Posts Tagged ‘civil society’

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Data accessibility – Apps4Cities competition

August 16, 2016

About a week ago, whilst sat with a friend (and soon to be business partner) fluent in those strange tongues of Java, C++ and other exotic yet unintelligible languages that produce Microsoft Ukraine winners,  the blog tentatively mentioned the fact that an “Odessa App” would be a rather good idea – particularly if the city emerges as the Eurovision host.  (“Tentatively mentioned” owing to the fact that keeping said friend (and soon to be business partner) concentrating on our mutual project was and is the priority.)

Some ideas were tossed about.

The issue was raised simply because the City and Oblast are particularly bad at communication both with each other, and perhaps more importantly with the local constituency.  Indeed “communication” is perhaps the wrong word when mentioning local government for it implies to many a two-way interaction.  It is more accurate to state that both City and Oblast are particularly bad at information and its delivery.

That said, our “tossing of ideas” covered far more than communicating Odessa local governance issues via an App. – nothing quite so dull.

App

Nevertheless, and by coincidence, 16th August witnessed the NGO OPORA announce an “Apps4Cities” competition.  What’s more there is a small $5000 incentive for winner(s) – not much, but a financial incentive nonetheless.

OPORA are certainly on the right track for expecting local governance to provide sensible solutions to their own woeful communication is folly – they can’t even communicate with each other.

Hopefully there will be a qualitative response.  It will be very interesting indeed to see just what solutions are offered by a very creative civil society and IT community now well used to filling gaping voids where governance fails. – and where governance fails the most is effective implementation and communication.

Expect some very smart solutions to be offered!

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The Prosecutors Office raids the prosecutors of prosecutors office – Ukraine

August 6, 2016

On 14th July 2015 when Viktor Shokin was Prosecutor General of Ukraine, this blog gazed into its crystal ball and forecast his replacement, (whatever the then legal obstacles),  would be Yuri Lutsenko.

Lo, on 12th May 2016 almost one year later, Yuri Lutsenko did indeed become the next Prosecutor General – after eventually overcoming the legal hurdles.

pgo

It therefore followed that the crystal ball required dusting off and a gaze within required to foretell what his reign as Prosecutor General would look like.

“As Yuri Lutsenko is, and will remain, a career politician (with ambitions greater than being the Prosecutor General, albeit it will perhaps be perceived  as a step up from his last role as Block Poroshenko faction leader within the Verkhovna Rada) his tenure will be self-limited and far from ignorant of the national political timetable.

It is therefore reasonable to predict his tenure being no more than 2 years in office, perhaps 18 months.  Much will depend upon the timing of any early Verkhovna Rada elections – or not.  A return to the Cabinet of Ministers is clearly the ultimate goal of a man that has twice before been Minister for the Interior.

Thus, having set that backdrop, what can be expected from Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General over the next 18 months (2 years maximum)?

Clearly being a politician in a prosecutor’s chair, he will immediately prioritise those issues that matter to the voting constituency, if nothing else in preparation for his political return.  Ergo former-President Yanukovych and closest circle are likely to see cases brought to the courtroom and assets arrested (or what’s left of them) in the meantime.

The violence of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity will feature highly too.

However, as a career politician and High Chamberlain/Grey Cardinal well versed in grubby little deals behind the political curtain, it is difficult (some would say impossible) to see a necessarily A-political Yuri Lutsenko when fulfilling his new role.  Either consciously or subconsciously he will be immediately aware of the politics of any prosecutions his new realm undertakes – and here think not only of the personalities that fall within the NABU remit, but more broadly.”

These paragraphs are a necessary backdrop to recent events, including a raid upon NABU – the agency tasked with top level corruption investigation, including within the Prosecutors Office – and the agency most insulated from Yuri Lutsenko within his empire.

There have been several cases over the past few months that clearly fall within the NABU remit as specified by Ukrainian legislation, that other branches of the Prosecutors Office have taken on without so much as a courtesy call to inform them of intended operations.

In short deliberate trespassing upon NABU turf which may, or may not, result in problems when (or perhaps if) cases get to court and a judge then questions jurisdiction.

Despite public statements by NABU (and thus informing the Ukrainian constituency of what is going on) respectfully reminding the Prosecutor General to keep the large and still corrupt feet of the PGO off of the (thus far) corruption free, legislatively designated, clearly identified, manicured lawns of NABU, those large and still corrupt feet continue to tread heavily upon the manicured lawns of NABU.

The 5th August then witnessed the PGO raid the NABU offices with a warrant issued by the notoriously corrupt and politically compliant Pechersk Court in Kyiv.

Ухвала_обшук №1

Ухвала_обшук №2 (1)

Ухвала_Обшук №3

 

A warrant lacking in specifics in the grounds for its granting, and so broad in its scope as to provide the PGO carte blanche to do what they like and take what they want from within the NABU offices.  In short, the prosecutors raided the offices of the prosecutors of (among others) prosecutors and were allowed to remove pretty much anything they liked.

This based upon the claim of illegal wiretapping by unidentified persons within NABU upon unidentified persons.

In turn, NABU claim to have wiretaps only carried out by the SBU – which currently is the only State body legitimately allowed to conduct wiretaps (with a court warrant).  That NABU, an entity created to investigate the very top of the Ukrainian pyramid has to use a very leaky and politically beholding SBU for wiretaps is naturally a problem in and of itself where confidentiality is vital to their investigations.

Whatever – All above board is the NABU claim, and we have the documents to prove it!  Their message being – Back off or those documents can reach the media and will infer, Mr Lusenko, that you are deliberately attempting to influence a legitimate and necessarily independent body estranged from the rest of your corrupt empire for good reason.

The current rumour (at the time of writing) is that the sanctioned search relates to a previous arrest of a top prosecutor for involvement in a UAH 300 million nefarious agricultural scheme/scam originating in Cherkassy and a belief that some rather incriminating statements have been made by people of import that have also been caught in the wiretap conversations unrelated to the nefarious Cherkassy scheme/scam.

Perhaps an attempt to “clean up some messy evidence” that would be inconvenient for the powers that be?  Who knows (other than NABU and the SBU wiretappers)?

It seems unlikely that whoever is believed to have compromised themselves in a wiretap in matters related or unrelated to the initial NABU arrest and investigation is important enough for such a brazen move against NABU by Mr Lutsenko (or by extension the President).  NABU has too much societal, civil society and external sponsor interest for such folly.

NABU is the only part of the PGO empire that has any public trust whatsoever, public and civil society opinion will most likely align with NABU and not with a well known political “Grey Cardinal” almost all believe to be nothing more than a Presidential puppet, or his still corrupt empire.

If public perception matters to a man that seeks to reenter politics in a Cabinet position within 2 years per the forecast of this blog, why then is Yuri Lutsenko going after the only part of his crooked empire that has any public confidence?  Why is he continuously either deliberately, or tacitly, undermining not only NABU but the legislation created within which it works so regularly?

Is it that he, or indeed President Poroshenko, (or both) now fear they cannot control or influence the beast they have created – despite ultimately still being in the position to definitively influence any court result?  (An influence that will not disappear even when the new judicial mechanisms begin to take force in October – indeed arguably the presidential administration could have more (rather than less) influence than it currently has.)

If this is a PR stunt to promote Yuri Lutsenko, it is one that is very likely to backfire.  If it is an attempt at a coercive influencing operation against NABU, it will draw the ire of society, civil society and the international supporters of Ukraine all of whom support NABU and distrust Yuri Lutsenko and the PGO as an institution.  Indeed it will deepen that distrust.

Perhaps it is an attempt to restrict any NABU requests for a larger legislatively permissive institutional toolbox regarding its own internal abilities promoting non-reliance upon external leaky and politically beholding agencies, thus taking it further out of the control of Mr Lutsenko (and by extension the President)?

Whatever the thinking behind this PGO raid upon NABU, it is extremely unlikely to have anything much to do with alleged illegal wiretaps by unnamed NABU detectives upon persons unknown – and it is being done with the usual modus operandi subtlety of the ever retarded homo sovieticus  suggesting this is much more about messaging and much less about the pursuit of justice.

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Decree No296/2016 – Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission

July 9, 2016

With the Warsaw NATO Summit now winding down (and congratulations to friend of this blog Slawomir Debski (and PISM) for organising what appears to have been a well administered event), whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the rhetorical and/or tangible outcomes, Saturday 9th was for Ukraine the bigger of the two days.

What was said “on the fringes” and “behind closed doors” may or may not become known (or leaked) in the coming days and weeks, but what catches the eye in the public domain is Presidential Decree 296/2016 – for it creates a domestic body aptly named the “Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission”.  A dedicated oversight body.

In a very short summary, its purpose is to create an entity that will monitor, analyse and evaluate the speed and trajectory of Ukraine along the path to meeting (the most basic of) NATO standards across all necessary spheres – both military and civilian.

The goal is clearly meeting NATO membership criteria – regardless of whether Ukraine pursues membership, or whether it ever manifests should it choose to do so.  Whatever the case, without meeting those most basic standards membership will certainly not materialise, no differently to any goal of EU membership should Ukraine decide to apply when far closer to meeting those standards (thus at least one decade in the case of NATO, possibly two for the EU – if (glacial) momentum can be maintained).

Ergo, the domestic coordination of (more or less the same) central legislature, State institutions, and other public bodies required for Ukraine to meet its EU Association Agreement and DCFTA obligations will also apply for NATO.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Common sense (which is sadly not that common) dictates that Deputy Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who is tasked with the EU integration mandate, also has her portfolio expanded to include the NATO mandate – and lo, it has come to pass that common sense has won the day.

As stated when the new Cabinet of Ministers was unveiled in mid-April, the creation of a VPM to specifically deal with EU integration, and the appointment of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze in particular to that role, was perhaps the highlight of the new Cabinet.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a clever woman.  She views issues with very clear eyes.  She is not prone to populism.  She speaks directly.  She is also quite likable.  She is also one of the few that enjoys support across the schism within the broad “Church of Reform” in Ukraine – a schism that has now made a notable move as predicted.  All very necessary traits given the role she has been given, and taken on.

What seems fairly clear, is that she believes that it is far less important for Ukraine to enter “Europe” (however you define that), than it is for “Europe” enter Ukraine – metaphorically speaking.

Her mantra appears to be that it is for Ukraine to introduce and adopt the European values and practices it deems necessary for national development.  European integration is therefore bringing “Europe” in terms of values and practices to Ukraine and not vice versa, attempting to take Ukraine to Europe..  A particularly wise framing of matters, despite the subtleties and nuances of such a mind-set oft being missed.   Such a view firmly places the responsibility for European integration upon her domestic colleagues and not the Europeans – quite rightly.

It would therefore seem quite probable that she will take a similar view regarding her new expanded portfolio regarding NATO – not to bring Ukraine to NATO, but to bring the NATO ethos and standards to Ukraine – similarly regardless of whether Ukraine eventually joins or not.

A significant question however, is the scope of NATO integration on offer, and how to benchmark progress toward fully achieving that (unknown) level of integration?

The EU Association Agreement and DCFTA has a clear and unambiguous structure and path to accomplishment – it is therefore measurable, and thus allows for domestic tactical and policy tweaks where necessary toward obligation fulfillment.

Naturally the current leadership of Ukraine, in the absence of NATO membership, would desire to achieve the nearest thing to it – a partnership so close as to be NATO membership minus Article 5.  Undoubtedly this would have to be the starting position of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze when framing issues in her own mind – certainly when it comes to coordinating matters internally of Ukraine.

Another question will be how long she will remain in post, and how far she can progress matters during that time.

It may very well be that the summer witnesses a drop in early Verkhovna Rada election rhetoric – but the Autumn and a new Verkhovna Rada session will undoubtedly see that rhetoric scale new heights.  Given her apparent support across the “reformist church” schism, whatever transpires, she may survive in post – but she certainly will not remain in post for the decade it will take to holistically meet all basic NATO standards (notwithstanding two decades to meet EU standards and the acquis communautaire which sets a higher bar than the existing Association Agreement and DCFTA toward which Ukraine labours).

Currently at least, questions of scope, achieve-ability, timeliness and measurement cast a shadow over what is otherwise a common sense Presidential Decree, decision and appointment.

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An ethical code of conduct for Ukrainian parliamentarians

July 9, 2016

The current Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Paruby, in an attempt to progress Ukrainian agreements with the EU, seems keen to move along the issue of an ethical code of conduct for parliamentarians.

Well bravo – the Verkhovna Rada is (in)famous for many things – such as fist fights, political showboating, being the biggest and most exclusive business club in the country et al – and is certainly associated with an absence of integrity, individual morality and group ethic.

Whilst those realities and perceptions continue within the domestic constituency (and among many external on-lookers) there will be no chance of increasing public (or external) trust in the drivers behind and/or actions taken within the national legislature.

Whatever gains there may be in tackling corruption, be they only existing on paper, or tangibly manifest, given the almost inseparable melding of business/personal interests and politics of the parliamentarians (or those who “rent” them), the creation, adoption and enforcement of a parliamentary ethical code of practice would seem to be a necessary compliment to anti-corruption legislation and the national reform process.

Theoretically there would be numerous areas of overlap between anti-corruption legislation (and transparency initiatives) and a parliamentary ethics code – conflicts of interest, lobbying/advocacy (particularly the opaque kind behind the political curtain), parliamentarian declaration of “gifts”, “entertainment”, and assorted jollies cunningly accounted for (if accounted for) as “corporate entertainment” by those seeking favour etc., etc.  The tip of a larger iceberg, and not an exhaustive list of course.

Naturally for any parliamentary code of ethics to have any hope of being adhered to if adopted, several questions need be raised and answered – including how to enforce it when parliamentarians stray – or deliberately ignore it.  There is a necessity for (clearly identified) punishment and a body to hear the issues and decide upon punishment.  (An ethics committee of some form or another.)

There is also a requirement to insure that all parliamentarians are fully aware of just what any code of ethics contains and the exceptions placed upon them.  Perhaps a “handbook” be issued to all parliamentarians and receipt upon signature by default declares not only a familiarity with the contents, but also unquestioned agreement to abide by the code.

The issue with Ukrainian legislation and its legislature is that it creates text that either heads into micro-script detail quite unnecessarily, or is left so broad and elastic in its text as to be almost unenforceable, and thus meaningless.  Therefore care will have to be taken when creating an ethics code that is neither too restrictive, nor too slack, and without meaningful consequences for those that transgress.

But what should appear in a parliamentary ethics code?

ethics

Much can be borrowed or bastardised from innumerable existing parliamentary ethics codes the world over.  There are also some particularly Ukrainian issues relating to its political culture that will also have to be addressed.

What do Ukrainian parliamentarians consider their role to be (aside from furthering personal interests)?

What does the Ukrainian constituency consider their role to be – or perhaps what their role should be rather than it is currently perceived to be?

Clearly Ukrainian parliamentarians, whether they retain their absolute immunity or not, must undertake to act according to the Constitution of Ukraine and also to uphold the law at all times.   (It is appreciated that such things are generally within the Oath when becoming a parliamentarian – and equally generally ignored – but a reminder with disciplinary consequences within an ethics code surely wouldn’t hurt.)

Perhaps if the parliamentarians cannot manage to find the courage to actually remove their own immunity en masse and for good, then within the ethics code it may be stated that such immunity will not be allowed to shield them against the just application of the law?  Ergo the inference being immunity will be lifted as a matter of course unless it can be shown that the application of the law would be unjust.

However, if EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity is an indication, there may be room for a caveat, narrow as it would have to be, to exercise civil disobedience in support of democracy or human rights.

Further there is an imperative that each parliamentarian insures that the national laws they craft, draft and pass, fully comply with the national obligations and commitments to international and regional law and treaties to which the nation has entered.  Worthy of inclusion in an ethics code?  Probably so.

It would be wise to make certain undertakings regarding protecting and promoting democracy.  In the usually fractious, dirty and nefarious Ukrainian political world, undertaking to accept legitimate democratic outcomes is perhaps a necessary position to take.

A duty for inclusive, pluralistic, and tolerant discourse both within and without parliament in pursuit of a parliamentarian’s professional duties is perhaps worthy of inclusion – within the bounds of tolerance, for there are limits to tolerating the intolerable.

When mentioning necessities, given the Verkhovna Rada history, clearly an absolute ban on physical violence and/or intimidation will have to be included – perhaps with a requirement to condemn unconditionally and for the official record any such actions whenever they occur, and unavoidable yet proportional stern punishment for offenders.  Quite clearly such actions simply bring the institution into disrepute and should not be suffered without meaningful recourse.

Though there currently be little fear of the shrinking space for civil society returning in Ukraine as witnessed under the Yanukovych regime, nevertheless perhaps an ethical code should oblige parliamentarians to insure a broad and fertile space for civil society.  After all, an ethics code is a document written not with a particular moment in time in mind – but is a code of a somewhat “eternal” nature, albeit a code that will have to remain somewhat “living, breathing and evolving” to stay in step with societal ethics as they too change and evolve over time.

It would be wise to somehow include a solemn undertaking not to undermine or nefariously influence the institutions of State.  Perhaps a duty to advocate for, and protect, the institutional powers and prerogatives of all democratic institutions.

Sadly it would be quite necessary to include a specific reminder to parliamentarians that they do indeed serve the public (and not themselves).  A public interest clause making it absolutely clear that their duties within the Verkhovna Rada are to create and implement effective governance – be that through the legislation the write and/or pass, through their participation in oversight/committee debate, and in far too many cases, that they actually tun up to work regularly at the Verkhovna Rada.

Whilst on the subject of turning up to work at the Verkhovna Rada – or not – when “or not”, unless on holiday or within official visiting delegations somewhere, they should be obliged to be engaging with, representing, and serving their constituents – and accessibility goes far beyond having a Facebook page or a generic email address which goes unanswered.

(The more time that can be filled with national politics and the more obligations to the constituents within an ethics code, theoretically the less time available for furthering personal and/or vested business interests.)

It seems some consideration regarding interaction with the media will be required too.  Neither Ukrainian parliamentarians, nor the Ukrainian media have much in the way of credit when it comes to ethics.  What level of political spin and bullshit is acceptable before it becomes unethical?  What of social media interaction when a parliamentarian’s Facebook seeks to cut out an equally unethical media conduit?

Should media interaction be separately dealt with in an ethical code, or should it (perhaps far more cleverly) fall within a wider more encompassing clause relating to transparency, good will, and good faith with regard to all public interaction?

Having mentioned good will, good faith and transparency, then any ethics code will have no choice but to set out robust and unambiguous guidelines and/or rules for conflicts of interest and/or the use of improper influence.

To avoid going on and on – what, exactly, should be covered by any Verkhovna Rada ethics code – and what, if anything, should not?

T’will be very interesting to see what eventually is arrived at by way of a Verkhovna Rada ethics code – for it seems quite possible it will become a template for other institutions of State.

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Constitutional amendments, judicial reform and lacking legislation

June 1, 2016

On Thursday 2nd June it is expected that the Verkhovna Rada will vote for changes to the Ukrainian Constitution that will pave the way toward notably altering the judiciary and the mechanics upon which it (corruptly and inefficiently) runs.

President Poroshenko, European politicians and bureaucrats, innumerable diplomats, and many commentators are all  encouraging the Verkhovna Rada to raise the 300 (+) votes necessary to perform this most necessary task.

It is also necessary to be entirely honest and state that the amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution before the parliamentarians on 2nd June are far from perfect – however they facilitate the opportunities to create an improved judiciary and improved judicial machinery within which the “learned judges” will function.

It has been stated innumerable times at this blog that the Constitution of Ukraine is far to woolly in some text and far too detailed in others where standard statute would be far better placed to create the legislative framework.  The proposed amendments very much seem to continue that trend although overall allowing for improvements over the current judicial system.

book

Nevertheless within 24 hours of publishing this entry it will become clear whether the Verkhovna Rada can gather together 300 (+) constitution changing votes – or not.

Should that 300 (+) vote number be reached however, the ability to implement the relevant constitutional changes within the judicial system – at least in the immediate term – appears to be somewhat difficult.

The usual issues of what exists on paper (constitutionally or in statute) and what exists in reality due to the lack of will, differing interpretations by individual institutions and/or regions, or deliberate obstruction by vested interests aside (which always create an environment of ineffective, or deliberately counterproductive implementation in Ukraine), there appears to be no supporting raft of draft statute to facilitate the implementation of the relevant constitutional amendments as soon as they come into effect.

(By way of long standing historical example (and one of many), the Constitution of Ukraine since its original drafting decades ago provides the right for trial by jury – except there has not been a trial by jury as there is no law in statute defining what a jury is, how it is to be composed, and the gravity of offences nor level of court hearing at which a jury is to be called upon to sit.)

A similar state of affairs seemingly presents itself in the immediate term following any successful and Constitution changing vote within the Verkhovna Rada on 2nd June.  Ukraine will again have the most basic and fundamental law of the land stating one thing by way of Constitution, but have no statutory legislation that actually provides for its full implementation.

Perhaps the most glaring of numerous current (and no draft law in sight) statutory absences will see a new constitutionally set 3 tier judicial system that is supported by a complete absence of statutory legislation relating to the reorganisation of appellate courts and (some) local courts.

Is it not wise when tinkering with the most fundamental law of the land to have statute to facilitate its implementation already drafted and submitted for Verkhovna Rada passage in the wake of any successful constitutionally based changes to the judicial system?

Is it not erroneous, if not farcical, to have the old mechanics working unconstitutionally due to a lack of prepared implementation facilitating statute?

Should such preparatory statutory legislative work not have been done by now?  It’s not as though amendments to the Constitution suddenly appear and catch parliamentarians by surprise.

Perhaps if the constitutional amendments do garner the necessary votes, then in the time between passing and signing into law by the President something hastily scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet in the Verkhovna Rada car park purporting to be the necessary (but probably faulty) facilitating statute will come into being – then again perhaps not, and a trail by jury will occur in Ukraine first!

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A tense fortnight ahead in Odessa? Yes if the politicians have anything to do with it

April 27, 2016

Ten days ago an entry appeared regarding the gaze of the reform orientated activists moving from the Odessa Prosecutor’s Office, having successfully ejected Nikolay Stoyanov from the role (albeit after he had closed a lot of cases into local vested interests and nefariousness), to that of City Hall and Mayor Trukhanov.

In short, the entry stated that flush with success at the Prosecutor’s Office in Odessa, the social activists would simulate their 24/7 protests outside City Hall.

Mayor Trukhanov (and City Hall) have aroused their ire after entirely inappropriate construction schemes on the historic Fransuski Boulevard, numerous secretive departmental meetings with no public input into decision making, abhorrent, (and in defiance of local ordnance), inconsiderate construction in the historic city centre,  the usual graft and inept use of the city budget, and notwithstanding the 20 (or more) offshore companies the Panama Papers linked to the Trukhanov name, together with his (alleged) holding a Russian passport.

As stated in that entry, the weather gets warmer and the 24/7 protests far easier to endure than was the case for the far cooler and wetter weather during the prosecutor protests.

The problem for Mayor Trukhanov therefore is that the protests are not about to disappear quickly.

Having already employed the Homo Sovieticus modus operandi of ignore, deny, deflect/distract to no avail, the entry stated – “The Homo Sovieticus doctrine regarding steps for further escalation are likely to make matters worse rather than better….”

With the second anniversary of the 2nd May tragedy, 9th May Victory Day, and Governor Saakashvili’s first anniversary on 15th May, the coming fortnight may well become quite tense. It may even boil over occasionally.  Thus escalation outside City Hall, as stated, would make matters worse rather than better in the lead up to so many difficult anniversary dates.

Having a 24/7 protest outside City Hall is clearly annoying for some within – particularly when visiting dignitaries are visibly reminded of the Mayor’s close association with organised criminality, and of the City Hall reputation for generally ignoring the rule of law and its own protocols and ordnance, notwithstanding graft and thievery.

It was with more than a little suspicion that greeted the announcement of City Hall’s politically controlled Praetorian Guard under the banner of “City Watch” which would help the police to police – despite having no legitimate powers to do so outside those granted to any and every citizen of Ukraine during the commission of crimes against a person or property.

Those protesting outside City Hall immediately perceived the “City Watch” entity as little more than a rent-a-mob/titushek/illegitimate paramilitary controlled by City Hall that would inevitably come into conflict with themselves when commanded by the politicians to do so.  The timing of the announcement therefore perceived as a shot across the protester bow then comfortably encamped outside City Hall.

However, the inevitable violence came during the night of 25/26th April.  Having gone without any incident outside the Prosecutors Office in Odessa for 17 days, in far shorter time period outside City Hall the titushek/rent-a-mob struck.

The tents were destroyed, protesters belongings were thrown into the back of a Kamaz truck, the protesters were beaten – some quite badly.

In short, the predicted escalation surrounding the events outside City Hall materialised – and will make matters worse and not better.in all probability.  There is now a further societal complaint – and one which is likely to swell rather than reduce protester numbers – that complaint being the absence of the rule of law even outside the Mayor’s office front door (which “mysteriously” are not caught on CCTV).

A reader may ponder that surely Mayor Trukhanov, albeit Homo Sovieticus to the core, would have realised that such an escalation would have significant risks – particularly as it was the beating of protesters that was the escalation that doomed former President Yanukovych and cemented the resolve of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity.  Even Mayor Trukhanov is not that politically retarded to have failed to have learned that lesson – and even if he is, the wily, politically lithe, poisonous chamberlains that surround Mayor Trukhanov, such as Oleg Bryndak, certainly will not have forgotten.

Then again, maybe it is a double bluff in order to come out looking like the victim when indeed being the instigator.

Nevertheless, if to accept Mayor Trukhanov has successfully suppressed his Homo Sovieticus and organised crime instincts to crack the skulls of those that protest outside his place of work, then who managed to gather together approximately 40 titushek/rent-a-mob to attack the protesters and destroy their belongings in the middle of the night?

Who else gains from this escalation – and how?

The ever-slippery Oleg Bryndak was quick to publicly point the finger at Governor Saakashvili and his team.  His claim being that they need results and to force their agenda before the Governor’s anniversary this attack somehow significantly advances their cause.

Not only that, Mr Bryndak claimed that Governor Saakashvili’s people were behind an RPG-18 attack upon a Pivdennyi Bank headquarters the previous night.

Pivdennyi

Naturally a reader now asks why Pivdennyi Bank?

The blog will state only two things.  Firstly there is now a very close association between somebody in the City Hall treasury and the board of Pivdenniya Bank that appears to be questionable in its nature.  Secondly the OCCRP are looking at Pivvdenyi Bank too, although as yet they have published nothing.  The bank is very well run – but neither the OCCRP nor the interest of the Governor’s team is peaked by its daily operations.  There are other reasons.  For now, that is all that will be written regarding Pivdennyi Bank.

Whatever – when throwing accusations around, “in for a penny, in for a pound” it appears.  In short Mr Bryndak claims this is all a continuing provocation aimed at Mayor Trukhanov and City Hall by the Oblast Administration.

Also, the list of those happy to blame the Governor from the Odessa political class is also probably more notable for the few not on it, rather than the majority that are, for example the schism that exists between the reformers that identify with the Governor and the reformers that identify with Alexie Goncharenko, and those reformers that identify with yet others..  A united “reformer” front there is not.

Well perhaps, but Governor Saakashvili has just announced a major political win with President Poroshenko publicly “on board” with the Governor’s road to Romania project.  Prime Minister Groisman has announced a national customs reform programme will be unveiled within two months which seems likely to closely resemble the Governor’s project at Odessa Port.  The Odessa Port project therefore cannot be allowed to collapse under the enormous pressure of vested interests.  Even with a half-competent and reasonably honest appointment to Odessa Regional Prosecutor, and the wind would appear to be blowing (even if only slightly and temporarily) the Governor’s way.

Whether that proves to be enough for the Governor to stay, and whether his anticipated leaving be his decision or the President’s over the coming fortnight remains to be seen.  Perhaps he will stay for a while longer, for there is at least 6 months before any early Verkhovna Rada elections can be seriously contemplated.  How much does it matter?

The battlefield for Misha Saakashvili is far bigger than Odessa, and the “pocket Generals” of Odessa are unlikely to match him in a far bigger war theatre.  Both reformers and vested interests have won and lost battles in Odessa, but it is winning the war that will ultimately decide the fate of those fighting the Odessa battles.

Indeed, it will be a long war with many more battles along the way.  It appears that only the jailing of the Field Marshals of the Vested Interests will in any way change the context in which their regional “pocket Generals” fight.

So if not the Governor or his team, then who?

There are of course the vested interests and “pocket Generals”, some of whom have little liking for either Mayor Trukhanov or Governor Saakashvili – Messrs Kivalov and Skoryk, the protagonists/ideologues behind the political push for an Odessa porto franco being certainly among them, and both having a history employing titushek/rent-a-mob to further their causes.

The list does not necessarily end their either.

This is clearly a politically manipulated titushek-fronted incident.

There are others that would take no small degree of glee from putting Mayor Trukhanov under pressure.  For example former Mayor Eduard Gurvitz, friend of Sergei Kivalov, and not unknown to the Governor Saakshvili camp, has a particular and personal dislike for the man who currently runs City Hall.

There are yet others too but there is no need to go on, suffice to say that there are numerous political interests, some obvious and some less so, that could benefit from the titushek attack on the protesters.

The question therefore is discovering which one is behind this particular incident, and will it ever become known?

It seems that of the 40 people involved in the assaults on the protesters, and damage to their property, 5 were arrested by the police and criminal proceedings against them under Part 4 Article 296 of the Criminal code of Ukraine have begun.

Whether those that hired them will be identified remains to be seen.  Such people can be “professional Russians” one day, “professional animal rights” another, and “professional tree huggers” on yet another – depending upon who is paying for their muscle/actions.

It may very well be that they have no idea who ultimately sponsored/paid for their group, simply turning up, taking the money and doing their deeds.  Alternatively once their faces/names become known, it may well be that they are regularly seen in the company of certain aforementioned personalities.  Time will tell.

In the meantime, looking forward toward the Easter holiday, 2nd May anniversary, 9th May Victory Day and 15th May anniversary of Governor Saakashvili’s arrival, it may well prove to be a very testy time in Odessa – particularly so when there seems to be a good deal of deliberate political agitation currently coming from well known and old school odious personalities.

Governor Saakashvili has asked the President for the National Guard to be deployed – the National Guard has refused stating that the police should be able to cope and that the National Guard does not get involved with politically engineered shenanigans.  (A note to the National Guard, neither should the police, but rule of law must be upheld (as best they can)).

Let us hope that the National Guard is right and that the Governor’s call to the President is something of an overreaction.  Perhaps it is.  Giorgi Lortkipanidze appears a very reasonable police commander.  Neither President nor National Guard/Ministry of Internal Affairs will look particularly clever if despite the best efforts of the police matters spiral out of control, or spread over a wide geographical area however.

Whatever the case, the next week will be well spent politically attempting to defuse what has been artificially and purposely politically created after this recent and violent escalation.  It would be perhaps wise for those behind this political pantomime to remember that among any casualties that may result from their nonsense, they may ultimately be included in that number.

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An EU shot across the Prosecutor General appointment bow

April 21, 2016

A while ago an entry appeared regarding the submission of Draft Law 4379 that was unashamedly aimed at clearing a path for Yuri Lutensko to become Prosecutor General, and which by extension gave the President a robustly perceived control of the Prosecutor General’s Office despite the pretense of a non-PGO man leading the PGO.

This blog, having tipped Lutsenko to become Prosecutor General since October 2015 despite there being several far better candidates in terms of qualifications and perceived independence, looked on course to be proven right – unfortunately.

However, Draft Law 4379 has now been withdrawn by its author, the then MP and now First Vice Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv, and the EU via European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy, Mr Johannes Hahn has made very clear when reading between the lines that Yuri Lutsenko simply will not do.

“The Government and the President should ensure the appointment of an independent and focused on the reform of the public prosecutor and to conduct a thorough reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

We expect that the Attorney General will be the person who is familiar with the legal issues and has experience in legal practice.”

It remains to be seen whether Draft Law 4379 is resubmitted after a little tinkering, but ultimately still clearing a path for Yuri Lutkensko to circumvent existing barriers to his appointment – or not.

Nevertheless, whatever tinkering there may be, it will not magically conjure up “experience in legal practice” any more than it will “ensure the appointment of an independent“.  A European shot across the appointment of the next Prosecutor General bow has clearly been fired.

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There is perhaps a need for a little legislative tinkering anyway, if that tinkering allows for those of legal qualification and experience to lead the PGO without necessarily having any internal experience of the PGO as an institution.  Currently the law on the Prosecutor’s Office states “the Prosecutor General of Ukraine must be a citizen of Ukraine, who has work experience as a prosecutor for not less than 5 years.”  Article 27 therefore only prolongs corrupt leadership from an incestuous institutional cesspit.

A reader my rightly ponder why such an unnecessarily restrictive Article exists that theoretically would prevent a judge of 20 years on the bench yet with no PGO experience from becoming Prosecutor General – or a practicing lawyer of “x years” experience for example.

The appointment of any of those currently holding senior office within the Prosecutor General’s Office will clearly not bring about “a thorough reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office“.  By way of example of the nefarious deeds and schemes of the current PGO management, the illegitimate appointment of Nikolai Stoyanov as Odessa Prosecutor for the 17 days he was unlawfully in office as the Regional Prosecutor managed to accomplish the minimum requirements of his short tenure – the closure of many prickly and unwanted investigations/cases into vested interests previously opened by Davit Sakvarelidze.

Arguably Mr Lutsenko would be/would have been a marginally better appointment than one from among the inbreeds of the PGO elite – but the choice should not be between one of removing an eye with a spoon rather than removing an eye a fork when it is entirely possible to avoid removing an eye.  There are some decent candidates that meet the requirements of Ukrainian civil society, the domestic constituency, and the parameters of Mr Hahn’s comments.

Unfortunately, President Poroshenko doesn’t have the will to appoint a truly independent, reform orientated, qualified candidate with unquestioned integrity – of which there are several.  If he had such a will, Yuri Lutsenko and legislative changes to facilitate his appointment would not have been considered and instigated in the first place.  President Poroshenko clearly wants to retain control over the Prosecutor’s Office – as have all previous presidents for reasons of selective and arbitrary coercive power.

In short, “here is my offender, now go and find me his crime”, or “he is (now) my man, there was no crime” in true Homo Sovieticus rule by law methodology.

Commissioner Hahn has positioned himself (and the EU) very much in line with Ukrainian civil society, much of the wider domestic constituency, and the majority of right-thinking civilised people – all of whom await a clear indication of whether a real reform path will be taken – or not.

If this shot across the Prosecutor General appointment bow is unambiguously linked to further and significant funding, then the presidential promise of a swiftly appointed Prosecutor General seems unlikely to happen as Mr Poroshenko is then forced to scramble about seeking his least worst option – in the meantime either leaving in place the current cancerous acting PGO leadership, or possibly the “temporary” appointment of an “acting” Yuri Lutsenko (therefore perhaps circumventing the existing legislation that applies to appointed Prosecutor Generals) pending a permanent appointment that may now be some way off.

The theatre of nominating individuals that would meet domestic and external expectations, to then find a mysterious lack of votes within the Verkhovna Rada can be orchestrated, and these scenes played out for quite some time with several decent candidates – particularly as the Ukrainian finances currently allow for a few months of dallying.

Likewise a delaying selection process upon which there can be a deliberate lack of agreement injected via panel selection is an option.

Hopefully this matter will not sink so low as to engage in such gross a misuse of procedures to be acted out within the theatre of the absurd (Verkhovna Rada) or without in any “independent” selection process – but the PGO and control over it has been, and remains, a significant coercive lever of power for any Ukrainian President.  To prise that lever of power from the hand of the current President will be no more easy a task than it would have been with his predecessors.  To prevent the next incumbent attempting to seize control over the PGO will be equally difficult too.

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