Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

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Media fumbles – Ukraine and Odessa

April 3, 2016

After what had been a surprisingly reasonable trip to Washington DC, President Poroshenko managed to leave the USA undoing much of what had been achieved in the US media (both MSM and social).

In short, when asked to comment upon a critical and prickly Editorial in the New York Times lambasting the unyielding corruption that prevails in Ukraine, he rejected out of hand all criticism therein and framed the Editorial as part of the “Hybrid War” being waged against Ukraine by The Kremlin.

Whether it was published as an act of “Hybrid War” by The Kremlins”s useful idiots, or whether it was published by the “supporters of Ukraine” to assert well meant pressure, or is a genuine “Editorial” behind which are neither, is somewhat irrelevant.  The content of the Editorial is accurate as evidenced by numerous public statements by European, US and Canadian diplomats, and is clearly perceived by the Ukrainian domestic constituency as such too (if opinion polls are anything to go by).

Ergo to simply dismiss the Editorial as but another act of Kremlin “Hybrid Warfare”, paying no heed to, and failing to address the contents therein, does only harm to the Ukrainian cause in the USA – not to mention undoubtedly making matters far more difficult for those trying to convince Dutch voters to vote favourably toward Ukraine on 6th April.

What is perhaps worse, is that such an article should have been expected – and therefore prepared for.

The US taxpayer is underwriting US$ billions of Ukrainian loans, providing hundreds of millions of US$ in other funding, sparing no effort in shaping IMF opinion, and is expending an awful lot of diplomatic energy over Ukraine.  President Poroshenko may believe he has already done enough to deserve a second term as president, (indeed he does believe so), but neither the domestic constituency, nor the external supporters of Ukraine are inclined to think so.  All consider him to have much more to do with regard to curtailing and reducing corruption and insuring the equal and unbaised application of the rule of law.

The US taxpayer and media have every right to publicly criticise, and it would (or at lest should) be expected by any competent Presidential Administration that such criticism would be most overt during the visit of a President of a nation that is simply not living up to expectations (or return on capital employed if you prefer).

Indeed at the time of writing, Prosecutor General Shokin is still technically Prosecutor General Shokin.  The final legal act of signing and publishing a Presidential Decree dismissing him from the role has still not been done.

President Poroshenko had ample to time prepare to deal with the content of the editorial.  As already stated such an editorial should have been anticipated during his time in the US, even before he boarded a plane in Kyiv and headed to Washington.  Even if it had not been published, it should have been anticipated and prepared for.  Preparation and planning prevents piss poor performance – and clearly a piss poor performance is what the world witnessed by way of public presidential response to the Editorial.

To simply dismiss it as Kremlin misdeeds suggests that the President is either in cahoots with the vested interests and will henceforth simply dismiss all criticism as Kremlin nefariousness, or that he is in a state of denial and so distant from reality it defies belief, or that he suffers from Homo Sovieticus media advisers and/or refuses media advice.  Perhaps it is a combination of any or all of the aforementioned.

Whatever the case the presidential response was a PR faux pas tarnishing what was an otherwise surprisingly reasonable visit to Washington, and a faux pas that also brought severe criticism from within Ukraine among media and the voting constituency alike.

There were a multitude of ways to suggest the Editorial was a Kremlin “Hybrid War” piece and still give an erudite and yet humble response to the accurate content.  It is content that he simply has to address with far more vigour to retain the trust of both the external supporters of Ukraine, and enough of the domestic constituency too.

To call this incident a media fumble is to be charitable.

In Odessa, on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon, the first protests of the year involving any number of people occurred in the city centre.

Quite by chance this blog witnessed several hundred people marching from Ekaterinaskaya Ploshad.  They were protesting against corruption.  From what was seen and heard, the protest was not against any particular individual, but was a protest against the corrupt system as a whole.  Bravo!

Odessa

(Undoubtedly the removal of Davit Sakvarelidze as Regional Prosecutor of Odessa, a man widely perceived to be a reformer both regionally and nationally, and his replacement being Nikolai Stoyanov, a man widely perceived to be of the corrupt old guard (and indeed he was part of the regional apparatus under Yanukovych) will have acted as a catalyst.)

Following the march, certain high profile figures bemoaned and lamented the fact that few journalists and bloggers covered the event.  As already stated, this blog witnessed it purely by chance – and this despite at least one of those high profile figures complaining having both telephone number and email address for it.

Clearly the preparatory media preparation for this march/protest was fumbled.  Most journalists and bloggers in Odessa either know each other or know of each other and thus have the ability to contact each other – yet if high profile individuals who are part of established entities want preparatory media coverage to either encourage turnout, or simply garner ample MSM/social media coverage, is it not beholding of them to let the media and blogging community know directly (if deemed necessary)?

How difficult is it to compile an email distribution list?  For those high profile individuals lamenting the lack of media and blogger attendance for the anti-corruption march/protest in Odessa, creating such an email distribution list is not a difficult thing to do – for all the local journalists and bloggers are already known to them.

This blog is on the distribution list of numerous embassies when it comes to receiving invitations.  In fact it is on several distribution lists of various categories within individual embassies.  As the blog is not a journalistic entity, the fact that is it on some but not all distribution lists within embassies is appreciated.  Turning up for the official opening of an envelope it would not do – but certain events have a guaranteed attendance (notwithstanding personally sent individual email requests to “have a chat”).

In short the Odessa anti-corruption march was not a failure with regard to turnout (though undoubtedly it could have been higher with wider preparatory coverage), but due to another media fumble and a lack of preparation, it failed to get the coverage desired.

Once again, planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance – and no differently to the widely perceived fumble of President Poroshenko, both could have easily been avoided.

The PR people certainly aren’t earning their keep this weekend!

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Happy New Year – And a moment to acknowledge you all!

December 31, 2015

Customary it is appears to have become to regurgitate “most read” or “favourite” posts throughout 2015 as the year inevitably draws to a close – this blog won’t.

Instead this last entry of 2015 will take the opportunity to wish a Happy New Year each and every one of the 130,000 readers who either mistakenly (in all probability), or deliberately (rather flatteringly) took their time – or indeed wasted their time – rummaging around in the meandering ruminations presented here, coping heroically with the grammatical errors and limited vocabulary that provide proof, if needed, that little time or effort is given to the daily offerings published.

Of the 130,000 readers that visited more than once, then it is humbling – or perhaps a rather sad reflection that there is such a limited commentary upon Ukraine (and Odessa) in the English language that you were forced to return through lack of alternatives.

Further thanks must go to the politicians, local, national, and foreign, that have sought out this blog for the off the record chats during 2015 when passing through Odessa.  Likewise, the same thanks goes to the diplomats both domestic and foreign who form an often under-acknowledged front line for Ukraine.  The erudite and informative conversations are always something of a joy – even when they simply can’t be repeated.

To the publishers and editors that have requested (paid) essays from this blog after reading it, then a humble thank you (as well as thousands of words) is all that can be offered.  The blog was never intended as a “teaser” to attract work.

For those journalists whom will request interviews and “for the record” comment in 2016, the same answer to that of 2015 (and years previous) will apply – The answer remains “No”.

To the think-tanks, GONGOs, NGOs and civil society people who sought an exchange of views during 2015, and to those that jetted your author around Europe to take part in round-tables and to sit on panels full of people far more enlightened and erudite, sincere gratitude is all that can be expressed.  There is no better outcome than to leave such events with new ideas, thoughts to ponder, or perhaps most importantly new and intellectually challenging friends.

It is also time for a confession to all those that pressed the “Donate” button on the blog Home Page during 2015 and sent their hard earned money not really knowing how that money would be spent.

A pittance ($24.95) from the far larger grand total received was spent on a banner/logo – self indulgence.

The rest was given to various charities/NGOs and/or impromptu acts of kindness for the needy as witnessed when wandering aimlessly around Odessa – (such as selecting a random pensioner and buying food for a week when witnessing them weighing and pricing a single potato to stretch their meager pension that little further).

However, for those having somewhat blindly pressed “donate” and sent money, then hopefully some integrity is projected by the blog to earn such trust, and thus you will understand the morality of the author in “further donating” your hard earned money to causes and people far more in need (and far more deserving), even if it was meant for the betterment of the blog.  For those that pressed “donate” with intent of buying the author a beer, and are therefore disappointed that no beer was bought – apologies, your forgiveness is sought, but be assured that many a prayer has been offered for you by many pensioners in many Orthodox churches in Odessa for your (redirected (and perhaps unintended)) kindness.

2016 will not see the princely sum of $24.95 spent on more blog aesthetics, so in all probability all “donations” will be “further donated” ad hoc to various needy causes/people – for 2016 will remain a hard year for many in Odessa and Ukraine.

When it comes to thanks, it would be entirely remiss not to thank those largely unknown soldiers on the eastern front doing their duty, and all those volunteers that work anonymously and tirelessly to support them – and support the other areas of Ukrainian life where the State is failing.

Such people are a constant and perhaps troubling reminder of just how underutilised our time or abilities – or both – actually are in comparison.

With that, a Happy New Year for 2016 is wished to all – and for those that will continue to face seemingly unending fecklessness when dealing with the Ukrainian establishment and institutions, some wise words from a wise man that will continue to stand the test of time, and that will hopefully restore your constitution before dragging the feckless kicking and screaming into doing what is necessary – “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.” – Marcus Aurelius.

new yr

Normal service (such as it is) will resume in 2016, with the same aim of giving you something about Ukraine to read during your coffee break.

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A word of thanks & Happy New Year

January 1, 2015

A short entry today to express appreciation and thanks to the 200,000 readers from the 183 countries that visited the blog in 2014.  Most humbling.  Hopefully somewhere amongst the rambling ruminations there was something worthy of reading whilst idling away your time on your coffee break – even if you found the blog by accident.

If it in any way provided a spark of light and understanding in an otherwise very deep and dark Ukrainian void of fecklessness, corruption, intrigue and woeful policy decisions, then it has served its purpose well enough.

Entering 2015, the blog with continue to wildly swing a hammer in the general direction of the nail – and with a little fortune, may actually connect, squarely hitting the nail on the head once in a while.

Undoubtedly 2015 will be an extremely trying and testing year for Ukraine, and it may be wise to subconsciously retain the notion that no matter how bad things appear, they can always get worse – just as they can also improve.  However, no matter how deep and dark the void of  fecklessness, corruption, intrigue and woeful policy decisions remains/becomes, it is highly unlikely to manage to snuff out that spark of hope – despite hope not being a strategy.

It will undoubtedly be necessary for western allies and institutions to be extremely firm with the Ukrainian political class throughout 2015, both in efforts to hold the coalition together, force momentum in reform, and also continue to financially support the nation on the condition that Ukraine does not deviate from its ratified international obligations with the European Union.

Indeed, 2015 can probably be best foretold by the famous opening paragraph of Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Whatever the case, Ukraine will muddle through somehow – though it will surely be a turbulent year.  Naturally dear readers, your support for Ukraine, in whatever form it comes, as always, is appreciated – as is the two minutes of your time spent reading the entries here.

To all in the 183 nations that visited the blog in 2014, and to those in the nations that didn’t, sincere best wishes to you all for 2015.  May the trials and difficulties you face during the next 12 months be far fewer in number, and far easier to circumvent, than those that await far too many people in Ukraine.

God bless!

2015

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A dedication – How humbling!

May 28, 2014

A very short entry today as I do not want to subtracted from an article by Carnegie dedicated to…….me!

Click on the link – it’s a good read too.

Blimey – How humbling!!

 

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The day the crowds started to follow the opposition politicians? Ukraine

January 27, 2014

Yesterday I closed my entry with “In the meantime an all-encompassing national unity government seems the only possible way forward politically – whether society follows is a different question.

Hours after that was written, a very poor attempt at forming something loosely resembling a national unity government was offered by President Yanukovych – an offer quite rightly refused by the opposition leaders as it was neither all-inclusive, politically viable due to the current formation of the RADA, and in accepting it, it   would have legitimised the illegitimate new laws to mention a few “flaws” within the offer.

That misguided offer and the subsequent refusal may very well prove to be the moment when the opposition leaders will no longer be simply following along behind the crowds, struggling with legitimacy and traction, but have been propelled by President Yanukovych once again failing to understand the cause and effect of a poor offer, impossible to accept, to a position whereby they can now lead the crowds – or a significant number therein – with a reasonable amount of traction and approval.  Their chances of doing so have at the very least increased.

The possibility of the military and tanks on the streets of Ukrainian cities and towns now also seems extremely remote – effectively ruled out via Rinat Akhmetov via this statement from SCM.

The extraordinary meeting of the RADA on Tuesday 28th January now becomes far more interesting and unpredictable in its outcome than would have been expected 48 hours ago.

Room for maneuver for the President narrows almost daily – and the need for leadership from somebody grows in equal measure.  Concerns relating to who is doing what, and preparing to do what – from all sides – during the time that passes prior to Tuesday are obvious, both on the streets and within the RADA machinery.

A very tense few days awaits – and whilst buildings can be repaired, and cuts and bruises heal, lives cannot be replaced.

For the attention of regular readers – This will be my last regular entry for two weeks, as I am leaving for another democratically and politically stable nation – Thailand – tomorrow.

Whilst I am away I shall mull over the pro’s and the con’s of a “federal Ukraine” – for federalism most certainly has both pros and cons – when considering the best way to maintain the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the future.

The current situation if nothing else demands a cursory look at federalism as a possible solution to strong local and regional governance of particular bias whilst retaining overall territorial integrity.

Naturally I shall be following events at home closely, but will try to keep any comment to the 140 characters available via twitter for the simple reason I do not relish typing anything lengthy on an i-pad – and that is all I can be bothered to carry with me.

My twitter feed is at the right of this page should you want to keep up with my thoughts as things develop – intermittent as any tweeting may be.

I expect that matters will have progressed apace in Ukraine by the time I return – hopefully with the core democratic components of tolerance and inclusiveness driving the process – though perhaps for that to happen within a matter of two weeks is somewhat ambitious!

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US training cyber warriors in Ukraine?

November 22, 2013

According to Party of Regions MP Oleh Tsariov, the USA via its embassy in Kyiv has already trained more than 300 cyber warriors in Ukraine under the patronage of US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, with a view to them overthrowing the regime via shaping public opinion on the Internet, culminating with an ability to organise “Arab Spring” uprisings.

The latest training session being on 14-15 November – with more to come.  This, in contravention of UN United Nations Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States.

Now it is true that Mr Hyatt has hosted bloggers of a political bias from Ukraine – that is not a secret.  I await my invitation in due course, as does my friend Taras, aka @Ukroblogger, having been assured by Mr Pyatt of inclusion at the next gathering.

However, whether or not the blogging community is able to shape Ukrainian public opinion to the point whereby it could organise and turn out crowds similar to those Alexei Navalny has in Russia for example, is somewhat debatable – at least with any consistency and of sufficient number to have any impact.

There are also few – if any – bloggers like Navalny in Ukraine with any serious political ambition themselves.  Even less with personal political ambition and a base of activists – a nationalist base in the case of Navalny – from which they can call upon and be guaranteed a result with impact if a call to the streets is made.

The opposition parties of Ukraine can only turn out 3000 – 4000 people on a good day when they call for political protests via the Internet, TV, radio, flyers in the streets and pay people to turn up simultaneously.

Quite simply Ukraine is not Russia.  There is a plurality within the politics, even if that means exchanging one feckless political party for another and simply swapping one ineffectual leadership for another whilst it gorges at the trough of power and public finance, yet fails to deal with increasingly difficult domestic issues.

A one party/dominant party system of governance is not representative of Ukraine – not yet anyway.  It remains, currently at least, an electoral democracy – though not a genuine consolidated democracy.

Whilst ever that sliver of democracy remains, what benefit would there be for the US entering into serious subterfuge, coercion, agitation and societal mobilisation?

Ukrainian society, currently, can still exchange one feckless leadership for another on its own – and lawfully – every 5 years.  What would the US gain by changing one feckless political leadership for another any sooner than the Ukrainian population can do it with just as little gain to be had?

All the currently existing Ukrainian political parties that have a sniff of being a controlling power over the next 15 years seem to be if not pro-European, then certainly not anti-European ideologically .  The same can be said of their US biases.

Having acknowledged the Ukrainian ideological political wilderness, when it then comes to actual robust, clear policy, then they are all severely lacking.  None orate a policy to tackle unemployment, the dire economy, the privitisation – or not – of state entities etc.

It is therefore far beyond their thinking to have anti-European and anti-US policy that would have any structure or possibility of implementation – let alone societal buy-in.

The dysfunction and uncivil civil society continues to talk to itself, preferring to be tumbleweed rather than have grass roots.

It may very well be that the US Embassy has highlighted to bloggers and civil activists how social media can shape public opinion and/or organise protests and civil disobedience.  If so, then even with a subversive agenda, it will have been done under a very broad banner of social media/civil society effectiveness/impact awareness.

Whilst Mr Pyatt may be inviting what he considers “interesting people” to the US Embassy, perhaps Mr Tsariov considers them to be “people of interest” – which is not the same thing at all.

However, anybody with the access to the Internet has no need to be taken by the hand by the US Embassy or Mr Pyatt to find information that provides an idiot’s e-guide to generate civil unrest and coordinate it.  It  is freely available on the Internet for those who really want to seek it out.

Also, with Ukraine having some of the world’s best hackers and e-criminals, you would expect there to be little the US could teach the Ukrainian “techies” about that frustrating the authorities either.

Further, the EU spends tens of millions of Euros on e-platforms for Ukrainian/EaP civil society – with no complaint from Mr Tsariov.  (Quite what the EU thinks it gets for that money and how it measures “success” when it comes to this policy, I suppose rests heavily on how “success” is defined.)

Anyway, I am at a loss as to where Mr Tsariov is going with this, or how US interests would benefit from overthrowing any Ukrainian government now or in the foreseeable future – unless there is to be a barefaced theft of the next presidential election far beyond what result manipulation could plausibly get away with, and a genuine fear of an organised national response beyond the control of opposition parties (or the US) by way of civil disobedience is anticipated.

I cannot see which domestic audience Mr Tsariov is playing to – Svoboda have already cornered the “nationalist” constituency, the Communists the hard-core pro Russian constituency, and the middle ground will have little interest in his prevarications without far greater substance to them.

I suppose it maybe a prelude for diversionary “them” and “us” games when what seems likely to be the Ukrainian refusal to sign the EU Association Agreement comes to pass, without directly aiming the “them” at the EU – but that seems extremely unlikely to work if that is the backward thinking behind it.

As a point of order, I should state that thus far there has been no comment from the US Embassy or Ambassador Pyatt – at least publicly – to this allegation.  I can’t see them rushing to make any comment either.

Thus I am at a loss as to Mr Tsariov’s motivation, less he actually has a genuine concern born of no alternative agenda – and that I doubt – or he genuinely fears a network of civil activists and bloggers acting outside the control of the opposition (and the US), that would be able to mobilise the masses in response to any overly ambitious election skulduggery in 2015!

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Buying off the bloggers – Ukraine

July 17, 2013

Now here is an interesting little article relating to politicians and political parties buying off the blogosphere at election time in Ukraine.

Would I sell my integrity and that of this blog (or any of my others) for $500 to write something unconditionally  pro or anti any particular Ukrainian political party?

Certainly not – particularly as this blog has been running for years and has both lauded and condemned all parties equally, dependent upon any policy being both good and effective, OK but ineffective or simply awful and counterproductive – I believe some readers would notice any change and know I had sold out.

Also, it has to be said, as a Chatham House member, remaining impartial and objective in my commentary is expected – not that anything I write here can or should be attributed to any memberships or affiliations I may have anyway!

When the political parties of Ukraine generally provide voters a choice between a stick or a fork in the eye, any neutral blog such as this would struggle desperately to unconditionally promote any party when taking policy – or significant lack thereof – into consideration.  That is notwithstanding the shenanigans surrounding the internal workings of all the political parties, or the overriding self-interest of the vast majority of the party members – regardless of party.

$500?  My integrity is worth far, far more than that!

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