Posts Tagged ‘media’

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The CEC and electoral reform

October 2, 2016

The current composition of the Central Election Committee (CEC) will once again become a political issue in this parliamentary term – and rightly for it has long since past its legal term remit (or at least 12 of the 15 members had terms that expired in 2014).

However, despite any and all the political rhetoric that will surround the CEC issue prior to the year end, it seems extremely unlikely that those who currently compose the current CEC will be changed or be given new mandates.

Firstly the budget and other legislative matters will simply take priority.  Thus it follows that the issue will (once again) be put on the back-burner.  Sometime in early 2017 would appear to be the most hopeful (perhaps even fanciful) time frame when it will be addressed.   Secondly a reader may question any real political desire to actually do anything about changing the current CEC composition, providing doubt that early 2017 is indeed realistic.

As is always the case in Ukraine far too much attention will be given to who is put forward for the CEC positions rather than the institution, its role, and the legislation that it is charged with implementing and overseeing – and that legislation is certainly poor.

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Without going into unnecessary detail of the proposed candidates for the new CEC, the names of which are more or less already known, it is abundantly clear that the Presidential Administration is not keen upon any names put forward by The People’s Front, Radical Party, Opposition Block or Batkivshchyna.  They in turn will therefore not vote for any nominations of the presidential party.

Further consultations will naturally occur, albeit there will certainly be no rush to achieve a compromise.  What matters is not really the names but the political balance within any new CEC – at least under current legislation.

There are now also attempts to link the CEC nominations to a broader process that would include the expired terms of the majority of the Audit Chamber as well as the vacant “Chair” of at least 6 Verhovna Rada committees.

Therefore grubby deals behind the curtain may well reach agreement where it will prove easier to change the legislation to produce an unbalanced CEC than it will be to produced a politically balanced one under the laws that currently exist through appointment trade-offs elsewhere.

That being so, it is the institution, institutional processes, and accountability that will matter far more than those names that will (eventually) form the CEC.

What matters far more than the composition of a new CEC are changes to the poor electoral laws over which the CEC preside.

Lengthy is the rhetoric regarding a fully proportional representation system.  Equally as long and tired is the rhetoric regarding open party lists.

Innumerable are the conversations this blog has held with various parliamentarians over these issues – and it is here that the rhetoric clearly will remain just that for some time to come – for such electoral legislative change would appear to suit only the Ukrainian voting constituency.  It is difficult to see any benefits for the current self-serving feckless political class.  Thus these issues will be kicked into the very long debate/discussion, lots of talk, no walk, grass.

Firstly, speaking to several MPs that hold single mandate (first past the post) constituency seats, there is no desire among them to vote to move to a fully proportional voting system.  Many are very content within the single mandate cocoon that provides them with far more wiggle room to buck the party line because they are not dependent upon being placed highly on a party list for reelection.  Yet further, they are also free from having to play handmaiden and spew forth unreserved faux subservience to whichever party functionaries are placed in charge of election campaigns.

It follows therefore that across party lines many single mandate parliamentarians are not going to rush to vote for a fully proportionate electoral system – particularly when many currently do not have to pay a lot of cash for the privilege of a position high enough on a party list to insure reelection.  As half the Verkhovna Rada is comprised of single mandate parliamentarians, the problematic issues are self-evident.

This brings a reader to the issue of party lists and the long promised fully open party lists.

Party lists have not been open for several reasons.

The first is that party leaders simply do not want to give up control over who gets elected from a party list.

Secondly they do not want to surrender the huge sums of money paid to be placed highly enough on a party list to be assured election.

Thirdly they do not want to have their power lessened by their party parliamentarians having been elected by popular vote individually, rather than the party arbitrarily listing highly those (normally corrupt, old school cronies) in an order that insures the party favourites (and not necessarily the public’s preferred candidates) reach the Verkhovna Rada.  With individual and personal public mandate from a party list the parliamentarian is simply less constrained under the leader’s yoke, similar to the single mandate party parliamentarian.

Thus whilst it is entirely reasonable to assume a new CEC will (eventually by hook, crook, and grubby deals involving appointments in other entities) probably arrive at some stage in 2017, it is far more unlikely that any legislative changes to the electoral laws will occur before the next Verkhovna Rada elections – whether they be early or as envisaged by term completion.

Some readers will state that the Verhovna Rada has far more pressing legislative matters to address anyway – perhaps they are right too.  Nevertheless when elections are once again upon Ukraine and the predicable lamenting of an unfit legislative framework is once again to the fore, the reasons for failure to change them will be the same then as they are now.

blame-game-diagram

In the meantime, a reader is wrongly encouraged by far too many to concentrate attention upon the “who” in any new CEC composition rather than its institutional processes and accountability, or the poor electoral legislation it is meant to oversee.

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Opposition Block on the western media offensive?

September 25, 2016

A recent article in The Guardian written by Vadim Novinsky has ruffled some feathers, not necessarily among the Ukrainian ruling elite, but among the Ukraine watchers, academics, diplomatic corps,  think-tanks et al.

Anders Umland making the comment “This is the second dubious publication by a former Yanukovych man in a major Western outlet after a recent article of Liovochkin in POLITICO.  Critique of corruption and bigotry in Ukraine is necessary.  But super rich former members of an oligarchic kleptocratic authoritarian regime like Novinsky or Liovochkin are the last to have a right to do so.  Why do you not publish an article about the lack of democracy in Africa written by Mugabe, The Guardian POLITICO Magazine?  Or are you against democracy in Africa?”

A statement that in sum highlights that objectivity is giving all a fair hearing. It does not equate to false moral equivalence.

Firstly, while no comment will be made about the authorship of the Sergei Liovochkin piece in POLITICO, most assuredly Vadim Novinsky did not write the piece for The Guardian, albeit he is the named author.

The Guardian piece was ghost written and published under Vadim Novinsky’s name.  It was written by Oleg Voloshin, a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs employee who is clearly willing to employ the literary skills and disciplines of diplomatic training and experience for the Novinsky coin and/or Opposition Block coin.

So be it.  There is a market for well thought out, deftly framed, ghost written public communication,  particularly by those exceptionally sullied by past and current deeds – such as Messrs Novinsky and Liovochkin.

A reader may ponder perhaps why the articles were not placed under Yuri Boiko’s name being the official head of the Opposition Block faction.

Equally worthy of consideration is that aside from the diplomats, academics, pro-Kremlin politicians, and assorted variously flavoured think tanks, it really doesn’t make much difference if Mr Voloshin or Mr Novinsky, or Mr Liovochkin, (or Mr Boiko) are named as author for the article published in The Guardian – none of the British public have any clue whatsoever who any of these men are, or indeed what the Opposition Block is made of, stands for, or would do if returned power.  The British public had little interest in Ukraine pre-Brexit and have even less post-Brexit.

The UK public could not tell you what interests the UK has in Ukraine, what public money is spent on here, how much, (and whether it is bilateral or via the soon to be exited EU), or for why.

Between the football season starting, Brexit, and whichever celebrity has been caught in a photograph doing something “risky” or “silly”, there is little interest in Ukraine among the UK hoi polloi.  Therefore the audience for these articles is not the average UK citizen (or indeed the average English speaking citizen).

Nevertheless these articles, appearing within a week of each other, are simply not “noise” but “signal”.  More of the same seems certain to appear.  The question is what do they signal?

influence

Having discounted them as being simply the usual disinformation, misinformation, half truth, half story propaganda noise – are they part of an influence operation??  If so, are they part of an Opposition Block influence operation, or that of The Kremlin – for neither article mentions Russia whatsoever (perhaps wisely considering it has just had its equivalent to its MH17 moment when bombing the UN convoy in Syria a few days ago).  Neither do the ties to Moscow that both (named) authors possess become apparent.  Nevertheless with the deliberate omission of mentioning Russia, neither article do the Kremlin narrative any harm (unsurprisingly).

To be blunt, although it does the Kremlin narrative no harm, and it may well be something The Kremlin co-opts along the way, it seems much more probable that it is an Oppo Block inspired attempt at an influence operation..

If that is true however, to what end?

If it is an Oppo Block influence op, then why isn’t it Yuri Boiko’s name on The Guardian piece rather than Mr Novinsky?  Surely the officially recognised leader would be the name to promote?

Mr Liovochkin rightly complaining in POLITICO about the criminality surrounding the Inter incident is understandable as a co-owner (even if more than a little hypocritical for a man that was Head of the Presidential Administration of Viktor Yanukovych when journalists were regularly beaten (and worse) around Ukraine).

(An outline of the criminal incident and also dubious internal workings of Inter has previously been written.)

Neither article however, places much emphasis upon the Oppo Block, and neither “author” really claim to be writing on behalf of the party.

As recently stated, Mykola Skoryk of the Oppo Block is likely to see his parliamentary immunity removed next week – perhaps somewhat ironically in connection with the beating of journalists and demonstrators in Odessa on 19th February 2014.

After Mr Skoryk, Mr Novinsky, the “author” of the Guardian piece is quite likely to soon top the parliamentary immunity stripping list having been accused of assaulting and threatening the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarch.  Mr Novinsky is a firm adherent of the Moscow Patriarchy and finds the Ukrainian Patriarchy bid for autocephaly nothing short of scandalous (not to mention it would seriously reduce Moscow’s influence through “the church” and cost the Moscow Patriarchy a lot of  Ukrainian souls, earthly riches and property).  Indeed he partly funded a Moscow Patriarchy “Peace March” that was widely perceived by the Ukrainian constituency as a Kremlin influence operation – which it was.

(Few will doubt both Germany and France being subject to Kremlin influence operations in 2017.)

Rumour also circulates that Mr Novinsky may be stripped of the Ukrainian citizenship granted to him by former President Yanukovych (for (dubious) services to Ukraine), leaving him to rely upon his natural Russian citizenship and a hope that he will not be swiftly persona non grata (PNG) from Ukraine thereafter.

Mr Liovochkin is unlikely to face the same chances of prison (or being found guilty in absentia) or ejected from the country, but perhaps will see if not Inter taken off air soon, then broadcasting licence problems when it is due for renewal – an unquestionable disaster for the Oppo Block that projects its propaganda from the Inter platform.

Therefore if the UK (and English speaking) hoi polloi are not the target audience in this influence operation, it has not yet been co-opted by The Kremlin, and the article content doesn’t really promote Oppo Block positions,  then the journalists, diplomats, academics, think tanks, and political class that will take notice must be the target.

The articles therefore can possibly be considered as preparatory media plants that pre-frame “persecution” in relation to the foreseen events specifically surrounding these two men/”authors”.  He/she that frames first and robustly often wins the argument.

It is clear that these articles are not (coincidental) random noise generated by the Oppo Block to simply undermine the current authorities (despite some valid points albeit deliberately lacking more holistic optics) or to promote the “party position”.

Will this influence operation be sufficient to dissuade the above predicted domestic action against them in Ukraine (probably not), or alternatively generate “international concern” when their “persecution” begins and the “persecuted” claim “told you so”?

(They will be able to join the likes of Messrs Martynenko (formerly People’s Front) and  Onyshchenko (Ms Tymoshenko’s financial sponsor) on the self-proclaimed “unfairly persecuted list” – hopefully to be joined by others such as the ever-more nefarious Messrs Nasirov, Pashinsky and Kononenko one day soon.)

Perhaps the question for the immediate future is where the next article of similar theme will be published, or whether the Ukrainian authorities strike first.

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Prosecutor seeks to remove the immunity of Mykola Skoryk

September 23, 2016

On 22nd September Prosecutor General Lutsenko announced that he would be appealing to the Verkhovna Rada to strip Mykola Skoryk of his parliamentary immunity next week.

Mr Skoryk has featured fairly frequently over the years within the blog, naturally mostly during his tenure as Odessa Oblast Governor under the Yanukovych regime between November 2013 – March 2014.

His dismissal from post following the fleeing of Yanukovych however, did not dramatically lessen his appearance in the blog prose due to his actions and influence leading up to the tragedy of 2nd May 2014.  The most recent here.

To be entirely blunt, the local constituency will not be concerned with the plight of Mr Skoryk (unless they are paid to demonstrate for the cameras and/or he turns out his “sportsmen” in an aggressive publicity stunt).  For different reasons he is viewed dimly by both pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian extremes, and being widely acknowledged as the Mr Firtash/Liovochkin man for the region, hardly scores highly within the domestic psyche.

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Mr Skoryk is also a man that clearly expected to rise far beyond being Odessa Governor under the Yanukovych regime.  He is a man with ambitions that stretch far beyond his rather average abilities.  Those ambitions remain – as do the “old school” methods of achieving them despite the damage such methods cause to the local constituency and nation as a whole.

To be specific, the Prosecutor General seeks to remove Mr Skoryk’s immunity following investigations into an incident that occurred on 19th February 2014 outside the Oblast Administration when Mr Skoryk was Governor.  About 20 journalists, national and local and from across all political biases were covering a small “EuroMaidan” protest outside when about 150 men in helmets carrying baseball bats set upon them.  Naturally there were injuries and broken equipment belonging to the various media outlets.

The involvement of Messrs Skoryk, Orlov and Fuchedzhi (the latter being the Odessa police chief on duty on 2nd May 2014 and now on the run) in such incidents has long been known within the local constituency.  There will be no shocking revelations.  Connecting Mr Skoryk to such incidents should not prove difficult – particularly as it appears Mr Orlov may well play ball with the PGO and give testimony.

The question is not one of revelations, but whether there will be any surprises – such as Mr Skoryk remaining in Ukraine if he believes he will actually be convicted or will see the inside of a jail cell for more than a day or two before being released on bail.

Perhaps he believes there will be insufficient votes to remove his immunity?  A reader should expect that such votes will be found even if Mr Skoryk doesn’t.  (Indeed assuredly there will be more parliamentarians facing a vote to remove their immunity during this session of the Verkhovna Rada – at least two others coming from the Opposition Block.)

Of intrest will be who of the 16 parliamentarians from Odessa will vote for the removal of Mr Skoryk’s immunity in any Verkhovna Rada vote?  Assuredly Alexie Goncharenko will as he has been responsible for petitioning the PGO to take action, but which others?  It is not necessarily a question of ex-Regionaire loyalties, for party names mean little compared to vested interests that cross party lines.

How would it effect any Dmitry Firtash bid for Odessa Port Side if his man is under the cosh?

Does this noticeably strengthen the position of Mr Goncharenko (and his people) in the city and/or the oblast political machinery and/or local constituency perception?  By extension how significantly does that strengthen the President’s party of which he is a part?

How will former allies turned enemies react?  Mr Rabinovych (and NewsOne)?

Despite Mt Skoryk having been politically sidelined for the most part over the last 18 months – partially in a self-imposed sulk – to be blunt hardly even bothering to vote if he decides to grace the Verkhovna Rada with his presence at all – how will the removal of his immunity (and perhaps successful prosecution (even if ultimately in absentia)) change the political dynamics of Odessa within a political elite?  Oppo Block does very little in Odessa without the approval of Mr Skoryk (who in turn does little of significance without the approval of Mr Liovochin/Firtash) yet Mr Skoryk can be replaced.

None of this matters compared to Mr Skoryk being rightly subject to due process for his actions – he is perhaps fortunate that investigative eyes currently focus only upon 19th February 2014 – but there will be political ramifications now this course of action has begun locally – and perhaps nationally when other Oppo Block (among others) parliamentarians become subject to investigations and immunity stripping, for clearly accusations of political persecution will be made.

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Tymoshenko and the IMF – or is it really about the IMF?

September 21, 2016

Yulia Tymoshenko knows a thing or two about dealing with the IMF.  She has said so herself on several occasions when recently cricitising first former Prime Minister Yatseniuk, and latterly the current Prime Minister, Volodymr Groisman.

Indeed when Prime Minister she negotiated a deal with the IMF, the conditions to which she agreed she then reneged upon when required to implement them – which may make a reader wonder just how skilled at negotiation with the IMF she really is.  (If one instance of poor negotiation is not enough, then a reader may reference the gas deal she struck with The Kremlin resulting in the worst gas deal with Russia in Ukrainian history, (despite the welcome removal (visible) of intermediaries), is also worth pondering.)

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Ms Tymoshenko apparently knows what the current IMF conditions are according to a report by Interfax – “Among Ukraine’s obligations are the cancellation of the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land.  If the moratorium is not prolonged, Ukraine will lose its main resource.

She claimed that the IMF also planned to “virtually introduce external control over national, state Ukrainian banks.”  as well as seeking commitments to reduce the network of Ukrainian educational institutions.

So far, so standard regarding IMF conditionality just as the hiking of utility prices has long been a standard IMF demand – and the demand that she balked at when it was her turn to implement the IMF agreement she agreed that also included utility hikes.

The IMF has been fairly consistent with its requirements with every Ukrainian government that has negotiated with it – from gas pricing, to the funding of vast number of universities within the nation, to lifting the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land, there is really nothing new in her “revelations”.

Indeed the only thing new about the IMF demands this time is that both Prime Minister’s Yatseniuk and Groisman have more or less honoured the obligations they have entered into – unlike Ms Tymoshenko when it was her time to do so.

What catches the eye is this statement – “The nationalization of large Ukrainian private banks is foreseen. We want to know what the bank is, what the date of nationalization is and who will be responsible for the obligations the banks have to Ukrainians”.

Clearly she is referring to Ihor Kolomoisky’s Privat Bank.  A bank which is structurally critical to the current operation of the Ukrainian banking system, but that is otherwise bankrupt and has been for years.  This situation too, is no secret to anybody.

Indeed the nationalisation of Privat is unlikely to create too many issues for Ihor Kolomoisky given its otherwise bankrupt status.  He may well realise that if he can get rid of it now, it will save some severe and problematic issues in the not too distant future.  (The health of Ukrainian Airways (MAU) another Kolomoisky company is worthy of a look too for those interested in the Kolomoisky empire.)

Privat Bank, its condition and structural importance would of course raise flags for the IMF when considering the robustness of the Ukrainian banking system.

The question Ms Tymoshenko is really asking is what, if anything, Ihor Kolomoiskhy gets out of the deal on his side, and what the current leadership get (themselves) if the State nationalises Privat Bank removing this impending problem for Ihor Kolomoisky and also easing concerns within the IMF?

Do Mr Kolomoisky (and partners) retain any minority shares?  What about the high value loans heavily biased to other Kolomoisky companies and their ability to repay them – or not?  Are profitable bits of Privat (card payment infrastructure etc) to be split off, and if so who will own them and reap the rewards?  Who would be the negotiator with Ihor Kolomoisky if not President Poroshenko, the only person Mr Kolomoisky would negotiate with?

What reward does President Poroshenko personally desire from any such negotiations that ultimately remove a problem for Mr Kolomoisky?

The answer to that, if strong and repeated rumour be true, is a majority share in Mr Kolomoisky’s top rated TV station 1+1.

The President has one eye on his woeful popularity figures, and another eye on Presidential elections in just over 2 years time.  A 1+1 favourable editorial line toward President Poroshenko would be gratefully received and the only way to insure it with a sly character like Mr Kolomoisky is to own the majority share of 1+1.

1+1 together with the President’s Channel 5, and perhaps the fairly amenable (read rentable/for hire) Vadim Rabinovich and Evgen Muraev with NewsOne, will form a fairly solid national TV media platform from which to launch a presidential campaign for a second term – notwithstanding the administrative ability to throw a few policy sweeteners to the constituency and a few fairly big fish into the judicial frying pan if and when necessary – all with the timeliness associated to pre-election electioneering rather than official electioneering.

If this be the case, how does President Poroshenko buy a majority share in 1+1 when his business activities are now supposed to be run through a blind trust?  Is the trust blind in only one eye?  Will a trusted third party do the 1+1 (plausibly deniable) honours on behalf of President Poroshenko?

Will Mr Kolomoisky accept President Poroshenko saving him from serious banking problems/liabilities at the expense of control over the influential 1+1?  It is a question, according to rumour, that is still being pondered.

With Inter (if it is still operating and belonging to Dmitry Firtash) being an Opposition Block TV platform, the question in Ms Tymoshenko’s head perhaps is not what happens to Privat, but undoubtedly being aware of the persistent rumours surrounding the deals around what happens to Privat, is where she will find a national media platform that could compete.

Unless Ms Tymoshenko is entirely deaf to rumours circulating within her workplace, she already has a good idea of the answers to all the other questions – as do a lot of other people.

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Eurovision goes to Kyiv – Political warfare will return to Odessa

September 9, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared noting the facade of political comradery between Mayor Trukhanov and Governor Saakashvili and their attempt to present a united and stable political front when wooing decision makers to award the Eurovision contest to Odessa.

The undeclared, but nevertheless mutual feeling of both men was that after Odessa missed out on the European football championships in 2012 (despite building a brand new stadium) meant that Odessa was owed the hosting rights to a large international event.

The fact that the Chermomoretz stadium is situated in Park Shevchenko with a single access road and therefore simply failed to meet the minimum safety demands of the footballing authorities of two access/egress roads is not a particularly well known.  That it is not well known therefore means it is not understood as a reason why Odessa was refused Euro 2012 so far as the local constituency is concerned.

(It is even less known that (former Mayor) Eduard Gurvitz proposed creating tunnel to and from the stadium under Shevchenko Park to address the access/egress issue – a proposal that went nowhere.)

Whether or not the Eurovision organisers also require two entry/egress routes from any hosting venue is beyond the knowledge of this blog – maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  Nevertheless the only venue in Odessa large enough to host tens of thousands of “Eurovisioners”, TV crews, presenters, commentators etc is the Chernomoretz stadium – which is also open air and would therefore require a roof to insure those attending remain dry during early May.

New Odessa airport terminal

New Odessa airport terminal

The new airport terminal, which has taken years to get to its existing state, is months from completion even if the will and cash is found to complete it – and it is a terminal without any runway dedicated or connected to it.  The runway that exists naturally leads directly to the existing terminal (which will apparently eventually be “mothballed”).

Indeed when Governor Saakashvili first arrived in Odessa, one of the first things he muted was opening an entirely new Odessa airport, far from the existing one.  It is a prospect that has not entirely died a death with US interest in an entirely new air hub.  There is indeed a case for a passenger and freight air hub to be made.

That the city would have coped with accommodation demands, and found thousands of English speaking volunteers, done “enough” for disabled ablutions and access etc is not in doubt.  It caters for a million and more tourists each year and therefore it would have coped – and coped fairly well with all such matters if it had been successful.  The political and societal will existed in sufficient quantity to insure success.

9th September witnessed the decision makers award the hosting rights to Kyiv – a city that has previously hosted Eurovision in 2005.  The committee charged with making the decision voted 19 in favour of Kyiv and 2 for Odessa.  A very clear and unambiguous vote.  No doubt finances and (existing/lack of) infrastructure had much to do with the outcome.

The outcome of the decision will have repercussions of course.

As the vast majority of people from Odessa are oblivious as to why the city was denied the 2012 football tournament, this will appear to be yet another snub by Kyiv.  No more and no less.

It will portray, not only to those in Odessa but also all provinces, that major international events always go to Kyiv and thus decentralisation is something that is a selective issue (and in truth it is, as the genuine reasons Odessa did not get Euro 2012 display).  By extension it will give the perception that lacking infrastructure and/or infrastructure development will never arrive in the provinces when there is no apparent desire or incentive to take the world beyond Kyiv (or the war in Donbas) as far as central authorities are concerned.

There is now no need for Governor Saakashvili or Mayor Trukhanov to continue with their facade of political unity.  The open political warfare that saw a Eurovision inspired armistice begin a few weeks ago can now recommence – and undoubtedly will in earnest.

The parliamentarians of Odessa attempting to unseat Governor Saakashvili will actively return to that cause.

The 100 Verkhovna Rada parliamentarians (not one of the sixteen from Odessa) that have signed a resolution to remove Mayor Trukhanov will be joined by yet more colleagues.

In short open political warfare on all fronts both in and toward Odessa can now recommence without the necessary (albeit temporary) truce hosting Eurovision would have brought.

There may soon be a Waterloo moment in Odessa, but it will have nothing to do with Eurovision and everything to do with politics.

Will those that govern have the sense to explain why Eurovision didn’t come to Odessa and attempt to correct public perceptions – or will they do as they did for Euro 2012 and leave faulty perceptions to grow in fertile conspiratorial soil?

Who will emerge victorious from any political Waterloo?

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The interesting repercussions of the “Inter incident”

September 5, 2016

Following on from yesterday’s entry regarding the arson at the Inter TV premises in Kyiv, the repercussions will now begin to play out in various arenas.

It will now fall to Sergei Lyovochkin, (a long time close associate of Inter’s owner Dmitry Firtash), and the Opposition Block to enact the ire of Inter’s owner, who is somewhat marooned in Austria as oligarch-in-exile.  In the meantime Inter’s faithful projection of (variations of) the Kremlin narrative suffered only a temporary inconvenience.

Of course the rule of law, as mentioned in yesterday’s entry, will be under the microscope.  As stated, those guilty of committing, and perhaps others responsible for the commissioning this crime (should their deeds be more than preparatory)  will necessarily have to be subject to due process lest the appearance of the Ukrainian State’s perceived weak grasp upon rule of law be perceived to get even weaker – both internally and externally of Ukraine.  Whatever perceived justification may be put forward, justification does not equate to legitimisation of the crime.

Also under the microscope will be State ministries and State institutions.  As Inter’s Kremlin narrative became more robust, forceful (and perhaps incendiary) in concert with the rhetoric and actions of The Kremlin over the past few months, more calls for its licence removal were directed at the State licencing authorities and regulators – who clearly did not remove Inter’s broadcasting licence or have any tangible effect upon content delivery and associated rhetoric – perhaps rightly, perhaps not.

Naturally after more than two years of war with Russia, those that accept the Kremlin line have long since accepted it, and those that recognise it for what it is have long since dismissed it.  The Kremlin narrative is now something of a Ukrainian domestic sport insofar as spotting and debunking it, an academic exercise from which genuine academic insight will undoubtedly emerge across several disciplines, and also a source of comedy material.  In short, whatever spews forth from Inter, long since stopped converting Ukrainians to the Kremlin cause.  It’s effectiveness at increasing the Opposition Block vote is therefore also questionable.  Perhaps it is a matter of simply maintaining both narrative and voting constituency rather than any effective progression, or perhaps a question of/display of loyalty by the owner to The Kremlin – The Kremlin being the curator of a great deal of “kompromat” regarding the owner of Inter.

Ukrainian media regulators aside however, there are also going to be repercussions among the political class.

Broadly speaking President Poroshenko does not do “leadership”, but rather “management”.  He strikes deals (which is why nobody goes to jail) and attempts to keep the elite fairly happy, or at least equally unhappy – something that disenfranchises the voting constituency as his falling popularity demonstrates.  With appeals to the President to deal with the matter from the Opposition Block to support Inter, and their political rivals  to close it – notwithstanding parliamentary appeals to the SBU and NABU by certain politicians to investigate other politicians over ties and/or associations with Inter, the President has yet another managerial task with voting implications within the Verkhovna Rada.

It is the official appeals to NABU and the SBU by certain politicians that are worthy of note – not for their overt internal squabbling, but for within those official requests to the investigative agencies are mentioned associations with Maria Stoliarova a robust and vocal supporter of the occupied territories and who was briefly a leading light at the very top of Inter, and a man called Igor Shuvalov.

This entry will not concentrate upon Maria Stoliarova.  To be honest she is not that interesting in the scheme of things.  She came to note in 2014 and was eventually removed from Ukraine and banned from reentry for 5 years – PNG’d.  The only thing that Maria Stoliarova did do of interest (rather than doing interesting things) was invite Igor Shuvalov to Inter.

(Of the influential women at Inter, or at Inter until recently, Anna Bezlyudnaya is far more noteworthy.  After all, Patriarch Krill does not give out Orders of the Russian Orthodox Church to just any passing journalist, yet he did to Ms Bezlyudnaya.  It also has to be said that most people would not travel to Moscow from Ukraine via Athens or Berlin every few weeks either, as she was inclined to do.  (A reader can probably hear the “red flags” being waved by the spooks and ex-spooks following the above few lines.))

Unlike Maria Stoliarova, Igor Shuvalov is a particularly interesting person – in fact in truth he is not an interesting person, but rather he is a person of interest (which is an entirely different thing).

For those that know little about the workings of Ukraine behind the curtain, a few lines deserve to be dedicated to Mr Shuvalov.

Igor Shuvalov

Igor Shuvalov

Mr Shuvalov has long been a discreet but permanent part of the Sergei Lyovochkin political furniture.  Mr Shuvalov is also a Russian citizen and a product of his nation’s secret services – a somewhat disturbing if unsurprising fact considering Mr Lyovochkin was former-President Yanukovych’s Head of the Presidential Administration perhaps – but Mr Shuvalov has a much longer history behind the Ukrainian curtain.

Mr Shuvalov arrived upon the Ukrainian scene in (or certainly by) 1998 as a political consultant for Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of then President Kuchma.  Indeed then President Kuchma granted Mr Shuvalov Ukrainian citizenship during the 2002 – 2004 period Mr Shuvalov was working with Viktor Medvedchuk (who is godfather to one of President Putin’s daughters).

That Kuchma granted Ukrainian citizenship was subsequently canceled by Presidential Decree when Viktor Yushenko came to power.

Mr Shuvalov then began what became a very long association with Sergei Lyovochkin – which needless to say brought him into the close orbit of Viktor Yanukovych, Dmitry Firtash and the very elite top tier within the now extinct Party of Regions.

Given the close and long term association between Messrs Lyovochkin and Shuvalov, few will therefore be surprised to find Mr Shuvalov has been instrumental in his “political technologist” role behind the Ukrainian curtain in assisting political projects sponsored by Mr Lyovochkin that go beyond the former Party of Regions and now Opposition Block.  The fingerprints of Mr Shuvalov can indeed be found upon the formative days of the Radical Party too.

Twice since the fall and ouster of the Yanukovych regime efforts began to remove Mr Shuvalov from Ukraine.  The first effort by the temporary leadership immediately following the ouster fell between the cracks, and the second effort was scotched by Mr Lyovochkin within the SBU ranks.  (An indication of the loyalty between the two men that surpasses any common cause/belief.)

With new official requests from certain parliamentarians to NABU and the SBU to investigate the ties of parliamentary colleagues to any alleged wrong-doings of Inter, and specifically any interaction with the named Maria Stoliarova and Igor Shuvalov, a reader may wonder just how many cans of worms, and over how many years, investigations surrounding Mr Shuvalov would open.

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Arson at Inter TV – кому это выгодно?

September 5, 2016

The late afternoon/early evening of 4th September bore witness to another mindless and self-defeating act.

A TV studio used by Dmitry Firtash’s Inter TV channel in Kyiv was subject to arson.  The fire it appears caused by a smoke grenade igniting surrounding material.  It may be that those responsible had no intention in causing a fire, but recklessness is no defence.

Injuries, by way of smoke inhalation, and also reports of a broken limb, circulate.

The editorial line of Inter is consistent with that of the Opposition Block political outlook – which comes as no surprise considering the ownership of the channel – and therefore perceived by many as somewhat less that patriotic.  It clearly causes angst within those of a nationalist disposition – perhaps sometimes quite deliberately.

Six individuals have been arrested quite rightly – whether they are part of a group of 20 pickets (seemingly compromised of members of the 30th Brigade) is as yet to be clarified.

Inter

In fact clarification of events may take longer than it should, for it appears Inter are not (yet) willing to provide CCTV footage of the incident to law enforcement officials – despite the damage to their property and injury to their employees.

Naturally a reader may ponder – why would Inter refuse to provide possible CCTV evidence to a crime of which it is the victim?

“кому это выгодно?” – (Who benefits?)

Perhaps the CCTV footage will eventually be provided – after Inter, the Opposition Block and The Kremlin has used this incident to its maximum PR potential possible.  Then again perhaps it simply won’t be supplied (for any number of reasons – what else is recorded?), or simply doesn’t exist (or soon won’t exist).

Those that clearly do not benefit from this incident are the Ukrainian State, the Ukrainian government, law abiding activists, lawful protesters and society – whether they be those that watch Inter and are sympathetic to its narrative or not.

President, Prime Minister, and Cabinet Ministers necessarily have to be swift and public in their condemnation of this incident despite any ripples Inter may cause in the political and societal pond.  Those arrested if indeed responsible will have to be subject to due process and proportionate sentencing.

This was not a criminal act aimed at making a statement about omnipresent oligarchy owned media (and readers would be perhaps wise to keep a watchful eye upon the ownership (or changing thereof) relating to Kolomoisky’s 1 + 1 media in the near future).

It is not a criminal act aimed at the Opposition Block or changing its political outlook – and it will not return to power any time soon (even if it manages to avoid a seemingly inevitable split).

It is not a criminal act that will diminish the Kremlin narrative that increasingly forcefully spews forth via Inter.

If this be a criminal act by those that consider themselves to be genuine patriots, rather than “patriots”, then it has accomplished nothing more than sufferance of a serious and unnecessary self-inflicted wound.

That said, as has been written here on many occasions, to incite, provoke, and influence the more extreme (of any flavour) is bread and butter security services work, ergo such involvement also cannot be excluded – but nevertheless any such possible involvement does not mitigate the fact that those responsible for this act have failed to ask themselves the most basic question – “кому это выгодно?” (Who benefits?)

Perhaps their picket would have been far better placed outside of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, or the Ministry of Information of Ukraine, if it was felt – and perhaps rightly – that Inter had crossed any broadcasting regulatory red lines?

If it was not felt that regulatory red lines had been crossed, even if ethical lines had, and their picket was thus an exercising of their rights to assembly and peaceful protest, (and peaceful some clearly found too difficult), then the fundamental right of Inter to free speech/expression also requires upholding (unless it too is unable to remain from incitement) in equal measure.

“… tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance…”

”the Court is also careful to make a distinction in its findings between, on the one hand, genuine and serious incitement to extremism and, on the other hand, the right of individuals (including journalists and politicians) to express their views freely and to “offend, shock or disturb” others.” – (ECHR Chamber judgment Erbakan v. Turkey, no. 59405/00, § 56, 6.07.2006) 

The weak grip upon rule of law held by the Ukrainian State was today subjected to an incident that will further reinforce that perception – and over the most fundamental of rights and against one of the necessary pillars of democracy (a free (if often unpalatable and reckless) media).

“кому это выгодно?” – (Who benefits?) – From this incident, nobody that should!

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