Posts Tagged ‘Poroshenko’

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Poroshenko decrees the creation of yet another reform advisory body

December 17, 2015

On 13th February 2015, President Poroshenko signed a decree creating the International Reform Council, appointing Mikhail Saakashvili as its head.

On 16th December 2015, President Poroshenko signed a decree abolishing the International Reform Council – thus clearly now Governor Saakashvili is no longer head of a body that does not exist – quite possibly as a result of the events of the last Reform Council meeting and the inglorious acts of Minister of Interior Avakov and the less than careful words of Prime Minister Yatseniuk toward Governor Saakashvili who clearly managed to “press their buttons” during the meeting.

In dissolving the International Reform Council by decree, President Poroshenko also created a new body that will be known as the International Advisory Council.  The body is an advisory council to the Head of State that will facilitate the implementation of reforms in Ukraine to international best practices.  In other words, it will do exactly what the no defunct International Reform Council did.

decree

The new Advisory Council is not headed by Governor Saakashvili as was its predecessor – neither is he to be part of it.

Chairman of the Board is President Poroshenko.  His deputy will be Boris Lozhkin who currently leads the Presidential Administration.

Those invited to compose the Advisory Council are  Carl Bildt, Tony Blair, Elmar Brok, Mikulas Dzurinda, Tony Abbott, Aleksander Kwasniewski, Bernard-Henri Levy, Anders Åslund, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Stefan Fule.

Whether or not these individuals have accepted such invitations is not entirely clear.  Certainly if Bernard-Henri Levy had accepted the role already, this blog would probably know by now.  Almost certainly in fact.  (Mr Levy was quietly offered a significant role within the Ministry of Culture by President Poroshenko previously but did not take up the offer.)

Thus, at the time of writing, who if any of these people have accepted positions on the latest “reform” body is unknown – though several were invited to be part of the now dissolved body created in February 2015, and perhaps will simply shuffle across without too many pointed questions as to why officially created bodies are created, dissolved, and recreated under a different name but doing exactly the same thing – rather than simply changing personnel where appropriate/necessary.

The newly created International Advisory Board, for readers information, is entitled to relevant and/or necessary documents and materials from central and local executive bodies, and State institutions, organisations and enterprises.  The Advisory Board may create working groups and/or expert committees – implying direct communication with the bodies from which it may draw (or perhaps drag) information from.

The creation of this new body simply cannot be seen as reform progress.

President Poroshenko cannot claim that he has not received sound and solid international advise on international reform best practice on a continuous basis from all manner of experts.  By now, after so much advise and for so long, there are no excuses over “what” and the “how”.  (The “who” is him, the “when” is now, and the “why” is because the nation demands it.)

What this new – and let’s be blunt it is simply “another” – reform body does is create a new forum with (some) new people to enable talk rather than be forced to walk when it comes to reform.

It is a case of being seen to be doing something (with enlightened people) when deliberately doing nothing for as long as possible.

It is a body to create more talking that has the power to instigate, for example an (or numerous) inter-departmental committee (or whatever), to ask for papers, to hold meetings, to propose, to discuss, to report back, to revise, to redraft – in order to hold more meetings, make more proposals, have more discussions, report back once more, revise the revisions and redraft yet again – the usual governmental stalling processes via the misuse of bureaucratic functions and obstructionism under the guise of creating a body to make whatever it takes to look to be doing something without actually doing anything – like reforming.

As US Ambassador Geoff Pyatt clearly stated after the faux “unity statement” (for there is anything but unity) following the Saakashvili/Avakov incident:

And the Ambassador is absolutely right – More reform, less politics.

The President does not need this newly created body for reform advise or the effective implementation of reforms to best international practice – one word from him to any western embassy and entire specialist subject teams of experts would arrive in Kyiv within 24 hours if it meant a reform would materialise – indeed there are entire international specialist advisory teams already in Ukraine.

The President actually needs the newly created International Advisory Committee to do the opposite, he needs it to instigate an inter-departmental committee (or whatever), to ask for papers, to hold meetings, to propose, to discuss, to report back, to revise, to redraft, in order to hold more meetings, make more proposals, have more discussions, report back once more, revise the revisions and redraft yet again – ad infinitum for as long as the many prickly and painful decisions can be delayed.

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A new way of doing politics – Ukraine? Ukrop

July 28, 2015

On 18th June 2015, Ihor Kolomoisky received official certification for his newly formed political party “Ukrop” from the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine.

Gennady Korban, who featured in yesterday’s entry in a rather, albeit deservedly, in a less than flattering way (as did his main rival), upon the registration of “Ukrop” – “A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics. Remember this day. It can be a turning point for Ukraine and for those who care about the fate of our country.”

If the illegal and odious events surrounding his campaign activities in Chernigov are a new chapter in Ukrainian politics, then that new chapter would seem almost a carbon copy of the previous one.

As yesterday’s entry stated – “So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.”

and

“That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception. A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%. Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.”

Sadly the return to the all too familiar of the squalid politics throughout the history of an independent Ukraine surrounding majority single mandate seats in particular.

"For buckwheat and small change I'm not for sale"

“For buckwheat and small change I’m not for sale”

What then, with Ukrop’s first romp into Ukrainian politics being a carbon copy of all the cancerous and discredited politics of Ukrainian past, can in any way be deemed as “a new chapter” proclaimed by Mr Korban when Ukrop was successfully registered?

Presumably it can only be that Ihor Kolomoisky is not hiding the fact the he is behind this political party, when historically he backed certain parties and certain politicians across all party lines behind the curtain – no differently to all the major oligarchy.

Therefore we are to understand that “a new chapter” means the thinly veiled interference and odious influence of the oligarchy within Ukrainian politics has been lifted – at least in part – rather than “a new chapter” being strict adherence to electoral rules and the principles of democratic processes?

(No doubt Mr Kolomoisky will continue to fund other parties and specific individuals across the party lines as will other oligarchs such as Messrs Firtash, Lavochkin et al. – unless prevented.)

Clearly the “Ukrop” party will have extensive funding for the local elections that yesterday it announced it would take part in nationwide – again according to Gennady Korban who is also the head of the Ukrop Party political council.  (As you would expect as a former Deputy Governor to Governor Kolomoisky when he headed Dnepropetrovsk.)

Gennady Korban

Gennady Korban

The extensive funding, weighted campaigning upon Mr Kolomoisky’s media networks, and anticipated continued wiping of feet upon existing (or future) electoral laws, is perhaps contingent upon two things.

The first, an as yet unfulfilled agreement when the current Rada coalition was formed, to change the electoral laws (again), to remove external party funding, providing funding from the public purse, enforced transparent funding of political parties, political campaigning restrictions/equality, and genuinely “open” political party lists.

Will the current coalition make this unfulfilled agreement a reality early within the next parliamentary session with sufficient time to come into force prior to the local elections in late October?

The second contingent was outlined in yesterday’s entry, “The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light. Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.”

As the Criminal Code of Ukraine provides for heavy fines and the jailing of offenders involved in electoral fraud, coercion and bribery, will the nefarious, unabashed and blatant events surrounding the vote for Seat 205 be the platform upon which the police and prosecutors will eventually throw those involved in nefarious campaigning – which sadly includes several of the candidates themselves – in jail, thus making a public (and necessary) attempt at ending the orgy of electoral corruption that occurred, and forewarning those that will (undoubtedly) try the same tactics at the local elections?

Depending upon the answers to these questions and the repercussions they may have, the internal and external messaging may be particularly helpful – or not.

A new chapter appeared in the history of Ukrainian politics“?  Perhaps – but it may well prove to be the same dismal read as the previous one.  Page 1 at Seat 205 has been a very poor introduction.

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The electoral farce of seat 205 – Desnyanskiy (Chernigov)

July 27, 2015

Having entered into a voluntary state of “purdah” relating to the election that took place yesterday for seat 205, Desnyanskiy district in Chernigov, that self-imposed silence, post polls closing, can now be lifted.

So having expected a complete farce as soon as it became clear more than two months ago that this election seat was little more than a proxy fight between President Poroshenko and Ihor Kolomoisky backed candidates, has it turned out to be the expected proxy battle and associated farce?

Undoubtedly so.

To begin with there were 127 candidates registered to fight for this seat.  Seven of those were political party candidates, whilst the rest were “self nominees”, a large number of which were “technical candidates” put forward to split voters loyal to one or another of the “favourites” to win.

Indeed, on election day itself, 36 candidates canceled their participation whilst obviously still being upon the printed ballot.  That left 84 “self-nominees” and the 7 political party candidates.

Of these 7 candidates, two have been the front-runners.  In the Kolomoisky corner sits Gennady Korban and in the Poroshenko corner, Sergei Berezenko.

205From the very start of each of the campaigning in District 205, both candidates and campaigns have continually wiped their feet upon the electoral laws of Ukraine and continued to do so to the point that even a few weeks ago, so many electoral violations were so blatantly obvious as to concluded the entire process severely compromised.

As of election day however, a mere 27 electoral law transgressions had been officially recorded – despite dozens more being apparent to anybody that has been monitoring events.  To say this election has been a farce is to be too kind – it has been nothing short of a criminal farce, surpassing the usual nefariousness associated with hotly contested single majority seats in Ukrainian elections.

Bribery, coercion, fake seals, large scale candidate drop outs on polling day etc., – hardly meet any parameters that would suggest a free and fair election.  Voting day may have been free, but preceding events were certainly not fair, nor were they within the Ukrainian electoral laws – indeed many occurrences are expressly prohibited by the Ukrainian electoral laws.

Ballot

That all observers (worthy of the name) anticipated this farce as long ago as May – as any proxy battle between Ihor Kolomoisky and the President was bound to end up – should raise questions as to why such a farce was allowed to manifest, almost without limitation, by the authorities from the very outset of the election campaigning.

That (probably with the tacit approval or by discrete request) Governor Saakashvili arrived late into the campaigning to support the President’s man, Mr Berezenko, to be met in an unnecessarily ugly face to face by Ihor Kolomoisky’s MP Boris Filatov supporting Mr Korban, when the election was already a farce beyond doubt, raises questions of sound leadership, situational awareness, and domestic/international perception.  A polished turd remains a turd, no matter who polishes it.

Yet another (and completely avoidable) proxy battle between Mr Kolomoisky and the President now wages via Messrs Saakashvili and Filatov.

As of the time of writing, exit polls have the President’s man, Mr Berezenko winning with 31.4% of the vote vis a vis Mr Kolomoisky’s man Mr Korban sitting on 17.1%.  Whatever the voting results however, the 27 (and growing) officially recorded electoral violations must be investigated, and this public farce cannot be undone easily.

The question is now whether the CEC of its own volition (or via encouragement from upon high) will declare the election invalid – or not.

The President, despite clearly wanting to beat Mr Kolomoisky in this proxy battle (seemingly to the point of allowing the electoral laws to be flouted almost daily) after such a farce needs to lift himself above this squalid political display and odious disregard for electoral law – and there is seemingly only one way to do that, even if at the expense of “his candidate” and the result.

There is a requirement now for the President to rise above this mess and insist that each and every electoral law transgression is met with the full force and by the letter of the electoral law.  Those guilty have to be held accountable – including his own candidate who has hardly distinguished himself.

That almost certainly means a new election – but if the rule of law is to be respected, the President wants to restore his image after allowing this farce to occur (and his candidate to run amok), and given the gross violations of the electoral law that have occurred, then so be it.

The President needs to have one eye on the local elections taking place nationally in October, elections that have just as much chance of such electoral irregularities and criminality occurring as has just been witnessed in  Chernigov wherever a majority single mandate seat presents itself.

In fact the local elections provide a perfect opportunity for this farce to be corrected with a simultaneous re-run of this election taking place.

The question now facing the CEC, the President’s party, and ultimately the President, is whether to accept a clearly corrupted, grubby single seat win at the very public expense of the rule of law being seen to be applied.

Insuring the rule of law is fully applied now, and any offenders receive punishments as proscribed within the law, may yet set the tone for the local elections in a more positive light.  Surely accepting a grubby little win in over a solitary seat now, will set a poor precedent for what follows in October.

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The Venice Commission on Constitutional/Judicial reforms – Ukraine

July 26, 2015

Probably one of the most underrated acts of the current president, cabinet of ministers, and sitting Rada, was the accommodation of almost all Venice Commission “recommendations” with regard to the constitutional amendments that facilitate “decentralisation“.

Time will now tell whether the Constitutional Court will have issues with the proposed “decentralisation” amendments, and if they deem all satisfactory, whether the 300 (plus) votes required for a constitution changing majority can be reached within the Rada ranks when the matter is placed before them once more, as stated here previously.

However, the constructive attitude of the Ukrainian political class was not unnoticed.

“I very much welcome that the Constitutional Commission of Ukraine approved on Friday draft amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralisation. The text approved integrates most of the recommendations made by the Venice Commission and I would like to thank the President of the Constitutional Commission and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Mr Volodymyr Groysman, for the excellent co-operation with the Venice Commission and congratulate him on the results of this co-operation.

Decentralisation is one of the key reforms required for the democratic development of the country in line with the aspirations of the people expressed during the revolution of dignity. The speedy adoption of the text by the Verkhovna Rada is now very important with a view to the local elections, which will take place in October, and the continuing negotiations in the framework of the Minsk process.

The Venice Commission stands ready to provide its assistance for further reforms, in particular the constitutional amendments concerning the judiciary.” – Gianni Buquicchio

Very good – or at least good, for whilst the Venice Commission may well have known the detail of proposed constitutional amendments designed to achieve “decentralisation”, the constituents of Ukraine were almost entirely in the dark, notwithstanding very broad brush-stroke remarks in the media that could have meant almost anything.

2751_venice_commisionSadly, the same blanket lack of knowledge relating to proposed constitutional amendments in the public realm exists when it comes to providing a pathway for judicial and prosecutors reforms.

However, the Venice Commission has released some preliminary opinions upon the matter, per the proposed constitutional amendments it has been sent.  Thus there is some insight into the proposed constitutional changes.

The major issues can be summarised as follows:

“The proposed amendments are a generally positive text which deserves to be supported. The amendments are well drafted.  Their adoption would be an important step forward towards the establishment of a truly independent judicial system in Ukraine.  The Venice Commission welcomes in particular:

– The removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to appoint the judges;
– The abolition of probationary periods for junior judges;
– The abolition of the “breach of oath” as a ground for dismissal of the judges;
– The reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the guarantees for its independence (notably the removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to express no confidence in the Prosecutor General) and the removal of its non-prosecutorial supervisory powers.

The text, however, still presents some shortcomings, especially with respect to the powers of the main State organs in this field.  If not corrected, these shortcomings might create a new danger of politicisation of the judiciary and perpetuate the problems of the current system.  In this respect, the Venice Commission formulates the following main recommendations:
– While the ceremonial role of the President to appoint judges seems well justified, this is not the case for his power to dismiss judges, which should be removed from the text;
– In addition, not only the President, but also the Verkhovna Rada should have a role in the election/ appointment of a limited number of members of the High Judicial Council.”

Do read the entire text of the Venice Commission preliminary “opinion”.  There is some nuanced wordsmithery in connection to a number of much smaller issues – but issues nonetheless – that should also be accommodated by the Ukrainian leadership.

Hopefully the same political will found to accommodate the Venice Commission recommendations for the “decentralisation” amendments, will again be found with regard to the Venice Commission recommendations (both major and minor) to come relating to the judiciary and prosecutors.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Ukrainian leadership will enlighten the electorate with details of proposed constitutional amendments (and their ramifications), and thus only the reasonably constant monitoring of the Venice Commission website is likely to provide clues to the detailed proposals made.

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Poroshenko in Odessa 10th April – Changes afoot

April 9, 2015

As has been mentioned far too often – because it has been far too long – Odessa has not seen a senior national politician in almost a year.

That is to change on 10th April, when President Poroshenko and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov descend upon the city, amongst other things, marking the anniversary of the liberation of the city from the German-Romanian occupiers of WWII/The Great Patriotic War.

The Interior Minister will announce the creation of a new municipal police service, a copy of that soon to begin work in Kyiv.  Thus from 20th April, competitive, transparent applications for roles in the new municipal police force will commence (without the high profile dignitaries present that attended in Kyiv for photo-ops undoubtedly).

By the 1st June, therefore, Odessa will have 3 separate police services.  It will have the National Police (including the criminal investigation, “special” units, etc.), its own newly formed and recruited Municipal Police, and the Military Police.

All jolly good.

However, as mentioned many times before, Odessa is also one of the few Oblasts that does not have “a friend of a friend” of the President as the Oblast Governor.  “Friends of friends” is an appointment theme that has featured strongly for the President – as mentioned here when commenting upon the replacement of Ihor Kolomoiski as Governor of Dnepropetrovsk a few weeks ago:

“President Poroshenko has moved swiftly to appoint an Acting-Governor in Dnepropetrovsk – he has temporarily appointed the Governor of Zaporozhye, Mr Valentin Reznichenko. However, prima facie it would appear to be little more than an act of desperation – no offence meant to Mr Reznichenko.

Mr Reznichenko has two major pluses as far as the President is concerned. The first is that Mr Reznichenko was born in Dnepropetrovsk and is therefore a local – at least by birth. No parachuting in of an otherwise “alien” Presidential loyalist required – even if few in Dnepropetrovsk will actually know who Mr Reznichenko is. That said, when other household names from Dnepropetrovsk consist of the likes of Yulia Tymoshenko or Viktor Pinchuk, choices to replace the (in)famous Igor Kolomoiski with a similar “big name” are necessarily more than a little limited, if not politically impossible.

The second plus is that Mr Raznichenko is indeed a loyalist to the President – or at least he is a loyalist to, and long term friend of, Boris Lozhkin, current head of the Presidential Administration. (However, President Poroshenko has known Mr Reznichenko for 15 years, according to the President in a statement when appointing him as Governor of Zaporozhye – “This man I’ve known for 15 years. He is strong-willed, effective leader who understands the problems of the economy.”)”

Having run out of trusted and loyal friends of his own, almost all those placed within the Presidential Administration or heading ministries, the President has been busy filling other critical posts – and the posts of Governor will become critical when “decentralisation” occurs at the year end – with “friends loyal to friends that are loyal to him – as noted above.

To a degree, a deniable power vertical – or at least a power vertical that is deliberately one step away from blatantly so.  That said, regional governors are appointed by the President, and ever has it been thus, that regional governors have been loyalists to the presidential incumbent of the day.  Perhaps more important than ever, is loyal regional governors to the President, if “decentralisation” is not to mean losing control of the nation (or parts of it) entirely.

This in turn raises questions over the proposed changes to Constitutional and electoral law that envisaged a move to elected regional governors – though it seems unlikely that this issue will be dealt with any time soon – political expediency.

Anyway, the current Odessa governor, Igor Palitsa is neither friend, nor friend of a friend, of President Poroshenko, and is therefore due to be exchanged as the slow but sure presidential maneuvering continues.

Thus, two days ago this tweet:

With all senior politicians having steered well clear of Odessa for far too long, it seems highly unlikely that the President would miss the opportunity to replace Mr Palitsa whilst here – it may be another year before he (or any other senior politician) bothers to come back, after all.

The question is therefore one of potential replacement – and the President, as ably displayed by the desperate moves in Dnepropetrovsk, has run out of “loyal friends”, and the well from which to draw “loyal friends of friends” seems also to be running dry too.  An issue further complicated by a lack of “loyal friends of friends” from Odessa.

Appointing a suitable, local, loyal “president’s man” in Odessa is therefore somewhat problematic when keeping within the current “1 person removed from the body” framework – in fact it cannot be done.

The “local man” with any degree of loyalty to President Poroshenko – or political allies – is clearly problematic.  Top of a very short list of those that tick at least some boxes would probably be Alexie Goncharenko, who ran the presidential election campaign for Poroshenko in Odessa last year.  Having been Chairman of the Regional Administration prior to becoming an MP for Block Poroshenko/Solidarity, and a long serving local deputy (for two parties and an independent), he knows very well, who’s who, what’s what and who’s doing what.  His appointment would upset to one degree or another, the local elite such as Sergei Kivalov, the current Mayor Trukhanov, and many others.

There is also the possibility of the ex-Mayor, ex-UDAR MP Eduard Gurvitz, who is currently kicking his unemployed political heels.  His appointment would be a disaster for Mayor Trukhanov, as there is much bad blood between the two men.  However, as the “Old Guard”, he is likely to accommodate the likes of Sergei Kivalov far more than current Governor Pilatsa has, or potentially, more than Mr Goncharenko would.

Does President Poroshenko owe Klitschko’s UDAR still?  If so, Gurvitz is a likely appointment.  If not, then from his own party, the ever ambitious Goncharenko is likely to provide the loyalty required for a step up upon the political ladder, but also cause large ripples within the Odessa elite’s pond.

Aside from these two, only one or two other remote and unlikely local options presenting themselves – and it is doubtful they could control the ex-Regionaires/Opposition Block MPs, the behind the curtain business elite, a nefarious Mayor that remains far too close to his mafia past (and associates), not withstanding the ability to actually force the implementation of reform policy.

Of course, 10th April may come and go with Governor Palitsa remaining in post – but as the senior politicos rarely leave Kyiv to visit the provinces, it seems unlikely that the President will miss the opportunity to personally replace the Odessa Governor whilst in the city, inserting one of his own(ish).

 

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Getting the money back – Ukraine

March 27, 2015

Somewhat belatedly perhaps, by Presidential Decree, President Poroshenko yesterday created the “Inter-agency Working Group on Coordination of the Return of Funds, Received in a Criminal Way by Former Senior Officials, to Ukraine.”  Imaginatively titled, all would agree.

Surprisingly for a presidential decree – or indeed anything generated entirely within domestic Ukrainian politics – there is a finite time limit to produce results.  The inter-agency working group has been given two months to complete its task.  Tuesday 26th May, when time expires, noted in many diaries undoubtedly.

Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko will head the team comprised of Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Andrei Taraov, the 1st Deputy Head of the SBU, Head of the Main Directorate for Combating Corruption & Organised Crime Control, Central Security Service Yuri Artukhov, Deputy Foreign Minister for European Integration Elena Zerkal, Deiputy Head of the State Service for Financial Monitoring of Ukraine Vitaly Zubri, Deputy Interior Minister, Head of the Main Investigation Department Vitaly Sakal, Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze, Deputy Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine Volodymyr Sinkevich, Deputy Head of the National Bank of Ukraine Yakov Smoli, and Deputy Minister of Justice Anton Yanchuk…….and friends.

A lot of Deputy Heads – and notwithstanding the numerous very dodgy domestic “deals” for domestic assets during the period of “The Family” regime – all with existing job descriptions that would point to a heavy bias toward looking at Europe and assets therein, first and foremost.

Their two month mission has two tasks.  The first is to be extremely creative, engage in clever thinking (and enlightened conversation with their European counterparts undoubtedly) to arrive at mechanisms to return the assets stolen by the previous nefarious regime to Ukraine.  The second task is to identify any legislation that prevents any such return easily, and suggest amendments to domestic statute that would smooth the path to State repossession.  Perhaps GRECO can lend a hand with the latter.

Nevertheless, the clock is now ticking within an identified, and short, timescale – most unusually for Ukraine.

That raises two possibilities as to why there is such a short time frame – for it is surely not about to become standard practice for presidential decrees of presidentially created working groups – or Ukrainian politics in general.

The first possibility is that the Europeans have told President Poroshenko in very blunt terms, that the current freezing of assets under the auspices of “personal sanctions” cannot remain forever thus.  A message has perhaps been passed that any further longterm freezing will require some form of legitimate criminal investigation of which the Europeans are reasonably convinced is justified, and have a chance of success in any judicial process.  In doing so, as is always the case with technical fraud and money laundering cases, it can then take years before assets are unfrozen pending the conclusion of any due process.  Alternatively, if assets can be returned swiftly(ish) when the evidence is clear-cut.

The second possibility is that President Poroshenko (and the Cabinet of Ministers) is well aware that societal support for both executive power branches, is eroding rather rapidly – mainly due to the economic situation in the country, but aggravated by a perceived lack of timely reforms.  This is one of several reasons that for the past few months, there have been several mentions of a Cabinet reshuffle in the blog – an attempt to re-energise public support for the President and a new-look Cabinet of Ministers.

There are no serious domestic political rivals to President Poroshenko, or the current majority Rada coalition.  The Opposition Block and People’s Will regurgitations of the Party of Regions remain extremely toxic within the Ukrainian constituency (notwithstanding most of their traditional voter base is either annexed by, or now controlled by, Russia).  The biggest political threat to both President and Cabinet of Ministers is the lack of energised public support in the run up to the local elections due in October – for those that win will benefit from the decentralisation/devolution of powers to the provinces that are expected by the year end.  Something of a disaster awaits if those who don’t vote, either out of apathy, or to make a political statement by abstaining, outnumber those that do.

Without that energised public support associated with President Poroshenko until recently – or indeed to avoid guilt by association to the President – it is perhaps why “Block Poroshenko” is now in the process of re-re-branding back to its original “Solidarity” name.

To re-energise public opinion, both President and Cabinet need to either accomplish some populist achievements – such as repatriating a lot stolen State wealth, or deliver tangible reforms that will be both seen and felt by society, that will in part, mitigate the economic situation.  In the absence of either, and perhaps it is now to late to avoid anyway, a major Cabinet reshuffle is the only other option that may achieve a general and broad re-energising of the Ukrainian constituency.

However, should the newly created  “Inter-agency Working Group on Coordination of the Return of Funds, Received in a Criminal Way by Former Senior Officials, to Ukraine” manage to actually find a way to swiftly repatriate stolen State wealth, there remains the matter of preventing it being stolen once again.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what enlightening cleverness this working group can generate within the next two months.

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Remember the Anti-Corruption Bureau?

March 25, 2015

The on-going, seemingly glacial effort at a functioning Anti-Corruption Bureau has not been mentioned at the blog since the end of 2014.

Time, perhaps, for an update, although there is sadly little to update as is the case with glacial movement.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau was supposed to be already operating by now.  It’s legislative legitimacy for existence coming into effect in January 2015.  It is an entity that is supposed to employ approximately 700 staff, and yet it is still to fully recruit, or even be given its appointed “head”.  This due to a very long and highly convoluted process that surrounded the selection of the committee in charge of candidate selection, and thereafter (hopefully) thorough checks for nefariousness of the 3 candidates that will ultimately be put before the President to make a final appointment.

Indeed, whilst the President is stating he is not interfering in the process – he is making public statements that he would like the process to be somewhat more timely.

Of the initial 176 candidates that showed some interest, after several rounds of sifting, 4 candidates remain – Yakov Varychev, Mykola Siry, Artem Sytnik and Viktor Chumak.  One more to fall by the wayside prior to the final 3 reaching the President.  However, with 700 staff to employ, it would seem rather erroneous not to employ these 4 heavily vetted candidates somewhere within the hierarchy of the new NACB anyway.

Messrs Varychev and Sytnik are former investigators for the PGO in different  regions of Ukraine, Mr Siry is/was a lawyer for Ms Tymoshenko, and Mr Chumak is an MP within the President’s party.

Whilst it seems very likely that the selection committee – each member selected at extraordinary lengths for their moral and ethical fortitude – has not been “political” in its robustness in candidate selection, verification and investigation, it seems unlikely that there will be no absolute absence of political influence in the President’s decision.

Whilst the President may well be delighted to see all remaining candidates within the hierarchy of the new NACB, (at least one hopes that would be so), it is difficult to see him appointing anybody connected so closely to Ms Tymoshenko to the very top job, unfortunately for Mr Siry.

Perhaps a provincial former PGO investigator would be the most politically neutral decision.

However, only a fool would bet against the appointment of Viktor Chumak from the President’s party – and despite the numerous, labourious, and a-political checks and interviews he will have been through to get thus far, some will still smell nepotism if he is appointed.

Whatever the outcome, as things stand, there remains no fully functioning Anti-Corruption Bureau, nor “Head” thereof – 3 months after it was expected to begin its role.  As the days, weeks and months pass by, the pressure to get a few notable results for any new “Head” before the year end grows – particularly when the President, even if he already knows whom he will appoint from the remaining 4 candidates, will have to be seen to spend the appropriate amount of time “pondering” before making his appointment.

Questions therefore – April, May or June before a “Head” is appointed for the NACB?  2015 or 2016 before it is fully staffed? 2, 3 or 4 NACB successes before the end of 2015?

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