Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

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The official EU overview of Ukrainian progress 2016

December 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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Savchenko in Minsk

December 12, 2016

As much as this blog was going to avoid comment upon Nadya Savhcenko’s meeting in Minsk with the leaders of the “DNR” Alexandr Zaharchenko, “LNR” Igor Plotnitsky, and Russian interlocutors on 7th December, too many emails, private messages and direct messages have arrived asking for comment that careful and limited comment there will be.

Firstly it has to be recognised that daily Ukrainian soldiers still die on the front lines in eastern Ukraine.  It may well be the case that those on the opposite side also suffer daily fatalities, though no figures are announced daily like those of the Ukrainian military.  Also Minsk, a framework document that has failed to deliver anything approaching a ceasefire (where the fire actually ceases) since its agreement more than 2 years ago and thus remains diplomatically alive only in the absence of any alternative – and indeed that alternative may actually be worse than continuing with the sham of Minsk.

However, at the very least, those freed following negotiations under Minsk will not consider the process a complete failure when their very freedom comes as a result.

Nevertheless it cannot be claimed that the process has been anything other than a failure in the eyes of many.

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Having met Nadya Savchenko a few times (the last time in June), with regard to her character of the many insights gleaned, and for the purposes of this entry, it is sufficient to note her strong willed personality – so strong that being an “institutional and/or team player” would clearly be secondary.  These character traits alone, as an entry from May made very clear, are not those particularly welcome within the Batkivshchyna Party.

Those personality traits and the fact that as a parliamentarian she has absolute immunity (and impunity) with regard the law, has the potential for some to be somewhat wary of unpredictable and or predictable but unstoppable acts.  (She can, as all other parliamentarians, do what she likes, when she likes, and without (immediate) legal repercussions until such time as parliamentary immunity is lifted by the Verkhovna Rada or her mandate expires.)

Ergo how and who could stop Nadya Savchenko from going to Minsk (other than Belarus)?

Nevertheless, there is such a thing as party discipline and Yulia Tymoshenko cannot afford to be seen as a weak leader of what is in effect nothing more than a Batkivshchyna Party that is political vehicle solely for promoting Yulia Tymoshenko.

Indeed, of Nadya Savchenko’s Minsk adventure, Batkivshchyna have stated they “consider unacceptable any negotiations with the leaders of “DNR” and “LC” and MP N.Savchenko did not coordinate her actions with the factions and parties, and has recently announced her participation in the new political project.”

That said, she is a member of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party, and has unquestionably gone against the party line that is repeatedly and unambiguously on record.  The “distancing” in the above Batkivshchyna statement is not the same thing as party discipline, nor instigating disciplinary measures within the party for such a blatant departure from the party line.

However, to remove her from the party having been elected upon the party list (as No1 before Yulia Tymoshenko due to populist electioneering when Ms Savchenko was still incarcerated in Russia) opens the way for Ms Savchenko to lose her parliamentary status (as happened to former parliamentarians Mykola Tomenko and Igor Firsov per Article 81 of the Constitution).

The expected and inevitable dilemma for Ms Tymoshenko (foreseen in the May entry linked above) as to just how much she will allow herself (and Batkivshchyna) to be tarred with the undisciplined Ms Savchenko brush once again presents itself.

Dilemma!  What political cost to dealing with Ms Savchenko’s disregard for the party line by disciplinary measures, vis a vis looking weak for not doing so?

Further the SBU is now playing catch up – Yuri Tandit of the SBU making clear that they are now collecting and collating information regarding the Minsk meetings of Nadya Savchenko after the fact.

Nevertheless what’s done is done – and may well happen again (and again).

Ms Savchenko justifies her trip by stating “We must do our best, each of us, to take our heroes home even if we will have to pay those who shoot at us”, saying of President Poroshenko “He, like all of us, wants to pick up our children from captivity and the political prisoners from of Russia.  I am confident that the president on his level of doing everything possible to make this happen as quickly as possible.”

Well fair enough – or is it?

Why shouldn’t she do what she thinks she can?

Putting aside the issue of ugly optics and being seen to be negotiating with the public faces and “leaders” of the “Republics” directly (rather than indirectly and through “channels” as is standard fare, and for good reason of “legitimising” the other parties) there are issues of both her legitimacy and also wider coordination.  (That she has done this at the very least may now make her a “useful idiot” in a wider Kremlin secret service operation.)

And it is perhaps coordination that matters the most.

Ms Savchenko states that she traveled to Minsk on her personal Ukrainian passport and not her diplomatic passport.  Whether or not this is meant to infer a personal and not “official Nadya Savchenko MP” dialogue with the “leaders” of the “Republics” is a matter of perception.  As such, when it comes to framing, were any “negotiations” unofficially official (though they appear unsanctioned officially or tacitly), or were they officially unofficial to which any “negotiation” (whether it may or may not reap results) raises the question of what was “given” and “taken” in that negotiation and the ability, particularly by Ms Savchenko, to deliver thereafter.

Perhaps yet more problematic is that it may well be that this becomes a channel or negotiating format of choice for one side but not the other – thus undermining the negotiating formats that are already accepted and working.  Differences between official and unofficial channels may very well complicate matters further and also be deliberately used to frustrate progress by any party concerned in negotiations when those differences are exploited.  The potential nightmare scenario may arise where with insufficient care and coordination there is a real possibility that due to deliberate, or unintentional, mishandling of negotiations, those detained could be held for far longer than would otherwise have been the case.

If this was indeed a personal pilgrimage (well meaning as it may have been) there are real risks as well as potential rewards as a result.

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Whatever was negotiated and/or agreed may actually be counterproductive to any (or all recent progress) by the officially nominated trilateral groups.  Indeed it may be that an individual uncoordinated effort with such a focus on a specific issue distorts or blinds to the wider negotiating policy repercussions both in the immediate and longer term.

Further, even if Ms Savchenko’s personal and seemingly unofficial interjection delivers any much welcomed prisoner releases, that does not necessarily mean political gains for Ms Savchenko in the long term.  Many of her actions and statements have already raised red flags in some quarters in Ukraine – for her to succeed swiftly where 2 years of negotiations where heavyweights the like the OSCE, Messrs Kuchma and Gryzlov et al have delivered little, may raise as many (if not more) red flags as it would potential voters.

Time will tell how this plays out for Ms Savchenko, how Batkicshchyna (Ms Tymoshenko) deal with this, how much the SBU and the official negotiators will learn of the “negotiations” (and as importantly the resulting interpretations of all those present), and perhaps most critically for those already working so hard to release, whether there will be results within the parameters they have been asked to remain within.

Perhaps, considering the high profile Ms Savchenko has, what a reader may ponder most is that if Ukraine felt she was the most suitable of people to be directly involved in such negotiations then she most certainly would be – and that she isn’t may well say all that needs to be said.

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Memorials and museums – 3 years on (Epitaphs)

November 21, 2016

Upon the third anniversary of the commencing of EuroMaidan/Revolution of Dignity, President Poroshenko announced a memorial and museum to be housed on the Avenue of the Heavenly Hundred (formerly Institutska) in Kyiv.

Quite rightly .

He stated “A memorial to the heroes of the “Heavenly Hundred” not only marks the fact of its existence, but the location should remind all about the high price that people paid for Ukrainian independence, freedom and democracy.

Unquestionably.  Not only to act as a solemn commemorative reminder, but also to act as a motivational spur to prevent any backsliding both now and in the future.

As such President Poroshenko announced a charitable foundation to raise the funds, for which he would take personal responsibility and of which he would be a sponsor, going on to state that “the museum should be modern, should look to the future, to be formed from the best international and Ukrainian artists.”

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Well OK.  If the current difficulties regarding land ownership upon which memorial and museum will be placed are resolved, if possible it should perhaps be so orientated as to face “West” if ticking all possible symbolic boxes?

Whatever – the result will have to strive to do justice to what was in effect the birth of a modern Ukraine (despite the current complications following that birth).

There will naturally be those reminded of previous charitable foundations of former Ukrainian presidents that delivered little more than scandal and allegations (Yushchenko and his Ukraine 3000 foundation for example).  There will be those that find it somewhat borderline Pinchuk-esque.  There will also be those that consider it politically expedient populism at a time when opinion polls continue to desert those currently in power.

Well may be so,, but there is no doubt that a permanent and poignant public reminder is required.

However three years on from the beginning of Euromaidan/Revolution of Dignity, perhaps the priority over monuments and museums remains justice?

Justice via due process for what occurred during that time is surely first and foremost that owed, and is definitely a rightful and fitting legacy beyond any honorary construction or artistic imortalisation.  Particularly when it appears to far too many that Ukraine progresses inch by inch in spite of, and not because of, those that politically inherited what became a nation aware of, reunited with, and consolidated within its identity.

Of course monuments, museums and justice are all rightfully due to those that forever changed the Ukrainian view of Ukraine and for Ukraine – but does not any values based (ultimate) sacrifice not demand of those values when they prevail to provide justice first (and commemoration thereafter)?

The question for the reader therefore, which will come first – due process and justice, or monuments and museums?  It would be the saddest of epitaphs for Ukraine to deliver a museum and monument before justice.

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Normandy Four – 19th October

October 12, 2016

Having not mentioned the “Minsk document” for some time, and on the last occasion being/remaining somewhat dismissive, the Normandy Four will meet in Berlin on 19th October.

That the meeting occurs when President Putin was originally due to be in Paris (opening a new Russian Orthodox Church among other things) boils down to the fact that France accused the Kremlin of war crimes in Syria and wanted the bilateral agenda to focus accordingly – an agenda which President Putin was not going to accept.  Thus the Paris trip was called off and the 19th October witnesses a gathering of the Normandy Four to discuss The Kremlin’s denied war in eastern Ukraine.

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That said it seems unlikely that President Putin would head to Berlin and a Normandy Four meeting without something to talk about – and The Kremlin will only talk if it believes that its agenda upon its terms will be furthered.

The options for his attending may be one of PR for domestic (and certain foreign) audiences turning out to be nothing more than a photo op to belie the impression of isolation and/or complete belligerence but that seems less likely than there being something to talk about (on Kremlin terms).

It may also be that the Kremlin thinking is that it is overdue another round of “make it, break it, counter-accuse” negotiation made in bad faith.

Kremlin momentum is currently behind forcing Ukraine to adopt an election law for the occupied territories prior to Ukraine regaining control over its borders.  Both Germany and France whose diplomats have hardly gained any concessions from The Kremlin in more than 2 years of talks seem to have decided that when faced with a belligerent Kremlin it is far easier to press Ukraine to therefore meet Kremlin terms with regard to Minsk event scheduling.

A reader may perceive this (rightly) to be a reflection of the problem of handing policy to diplomats who instinctively want to talk (and prize contacts highly) whilst simultaneously displaying an unwavering and almost principled refusal to learn from experience when it comes to interaction with the current Kremlin.

The out-going US Administration with only 2 months left in office also seems to suffer the same western diplomatic stubbornness when it comes to refusing to accept that the only terms acceptable to The Kremlin are its own – particularly in what it still firmly believes to be its rightful and indisputable sphere of influence.

It is also a US Administration that would like to leave office with something of a foreign policy gain to hand on to those that will follow.

As such this twilight US Administration is going to be tempted to also quietly push Ukraine toward the Kremlin terms regarding the adoption of an election law for the occupied Donbas – even if the US political class more broadly is far more unlikely to agree with such maneuvering in accordance with Kremlin terms.  After all, officially the US is not involved in the “Minsk document” or associated negotiations, so the ability to blame Paris, Berlin, Moscow or Kyiv for any failures to solutions it may quietly push exists and may blunt wider US political unease at such a strategy.

Ukraine for its part has actually managed to defend its current diplomatic position for more than a year when it comes to a ceasefire actually commencing and in which the fire actually ceases, the verified removal of Kremlin personnel and weaponry, and the regaining of control over its borders occur before passing election laws and establishing the conditions of holding free and fair elections.

At no point during the past two years has The Kremlin actually bothered to progress “Minsk” issues over which it has control.  To be entirely blunt, the immediate future and beyond also provides little reason for the Kremlin to seriously pursue doing so either.

Further, The Kremlin’s “conversation” with the current US Administration is over – unless that conversation relates to unilateral US concessions, either directly (Syria) or by influence over third parties (Ukraine), to Kremlin interests.  Both existing and new levers will currently be being prepared for use upon the in-coming US Administration in the New Year.  Kremlin contempt for the current US Administration is crystal clear.

A reader may therefore ponder the content of any on-going Surkov-Nuland diplomacy with regard to Ukraine.  It seems unlikely that they would be unambiguously to the benefit of the Ukrainian State if any negotiating ground is to be given to The Kremlin that forces the order of “Minsk” implementation per a Kremlin list of priorities.

The 19th October therefore may be a severe test of the Ukrainian position if “progress at any cost” tops the German, French, Russian and behind the curtain US agenda – for “any cost” will be borne by President Poroshenko who is eyeing ever-poor popularity figures while already positioning for a run at a second term.

If the assumptions described above are even halfway accurate and Ukraine is forced to cede to a Kremlin led Minsk implementation timetable (which The Kremlin probably wouldn’t fulfill on its part), what wiggle room is available to the Ukrainians regarding any proposed law that would stand even the remotest chance of getting through a Verkhovna Rada vote?

(A reader will note that this is a statutory law requiring 226 majority rather than any Constitution changing vote that will simply not see the required 300+ votes no matter how much money or coercion was offered to vote “the right way” to amend the basic law of the land.)

Firstly the Ukrainian State and any “special” statutory electoral legislation has to try to avoid stating a definitive date around which circumstances can and will be manipulated.  Rather, it may be prudent to consider a definitive set of circumstances that automatically trigger the election date.

A definitive set of circumstances may include a consolidating and verifiable time period based upon an absolute and verified ceasefire.  For example 100 days (or whatever) from a complete and strictly observed ceasefire becomes election day.  Any breach of ceasefire resets that clock.

During the electioneering Ukrainian and international media has full and free access to the occupied Donbas.  Should that freedom be curtailed, the 100 day clock is reset.

International election observers have unconditional access during the electioneering period, on election day, and during vote counts – which in turn demands a security environment that facilitates such freedoms.  Any failure resets the election day clock.

Who can actually vote needs to be unambiguously stated.  Perhaps only those voters registered in the occupied territories on 1st January 2014 in order to avoid “constituency stuffing”.  IDPs wherever their location, if registered as a genuine resident upon any specified historical registered voter date will need to be afforded the maximum opportunity to vote – be they displaced within Ukraine or have left for other nations (including Russia).

In short it could be possible to write an election law that may possibly be forced, coerced and bought through the Verkhovna Rada and that possess enough “snap-back clauses” to prevent a volatile reaction among the more militant of Ukrainians, and which would also avoid the most serious of political damage within the majority of the Ukrainian constituency.

Naturally the Kremlin would not be keen on such a law, but it may be enough to appease the “friends of Ukraine” all of whom have domestic political reasons to push the Minsk timetable and proclaim “successes” no matter how small, and yet avoid being perceived to cave into the Kremlin.

(For the sake of sarcasm – Alternatively, following the experience of the Budapest Memorandum, perhaps Ukraine should agree to a Kremlin timetable only and exclusively under the explicit guarantee (not assurances or other woolly terminology) from Berlin, Paris and Washington that should the Kremlin fail to abide, a very specific set of actions would occur.  Naturally none would agree to providing such guarantees when there is no trust in the current Kremlin – so why should Ukraine be any more trusting?)

As 19th October is unlikely to be a PR exercise for President Putin, and neither is any pretense at being constructive likely to seriously influence western capitals regarding sanctions or increased top level interaction, there is probably something else that brings President Putin to the Normandy Four gathering.  Thus questions as to what degree of further concessions and/or appeasement does he expect, what if any will be given with regard to and/or by Ukraine, and what is the substance of any Surkov-Nuland deals behind the curtain?

Will there be another Normandy Four meeting before the year end?

If so will there be yet another official rolling over of “Minsk” as there was last year?  Will somebody within the EU see any wisdom in loosening the rhetoric that ties sanctions to “Minsk” if its rolling over is not to occur but it is instead finally pronounced dead?  Do such sanctions die if “Minsk” to which they are consistently rhetorically tied dies?

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A Rada week that will be one legislative step backwards?

October 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 nations are considering making their registers/declarations public.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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500+ judges leave office – Ukraine

September 9, 2016

8th September witnessed the Verkhovna Rada complete the bureaucracy to allow more than 500 Ukrainian judges to leave behind their judicial mandates.

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That number however, has little directly to do with any anti-corruption efforts, and much more to do with bureaucratic bottlenecks.  (Indirectly – some may have jumped knowing that they would otherwise be pushed and/or jailed, or would otherwise have had to account for ill-gotten wealth under the new e-declaration system, therefore deciding to bail out while they could without having to complete any declarations.)

How did it reach the point where 500 (plus) judges are released on the same day when almost all leaving office are due to resignations and/or retirements?

In Ukraine, a judge submitting his/her resignation is simply insufficient to relieve them of their judicial mandate.  The current (until 30th September 2016 when new legislation takes effect) system makes resignation a particularly drawn out affair.

In summary, currently, a judge may resign for whatever reason (including reaching 65 years of age and compulsory retirement) and that resignation must then be considered by the High Council of Justice.  Legislation prescribes that the HCJ has one month to consider that resignation and then make their proposals to the parliament and/or president to accept or deny.  The law however, does not place any timescale upon legislators or the executive to then complete the bureaucratic necessities required by law to release those wishing to resign and/or retire, and thus timely consideration simply does not occur.

The formal conclusion to a resignation can – and often has – dragged on for several years.

To complicate matters, should disciplinary matters arise during this time, the HRC has a duty to investigate them – which may delay retirement and/or resignation whilst the possibility of dismissal via disciplinary procedures remains unresolved.

Being a judge is Ukraine has been a little like staying at the Hotel California – a judge can check out any time they like, but they can never hardly ever leave swiftly.

The new law entering into force with effect from 1st October lays down that resignations will be accepted or refused within a calendar month of submission and without the need for parliamentary and/or presidential functions in most cases – though this may not be as seamless as it appears with some resignations and disciplinary matters occurring before 30th September and thus under the current laws, but being dealt with after 1st October and thus under the new laws.  Minor procedural hiccups may occur.

Nevertheless, a reader is now aware that bureaucratic bottlenecks and backlogs there clearly have been/are – but can more than 500 accrue between ad hoc procedural completion by the legislature and/or executive?

The answer is clearly yes – and there is an underlying political reason for it.

Very few judges have been “allowed” to retire – or more precisely the bureaucracy has (deliberately) not been completed since the “Revolution of Dignity” and the coming to power of the current authorities.  Thus such a large number were eventually relieved of their mandates on 8th September in one administrative/bureaucratic act.  More than 2 years worth of retirements and resignations had built up (with a few exceptions that have been dealt with more expeditiously).

The reason for not completing the administrative functions over so many judges resignations and/or retirements is obviously political.  Perhaps even unofficial policy.

With the public demanding judicial reform and lustration, why not release those wanting to leave sooner and appease the constituency? The reason for retaining so many judges against their will was presumably to allow for any disciplinary matters to arise (or be instigated in homo sovieticus style – here is my offender, find me their crime) and throw the occasional judge to the baying media and/or public if and when politically expedient whilst retaining political power/influence over those that were retained despite wanting to leave.

Indeed, the mass release of 500 plus judges may not have occurred as it did if not for the rapidly approaching new legislation coming into force in a few weeks that would enable judicial releases without parliamentary and/or executive involvement whatsoever.

An opportunity, albeit forced, for some political grandstanding presented itself that could not be wasted.

A political gesture of publicly tossing out 500 plus judges (irrespective of the fact that the vast majority had been trying to leave for a long time and their departure could no longer be prevented from the month end anyway going unmentioned).

Of the 500 plus now relieved of their judicial mandate, it is perhaps worthy of mentioning several retirements and/or resignations.  For example there were 7 retirements from the Supreme Court.  21 from the Higher Administrative Court.  4 retirees from the Supreme Economic Court.  9 retirements from the Higher Specialised Court for Civil and Criminal cases.  1 judge was relieved of his post as he is currently in jail (and has been for a while) having been found guilty of murder.  A least 4 retiring judges were of an age that they may indeed have started their learned careers when Adam was a boy.

Quite how lopsided so many retirements and resignations have left the judicial system is unclear – both by way of regional vacancies, and also whether any particular judicial branch/specialism suffered more than others.  Is it easier to fill judicial vacancies in one specialisation than another?  Or in one oblast than another?

Cometh 1st October and the ability to arrest judges without immunity preventing it, then further judicial vacancies seem more than likely.

Whatever the case, a brief explanation regarding 500 plus judges being relieved of their mandate on the same day was probably necessary – and if not, then an explanation there is now anyway.  A last political grandstanding hoorah and huzzah regarding the judiciary and an inferred (and generally unwarranted) perception of “cleansing”.

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(Un)Holy networks and tending the flock

September 7, 2016

A month or so ago, the blog wrote a few lines for Intersection (an all too infrequent occurrence due to lack of self-discipline on the part of the blog) regarding the increasing use of influence operations by The Kremlin (in Ukraine and further afield).

A few weeks ago, as August is a quite month with many erudite people on holiday, Intersection published it, probably for lack of anything better due to numerous holidaying authors.  It can be found here in English and here in Russian.

Within it the following prophecy was written – “The march was not without controversy with many in Ukraine perceiving the march of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy to be nothing short of a Kremlin influence operation within the country, whether planned or co-opted.

The Kremlin has a habit of getting Ukraine seriously wrong, twice erroneously betting upon Viktor Yanukovych, the spectacular failure of Novorossiya, and the war in the Donbas has now turned into a war of exhaustion rather than providing swift leverage to actually change the orientation of Kyiv or, more importantly, the will and determination of the Ukrainian people to withstand The Kremlin.

As such, the march by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchy is far more likely to become a test of the Orthodox Church than it will be a test of the Ukrainian State.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyiv Patriarchy, is now likely to benefit from an enlarged flock at the expense of the Moscow Patriarchy.

The march also raises prickly issues for His All Holiness Bartholomew 1, the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, with increased and intensified lobbying from the Ukrainian political and religious classes to remove the Kyiv church’s subordination to the Moscow Patriarch and grant it autocephaly to the Orthodox Church.  Should Kyiv eventually be successful, not only would a Kyiv Patriarchy radically reduce an instrument of influence for Moscow, there will also be many ungodly issues relating to property and earthly riches within the Ukrainian territory.”

The blog, for the sake of full disclosure is not a member of the Orthodox flock – all official institutionally archived documentation relating to matters Godly insofar as organised religion is concerned records Catholic (of the Roman variety) with regard the author.

However this entry is not about theology or religious practices, nor belief (in a spiritual sense).

What organised religion provides beyond such celestial matters is an earthly network.  An earthly network containing more than its fair share of unholy Pharisees.  A network that can therefore be employed for both good and evil.  The Nazi ratlines can hardly be thought of as a particularly divine purpose for a such a Catholic network.  Nor indeed was the KGB (now FSB) infiltration of the Russian Orthodox Church a particularly confidential environment to bare one’s soul – lest a case of sins possibly being forgiven if you trespass where and when told to as (never ending) penance.

The Presidential speech at the opening of the new Verkhovna Rada session, a speech perhaps notable for what is not present as much for what was,  robustly and directly took aim at the prickly issues within the above quoted prose.  Issues now unquestionably faced by the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch.  President Poroshenko stating  “I think, all understand that we will not observe indifferently the interference of another state into our church affairs, its attempts to use in its own interests the feelings of the part of Ukrainian orthodox.

Dear People’s Deputies, I would like to thank you for the address of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Primate of our Mother church concerning issuing Tomos of Autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Such step was and remains necessary, taking into account the tradition according to which the position of the secular power in such issues is important for Ecumenical Patriarch. We took into account this tradition, and, I hope, His All-holiness heard us.

The polls that demonstrate that more and more orthodox Ukrainians would like to have, as it is in most of the orthodox countries, the only one local Ukrainian autocephalous church, were also taken into account.

At the same time, I would like to assure you that autocephaly does not mean appearance of state church. Nothing will be changed in the constitutional principles of interaction between the state and religious organizations and no one will limit the freedom of conscience. Each Ukrainian has and will have the right to believe in God in his own way and go to his church.”

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1

The unfortunate Bartholomew 1 is now faced with very public and very direct advocacy from Ukraine from a sizeable number of the Ukrainian Orthodox flock, its clergy, and the very top of the nation’s political leadership – and undoubtedly he is also subject to equally robust lobbying against freeing Ukraine from both the Moscow Patriarchy and from within The Kremlin.

A Ukrainian autocephaly will have significant repercussions for the Moscow Patriarchy if such Ukrainian legitimacy from Constantinople is forthcoming.  As an agent of influence the Moscow Patriarchy would certainly diminish with a legitimate and equitable Ukrainian alternative for the devout when/if sanctioned by the Bartholomew 1.  The Kremlin will not be pleased, and neither will its security services.

However, (geo)politics and allowing the “network” to be infiltrated and/or used by the Kremlin spooks aside, there are also the vast earthly materialistic considerations of property and treasure at risk for the Moscow Patriarchy within Ukraine.  The question of “theo-politics” will raise its head over such church assets should the Moscow Patriarchy yoke be officially removed.

(Cynically, whilst the Catholic ratlines smuggled Nazis through the church network, perhaps the first indications of a favourable outcome from Bartholomew 1 for Ukraine will be when the Moscow Patriarchy clergy are caught trying to slip icons and other church valuables over the border to Russia.)

His All Holiness Bartholomew 1 has a very significant decision to make.

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