Posts Tagged ‘domestic policy’

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Gaidar becomes Presidential Adviser – Why, and why now?

April 5, 2017

As unusual as it is to read anything so clearly favorable about a Ukrainian politician on this blog, or to write about a politician rather than policy per se, the following prose will be something of an exception.

Maria Gaidar has featured in the blog several times having arrived in Ukraine, being granted Ukrainian citizenship (and relinquishing her Russian citizenship), and subsequently acting as Deputy Head of Odessa Oblast Administration under Governor Misha Saakashvili.

She is perhaps the closest thing Ukraine currently has to political aristocracy, albeit her political aristocracy is rooted in Russia via her late father Yegor Gaidar (Prime Minister of the Russian Federation 15 June – 14 December 1992) and Great Grandfather Arkady Gaidar.

Nevertheless there are few, if any current Ukrainian politicians that can claim 4 generations of political lineage that have all featured at the pinnacle of national policy shaping.

(She also worked with an old friend of this blog, the late Boris Nemtsov.)

All of that said, to be fair, it is all somewhat irrelevant even if interesting.

What matters is what, if anything, Ms Gaidar not only accomplished, but how she went about it, as a Ukrainian politician in Odessa since her adoption of Ukraine (or perhaps vice versa).

Having met her several times, she is undoubtedly one of the best mannered, humble, accessible and intelligent women in Ukrainian politics – and certainly to grace the political and policy stage of Odessa.

She is clearly more than capable of acting upon a stage far greater than Odessa Oblast and yet decided to remain as a local Deputy in the Oblast Rada when the rest of “Team Saakashvili” moved on/was eased out/quit and headed to Kyiv, thus honouring her public mandate.

She has remained a solid, reliable, conscientious, almost media invisible Oblast Deputy who has, so far as can be ascertained, avoided the usual trips and traps of local governance corruption.

She also did a decent job, where it was possible, at clearing up the unintended mess left behind by Hurricane Saakashvili as he whirled around the Oblast when she was his Deputy (while allowing the intended devastation to do what it was intended to do) .

It follows therefore that the blog has no issue with the surprise appointment of Maria Gaidar as Presidential Adviser.   She is certainly brighter and far less tainted than many within the Presidential Administration.

Two questions however – Why, and why now?

Is Ms Gaidar deemed a “Saakashvili legacy” by the new Governor of Odessa, akin to an unwanted fly in his soup – and thus this appointment giving opportunity to have her officially out of Odessa often, despite her local public mandate?

Is it nothing more than a cheap. non point scoring poke at The Kremlin?

Is it a poke at Misha Saakashvili?

Is it an attempt by the Presidential Administration to lure some former “Team Saakashvili” people across?  (Albeit Ms Gaidar was clearly different in her approach to her work than the majority of that team – publicly at least.)

Cynicism asks whether Kyiv simply bereft of smart people to advice the President?

Are there other reasons, be they less than obvious or distinctly motivated by events behind the curtain, for this appointment?

And why now?

For almost a year Ms Gaidar has been, by choice, a lowly Oblast Deputy having resigned as former Governor Saakashvili’s Deputy when the Law on Civil Service came into force in May 2016.  She has been left to fester in Odessa in a political position far below her abilities, so what has now changed to warrant her appointment as a Presidential Adviser (along side her local mandate)?

Is this a reward for perceived loyalty to the President and/or people of Odessa because she did not abandon her responsibilities in Odessa and follow Misha Saakashvili?

It has to be said the appointment is a surprise, and although she is more than equal to the role, the questions of why, and why now, thus far provides for few convincing answers.  Nevertheless President Poroshenko has made this appointment for a reason and that may become clearer only later.

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What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

January 16, 2017

With Vice President Biden bidding adieu in Kyiv having been point man for the out going US Administration, naturally official statements are a mixture of thanks and platitudes for efforts past and also words of hope for the future.

Yet the words used by both President Poroshenko and Vice President Biden at their farewell meeting are hardly the most robust and unambiguous when it comes to confirming continued US policy toward Ukraine.

“We really count on the succession by the new U.S. administration in our common work” and “hope that the Ukrainian issue will further unite the entire American political spectrum and remain among the top priorities” the oratory of President Poroshenko is hardly that of a political leader confident in the future policy of an ally.

Further, despite President Poroshenko’s “hope” it is already fact that the Ukrainian issue will not unite the entire American political spectrum insofar as where Ukrainian issues overlap with Russian issues.  The reverse is abundantly clear.  Divisions are widening within the US political arena where Ukrainian and Russian policy overlaps.

In response, VP Biden stating “I hope that the next administration will also want to be a supporter and partner in your continued progress” does little to convey anything solid either.

Yet more “hope“.

Perhaps one more forlorn “hope” is that the in-coming administration even has a Ukraine policy around which the American political spectrum can either diverge or unite – particularly when it comes to overlapping Russia issues.

What is past is prologue (Shakespeare)

Thus what has gone before may have little to offer by way of predicting, and therefore understanding, what is to come.  It may be that there is, as yet, no policy regarding Ukraine as far as the in-coming Administration is concerned, and thus policy drift and/or meandering is what awaits to be exploited by those that seize the moment.

“Hope” no matter how many times it appears in presidential prose is not a strategy.  And it is certainly not a strategy Ukraine will be wise to employ with regard the emissions of the new US Administration.

If “hope” is to play any part in Ukrainian strategy, it is perhaps better replaced with “optimism” and employed within a domestic political and policy context.  “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, or vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not abandon it to his enemy.” (Bonhoeffer).

It may be prudent therefore to deliver some swift, sensible, domestic inspiration by way of policy!

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Moldavian meetings

January 5, 2017

For the first time since 2008, a President of Moldova, Igor Dodon met with a “President of Transnistria” Vadim Krasnoselsky.

Whether it proves to be anything more than a symbolic gesture by pro-Kremlin Moldavian President Dodon remains to be seen, for his powers as president are extremely limited (which is perhaps a good thing being a robust supporter of federalising Moldova).

Moldova is a parliamentary democracy with the President having very little sway over policy or legislation.  (As such the Moldavian parliamentary elections of 2018 matter far more than the recent election of Mr Dodon as President of Moldova.)

What was known to be discussed appears to have been all rather sensible – and occurred outside of the longstanding 5+2 format which may or may not further frustrate an already frustrated process.  Nevertheless issues such as agriculture in the Dubasari district, education and diplomas, and the movement of citizens across the Dniester river were discussed.

It is said they will meet again soon with proposal to solving the issues discussed and to set timelines to implement agreed solutions.

Time, as it always does, will tell when it comes to results, particularly as President Dodon would have to have the Moldavian parliament “on side” to actually deliver much (if anything).

With regards to meetings, and perhaps worthy of note for those in Kyiv, on 26th December, 3 days after Mr Dodon’s election as president, the odious and criminal Mykola Skoryk MP (Oppo Block) quietly visited Moldova attending a Party of Socialists event to celebrate Mr Dodon’s success.

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President Dodon had been a long serving Chairman of the Party of Socialists after leaving the Communist Party.  Needless to say the Party of Socialists is a robustly Russophile political entity.

That the obnoxious Mykola Skoryk would surround himself with russophiles is in keeping with his personal views (as inferred in the above link).  As regular readers will note however, it is not his russophile views that make Mykola Skoryk obnoxious.  Quite simply there is nothing about his political history, business activities, or egocentric personality that make him likable – russophile or not.

Time will tell whether Prosecutor General Lutsenko will actually get around to trying to strip Mykola Skoryk of his parliamentary immunity and prosecute him as he stated he would in September – but as yet hasn’t.  Perhaps he has forgotten, perhaps he opened his mouth before gathering sufficient evidence, or perhaps a grubby deal has been struck that he won’t now go after Mr Skoryk.  Neither Messrs Lutsenko or Skoryk have been adverse to grubby (and criminal) little deals throughout their political careers.

The question however is what was Mykola Skoryk doing at a Party of Socialists gathering for, and with, the newly invested President Dodon?  A shared russophilia is unlikely to be the answer in and of itself.  There will be more to it.

Perhaps it is a matter of insuring any cross-border “business” is not interrupted under a new presidency.  Perhaps there are now opportunities to expand “business”.  Maybe an arrangement made for an immediate “bolt hole” from Odessa should Prosecutor General Lutsenko actually put action where his rhetoric already exists.  Per chance some plotting and scheming regarding stirring up matters in “Bessarabia” occurred – as one domestic result of a Trump victory in the USA will probably be an emboldened pro-Russian political voice within Ukraine from those that have generally kept a low profile over the past 2 years – those like Mykola Skoryk.

Whatever the case, Mykola Skoryk did not become the first Ukrainian MP to personally congratulate Mr Dodon on his election simply because of a shared russophilia and as Odessa shares a border with Moldova he thought he’d “drop by”.  He is hardly otherwise a regular face at the Party of Socialists gatherings.

That Mr Skoryk has said very little about his trip probably means that more questions should be asked.

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Ukrainian MIC to produce the M4 WAC47

January 3, 2017

Although it is perhaps not secret despite being secret, for quite some time the US has been toying with the idea of (limited) tech transfer to Ukraine with regard to matters MIC (Military Industrial Complex).

Issues that have prevented such (limited) transfers are not Ukrainian ability to produce weaponry from the transferred tech, nor those of any licencing limitations,  but its ability to prevent any tech transfer immediately being leaked to Russia.  Kremlin infiltration withing all institutions in Ukraine remains despite sweeps to remove the most obvious traitors from all institutions.

As is almost always the case, the most obvious infiltrators are not the most damaging.  Low hanging fruit etc.

Hence the tech transfer for the much mentioned Javelin (and other) weaponry providing Ukraine with the ability to manufacture its own remains in purgatory.

No surprises at the desire to assist Ukraine to arm itself vis a vis the obvious problems of a compromised and thoroughly infiltrated institutional structure with the latter prudently holding in abeyance the former.

Infiltration of Ukrainian institutions and structure is a problem that is not going to go away, but it is a problem that can be far better managed with a lot of work over the coming years.

However, there are MIC tech transfers and licencing that can occur whereby there are no or manageable classified issues to consider – thus predominantly only commercial issues are to be solved.

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It has come to pass that Ukrboronservis, part of the State Ukrboronprom monolith, is about to commence the manufacture of the M16 (or more accurately the M4 Carbine WAC47) in Ukraine in partnership with the US company Areoscraft.  The aim of this project is to equip the Ukrainian army with NATO standard weaponry produced in Ukraine by Ukraine and for Ukraine.

Messrs Vladimir Korobov (Ukrboronprom), Sergei Mykytyuk (Ukrboronservis) and Igor Pasternak (Areoscraft) made the very clear inference that the M4 WAC47 was the first weapon for this pilot project and cooperative agreement.  Ergo by inference there will be others, similarly of NATO standard.

The question is whether what follows this first project involves a tech transfer far more sensitive than how to manufacture, and licence the manufacture of, a M4 Carbine.  In short, how quickly and thoroughly can Ukraine reduce the amount of institutional and MIC Kremlin infiltration to a level that the US is prepared to transfer the tech and licencing for the manufacturing of weaponry more advanced than an M4 Carbine?

It appears the M4 WAC47 is set to become a Ukrainian produced standard piece of equipment for the Ukrainian military with the unambiguous intent of making its armed forces and its equipment interoperable with those of NATO.  A welcome step along an obvious MIC pathway – as stated in a less than flattering entry from February 2015.

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Good business, bad politics. Tigipko

January 2, 2017

Having written about Viktor Pinchuk in the previous entry, this post concentrates on another Dnipro Clan oligarch and long time acquaintance, Sergei Tigipko, who has been spending money recently.

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Mr Tigipko it has to be said is an interesting soul whose business activities are somewhat difficult to keep an all-seeing eye upon.

Perhaps he is fated to be that way, for ever since birth Mr Tigipko has not been what he appears to be.  Mr Tigipko was actually born on 13th February 1960 – officially, but in fact he was born in the early hours of 14th February.  Due to a bureaucratic mix up between medical night shift and morning shift workers the wrong date was officially recorded.  It is claimed, similar to Queen Elizabeth II, he therefore has two birthdays, an official one and a real one.

Fair enough – surely all oligarchs can afford to have two birthdays.

In the late 1970’s the family moved from Moldova to Odessa and Mr Tigipko then headed to Dnepropetrovsk and the Metallurgy Institute where (perhaps with the help of a well placed step-father) he became a member of the Komsomol Committee.  In true Marxist-Leninist adherence he busied himself with organising discos and supplying the evils of western decadence – Pepsi.  It appears that a disco-loving Ihor Kolomoisky was a regular and that they became good friends.

(As an aside Mr Tigipko, or more precisely Mrs Tigipko, retain their interest in Odessa in an act philanthropy annually organising and sponsoring the Odessa International Film Festival – which is actually a very good event.)

Indeed Mr Tigipko has had good fortune in meeting business acquaintances, whilst suffering an equally poor fortune in the world of politics.

A few years of questionable military service and teaching intervene before Mr Tigipko lands the role of chief of psyops/reflexive control when he became the Second Secretary of the (Communist) party and Komsomol committees in Dnipro.  Propaganda and agitation commonly being the role of the Second Secretary – a role he was destined to fail at with the date being 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet system only 2 years away.

Nevertheless, having already forged a friendship with Ihor Kolomoisky, it is within the regional Komsomol committee he also meets Olexandr Turchynov (the current head of the Ukrainian national security apparatus and once upon a time, an ardent Tymoshenko ally).

When the Soviet nonsense all eventually crashed, Mr Tigipko had become First Secretary and in charge of the regional Komsomol cash box.  He was also by then known to Gennady Tymoshenko who was head of ideological manipulation for the Kirov District.  Gennady is the father of Alexander Tymoshenko – the unfortunate husband of Yulia.  Indeed it is rumoured that Mr Tigipko played a role in funding Ms Tymoshenko’s video empire back in the day – presumably with Komsomol cash.  Controlling that cash, he also came to the attention of Dnepro Regional Council Chairman, the infamous Pavel Lazerenko.  He had also made direct acquaintance with (soon to be President) Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Pinchuk.

A reader can now literally see the Dnipro Clan forming.

As the Komsomol system was collapsing Mr Tigipko was swiftly given a senior position within Dnipro Bank – no doubt moving to the position along with the Komsomol regional cash.  (There is no reason to believe that events in Dnipro would be any different than those elsewhere in Ukraine at the time when it comes to moving regional Komsomol cash).

Within a year the bank owners were far from getting along well and Mr Tigipko set up PrivatBank with Ihor Kolomoisky, Gennady Bogolyubov, the late Leonid Miloslavsky and Alexie Martynov.  From 1992 – 97 Mr Tigipko was Chairman of the Board of PrivatBank – although what share holding he had will probably never been known.  What is known is that the initial shareholding was not equal.  How much Komsomol/Dnipro Bank cash was used in the creation of Privat is somewhat unclear – and will undoubtedly remain that way.

Meanwhile Mr Kuchma became President Kuchma and Pavel Lazarenko became Prime Minister – leading to a split within the Dnipro Clan and President Kuchma using Mr Tigipko to keep an eye on the out-sized and out of control criminal appetites of Pavel Lazarenko.  He becomes Vice Prime Minister for Economic Reforms in order to carry out that task.

(This move obviously ruffled feathers and PrivatBank came under scrutiny for laundering money via its Riga branch.  Some things don’t change.)

Whilst in post, Mr Tigipko acted as “roof” for the French cement company Lafarge who then had a few issues with assets in Ukraine.  As Bernadette Chirac (wife of Jacques) then sat on the Lafarge board it is perhaps no surprise that Mr Tigipko was awarded French honours personally by Mrs Chirac in 1997.

By 2000 Mr Tigipko wisely quit as the conflict of interests of those around him in the Kuchma government were in all probability intractable at best and very bad for the health at worst.

By 2001 whatever shares in Privat he had were sold for a figure unknown, and he set up on his own with the TAS brand containing banking, insurance, and numerous other interests held under the usual Cypriot holding company  – which today is a beast of many tentacles – and is in fact the reason for this entry.  (Indeed Mr Tigipko sold one of his banks to Swedbank pre 2008 crisis for $735 million via TAS Overseas Investments (Cyprus)).

If business has been good, politics has not been.

Politically Mr Tigipko did not fare well under Viktor Yushenko and Yulia Tymoshenko.  Having chosen the Kuchma side of the Dnipro Clan split, thus backing Yanukovych in 2004/5 elections, that clearly did not sit well with the new “Orange” president, nor a Prime Minister that chose the Lazarenko side of the Dnipro Clan split.

Further when Yanukovych eventually became president in 2010, despite initially welcoming him into the fold, he very clearly and publicly shafted by Mr Tigipko politically.

Lo, tax avoidance aside, it clearly pays in a business sense to hold your assets offshore and in a different legal jurisdiction in a predatory political environment like Ukraine.  It is simply far easier to defend and retain your assets.

Under the current president Mr Tigipko has kept his head down making no discernible political moves and very few business moves.

However, in the past few months Mr Tigipko appears to be going on a spending spree domestically.  Having recently bought another insurance company and rolled it into his TAS insurance entities, it appears he is now entering the hotel business too.

Not only is he entering the hotel business his seems to be doing getting good deals.  For a mere $10 million Mr Tigipko has bought the Radisson Hotel in Kyiv from the Russian owners who for a long time have desperate to sell.

Now a reader may think that the hotel business in Ukraine is not one where returns will be swift – and they’d be right too.  There are no swift returns with anything to do with hotels in Ukraine.  That said, the price paid for this asset being so low, it is possible he will see a 7 year ROI.

However, it may also be that Mr Tigipko has some insider knowledge regarding the return of licensed gambling in Ukraine and any amended parameters regarding what premises can host casinos – and which can’t.   It may well be that the absolute nonsense proposed a year ago for the return of gambling has now had a more sensible eye cast upon it – or is about to have a more sensible eye take a look.

If so, then the Radisson in Kyiv would have additional potential – and a far swifter ROI.  As Mr Tigipko has a knack for good business and poor politics, then who would be surprised if that will ultimately prove to be the case?

More generally, does Mr Tigipko now think that the bottom has now been reached and that the small economic bounce is likely to continue in an upward trend, so now is the time to buy?

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Pinchuk & the WSJ

January 1, 2017

It has to be said that Viktor Pinchuk of all the Ukrainian oligarchy has always been the most intriguing for this blog.

Firstly, compared to the others, Mr Pinchuk is actually a clever guy.  He had managed to become a multi-millionaire through his engineering creativity before marrying the daughter of former President Kuchma – and thereafter leveraging that marriage during the Kuchma epoch to move from being a multi-millionaire to a billionaire.

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His time directly (rather than indirectly) in Ukrainian political life as a parliamentarian was really rather brief and began in the same year as his marriage to former President Kuchma’s daughter in 2002 and ended with the “Orange Revolution” of 2004/5 with Mr Pinchuk having backed Viktor Yanukovych.  Despite easily being able to buy his way into any parliament, he chose not to do so.

Since then his political influence has been indirect insofar as manifesting via parliamentarians both national and local that are loyal to him.  It should also be noted that “his people” are generally far more subtle than the drones of Kolomoisky, Firtash or Akhmetov.

He also has a penchant for collecting famous friends – The Clintons, Damien Hirst, Elton John etc.

In fact, aside from feeding from the State subsidy trough and self-interest indirect political machinations, Mr Pinchuk set about rehabilitating his image through philanthropy and his own foundation from 2006 onward with very little domestic public oratory or prose.

The annual YES conference is a Pinchuk brainchild that he funds – which in 2016 notably saw Mr Pinchuk pay Donald Trump to speak at (albeit a speech lacking in clarity and not without technical problems) via a video link despite his association with (and donations to) the Clintons for many years.

Perhaps a lesser known fact was that during the “Revolution of Dignity”, Mr Pinchuk funded the provision of medical supplies to treat the injured.

Aside from a few historical legal battles, most notably with Ihor Kolomoisky over assets, Mr Pinchuk rarely features in the news – unlike many of his peer oligarchs.  There is in fact very little that can be attributed to him personally by way of public statements or on the record oratory.  Clearly a deliberate policy on his part.

It was something of a surprise therefore when an article appeared in the WSJ, authored by, or ghost written and then attributed to, Viktor Pinchuk.  The article has ruffled many Ukrainian feathers, both political and societal, being prima facie interpreted as a plan for capitulation to The Kremlin.

In a nutshell he spoke (wrote) out in favour of elections in the “DNR” and “LNR” by politely forgetting about Crimea if it meant an end to the deaths in the occupied Donbas, the abandoning of any thoughts of joining NATO and the creation of a formal understanding that Ukraine would not be joining the EU any time soon.

Now to be fair, there are those on the Crimea Committee of the Verkhovna Rada, even of patriotic leaning, that have privately told the blog that they foresee Crimea returning to Ukraine only if the Russian Federation implodes in similar fashion to that of the USSR – and if that be so then the returning of Crimea will be an issue dwarfed by the ramifications of such an implosion for Ukraine more generally.

That said, there is none on the said committee that would advocate anything other than “Crimea is Ukraine” as a domestic and international policy – quite rightly.

With regard to the EU, as previously written the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) is not an instrument that takes Ukraine into the EU.  Only the completion of the Aquis Communautaire can do that – and that is a process Ukraine has not even asked to commence.  The simplest way to view the Association Agreement is as a document that brings “European norms” to Ukraine at a speed at which Ukraine can achieve them – ie it brings “Europe” to Ukraine at a speed and in chunks that Ukraine can handle/digest.  For Ukraine to go to the EU, an entirely different thing, then it is the Aquis that is the only route – a route more demanding than anything within the Association Agreement.

Likewise, whatever Ukraine may or may not do with NATO, it is currently a long way from being at a civilian and military standard by which it could join.

In short, Ukraine is decades away from meeting the requirements of the Aquis for EU accession – if it ever applies.  It is probably about a decade away from fully meeting the civilian and military standards required for NATO entry – should it ever ask to join.

Those are the bureaucratic realities and limitations of Ukrainian reformation and their speed – notwithstanding political limitations of those that would have to agree to any Ukrainian accession.  None of this is a secret.  The respective institutions know it.  The Kremlin knows it.  Ukraine knows it.  And Mr Pinchuk knows it.

The domestic angst naturally, insofar as NATO and the EU is concerned, comes from his call for codification of such matters and the legislative boundaries they would place upon Ukraine for at best, uncertain and ill-defined “gains”.  Peace at any cost does not bring peace – it brings an armistice fated to fail at some undetermined point in the future.

Why then, has Mr Pinchuk who rarely makes public statements, decided now is the time to make such a statement and one that is guaranteed to irk the public, the political class, and paint him as a Kremlin stooge domestically and among many of Ukraine’s “friends” abroad?

Is it a reaction to witnessing fellow oligarch Dmitry Firtash exiled to Vienna, or Ihor Kolomoisky lose PrivatBank to nationalisation, or seeing all oligarchs with fingers in high energy usage industries (including Mr Pinchuk) now subject to energy pricing that sees an end to subsidies/most favoured user status?  It seems somewhat unlikely.

Will the oligarchy now find common ground for a robust fightback against the government in 2017, and this is somehow Mr Pinchuk declaring unity?  Also somewhat unlikely.

Has Mr Pinchuk simply decided that giving in to The Kremlin is the only way to undo the current deadlock?  Maybe, maybe not.

Has he been bought off or manipulated by Moscow somehow?

As the chances of any of his WSJ points being implemented are currently very slim at best, and will make him extremely unpopular at home, how does Mr Pinchuk benefit from his unusual public intervention?

All questions to be asked.

Also to be asked are why make such statements now, and why chose the WSJ to do it in?

The answer may be that the article was written and published in the WSJ specifically for one reader.  That reader being Donald Trump.

It may well be that Mr Pinchuk has little belief that what he has written will become policy and be implemented.

He may well not believe that this is the right policy either.

However, just as with voting at the UN, it is not that uncommon to see some nations prima facie voting against their own interests in order to curry favour with others – in the full knowledge that the vote will be vetoed by yet another.

Maybe it was written to defend the business interests of Mr Pinchuk in the USA?

Perhaps the end result here, considering Mr Pinchuk’s penchant for collecting “friends” like the Clintons, Damien Hirst and Elton John etc, is that Mr Pinchuk may be seeking to become the Ukrainian “name” most liked and granted most access by Donald Trump – no differently than Nigel Farage is angling to get (and may succeed) more personal interaction with Donald Trump than UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

If Mr Pinchuk can achieve a personal status that grants him more access to Donald Trump (and a kinder ear) than President Porosehnko simply by writing something he believes Mr Trump would read agreeably within the WSJ, then he may feel it a gamble worth taking with the repercussions among Ukrainian domestic politics a prize worth chasing.

Perhaps a lens through which to view Mr Pinchuk’s rare public prose?  Perhaps all it takes is being a billionaire, a few well chosen (if never implemented) words in the WSJ agreeable to a personality like Mr Trump and suddenly Mr Pinchuk becomes “Don’s man in Ukraine”.

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Civil Service reform – 12 months later, sabotage?

December 27, 2016

One year ago, the blog lauded the passing into statute of a new civil service law, a law that addressed two significant historical issues – “…..the Ukrainian civil service has frequently appeared as a source of disillusionment and frustration.  The reasons for this have been many, but primarily relate to two distinct causes – the first legislatively, and the second functionally (as has oft been stated here…..”.

That entry however contained a caveat – “It now falls to civil society and the diplomatic corps to defend this law from politically sabotaging “amendments”, but it also now falls of the Europeans that stated they would fund the civil service reform to do so effectively not only financially, but with no small amount of leadership and determination when it comes to making the law work as it is intended.”

So where are we at 1 year later?

This entry will not concentrate upon the usual failures associated with Ukrainian policy, be that policy good, bad, or counterproductive – the usual failures of implementation.

It is sufficient to say that implementation is at the very least problematic, and also that the processes employed to deliver results/civil service appointments have been far from transparent nor the standards consistent when carrying out the basic legislative requirements of civil service appointment.

(Let us not dare speak of the seamless functioning of an effective national nervous system – which any civil service actually is.)

Shoddy, less than transparent and inconsistent implementation and internal processes aside, that such really rather good legislation has survived 12 months without sabotage is in itself worthy of note.  Those hardened souls that have several times had to scramble to man the ramparts to beat back attempts at sabotaging this statute have managed to do so – thus far.

Those battlements will have to be robustly manned once again in 2017, for sabotage is once more at the gates.

MP Artur Gerasimov has submitted Draft Bill 4370-1 which would effectively destroy much of the right-minded text within the current statute.  His proposed amendments would critically undermine the a-political and professional civil service the current legislation provides statutory framework for.

Not good when institutional independence, structure and processes have to be robust enough to repel political shenanigans if Ukraine is to move forward with a fully functioning State nervous system.

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Who then (and perhaps what) is Artur Gerasimov, that would seek to undo one of the very few laws of real quality that the Verkhonvna Rada has managed to pass (and that came into effect from 1st May 2016)?

Mr Gerasimov is a parliamentarian from the presidential party.  Indeed he is a recognised “presidential representative” within the Verkhovna Rada.  Ergo that the President is unaware of Draft Law 4370-1 being submitted by his Verkhovna Rada envoy is somewhat unlikely.  The question is whether Mr Gerasimov submits it (deniably) on behalf of The Bankova and by extension President Poroshenko – or not.

If not, then who does he submit such a toxic Draft Bill for?

Without providing an unnecessary curriculum vitae and full personal history, a brief outline of the last few years is sufficient to paint a picture of this legislative assassin.

Skimming over his various scandals mostly contained within the Donbas, it is sufficient to state that he is closely associated with Sergei Shakhov a dubious “businessman” (read organised crime) from Luhansk.  Mr Shakhov in turn is closely associated with former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, part of “The Family” that formed the elite of the former Yanukovych regime.

Indeed Mr Gerasimov stood for election to the Verkhovna Rada in a single mandate seat ably supported by the shadowy team of Sergei Shakhov.  Part of that team was Igor Bezler and his organised thuggery – yes the Igor Bezler of Donbas warlord and “separatist” infamy.  That is not to imply Mr Gerasimov has any (overt) separatist tendencies.  Mr Bezler’s participation in the election campaign of Artur Gerasimov clearly occurred long before the current events within the Donbas.  Nevertheless Mr Bezler and team were employed for the purposes of intimidation and voter bribery.

The outcome however was that Mr Gerasimov came second in the single mandate vote for his constituency and therefore did not reach the Verkhovna Rada (and lobby for/defend the interests of Mr Shakhov and others in his orbit).

During that failed 2012 election campaign, Mr Gerasimov did not hide the fact that he was in the orbit of Petro Poroshenko.

A reader will not be surprised therefore that Mr Gerasimov eventually made it to the Verkhovna Rada in 2014, not by winning a single mandate seat, but via the plain sailing of proportional representation and the party list of President Poroshenko’s party.

poro

Indeed it appears Mr Gerasimov and President Poroshenko go way back – although specifically how and why remains somewhat opaque.  Nevertheless as President Poroshenko puts loyalty ahead of ability, for him to tap Mr Gerasimov as the presidential representative within the Verkhovna Rada in May 2016, there is some form of personal bond and/or understanding.

Whatever the case, unsubstantiated rumour has it that Mr Gerasimov was selling candidacy for single mandate seats, as well as for local governance, for the presidential party during the elections having been given a party list spot and the Donetsk region to “administer” for the presidential party electioneering.  (Maxim Efimov is apparently one such successful buyer and two stories broke in local media in two locations by candidates allegedly wronged.)

Also closely associated with Mr Gerasimov is MP Oleg Nedavoy.  Mr Nedavoy is inextricably and undeniably linked to the wanted and much loathed Yuri Ivanyushchenko, a close ally of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

There is perhaps no need to continue and sufficient has been written for a read to draw their own conclusions about the character and morality of Mr Gerasimov.

From this glossary however, it is difficult to see who benefits (the most) from Mr Gerasimov’s Draft Bill 4370-1 if not The Bankova, or those most trusted by the President to (deniably) misuse the system the “right way” – Messrs Granovsky, Kononenko and Berezenko.

If this draft Bill passes through the Verkhovna Rada then toxic executive political interference will once again legitimately sully and/or mortally wound the internal workings of the civil service.  The President will then either sign it into law if the cacophony of shrieks and screams from European “friends” and Ukrainian civil society prove not to be loud and rude enough, or he can veto it and the issue can be internally spun as a false flag for external consumption and “proof” of an unwavering trudge toward European normative.

If the Europeans and Ukrainian civil society have any sense however, the maximum efforts will be made to have this Draft Bill withdrawn, or smothered by the relevant Verkhovna Rada committee before it ever gets as far as a vote.  A large diplomatic stick should be wielded now – proactively.

Still, regular readers all knew that quality legislation would sooner or later be subjected to attempts at sabotage – it always is in Ukraine.  That’s why 1 year ago the blog warned that would be the case.

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