Posts Tagged ‘PoR’


The return of a prodigal son – or cutting a grubby little deal?

March 1, 2015

Amongst the rightful headlines of the criminal slaying of Boris Nemtsov and the suicide of Mykhailo Chechetov, whilst under house-arrest in Kyiv with on-going investigations into several historically nefarious acts, a similarly nefarious prodigal son returned to Ukrainian soil with far, far less media attention – in fact almost none.

Former Education Minister Dmitry Tabachnik, much loathed during his time in office – a loathing that has not abated since his feeing Ukraine when the Yanukovych regime collapsed – returned to Ukraine from Tel Aviv on flight PS776 a few hours ago.

Whether he was traveling under Ukrainian or Israeli citizenship, perhaps matters not, unless he was trying to sneak into Ukraine – which seems rather unlikely given his notoriety/infamy.

Tel Aviv airport 28/2/15

Tel Aviv airport 28/2/15

That he is wanted by the Ukrainian authorities for several crimes, including a pricing scam over Ukrainian school books and nefarious dealings with educational premises during his tenure as former President Yanukovych’s Minister of Education notwithstanding, his return is clearly of his own free will, rather than under any form of arrest or escort – or deportation from Israel.

It seems very unlikely this prodigal son has returned and is about to throw himself upon the mercy of Ukrainian society, unburdening his soul of past misdeeds.

What seems far more likely is that his return has been negotiated, perhaps with immunity from public prosecution, or with a guilty plea to a minor administrative offence carrying no significant penalty, in return for giving the Ukrainian equivalent of Queen’s/State’s evidence against those within the now vanquished Yanukovych regime.

Presumably he will have his liberty restrained in some form or another whilst the details of any grubby little deal is thrashed out, finalised, signed and then implemented – without the prospect of a leap from a window akin to the late Mr Chechetov, or any significant jail time (if any).

Indeed, in light of recent events over the last 24 hours both in Russia and Ukraine, some form of “protective custody” may be of benefit to him – especially if he is about to unlock the Yanukovych regime’s Pandora’s Box.

The issue to be judged, is whether his testimony and insight into the previous regime’s chronic corruption schemes and oppressive tendencies are worth the leniency his is likely to gain in providing it?  As loathsome as he is, the answer is probably “yes”.

A rather unexpected occurrence to be blunt – and certainly something to keep an eye on in the future.


Election loyalties and tactical blunders – Odessa example

October 12, 2014

Not so very long ago, by and large the Ukrainian voting constituency could be divided into Orange and Blue – or Tymoshenko and Yanukovych.

Very much like other nations, many of those who voted Orange have never and would never vote Blue and vice versa.  No different to Americans who always vote Republican and never Democrat, or the British whom always vote Labour and never Conservative and vise versa.

Naturally onlookers may ponder such identity loyalty regardless of platform, policy or candidate – and many social and political scientists do.

The RADA elections in 3 weeks time, this year has no Blue running.  What is left of the official Party Regions is not running.  There is no party list for the party stalwarts to insure their RADA entry.  They are faced with first past the post, head to head electioneering for specific seats.  The exception to that may see Sergei Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine party pass the 5% electoral threshold.  The “Opposition Block” may very well struggle to overcome this hurdle.

Nobody would be surprised to see any of the old Regionaires who win any first past the post seats to coalesce within the “Opposition Block” in any new RADA formation – whether they have any current declared affiliation toward it or not.  It is unclear as yet whether Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine who whilst will certainly be in opposition, may shun any formal connections with the “Opposition Block”.  Time will tell.

However, the Orange vote is no longer Batkivshchyna or Ms Tymoshenko’s to dominate.  It too has been decimated.  The demise of Party Regions and Batkivshchyna long since predicted here.

Though Batkivshchyna and Ms Tymoshenko will enter the RADA passing the 5% party threshold, it is likely to lose a vast amount of votes to Block Poroshenko, Lyashko’s The Radical Party,  Hrytsenko’s Civil Position Party and Yatseniuk’s “People’s Front”.  Very vibrant, multi-party, democratic, and undoubtedly requiring coalition building to form a stable majority – a coalition from which we can expect Ms Tymoshenko and Batkivshchyna to be excluded.

So much for the party lists and 5% threshold – but what of those Regionaries who may win the first past the post seats for which the run and yet were uncomfortably close to the former President and were actively part of his corrupt pyramid?  In Odessa for example, the likes of Sergei Kivalov, Mykola Skoryk, and Eduard Matviychuk to name but 3.

Herein lies a problem for the traditional Orange vote and now displaced Blue vote from Odessa.

The Orange vote has numerous options and candidates for each seat to choose from as listed above – together with several others such as Svoboda who are unlikely to pass the 5% threshold but theoretically can win first past the post seats.  In short, the historical Orange vote will be distributed across numerous candidates.  All candidates will get votes, but none will get sufficient to be sure of victory.

And what of the Blue voters?  None will vote Orange per Batkivshchyna as stated at the very start of this entry, but some will vote for the Poroshenko candidates and perhaps the Yatseniuk candidates due to both leaders having history with Odessa – and history with Odessa counts when it comes to gaining votes.  Parachuted in candidates with no connection or history need not apply.  Others will vote for Strong Ukraine candidates in the belief it will be the only genuine opposition party to pass the 5% threshold.

Many however, will vote for those who used to be Blue – Kivalov, Skoryk and Matviychuk – based upon old loyalties, name recognition, the usual bribery, gift offering and local media bias.  This despite general acknowledgement they were far too closely involved with Yanukovych not have have been large beneficiaries of the Yanukovych system.

Very noticeably, there are no well known old Blues running against each other for any seat.  For example the Markov brothers or Evgene Tsarkov are not running for any seats, and thus the old Blue vote will not be as thinly distributed or split over a particular seat as it could have been.

It follows that although there may be some split of the Blue vote away from the Yanukovych loyalists and beneficiaries, Kivalov, Skoryk and Matviychuk – sufficient will remain to see them quite possibly become MPs due to the many Orange candidates sapping each others votes for each seat and failing to provide a more focused opposition.

As and when these nefarious individuals – and others from other towns and cities – are returned to the RADA, aside from onlookers pondering and decrying the misplaced/blind loyalty issues of some voters once again, perhaps there should be some recognition that had the non-Blue parties been more tactically aware, regarding certain seats against certain well known and corrupt/nefarious candidates, they may have chosen to field a single candidate to focus their voting constituency upon.

Maybe there is still time for parties to negotiate a single candidate to run against these men – maybe not.

All of that said, there is a definite need for an effective opposition in the RADA.  It is, however, a case of returning an effective and constructive opposition rather than returning a corrupt and nefarious body of people that are a hangover of the very worst of Ukrainian politics historically.  An effectively coercive and nefarious opposition may be as bad as a non-existent opposition.


Sideshow Bob – Viktor Medvedchuk

June 24, 2014

Seemingly President Putin has anointed his close friend Viktor Medvedchuk as his “peace envoy” to eastern Ukraine.

Viktor Mededchuk being the leader of the “Ukrainian Choice”  public movement that came into being in order to scupper the EU agreements when Viktor Yanukovych was in power and “wavering”.  Mr Medvedchuk became the permanent Kremlin whisperer in ex-President Yanukovych’s ear – and also one of the most despised men in Ukraine at the same time.

The “Ukrainian Choice” public movement media campaign delighted in the U turn of President Yanukovych – very quickly disappearing from the public domain once the then president took flight.

President Putin is also the god father of Viktor Medvedchuk’s daughter.

However, by anointing Viktor Medvedchuk as the Kremlin’s “peace envoy” it displays limited intent from a Kremlin that has nothing to gain by attaining anything like a genuine peace in eastern Ukraine.  It is nothing more than a sideshow.

sideshow bobmedvedchuk
For Viktor Medvedchuk, this presents an opportunity to try and gain some public traction once more within the Ukrainian political circles.

President Putin has made it clear that he welcomes Mr Medvedchuk’s preliminary contact with those within Luhansk and Donetsk.  He has also stated “Medvedchuk received the go-ahead to a meeting with the OSCE mission regarding the establishment of a dialogue between Kyiv and southeastern Ukraine, which Russia supports at ambassadorial level.”

Quite which ambassadors he expects to meet and discuss eastern Ukraine remains unclear.

The People’s Republics have no ambassadors that any Ukrainian ambassador would meet for it implies recognition.  Having a chat with Mr Medvedchuk as a Ukrainian citizen would be no problem.  Having a chat with him as President Putin’s “peace envoy” presents little problems either.  Should he don any form of official appointment from either region within any unrecognised administrations – it is the end of any role as interlocutor.

So what meetings at ambassadorial level does Mr Putin refer to?  Why would any ambassadors need Viktor Medvedchuk to be present for such discussions?

OSCE will  of course meet with Mr Medvedchuk – it is within their remit.  However OSCE has already publicly stated that it supports President Poroshenko’s plan and asks all to support it.  If President Poroshenko’s plan works then it works to the benefit of Ukraine – but not to the benefit of Kremlin interests.  Nobody should be under any illusions that the Kremlin will continually seek to undermine and subvert Ukraine for a decade or so to come.

Mr Medvedchuk will no doubt be speaking to Boris Lozhkin, the new head of the Presidential Administration as often as Mr Lozhkin will pick up the telephone to him.  The two men used to have shared media interests some years ago.  However, Mr Lozhkin is not about to abandon the presidential plan or sell out President Poroshenko for the sake of Mr Medvedchuk.

The Medvedchuk sideshow is intended to have only a few results.

The first to try and paint a picture of Kremlin attempts to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, thus avoiding further sanctions from the Europeans in particular – on something close Kremlin terms by engaging with those Kyiv refuses to via a very pro-Kremlin intermediary.

The second is to provide a well known Ukrainian voice parroting the Kremlin line once more.  Since the implosion of Party of Regions, the Kremlin has lost its well known voices in Ukraine.  Promoting Viktor Medvedchuk back onto the Ukrainian political stage, a tried, tested and trusted voice may gain some traction – or not.

The game plan bonus, should Mr Medvedchuk gain a little traction in the Ukrainian media, to erode the presidential plan and drop a firm anchor preventing – or at the very least slowing considerably – Ukraine’s European integration.

As unlikely as all of this is to succeed, it will be tried nonetheless.  Perhaps it need only work until new RADA elections should any pro-Kremlin factions emerge – if they don’t, then it need work for as long as it can have even the slightest drag effect.

The Medvedchuk sideshow is just that.  A Kremlin attempt to apply a very thin veneer of “peaceful deescalation” for the sake of appearances, whilst continuing to try and undermine Ukrainian direction westward.

Nevertheless, as with all sideshows, watching it can be an interesting way to pass the time now and again – and be aware, sometimes sideshows make it all the way to Broadway.



An eventful few days for Oleg Tsarov

June 4, 2014

Yesterday was Oleg Tsarov’s birthday.

Today, 235 RADA MPs voted to strip him of his deputies mandate – thus removing his immunity from prosecution – sanctioning his arrest and detention for “calls to commit violent regime change and overthrow the constitutional order in Ukraine” at the request of the out-going Prosecutor General.  (Let’s see how that comes into play in the future.)


His Facebook page is an interesting read – and something to keep an eye over the coming days if his apprehension is less than swift.  Perhaps he will join what is a growing enclave of ex-Presidents in Rostov?  (Yanukovych and Ankvab.)

It is interesting that 235 RADA Mps voted to do so – for it is far more in number than Batkivshchyna, UDAR and Svoboda have amongst their number – and much less than the number of MPs present in the RADA today.  (Also today 300 voted to inaugurate persistent-elect Poroshenko at 10.00 on 7th June for example.)

One wonders just how much another 20 MPs leaving the Party of Regions today affected any voting.

Anyway, an incredibly rare occasion whereby the RADA strips one of its own of immunity – but these are extraordinary times.



Tomorrow’s parties – Where are they today?

May 26, 2014

Yesterday was one of those days my good lady hates – my day full of meetings with diplomats, representatives of international institutions and international NGOs, talking politics, policy and solutions – and she sat thoroughly bored throughout.

It was the sort of day that provides more than a weeks worth of blog entries if all that was discussed, debated and  agreed/disagreed upon was written about by unpacking it all into separate issues.

As always with such meetings, the Chatham House rule applies if I decide to write about any discussion. Of the numerous topics discussed with various people, I will concentrate upon a specific issue raised during several hours of discussion with those very clever people from Carnegie.

Having firstly thoroughly trashed the use of  the almost meaningless but en vogue term “decentralisation” in favour of “devolution”  for reasons of clarity of function and perception when it comes to the subject of moving power from the political and policy centre to the regions, we eventually, several stops later, reached the subject of this entry – the political party void on the horizon for Ukraine.

All acknowledged that Svoboda has peaked and will become little more than a regional party once more.

All agreed that Mr Akhmetov deliberately chose Mr Mikhail Dobkin to lead the Party Regions into oblivion, allowing the ballot box to kill it off rather than Mr Akhmetov simply withdrawing his funding prior to the public nod of approval to bury it.

There was no disagreement that Batkivshchyna will also split into 2 or 3 far less potent individual entities – in effect ceasing to exist as it does today.

UDAR, once Vitali Klitschko becomes Kyiv Mayor will also struggle to remain whole.

So much for the agreed consensus of opinion.

Our problem – and more specifically the problem for Ukraine, was what comes next?

The days of personality based parties in Ukraine are all but over, so where will the new parties come from to fill the void?  They will be ideologically driven if they are to capture the attention of the ever-growing post-Soviet electoral constituency.

Despite a particularly uncivil civil society predating EuroMaidan, the events in Kyiv from December to February created a civil society with clear purpose, enthusiasm and no shortage of previously missing traction with the public.

In a democracy civil society is normally a fertile breading ground for the civic minded to move through from lobbying and activism directly into politics and the legislature.

The current problem is that civil society sees the Ukrainian political class as corrupt, feckless and generally contemptible – which it is.  Therefore it intends to fight the good fight and try and keep the political class from straying from a righteous accountable and democratic path – fair enough, that is part of the role of a robust and vibrant civil society.

However, the most capable individuals within Ukrainian civil society display no desire to move into politics themselves, despite the fact that it seems clear the current party structures that have historically fought for power within Ukrainian politics are all about to fall apart at about the same time.

Of the very few unanswered questions of the evening, was how to move the better and untainted civil society individuals through from civic activist to the political class when they have no desire to do so, and how to generate ideologically founded political parties now, in preparation for the significant party void that will soon descend upon the RADA?

Whether such parties be ideologically centre-left, centre-right, or centre, and be they pro-European or pro-Eurasian, they will need to emerge to replace and/or resist what remains of the political vehicles/parties created 20 years ago simply for personality projection or interests protection.

Some new parties will be created from the splits amongst current parties that have already – or will very soon – manifest themselves.  Others will necessarily need to be born free from inherited political legacies – but from where with a reluctant civil society is a big question.



The necessary end to personality politics – Ukraine

February 23, 2014

I am going to allow myself to fast-forward past the next few days and weeks of flux and uncertainty in Ukraine – past lazy western media clichés, past self-praise by external actors over the outcomes of which they have been little more than bit-part players, oft far too late in their actions.

I will look past Constitutional issues, past whether the opposition parties will retain a unity – or even friendly terms – once their common cause has left the political scene.

Instead there is a need to look toward the necessary end to personality politics in Ukraine.

Many times I have written about the need to consign both President Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko to the political rubbish bin/history books of Ukraine.

Quite simply no politician can be allowed to become more powerful than the party they are part of.  A political party must control the ego and ambition of its leaders – particularly so when they are in power.

It was the downfall of Ms Tymoshenko and ultimately the downfall of this President, that neither of their respective parties managed to control either of them.

Needless to say, that whilst I have no issues with the release of Ms Tymoshenko (probably some time today) – guilty or not, her trial was flawed and her 7 year sentence unquestionably disproportionate – her return to political life, considering she has the biggest ego in Ukraine, is not to be relished.  Her time has passed whether she knows it or not.

A distinct and uncompromising move toward party policy, ideology, collective responsibility and accountability is required across the entire political spectrum – less of a journey perhaps for Svoboda and the Communists who are the only political parties with an identifiable ideology, though neither will have a majority constituency amongst the Ukrainian electorate in the near future.  Lesser coalition partners remains their foreseeable future.

Perhaps Ms Tymoshenko will be persuaded to forget running the country either as President or Prime Minister by the current opposition leaders.  Perhaps wise heads within the European Peoples Party will convince her.  I doubt either can quell her ego though.

It maybe that it will be left for the voting Ukrainian public to return such verdict in a far more embarrassing manner than is really necessary – perhaps that is the most appropriate and democratic way – though it is surely not the most gracious.

A Ukraine that looks forward needs leaders – plural – who can work honestly and transparently  together despite differences as a political class, and across party lines.  That requirement simply removes Ms Tymoshenko from any workable political leadership equation, unless she undergoes a personality transplant as well as treatment for her medical condition when she eventually reaches Germany.

However consider that from amongst all those reasonable candidates for RADA Speaker today – following the resignation of Rybak from the position – Turchinov, closest of allies to Ms Tymoshenko, has been chosen as his successor.  You are left to wonder whether the opposition – particularly Batkivshchyna – are aware of what really needs to happen across the broad political landscape of Ukraine.


Political deals and the question of their wider legitimacy – Ukraine

February 22, 2014

And so it came to pass that yet another (flimsy looking) deal has supposedly been reached at a political level between the Ukrainian authorities, opposition parties and foreign interlocutors of both Russia and EU.

However, regardless of the merits – or not – of any deal done (early presidential elections, coalition government and return to 2004 Constitution), and regardless of whether all concerned will actually stick to it whilst implementation occurs, it is necessary to be blunt – it is necessary to  recognise that the Ukrainian  opposition has never managed to get in front of “Maidan” and lead it.

Maidan has always led the opposition, right from the very first day Mustafa Nayyem started it all with his Facebook call to protest.  When the opposition eventually realised it had momentum, they were too late to the party to have any credibility.  They have never been allowed to fully hijack the protests since, simply being tolerated and allowed to ride the wave of discontent.

In short, convincing opposition leadership of Maiden? – Little to none.

The question is therefore, will any deal have traction amongst the protesting masses who have no faith in the feckless political class of Ukraine, regardless of what flavour it is – and an increasing lack of faith in the foreign interlocutors and what they represent?

Even if there is sufficient traction to bring an unstable peace immediately, the devil is not only within the detail of the agreement as to how good or bad it will be perceived to be, but also what occurs during the time that  passes between agreement and the results it brings.

Nevertheless, resolute reconciliation has to start somewhere – even if only amongst a political class, rather than between the political class and society.

You cannot help but think that a deal that serves to provide the opportunity to remove the current president only 90 days earlier than would have happened anyway, that does not provide for constitutional change until September at the absolute earliest, leaving politically controlled and corrupt institutions of state unchanged until then, thus allowing for the creeping spectre of the authorities to quietly seek retribution for months, and provides for 10 months of internal and external interference and provocation, falls far, far short of the expectations of a large part of society that has seen almost 100 die and many thousands injured when it comes to time scale for genuine democratic change.

Is it reasonable to expect the majority of society to accept an uninterrupted continuance of the current presidential governance for many more months when considering recent events – or is it too late?

I suspect that the political class are once again far behind the curve when it comes to understanding Ukrainian society which has outgrown their tired grip on the time scale of change – but a cessation of violence is an absolute must to move forward and if this can work to the satisfaction of all, then let us hope that it does!


Time to seriously consider the exit

February 21, 2014

No. no.  I am not considering exiting Ukraine – nothing so dramatic.  It’s home for all that is good and bad about it, and here I will remain regardless.

I am referring to the mounting body count for which the authorities, having far greater resources at their control, have to take the brunt of responsibility for.

I recognise of course, that there are elements within those protesting who are also responsible for deaths, provocation and injuries.  I also recognise that neither the authorities nor opposition politicians have very much – if any – control over the actions of these elements.

When large numbers of protesters are expected to abide by a truce negotiated between a deeply unpopular president and a merely tolerated (but not followed) opposition, it is wishful thinking to expect it to last – and so it has transpired that last it did not.  Deaths in double figures today once more.

However, the more extreme elements do not exist in significant strength or depth – they are not a match for the full and unmitigated the machinery of the institutions of state when all is said and done.  Whatever these elements can do, the institutions of state are more than capable of a response far more disproportionate to incidents to which they are reacting – ergo the authorities that control the institutions of state must carry the largest burdens of responsibility – provoked or otherwise.

Thus as the body count of both protesters and police continues to rise on an almost daily basis, the ultimate responsibility is that of the President.

Clearly the Rubicon has been crossed by both State and society and clearly society cannot offer its resignation to calm matters – certainly not to authorities with a totalitarian outlook and little regard for the due processes of rule of law.

Thus there is but one way to avoid a bloodbath becoming a humanitarian disaster – and that is for the current president to be encouraged to exit the political stage – swiftly – for the sake of the nation.  Quite clearly a national unity government operating under the current constitution rather than that of 2004 would be rather pointless as it would be powerless via a vis presidential whim.  The “western choice” to lead Party of Regions during this time of transition is clearly Sergey Tigipko – a man more than capable of working with the opposition in a national unity government.

This tweet echoing conversations I had in Kyiv with a couple of diplomats at the end of last year.

There is perhaps also a lesson to be learned from Mr Putin’s time in office, in that he consistently backs losers in Ukraine.  He backed Yanukovych overtly in 2004 and got Yushenko.  He tacitly backed Tymoshenko in 2010 and got Yanukovych.  Russian support for Yanukovych now, given its track record of backing Ukrainian losers is ominous – though expecting Russia to whisper in the presidential ear that it is time to head for a negotiated exit is clearly out of the question until a suitable alternative has been identified – if one can be identified – to put the Russian colours behind.

Thus it will fall to “blunt private conversations” with both president and those that surround him, to encourage his negotiated exit – whether that mean an immunity from prosecution guaranteed by an external actor, the retention of ill-gotten gains, a quiet life in the gilded cage of his Mezhyhirya home – whatever.

Solutions to the Ukrainian crisis are few, as are the rapidly reducing future options of the current president when it comes to a very quiet retirement somewhere other than prison as the body count continues to rise.

Perhaps it is time to quietly but robustly offer a negotiated way out now.

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