A return to the State Bureau of Investigation

March 12, 2018

It was November 2017 when the newly created State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) was last mentioned by the blog – questioning both the integrity of the institution from the offset, and also its structure, processes, and resources to effectively get to work.

Truth be told, it has still not got to work.

However, that is not entirely the fault of the SBI “competition winning” leadership.

There is a small matter of national statute that requires amending to provide for public and transparent appointments to be made, rather than the current “external commission” that holds such powers of appointment.

The most recent plea to the Verkhovna Rada to make those legislative amendments was made on 5th February 2018 by the SBI Chief – who largely remains without any institutional structure or staff beyond vacancies on an Excel spreadsheet – and Excel spreadsheets are not capable, in and of themselves, of investigating serious criminality.

Nevertheless, 12th March 2018 witnessed the announcement of the first recruitment wave, 219 staff initially, of which 152 posts are for Bureau Investigators.  That small number, a reader may ponder, is sufficient for the SBI headquarters, for it is nowhere near sufficient to encompass the requirements of the regions.

Thus perhaps by the end of the summer there will be something approaching a central structure with bums on seats per an Excel spreadsheet – yet in all probability no meaningful regional presence, or as importantly, work being done.  Decentralisation of power and budgets, something of a policy success story for the current authorities, also no doubt equates to the decentralisation of corruption, criminality and abuse of office.  Regional presence is therefore an unquestionable requirement.

Suffice to say this investigative institution charged with the policing serious criminality of the elite (that which falls outside the remit of NABU) will not be functioning effectively until early 2019, perhaps mid to late 2019 – and thus post presidential and Verkhovna Rada elections – per the “delay for as long as possible” plan for any eventual anti-corruption court.

Therefore a reader should perhaps not hold their breath regarding the creation and functioning of the as yet unborn National Bureau of Financial Investigations.

Considering the gestation period for the State Bureau of Investigations, and its on-going difficult delivery and infancy, the NBFI will probably not be born, and will remain underdeveloped, until well into 2019 at the earliest, thus taking its first wobbly steps sometime in 2020.

Nevertheless, that fact that SBI recruitment has been announced at all, despite existing legislative hurdles to be removed, is perhaps something approaching progress?


Ukraine recongised by NATO as “Aspirant country” – Which means what exactly?

March 11, 2018

As predicted at the turn of the New Year, President Poroshenko will be employing national security and defence as a significant platform for his reelection.  It is a prediction that is rapidly taking shape, though there is much more to be done and many more announcements to be made as the elections draw ever closer.

Ergo the announcement of 10th March that NATO had formally recognised Ukraine as an “aspirant country” will no doubt to further solidify the perceptions surrounding that electoral platform.

“Aspirant Countries”, per the NATO website are thus defined:  “Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an Intensified Dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms.

Aspirant countries may then be invited to participate in the MAP to prepare for potential membership and demonstrate their ability to meet the obligations and commitments of possible future membership. Participation in the MAP does not guarantee membership, but it constitutes a key preparation mechanism.

Countries aspiring to join NATO have to demonstrate that they are in a position to further the principles of the 1949 Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. They are also expected to meet certain political, economic and military criteria, which are laid out in the 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement.”

A deliberately broad and woolly statement (“may then be“, “potential“, “possible“, “does not guarantee“) in the two foremost paragraphs, and somewhat more pointed in the final prose (“related reforms“,”have to“, “demonstrate“, “expected to meet”).

Nevertheless, President Poroshenko stated “I welcome the important long-awaited and logical decision of NATO to raise Ukraine’s ambitions for the Alliance, which was a recognition of the real state of our relations with NATO, this was exactly what was discussed during my last meeting with the NATO Secretary General in Munich, as well as a recent telephone conversation with the Vice-President of the United States.” inferring that some form of formal right of passage had occurred and access to the next step in an accession process had been achieved.

Indeed the President went on to state “Our next ambition is a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for Ukraine, which was the subject of my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018, where, with reference to Article 10 of the Treaty on the Establishment of NATO, I officially recorded Ukraine’s desire to become a member of the Alliance.”  A reader may perceive that a MAP was therefore subject to first qualifying as a recognised “aspirant” nation.

However, apart from the aforementioned quote from within the NATO website, in truth there is no formal NATO document that recognises the “aspirant country” status – as made clear by Vadim Prystaiko, The Head of Mission of Ukraine to NATO.  “Formally, this status is nowhere to be found in the official documents of the Alliance. But what happened – Ukraine was recognised as one of the countries that wants to join NATO.  In total, there are four countries that the Alliance today recognises as its future members. You can use the word “candidate”, but such a formal phrase in NATO documents does not exist.”

Further, as readers with a reasonable memory will recall, since 2005 Ukraine has been chasing a MAP for NATO accession, albeit with varying degrees of political will – that MAP for both Ukraine and Georgia formally proposed in 2008, ultimately failing to find the required 100% support among existing members during the Budapest NATO summit that year.

Ergo, was that not formal consideration (even if ultimately rebuffing) of a Ukrainian MAP request in 2008 and de facto recognition of Ukrainian “aspirations” already – and can those aspirations be recognised de jure when no such status formally exists anywhere within the officially adopted NATO protocols and processes?

Also, de facto, can any reader recall a time when NATO has ever been so engaged with Ukraine as it is now – regardless of any de jure status within the NATO lexicon or membership application process?

Where, therefore, does the formal recognition of an entirely unofficial “aspiration” status take Ukraine along the long-standing, and previously debated (a decade past) MAP route, or allow for further intensification or a currently unprecedented intense NATO-Ukraine relationship?

Without question, “aspirant status” will not take Ukraine any closer to meeting its Article 3 requirements within the Washington Treaty.  Both Ukraine and a reader would be wise to interpret those Article 3 resilience requirements in their broadest sense and beyond its military capabilities, but also include the political, economic and societal arenas.

Therefore, once again, the fight against corruption (or lack of it) will be prominent – for corruption is a significant national security issue.  It undermines the military and its capabilities, it undermines the economy, it undermines politics, and it undermines society.  Thus any NATO MAP is likely to have significant and prickly anti-corruption requirements similar to those of the IMF, WB and EU for any Ukrainian leadership.

Whatever the case, “aspirant status” as now designated to Ukraine per the NATO website (despite the complete lack of any such formal status within any official NATO documents) would appear, looking at Ukrainian-NATO relations, to be more a political statement for the sake of a political statement, than one of any real change in processes or timelines.  As previously stated, clearly formal MAP deliberations as far as Ukraine is concerned has not been dependent upon “aspirant status” as the Budapest 2008 NATO Summit ably displays.  This was not a facilitating step required to resubmit another request.

It may perhaps provide a new foundation  to pave the way for a second attempt for a MAP for Ukraine, but Georgia which has for some time held “aspirant status” and was also denied a MAP in Budapest in 2008, has yet to be granted a second deliberation attempt to have its MAP request officially upon a NATO agenda too.

Whether or not “aspiration” will help in allowing Ukraine access to, and more importantly participation within the NATO supply chain remains to be seen.  It seems unlikely considering the issues within the Ukrainian MIC.

Therefore a reader is left to ask, other than political symbolism, just how far and how quickly “Aspirant Country” status moves Ukraine along the road toward the NATO security blanket is so clearly wishes to nestle within – particularly as an absence of territorial disputes is a de facto requirement of NATO membership at the time of joining.  For as long as The Kremlin remains illegally parked in the Donbas temporarily occupied territories, and for as long as Crimea remains occupied and annexed, the chances of Ukrainian NATO membership are almost zero – unless Ukraine were to renounce all rights to these stolen territories and The Kremlin was somehow caught unawares and unresponsive whilst Ukrainian accession occurred, or every NATO Member were to allow a change in accession requirements.

Of course to be recognised as an “aspirant country” is perhaps perceived as being better than not being recognised as an “aspirant country” (despite the fact that being an “aspirant country is clearly not a pre-requiste to requesting a MAP).  It perhaps matters little that “aspirant country” appears nowhere in any official NATO document either.  After all, for many, it is not what is said but what is heard that matters.

However, expectation management is in order – for despite the noticeable (and welcome) progress and increased abilities within the Ukrainian military at the front line, and a robustly patriotic society, unfortunately the Ukrainian MIC, military leadership, current political class, and captured Ukrainian economy all fall far short of Article 3 resilience requirements – either due to perceptions or actual incompetence, and/or due to perceptions or real corruption issues.

So, does “aspirant country” status take Ukraine any closer to realising any NATO ambitions?  Probably not – and certainly not in comparison to a meaningful, holistic, uncompromising effort at meeting the Article 3 obligations.  Nevertheless, “Aspirant country” status does however provide a certain perception – regardless of any reality.  With elections drawing ever nearer, The Bankova will certainly take those perceptions to the polls.


A plot to assassinate Poroshenko? Ruban arrested

March 9, 2018

The 8th March witnessed the SBU arrest Volodymyr Ruban, a man generally acknowledged to have played a role in the exchange of approximately 700 captives on either side of the contact line in The Donbas since warfare began in 2014.

His alleged crime according to prosecutors is the smuggling of weapons among furniture from the temporarily occupied Donbas into Ukrainian controlled territory with the intention thereafter to assassinate President Poroshenko, Interior Minister Avakov, Secretary of the NSDC Olexandr Turchynov, and former Prime Minister Arseiy Yatseniuk among others – notwithstanding any security personnel who got in the way during the alleged assassination attempt(s).

It is claimed that hidden among the furniture being transported by Mr Ruban were boxes of grenades and grenade launchers, fragmentation mines, a 50mm mortar and ammunition, over a dozen assault rifles and machine guns, as well as tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

He is thus charged with illegal handling of firearms, and also preparation of a terrorist attack (which a reader may infer relates directly to the alleged aforementioned assassination preparations).

It has to be said that Mr Ruban is not necessarily the most liked individual in Ukraine – in part due to his relationship with the loathsome Viktor Medvedchuk, and Medvedchuk’s odious “Ukrainian Choice” NGO.  (Fortunately an entity with almost zero societal traction – not that it was designed for societal traction, but rather promulgating the Medvedchuk propaganda line within the cosseted civil society space.)

Mr Medvedchuk is currently an interlocutor between Presidents Poroshenko and Putin with regard to the exchange of captives on either side of the line of contact.   It will not be by coincidence that Mr Ruban heads an NGO that concentrates on facilitating prisoner exchange considering Mr Medvedchuk’s current role.

Mr Ruban claims he has been set up.

He claims he was simply the driver and was entirely unaware of the illicit arms hidden within the furniture in the vehicle he was driving.

He states that he was using a vehicle belonging to an armed operative with the call sign “Cedar”.  He further states that “Cedar” wanted to blacken out the vehicle registration plates and have Mr Ruban cross the border at a location where he had no valid pass.

This he claims he refused to allow and the efforts to disguise the vehicle identity were subsequently removed.  He claims not to have known about the weapons hidden in the vehicle and that he insisted upon traveling alone.

Well perhaps – but not checking the contents of the vehicle would involve a degree of either naivety, complacency, or be part of a trust building process when was asked to drive from one side of the contact line to the other.

Having apparently been involved in facilitating the exchange of approximately 700 captives since 2014, surely trust on either side will have long since been established.  Further as a Medvedchuk minion, trust would probably have come far more readily from the occupied territories than the Ukrainian side.  Ergo, an exercise in trust building this was not.

It is also reasonable to discount naivety after four years of fairly frequent crossing of the contact line.

This leaves either complacency as the cause for his being set up, (as he states he has been), or he is in fact a willing and aware participant at the very least in illegal firearms handling.  Yet Mr Ruban has previously been subject to the SBU ire, in February 2017 being accused of often violating the protocols for crossing the line of contact, so is complacency realistic?

Evidence for the alleged future assassination attempts has yet to be convincingly presented in the public realm at the time of writing.  Presumably there is either SIGINT, or there are witnesses/co-conspirators who have been interviewed by the authorities, or both, to reach that very specific conclusion.

Witnesses there may well be – for the prosecution claim that this is the second time Mr Ruban has smuggled weapons from the temporarily occupied territories into government controlled Ukraine.  A previous gun-run by Mr Ruban is claimed to have successfully taken place with the weaponry being delivered to Khmelnitsky.  Perhaps loose lips have been whispering in security service ears?

However a reader will perhaps expect SIGINT to be the main intelligence grounds to have high confidence in the validity of any assassination plans – whether Mr Ruban was the specific target, or initially became subject to incidental collection due to his liaison with those within the temporarily occupied territories.

Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko has stated that the arrest of Mr Ruban was not apprehended by chance.

A reader will, having read the list of weaponry seized at the time of arrest, and notwithstanding whatever was transported on the alleged previously successful trip to Khmelnitsky, wonder just how much of an arsenal is required to assassinate President Poroshenko, Arsen Avakov, Arseniy Yatseniuk and Olexandr Turchynov?

Clearly that seized at the time of arrest would be far too much for Mr Ruban alone to carry and use during any such attempt.  There would have to be others to optimize the use of such an arsenal to make any assassination attempt successful – that presumes Mr Ruban would actually partake in the wet work himself.

There are also questions to be raised about the frequency of any gatherings where all four men (and perhaps others) would all be present together – and just how many people would know about such meetings in advance.  Successful assassinations take some degree of planning after all.

Mr Yatseniuk for example, is not a member of the NSDC (albeit he may be hanging around in corridors when such meeetings occur – or not).  In fact it is difficult to identify any formal body or location where all concerned are regularly together.

Prima facie, perhaps only at the unofficial ad hoc conclaves of the innermost coalition leadership would all be present simultaneously and in the same room.

Other than that, a reader is left with the alternative that only coordinated strikes at multiple locations would provide any chance of such a successful decapitation of the political leadership over the national security apparatus. That would clearly have to involve more than just Mr Ruban – and thus is a reader is to expect further arrests relating to the assassination plot?

If there are to be further arrests relating specifically to any assassination plot, is a reader to expect a further charge/charges of conspiracy (together with co-accused) for Mr Ruban?  If so, when?

It will be interesting to watch this play out.

In the meantime, what if any, will be the consequences regarding the exchange of captives from either side of the contact line?


The next Ukrainian natsec date for the diary – 13th March?

March 7, 2018

On 3rd January 2018, the blog engaged in the folly of a little crystal ball gazing regarding those few significant reforms that could perhaps occur now that pre-election electioneering is well under way.

As such it predicted that national security and defence would become a major platform for President Poroshenko – which in turn foretold reform of both the Ministry of Defence and the SBU.  Both ministry and agency are very much in need of reform – notwithstanding the ingrained corruption within the MoD and MIC that clearly hampers the ability and efficiency of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Some readers may consider such on-going ingrained corruption within the MoD and MIC as little more than treason at a time of war with Russia – and indeed corruption, simply by its scale, is nothing less than a national security issue regardless of the sphere of the economy it occurs within anyway.

As stated within the aforementioned link – “With a defence and national security electoral platform, President Poroshenko will have to be seen to be doing something (other than spending UAH86 billion), rightly lauding those brave souls on the front lines, and getting defence and national security legislation passed and onto the statute books.

Ergo, with NATO standards as the declared objective, and electoral political framing and action a requirement, it seems almost certain that General Stepan Poltorak will either leave his post as Minister of Defence, or he will leave the military to remain in post.  The NATO normative is that a Ministry of Defence is headed by a civilian, which discounts General Poltorak whilst ever he remains a serving military officer.

The chances are he will be replaced – albeit there will be other military orientated openings to fill.”

So, ignoring the pondering over a civilian replacement for Stepan Poltorak that followed within that entry, how close were the New Year blog predictions to becoming reality?

It appears that a draft law “On the National Security of Ukraine” – the first legislation intended to seriously upgrade and reform such a critical policy sphere since 2003 – has now been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada.

Speaker Parubiy claims to have sent it urgently to the relevant “Committee on National Security and Defence” to ponder – however briefly.  The law is rumoured to already be slated for a first Verkhovna Rada reading and vote on 13th March (albeit it is difficult to find a parliamentarian that has yet to see the draft Bill).

Aside from repealing Ukrainian “obligatory observance of allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to be temporarily located on the territory of Ukraine“, with regard to the blog predictions of 3rd January, there does indeed appear to be a specific date for placing a civilian atop the Ministry of Defence as Minister.  In fact it appears that both Minister and two Deputy Ministers will, by law, be required to be civilians.

Where the blog was slightly off when gazing at its crystal ball in the New Year was the effective date – the Draft Law proscribes 1st January 2019 for the civilian takeover of the Ministry of Defence.  Ergo current Defence Minister General Poltorak either remains in post but leaves the military by that date, or he leaves that post cometh 1st January 2019 and remains in the military.

Having predicted Yuri Lutsenko to become Prosecutor General well over a year before he became Prosecutor General (and despite the then prohibitory legislation), the blog will take the view that Mr Lutsenko will be a strong candidate for a civilian Minister of Defence – if for no other reason than a return to a top table political position heading a significant ministry.  The “a-political” Prosecutor General’s Office was never going to be home for more than a few years, for he is a politician and not a prosecutor/civil servant after all.

It should be noted that the US (and other western/NATO members) are very supportive of this new Draft Law – as they should be, having had significant influence over its drafting by the National Security and Defence Council.  For Ukraine it signifies further compliance with the NATO standard of civilian control over the military.

It may, perhaps, encourage further NATO engagement with the Ukrainian MoD – and release more funding and/or joint projects within the Ukrainian MIC.  Time will tell.

Though by itself not an election winner, reform of national security and defence (the MoD and SBU) are now clearly a major electoral platform for President Poroshenko.

However, MoD and MIC reform is not accomplished simply by swapping military for civilian ministerial or organisational leadership.  Receiving NATO plaudits will not change the domestic electoral mood significantly either.  It will take far more than that to convince both the domestic audience, the existing Ukrainian military personnel, and “western supporters” that the ingrained corruption within the MoD and MIC will be effectively tackled and curtailed to manageable/(unofficially) acceptable levels.

There is always a perception lag between policy implementation and public recognition of policy successes – even with the most effectively implemented policy changes and/or reform.  (Policy and reform are not necessarily the same thing.)

The question therefore arises whether command and control within the MoD and MIC will improve under civilian direction rather than that of military direction?  In budgets that necessarily contain a level of secrecy when it comes to spending/allocation, how much more will civilian control bring from the opaque into the transparent (where it is prudent and justifiable to do so)?

Naturally, even if this Draft Law successfully navigates a first reading on 13th March, a watchful eye upon suggested amendments prior to the second and final reading will be required – albeit that seems assured given the influence of “western supporters” over the original draft.

Whatever the case, it appears that 13th March 2018 is scheduled to see this Draft Bill enter the Verkhovna Rada for voting upon.  Ergo a date for the diary of natsec nerds.


NABU and SAP raid Odessa City Hall again – Seeking evidence or an audience?

March 6, 2018

On 6th March, once again, perhaps for the fourth time (the blog is losing count), NABU and the SAP executed search warrants on Odessa City Hall.

Once again it was Mayor Trukhanov that was the centre of their attention.

The issues, political and criminal regarding Mayor Trukhanov have already been subject to comment.

Arrests are still occurring relating to the “Krayan” UAH 185 million embezzlement case.

6th March witnessed the arrest of assets belonging to Ihor Kravchenko, whose Valton Group LP is alleged to have been involved with Alexandr Dubkov’s UAB Nastor that bought for UAH 11 million from, and then sold at UAH 185 million the “Krayan” (also known as “The Edge” and “Elite Development”) building to Odessa City Hall within a 7 month period.

(Mr Kravechenko also owns significant holdings in Black Sea Shipping Service Ltd., South Ukraine, BS Shipping Service Ltd., BS Freight Terminal LLC among others.)

Officially the search warrant was issued to prevent the destruction and distortion of documents that are of interest in the “Krayan” investigation.  A reader may very well ponder, after several previous searches just what documents remain to be destroyed or distorted.

There are however few genuine coincidences in life – particularly so when political and criminal intrigues surround abound.

Ergo a reader will perhaps see little coincidence in the fact that these searches took place at the same time that the Kyiv Court of Appeal was hearing a challenge from the SAP to overturn a previous ruling leaving Mayor Trukhanov both in post and at work.

The SAP had previously applied to the court to remove Mayor Trukhanov from his post for a period of 2 months while investigations were completed.  That request was denied, and thus the appeal on 6th March to overturn that ruling and suspend the Mayor from his duties and City Hall was being heard at the same time it became known further searches were being conducted at Odessa City Hall relating to the case.

A reader is therefore left with options to ponder.

Firstly, new evidence has come to light that would dictate a further requirement for a warrant to search and seize within Odessa City Hall relating to the “Krayan” case (or perhaps the other two known cases).

Secondly, the previous searches have been carried out so ineptly that numerous searches occur in an effort to gather all relevant evidence – eventually collecting all that is necessary.

Thirdly, that all previous court issued warrants have been so worded, and thus restrictive relating to search and seizure, that the numerous warrants and searches have been required to collect and collate all relevant evidence.

Lastly, this search had little to do with actually searching and seizing any new evidence, but was deliberately timed to give the perception that evidence of perhaps on-going criminality is continuing being produced with the Mayor still in office and his workplace – and the only way to prevent that is to remove him from office.  The inference being that while the court was sitting and pondering the removal of Mayor Trukhanov from office, this search was timed to influence that decision.

A reader is left to decide.  New evidence?  Numerous previously inept searches?  Previous searches too restrictive within the parameters of any previous warrants?  A NABU/SAP piece of theatre designed to influence the court of appeal?

Perhaps a combination of some or all of the above?

Whatever the case, the Kyiv Court of Appeal upheld the original decision to leave Mayor Trukhanov in post and at work.


The Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman speaks out

March 5, 2018

Like so many issues in contemporary Ukraine, the issue of human rights is certainly work in progress.

However, Valery Lutkovskaya the current Human Rights Ombudsman (or Ombudswoman) and her office have, despite prevailing winds, managed to make progress during her tenure.

Indeed Ms Lutkovskaya is held in some regard by the blog, similar in fact to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintadze, both of whom despite obvious obstructionism and occasional blatant disregard for ratified international obligations by the nation’s leadership, legislature, and the institutions of State, continue doggedly to try and do the right thing.

It is perhaps unfortunate that Ms Lutkovskaya’s tenure is over – albeit she has yet to be replaced and so soldiers on in post, seemingly indefinitely.

She has been, and remains a worthy Human Rights Ombudsman, despite the failure of the Ukrainian legislature to fully engage with her office when crafting laws that clearly have an effect upon existing and future human rights.  Progress on human rights within Ukraine, where stifled, is not due to failures on her part, but due to failure of those that should heed her words of advice – but do not only fail to heed those words, but also fail to seek her input at all.

Nevertheless, there has been some progress under her guidance – even if much of what she advises is generally ignored or otherwise goes unheard.

Ergo, it is perhaps necessary to provide something of an amplification when there is clear condemnation of the activities of The State – “On March 3, 2018, the National Police of Ukraine and the National Guard of Ukraine liquidated the tent camp that was located on the street. Hrushevsky near the Ukrainian Parliament.

The formal reason for resonant events was the decision of the investigating judge of the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv on March 2, 2018 to conduct an inspection in the tent camp in order to find persons involved in the crime, as well as things and documents relevant to the investigation of criminal proceedings.

The information obtained from the monitoring of the Commissioner for Human Rights and open sources shows that there are reasonable grounds to state that a number of gross violations of human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine are observed in the actions of law-enforcers, in particular:

– the right to a peaceful assembly, since the court ruling did not provide for the termination of a meeting which for a long time remained a peaceful nature; in accordance with the standards of action of law-enforcers, they should be directed at the localization of an offender of public order, rather than a peaceful assembly in general;

– the right to freedom of speech, since at least three journalists have stated that they are interfering with their activities and obtaining bodily harm from law enforcement officers;

– the right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment (at least 19 people were seriously injured by the head, found in a hospital with craniocerebral trauma), as well as humiliating treatment;

– the right to personal freedom, since a large number of people were illegally detained for a long time.

We pay special attention to the gross violation of the Law of Ukraine “On National Police”, which the police are forbidden to strike on the head, neck, clavicular, genital organs, lumbar (coccygeal) and abdomen.

The problem remains of the inability to identify the identity of a law enforcement officer who violates human rights. This problem has remained unresolved since 2013, even if there is a corresponding provision in the Law of Ukraine “On National Police”.   

We pay special attention to the inadmissibility of cynical statements by some officials who publicly mock human rights abuses. Given this, there are grounds for doubting the objective investigation of these events.

In view of the above, we call:

1. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine shall ensure that a prompt and effective investigation of events taking place on March 3, 2018 under the walls of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine took place, providing periodic public reporting on the results of such investigations.

2. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall, as soon as possible, consider bills concerning the improvement of legislation on the identification of police officers and servicemen of the National Guard of Ukraine.

3. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine shall adopt normative legal acts on the actions of law enforcement officers and other services to ensure the protection of public order during mass events.”

No ambiguity to be found in that statement.

There is also a perceived symbolism to be found in that photograph that may well haunt the Interior Ministry for some time – particularly when these events were so close to the anniversary of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity.

It has to be stated however, that the tent camp protest action was not supported by the majority of the population, nor the people of Kyiv – thus no “new Maidan” was born.  The remnants of the Saakashvili protest camp were removed – which, in the current situation, is perhaps for the better.

It is obvious that without the support of the people, the tent camp had no societal traction and thus the action came to naught.  There was no real prospect of success in this protest format, and in fact, many of the original organisers had long ago abandoned it.

There was perhaps some inconvenience to the people of Kyiv too.  It may also be true that some tent camp residents did not lead a particularly wholesome and healthy lifestyle creating an atmosphere of intimidation around the tent camp for some.

Indeed the authorities claim to have recovered weapons (grenades, handguns etc.) from the tent camp when it was forcibly removed.  Perhaps those claims are genuine – few would be surprised if it were so.

None of that however, negates or mitigates the fundamental human rights issues raised by the Ombudsman, Ms Lutkovskaya, nor the breaching of the Ukrainian legislation quoted.  Thus it is perhaps worth pondering whether such action by The State was either warranted or necessary – and if so, proportional and lawful.

All of that said, The State must retain the monopoly upon the use of force if it is to remain a State.  The issues therefore appear to relate to proportionality of the use of that force, together with the operational planning to reduce, so far as is practicable, the potential for violence.

As the potential for violence clearly could not be eliminated operationally, a reader is left to ponder the proportionality of violence used by The State (via its enforcement agencies) within its own domestic statutory framework – notwithstanding Ukrainian international and jus cogens obligations .

Clearly the Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsman feels quite strongly that fundamental human rights have been seriously violated but a few days ago in Kyiv outside the parliament building, contrary to many Ukrainian obligations and the rule of law – regardless of any operational complexities.

The question is perhaps whether anybody is listening within the Ukrainian political establishment and institutions of State.


Termination, suspension and re-transfer – Building Regulations Ukraine

March 3, 2018

Among the myriad of draft legislative initiatives registered at the Verkhovna Rada for the relevant committees to ponder is Draft Law 7266-1.

Draft Law 7266-1, in sum, seeks to terminate and/or suspend the powers of regional buildings inspectors, instead bringing construction inspection under the central control of the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate.

Clearly a reader will ponder how such a centralising concept fits with the decentralisation policy of the current authorities – particularly as decentralisation has been something of a success (despite the lack of recognition for what has been a fairly successful policy).

Nevertheless, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Construction, Urban Development and Housing has recommended the adoption of Bill No. 7266-1, a Bill specifically created to provide for the introduction of mechanisms to terminate the powers of local bodies of state architectural and construction control.

The explanatory note accompanying Draft Bill 7266-1 states “As the practical implementation of the law on the decentralization of powers in the field of architectural and construction control, and the improvement of town planning legislation showed, some established bodies of state construction control are not really able to properly perform their functions, which not only induces violations in the sphere of urban development, but also creates a danger to life and health of citizens.” 

Quite so.

Indeed the entire regulation of construction in Ukraine is neither qualitatively nor quantitatively subject to the necessary regulatory enforcement.  Rarely are there cases of construction companies being effectively prosecuted – and less so are they prosecuted and subsequently fined to the extent that infringements are prohibitive from a financial point of view.

It is undoubtedly cheaper for the larger construction companies to do as they please and bribe an inspector to look the other way (either permanently or until it is too late), and if that fails, to then bribe a judge to achieve an outcome whereby what’s built is built, and will not be subject to a demolition order.

Ergo, why not build 7 or 9 stories when planning permission was for 4 or 5 – even in protected historical zones (particularly when the Culture Ministry is almost entirely absent)?

On the rare occasion prosecution occurs, the fines are minimal compared to the real estate values gained by going beyond planning permission.

How many construction companies are forced to demolish what they have illegally built?  Neither national or local news are replete with such incidents despite the systemic abuse and ignorance of planning permissions and/or regulators and courts.

A reader will also not be surprised regarding related issues surrounding the standards (or sub-standards) of materials used either.

While that sub-standard materials issue may appear to be a domestic matter for the Ukrainians, it is only necessary to recall the fire in Arcadia Odessa at a hotel owned by Vladimir (Lampochka) Galanternik but a few years ago, to highlight but one incident of several in Odessa alone.

Hotels cater for more than the domestic market do they not?

It is thus not a purely domestic issue, nor is it an issue confined to a specific region of Ukraine.

The other side to this grubby coin is of course the inspectors that target construction companies and fit-out firms to solicit bribes either through deliberate misinterpretation of regulations, or simply through the threat of court action and the delays that may bring.  Bureaucracy involving human interaction naturally provides opportunities for corruption.

There is also a matter of the training and competency of any inspector – for there will certainly be instances of poor judgement and discretion with no corrupt coercive mens rea whatsoever.

However, the question to be asked, irrespective of this draft legislation prima facie flying fully in the face of (the rather successful) decentralisation policy, is whether centralising the inspection structures and processes will actually improve outcomes – or not?

Indeed the Draft Bill provides for the return of regional and local inspections after their initial removal and/or suspension.  A matter of temporary centralisation?

Is this then a legislative lever to provide time, via termination or suspension of local inspection rights, for quality control and quality assurance within the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate structure to manifest?

If so, is there no other way to raise the internal standards of the SACI at a regional or local level – and will such standards be raised to the level of integrity, longevity and consistency required via this legislative route?

How, exactly, will the standards be raised and consistency applied across the regions, by centralising inspection processes, and will they be maintained once/if powers are returned to the regions?

It is perhaps not so much a question of legislative “ends” and “means”, but a question of internal structure and process implementation, complete with quality assurance and quality control.  Is there really a need to legislate to introduce that?

Well, perhaps.

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