Posts Tagged ‘rule of law’

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White Hammer coordinator disappears – A who dunnit?

February 21, 2017

Among the small number of odious far right nationalist groups in Ukraine is the group “White Hammer”, an organisation coordinated by Vladislav Goranin.

If a reader hasn’t heard of Mr Goranin or White Hammer, well join almost the entirety of the Ukrainian constituency in that obliviousness.

According to the website of White Hammer (a link to which will deliberately not be provided, as needlessly promulgating extreme nationalist flapdoodle falls far outside the sensibilities of the blog), Mr Goranin was forcibly abducted at the junction of Vasilkovskaya and Stelmaha in Kyiv  on the night of 21st February.

White Hammer, later making public the apparent abduction stated “Most likely the work of the SBU“.

Hmm.

Extremist groups be they left or right or of a particular cause are going to appear as blips to be monitored (often no more) upon the radar by policing and intelligence agencies alike.  Such groups are by their extreme (and often paranoid) nature the most easily manipulated , open to infiltration, and are certainly not immune to the occasional agent provocateur.  Ever has it been thus and ever shall it be so

However, when it comes to the SBU deciding to forcibly abduct an almost entirely unknown coordinator of a more or less unknown nationalist movement rather than simply arrest him (on a pretext if necessary), it seems all rather unnecessary.

The SBU has unsurprisingly denied any involvement in the disappearance (or alleged abduction) of Mr Goranin, dismissing the statement of White Hammer as nothing more than spurious – “The Ukrainian Security Service did not perform and does not perform any operational or investigative action in relation to the coordinator of the “White Hammer” organisation, Vladislav Goranin.”

A statement that is unambiguous, and given the less than harmonious relationships between different extreme groups (of similar or opposed bias) Mr Goranin will probably not be short of a few adversaries that are equally like to abduct him, if not more so.

The SBU however, has publicly undertaken to investigate the disappearance of Mr Goranin – something that surely falls within the remit of the police rather than that of the SBU.

Why then has the SBU decided to investigate what is (possibly) a crime to which the police should deal?

Is it a matter of public relations after being accused of the crime to then be involved in solving it?

Is it that Mr Goranin – or White Hammer – is more than a blip of the SBU radar despite the SBU public statement?

Or is it perhaps that the circumstances of the alleged crime and the tactics employed by the apparent abductors display the traits and professionalism of those that the SBU would be interested in and who are capable of manipulation, infiltration and inserting the occasional agent provocateur with groups such as “White Hammer”?

Presumably the SBU has already dismissed this alleged incident as simply a publicity stunt by “White Hammer” to raise its otherwise almost entirely absent profile among the Ukrainian/Kyiv constituency.  How much publicity could be gained from waiting for this hammer to fall and then subsequently raised when he is found?

T’will be interesting to see how this incident concludes.

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Moldavian meetings

January 5, 2017

For the first time since 2008, a President of Moldova, Igor Dodon met with a “President of Transnistria” Vadim Krasnoselsky.

Whether it proves to be anything more than a symbolic gesture by pro-Kremlin Moldavian President Dodon remains to be seen, for his powers as president are extremely limited (which is perhaps a good thing being a robust supporter of federalising Moldova).

Moldova is a parliamentary democracy with the President having very little sway over policy or legislation.  (As such the Moldavian parliamentary elections of 2018 matter far more than the recent election of Mr Dodon as President of Moldova.)

What was known to be discussed appears to have been all rather sensible – and occurred outside of the longstanding 5+2 format which may or may not further frustrate an already frustrated process.  Nevertheless issues such as agriculture in the Dubasari district, education and diplomas, and the movement of citizens across the Dniester river were discussed.

It is said they will meet again soon with proposal to solving the issues discussed and to set timelines to implement agreed solutions.

Time, as it always does, will tell when it comes to results, particularly as President Dodon would have to have the Moldavian parliament “on side” to actually deliver much (if anything).

With regards to meetings, and perhaps worthy of note for those in Kyiv, on 26th December, 3 days after Mr Dodon’s election as president, the odious and criminal Mykola Skoryk MP (Oppo Block) quietly visited Moldova attending a Party of Socialists event to celebrate Mr Dodon’s success.

psrm

President Dodon had been a long serving Chairman of the Party of Socialists after leaving the Communist Party.  Needless to say the Party of Socialists is a robustly Russophile political entity.

That the obnoxious Mykola Skoryk would surround himself with russophiles is in keeping with his personal views (as inferred in the above link).  As regular readers will note however, it is not his russophile views that make Mykola Skoryk obnoxious.  Quite simply there is nothing about his political history, business activities, or egocentric personality that make him likable – russophile or not.

Time will tell whether Prosecutor General Lutsenko will actually get around to trying to strip Mykola Skoryk of his parliamentary immunity and prosecute him as he stated he would in September – but as yet hasn’t.  Perhaps he has forgotten, perhaps he opened his mouth before gathering sufficient evidence, or perhaps a grubby deal has been struck that he won’t now go after Mr Skoryk.  Neither Messrs Lutsenko or Skoryk have been adverse to grubby (and criminal) little deals throughout their political careers.

The question however is what was Mykola Skoryk doing at a Party of Socialists gathering for, and with, the newly invested President Dodon?  A shared russophilia is unlikely to be the answer in and of itself.  There will be more to it.

Perhaps it is a matter of insuring any cross-border “business” is not interrupted under a new presidency.  Perhaps there are now opportunities to expand “business”.  Maybe an arrangement made for an immediate “bolt hole” from Odessa should Prosecutor General Lutsenko actually put action where his rhetoric already exists.  Per chance some plotting and scheming regarding stirring up matters in “Bessarabia” occurred – as one domestic result of a Trump victory in the USA will probably be an emboldened pro-Russian political voice within Ukraine from those that have generally kept a low profile over the past 2 years – those like Mykola Skoryk.

Whatever the case, Mykola Skoryk did not become the first Ukrainian MP to personally congratulate Mr Dodon on his election simply because of a shared russophilia and as Odessa shares a border with Moldova he thought he’d “drop by”.  He is hardly otherwise a regular face at the Party of Socialists gatherings.

That Mr Skoryk has said very little about his trip probably means that more questions should be asked.

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Civil Service reform – 12 months later, sabotage?

December 27, 2016

One year ago, the blog lauded the passing into statute of a new civil service law, a law that addressed two significant historical issues – “…..the Ukrainian civil service has frequently appeared as a source of disillusionment and frustration.  The reasons for this have been many, but primarily relate to two distinct causes – the first legislatively, and the second functionally (as has oft been stated here…..”.

That entry however contained a caveat – “It now falls to civil society and the diplomatic corps to defend this law from politically sabotaging “amendments”, but it also now falls of the Europeans that stated they would fund the civil service reform to do so effectively not only financially, but with no small amount of leadership and determination when it comes to making the law work as it is intended.”

So where are we at 1 year later?

This entry will not concentrate upon the usual failures associated with Ukrainian policy, be that policy good, bad, or counterproductive – the usual failures of implementation.

It is sufficient to say that implementation is at the very least problematic, and also that the processes employed to deliver results/civil service appointments have been far from transparent nor the standards consistent when carrying out the basic legislative requirements of civil service appointment.

(Let us not dare speak of the seamless functioning of an effective national nervous system – which any civil service actually is.)

Shoddy, less than transparent and inconsistent implementation and internal processes aside, that such really rather good legislation has survived 12 months without sabotage is in itself worthy of note.  Those hardened souls that have several times had to scramble to man the ramparts to beat back attempts at sabotaging this statute have managed to do so – thus far.

Those battlements will have to be robustly manned once again in 2017, for sabotage is once more at the gates.

MP Artur Gerasimov has submitted Draft Bill 4370-1 which would effectively destroy much of the right-minded text within the current statute.  His proposed amendments would critically undermine the a-political and professional civil service the current legislation provides statutory framework for.

Not good when institutional independence, structure and processes have to be robust enough to repel political shenanigans if Ukraine is to move forward with a fully functioning State nervous system.

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Who then (and perhaps what) is Artur Gerasimov, that would seek to undo one of the very few laws of real quality that the Verkhonvna Rada has managed to pass (and that came into effect from 1st May 2016)?

Mr Gerasimov is a parliamentarian from the presidential party.  Indeed he is a recognised “presidential representative” within the Verkhovna Rada.  Ergo that the President is unaware of Draft Law 4370-1 being submitted by his Verkhovna Rada envoy is somewhat unlikely.  The question is whether Mr Gerasimov submits it (deniably) on behalf of The Bankova and by extension President Poroshenko – or not.

If not, then who does he submit such a toxic Draft Bill for?

Without providing an unnecessary curriculum vitae and full personal history, a brief outline of the last few years is sufficient to paint a picture of this legislative assassin.

Skimming over his various scandals mostly contained within the Donbas, it is sufficient to state that he is closely associated with Sergei Shakhov a dubious “businessman” (read organised crime) from Luhansk.  Mr Shakhov in turn is closely associated with former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, part of “The Family” that formed the elite of the former Yanukovych regime.

Indeed Mr Gerasimov stood for election to the Verkhovna Rada in a single mandate seat ably supported by the shadowy team of Sergei Shakhov.  Part of that team was Igor Bezler and his organised thuggery – yes the Igor Bezler of Donbas warlord and “separatist” infamy.  That is not to imply Mr Gerasimov has any (overt) separatist tendencies.  Mr Bezler’s participation in the election campaign of Artur Gerasimov clearly occurred long before the current events within the Donbas.  Nevertheless Mr Bezler and team were employed for the purposes of intimidation and voter bribery.

The outcome however was that Mr Gerasimov came second in the single mandate vote for his constituency and therefore did not reach the Verkhovna Rada (and lobby for/defend the interests of Mr Shakhov and others in his orbit).

During that failed 2012 election campaign, Mr Gerasimov did not hide the fact that he was in the orbit of Petro Poroshenko.

A reader will not be surprised therefore that Mr Gerasimov eventually made it to the Verkhovna Rada in 2014, not by winning a single mandate seat, but via the plain sailing of proportional representation and the party list of President Poroshenko’s party.

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Indeed it appears Mr Gerasimov and President Poroshenko go way back – although specifically how and why remains somewhat opaque.  Nevertheless as President Poroshenko puts loyalty ahead of ability, for him to tap Mr Gerasimov as the presidential representative within the Verkhovna Rada in May 2016, there is some form of personal bond and/or understanding.

Whatever the case, unsubstantiated rumour has it that Mr Gerasimov was selling candidacy for single mandate seats, as well as for local governance, for the presidential party during the elections having been given a party list spot and the Donetsk region to “administer” for the presidential party electioneering.  (Maxim Efimov is apparently one such successful buyer and two stories broke in local media in two locations by candidates allegedly wronged.)

Also closely associated with Mr Gerasimov is MP Oleg Nedavoy.  Mr Nedavoy is inextricably and undeniably linked to the wanted and much loathed Yuri Ivanyushchenko, a close ally of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

There is perhaps no need to continue and sufficient has been written for a read to draw their own conclusions about the character and morality of Mr Gerasimov.

From this glossary however, it is difficult to see who benefits (the most) from Mr Gerasimov’s Draft Bill 4370-1 if not The Bankova, or those most trusted by the President to (deniably) misuse the system the “right way” – Messrs Granovsky, Kononenko and Berezenko.

If this draft Bill passes through the Verkhovna Rada then toxic executive political interference will once again legitimately sully and/or mortally wound the internal workings of the civil service.  The President will then either sign it into law if the cacophony of shrieks and screams from European “friends” and Ukrainian civil society prove not to be loud and rude enough, or he can veto it and the issue can be internally spun as a false flag for external consumption and “proof” of an unwavering trudge toward European normative.

If the Europeans and Ukrainian civil society have any sense however, the maximum efforts will be made to have this Draft Bill withdrawn, or smothered by the relevant Verkhovna Rada committee before it ever gets as far as a vote.  A large diplomatic stick should be wielded now – proactively.

Still, regular readers all knew that quality legislation would sooner or later be subjected to attempts at sabotage – it always is in Ukraine.  That’s why 1 year ago the blog warned that would be the case.

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Local elections, the CEC, and political control by proxie – Ukraine

December 18, 2016

December witnesses local elections in several areas in Ukraine.  11th December and 18th December respectively saw voting in newly formed combined territorial communities designed to best leverage local politics (in particular budgets) within “decentralisation” – or so the theory goes.

Clearly at the time of writing the results of 18th December voting is unknown.

Results from 11th December are known.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party secured 123 local deputies, in part because when it comes to party outreach into local politics Batkivshchyna has always had the best party administrative set up in Ukraine.  No other party can or does come close to Batkivshchyna when it comes to the number of local and regional party offices.

A reader may ponder just how well Batkivshchyna would do if it were actually a real political party if only it could free itself from being nothing more than a political vehicle for Yulia Tymoshenko.  It could then develop some genuine policies that define what the party stands for rather than having to cope with Ms Tymoshenko’s ego, her empty populist rhetoric, and politically expedient flip-flopping.

When it comes to the number of elected deputies, second with 86 came Nash Krai, and Block Poroshenko coming third with 60 elected officials.

As regular readers will know however, Nash Krai is a technical party created by The Bankova (Presidential Administration) to split the Opposition Block (former Party of Regions) vote in October 2014.  This it successfully did and has continued to do.

That is not to imply that Nash Krai is without agency.  It certainly can and does do its own political thing and also votes in the interests of its parliamentarians (not necessarily its constituents) – ergo not always in line with the designs of the President or Government does it vote.  That however is within the parameters expected of a technical party if the facade of independence is to be projected.  When it truly counts support for The Bankova is expected.

However, Nash Krai as a technical party may prove to be problematic in the near future.  It is starting to convincingly out perform Block Poroshenko at the ballot box frequently.  Technical parties also expensive.  Not only does Block Poroshenko require financing, so does Nash Krai.  If finances are diminishing and the electorate continue to swell the Nash Krai machinery via electoral success after electoral success, then sooner or later the tail may start to wag the dog.

That tail wagging dog issue may start in the provinces, but eventually it may reach the centre.  This combined with quality local candidates preferring to run for parties other than that of the president will, by extension, make the next Verkhovna Rada elections interesting.  Even if (or when) state administrative resources are misused by the current powers that be to further their cause, how likely is it that it will be returned the largest party?

For now The Bankova’s pet project (Nash Krai) may remain loyal when required to be so – but for how long?

It is perhaps now necessary to focus upon how well it does vis a vis Block Poroshenko in every electoral vote henceforth, for losing control of the provinces because a pet project goes rouge will have an impact come larger national elections if the decentralised local budgets cannot be abused for the electioneering benefit of those at the centre of power.   Things begin to fray at the edges – and can completely unwind if care is not taken.

(Lo it is no surprise that since new legislation came into force in May 2016, new regional Governors selected by transparent “competition” have all been Block Poroshenko.)

cec

Further, these elections occur under an illegitimate Central Election Committee.  As noted in an October entry, 12 of the 15 CEC members have long since lost their legal mandates to be part of the CEC.  That elections continue under a clearly illegitimate CEC is no surprise.  (The entry also explains why the current electoral laws are unlikely to change.)

As stated in the aforementioned link – “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.”

Since that entry was written, the Chairman of the Central Election Committee, Mikhail Ohendovsky is now subject to criminal investigation by NABU (the anti corruption agency).  Thus the “fanciful” early 2017 timeline in the above quote may now be a little more realistic.  With the Chairman subject to criminal investigation and 12 of 15 committee members with mandates that expired in June 2014 it remains to be seen just how much longer this can be willfully ignored.

Thus the usually headline avoiding local elections this December may yet again avoid the headlines – but (local governance and local democracy aside) they act as a timely reminder of increasing reliance upon The Bankova technical party Nash Krai in the provinces by the Poroshenko centre and the prospect of tail wagging dog, and also the potential time frame for dealing with the still willfully unaddressed CEC issues.

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A Granovsky false flag in defence of Kononenko?

December 17, 2016

The name of Ihor Kononenko has appeared fairly frequently in the blog – usually annotated with “President Poroshenko’s leg breaker in the Verhovna Rada” or “the mere mention of his name has diplomats eyes rolling” or “to whom the presidential leash should be applied”.

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To be absolutely blunt, Mr Kononenko is an old and loyal friend of President Poroshenko and is being allowed to run amok with all the worst possible parallels to the Yanukovych regime approach to business and state owned enterprises, whilst also acting as parliamentary enforcer for the president.

Certain readers known to this blog have first hand experience of Mr Kononenko.  To be charitable he is a predator.  To be less so, he can go beyond “dubious” and “nefarious” when it comes to the boundaries of the law.

There is no doubt that President Poroshenko is aware of at least some of the deeds of his friend – even if he doesn’t read the media (and he is probably the most PR aware Ukrainian president ever) there is no way some deeds will not have been raised directly by the diplomatic community with the president on occasion.

Sooner or later, should the presidential leash not be placed upon Mr Kononenko and thus his appetites somewhat reduced, a reader may foresee a situation similar to that of Viktor Shokin whereby the international pressure from “friends of Ukraine” will continue to build surrounding him to the point of ultimatums.

Also occasionally mentioned by the blog is Alexander Granovsky usually annotated with “rising star in Kyiv” or “whose political star is in the ascendancy” (or similar).

Although from Uman originally, Mr Granovsky since his (Mechnikov) university days in Odessa, has been a permanent business/public persona in the city – perhaps best known for his activities with business partner from Boris Kaufman (also from Odessa).  That said both also have business interests that do not involve the other.

Mr Granovsky’s business history is as a reader would expect – he had owned more than a dozen companies between 1997 and 2006 (which could be, but won’t be listed here), almost all with “colourful” reputations or occasional scandals.  Some have since been sold, some have been retained, and new enterprises continue to appear.  Suffice to say those interests cover everything from port dredging, to banking, to fertilizer, to hotels, to airports, media, alcohol, tobacco, and more.

Mr Granovsky is also a man inclined to be generous with the synagogue in Odessa being a major beneficiary.

Regardless of interesting histories (worthy of entries of their own) both Mr Granovsky and Mr Kononenko are Block Poroshenko parliamentarians will significant gravitas within both the party, faction and the parliament itself – albeit with different and distinct roles in controlling events.

The past few days have seen some interesting entries on Mr Granovsky’s Facebook. – a photograph of a text conversation on Telegram was uploaded.

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A conversation prime facie appealing to Mr Granovsky for help to fend off the unwanted attentions of the predatory Ihor Kononenko.

“Хочу обратиться ко всем симпатикам моего коллеги по залу Игоря Кононенко, чтоб сообщить о том, что лично он, обращаясь ко мне в мессенджере телеграмм, пытается втянуть меня в преступный сговор с не до конца попятной для меня целью. Что-то мне подсказывает, что дело не чистое.
Доказательство ниже.

P.S.
Конечно же, какой-то “озорник” таким образом пытается выманить деньги. Половина фракции тоже получила подобные сообщения. Примитивно, но в каких-то случаях эффективно:(((“

Mr Granovsky accompanied that photograph with a statement appealing to his parliamentary colleagues to give Mr Kononenko a sympathetic audience, for he suspected intrigue of a nefarious kind, stating that half of the Poroshenko faction had received similar texts attempting to obtain money.  His post insinuated that some had indeed complied, paying off an unknown party.

It is without a shadow of a doubt that Mr Granovsky has the telephone number of Mr Kononenko and can authenticate (or not)  the demands for money.  Such faux intuition of intrigue and public (Facebook) disclosure is quite unnecessary for a man capable of getting immediate responses from Mr Kononenko.

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“Короткий апдейт на тему хулигана, который прикрывался именем Игоря Кононенко с целью выманить деньги у коллег по фракции и не только.

Следующие несколько лет, судя по всему, он будет шлифовать свои навыки в 4 стенах. Отдельное спасибо сотрудникам спецподразделения “Альфа” СБУ.”

On 17th December, a few days after setting the scene on Facebook, Mr Granovsky via Facebook once more, gave public thanks to a SBU Alfa Unit for arresting somebody – (as yet unidentified and as of the time of writing the detention has not been confirmed by the SBU) – using Ihor Kononenko’s name to extort money from his parliamentary colleagues.

Naturally questions arise.

Firstly just how subservient to and/or scared of Ihor Kononenko are his parliamentary colleagues to have simply paid this unknown offender acting under Mr Kononenko’s name apparently without his knowledge?

As always, the questions have to be asked as to who benefits, and why are things being done this way?

In publicly announcing this affair on Facebook, does Mr Granovsky do more or less harm to the “parliamentary leg breaker” and predatory image that Ihor Kononeko already has among his parliamentary colleagues and the business community?

Although probably not the case, if designed to do more damage, what motivates Mr Granovsky to make such a bold move?  Why now?

If designed to mitigate Mr Kononenko’s image, is this a false flag incident created to deflect some near horizon allegations against Mr Kononenko insofar as it will be held up as evidence that his name is misused and/or spuriously attacked over events he will claim he has no involvement in (whether he does or not)?

If it be the latter and this is a preparatory false flag, what scandal is upon the immediate Kononeko horizon that requires such theatre?

It is of course possible that Mr Granovsky thinks it is simply a fun story that people should know about – but Mr Granovsky is a clever man and is simply not that oblivious to the perceptions and the questions that arise by making this affair public.

Something about this just doesn’t seem right.  Perhaps all will become clearer fairly soon.

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31 candidates to replace Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa. Who’s who?

December 16, 2016

Although most readers will not be particularly interested in the replacement for Misha Saakashvili as Governor of Odessa, having written an occasional  few lines on the subject as potential candidates expressed interest, a full list therefore follows now that candidate applications are closed.

Surprisingly Pavel Zhebrivskyi, the former head of the Donetsk military and civil administration is not listed.  Sadly, for his eccentricity, flamboyance, questionably effeminate nature, and pure entertainment value Garik Korogodski is also absent.

Those successfully registering their candidacy are as follows (and appear in no particular order):

Igor Romanenko, Alexandr Vashenko, Alexandr Ostapenko, Sergei Pomazan, Elizabeth Pyshko-Tsibylyak, Volodymyr Levitskyi, Artem Vaschilenko, Vladislav Grigorchyk, Gennady Chekita, Dmitry Sokolyanskyi, Roman Saromaga, Anatoli Vorohaev, Volodymyr Gavrish, Yulia Melnik, Vasily Horbal, Igor Smirnov, Alexandr Tymoshenko, Valeri Stepanov, Dmitry Spivak, Maxim Berdnik, Oksana Tomchuk, Maxim Stepanov, Alexandr Vinglovskyi, Igor Skosar, Sergei Mazur, Petro Lykyanchuk, Hanna Trifan, Yevgene Chernvonenko and Yuri Chizhmar.

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The most (in)famous among the candidates was the first to throw his hat into the ring, Yevgene Chernovenko – a member of Tymoshenko’s first government and also a former Governor.  A man that if allowed to emerge the winner will have clearly have had to strike a deal with The Bankova to do so as his loyalty to the president is not exactly robust historically.

Gennady Chekita may have no loyalty issues as far as The Bankova is concerned (he is the MP for the Malinovsky district elected under Block Poroshenko and Verkhovna Rada Economics Committee member) but it is questionable if he will to be allowed to emerge the winner as it would mean a by-election for his single mandate seat – which may not go the way of Block Poroshenko.

Another current MP in the Verkhovna Rada is Yuri Chizhmar of the Radical Party – and therefore unlikely to get the tacit nod from The Bankova to emerge as the top candidate for a region as strategic as Odessa (both geographically and by way of large, healthy, illicit money channels).

The current Mayor of Balta, Sergei Mazur is also a candidate.

Also among those holding local governance office previously are former Governor Vasliy Horbal, former Vice-Mayor Anatoly Vorohaev, a former chairman of a Regional State Administration, Volodymyr Gavrish and former City Deputy Dmitry Spivak.  Also former Deputy Governor of Luhansk Elizabeth Pyshko-Tsibylyak.   Last but by no means least from the civil service , former Odessa Deputy Governor and Deputy of the Tax Administration Maxim Stepanov.  Also former Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko is noted for his inclusion, and before leaving matters military, “Cyborg” (Donetsk Airport veteran) Alexandr Tymoshenko also appears.

There are also several candidates from the current Odessa Regional Administration, Sergei Pomazan, Yulia Melnik and Volodymyr Levitskyi.

Of the remaining names of any note (without any research) Chairman of the Ukrainian Business Support Centers (and “widows son”) Artem Vaschilenko then leaves but one.

The last name is Alexandr Ostapenko a former City Deputy and former Deputy Head of the Regional State Administration.  Of all the names, prima facie, Mr Ostapenko is perhaps the individual most easily identified as suited to the methodical, systematic, bureaucratic, boring work associated with the office of a regional governor.

Nevertheless, who ever emerges from the “competition” to replace Misha Saakashvili will be ranked first and foremost by their loyalty to the president.  Any dubious history and their ability to do the job will be of secondary importance.  There is simply no way an oblast like Odessa will be allowed to have a governor that is not loyal to the president first and foremost.

All hats are now thrown in the ring and therefore a reader may perhaps tentatively decide to rank them by way of loyalty to the president, overt party affiliation (if any), and latterly ability, for within that scoring matrix is any real competition for the post.

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The EU Summit (15th December) & Ukraine

December 14, 2016

The 15th December is the date of the last EU Summit (of European leaders) in 2016.

The agenda is going to be full and no doubt the meeting will be prickly affair.

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The agenda sees Ukraine as the lunchtime topic for discussion – and perhaps that is because Ukraine is probably the agenda item least likely to cause indigestion compared to all other items up for discussion.

The day covers (in no particular order) Syria, Russia, sanctions, Brexit, Ukraine, Mr Trump and refugees/migration (and by extension Turkey).  Greek issues apparently do not appear this time – there are only so many hours in a day.

With regard to Ukraine the obvious agenda issues relate to 27 of 28 Member States and the European Parliament ratifying the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) with only The Netherlands outstanding, that and the issue to be finally put to bed sometime in February/March 2017 relating to Visa-free tourism for Ukrainians (on the assumption the European Parliament votes appropriately regarding the “Visa-free suspension mechanism” issue also on 15th December).

The issue with the Dutch Association Agreement is one of optics for the domestic Dutch constituency.  In order for the Dutch to ratify the agreement and finally close the bureaucratic process they insist upon official recognition that in ratifying the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement, it is not a pathway toward EU accession for Ukraine.  Further, they require official recognition that it in no way affords EU guarantees regarding collective security guarantees or obligations to military aid.  Lastly that it does not provide an entitlement (obligation) to financially support Ukraine.

It may appear politically ugly considering that only The Netherlands remains to ratify the agreement and now seeks such official understanding to pacify its domestic electorate, but to be quite clear the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (and DCFTA) offers none of these entitlements/EU obligations toward Ukraine anyway.

Nowhere does the Association Agreement infer, let alone state, that the Association Agreement is a stepping stone toward EU accession.  The clauses regarding defence and security offer no expectations of collective security or obligation to military assistance.  It has always been abundantly clear that any and all financial aid to Ukraine comes with conditionality relating to reform.

There is only one way for Ukraine to formally accede to the EU, and that is to first formally apply, and then go through the Acquis Communautaire 31 (minimum) – 35 (the maximum thus far) chapters therein.

There is no denying that if Ukraine complies with the Association Agreement fully and in its entirety (at best a 10 year process, probably longer at the speed Ukraine is proceeding) that for almost all Acquis chapters it will have traveled perhaps 80% – 85% of that journey in each and every chapter.  However there will be few, if any, where it will have traveled the full distance whereby that Aquis chapter will be then closed.  Ergo there would be a few more years thereafter to complete that process if embarked upon at all.

Indeed perhaps there is a need to better conceptualise the legality and spirit of both the Association Agreement and the Acquis Communautaire in fundamental terms.

The Association Agreement exists for Ukraine (at its own speed – despite some timelines in specific spheres within) to bring European values/governance/processes/standards to Ukraine from “Europe”.  Thus the Association Agreement brings a notional/perceived “Europe” to Ukraine – it does not take Ukraine to the EU.

The Acquis Communautaire is a trial undertaken by nations seeking to accede to the EU.  It is the (only) process that would therefore take Ukraine to the EU.

Thus the AA (and DCFTA) brings “Europe” to Ukraine.  The Acquis takes Ukraine to the EU.

Therefore, as politically ugly and difficult to digest for some the Dutch requirements may be, they actually make no difference to the legalities of the Association Agreement, nor the spirit in which it was negotiated and offered.

Ergo, it can be expected, despite the ugly optics, that the Dutch will get the official recognition that they seek even though some Member States will cringe whilst agreeing.  To get the Association Agreement over the finish line by officially acknowledging what is not contained in the Association Agreement will ultimately be a price paid.

Clearly from the agenda items, the Ukrainian issue is the least likely to put a Member State leader off their luncheon.  For good measure the Brexit issues are to be discussed at evening dinner – after UK Prime Minister Ms May has left the Summit and the building.

In fact Ukraine for once (in the context of AA ratification and the possible mention of Visa-free), may prove to be one of the easiest agenda items.

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