Posts Tagged ‘bureaucracy’


The new Governor of Odessa is (not going to be a media celebrity) Maxim Stepanov

December 20, 2016

A few days ago an entry appeared listing the 31 candidates to replace Misha Saakshvili as Governor of Odessa, and within which made brief observation of the most suitable (and unsuitable) applicants.

After tests, situational tasks, and interviews a winner has emerged.

Maxim Stepanov scored the most points and is now awaiting presidential appointment.

Naturally Maxim Stepanov is not Misha Saakashvili and most readers will have never even heard of him.  The international media are unlikely to be beating down his door for an interview either.

So a few lines about Mr Stepanov.


He is 42, graduated from Donetsk State Medical University in the late 1990s and then further studied International Economics at Kyiv National Economic University, completing his studies in 2004.

He has worked in both the private and public sector.  His early public sector resume consists of roles within energy.

The last decade has been spent thus; 2003/04 – Deputy Chairman of the State Tax Authority.  2004 -08, Chairman of the National Legal Union.  2008-10 Mr Stepanov was the First Deputy Head of the Odessa Regional Administration, thereafter Viktor Yanukovych came to power and he was banished from political life and exiled in a purely civil service role as the Director of Ukraine Printing Plant – the entity charged with producing passports, driving licences et al. – where he has sat ever since.

Clearly Mr Stepanov is a man well versed in Ukrainian bureaucracy and not indifferent to the politics of Odessa having previously spent 2 years within the Odessa Regional Administration.  Thus the tedious, systematic, boring and predictable work of a governor will no doubt be well within his grasp.

It now falls to President Poroshenko to appoint him and bring him in from political exile to fill the most senior civil service role in the oblast.

* * * * *

A note to readers – You are all granted a 48 hour hiatus from the daily churn of the blog as your author will be traveling.




The official EU overview of Ukrainian progress 2016

December 13, 2016

A very short entry to bring a reader’s attention to the official EU overview of Ukrainian progress during 2016.


Predictably the issues where Ukraine invariably fails (and highlighted by the blog) is left to the concluding paragraph.

“Reform in Ukraine is a long-term process looking to bring long-term results. As outlined in this report, many important reforms are ripe to move from the legislative and institutional phase to effective implementation, which will benefit Ukraine’s citizens and contribute further to its political association and economic integration with the EU. Ukrainian civil society and other stakeholders have suggested that the EU and Ukraine should do more to communicate publicly, both in Ukraine and abroad, and explain the rationale for, and benefits of, the reforms undertaken by the government.”

If only the blog had a Dollar for every time the phrase “effective policy” and “effective implementation” had been written during the many years it has been running!


Goodbye to the Masonic House Odessa

November 10, 2016

On Prince Street in Odessa sits the ruins of the building that was once the Russian Technical Society – known locally as the Masonic House – whether or not freemasonry actually occurred on the premises or not.


It was once a very imposing and architecturally significant building in Odessa – but like so many old and historic buildings in Odessa is has been allowed to decay.

Nevertheless, the building was put up for auction and a company called Art Building Group, part of Incor Group bought the land and building for $1.6 million with the intention of replicating the building exactly both internally and externally – as restoration was deemed impossible following full inspection.

Inkor Group is owned by Ruslan Tarpan, a man that was responsible for the refurbishment of Ekaterinaskaya Ploshad in its entirety a number of years ago returning it to being of the most photogenic spots in the very centre of  Odessa, and the location in which the head office of Incor Group is located.


(To be precise Incor Group is to be found within the old 19th century mayoral offices of Georgi Mazari – a man of arguably equal historical standing to the Duke of Richelieu with regard to the development of the city .)

Incor Group has a reputation for two distinct types of work.  Quality engineering projects and architectural reconstruction of historic buildings – both of which it does very well, and the latter with no historic detail overlooked.

It has to be said that Ruslan Tarpan does not have the best reputation which can be partly attributed/expected following a 6 year tenure in City Hall on the finance committee during Ukraine’s “Orange” period.

How much of that reputation is deserved and how much is simply attributed is rather subjective in the absence of sufficient hard evidence in the public realm.  Regardless he is also most certainly a “no nonsense” individual too.  Without doubt he has the ability to upset some of a more meek disposition or who display an inability to make timely decisions.  Fools are simply not suffered.

Full disclosure – Ruslan Tarpan is known to this blog.

Having made that disclosure it is a fact to which this blog bears witness that when Incor Group takes on a project of historical importance there is an incredible amount of investigative work, rummaging through the old achieves (that survived the centuries through a turn of fate when they were evacuated during WWII, whilst the Soviet documents were destroyed) the collection and collation of photographic and cinematographic evidence wherever it can be found.

Hundreds of hours are spent investigating any building that Mr Tarpan decides to refurbish or replicate before a decision to do the work is even entertained – and with so many old building in Odessa crumbling due to continued neglect.  There is also the matter of purchasing what can be saved and prioritising those purchases.

For those that get to meet him, his is capable of reciting the entire history of every historic building his company has refurbished or painstakingly replicated – and of those buildings he would like to.


Along with the House Russov in the city centre, the Masonic House was also identified as for sale, and of sufficient historic importance to interest Mr Tarpan.  (To be blunt both require replication and are beyond restoration.  Nevertheless all the research for diligent replication for both has been done.)

However, despite winning the auction for Masonic House in 2015, it will not be painstakingly replicated.  Former Governor Saakashvili refused to complete the necessary bureaucracy to transfer ownership of the property, making various statements regarding the auction price being too long and claims that a high rise would be built instead.

Incor doesn’t build high rise and  it was the third attempt to auction the building, the previous two auction attempts getting no interest whatsoever.

Whatever the reason for the former-Governor’s objections and obstructionism, there was no way a high rise would be built in place of the Masonic House by Mr Tarpan.  Whatever his faults, he cares passionately about history and the architectural preservation of the city centre – as his historical work evidences.

Whilst the former Governor was delaying the finalising of the purchase – lightening struck.


– collapsing what was left of the roof and turning large parts of the building to rubble.

Nevertheless there was no change in the position of Art Building Group/Incor/Mr Tarpan.  Indeed attempts were made through the courts to enforce the honouring of the auction outcome.  All such efforts have failed.

As the former Governor leaves Odessa, Art Building Group, Incor and Ruslan Tarpan now walk away from the rubble of the Masonic House.

The city still owns the rubble.

Perhaps another auction at some point will be held, perhaps not.  What seems fairly evident however, is that a building of historical interest in Odessa will not longer be replicated in excruciating detail as it otherwise would have been.

So Russov House will be the city centre gain at the loss of the Masonic House?

Well it could be if only the documentation and surrounding bureaucracy relating to that purchase was also not being repeatedly delayed and effectively blocked  – while in the meantime that building also moves beyond simple ruin and heads progressively toward a major public safety hazard.

One of the most striking things that Ruslan Tarpan has said in the presence of this blog, and which has remained flagged within the tired and muddled brain, is that the 10 big property families of Odessa, and businessmen like himself, all love their city and are all very well aware of their limitations before the public, as ultimately all want to live and eventually die in Odessa – and not be run out by a baying mob.

Seemingly even the self-appointed aristocracy of Odessa differs little from that of the old bloodlines when it comes to leaving a legacy for their future generations that does not involve exile.

Whatever the case, if and when the blog meets with Mr Tarpan again, perhaps there will be some progress toward his saving Russov House from a Masonic fate.  If so, an update regarding the saving of Russov House will appear.


Misha quits – Whose hat will be thrown into the replacement ring?

November 7, 2016

The 7th November saw the inevitable resignation of Mikhail Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa (although at the time of writing it is unclear whether President Poroshenko will accept it).

It was a long time coming, but hardly a surprise.  In June, when in his company, it became clear he was going to move on before the year end.

Mr Saakashvili was joined in his resignation by Giorgi Lortkipanidze the police chief, leaving Yulia Marushevska as the last publicly recognisable face standing from “Team Saakashvili” in high regional office.  The tenure of Ms Marushevska at the ports is now clearly limited.  It is a question of how long Roman Nasirov leaves matters before he sacks her (and swiftly rolls back her anti-corruption efforts), or before she too resigns.  Days, weeks, or a month?

Naturally there will be a public post mortem over the achievements (or not) of Misha Saakashvili as Governor.  Whether those achievements will be measured in the strictly tangible, or whether they will include the intangible remains to be seen.  Did he underachieve?  He would probably say he did – but then he perhaps underestimated the robust forces he would be up against and the lack of support from Kyiv when he took the role.  After all, he had no additional powers to any other governor – and those powers are limited – so expectations (self and public) required management that was never forthcoming.

Whatever the case, he came, he did what he did (some of it well and some of it poorly) and has now moved on.

The question is who will replace him?


It is no longer officially a matter the president picking somebody fiercely loyal to him and appointing them – regardless of their ability,  The legislation changing in May 2016 now requires a process of examinations and interviews before a panel for those applying for the position.  Upon the panel recommendation President Poroshenko may then appoint that individual (or perhaps not).

The point of the legislative changes were to increase transparency and provide the perception of corrupt/crony appointments becoming political history.  A reader should note however, that a transparent process is not necessarily the same thing as a public process.

Who sits on the assessment/recommendation panel and decides upon candidate ability/ranking therefore matters.  Who decides who decides who sits on that panel matters too.

It also matters who applies for the role and their political affiliation – even though a reader may think that should be of no consideration if the new legislation is supposed to place ability before political loyalties.

The new legislation has witnessed this process occur several times since in came into effect.  Would any reader be surprised to discover that the winners in both Kharkiv and Mykolaevskaya Oblasts came from the presidential BPP faction?  (The successful candidate for Mykolaevskaya Oblast is definitely not the sharpest tool in the tool box, so a reader may ponder just how testing the examinations actually are.)

Let us be blunt, whether or not the successful lady in Kharkiv was the best applicant or not, for various and different reasons there was no way President Poroshenko would have been comfortable with an Oppo Block or People’s Front candidate being recommended for appointment in Kharkiv.  Likewise the Oppo Block getting any governor in a southern oblast is not something President Poroshenko is going to entertain easily, so Mykolaevskaya also saw a BPP applicant come out on top.

Clearly Odessa, an oblast of some wealth generation, bountiful corruption money channels, and of strategic national value is not going to see an Oppo Block candidate be recommended for Governor – even if they are by far the best candidate by way of ability (unless grubby deals are struck in Kyiv).

If it is a coincidence that both Kharkiv and Mykolaevskaya Oblasts saw BPP winners, then perhaps that coincidence will continue?

It therefore matters which BPP affiliated candidates throw their hats in the ring.

Alexie Goncharenko is an obvious candidate, but he doesn’t want the role.  He is quite happy acting as President Poroshenko’s Deputy Faction leader in the Verkhovna Rada.  When speaking to him it is quite apparent he is clearly enjoying the role and would not seek the Governor position by choice – at least not now.

However, if President Poroshenko tells him he wants him to become Governor (and thus he will win the process) it is likely he would (begrudgingly) accept.

There are however other locals who are BPP affiliated and who would be happy to throw their hat into the Governor of Odessa ring and go through the transparent (not public) process – to probably emerge the winner (if coincidences are to continue).

Both Messrs Alexander Potapsky and Misha Shmuchkovych fit the BPP candidacy bill and are considered loyal.

Both of these candidates are deemed to be “Goncharenko people”.  Mr Potapsky is the current Speaker of City Hall (and becomes acting Mayor if Mr Turkhanov is long term sick – or worse) and Mr Shmuchkovych was acting Oblast Rada Chairman following Alexie Goncharenko’s departure from that role when he entered the Verkhovna Rada.

For the record, the current Oblast Rada Chairman, Anatoli Urbansky is also deemed to be a “Goncahernko man”.

(Full disclosure, the blog is acquainted with all those named.)

If Alexie Goncharenko can avoid (and it is an “if”) being asked to “apply” for the Governor’s post, the most obvious candidate for him to advocate/lobby before President Poroshenko is Misha Shmuchkovych – for it leaves the “Goncharenko verticle” with Number 2 in City Hall and Number 1 of the Oblast Rada, whilst inserting a loyal Governor too.

Quite who else throws their hat into the ring from other parties remains to be seen.  Mykola Skoryk a former Governor and current parliamentarian for Oppo Block is under investigation (and next to have his immunity stripped after Mr Novinsky).    Those other known political personalities such as Sergei Kivalov have little to gain by becoming Governor and surrendering Verkhovna Rada parliamentary immunity.

The snakes and weasels such as Oleg Brynduk, Shandryk, Kotlyar, Kalinchuk and Orel are very unlikely to leave City Hall for the position of Governor, for they are all in City Hall for a reason – representing the interests of those behind them and their interests in the city.

At the time of writing it is difficult to arrive at any candidate that would challenge the credibility of the transparent process that produces yet another BPP Governor – by coincidence – unless those throwing their hat into the ring have done so and a major surprise is among that number.

A cynical reader will perhaps expect “coincidence” to be somewhat like London buses – there are none for a while and then three (Kharkiv, Mykolaevskaya being the first two) arrive.  Will any reader bet against another coincidence in the form of another BPP applicant winning a competition for Governor of Odessa?


Trickle down culpability – An Odessa case to watch

October 18, 2016

A reader may ponder quite rightly just how many letters Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko receives directly requesting him to do his part in upholding the law.

However many he receives, he can now add one more to the list – a letter from Invest Group in Odessa, part of which reads “In view of the above employees of the company Invest Group refer to you as the head of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which seeks to protect human rights, the interests of society and the state, with a request to protect our employees against threats and attacks on the part of Mr. Dubov AF.”  

In short a public and direct appeal to Yuri Lutsenko not to continue to turn a blind eye to raider attacks by Mr Dubov (and associates) – please do your job!

The problems for Yuri Lutsenko continue to mount, for his undoubted return to politics (and at a minimum with a Cabinet position) rest heavily upon actually being perceived as a Prosecutor General that actively went after the elite and put more than a few in jail.  That necessity will eventually bring him into conflict with President Poroshenko who thus far has presided by way of managing elite interests, striking grubby deals, and insuring that none of the elite actually go to jail – at worst to be found guilty in absentia.

Whilst “trickle down economics” may be a commonly known phrase to many, “trickle down culpability” is how anti-corruption is currently to be perceived in Ukraine.  Those at the bottom of the “trickle down culpability” pyramid however, are hardly set to benefit in either theory or practice.

This particular Invest Group case however, is somewhat interesting for it involves a man with no legitimate immunity, who is unambiguously connected to the very top of the Ukrainian elite yet politically toxic, and is nothing short of a professional “raider” of businesses.

Thus there are local complainants, a local structure that simply fails to control his well known nefarious deeds, a local infrastructure that acts on his behalf/defends his actions, and an elite connection that is undeniable yet intangible – whilst he is without any of the immunity complications associated with actually arresting him.

Before going any further, a few lines about Mr Alexander Dubov are perhaps in order – for most readers will have never heard of him (even if they live in Ukraine).

Mr Dubov hails from Odessa Oblast.  He finished medical school and also holds qualifications in law from Odessa National Academy.  Upon completion his mysteriously managed to land some highly placed positions in the southwest of the Oblast immediately.  For example he promptly became Deputy Director of Dombudkonstruktsiya near Ismail.  Time spent on the borders of Transnistria was not wasted and it is claimed/known that he became a major player in cigarette smuggling during the mid to late 1990’s.  He also became the Deputy Director (of General Affairs) for the Christian Charitable Foundation Trust until 2002/3.

“Foundations”, “trusts” and “charities” were/are a prerequisite for those with sullied reputations but who have political ambition – and political ambition Mr Dubov had (and still has).

He became a Deputy Director of an entity called the Ukrainian Investment Group which sometime around 2005/6 came into contact with an entity called International Investment Group.  International Investment Group was then led by Alexander Yanukovych, the eldest (and wanted) son of former-President Yanukovych.

A reader will therefore be able to predict the increased profitability and infamy of Mr Dubov within certain circles once a relationship with Alexander Yanukovych developed.

Indeed in 2007, when then President Yushenko was juggling Prime Ministers and minions of both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko sallied forth across the land offering MP mandates for $5 million for those interested and deemed appropriate/came with recommendation (with an expected return of quadrupling that investment during a parliamentary mandate – or such was the return offered to this blog when asked in 2007 if for $5 million a seat in the Verkhovna Rada would be of interest), Mr Dubov entered the Verkhovna Rada under the Batkivshchyna (Tymoshenko) Party label.

Whether or not he got a discount on the $5 million joining/mandate fee who knows – but assuredly it will have cost several $ millions for that mandate if offered the same deal that this blog was offered at that time.

Naturally, having now reached the Verkhovna Rada Mr Dubov also set up his own charity, “Foundation for Goodness and Love”.  It was the done thing and nothing unusual.  Such entities are particularly useful when it comes to voter bribery/coercion.

Once in the Verkhovna Rada Mr Dubov set about work in the font of all fonts of corruption and nefariousness – energy and nuclear power.  He became closely associated with Alexander Turchynov, the current Secretary of the National Security & Defence Council of Ukraine.  Mr Turchynov was at the time one of the staunchest of Tymoshenko loyalists.  Mr Turchynov appears to have ably assisted Mr Dubov’s parliamentary career – and with it access to numerous machinations and nefarious schemes.  Without listing them all, scams are alleged to have included the food budget for prisoners (presumably resulting in hungry prisoners), drug procurement, and (an on-going per the opening paragraphs) count of close to 100 corporate raids – mostly in Odessa, but not exclusively.

In 2012 his second term in the Verhovna Rada began (District 64, Odessa) in what must have been an extremely expensive voter bribery and/or coercion campaign.  At the time of “peak Yanukovych”, a Batkivshchyna MP from Odessa with a reputation as thoroughly sullied as his won fairly?  Clearly the previous Verhovna Rada “returns” during his first mandate, plus almost 100 corporate raids upon profitable companies provided for such expensive electoral funding.

What is perhaps somewhat unique about the corporate raiding conducted by Mr Dubov is that no entity seems to have survived once his eye (or the eyes of others for which he would ply his expertise) has been taken with them.  There is also a level of consistent brutality and brazenness about these corporate raids that set them apart from others.

Naturally not all spoils were (or are) retained by Mr Dubov.  He had (and has) patrons within the Verkhovna Rada to which tribute is necessarily paid.  Indeed rumour has it that he earned sufficient trust that during the immediate aftermath of the Yanukovych regime flight and the subsequent high positions of his patrons, that he became one of the “purses” for certain temporary highly placed political figures to re-route State funds through.

Dubrov, Yatseniuk, Tymoshenko Y, Tymoshenko E

Dubrov, Yatseniuk, Tymoshenko Y, Tymoshenko E

The “Revolution of Dignity” was not altogether rewarding for Mr Dubov however – even if you do get to stand next to Ms Tymoshenko upon her release before a less than enthusiastic crowd.

The subsequent Verkhovna Rada elections of October 2015 saw him lose his single mandate parliamentary seat and he was deemed simply to odious a figure to feature highly on any Batkivshchyna Party list in the post-revolutionary atmosphere.  Those with a public persona for thuggery, corporate raiding and extortion were swiftly distanced whilst new unsullied civil society and journalism people were actively sought – notwithstanding persistent and ugly inferences to his involvement in the preparations (and aftermath) resulting in the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa.

Mr Dubov is not man without political creativity, even if he is a brutal one.  Because political doors were/are closed due to the political climate (they may reopen), he toyed with the idea of heading the Chamber of Commerce instead.  After all, a degree of power is there to be had, and so are the invitations for drinkies and a canapes with ambassadors, economic and trade attaches, as well as foreign business leaders.  Unfortunately the Ukrainian leadership managed to grasp the prickly politics of placing a professional and notorious corporate raider as head of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (although a reader will doubt they would otherwise have understood the irony).

Nevertheless, the core business of (professional) corporate raiding continues as Invest Group’s very recent letter to the Prosecutor General makes abundantly clear.  This despite Mr Dubov having been nudged into the shadows of political expediency and therefore can no longer hide behind parliamentary immunity.

With immunity gone, why then does he continue to act so brazenly and implied impunity?

As any occultist will say “As above, so below”.  If Ms Tymoshenko, Alexander Yanukovych and Mr Turchynov (among others) have all been (and perhaps still are) the “above” – then who and what constitutes the “below”?  Corporate raiding is a “dark art” in Ukraine after all.

If persistent and informed whispers are in any way accurate, then the exact construction of that local protection is divided between the political and the legal.  It would perhaps, if whispers be true, compromise politically of Messrs Krotyk, Kmyrenko, Shyvalov, Shamilov, Deide, Lutsenko (I), and Ms Syslova and Kuzel, whilst influencing the legal would be Mr Babenko, Mr Mazark with the SBU, the police and prosecutors by Mr Podolev, and Mrs Podoleva the courts.

It must therefore be clear to a reader why Invest Group have decided to circumvent the local system and appeal directly and publicly to the Prosecutor General when faced with yet another corporate raid by Mr Dubov (via a shell company called Naster registered in Lithuania if Mr Lutsenko needs a place to start and work back from).

A reader may question whether the Invest Group corporate raid is an act of Mr Dubov alone, or whether it done on behalf of others?  If so which others?  Alexander Yanukovych?  NSDC Secretary Turchynov?  Ms Tymoshenko?  Others from his Batkivshchyna history?   Perhaps the acts occur on behalf of yet others?  He is certainly skilled at what he does.  His reputation is earned.

The sensitive issue of how well acquainted Mr Dubov is with the Attorney General who was also a Batkivshchyna loyalist renowned for grubby deals behind the curtain during Mr Dubov’s two terms as a Deputy from the same party also arises.

How does Attorney General Lutsenko now act upon receipt of this letter?  It is not a case that will get any diplomatic attention (unless the diplomats that read this blog now take it under observation).  It is a case that can be easily ignored should he chose to do so – or at least act so slowly as to be too late to prevent the successful conclusion of the Invest Group corporate raid.

If he has any conflicting interests, who does he pass this off to?

If he (or President Poroshenko) want a big scalp in Odessa, and one which is also well known within the national elite circles, does the currently politically toxic and immunity-less Mr Dubov provide for something approaching a significant anti-corruption/business friendly conviction whereby the current “trickle down culpability policy” does not necessarily have to trickle down very far?

Although this case will probably get little by way of attention, it is perhaps one that should be watched as something of a bellwether simply because it presents overt political opportunities unhindered by issues of immunity that can provide publicity regarding successful anti-corruption, criminal action and bettering the business environment- or not.

Attorney General Lutsenko’s response is awaited.


A National Corpus or another far right political corpse?

October 16, 2016

Friday 14th October witnessed the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Volyn, manifesting with a few thousand marchers in Kyiv.  If eyebrows are to be raised regarding the event it is with regard to how few marchers there were vis a vis the amount of prose the Ukrainian far right has had written about it since 2014.

The march did however witness the birth of a(nother) far right political party.  The (in)famous Azov Battalion and its associated civil movement gave birth to a political party – The National Corpus.  The announcement was made by Andrei Biletsky, the former Azov Battalion commander, now Verkhovna Rada parliamentarian.

Andrei Biletsky

Andrei Biletsky

Gone from the new political party regalia are the Nazi associated symbols long associated with Azov and its wider non-military constituent parts.  The Wolf Hook or any variation thereof is absent in any representations relating to the new National Corpus political party.


This is perhaps a nod to the rule of law relating to the banning of Nazi and Communist symbolism, but perhaps has much more to do with dulling the image as Nazism in a purely political PR setting.  Mr Biletsky is not a stupid man and will recognise that political success relates to a certain degree of attraction that necessarily has to eclipse a few thousand far right militants and their associated symbolism.

There also appears to be little effort to associate the National Corpus with historical nationalist figures such as Bandera, Konovalets or Shukhevych.  This appears to be something Mr Biletsky is quite prepared to leave to the Svoboda Party – quite wisely if appeal beyond (or even across) the far right militancy is the political aim.

The National Corpus symbolism is far more inclusive – for it is a stylisation of the national symbol, the Trizub.


Quite what Mr Biletsky will classify as political success if and when it comes remains to be seen.  The retention of his Verkhovna Rada seat?  The National Corpus passing the 5% electoral threshold to enter the Verkhovna Rada as a political party?  Representation or even control in some regional administrations?  Replacing Svoboda as the major far right/nationalist political force (albeit Svoboda is a minor player in the national political picture) is the immediate aim?  Over what time period will success be measured, even if success can be lucidly identified?

(As an aside, not to be outdone, the same day that the National Corpus became a political party, Svoboda announced a “Legion of Freedom” headed by Oleg Kutsin, the former Svoboda leader for Donetsk and commander of the Carpathian Sich military unit.  A clear reactionary aping of the Azov formula.)

As with all populist political parties, be they The Radicals, Batkivshchyna, Ukrop or Svoboda (and increasingly the Oppo Block), sensible economics rarely feature.  Populism is about (empty) promises and appeals to emotion – notwithstanding such parties generally being nothing more than a vehicle for the ego of the leader rather than a party being bigger than its leader.

It therefore comes as little surprise that there is little thus far stated by the National Corpus regarding the economics required to run the nation sensibly.  It is also perhaps hardly the most interesting of subjects to orate when launching a political party to a waiting (albeit small) crowd.

The party manifesto does contain some new domestic political discourse as well as a lot of borrowed, (occasionally concealed, occasionally transparent), policy not only from within Ukraine but further afield.

Notably a call for the return of the death penalty for matters of treason and embezzlement/theft of large sums (a figure is not stated) from the public purse is stated.

There is a call for all Ukrainian citizens to be able to bear arms (the wording suggesting pistols/short barreled firearms).

The renationalisation of all previously owned State entities that were privatised since 1991 – starting with the energy sector.

The return of a Ukrainian nuclear arsenal.

The creation of a Ukrainian “Foreign Legion” for those that wish to serve in the Ukrainian military that are not Ukrainian citizens.

A complete break of economic (and some other) ties with Russia.

The furtherance of economic ties with the EU.

Foreign policy is driven by Baltic-Black Sea security threats and economic opportunities – with the inclusion of the Silk Road/Silk Belt infrastructure with China.

The promotion of “Eastern Europe” as a space that does not include Russia.

A system of national and municipal policing.

Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians reduced from 450 to 300.

The adoption of a system of citizenry similar to that of some of the Baltic states, although there is no outline of how this would be done or where the arbitrary lines would be drawn or whether it would/could be enforced retrospectively thus creating a loss of existing rights for some.

Thus, with some of the main manifesto points highlighted, this is visibly not a manifesto that will propel the National Corpus from political obscurity to national leadership in a single bound.  Far from it.

Clearly some of it is far more rhetorical than policy possible, as Mr Biletsky will undoubtedly be aware.

Obviously certain issues fly in the face of existing Ukrainian international obligations and/or The Constitution.  Numerous constitutional changes and Ukraine freeing itself of major international obligations would have to occur.

Nevertheless, manifesto delivery is not something that is going to occur as it will simply not appeal to the vast majority of the Ukrainian constituency sufficiently.

Ergo, perhaps the immediate questions relate to whether the dumping of Nazi associated symbolism is an acknowledgement that the far right has a truly limited constituency in Ukraine?  Also worthy of pondering is whether the National Corpus considers it has the appeal and strength to unite the more militant/radical it would appeal to under one umbrella, or whether yet another far right party will further split an already small voter base dooming all such parties to political oblivion?


Setting the pace? PACE sets a (Crimean) precedent?

October 13, 2016

Much has been written in cyberspace with regard to how the international community should react to the recent Duma elections which included the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula (and its assimilation into the Southern District administrative and military machinery).


13th October witnessed the adoption of a robust text by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in which this issue is officially raised.

Among the prose, of particular note is the following paragraph:

“4.1. condemns the illegal Duma elections held on 18 September in occupied Crimea and considers their results null and void. The incorporation of Ukrainian sovereign territory into Russian federal constituencies and the creation of four single-member constituencies are blunt violations of international law and effectively compromise the legitimacy of the Russian Parliament;”

It appears to be the first official document from an internationally recognised body that bluntly questions the legitimacy of the current Duma as it now contains illegitimate parliamentarians from an illegally annexed part of Ukraine.

As such, PACE Resolution 2132 (2016) appears to set a precedent officially questioning the legitimacy of the newly installed Russian Duma.

It therefore has ramifications.

There are now questions for each State and every international institution as to whether they will unquestionably recognise the legitimacy of the current Russian Duma – or not?  Now that PACE has officially questioned the legitimacy of the Russian Duma, should they too formally do so?

Are PACE Member  States and international institutions to continue to entertain interaction with the Russian Duma if its legitimacy is questionable?  There are other Russian channels if disqualifying the Duma after all.

Should they end any or all inter-parliamentary cooperation with a questionably legitimate Duma?

How to wiggle?  Does their entry into the Duma not simply de-legitimise that entire rubber-stamping circus – and if not why not?  If not, is cooperation be withdrawn only from committees and delegations that contain those Duma MPs who entered the legislature from Crimea to otherwise justify interaction without having to address a broader issue of Duma legitimacy?

What of the expansion of sanctions upon those now representing Crimea in the Duma?  Should any individual sanctions also include those that organised the elections too?  It seems unlikely that this can be avoided.

Regularly this blog raises policy questions regarding Ukraine.  For the past 2 years the absence of an overt Crimea policy had been duly noted – it is only fairly recently that something approaching policy has become clear.

Clearly PACE Resolution 2132 is something of a diplomatic win for Ukraine and the Ukrainian delegation to PACE.  It has not occurred without their significant effort to include such text, and hard lobbying to get it passed by PACE parliamentary vote.

The blog is aware of the energy spent by those (such as Alexie Goncharenko, a Ukrainian PACE delegation representative and head of the Verkhovna Rada cross party committee on Crimea), to accomplish such a result.   Thus although recognition of a good job well done are something of a rarity, the Ukrainian delegation to PACE have achieved all that could be expected of them on this occasion and their efforts deserve recognition.

It now remains to be seen whether the precedent now set in this PACE Resolution will further resonate within PACE Member States and other international institutions – or not.

(Full disclosure, the blog is well acquainted with Alexie Goncharenko – albeit there are healthy areas of (friendly) disagreement on occasion.)


A Rada week that will be one legislative step backwards?

October 3, 2016

This week the Verhovna Rada will see the following draft laws presented for voting:

Draft Law 3665 – A draft law on mediation creating legitimate mediation institutions in an effort to reduce pressure upon the judicial system.

Draft Law 2297 – A draft law relating to the creation of a far more favourable tax environment for charity donations made via telecom company operating systems (donations via text/SMS etc).

Draft Law 3491D – Relates to framework education, outlining obligations and accountability throughout the administrative structures.

Draft Law 4549 – Which seeks to meet Ukrainian obligations under EU Directive 2012/27/EU within the energy market.

Draft Law 3603 – Proposes to align Ukrainian water management practices with the EU Water Framework Directive.

Draft Law 3259 – Aimed at the State and its strategic environmental assessment mechanisms.

Draft Law 2009a -D – Would bring Ukraine within the requirements of Directives 2003/4/EC and 2011/92/EU (not withstanding the several other conventions to which it is a party).

None of the draft laws are perfect.  Some are good, and some not so good.  Most, indeed probably all will require amendment – as there are few Ukrainian laws that are written so well that they subsequently escape amendment almost before the ink is dry on any presidential signature signing them into law.

Long has the blog bemoaned the standard of crafting and drafting of legislation in Ukraine – and that will undoubtedly continue far into the future.

This brings about a number of suggested amendments also before the Verkhovna Rada in the coming week that simply fall into the counterproductive and/or woeful categories.

Draft Law 4370-1 – A law that seeks to amend the procedure for appointing the heads of local state administrations.  Not only is it clearly unconstitutional, it presents the holder of the office of President with the opportunity if not usurp power, then to grasp power tightly at the very root of local democracy.

Draft Laws 5097 and 5177 – “The Lutsenko Drafts” seek to remove the exclusivity of NABU in investigating corruption among the elite as described in a previous entry.  This will simply not sit well with the national constituency, nor the “external friends” of Ukraine that have spent a lot of political and diplomatic energy, not to mention financial assistance and training for NABU.

Draft Laws 1592 and 5079 – The much anticipated attempts to weaken the e-declaration legislation by removing criminal responsibility for submitting deliberately false information within their declarations, and also to curtail access to e-declarations.

To be clear the e-declaration law is not perfect.  It does unquestionably require amendment.

However the removal of criminal responsibility for false declarations is not where fault lies within the current legal text.  To be sure without criminal responsibility few would expect the feckless and in many cases distinctly criminal within the political class to pay much heed to the accurate completion of their e-declaration.



The issue of public access to e-declarations is perhaps a far more sensitive matter.

There are 7 nations that have committed to (but not yet delivered) public registries very similar to that of the Ukrainian e-declaration.

31 nations are considering making their registers/declarations public.

Only 2 countries have actually created a public register of declarations – The UK was the first and Ukraine is now the second.  For once Ukraine is leading the way in the transparency arena.

To be a public figure within a democratic legislature or senior civil servant within Ukrainian State institutions demands an advanced level transparency – particularly in a nation like Ukraine where corruption is deeply ingrained within this class of people.

The desire of Ukrainian society to also see included in those e-declarations the assets of parents and children of public figures and/or senior public servants is entirely understandable when they have historically been consistently used to hide the assets of public figures.  This is currently a legal requirement prior to any legislative amendments.

It is justifiable, and it is indeed currently legitimate, for prescribed investigative anti-corruption bodies to have access to all such information on an e-declaration including that of family members who hold no public office, but is it proportionate in respect to individual privacy of non-public figures for the entire nation to have access via a public register?  Is it justifiable for anybody to gain access to information relating to non-public family members simply because the information is stored on Government servers via any Ukrainian equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act?

The fundamental question is whether or not the same freedom of information access to that of public figures should equate to the same level of access relating to non-public family members?  It is where matters may get a little messy and may perhaps darken the door of the ECfHR one day in the future unless due consideration is given.

Emotion dictates that full and absolute transparency is demanded from public figures who have stolen from the Ukrainian people (and therefore this blog) directly and indirectly daily, and for decades.  Morality demands that their nefarious gains should not be allowed to be hidden via their family members, or easily in any other way – perhaps for many, regardless of any rights to privacy.  Proportionality however, specifically with regard to family members, may consider unfettered access to all such information in a public register worthy deliberation should the data demands of the e-declaration remain unchanged.

Sooner or later, this issue will be raised.  In the meantime however, few in Ukraine will have any sympathy for the privacy rights of those involved, one way or another, in raping, pillaging and hording the proceeds of the country over the past 25 years (and more).

Nevertheless, the proposed Draft Laws 1592 and 5079 are far from being the remedies for the issues within the e-declaration legislation.

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