Posts Tagged ‘elections 2015’


Electoral tales from the underworld – Odessa

November 6, 2015

Normally telling uncorroborated tales is not something that sits particularly comfortably with this blog.  However there is an uncorroborated but interesting tale being told quite openly amongst the hierarchy in certain nefarious circles.  The names have not been changed to protect the innocent (or perhaps guilty) in this tale, though due warning is given regarding the credence that may be drawn from it.  Readers may believe or disbelieve it.  There is certainly no proof that substantiates (certain parts of) the story – those parts will be made perfectly clear and inference may be drawn – or not.

Issak Babel

Issac Babel

The tale is being repeated here because it is so wonderfully/typically nefariously “Odessa” – the prose however being nowhere near as accomplished as those of Issac Babel in his equally nefarious book, Tales from Odessa.

So to a suitable starting point – In 1995 Leonid Lebedev (associated with Russian organised crime as well as being a Russian politician) became the chairman of Sintez Group – a small Russian commodities concern that had a grubby and somewhat opaque little deal with various majors through the years – Rosneft, Luk Oil etc.  In 1995 the company was  turning over about 15 million tonnes of heating, diesel oil and gasoline.  His business partners were/are Mark Garber and Alexander Zhukov.  (Mr Zhukov is the father of Daria Zhukova – who is now the wife of Roman Abramovich).

Mr Zhukov was/is in charge of Sintez production, pipeline transport, and export through Odessa Port (having 7 berths at terminal 10).

(As is oft the case with organised crime there are hiccups along the way.  In one such hiccup, Messrs Lebedev, Garber and Zhukov, together with Kuzma Medanich, Andrey Vazhnik, and Anatoliy Fedorenko had a bit of a run-in with Italian law enforcement in 2002/03 over gun trafficking.  A small matter of Kalashnikov’s, guided missiles, anti-tank missiles and ammunition headed for the Balkans.  Eventually the case collapsed due to lack of evidence with only Dmitry Streshinsky getting convicted and receiving a 23 month suspended prison sentence and a fine.)

However, amongst many subsidiaries of Sintez Group was/is Sintez Oil Ltd run by Mr Zhukov (naturally being a partner in Sintez Group) and which has a large and allegedly controlling nefarious footprint in the Odessa ports.  The long-reigning Odessa mafia Don, Alexander Angert is also associated with Sintez Oil via a subsidiary called Transcargo.  Unsurprisingly Mayor Trukhanov also worked for Sintez Oil for some time – not withstanding his association with Mr Angert during the crazy days of the 1990s when working together in “Captain Security”.

Also associated with Captain Security, and Messrs Angert and Trukhanov back in the day was Ruslan Bodelan, a long time Chair of the Odessa City Council whom it is claimed, transfered the City accounts to the Sea Commercial Bank of Odessa – coincidently owned by the same Mr Zhurkov of Sintez Oil.  There is then Mr Angert’s ROST Group of companies, well known to Mayor Trukhanov by his own admission, and a company extremely successful in winning City contracts.  There is no need to go on and on, describing yet more and more connections between these people – and there are many – after all, why wouldn’t friends and trusted associates do business together (through a lot of different companies)?

Much has been said in the local media regarding Mr Trukhanov’s electoral rival for mayor, Sasha Borovik, and in particular his KGB history and also the KGB history of his father Valeriy – yet it is also no secret that Valeriy Borovik was Head of Security at Sintez Oil in Odessa too.  Thus when running against Gennady Trukhanov his father will have been well aware of his son’s opponent and the interests of those behind Mr Trukhanov – notwithstanding the undoubted access to voluminous tomes relating to Messrs Angert, Trukhanov and Zhurkov gathering dust in SBU storage that will have provided some “light reading” for Mr Borovik during his election preparation.

However as has been previously written here numerous times during the months preceding the local elections elections last week, it has been quite clear, and long and consistently rumoured amongst those that would know, that the presidential administration/The Bankova, probably in the person of Boris Lozhkin, had cut a deal with Gennady Trukhanov relating to his victory and few waves for existing nefarious enterprises (Sintez amongst others) in return for both his and his party’s voting loyalty in line with Solidarity policy.

In short, Mr Turkhanov was seemingly the only choice for Mayor that could satisfy all vested political and organised crime interests.  A deal there was to be made – and it was made.

This deal clearly struck before Sasha Borovik decided to run – for he was late to the electoral fray.

Whether Mr Borovik was aware of this deal before he decided to run as the Solidarity candidate or not is really rather irrelevant.  If he wasn’t aware, then such a deal must have clearly dawned on him rather rapidly in the absence of any Solidarity Party support beyond being able to use the brand name.


Considering Mr Borovik’s KGB schooling, a healthy degree of cynicism would be a rather desirable character trait – and such cynicism would quickly point to deals being done that would effect and insure campaign outcomes.  Cynicism teaches ye that would sup with the devil to do so with a long-handled spoon.

That said, Mr Borovik did well in the elections – his 25 – 30% support is truly impressive considering a late entry, stuttering campaign at the start, and no support from “party central” excepting the use of brand name, and only the overt support of Governor Saakashvili as external pulling power.

So where does Governor Saakashvili sit in all this?

Was he too was unaware of any “Bankova deal”?

If not then he must also have rapidly become aware of the “Bankova deal” that would have insured Trukhanov’s political loyalty in return for his steady hand in managing/protecting the allegedly nefarious interests of Messrs Angert, Zhurkov and himself.

(He must also have been aware that it was an immense task for his advisor Sasha Borovik to topple a well established Trukhanov voter base, “Bankova deal” or otherwise.)

Once such awareness reached the Governor, it is claimed, he was concerned that first and foremost the elections were seen to be clean and not “stolen” or “overly rigged” on his watch.  If that meant a second round and “his man” running Mayor Trukhanov a close second then so be it.   There is no perceived disgrace in a close second round loss and there are reputation points in public perception in managing a far fairer race than those normally associated with the politics of Odessa.

The rumour goes that such a deal was struck for a “clean vote”.

Perhaps true – perhaps not.

Governor Saakshvili, when he saw “his man” had momentum may have seen a possible win where none was originally expected.  Having the Mayor in his stable would have changed the game – both in Odessa and for The Bankova which has political interests of its own that may require putting parameters upon the ambition of Governor Saakashvili.

Likewise there may have been some “nervous twitching” from all other parties involved in the nefariously agreed “Bankova deal” when secret polling surveys showed Borovik momentum, and thus forced the decision to go “dirty” and “finish it” in a single round in order to “protect longstanding interests”.

If so, then it is one way to explain the immediate open media warfare that began on election night between the Governor and Kyiv, the Governor and Mr Angert, the Governor and Mr Trukhanov and the clear decision to start “taking down” the City Hall apparatchiks that have long plundered the budget and who surround the Mayor.  (The Mayor is not one for stealing trifling amounts from budget headers himself – big money from nefariously awarded contracts is more his style.)

This targeting of corrupt City Hall appartachiks started with those involved in roads maintenance and water utilities the day following the elections day and is a policy that will continue – as it should simply from a rule of law perspective.

Nevertheless, if this tale is to be believed, then clearly Governor Saakashvili will feel he has been on the wrong end of a broken agreement.  All bets therefore are off (until he is pacified or revenge is exacted – or both).

As importantly he will feel he has had his image tarnished due to grubby elections on his watch.  Loyal to his friend President Poroshenko, but never keen on his Solidarity Party (the Governor has not joined Solidarity), this allegedly broken deal has also seen what appears to be the launch of “Team Saakashvili” as a political entity quite separate from the main body of Solidarity – and “Team Saakashvili” should it become a formal political party will easily garner 5% of the vote nationally to enter the Verkhovna Rada when any elections come.  Bad news for Solidarity, though not necessarily bad news for President Poroshenko whom Mr Saakashvili would support.

Whatever the case Governor Saakashvili will remain in Odessa until the New Year and the formal launch of any political party with him as leader is unlikely before New Year (unless somebody is perceived to “shaft him” again, forcing the issue).

Thus war has seemingly been declared on all fronts by the Governor if his public rhetoric is any indication – wisely or not remains to be seen – however, on the presumption that Mr Borovik accepts his mandate to City Hall, and whether or not he becomes the Secretary to the Council (the second most powerful position), then Mr Borovik is clearly going to be a royal pain in the arse for that administrative cesspit – forcing audits, transparency, calling out dodgey deals, leaking questionable documents etc, whilst the Governor pushes the prosecutors office to continue taking down those surrounding Mayor Trukhanov for their corrupt activities past and present.

Strikingly however, considering  it is certainly a significant jewel in the Odessa Port mafia crown, there has been no mention by anybody of the widely inferred odious influence and activities of Sintez Oil – which depending upon how this uncorroborated tale in interpreted, places a fairly central role.

A tale perhaps not as romanticised as those deeds recorded by Issac Babel, and certainly not written in such glorious prose – but nonetheless a tale that is so entirely “Odessa”.  The reader can decide if it is a tale worthy of those of Issac Babel, or should it be given any credence, a tale worthy of a courtroom.  Questions then of who should stand in the dock and who should bare witness in such a grubby affair?

Nevertheless, a tale worth telling.  Perhaps a little more credence will come when Trukhanov and his Trust Affairs party start consistently voting along the Solidarity Party policy line – which will be the case.


Hot seats, list bumping and legacies – Odessa

November 3, 2015

Following on from yesterday’s entry and the power dynamics within the politics of Odessa following the local elections, the question of who takes what “power roles” arises.

odessa aThe real power plays will not be who takes what role, but the voting dynamics behind them being appointed.

The second most powerful position in City Hall after that of Mayor, which Gennady Trukhanov remains, is that of Secretary of the Council.  It is the position that assumes the role of temporary Mayor should something untoward happen to Mr Turkhanov.  The position was, until the recent elections, filled by Oleg Brindak.  Mr Brindak is a very clever political mover.  He has a sharp mind.  He is one of those around Mayor Trukhanov that does his thinking.  Gennady Trukhanov is certainly not the smartest of political minds, but he is smart enough to know he is not that smart, so he surrounds himself with clever people – and Oleg Brindak is one such person.

Mayor Trukhanov will want Oleg Brindak voted back into that role by the new City Council.  Assuredly the 27 “Truth Affair” deputies will vote accordingly

Naturally Governor Saakashvili will want Sasha Borovik, having recorded a solid 25%+ of the electoral vote to take that Secretary of the City Council role – which would be extremely problematic for Mayor Trukhanov.  Not problematic insomuch as it will prevent Mayor Trukhanov stealing small change from various budget headers, because Mayor Trukhanov doesn’t steal small change from budget hears.  If and when he acts nefariously it is for big money – often related to road repair and/or road construction where he has private interests.  The problems will come for those around the Mayor upon whom he relies to make him seem smarter than he is.

The clearly growing schism between the Solidarity-Saakashvili camp and the Solidarity-Goncharenko camp has to be taken into account too.

That “Goncharenko camp” will be against both Messrs Brindak as a Trukhanov man, and also Borovik as a Saakashvili man.  The Solidarity-Goncharneko camp will have their own candidate in mind – “Candidate Z” who for now will remain nameless for he is yet to agree to be put forward.

Quite how the 14 Solidarity deputies will vote – Mr Borovik or “Candidate Z” – will depend upon internal schisms, legacies, and future expectations regarding the party (and those that will ally with either internal pole) in the Oblast regarding the Governor position.

The Opposition Block will be against the nomination of Sasha Borovik.  It will be very comfortable with the reelection of Oleg Brindak and not overly against “Candidate Z” (who is a genuinely good People’s Deputy for his part of the city – not just a pre-election campaigner).  The 12 Opposition Block deputies are likely to vote for Mr Brindak unless instructed by Mykola Skoryk to do otherwise.

Sergei Kivalov’s Morskaya Party will vote dependent upon what deal Mr Kivalov can cut and with whom.  In many ways the wolves are at the Kivalov door having run for Mayor to split the Trukhanov vote and knowing himself to be in the Governor’s sights, may offer opportunities to mitigate difficulties with either should his 6 City Hall deputies vote sympathetically – or he may have an eye a little further in the future in the belief he can hang on that long.

The 5 Samopomich deputies votes are unlikely to be influential “king maker” votes – if they decide to vote at all.

To the Oblast Rada – Again the Solidarity-Saakashvili verses the Solidarity-Goncharenko schism has significants.  Where will the 22 Solidarity Oblast deputies head?

Clearly Governor Saakashvili would want to see Maria Gaidar installed as Olbast Rada Chair.  She is surely a capable and likable candidate – but she is seen as part of “Team Saakashvili”.  Thus despite many within the “Goncharenko Solidairty camp” highly rating and liking Ms Gaidar (and rightly so), their support for her candidacy seems unlikely.

That said the “Goncharenko camp” has no volunteers for the role – for it means working with Governor Saakashvili.  Similarly, few if any “Team Saakashvili” within Solidarity would vote for a “Goncharenko camp” candidate.

As stated yesterday, a more neutral Solidarity candidate does want the role, Yuri Maslov – yet he will struggle to get support from either of the fractious poles within Solidarity easily.

Naturally the 23 Opposition Block deputies will vote for Mykola Skoryk.  Neither Solidarity camps will do so.  Neither will the 11 deputies of Trukhanov’s Trust Affair party.  They are likely to vote for a Solidarity candidate, for they will generally fall in line with Solidarity unless Kolomoisky’s interests are seriously challenged.  The question therefore is which Solidarity?  The answer is clearly not the Saakashvili-Solidarity following the events and rhetoric of the mayoral elections.  By default (and by design which will become apparent soon), they will head toward the Goncharenko-Solidarity.

The 11 Batkivshchyna deputies will vote as they are told by Yulia Tymoshenko – free thinking and values driven individuality and voting is not a Batkivshchyna Party trait and never has been.  It is very unlikely that Mykola Skoryk of the Opposition Block would be supported, thus it is a question of whether she backs Saakashvili-Solidarity (with an eye on early Verkhovna Rada elections and the possible/probably arrival of “Team Saakashvili” in the political halls of Kyiv), or backs Goncharenko-Solidarity.

The 7 deputies of Nash Krai will vote for a Solidarity candidate, for it is a party that will vote for “the power” – whomever “the power” maybe.  Ergo it will consistently support Solidarity for the foreseeable future.  And with the near future in mind, it is likely to vote in line with the Goncharenko-Solidarity rather than the Saakashvili-Solidarity side of the party.

Lastly the 7 deputies of Igor Kolomoisky’s Vidrodedzhennya are unlikely to vote for the Saakashvili-Solidarity due to the Governor’s public position against Mr Kolomoisky.  Unless Messrs Kolomoisky and Firtash/Liovochkin strike a deal within the next 48 hours (which they won’t as the numbers don’t add up even if they wanted to), then Vidrodedzhennya will not vote for Mykola Skoryk either.  This leaves only the Goncharenko-Solidarity candidate – if one can be found willing to work with Governor Saakashvili.  As stated, currently there are no volunteers.

Thus, all being equal, Maria Gaidar, (despite being very much liked and respected by all) seems extremely unlikely to gain very much support at all due to the push-back against the Governor.

Mykola Skoryk will also fail, thus resigning his Oblast Rada mandate and remaining an MP in the Verkhovna Rada.  Anything less than being Oblast Rada Chair is all rather pointless for him – and he will not have the support.  The Opposition Block list will bump down one to the next candidate.

Talking of bumping down party lists, with two successful Solidarity Oblast Rada deputies also taking Mayor positions, that list also bumps down two places making otherwise unsuccessful candidates rather happy.

The willing Solidarity candidate, Mr Mazlov, is nobody’s man – but in the absence of a willing Goncharenko candidate cannot be entirely ruled out.

Readers may well be asking why the push-back against the Governor (and Team Saakashvili)?

As has previously been written here, and as was to be expected by a politician such as Mr Saakashvili, the existing Goncharenko structures within the Oblast Rada he wanted to disassemble and reassemble with his team.  Loyalty counts far more than ability in power structures – both are preferable, but not always attainable, at which point unquestioned loyalty wins.

The Governor has been successful in inserting many of his people into the local political life via elected positions, quite probably not only to create the opportunity for a more consolidated power vertical in the elected chambers together with his appointments whilst in Odessa as Governor, but also to leave behind a loyal structure when he moves onward – which is inevitable and probably within the next 6 months (if not sooner).

If and when “Team Saakashvili” becomes a political party, and if there are early Verkhovna Rada elections in Spring 2016 (as is generally anticipated) then all the current Odessa team will naturally be on the party list – and his brand will garner more than 5% nationally propelling all to the Verkhovna Rada.

If there are no early elections, the question still remains as to how long Governor Saakashvili will remain.  He has the police chief, the customs chief and the prosecutor (all of which are good and decent people that are and hopefully will remain an asset to Odessa when he leaves), but he does not have City Hall, which will definitely work with Solidarity (less dire threats to Kolomoisky assets), but it will not with the Governor easily or willingly.  The Governor no longer has the Oblast Rada having cast aside (and annoyed) much of the local Solidarity Party that will now have an eye upon a post-Saakashvili environment.  The Governor’s legislative hands are tied by Kyiv and their is no shortage of animosity with the Prime Minister (Two narcissistic personalities clashing.)  The room for the Governor to expand is now severely limited within the local political space in his current role, but he is a political asset that President Poroshenko can ill-afford to waste.

So why are so many within Solidarity, Nash Krai and Truth Affair looking at the “Goncharenko-Solidarity” when the “Saakashvili-Solidarity” holds the positions of power?

The answer to that is seemingly clear.  In a post-Governor Saakashvili Odessa, who is likely to be the next Governor?

An Odessa native, leader of the Oblast Solidarity Party, former Oblast Rada Chairman perhaps?  If so, then Alexie Goncharenko would be the next Olbast Governor should the position be offered him, and should he accept.

Would Mr Goncharenko resign as an MP of the Verkhovna Rada to become the Governor of Odessa if the position was offered to him?  Undoubtedly.  Hence bets are hedged in his favour, particularly as the Governor has managed to make enemies almost everywhere – many perhaps somewhat unnecessarily.

All of the above may simply prove to be wrong – but it seems difficult to see things unfolding differently unless Governor Saakashvili can pull off a masterstroke, strike a deal with Alexie Goncharenko, or have President Poroshenko force a peace between them.

Whatever the case, whilst who sits in what seats of power will soon be decided, the successful personalities are far, far less important than the votes that get them there – for that voting will indicate the alliances that will work both in front of, and behind the curtain for the next 2 years.

With Nash Krai and Mayor Trukhanov’s Truth Affairs both likely to vote the (Goncharenko) Solidarity line quite reliably, interesting times seem to await.


A week later and no election result – Odessa (& Ukraine)

November 2, 2015

Voting in the local elections across Ukraine occurred exactly one week ago – yet the results are not officially in.

Today the OSCE Long Term Observers left Odessa heading to Kyiv and then onwards to observe 2nd Round voting on the 15th November where “run offs” for mayors will occur.  Clearly that they have left Odessa indicates there will be no 2nd Round of voting in Odessa for the position of mayor and that Gennady Trukhanov will remain in post.

The 64 City Hall Deputies are already known, though there appears to be no official confirmation – perhaps due to on-going issues before the courts over election rigging – some of which the courts are in agreement with – in this alleged case ballot stuffing in favour of Sergei Kivalov.

The international observers all leave despite the votes for the Oblast Rada still being counted some 7 days after election day, and no official results announced.  Why so slow?


However, the Oblast results will be as follows, even though the counting of ballots continues and theoretically are still an unknown:

Solidarity/Block Poroshenko – 22 seats

Opposition Block – 23 seats

Trust Affair (Trukhanov) – 11 seats

Batkivshchyna – 11 seats

Nash Krai (Anton Kisse) – 7 seats

Vidrodedzhennya (Kolomoisky front) – 7 seats

This is “a known outcome” within the local political circles, despite the fact counting continues and results are therefore not officially known nor announced.

It creates an interesting question as to who will form a coalition with whom?  To that, as of the time of writing, there is no answer, for the grubby and nefarious deals are still being struck.

Theoretically the Kolomoisky backed Vidrodedzhennya with Trukhanov’s Party (he is a backer of Mayor Trukhanov) = 18 seats.  Firtash/Liovochkin via the Opposition Block = 23 seats.  Poroshenko 22 seats.  All 3 oligarchs fairly evenly represented.

Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna would be loathed to be in a coalition with Opposition Block due to the personal hostility between Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Firtash.  They made decide upon either Poroshenko, per the national coalition agreement, or perhaps less likely, Kolomoisky and the  Vidrodedzhennya/Truth Affair tandem.  A decision there will be however, in order to remain relevant.

Anton Kisse’s Nash Krai some may surmise will be naturally orientated to Opposition Block where many fellow ex-members of Party of Regions sit, but there are also ex-members of Party Regions within Solidarity.  Mr Kisse’s priority is the continued uninterrupted patriarchy and network arrangements that have served Ukraine so badly over the past 25 years.  As the “party of businessmen” those “businessmen” rely on their patriarchy network.  As the Governor, prosecutor, police and customs chief are all the “Governor’s people” and thus Poroshenko people, it seems most likely Nash Krai will side with them and thus Solidarity – until a power shift at which point across the aisle it will go.

Nevertheless, grubby deals are still being struck and allegiances will be made upon what is best for the leaders of the minor parties (rather than their constituents).

It also raises the question of who will be the next Oblast Rada Chairperson.

The candidates would appear to be Mykola Skoryk of the Opposition Block, a current MP in the Verkhovna Rada and a previous Governor – who is also a Firtash/Liovochkin man through and through, tasked with protecting their interests in the Oblast.

There is also Maria Gaidar, Governor Saakashvili’s preferred Oblast Chair and part of “Team Saakashvili” – a format that may well morph into an official political faction/party in due course.

It is also clear that another Solidarity/Block Poroshenko election seat winner, Yuri Maslov actually wants the role.

None of these candidates seems likely to easily garner enough votes from the newly successfully returned Oblast Rada deputies to get the job of Chair.

However, your author knowing the results before the results are known is not the point of this short entry.  The point of this entry is that an entire week, and counting, has passed for the Oblast Rada election result, yet counting still continues (after all international and many domestic observers have left).

Is there any credible reason why it takes more than a week to count the electoral ballots in the Oblast?  In a cynical and skeptical society, this hardly does anything to give trust in the process or the eventual officially announced results – to say nothing of any private eyebrow raising by the international community.


KGB tales – or KGB entrails? (What about the rule of law?)

October 29, 2015

Known for his well established ties to and within organised crime, incumbent Mayor Gennady Trukhanov is being reelected to the role – perhaps/probably/maybe he already has been.  The jury, if there was one in Ukraine (despite the Constitution providing for juries) remains out.

Indeed Mayor Trukhanov is on public record relating to his relationship with organised crime (he’s just not on record about his role within it, despite it being very well known).  The Mayor and Odessa’s top Don Alexander Angert have known each other since the bloody and lawless 1990s and their roles within a “security company” called “Captain Security”.  Any reader with any knowledge of the region will know full well what “security companies” were during the 1990s – and more than a passing “acquaintance” with Mr Angert and his current businesses still remain as far as Mr Trukhanov is concerned.

Of Mr (Don) Angert, Mayor Trukhanov has said ““I have not studied his biography , his past , I did not take a certificate from the district department of his criminal record. I did not care about people’s past. He worked openly, he was not hounded by the authorities. In a word, a decent, normal person. Since then, we have a relationship. He’s a free man, and I do not attach any significance to talk about his criminal past.”

Regarding Mr Angert’s company ROST, which does terribly well with “City contracts” Mayor Trukhanov is on record stating “I have no relationship with this company, even though I know it well.

Certainly his words or not lies – but they are not truths either.

For anybody that has even the slightest clue about organised crime/mafia in Odessa, where, how and with whom Mayor Trukhanov fits is no secret, and any criminal organagram places him nowhere near the bottom of the heap – far from it.  He sits loftily along side Zhokov, above the likes of “Lampochka” Galidilnik and Ruslan Bodelan.

However, it is not of Gennady Trukhanov this entry is written.

There is now a legal challenge by Sasha Borovik relating to Mayor Trukhanov’s first round win, specifically regarding accusations of fraud and electoral violations (and fraud there was – albeit not only by Trukhanov).  At the very least a recount seems likely which may, or may not, cause a second round run off between Messrs Trukhanov and Borovik.  Yet a recount in no way addresses the lawlessness of this election campaign.

If there is a second round, then it is probable Trukhanov will win anyway- and lawfully (so why a first round victory at any nefarious cost) – but the legal challenges, and certainly a recount, should be supported given the flagrant disregard for the rule of (electoral) law during the entire electoral process in Odessa that ran from the very start of campaigning through to ballot counting.  Regardless of who eventually becomes mayor, prosecutions have to occur lest the next elections follow the same illicit route.  Simply moving on will not help Odessa, nor Ukraine.

rule of law

Whether Mr Borovik will win or lose in any second round is secondary to the rule of law being seen to be upheld.  If “The Revolution of Dignity” is rightly named, and during which it saw Ukrainians die, as well as Viktor Yanukovych and his odious courtiers flee, then the rule of law and democracy were certainly a core theme for those that protested (and those that died).  To simply accept unchallenged and without consequences so many violations of electoral law is to fail each and every one of those people.

Yet what seems to have the local social media attention (again) is not the rule of law being treated with the same disregard as it was in elections a decade ago, but the fact that the man who has submitted claims of fraud, and who may or may not force a second round of voting, has a KGB past.

It is indeed a KGB past that he admits to – perhaps in the same half-truth fashion as Mayor Trukhanov admits to the depth and involvement of his organised crime associations – but nevertheless he admits it.  Mr Borovik is on record stating that his father was a fairly high ranking regional KGB officer.  That Mr Borovik himself attended the Dzerzhinsky KGB institution and studied there for 3 years he does not hide.  He then claims to have lied his way out of the Soviet Union on the premise of a chemistry conference in then Czechoslovakia never to return.

Naturally the latter part is raising questions amongst the local media and social networks about what – or perhaps why – his high ranking KGB father remained so placed if his son had gone AWOL in Czechoslovakia during 1989, a time when revolution was in the air?  The inference perhaps being, that having completed 3 years of KGB schooling and with revolution in the air in Czechoslovakia, he was sent, rather than escaped, if his father retained his high position.  What of the secrets Mr Borovik is presumed to have known?  What of his knowledge of the latest KGB techniques and tradecraft?  These are questions asked as if the KGB would never allow such a tale as Mr Borovik tells.

Well, to burst one of those local media bubbles, despite the KGB generally having good tradecraft, what constituted KGB trade-craft was hardly unknown to the West in 1989.  Indeed KGB tradecraft was actually well known and understood in the West.  As for the “latest” in late 1980’s tradecraft and technologies, what it didn’t already know, Oleg Gordievsky could have filled in the gaps with a timely update after his 1985 defection.

Whether Mr Borovik knew any secrets worthy of hunting him down, if he went AWOL of his own accord as he claims, firstly depends upon the presumption that he knew any secrets, secondly rests upon the presumption that any secrets he may have known were actually still unknown to the West or whether the KGB believed them to have already been compromised.  As he wasn’t hunted down – he either knew no secrets worthy of chasing him, or secondly was simply sent to Czechoslovakia by the KGB.  To burst another local media bubble, the West was not that bad at learning Soviet secrets.

The answers to any and all of the rumination above may remain unknown (at least in the public realm), but certainly in 1989 the KGB was a year or two into preparing for the collapse of the USSR.  It at least saw it coming if others didn’t.  The “Chyornaya Kassa” was already filling with funds, the Fifth Directorate (renamed Directorate Z in 1989) was well on the way to creating KGB backed new political parties for the new realities that seemed to them assured (and they were right).

The Fifth Directorate in 1989 was busy putting together both the RNYe Party and Liberalno-Demokraticheskaya Partiya Rossii under the careful eye of KGB General Aleksei Sterligov, and General Filipp Bobkov.  Both parties officially launched in 1990.

Of course Mr Borovik’s father as a high ranking but regional KGB officer will probably have had no knowledge of what was going on in Moscow Centre, and certainly not within the leading echelons of the 5th Directorate – nevertheless, this tells even the most naive that the KGB, and certainly the Fifth Directorate, were aware of the impending collapse of the USSR and were actively preparing for it during the late 1980’s – both financially with the “Chyornaya kassa”, and also creating political parties to step into the void behind which they would remain.

(For those wondering what the “Chornaya Kassa” was for, it was/is a nefarious fund from KGB days of old (and is by many accounts is still operating today) employed to fund bribery, “political interests” wherever and whatever they may be, and launder cash (from the “rents” and official budgets both then and now).

Suffice to say, it is questionable during such times of internal preparation for the foreseen Soviet collapse, and notwithstanding the structural disintegration upon the “Communist fringes”, as to whether the “naughty” Sasha Borovik disappearing within revolutionary Czechoslovakia  warranted any attention, and if it did, whether his father was powerful enough to simply cover it up – or whether he was sent officially and then decided to “disappear”, or whether he was sent and did exactly what his assignment (whatever it was) required him to do.

But in the grand scheme of things, how much does that matter?

If the local media and social sites are going to concentrate upon dissecting either Mr Borovik’s legend, despite his own admission to his KGB legacy, the question has to be to what end?

He is already elected to City Hall as one of the 64 city deputies – regardless of any second round of voting, and regardless of whether he becomes mayor or not.

The most logical and pressing questions for cynics, ex-spooks, counter-intelligence, are not what holes can be found in the history of a self-admitted KGB schooled newly elected local politician, but whether any relationship once held remains active – or not.

If such a relationship remains active, does it actually matter?

Lord knows The Kremlin does not need Sasha Borovik to tell them what is going on within Odessa City Hall, nor what plans (in the vain hope there are any) Odessa City Hall has for Odessa.

Governor Saakashvili stands to gain more by having Mr Borovik spy within City Hall.

How many former or current Kremlin spooks and/or sources sit amongst far higher and far more influential positions within Ukraine?  Who of the very highest Ukrainian elite were not either former Communist Party apparatchiks (be they believers in, or users of the system) back in the day?  If not, whom amongst them were not assisted by organised crime, or the secret services, or both, somewhere along the way to their places at the very top of the Ukrainian tree?

Ukraine as a nation, and Odessa is no different, remains heavily infiltrated by Russian security services.  It would be very wise for Ukraine, its media, its friends, and those simply looking-on, to work from the premise that Ukraine has no secrets from The Kremlin, whether it thinks it has secrets or not.

If your author can find out what is going on within City Hall, or the Oblast Rada, or what Governor Saakashvili is going to say to “diplomat X” before he says it without Sasha Borovik – then be absolutely sure that The Kremlin can too.

If your author can hear of whispered conversation in dark corners of the Verkhovna Rada all the way down in Odessa, be undoubtedly The Kremlin can too.

If the Ukrainian Security Services, for whatever reason suspect Mr Borovik, then that does not mean they have to do anything (overtly) about it – now or perhaps ever.  Counter-intelligence is a slow and patient game.   And to be blunt, there seems little evidence (not even rumour) to suggest the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) consider him a Kremlin agent, asset, source, useful idiot, or sympathiser.

If they did, the question would be whether to let things run, roll matters up, ponder whether any self-admission is a dangle to divert attention away from somebody else, or whether it is simply an admission for the sake of genuine political transparency (and beating the media to any “sensational discoveries”), whether it is to lower SBU interest (what self-respecting spy calls attention to themselves as a spy – or is that a clever plan to write him off as an ex-spook that has long since left the game) etc.  Whatever the case Mr Borovik ends up upon the SBU radar – by virtue his own admissions, notwithstanding any political public figure roles.

Yet the local media and social networks are not (yet) inferring Mr Borovik is an active spook.  They are concentrating upon his history from attending Dzerzhinsky KGB school to reaching Czechoslovakia (not even what he did whilst there).  Thus, the conclusion regarding renewed interest in Mr Borovik’s KGB past (no matter how brief or full, uninteresting or shocking it may be) would appear to have much more to do with raising the psychological spectre of the KGB within the minds of the electorate just in case there is a second round of voting.

Seemingly a known organised criminal holds some inferred higher moral or social standing than those with an association with the KGB.

However, be he ex-spook, current spook, or a shape-shifting Martian, the fact is that somebody has to insure the rule of law is applied to the fraud that occurred in Odessa.  If it is simply accepted, then people died in Kyiv almost two years ago for what exactly?

Of course a self-confessed KGB schooled, newly elected local politician can expect to have their historical closet rummaged through by the media, and all deemed “irregular” thereafter flogged in the realm of conspiracy.  Such things are interesting to the public.  But it is in the public interest (as well as his own of course), whether a voter of Odessa would vote for or against him, that he makes a stand for the rule of law.

Indeed, perhaps the local media (and social media) should be asking themselves why they are not making far more noise about the fraud and corruption that ran throughout the elections in Odessa.  Where are the demands, repeated and angry, for timely action regarding the fraud?  This is about values and principle.  For sure poke around in the closet of Mr Borovik for whatever that is worth, but it is incumbent upon the local media to robustly support the rule of law.

There is a difference between “interesting to the public” and “public interest”.  The latter should have primacy, which means supporting the rule of law, demanding investigations and accountability for legal violations during the recent elections – even if it means certain outlets finding a way to do so without being seen to support Sasha Borovik.

Listening to KGB tales, or trying to read KGB entrails is all very well – but what about the rule of law?


All the President’s Men? – Kinda, sorta?

October 28, 2015

As is always the case with Ukraine, Ukrainian politics and Ukrainian institutions of State, there is a need to make distinctions, clearly labeling those that are political appointments from those that aren’t.

Constitutionally and broadly speaking, President Poroshenko is responsible for protecting and upholding the constitution, defence/security of the nation, and foreign policy – that, and for directly appointing institutional heads to several institutional bodies.  Almost all other issues are the domain of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada.

Amongst those institutional and constitution appointments that fall within the remit of the President are the regional governors and the Prosecutor General.

To be extremely pointed – thus far all Prosecutor General appointees have been abject failures as far as their roles within the rule of law are concerned.

As the documents below state, the current Prosecutor General, Mr Shokin, will in no small part be responsible for any failure to the national citizenry if Ukraine fails in its attempts to gain Visa-free status with the European Union.

Shokin 1Shokin 2

The obstructionism and deliberate refusal to reform and deal with the internal (and considerable) issues relating to the Prosecutor General’s Office are so blatant that they cannot be understood as being anything other on the part of Mr Shokin.

It is no secret that the EU, several EU capitals, and the US have repeatedly raised this obstructionism directly with President Poroshenko – yet Prosecutor General Shokin remains in office with dire consequences for the nation.

Should Ukraine enter the New Year with Mr Shokin still in office, then President Poroshenko had better be prepared for a serious and noticeable cooling of political, diplomatic and economic assistance for Ukraine other than that necessary to keep The Kremlin in check territorially.  If the President is banking upon “The West” continuing to support him as President, then Mr Shokin has to go.  If President Poroshenko is insistent upon keeping Mr Shokin, despite some very clear and blunt language from those external supporters of Ukraine, then that “Western” support will undoubtedly ebb (and quite quickly).  The President will be a complete fool if he thinks otherwise.

Another high profile perceived “President’s man” is Odessa Governor Mikhail Saakashvili.  Undoubtedly he was sent to Odessa in May 2015 when it became clear just how badly the President’s party, Solidarity, was doing in the local opinion polls – and it was doing (very) badly.  Something had to be done prior to the local elections (held two days ago).  It can be expected that Governor Saakashvili has done what he was sent to do with regard to the local polling/opinion – He stopped the ever-increasing loss of support for Solidarity.  He may even have given it a slight boost.  Final results for City and Oblast will be forthcoming over the next few days.

But, Governor Saakashvili, no differently to Mr Shokin, is not necessarily as compliant to the presidential will as some may expect from a presidential appointee (whose future is dictated by presidential whim by virtue of direct appointment – or sacking).

As written here some months ago, it became apparent that Sasha Borovik, Governor Saakashvili’s advisor and Mayoral candidate for Odessa, was not getting much, if any, support for the Solidarity Party for his campaigning – short of being able to use the “brand” name.  So clearly lacking was that support to those that can step behind the curtain and listen to whispers in the corridors of Oblast power now and again, it could only be inferred that a deal had been struck in Kyiv for Mayor Trukhanov to win another term.  If so, the Messrs Lozhkin and Kolomoisky will have been the two to strike such a deal.

Why would Kyiv strike such a deal?

For those that surround the President, Governor Saakashvili could become rather problematic in the future as far as their influence goes – ergo limited success is the safer option.  Within the space of 5 months, the Governor has inserted within Odessa Oblast his Prosecutor, his Police Chief, his Customs Chief, and Maria Gaidar will likely become the next Oblast Rada  – so getting the Mayor too would leave only the courts – and Sergei Kivalov and his control over the courts are clearly in Governor Saakashvili’s sights.  Taking on Mr Kivalov now the political local political landscape is almost set seems assured – whether Mr Borovik becomes Mayor or not.

A complete Saakashvili power vertical in Odessa serves few (if any) interests in Kyiv, neither politically for those with an eye on the future, nor for those that have simply taken over as chief beneficiaries of the established corruption lines between Odessa and Kyiv.

(The lack of central Solidarity Party support issue at a local level was not helped by Governor Saakashvili’s telegraphed intent to dismantle the Goncharenko Solidarity Party infrastructure within the Oblast Rada and replace it with his own – despite all being “Solidarity”.  Goncharenko is the President’s chosen regional party leader and previously a fairly recent Oblast Rada Chair.)


Thus in the absence of any tangible support from “Solidarity Central” (and he may have acted anyway) Governor Saakashvili became involved in promoting Sasha Borovik for Mayor – despite President Poroshenko making it clear he did not want Governors getting involved in the local elections.  They were to remain aloof and avoid any inference of employing undue influence.

So why did nothing happen to Governor Saakashvili when clearly so openly defying the President?

The answer comes via a technical argument made by Governor Saakashvili – In short he told the President that any appearances with Sasha Borovik were done in his own time and not on the official clock.  Appearances with Sasha Borovik therefore, occurred during “lunch breaks”, or if they occurred for several hours during the day or evening, Governor Saakashvili booked a “half-day holiday”.  His appearances alongside Sasha Borovik therefore were (technically) as a private citizen.  Other “supportive” instances occurred with the Governor acting in his official capacity, but with Sasha Borovik acting in his recognised role as official advisor to the Governor – at least technically.

One wonders if, in light of the elections for Mayor seemingly ruling out a second round (in line with any previously struck deals in Kyiv), whether the Borovik turn to the Regional Prosecutor proclaiming (and apparently providing evidence of) electoral fraud this morning, together with a bellicose Governor Saakashvili also proclaiming fraud by Mayor Trukhanov, have the tacit approval of President Porosehnko – or once again defy the Presidential line.

For those who would suggest the obvious, a recount under the strict and exceptionally close observation of the international observers that are still in Odessa – fair point – except who knows what has been done to the ballots since they have now left the polling/counting stations, and how many containers with now stored votes will mysteriously go missing or be accidentally destroyed by water or fire etc prior to any recount?  The entirety of the electoral campaigning has been a very grubby and all to often often illicit affair in Odessa, thus there is no reason to believe that would not continue if a recount was to be requested, or indeed occurred.

To return to the point of this entry however, some may ponder, following recent events in Kyiv and Odessa, whether all the President’s men are indeed all the President’s men – or simply kinda, sorta – even though he appointed them.

Will they prove to be the kind of appointments that were brave to make, and for one reason or another, almost politically or personally, dangerous to break?


OSCE holds its nose and says it all went OK – Ukraine

October 27, 2015

Yesterday’s entry relating to the local elections in Ukraine stated:

“One wonders just what is going to appear in the official reports of the official observers – for this election has been nowhere near the standards of the presidential, nor Verkhovna Rada elections of 2014.

Indeed it has been so consistently illicit in its nature that it belongs with elections from a decade past.

Of course the content of the official reports very much depend upon who actually writes the reports – and equally upon who decides who writes the reports. So openly dirty, illicit and unambiguously grubby has this election and the associated campaigning been in comparison to those elections held last year, there is going to be more than a little room for doubting any official report that states anything to the contrary. The entire election campaign in Odessa (and clearly in other regions too) has been an affront to the rule of law from start – and it seems, to finish.

Yet, somehow, it will be seen to pass the international “official sniff test” despite the rank odour the campaigning has given off from the very start.

Admittedly, and it is right to note, not all of the recorded irregularities over the preceding months and today/tomorrow, are irregularities that would or could change the voting behaviour of the constituency. Nor effect the ballot counting. Minor irregularities clearly will not sway a voter or an electoral count, but they are nonetheless irregularities. Some irregularities certainly will be of that very serious category however.

Whatever the case, it seems likely that the elections will pass the “official sniff test” so as not to put (another) hurdle in the way of decentralisation.”

Unsurprisingly today the OSCE has held its organsiational nose to avoid the noxious odour when applying the “sniff test” of electoral international/Council of Europe standards.


The OSCE (via ODIHR mission Tana de Zulueta) opined that “the elections held in Ukraine conform to international standards in spite of pressure from big business and mass purchase of election advertising space in printed media and air time on TV and radio.”  It was further stated that in general the elections were well organised and competitive.

This despite no polling stations opening in either Mariupol nor Krasnoarmeysk, and the elections in Svatovo being declared invalid.

In fact the primliminary OSCE report has almost nothing positive to say about the elections whatsoever.

OPORA, a prominent and reliable NGO, as of the time of publishing, had recorded 1,128 violations of electoral law during the entire period of the election campaign.  In order of commonality rather than seriousness, in 1st place – 557 illegal campaign financing violations.  In 2nd place – 290 instances of voter bribery (some of which have been transfered to the police, some of which haven’t).  In 3rd place – 136 violations of election procedures, election commissions, (including those that influenced the election results.)

They recorded 46 recorded violent confrontations, 35 cases of misuse of administrative resources, 33 occasions where the work of observers was obstructed, and 30 cases of falsification of election results.

This before the results of their parallel vote counts can be compared to reported vote counts – which will lead to court appeals undoubtedly where discrepancies present themselves.

Further, the OSCE’s Tana de Zulueta added that the complexity of the legal framework, the dominance of powerful economic groups, and the fact that practically all media campaigns to cover the elections had been well paid for, pointed to the need to push ahead with reforms in the country.

So everything passes the OSCE/international “sniff test” – despite official concerns that the electoral law is an ass and urgently needs changing, the campaigning was hardly fair unless candidates/parties were sponsored by big business/oligarchy as media coverage was simply monopolised, and that there were several canceled or invalidated elections.  This notwithstanding the litany of recorded electoral violations, some clearly serious, recorded by the OPORA NGO.

There may yet be further issues of course.  Parallel vote counts may raise significant anomalies.  There will be court challenges.  There are numerous second rounds of voting for mayors on 15th November that have to be policed/monitored strictly, and also new elections to organise for Mariupol, Krasnoarmeysk, and Svatovo due to failures in those regions.

Thus we are left to ask what next not only for democracy, but the rule of law that underpins it?

1,126 recorded violations, means there is documented evidence of 1,126 violators.  What will happen to them?  As the entire election campaign and voting day has been an affront to the rule of law, will the rule of law be allowed to recover and actually deal with these violations and the associated offenders in order to send a message for future elections, or will it all be simply forgotten?

Will any official cautions, fines small or large, or imprisonment, be forthcoming from the 1,126 documented irregularities?  If so, how many?  1?  10?  100?  500?

With the OSCE holding its institutional nose and moving swiftly on, will the rule of law (or lack of it) do the same in Ukraine?


Let’s play “Pick-a-Prime Minister” on the back of the local elections

October 26, 2015

The local elections are now due to swap from polling (where carousel voting, duplicate lists, fake exist polls, candidate agitators etc has been almost blatant, and with Odessa likely to see at least 30% of polling stations having irregularities recorded against them by election monitors prior to the polls closing – plus a transitional period to that of ballot counting whereupon yet more irregularities will be recorded due to deliberately slow counting, disappearing electoral commission members (with mobiles in hand), ballot box stuffing, stop and start counting again, vanishing ballot boxes, and then when everybody is so tired to pay due attention diligently, a rapid (and irregular) count is completed providing court-worthy considerations that may cast a darker and lasting shadow over events – possibly until 15th November and any second round voting for mayors.

Left outside an Left outside an Odessa polling station today - for stuffing perhaps?

Left outside an Left outside an Odessa polling station today – for stuffing perhaps?

This notwithstanding having gone through almost the entirety of electoral legislation which has been brazenly breached over the past month during the Odessa campaigning.  (No exaggeration, barely a law has been left unbroken.)

One wonders just what is going to appear in the official reports of the official observers – for this election has been nowhere near the standards of the presidential, nor Verkhovna Rada elections of 2014.

Indeed it has been so consistently illicit in its nature that it belongs with elections from a decade past.

Of course the content of the official reports very much depend upon who actually writes the reports – and equally upon who decides who writes the reports.  So openly dirty, illicit and unambiguously grubby has this election and the associated campaigning been in comparison to those elections held last year, there is going to be more than a little room for doubting any official report that states anything to the contrary.  The entire election campaign in Odessa (and clearly in other regions too) has been an affront to the rule of law from start – and it seems, to finish.

Yet, somehow, it will be seen to pass the international “official sniff test” despite the rank odour the campaigning has given off from the very start.

Admittedly, and it is right to note, not all of the recorded irregularities over the preceding months and today/tomorrow, are irregularities that would or could change the voting behaviour of the constituency.  Nor effect the ballot counting.  Minor irregularities clearly will not sway a voter or an electoral count, but they are nonetheless irregularities.  Some irregularities certainly will be of that very serious category however.

Whatever the case, it seems likely that the elections will pass the “official sniff test” so as not to put (another) hurdle in the way of decentralisation.  (This despite months ago stating it would be incredibly hard (though not quite impossible) to garner the constitutional majority of 300+ votes to facilitate decrentralisation as the situation stands in the occupied Donbas anyway.)

As has also been written more than a month ago, the local elections are a litmus test for populist politicians such as Yulia Tymoshenko.  Depending upon how close to Solidarity her Batkivshchyna Party gets, ultimately will decide upon her timing for leaving the majority coalition – or not.

She may decide to stay if she feels she remains too far adrift to gain anything by forcing an early Verkhovna Rada election.

Certainly the Opposition Block (soon to be Party of Peace and Regional Development) post local elections will be trying to force a new Verkhovna Rada election – especially if they can force the decentralisation laws through with the President’s party, for they are the presumed beneficiaries of any elections in the currently occupied Donbas for the Verkhovna Rada – The “separatist parties” simply won’t get reach any national 5% threshold and thus only a few single mandate, first past the post, seats would be theirs – at best.

Indeed, if and when the occupied Donbas reenters the Ukrainian political system and economy, it seems extremely unlikely to be accomplished through Solidarity, Batkivshchyna, or anybody other than the Opposition Block politically, and Rinat Akhmetov as the largest employer in that region.  (This political and economic reality may help explain why both Akhmetov and Opp Block leader Yuri Boiko remain in circulation rather than in prison – they may yet prove to be useful.)

Whatever the case in the occupied Donbas, Ms Tymoshenko will try (again) to leverage her position to Prime Minister on the back of the local election results either by trying to force a new Verkhovna Rada election (along with the Opposition Block), or via a Cabinet reshuffle citing her improved societal vote.

So, let’s play “Pick-a-Prime Minister” with the inevitable demise of Arseniy Yatseniuk some time next year – probably by the Spring.

Oleksandr Turchynov has a chance if Solidarity successfully assimilates the National Front and can maintain a majority that can operate without over reliance upon other existing coalition partners.  To remove a NF prime minister and reappoint a newly assimilated post-NF prime minister may be required as part of the assimilation deal.

The above, however, may ultimately lead to the uncomfortable possibility of a “managed democracy”, in which case Mikheil Saakashvili, Boris Lozhkin, Ihor Kononenko, and Volodymyr Groysman are all also in the frame post NF assimilation.

Groysman was Poroshenko’s preferred Prime Minister from the offset.  Kononenko is definitely part of the “grey government” and is very influential at present.  Lozhkin has been making noticeable noises and shuffles behind the curtain to the point that his ambition to hold the role seems quite clear – and that would explain why somebody has already tried to cut that ambition down to size by having Austria now question funds held in that nation that are attributed to Lozhkin.  (A smell has now deliberately been wafted around him that involves Austria and thus the EU to let him know his limitations.)  As for Saakashvili, if  Ms Jaresko was interested, he would have no chance – if he actually has any chance at all (ignoring media hype).

To be blunt, Ms Jaresko would be the only realistic possibility that could gather a domestic political consensus and also enjoy the support of friendly external supporters and donors -but is she interested?  She would probably take the role out of a sense of obligation to Ukraine to avoid internal implosion, but that does not equate to wanting the role.  Notwithstanding a serious corruption fumble between now and any ouster/resignation of PM Yatseniuk, she is perhaps the only “consensus: alternative.

However if the growing gap between Samopomich and an ego driven Yulia Tymoshenko continues to widen, then there is the option, (particularly if the reintegration of the occupied Donbas is to occur via an Akhmetov/Opp Block combination), of a coalition with the Opposition Block.  That would put Serhiy Lyovochkin as a solid candidate for Prime Minister.  (Poroshenko’s Solidarity is not exactly short of ex-Regionaires amongst its ranks after all.)

Alternatively, the oligarchy is now nowhere near as weak and flat-footed as it was this time last year.  A rallying around, for example (choose any political vehicle) the “Renaissance Party” by Kolomoisky, Lyovochkin, Firtash (vested interests before political stripe) – and with the fickle and entirely self-serving Tymoshenko being offered the Prime Minister’s role (and thus Batkivshchyna cooperation/coalition) would present yet another scenario that is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Nobody would be surprised that if Tymoshenko became PM in a grubby deal with the oligarchy, that the relationship with the IMF would sooner (rather than later) end – no differently than it did last time when she was PM and Ukraine had an IMF deal.  In fact a Tymoshenko PM would see continued unaffordable subsidies, recaptialisation and bad debt write-offs that fill the trough from which the oligarchy guzzle with unreserved gluttony.

Being extremely blunt, Ms Tymosehnko would be the worst of all possible potential candidates listed above for the position of Prime Minister should she decide, following the local elections litmus test, to try and force her way into that role one way or another.

A low voter turnout and/or a low Batkivshchyna vote however, may well remove any dreams for Ms Tymoshenko, so hopefully one or the other – or both -will occur.

Meanwhile, returning to the local elections, we can perhaps try and guess at the final percentage of ballot stations that will have irregularities officially recorded against them.  The opening paragraph stated at least 30% in Odessa.  It is almost guaranteed to be higher by tomorrow morning, when assuming vote counts have finished, perhaps 35% – 40% will have official irregularities recorded against them.

Higher irregularities than other regions?  We will soon see!

On a more positive note, it seems highly likely that Mayor Trukhanov will have to face a second round of voting against Sasha Borovik – which presents Odessa city voters with a very stark choice come 15th November – and Mr Borovik will have a further 3 weeks to campaign as well as having the political momentum to try and eat away any genuine (rather than nefariously acquired) lead the incumbent will have entering the second round.


The significants of 751 – Ukraine & the EU

October 25, 2015

With the local elections tomorrow, and the repercussions results will have regarding an early Verkhonva Rada election, today with a voluntary purdah in place until polls close, a very distant, perhaps never to be obtained issue is the subject of today’s entry.

Having been recently asked what the major long-term obstacles to any Ukrainian membership of the EU are, and there are the commonly advocated reasons – a feckless political class (which despite two Maidans, one of which saw a president flee) still fails spectacularly to meet the aspirations of its constituency even at the level of the lowest common denominator, a “limited entry” economy monopolised by the oligarchy that gorge themselves on government subsidies, and fail to pay their debts to the State in the full knowledge that those they owe will either be recapitalised and/or the debts written off, a selective delivery of the rule of law, a wholly under-performing civil service and grotesquely corrupted institutions of State (to identify the very tip of the iceberg), there is also one unspoken long-term obstacle to Ukrainian entry.

Even if, taking a flight into what may appear to be (may ultimately what may prove to be) fantasy whereby Ukraine reforms, fully and successfully implements the Association Agreement and DCFTA as its ratified obligations demand, applies its right under Article 49 of The Treaty of the European Union to acceed and subsequently commences the Acquis Communautaire procedures etc – there remains a not so easily surmountable issue – that of power and influence (both perceived and real).

That issue lies within the European Parliament, and it is specifically identifiable.  It’s number is 751.


The European Parliament is comprised of 751 people.  750 MEPs and the president.

The maximum number of MEPs any nation can have is 96.  The minimum number any nation can have is 6.

Why?  Because the Lisbon Treaty says so.  It was wisely decided that a cap needed to be placed upon the number of MEPs.  The European Parliament could not simply expand with regard to the number of MEPs every time a new nation joined.

Thus, with a finite number being 751, every time a new nation joins, other Member States have to surrender MEP seats for them to fill.  The greater the population of a nation, the greater the number of MEP seats it is entitled to.

Let us imagine that Ukraine is to join.  Its current population would make it the 6th largest nation within the Union, behind Germany, France, the UK (should it remain within the EU – and if not, it raises the question of which nations gain MEP slots and how many), Italy and Spain.

Almost every nation, less those with the minimum 6 MEPs, would have to surrender MEP seats to accommodate Ukrainian MEPs.  With a population of about 45 million, Ukraine would be expected to garner about 55 MEP seats (about 7% of the MEP total).  Some nations would probably have to surrender more MEP seats than others when the woolly principle of degressive proportionality is applied.

So what?

There would be a profound regional power shift within the European Parliament – especially so if the evermore obvious strategic triangle between Poland, Romania and Ukraine develops and becomes consolidated over time.

Where currently France, Italy and Spain (Club Med) sit within the top five nations for MEPs, with Poland and Romania at 6th and 7th in number, a Ukrainian accession would see Ukraine come in at 6th, reducing the number of French, Italian and Spanish MEPs, but with an inferred regional (and if and when any accession came, possible tangibly strategic) ties with Poland and Romania.

The MEP reallocation would probably see (dependent upon how the woolly principle of degressive proportionality actually manifested itself after manipulation and negotiation)  a shift from “Club Med”, to “former Communist nations” as the dominant MEP number – and thus a perceived (and possibly very real) power shift within the European Parliament from Centre-Med, to Centre-East.

Does anybody really think that Italy, Spain, and in particular France, will make it an easy ride through the acquis communautaire toward accession when that prospect looms large?  Even if all criteria are met prima facie, it is an expensive event when a nation joins that has to be budgeted for – and EU budgets run on 7 year cycles and subject to unholy squabbling.

Of course this may all be entirely irrelevant.

It will take Ukraine a decade to fully implement the DCFTA even with a competent, unified and determined political class – which is entirely absent.  Perhaps then another 5 years to complete the acquis communautaire.  Then there are budgetary issues regarding Ukrainian accession.

Regardless of any Club Med objections and obstruction which will surely come and slow the process down, the EU in 20 years time will not look like it does today.  Ukraine may decide joining is not what it wants and that association is enough.

That said, 20 or 30 years from now, if the EU still exists and has not lost all credibility as a values based regional and/or global actor, with shrinking demographics, it may be courting Ukraine simply to include the demographics and economics in the block’s consolidated weight.

Returning to the issue of 751 – How often, in any discussions regarding Ukrainian accession (or not) to the EU, is the very real significants (and repercussions) of  the EP 751 addressed in the discourse?  About as often as a Ukrainian oligarch going to jail is the answer.

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