

How do such “discussions” take place?  If a reader were involved, how to go about them?

The international position is clear and robust.  After having invested so much into NABU, this institution will not be allowed to fall under political control without severe consequences.  The Bankova position is that without political control it cannot be sure of gathering and consolidating the interests and assets behind it to insure election victory.  It can offer no guarantees to those it has to get on board that their personal support will equate to personal benefit.  It is not only a matter of facilitating corruption among the elite by taking control, but political survival too.

The question put before the international community then – which is the priority if (and only if) President Poroshenko is perceived as the least worst option in 2019?

The answer, perhaps to the dismay of President Poroshenko, is invariably it is the support of institutions rather than individuals that take priority.   Typically institutions last longer than politicians in a democracy after all.  Thus whomever may become president will face the same hefty sticks from the same foreign capitals when it comes to attempts to sabotage anti-corruption institutions that have so much foreign energy already (and continuously) spent on them.

If that position was not clear to The Bankova and President Poroshenko before the evening of 6th December, then it should be now.  Who wants to be the Ukrainian President or “Bankova member” responsible for the reversal of Visa-free, or for putting an end to defensive weapons debates?  Personal sanctions perhaps?  A visible political shunning beyond territorial integrity issues?  Not exactly an election winning and/or vested interest saving position to be in.  Big affronts to the democratic sensibilities Ukraine claims to share, result in the waving (and potential use) of big sticks in response.

That position now (hopefully) unambiguously clear, it is an opportunity, while brandishing hefty policy sticks and in prickly diplomatic mood, to remind those negotiating on behalf of The Bankova and the coalition political parties, that genuinely independent anti-corruption courts are required to complete the independent anti-corruption investigative and prosecutor architecture.

The presidential comment of 8th December – “I asked the Parliament to create a working group for the preparation of the project, taking into account the positions of the Venice Commission and people’s deputies, and I stated that if the parliament is dragged on with the creation of such a working group, I will shortly introduce a bill that will be developed by me and will take into account all comments, which were voiced by the Venice Commission.”

The President made very similar comments more than two weeks ago that did not bring forth his own Bill in the absence of Verkhovna Rada activity – but that was before the “discussion” on the evening of 6th December, and the parade of hefty policy sticks that would end any thought of reelection if wielded.  Perhaps this time, before the year end, there will be legislation submitted.  There is one more plenary week to go beginning 19th December.

The Bankova “Position” fully surrendered, it now moves to its “Interests”.  There is coercive opportunity to perhaps be found in the selection of the NABU Auditor and the ability for exceptionally slow anti-corruption court creation.

The foreign “position” now secured over such blunt attempts at political interference on NABU (for the time being at least), it is also their position to have a NABU Auditor appointed – for it is they that had a significant hand in pooh-poohing horizontal and vertical accountability methods, instead insisting upon independent external accountability via an independent external auditor – precisely to avoid political subordination in any way.

The mens rea of the elite Ukrainian political class remains unchanged – control of NABU.  The foreigners are no fools.  Having beaten back the odious draft Bill, and with hefty sticks still in hand, it is an appropriate time to keep the momentum and discuss NABU Auditor candidates – for which there are several very competent foreign candidates.

If rumour be in any way accurate, The People’s Front have now agreed to back Robert Stroch (former FBI auditor) following what was clearly very prickly diplomacy indeed.  It remains to be seen whether others have been equally “convinced” to align behind a particular candidate (or not) having so irked foreign capitals with the proposed draft Bill to kill NABU.

However, movement on this issue can probably be expected and has been subsequently acknowledged in the Presidential comment above.  The chances of now getting a NABU Auditor that will succumb to domestic political influence are clearly less than good odds for those requiring a deliberately poor audit to oust the NABU Chief.

NABU certainly requires auditing – not only to meet legal requirements, but as a fledgling institution there will be audit findings that need fixing.  There is no way the internal workings can be perfect.  No institution is perfect.

This brings a reader to Mr Sobolev, who had used his position to prevent the appointment of a NABU Auditor for the past 15 months – doing so in the belief that the appointed would be politically amenable to the Bankova whim.  Naturally, if the stick wielding of the evening of 6th December has brought about consensus, the blocking actions of Mr Sobolev must be overcome.

Thus far, the international community have not moved from their “position” whatsoever.  All concessions have come from the Ukrainian political coalition elite.  Its position could not be saved, its nefarious interests surrounding the Auditor having been recognised, and if rumour be true neutralised (even if temporarily), it is left with a need to be seen to emerge with something (even if playing with the context of “needs” here within position-interest-needs).

It is no secret that Mr Sobolev is more than unpopular within The Bankova (or with some within the Verkhovna Rada.)  NABU Auditor aside, he has stood his anti-corruption ground where others would have crumbled – which is not a way to endear yourself to the Ukrainian elite.

His removal can therefore be perceived as a “win” for The Bankova, in an effort to mitigate the obvious defeat of the draft Bill, predicted shenanigans around a malleable Auditor, and deliberate glacial progress on an anti-corruption court (that preferably will not be functional before the elections from a domestic leadership perspective – hence the glacial movement).

The foreign capitals also recognise that simply crushing The Bankova is not necessarily good policy – for it may yet remain the “least worst option” come the elections and therefore a longer term view is required for a working relationship.  Plus, one way or another, Mr Sobolev will have to change his position in preventing the NABU Auditor appointment.

Are the diplomatic corps entirely certain that he will now allow a NABU Auditor to be appoiinted, or of what is really driving his position?  For all that he has done that is recognised as furthering the anti-corruption cause in other areas, having finally been forced to reach for the hefty sticks, and having seemingly reached agreement with the “powerful and influential” during the “discussions” surrounding NABU, Auditors and anti-corruption courts, is he not a variable that could derail the outcomes of these “discussions”?

Politics and diplomacy is no place for the fainthearted.  The defence of anti-corruption institutions clearly matter more than any particular individual.  While the removal of Mr Sobolev from his post may not be a desired outcome, it is not enough to derail all else accomplished during the “discussion” – unfortunately for Mr Sobolev.  An endured but unwelcome sacrifice in pursuit a greater cause?  Perhaps.  An act of vengeance following an understanding of a muted response?  Maybe.

Whatever the case, room has been left for The Bankova and President Poroshenko to now state that the obstructions to appointing a NABU Auditor have been removed and continue the pretense of having no involvement in the draft Bill (despite the authors of it) that brought matters to a very bruising political head.

It is, unfortunately not an end to the matter.  The subordination of NABU will continue to be an objective for some, and the removal of its Chief a priority, if for no other reason than despite numerous attempts to remove him he still remains.

A court case involving the NABU Chief questioning the circumstances of his initial appointment continues in Kyiv.  Those that brought the case remain unknown, and it appears to centre around his personal declaration submitted at the end of March 2015, his appointment in the middle of April 2015, and his declaration being deemed accurate and lawful in early May 2015.  The inference being he was unlawfully appointed prior to the official conformation that his declaration was lawful and correct, that the SFS and Finance Ministry should have prevented his appointment until checks upon the declarations were completed, and that therefore he was unlawfully appointed.

The NAPC, subject to allegations of Bankova control after whistle blowing, has restricted NABU access to e-declarations.  Somewhat necessary for the role of NABU.

And NABU operations continue to irk – this time the Ministry of Justice.

For now however, the memory of those hefty foreign sticks will remain when it comes to the anti-corruption institutions.  Hopefully those sticks will not ever have need to be used, for a reader can never be sure whether such a beating would drive out the worst of intentions – or beat them further in.

 

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Sobolev ousted – What now?

December 7, 2017

Following along seamlessly, and fortunately exactly as scripted within the previous entry from the perspective of prophecy, the Verkhovna Rada did not deliberate the suicidal draft law that would have placed NABU under “parliamentary oversight”.

“Parliamentary oversight” in the Ukrainian context unambiguously means “political subordination”.

Naturally political subordination for an anti-corruption entity tasked with dealing with corruption among parliamentarians meant the death of NABU.  As an institution it would have continued – but de-fanged and de-clawed and otherwise a political tool for whomever held the parliamentary majority.

It is no coincidence that both horizontal and vertical accountability were shunned by NABU creators in favour of external independent audit.

The passing of the ill-fated draft law would have brought severe consequences from those foreign capitals that have invested enormous amounts of political and diplomatic energy – not to mention funding – into NABU.

Clearly Ukrainian civil society was immediately manning the gates to rebuff such crude yet potentially disastrous political maneuvers – as the emails, DMs and various messengers of this blog are testament to throughout most of the night.

Undoubtedly the diplomatic corps was inundated too, not that it required a reason to swiftly step into the front lines and defend what it has created and supported.

Lenin is once said to have stated something similar to “Probe with a bayonet: if you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”  There was a need for this political assault upon the independence of NABU to be met by diplomatic and societal steel.  That need was met – this time.

Some very hefty sticks must have been waved behind the curtain for The Bankova to retreat from such an unabashed and easily attributable assault.

As the previous entry linked above made clear however, the blog did not consider this an attack that would fail to be repelled.

The more subtle method would be to remove Yeger Sobolev from his position as Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption and replace him with a less belligerent option when it comes to accommodating Bankova desires – Mr Sobolev has repeatedly blocked what he considers politically influenced candidates for NABU Auditors despite the legal requirement for NABU to be externally audited.

Obviously Bankova desire is the appointment of a politically influenced NABU Auditor that will be assured to provide the “right audit outcome” in order to remove the current Head of NABU, and thus replace him with a more accommodating and politically compliant individual.

Subordinating NABU is the desired outcome.

On 7th December the removal of Mr Sobolev as Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption was successful.  The Verkhovna Rada removed him from that position with 256 votes in favour – 108 MPs from the BPP, 65 from the People’s Front, 32 from the Opposition Bloc, 15 from the Radical Party, 17 from Renaissance and 13 from Will of the People.

Whether there will be a prickly response to the removal of Mr Sobolev by foreign capitals and international institutions remains to be seen.  Foreign capitals and international institutions are less keen to be seen to support individuals, but rather support institutions more often than not.  Thus it may or may not be their powder will be kept dry until a replacement is appointed.

At the time of writing it is unclear who will replace him.  The People’s Front Yuriy Savchuk to replace him perhaps?  An individual that is not of the presidential party (and thus deniable) but otherwise direct-able would make (nefarious) sense.  Whomever is appointed can surely anticipate every Committee outcome to be put under the microscope domestically and abroad.  All are very aware of the Bankova desired outcomes and that this is part of a plan to realise them.

However, there is perhaps also the question of what, if anything, this VR Anti-Corruption Committee will produce at all.  How will Mr Sobolev’s removal affect the quality and quantity of any work for better or for ill?  Prima facie it is hardly a Committee that appears to be replete with critical thinkers or overflowing with motivation, but perhaps more inclined to acquiescence and doing the minimum.

Thus the absolute impartiality of the NABU Auditor becomes critical.  Whatever hefty sticks were waved to force The Bankova to so completely and publicly retreat over the proposed draft law had better not be put away just yet.

Indeed while the hefty sticks are out on the anti-corruption legislative playing field, while there is a momentum of The Bankova somewhat in retreat (not withstanding VR Committee shenanigans), then perhaps an attempt to motivate the deliberately glacial Anti-Corruption Court legislation before the year end could be the goal.  There is another plenary session in late December.

Naturally The Bankova does not want a functioning Anti-Corruption Court prior to the 2019 elections any more than it wants an independent NABU – electioneering surprises are not welcome when trying to balance and consolidate the majority of vested interests behind the incumbent – but having waved the hefty sticks to prevent the political subordination via the bluntest of Bankova legislative assaults, then those same sticks whilst being wafted around may have influence on the lack of anti-corruption court progress too.

That indeed may have been the case, for following the Bankova legislative retreat, President Poroshenko engaged in public theatrics (for whose benefit it is unclear) threatening his direct action if the Verkhovna Rada doesn’t get on with the legislation for the Anti-Corruption Court – no differently to what he said a month ago and unsurprisingly failed to act upon.

Whatever the case, the anti-corruption game is very much afoot – until it stalls again.

 

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Is an independent NABU Auditor in sight – or just a dependent one?

December 6, 2017

The 6th December witness the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption support the removal of Yeger Sobolev as its Chairman – a position he has held since 2014.

This decision for his “unsatisfactory work in office” was supported by presidential Deputies Oleg Barna, Tatyana Rychkova, Igor Artyushenko, Yuri Buglak, from the People’s Front party Konstantin Mateichenko, Yuri Savchuk, Vidrodzhennya’s Mikhail Lanyo, along with a few others.

The matter now goes before the Verkhovna Rada in a vote to remove him from the Chairman position – which appears likely will see his removal when looking at the political parties involved above.

So what?

As is always the case with politicians, only a fool will worship any of them.  They are all flawed (as are we all).

There are times when their own interests clearly take priority over the public interest.

On occasion Mr Sobolev has certainly stood his anti-corruption ground where others would have crumbled, however he has also involved himself in incidents he would have been wiser to , if not ignore, then react to with a little more consideration.

Further he is seen as too close (perhaps for pragmatic reasons rather than personal liking) to some divisive political personalities by some.  He is also believed by some to go beyond mere support for certain institutions currently under State assault.  Matters of perception of course.

However, relating directly to his VR Committee Chairman role, one of the issues most associated with Mr Sobolev is the prevention of appointing the Independent Auditor for NABU – a statutory requirement, and a rightful one.  After all there can be no institution devoid of responsibility and accountability, whether that be achieved horizontally, vertically, or via external independent audit.

It is no secret that Mr Sobolev prevented the appointment of such an individual, and thus NABU continues to work without the required statutory audit.  The scope of any such audit, it has to be made clear, is actually not particularly clear per statute. The text is woolly and its interpretation therefore very elastic.

Mr Sobolev would claim his obstruction was due to the fact that he believed that the candidate for Independent NABU Auditor was in fact anything but “independent”, but rather of Bankova/Presidential influence.

15 months later, NABU remains without audit and no Auditor has been appointed.

Therefore, it may be that the removal of Mr Sobolev will provide for the appointment of an Independent NABU Auditor – or unfortunately, it may also provide for a far less Independent NABU Auditor.

This matters as the result of any unfavorable audit paves the way to remove the NABU Chief and thus provides opportunity to insert somebody more “compliant” with The Bankova desires.

There can be no doubt that The Bankova, via Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General, has failed to subordinate NABU and that open warfare between the PGO, with the assistance of the SBU, is now being waged against NABU.

From a Bankova perspective, elections for president and Verkhovna Rada are soon (albeit March and October 2019) and control of all those institutions that may become problematic is a requirement to insure there will be no “surprises” or resistance with regard to “untimely” or “unwanted arrests” and/or interference in the possible misuse of State administrative resources (if necessary) to insure the “right outcome”.

While the Saakashvili circus may well catch the international media attention, it will not garner much interest domestically, nor with the diplomatic corps vis a vis the subterfuge and blatant unscrupulous attacks that NABU and other anti-corruption institutions into which large foreign political, diplomatic, technical, training, and financial energy has been placed – not to mention constant on-going institutional cooperation.

As such the current Saakashvili circus may catch the attention of an otherwise generally disinterested international media, but it will not distract the attention of those that count from what really matters – the domestic constituency, the diplomatic corps, and the capitals they report to.

Only a complete fool would believe otherwise, as the UK made unambiguously clear on 6th December.

“Following recent events which appear to threaten the activities of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, an FCO spokesperson said:

The UK has growing concerns that Ukraine’s fight against corruption is being undermined. Corruption remains a major threat to Ukraine’s stability and national security and is cited by Ukraine’s electorate as the number one issue facing the country. The fight against it is fundamental to Ukraine’s European choice and its aspiration to become a modern, prosperous and democratic state.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), in which the UK has invested significant resource, is a critical piece of the anti-corruption machinery in Ukraine, and has made great strides in its development and its investigations. Recent events, including interference in NABU investigations and the exposing of NABU’s undercover officers, are a worrying sign that the future of independent anti-corruption investigations is under threat.

We hope that those in positions of authority will show leadership in progressing a joined up reform effort to eradicate corruption.”

There can be no doubt that the US shares the same sentiment – for the Head of NABU and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor are both currently in the USA and NABU has worked closely with the FBI during and after its creation.  If not a child of the FBI (which it is not, for NABU is born of multiple foreign donors and experts), then there is an almost certainly inferred part-time nanny or doting Great Aunt empathy.

Indeed Prosecutor General Lutsenko appears to be feigning concerns of purported ad hominem attacks before the FBI.  Faux concern indeed for a man who knows such conversations occur all the time and has partaken in numerous such conversations with foreign officials all of his political life.  The FBI does not need anybody to go to the US to tell them about the misdeeds of Yuri Lutsenko.  It never has.  Neither does any other capital.  Their diplomats are told such tales every day, and those tales inevitably influence communiques home.

The EU Ambassador has also made very terse and public comment over the past 6 months about the deliberate obstructionism relating to creating an anti-corruption court and the equally deliberate efforts to insure NABU and other anti-corruption bodies do not have the tools to do their job.

Thus The Bankova is rapidly burning through an awful lot of foreign goodwill regarding its assault and deliberate hindrance of the anti-corruption effort – to the point where President Poroshenko may surrender his position as the “least worst option” for 2019.

The question therefore, is will the removal of Mr Sobolev as Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on the Prevention of Corruption create conditions for the appointment of a genuinely independent NABU Auditor as required by law and that would undoubtedly receive universal support, or will it generate the opportunity to insert a less than independent Auditor that will pave the way to fire the current NABU Chief and insert a compliant replacement – bringing all the irksome parts of the machinery that can produce political surprises under Bankova influence prior to 2019?  If the latter occurs some capitals are likely to cut Poroshenko free – for there comes a point where if a policy cannot be defended, the policy must be reviewed.

A watchful eye upon who replaces Mr Sobolev would seem to be prudent if looking for indication.

In the meantime, if this draft law passes in the Verkhovna Rada in the immediate future, (which in the current climate it probably will) then clearly despite the plausible wrapping, it is in effect the end to an independent NABU, and signals the end of its current leadership post haste.

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The Bankova gets its framing wrong – again

December 5, 2017

President Poroshenko must be positively seething.

Having tasked Arsen Avakov (with whom the President has a cold relationship anyway) and the Border Guard with preventing the return of Misha Saakashvili – they failed.

To be entirely fair to Arsen Avakov and in particular to the Border Guard, they did no more and no less than could be expected of them without instigating actions that unnecessarily threatened public safety at the time.

If there is one positive result from the events of 2014 and its aftermath, it is that the siloviki and its leadership is far more inclined to avoid staving in the heads of the public beyond what can be deemed as reasonable force in the circumstances.  At the very least there is now an awareness that due process may one day catch up with them.  There has been an overall visible improvement relating to how public (dis)order is dealt with.

However, there can be little doubt President Poroshenko will have considered Arsen Avakov and the Border Service to have severely bungled their instructions.

Nevertheless, Mr Saakashvili illegally entered Ukraine via force, despite not exhausting legal measures to gain entry lawfully.  (Whatever virtues a reader may think Mr Saakashvili posses, patience is surely not one of them.)  This illegal entry was duly recognised when he paid the administrative fine for doing so.  There are no other statutory provisions other than a fine for illegal entry into Ukraine.  That is not to say he could not be subsequently removed from Ukraine via legal mechanisms thereafter, but it appears a decision was made not to do so – yet.

The moral and legal decisions made for the removal of his Ukrainian citizenship that resulted in his illegal entry into Ukraine is debatable – and is, of course debated.

Nevertheless, the result of the Lviv circus brought with it a temporary PR boost for Mr Saakashvili – a boost that according to all opinion polls appeared to have no lasting voter benefit.  Thus, as is the way of populism, the next circus performance is dependent upon the next PR opportunity.

If the Lviv border incident was a PR opportunity delivered on a plate, then the events of 5th December in Kyiv would appear to be the Bankova deciding to deliver the entire dinner service – with waiter!

This despite an awareness that, credit where credit is due, Misha Saakashvili is particularly skilled at recognising PR opportunity the moment it appears and exploiting it to the fullest.

This time the task of publicly taking on Misha Saakashvili was given to the politically subservient Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko (who has already disgraced himself this week – no matter whether NABU or its covert people have broken the law and should face legal consequences, publicly outing covert agents is simply not acceptable) and the equally politically subservient Vasyl Hrytsak and the SBU he commands.

From a PR perspective, do not bungle your instructions as Mr Avaokov and the Border Service did, will have been the rule of the day.

Yet bungled it was – and spectacularly so.

From Misha on his apartment roof top, to supporters blocking the SBU vehicles, creating barricades, and eventually not only releasing him from the SBU van, but marching en masse to the Verkhvna Rada and his delivering a political call to arms – what could have possibly been bungled, was bungled.

A PR spectacular simply gift wrapped for Mr Saakashvili – which he naturally exploited.

The reason for the SBU and Prosecutor General going after Mr Saakashvili this time relates to alleged involvement with organised criminality – specifically his agreeing dodgy deals with Sergei Kurchenko (fugitive, significant player and friend of the Yanukovych clan).  In short finance for political favour.

Following the bungling of this attempted arrest, the Prosecutor General released SIGINT purporting to prove such collusion.

The big risk here, is not crowds of Saakashvili supporters/anti-Poroshenko supporters (not the same thing) but if the SIGINT is fabricated rather than genuine, it is that such a lie unravels very quickly – as would the Poroshenko presidency with it.

Naturally Misha Saakashvili is not above the law.  If there are formal and official questions to ask, then they should be asked – and answered should Mr Saakashvili decide to answer.

Thus it is a matter of formally asking the questions without providing Mr Saakashvili a PR circus event, yet in full accordance with the law and interview protocols required for evidence.

How to go about that without creating an unnecessary circus?  After all the SIGINT evidence will not disappear, so there is time to think about it.  Are there other ways to get Mr Saakashvili to attend an interview without an unnecessary PR Circus?

It is entirely unclear whether the Prosecutor General has asked Mr Saakashvili to attend for an interview prior to the events of 5th December.  Arrests occur to forcibly bring somebody to a place where further evidence can been obtained (normally by way of interview), but arrests are not a sign of guilt, nor are they even necessary if somebody should voluntarily attend.

If necessary an individual voluntarily attending can be subsequently arrested during an interview should they decide to leave.

Was there evidence that was thought could be destroyed if forewarning be given by requesting his attendance rather than by producing him by force?  We will soon see, depending upon what is produced as evidence from the searches that occurred.

Ergo, in an attempt to avoid a PR fiasco, it is reasonable to ask whether Yuri Lutsenko formally asked Mr Saakashvili to attend a place of interview – for the potential for a PR disaster must surely have been recognised.

Suppose if he did ask, and what is Mr Saakashvili ignored it?  The PR circus is inevitable?

There are options.  It can be leaked to the media the request was made but there was no response.  If that draws a denial from Mr Saakashvili in the media, then a formal public request could be made to him.

What if that is ignored?  The PR circus is inevitable?

If it is ignored then a further public request might have been made, within the specific framing that there is no desire to have to come and forcibly take Mr Saakashvili.  That Mr Saakashvili is not above the law, there are formal questions to be asked and that his cooperation would be appreciated.

Such a request can be made several times publicly – thus framing any possible circus in advance – “We tried to avoid this and you are all aware that we did”.

Mr Saakashvili is PR savvy, he would then have to judge whether or not a circus scores or costs political points following such a measured request from the authorities.

If there is still no adherence to such a request, then arrest and forcibly bringing Mr Saakashvili for interview is at least framed as being the last resort the authorities were trying to avoid.  It matters not whether Mr Saakashvili says anything or not in the interview, for this is all about avoiding the pre and post PR circus if possible, and mitigating it if it is not possible.

If such public requests were made after some thought in avoiding another Misha circus, then the blog must have missed them.  It appears that this line was not pursued.

Whatever the case, a Misha circus occurred again – after instructions were clearly bungled again.

Any PR damage does not only affect Yuri Lutensko, the SBU and The Bankova/President Poroshenko perhaps Mr Saakashvili – it brings about national damage on the international stage  – whether it be an image of bungling and a weak grip on the rule of law, whether it be an image of persecution rather than legitimate investigation, or generally adding to an image of Ukraine may be heading backwards.

Domestically it may not give Mr Saakashvili much of a boost beyond any immediate blip.  He is somewhat reliant upon moving from PR opportunity to PR opportunity to remain relevant.  He/his party is struggling with longevity when it comes to relevancy in the polls.

A reader will naturally be wondering why it is that The Bankova seems hell-bent on providing him with PR opportunities.  As of the time of writing, the only explanation is that of vengeance by President Poroshenko upon a man who he considers to have betrayed him – though no doubt that feeling is mutual.

So what now?  There are still formal questions to be asked of Mr Saakashvili?  He is not above the law.

After such a spectacular bungling, proportionality and a reasonable yet determined response is necessary to project some sort of objective grip upon the rule of law.

“In 24 hours, the entire law enforcement system of Ukraine will do everything necessary to get the stateless Saakashvili to appear before investigators for raising suspicion, and then in court.  We will try not to take forcible measures with bloodshed, which the organizers of this coven have wanted for several months.” – Yuri Lutsenko.  (Spoken like a politician and not like an objective Prosecutor General.)

Indeed Misha Saakashvili is has now been placed on the national “Wanted” list at the instruction of Yuri Lutsenko.

From the Misha Saakashvili perspective, he has PR choices.

Another circus through his undoubtedly violent but inevitable arrest, or a lesser but more civilised circus by voluntarily presenting himself for interview with numerous cutting (possibly hollow) jibes about how, if asked, the entire fiasco could have been avoided.

There is then the matter of the PR that follows any interview – whether he be detained, bailed, or simply releaased.

What will be critical, considering the attention this latest, possibly avoidable, certainly mitigate-able circus has brought, is that the laws and procedures of Ukraine be followed impeccably.

In the meantime a reader is left to ponder just what the level of critical thinking is, and what advise if any, is being heard within The Bankova of late.  For Ukraine’s most PR savvy President ever, and its most politically savvy Prosecutor General ever, to be repeatedly bungling political framing to such a degree over the past months in particular, gives pause for thought.

They may yet become the authors of their own demise.

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Ukrainian cyber security/defence – Structure and process challenges ahead

December 4, 2017

A few days ago an entry appeared relating to the signing of the framework law for Ukrainian cyber security and defence – The imaginatively titled “About the basic principles of providing cyber security for Ukraine“.

That particular entry highlighted the number of agencies and institutions with clear legislative responsibilities, and also a new State Owned Enterprise (SOE) set up under the umbrella of the Ministry of Infrastructure, as well as the creation of a “General Secretariat for Digital Infrastructure”  within the Ministry of Infrastructure.

The usual ensemble of spooks, law enforcement, State institutions and government.

As stated, there is nothing wrong with the framework law,  Indeed it appears to provide a suitable frame to hang what will be a raft of subordinate laws upon.  The devil will naturally be found within the details of subsequent laws required to complete and compliment the above linked legislation.

Currently that framework law defines what will be covered, and as importantly what will not be covered.  There is thus great scope for creativity by these influencing bodies, and for testing the elasticity of prose within an already (deliberately) loose statutory framework.

There will inevitably be FISA 702, or Investigative Powers Act, (or similar national equivalents) dilemmas to address – and no matter how many national deviations there may be, when it comes to sharing/providing access to partners, such domestic legislation has a far broader impact than purely domestic solutions.

Ergo, if Ukraine is heading “west”, whatever 702 or IP statute equivalent it arrives at, the statute should probably be approximated accordingly.

While the NSA and/or GCHQ and several others may well be able to kick the Ukrainian cyber door down, or perhaps better phrased, take a peak inside and poke about, it pays to have a legal mechanism that can open the door willingly too – to the extent that is appropriate for partners as and when deemed required.

However, cyber naughtiness is not restricted to espionage and counterespionage – be it State or corporate.  There is a convergence of organised crime and terrorism within the cyber realm that represent real threats to the State, and corporations too.  This notwithstanding a duty of State to protect its citizenry not only from such threats, but also from each other.

There are thus judgement calls to be made over issues such as exploits.

Which weaknesses to inform corporations about so that patches can be created, promulgated and installed – and which will be kept for tools of the espionage trade?  After all, no agency can be expected to be efficient if they have no tools to work with – but there is an overriding requirement to protect citizenry, corporation and State from hostile acts that would, or could, affect their safety.

Therefore the best tools are those that are not easy to find by adversaries to employ themselves, yet have a desired reach when it comes to penetration, and have an impact on public safety that is considered minimal enough not to require immediate patching.  There needs to be an array of tools.  Tools specific to the software.

Like all matters relating to the State, there are structures, processes, and implementation issues – and clearly the blog is staying well away from the intricacies of techy issues, for they fall far beyond its competency and understanding.

It is perhaps also wiser to talk less of offence and more about defence for the sake of certain sensitivities..

What issues will have to be effectively and unambiguously tackled – particularly so when talking of incident response when incident prevention fails?

The first will be government communication to business and constituents.

No differently to a terrorist attack, there is a “golden hour” (or a few hours) immediately following it during which an incident is framed.

It is not a time for speculation, hunches or intuition.  It is a time for accuracy.  If there is no new update, the update is there is nothing new to say – yet.  Neither silence, nor filling the silence with bunkum is useful.  Accurate and frequent updates is all that is required, and all that should be offered during the “golden hour(s)”.

One look at the agencies involved within the Ukrainian cyber security/defence legislation – CERT UA, the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, the State Center for Cyber ​​Defense, the National Police, the “agencies” (SBU, and FISU), the MoD, the NBU, the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) and now Ministry of Infrastructure via its new SOE and “General Secretariat for Digital Infrastructure” – generates far too many talking heads, all of which have leaders who like to talk publicly (often about things they know very little about).

To be effective in the task of cyber defence and security, there is a requirement for tech industry input from outside the State institutions and agencies too – perhaps in real time as an incident unfolds.  After all, most data, data experiences and expertise is found outside of government agencies and institutions.

Perhaps the only thing worse than a government that does nothing when a reaction is required, is a government that deals with things in a half-arsed way when it does react.  Inclusion is good when it comes to formulating a response, but public communication has to be accurate and clear to be effective during and in the immediate aftermath of a public cyber incident.

That requires all but one of the talking heads from the list above to shut up.

More generally, there should be but one source for official advice and public statements to avoid misunderstandings among business and the constituency alike.  Bits of contradictory or unofficial comment, or just as bad, the need to go to several places to gather in all relevant information is folly.

In short a lead agency is required, to which all other agencies defer and direct others to in the public realm.

That said, ultimately a government or lead agency is not responsible for insuring everybody keeps their software patched.  The aftermath of an incident therefore may not be entirely reflective of the government ability to deal with it.

A more difficult issue perhaps is identifying a vulnerability to a software provider that refuses, or that is less than timely in producing a patch.  How to gain such compliance without drawing attention to that vulnerability by those that would exploit it?

Another question is where, if necessary, do all those involved in any incident response meet?

There are perhaps things that cannot be, or should not be done remotely.  There may be a need for all to see simultaneously, how an incident is unfolding, the solutions tried and the effects they have.  A requirement to abandon tech communication and talk face to face – whether it be due to the repercussions or implications of an attack, or simply a conference call with so many people being unmanageable.

The logical answer is to gather at the place where the most expertise and technical ability is centered – but where is that?  Do those from without government institutions and agencies require clearance to get in there – or see what they are to see, and hear what they are to hear?

Does that present potential for creating insider threats, or perhaps decrease them through lessons learned?

Which tech and industry sectors would be required from outside?  In what numbers to gather in the right insight and sector mass?

Who decides?  Who decides who decides?

How to create not only the statute required to fill out the current framework legislation, but define the structure and processes for effective implementation?

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Publicly burning the covert – Lutsenko has to go (but he won’t)

December 2, 2017

President Poroshenko went to great lengths to install Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General of Ukraine.  It was only after about a year of behind the curtain negotiations, and then forcing through a change in the law, that the President managed to install his man as Prosecutor General.

The political capital (and probably money) spent in shoehorning Yuri Lutsenko in as Prosecutor General was of course all about loyalty to President Poroshenko.  Otherwise inserting a “Grey Cardinal” (an accomplished doer of grubby and dirty deals behind the curtain where the stands of politics, criminality and business entwine) would not have been possible.  After decades of being a “Grey Cardinal”, Mr Lutsenko knows where all the bodies are buried and how all the scams and schemes operate.

Thus his appointment was about installing a man to manage the prosecutor’s office.  It was about controlling and focusing the coercive abilities of the PGO.  It was not about successful prosecutions of the elite and their most powerful or useful minions – as the empty jail cells prove as testament.

After almost 4 years as President and after 18 months as Prosecutor General, this team has not seen a single member of the elite convicted and jailed.

That however was always their plan and, to be blunt, was always recognised by the Ukrainian constituency.  It was not missed by the foreign diplomatic corps either.

The fly in the ointment has been NABU.

Yuri Lutsenko has not managed to subordinate it, and Ukrainian society and “foreign partners” have thus far managed to defend it.  Hence what is currently clearly open warfare upon NABU by The Bankova via the politically subservient PGO and SBU.

However, even in this institutional warfare, declared or otherwise, there are rules written and unwritten that are never broken on a whim – if at all.

One of those rules is not to publicly burn (identify) officers, operatives, agents and (registered) informers engaged in intelligence gathering and/or covert criminal operations unless absolutely necessary – but certainly not on a whim.  If it is necessary, such matters are almost always dealt with by employing discretion at its uppermost.  Even known fabricators are privately and quietly burned – rarely publicly, if ever.

For adversaries it is a question of quid pro quo – what is seen to be done to one side by another will be met by reciprocity.

The whimsical burning of undercover or covert personnel acting on behalf of a State institution is therefore shunned – be they active abroad or at home, in intelligence or criminality.

Casting intelligence and espionage to one side, and concentrating on the criminality that is the realm of NABU, the blog will adopt the lexicon of law enforcement and not espionage – although clearly law enforcement engages in its own covert intelligence gathering.

NABU is at a disadvantage compared to many law enforcement bodies.  Firstly its remit is purely related to anti-corruption within the Ukrainian political, judicial, civil service and institutional elite.  That naturally places limitations upon interaction with horizontal bodies beyond the usual limitations of competitiveness between institutions.

Parliament, for obvious self-interest reasons, will not grant NABU independent SIGINT capabilities.  NABU is reliant upon the politically controlled SBU for any such intelligence.  Naturally when there are doubts upon the integrity of the SBU, SIGINT requests must be carefully considered lest an operation be deliberately compromised – and that leads to a greater dependence upon human intelligence (HUMINT)/operational involvement – and, perhaps, increased risks for those engaged in it.

The NABU mandate clearly sets the entire system and the majority of those within it against NABU.  Not any easy situation.

Presumably NABU is organised internally in a very similar way to the agencies/institutions within “foreign supporters” – for it was they that trained, equipped and financed NABU initially.

With anti-corruption within the elite the remit, there will be a lot of intelligence gathering from many sources, standard detective work, foreign judicial/law enforcement liaison, and a lot of surveillance and undercover work (with more than a few sting operations too).  This will only be enhanced by an effective network of undercover officers, agents and informants – occasionally participating informants – many of whom, for the sake of what they do, (and for the sake of bureaucracy/documentation), will have been allocated a pseudonym.

That pseudonym, once recorded in a central register, is the only name that will be used.

(Imagine those working covertly for a State institution being burned because their real name was required for a cash/incidental expenses payment for the “bean counter’s” form, and somebody in the accounts department outed them.  Not good.  It is also why a wise Controller and handler will choose a pseudonym from the phone book rather than a nonsense name like Curveball or Stakeknife that clearly stand out on any documentation as nothing other than a pseudonym or operation title.)

Further, while many in a department may know some of their colleagues working covertly and under pseudonyms, the identity of registered informants is closely guarded.  Normally it is only the Controller who officially registers (and occasionally tasks)  an informer, and the officer that recruits the informer who initially know the real identity of the individual.

Standard practice is that there are two handlers for a registered informer, so a co-handler is chosen who also meets the informant.  (There are several good reasons for having two handlers per informant.)

Thus there is, in a tightly run department, only three individuals who know for a fact that their registered informer is just that – a RI.  Nobody else within the department should know for a fact, even if the may suspect or strongly believe, that officer X is a handler for Y who has been flipped to work for the institution in question.

There is an implicit and understood unwritten contract (although participating informant status does have a written set of guidelines setting parameters on “participation” signed by a RI under their pseudonym) between the institution, controller, handlers and registered informant, that their true identity will not be disclosed.

Indeed criminal cases are very often dropped and operations cancelled or delayed, if they rely exclusively upon a covert individual and there is no way to otherwise conceal or obscure the involvement of such participation.

There is in fact, no difference between the care taken over the identity of a registered informant working for an institution, than there is for the care taken over the identity of a member of the institution working undercover.  Both when or if burned have very little future ahead in that role for any institution – and good covert operatives and quality registered informants are few and far between.

All the above stated (and an awful lot deliberately unstated) it is therefore an absolute disgrace that Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko deliberately, for no good reason, and against all rules written or unwritten, publicly burned a NABU agent, naming not only pseudonym, but also her real identity, during his open warfare with NABU.

A truly unforgivable act.

There are no excuses – indeed there are aggravating factors that this was done purely on a whim to score political points against NABU.  The circumstances surrounding this particular investigation according to NABU can be found here.

It doesn’t matter whether this individual working for or with NABU has broken any laws.  There are systems to deal with such matters that lawfully address such occurrences without the need to publicly burn such people.  They can still face justice and indeed be jailed, without compromising them and what they have done for a State institution.  Indeed a run in with the law can have the effect of providing further bona fides for those that could return to the game if their cover is not burned.  These are often people, be they aristocracy or trailer-trash, (or anything in between), that can often gain access to where State institutions struggle.  A limited resource.

The Prosecutor General’s deliberate compromising of this individual is not only a matter of personal safety for this particular individual – who is now permanently of far less value to NABU, and is yet still their responsibility.

The entire covert world has at its core a level of trust regarding the protection of identity, yet the Ukrainian Prosecutor General can clearly not be trusted to adhere to this most basic of principles, despite a history as a Grey Cardinal and his thorough understanding of that grubby and dirty world.  He knows very well the value of secrecy.

Thus this not not simply a matter of one individual publicly burned by Yuri Lutsenko – to his everlasting disgrace.

There are other questions.

What effect will this have on those who are currently working covertly, not just for NABU, but all Ukrainian institutions?  Every time the Prosecutor General opens his mouth in public they are to worry that their name will be next when Mr Lutsenko wants to score a cheap political point over a competing institution he cannot or does not control?

Yet further, how will this affect the recruitment of such people for all the institutions and agencies?  A good covert officer or registered informant are not something you find on a supermarket shelf.  They are carefully selected.  By the time they are officially asked if they will be put on the books, in whatever capacity, neither the question, nor the answer should be a surprise to either party.

Ergo, Prosecutor General Lutsenko’s whimsical act is not simply a political swipe at NABU with dire results for the individual concerned, or limited to any adverse effects for NABU as an institution.  It is an attack against all such institutions and agencies, and thus the Ukrainian State, that have to operate with and through covert methods.

This act is a cardinal sin (deliberately committed by a Grey Cardinal).

His act, even in a Banana Republic, at the very least would see him removed and prosecuted – but a reader can be assured that won’t happen.

Not even a terse word will be muttered.

Yuri Lutsenko however, has now fallen far beyond contempt.

 

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Radisson Blu Hotel Odessa – Trouble ahead?

December 1, 2017

Odessa based construction company Double W, announced through its CEO Alexey Parkhomchuk, the construction of a Radisson Blu hotel on the site of The Sailor’s Palace upon the sacred ground of Primorsky Boulevard in the heart of historical Odessa.

Mr Parkhomchuk was wax lyrical about the high-tech, environmentally and/or energy efficient design (a design which nobody in Odessa – at least so far as the public is concerned – has seen).  “We were able to achieve (by design) a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 66% (1.3 thousand tons), a reduction in water consumption of 64% (33 million liters), savings in electricity – about $ 270 thousand per year … We are talking about the facility , which is capitalized, and then will be sold.For 10 years, this amount (savings) increases our selling cost by at least $ 3 million.”

Mr Parkhomchuk also claimed that with LEED Gold standards and purchase of the necessary equipment (special sensors, heat panels, etc.), EUR1.2 million will have to be invested additionally, however, energy savings after the facility is put into operation will be EUR300,000 per year, therefore return on costs is about four years.  The Scandinavian Environmental Fund (NEFCO) and the Danish Investment Fund (IFU) have also agreed to fund the project.

Notwithstanding that, apparently 75% of the design costs were also covered by grants.

There is no reason to object to environmentally friendly, resource efficient construction – none whatsoever.  In fact it should be actively encouraged.  Ukraine is a particularly energy wasteful nation.

Further it is claimed that the Rezidor Hotel Group will manage the hotel – they apparently manage Radisson Blu hotels previously built by Double W in Ukraine and Georgia.

Aside from energy efficiency, clearly the target market for the hotel will be for those tourists who once stayed in Crimea and who in recent years have come to Odessa instead.

Bravo!  All technological and business model boxes ticked.

But it is entirely unclear what has been said to the foreign investors and grant givers.  It appears very likely that there will be problems.

For as already stated Primosky Boulevard is hallowed ground to all who live in the city of Odessa.  It is part of the historical city centre – in fact it is a main feature of it, and therefore adored.

This not only places legislative restrictions upon development within the zoned historical city centre, it is a location that is extremely emotive for the local constituency.

A reader need only recall the similar issues of The Green Theatre, attempts to deface Fransuski Boulevard, and the recent violence of the Summer Theatre on Gorsad (the latter equally hallowed ground in the historical city centre) to understand just how emotive any changes along Primorsky Boulevard will be.

Tread ye very, very carefully ye designers, developers, investors, and facility managers!  This is not just any land plot in Odessa.  It is sacred ground situated well within the very soul of the city and its million plus dwellers.  Considerate construction is required.

A wise investor would perhaps do their own due diligence and public opinion surveys.  Rely not upon what a developer or City Hall may claim.

Any new Radisson Blu will undoubtedly be rigorously, and ultimately violently opposed if necessary, unless it fully meets the sensibilities of the local constituency.

“Compromises” with City Hall and other developers that have eventually yet repeatedly proven to fail the local constituency, have long since lost their societal appeal.

As far as design and construction are concerned, local sensibilities will not only relate to a historical facade in keeping with the rest of Primorsky Boulevard – something even the current nest of corruption with City Hall would insist upon.

The sensibilities will relate to the height of any proposed construction too.

There will be no accepting of claims that if the facade be only 3 stories high (like the rest of Primorksy Boulevard), that any gradual heightening (think of a wedge shaped affair) as the building moves back from the Boulevard frontage will be accepted.

Primorsky Boulevard is a long historic street.  Any new construction will be viewed from all angles as people walk along Primorsky Boulevard, and also the historic streets behind it.  To stand directly in front of it and claim that higher stories therefore cannot be seen will not hold any water with the city residents.

There will be no accepting that a 5 or 7 story hotel that looks like, but dwarfs all the other 3 story historic building.

The city centre skyline outside the historical zone (but as close as possible to it) has been repeatedly and rudely violated since Mayor Trukhanov came to power – much to the annoyance of the local constituency.

Mayor Trukhanov and City Hall have however, until Gorsad and the associated violence, refrained from permanently scaring the zoned historical city centre.  The first real attempt resulted in real violence.  Quite simply any further attempts to mutilate the historical city centre will be a step far beyond what will be tolerated by the local constituency.

Otherwise law abiding citizens, regardless of age or gender, will be prepared to physically fight and be arrested to preserve not only the historical look, but the historical skyline to if necessary.  Let there be no mistake.

Quite simply, whatever design Double W has, and no matter how meeting the demands of the local constituency may affect any projected ROI figures, the Radisson Blu hotel project will have to be only three stories high throughout, and have a facade entirely in keeping with the rest of Primorsky Boulevard if violence is to be avoided.  Nothing else will be accepted by the local constituency.

Assuredly construction, if it occurs, will be monitored daily by activists and ever expanding civil groups.  There will be no room for bluffing or exceeding planning permissions.  At the first sign of deviation, undoubtedly “civic-orientated demolition work” will occur to prevent the “accidental construction” of something that is not meant to be there.

Almost daily the blog is now invited to join social media groups to prevent the aesthetic destruction of the historical city centre.

Petitions to the entirely absent and absolutely useless Ministry of Culture, and to the feckless City Hall, have been started and are gaining thousands and thousands of signatures relating to The Summer Theatre and the Green Theatre.  Indeed it took less than 36 hours to reach the required number of signatures to petition for the Green Theatre to force a City Hall response.  The Summer Theatre is now also past that threshold – with the Oblast Governor calling upon the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the land leasing arrangements too.

A petition to the Culture Ministry to prevent the Radisson Blu being over three stories high has already begun – fueled by the fact that no design for the Radisson Blu has been placed in the public domain despite Mr Parkhomchuk stating “the Radisson Blu hotel will be built on the site of the Seamen’s Palace on Primorsky Boulevard in the same area of ​​Odessa, all formalities regarding the purchase of the corresponding land plot have already been completed.”

Anger grows.

Those with influence in Kyiv that read this blog would perhaps consider it wise to encourage the Ministry of Culture to involve itself now with regard to this matter – for clearly an angry constituency is preparing for a war over the fate of its historical city centre – and that war can be prevented by intervention over both the proposed Radisson Blu on Primorski Boulevard, and also with regard to Gorsad and the Summer Theatre.

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