Posts Tagged ‘FSU’


Cultural dates for the diary – Odessa, Italy, Russia, Minsk (No Poland?)

December 15, 2016

For my erudite readers, a 24 hour hiatus from policy and politics and a climb from that grubby valley unto the high arts and cultural peaks with noteworthy and dates for the diary over the festive period.

The magnificent (seriously they really are very good) Odessa Philharmonic conducted by a true friend of the blog Mr Hobart Earle will be playing the following dates and venues:


19th & 20th December – Tchaikovsky Christmas Gala at Odessa Philharmonic.  (20th December is Mr Earle’s birthday so be especially generous in your appreciation)

The New Year sees the Odessa Philharmonic performing 12 concerts at as many venues around Italy.

For the true connoisseur, there is no orchestra as accomplished with its Viennese programme anywhere east of Vienna, therefore expect a magnificent return to Odessa and all things Viennese on 15th and 17th January.  It goes without saying, highly recommended.


26th January is for those with a taste for Haydin and Beethoven.

13th February is for the lovers, with the traditional Valentine’s programme.

21st February Mr Earle heads to Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall to dabble in some Grieg and Sibelius.

25th February for the many admirers of Verdi in Minsk who will receive a splendid performance of Aida.

Lo my erudite readership, if you are in Odessa, Italy, Moscow and Minsk (as many of you are if IP addresses are any indication) immerse yourselves in some high culture delivered by the Odessa Philharmonic under the baton of the only American cultural figure to have been awarded the “People’s Artist of Ukraine”.

Having made a particular point of lauding the Odessa Philharmonic with regard to all things Viennese when it comes to performance, it is worthy of pointing out that whenever it play its Polish programme, it is also at its best.

(Indeed Krzysztof Penderecki, who is undoubtedly the best Polish composer still with us (and one of the best ever) is hardly unknown to Mr Earle and vis versa.)


Thus in the spirit of new annual culture budgets, Polish-Ukrainian relations et al., the question to intellectual Polish readers (and friends in some cases), is why the Odessa Philharmonic plays Italy, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – but not Poland when it has a splendid, very well performed Polish repertoire?


Proportionate responses to events in Moldova – Ukraine

October 31, 2016

Following polling on 30th October, the Moldavian presidential elections will go to a second round – this time a head to head between pro-EU Maya Sandu and Kremlin friendly Igor Dodon.

Mr Dodon received 48.7% of the votes in the first round, with Ms Sandu garnering 37.96% – by far the highest percentage of the pro-EU contenders.

The electoral questions now presented are whether the pro-EU votes that went to other candidates will consolidate around Ms Sandu or not, and also the extent of voter turnout for the second round.

The first round demographics displayed a notably higher turnout of both grey-haired and also female voters.  Ms Sandu is more likely to benefit from a far higher turn out of young men than Mr Dodon, if they can be encouraged to vote (either in Moldova or abroad where so many work).

During his campaigning Mr Dodon has made comment regarding Crimea – noting that de jure it may be part of Ukraine as far as international recognition goes, but de facto it is Russia.

Igor Dodon

Igor Dodon

Such statements calling into question the territorial integrity of another nation, and a neighbour, may or may not be campaign rhetoric – and a reader may well ponder the response of Mr Dodon should a campaigning/electioneering Ukrainian politician state that de jure Transnistria may be part of Moldova as far as international recognition is concerned, but de facto it is Russia.

Needless to say such comment entering the public realm by a presidential candidate of a neighbouring nation has not gone unnoticed by either the Ukrainian leadership or the Ukrainian media.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry duly summonsed its Moldavian Ambassador to Kyiv  “for consultations”.

Meanwhile, Moldavian Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Galbur made a very clear apology “I would not like to comment on the statements of the participants of the election campaign.  At the same time, referring to this specific case, I would like to express regret to our partners in Kyiv, our Ukrainian partners, to all citizens of this country, including those who live in our country, who have Ukrainian origin.  The expressed position does not correspond to the official position of the Republic of Moldova. We clearly recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of neighboring Ukraine within the borders recognized at the international level, do not recognize the annexation of all territories, regardless of whether we are talking about Ukraine or other countries.  Such a situation we have in Georgia.  Moreover, we too are suffering from a serious territorial crisis.  I do not know, therefore, those who made such a declaration, if would be nice to hear from officials from Ukraine, Transnistria belongs to the Russian Federation? I’m just sorry.”

So be it.  We currently suffer a public arena in which there is seemingly no limit to the amount of spurious, or misleading, or absolute bollocks that can be uttered by the political class in attempts to sway public opinion – public apologies will probably become more and more necessary, albeit they probably will not come when owed.  Kudos therefore to Andrei Galbur for such a swift and clear statement on behalf of the Moldavian State.

But what if Mr Dodon wins and becomes President Dodon – which he very well might?

There are mutterings within the Ukrainian media that Ivan Hnatsyhyn, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Moldova should be recalled.

So should he?

Clearly the recalling of the Ukrainian Ambassador to the Russian Federation in 2014 was very much in order.  That a temporary Charges d’Affairs now heads the diplomatic missions of Ukraine within Russia is quite right, for it signals a formal downgrading of diplomatic ties.  Nevertheless Ukrainian diplomatic missions throughout the Russian Federation continue to function – and so they should for embassies and consulates do not exist simply to hand out consular assistance to its citizenry, nor for Ambassadors to enjoy erudite chats over canapes and “drinkies” on an organised and revolving hosting calendar sponsored by turn-taking national taxpayers.

Even as President Dodon, and even if he maintains his position publicly regarding his statements about Crimea, that is still not the official position of Moldova.  Moldova is a parliamentary democracy by constitution.  It is therefore parliament that adopts the official Moldavian position.  (That said, Ukraine is a parliamentary-presidential democracy, though a reader (and a citizen) could be forgiven if they perceived matters the other way around.)

Having a controversial and problematic individual as President is survivable – as the Czech Republic clearly displays.

Therefore if a Kremlin friendly President Dodon is the fate awaiting Moldova, does it pay to recall the Ukrainian Ambassador, downgrading the diplomatic mission there to that of a temporary Charges d’Affairs as occurred with Russia over his personal comment/position?

Perhaps – but removing emotion from the equation, with a very Kremlin friendly President Dodon, does it not pay to have an Ambassador in Moldova to “manage things” as they inevitably become far more “testy” and ‘prickly” – not to mention probably witnessing an increase in covert action too?

To be sure the Romanians and the SIE are hardly likely to lessen their interest in matters Moldavian under a President Dodon – quite the opposite.

Ergo, with a longer term and less emotional view, (and the game is indeed long) rather than retreating from Moldova if a President Dodon does come to pass, no differently than the predictable Romanian response, is it not wise to retain as much presence and influence “on plot” as there currently is?  (Perhaps even increase it – one way or another).

If a President Dodon begins to become problematic – which he very well may – there will be a lot of Moldavian “people” wanting to “talk” privately and discreetly to neighbours and western “friends”.

“Drinkies” and canapes, official appointments/visits (and “unofficial” chats) provide for a top level communication channel directly to the MFA (unlike the spooks naturally).  Recalling the Ukrainian Ambassador and downgrading relations to that of a temporary Charge d’Affair may well see many of those anticipated communications and “chats” being held with others instead.

Thus, on balance, if a President Dodon is soon upon us, then unless the official Moldavian position shifts significantly and adopts his personal and current electioneering rhetoric, it is perhaps not only disproportionate, but indeed foolish to recall the Ukrainian Ambassador.  There are other levers to employ when showing displeasure.

The inauguration of a President Dodon, it that is what is to be, probably requires a greater rather than lesser presence.


Meanwhile in Transnistria – mobilization

July 21, 2015

Just across the border from Odessa lies Transnistria, the Kremlin sponsored enclave within Moldova.

Unsurprisingly, considering regional events, it appears that Transnistria is about to mobilize, apparently following a decree issued by “President” Yevgeny Shevchuk.

This mobilization, it is claimed, will attract between 5000 and 7000 18 – 27 years olds, as well as an enrollment campaign of previously served personnel of about 80,000, from a total population of approximately 500,000.  Ergo about 17.5% of the enclave.


An interesting development, although it remains to be seen just how effective any such mobilization will be, or how long it will last considering the dire state of the Transnistrian economy that is already overly reliant upon Kremlin handouts.

Whether the thinking behind this decision is to slow the efforts of the less than robust western facing Moldavian government on its continued European course, or whether it is a Kremlin driven attempt to make Ukraine redeploy some of its eastern forces, or if it is simply to cause social unrest in Moldova, Transnistria and Odessa’s border area with the Transnistrian enclave, thus providing a Kremlin inspired “crisis” that it then will seek to “solve” on its own onerous terms for both Ukraine and Moldova remains to be seen.

However, with the Kremlin stealing more territory in Georgia, insuring an up-tick in violent contact across the entire front line in eastern Ukraine, and now this decreed mobilization in Transnistria that will only occur with The Kremlin blessing (and probably upon its instruction and financing) all within a week, it is perhaps time to wonder just when the much repeated rhetoric of “additional costs” heard from European/western leaders regarding belligerent,  malevolent and obstructionist Kremlin policy will actually incur any additional costs.

Perhaps it is necessary for the Kremlin to stoke tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh too?

The rhetoric of “no spheres of influence” forever spewing forth from the western leaders, will appear more than a little empty if The Kremlin continues to influence the region without significant cost through entirely illegitimate and aggressive acts.

Is it good policy to treat Kremlin led events in Ukraine separately from Kremlin led events in Georgia and now Transnistria, or is it good policy to see them all as regionally related and Kremlin led, thus providing for the possibility of telegraphed reaction for any and all events in the region having “costs”?


A sombre weekend – Holodomor remembered

November 23, 2014

Few words needed for this entry.


A time of sombre remembrance for the millions of Slavs who died needlessly as a result of Kremlin policy between 1932 – 1933.



Opening archives and letting the dirt fall where it falls

April 7, 2014

Following on – somewhat tenuously – from yesterday’s FSB entry and some possible, inferred, nefarious activities in Ukraine very recently,  another “spook/intelligence” related issue has caught my eye.

Under ex-President Yushenko, in 2009 a decision was made to give the old KGB archives a public airing.  Quite rightly it has to be said.  The Czech Republic did not suffer greatly from engaging in such an experience, where as arguably the post Yugoslav space that failed to air its dirty secrets, remains mired in suspicion, rumour and myth over its nasty communist past and the very unpleasant incidents that occurred then.

Unfortunately for Ukraine, amongst many poor decisions made by Viktor Yanukovych, the process of making old KGB files public came to an abrupt halt –  naturally when intent on creating a totalitarian regime, it doesn’t do to continually remind the public of the odious incidents that occurred under the previous totalitarian regime.

Also unfortunate for Ukraine, during 1990 just prior to the collapse of the USSR, many KGB files from Kyiv were either destroyed or spirited away to Moscow – particularly those covering the period from the 1960s to the 1980s.  Many – but not all.

Needless to say a large number of much older archives remained in Kyiv, together with others carelessly missed that related to the latter days of the USSR.

It now appears that the historian and new custodian of these archives, Vladimir Vyatrovich, is intent on gaining parliamentary agreement to continue the process that started in 2009 of making these documents public.  Bravo!

Of course this will require political will – which may or may not be forthcoming.  It may further damage or partially venerate some of the more contested figures within Ukrainian soviet history.  It may lead to public outrage and/or a deep sense of grief for what went before.  It may lead to demands for justice against those still living responsible for despicable acts no matter how large or small their part.  It may have serious consequences for some of today’s leading political figures – or recent ones.  How accurate is the information recorded?  Who knows?

What making public those achieves will do however, is further de-sovietise the Ukrainian public – perhaps in a far deeper way than the toppling statues of Lenin will ever accomplish.  It will reinforce the desire to remain free of the Kremlin yoke in the future.

By extension that will (further) annoy a Kremlin that is seemingly intent on trying to rebuild the former Soviet space where ever it sees the opportunity – and to be frank whenever this process is done, that annoyance would be expressed from Moscow, so why not now?

As it seems that in the absence of a willing Ukraine to return to the Kremlin fold, a desire to create a permanently unstable Ukraine is the next best alternative amongst the Kremlin contingencies, (I did mention the former Yugoslav space already) then perhaps one of the best antidotes to this situation is to force those who view the old soviet days through some dewy-eyed nostalgia to remember just what a cancerous, odious, oppressive and invasive system it was.

Open the KGB files to a public airing – let the muck land upon the heads of those whom it must – but let us take this further step of de-sovietising the nation – swiftly!



Georgia becomes a parliamentary republic – Did anyone notice?

November 19, 2013

Yesterday, with the swearing in of the new Georgian President, Georgia made the move from presidential/parliamentary rule to that of parliamentary/presidential governance.

The president now little more than a figurehead, no different to the German President, with parliament holding the real power.

In my opinion, a very positive move, removing the claims of legitimacy to absolute personal power and authority concentrated within a single political office and an individual.  We need only look to Kyiv and the surrounding post-Soviet neighbourhood to see the problems with presidential rather than parliamentary governance, and the misuse of power when concentrated in the hands of individuals past and present.

Perhaps, if Mr Klitschko becomes president and carries out his “Saakashvilliian” purge on state officials, he will also follow Misha in the transference of power from the office of President to parliament?  Not that it worked out as Mr Saakashvili planned.  No other likely presidential candidate would entertain the idea, that’s for certain.

Sadly, I very much doubt we will see a similar move by Ukraine anytime soon – and it will probably be very much to the detriment of the country.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Georgia on becoming a parliamentary republic – regardless of the calibre of governance that comes forth from parliament, there is at least a very European model of governance now in place.


The Bolshevik legal legacy

November 6, 2013

Sometimes you read something so thoughtful and empirically indisputable that you wonder why you have never written about such things with such brevity and clarity yourself, instead merely touching on this legacy from time to time.

Ekaterina Mishina has written just such a piece over at the Institute of Modern Russia.  It outlines an empirical lineage between early Soviet “law” and the thinking behind today’s selective justice by some current (and recent) leaders of post-Soviet nations – all of which are well versed in the Soviet logic of “this person is a problem – find a law to deal with them.”

In short here is the person, find an offence – instead of here is the offence, find the person as many readers would expect.

“……..if an act or omission was not designated under current criminal law as an offense, that still did not mean that a person could not be prosecuted for it.  Here, the judge’s role came into play, as he had to find an offense in the existing Soviet legislation that was analogous to the performed actions (or failure to act).”

In many instances of selective justice throughout the post-Soviet nations today, a nuanced variation Bolshevik legacy seems alive and well.

Anyway, click on the above link and read the whole thing.  It’s very good!



Annexation by stealth? Romania makes its citizenship easier for Moldavians

November 4, 2013

Moldova, not much more than a 40 minute drive from Odessa, has a population of about 3.5 million people.  Neighbouring Romania has a population of about 21.3 million.

Many Romanians see Moldova as their own.  Many Moldavians (about 33% at the last poll I remember seeing) see Romania as their rightful home.

It would appear that currently 800,000 Moldavians have applied for Romanian citizenship according to the official Romanian statistics.

That is about 22% of the Moldavian nation – not something that can be easily ignored.

It makes for some rather contentious domestic and neighbourhood politics between the two nations.

Previously Moldavians wanting Romanian citizenship had to travel to Bucharest to swear their allegiances to Romania, which despite appearing a less than overly expensive trip to make for many readers – for many Moldavians, it is a cost simply out of their economic reach.

That though, is about to change.

Hence forth, Moldavians wishing to take up Romanian citizenship can do it at the Romanian Embassy in the Moldavian capital of Chisinau, or any of the 3 Romanian Consulates in Cahul, Balti and Ungheni.

A partial annexation of the population, if not the geography, by stealth has begun?

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