Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’


A subtle shift (or drift) in the OSCE position ahead?

January 13, 2016

January 2016 saw Germany assume the Chair of the OSCE – meaning German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has become Chairman of the organisation.

How well that bodes for Ukraine – or not – remains to be seen.  Mr Steinmeier has hardly been perceived as robust in his conversations with The Kremlin by many – although to be fair he is negotiating from a position of weakness when representing a less than harmonious “Europe”, against a truculent Kremlin.

Whatever the case, on 14th January Mr Steinmeier will outline the German priorities for the organisation for 2016, and the occupied Donbas is guaranteed to feature prominently.

It is fair to say that the OSCE has had “issues” during its years in Ukraine whilst monitoring the war in the east of the nation – particularly so in the first 12 months or so.  That said, after a few dubious personnel choices, some seemingly deliberate “blind eyes”, and other “incidents”, it finally got its monitoring and reporting act together despite a petulant occupying force within the “People’s Republics” that as yet are still to allow the OSCE unfettered monitoring access in any shape, form, or manner.


Undoubtedly, for the OSCE sat attempting to mediate the Contact Group negotiations, there is a great deal of frustration.   Indeed Heidi Tagiavani, an experienced negotiator and mediator resigned and had to be replaced.  That said Ms Tagiavani clearly knows a dead horse that cannot be flogged into a successful outcome.  The most fundamental issues have seen little progress.  There is still no genuine ceasefire, and there remains prisoners that have not been swapped.  The most basic of Contact Group tasks have yet to be fully fulfilled, let alone the slightly more complex tasks progressed in any meaningful way.

To be fair to Ms Tagiavani, there was never anything but bad faith negotiations from the Kremlin and its proxies during her tenure.  The minimum occurred as and when necessary to be seen to achieve something and keep people sat around the table, thus avoiding any thoughts of major uplifts in sanctions.  Finding solutions, however, was not on the agenda for certain parties.

All public signalling from The Kremlin for 2016 suggests more of the same.  From the Russian 2016 budget, to President Putin’s interview with Bild a few days ago, and almost everything in between signals a continence of truculent, belligerent action.  The Bild interview simply continued to state it is all the fault of the West – whilst between the lines making an appeal to the weakest links within Germany as perceived by The Kremlin – The German SDP party and certain elements within German business.  In short, nothing new whatsoever.

The possible exception to that public Kremlin signalling was the surprise appointment of Boris Gryzlov as the new “point man” for The Kremlin in the Contact Group format.  Mr Gryzlov is far too big a fish to be appointed to simply produce “more of the same”.  Quite what his appointment signifies however, is currently unclear.  Perhaps the Contact Group meeting of 13th January may make matters a little clearer.  Perhaps the Kremlin conversations in private are far less steadfast than the public rhetoric?  (Doubtful, but maybe.)

Was the appointment of Mr Gryzlov move deliberately timed to meet the German rotation to the OSCE Chair?

Mrs Merkel has been making positive statements about her expectations regarding the issues in eastern Ukraine since the New Year began.

For Ukraine of course, the temptation for the negotiators will be to pressure Ukraine to continue to unilaterally meet the Minsk II agreement despite no movement to do so by The Kremlin and its proxies – simply to display some progress.  That, however, may prove much harder than it appears with an ever more dysfunctional Verkhovna Rada.

For those that read the “news” (some of which is news, some of which is disinformation and propaganda, and some of which is paranoid tin foil hat conspiracy) from within the occupied Donbas, it appears that December 2015 and continuing into the New Year, brought with it an FSB organised “taming” (and assassinations) of certain militants The Kremlin clearly feels are a liability/uncontrollable – Bednov, Ishchenko, Mozgovoy and most recently, Dremov, all assassinated.

An even sharper eye will note political deaths too – Sergei Burbelo, ex-Party of Regions, then “Luhansk People’s Republic” functionary has now mysteriously died – and a political rival in any “election” he would have been to the Igor Plotnitsky team.

It is widely rumoured among the “enlightened” within the “Luhansk Republic” that there is a list of 32 names to be taken care of as “preventative measures” – that list contains the names not only of militants, but also politicians.  Both Dremov and Burbelo were claimed to be upon that list – and both have died within recent weeks.

The question is whether the “preventative measures” are to allow far greater control and discipline of the militants/proxies, or to clear the field of political nuisance before any “election”, or indeed Ukrainian sanctioned election – or in all probability, both.

Further, there is similar rumour from within the “Luhansk Republic” of the OSCE soon being able to erect webcams in certain areas as part of their monitoring mission.  A sign perhaps that Mr Polnitsky believes he will soon have control of the “republic” as far as internal threats are concerned.

Perhaps yet more interesting is a rumour circulating within those same circles that Alexander Hugg of the OSCE is expected to visit the occupied Donbas in the immediate future.

Time will soon tell if the rumours relating to the OSCE in two paragraphs immediately above prove to have any merit, but together with an optimistic Chancellor Merkel, and (an admittedly uninspiring) Mr Steinmeier acting not only as German Foreign Minister, but now also as OSCE Chairman, some readers may begin to wonder whether there is to be a shift (or drift) in the OSCE position from monitor and Contact Group mediator, to that of monitor, mediator and negotiator now Germany sits not only within the Normandy Four, but also as Chair of the OSCE, all of which will heavily feature Mr Steinmeier (a man whom many Ukrainians consider weak before a belligerent The Kremlin).

It is something that may (as perceived or actually) smudge the lines of the OSCE mandate in Ukraine – if due care is not taken.  It will also, should that occur, undo the mini-revival of the OSCE observer mission image that has happened over the past months, following its a fairly poor beginning.

Perhaps Ms Merkel and Mr Steinmeier are under some misguided/overly hopeful idea that genuine democratic, free and fair elections can take place in the occupied Donbas during the German tenure as OSCE Chair?  Lest we forget, on 4th December, Mr Steinmeier tabled a proposal to progress a settlement in the occupied Donbas – one which ab initio fails any democracy test under the current circumstances within occupied territories – notwithstanding putting the OSCE in a position of institutional credibility suicide if forced along that path under German leadership in unchanged circumstance.

Anyway, for now, a subtle shifting (or drifting) in OSCE role is something to keep an observing eye upon over the next few months.

For those that “cross off names” as they “fall” to the internal cleansing of the “republics” – then perhaps now is the time to also take note of the health not only of some problematic militant leaders and criminal group bosses, but also of a few (mostly ex-Regionaire) old school politicos that moved into the “system” of the “Republics”.

Both The Kremlin and their “anointed high chancellors” will be sure to insure the appropriate “election” results for the correct (vetted) candidates – one way or another.


Gryzlov appointed as The Kremlin’s Contact Group Rep

December 27, 2015

For the first time since the “Contact Group” started meeting regarding the “issues” and “solutions” in the occupied Donbas, The Kremlin has appointed a real decision maker.  A man who has made decisions about Ukraine that have led to historic outcomes before – albeit those historic outcomes where then entirely wasted.

Boris Gryzlov, long time chum of Vladislav Surkov who remains overseer of the “Ukraine issue” for the Kremlin, is a man who in 2004. agreed with having another round of presidential elections that saw Viktor Yanukovych eventually beaten by Viktor Yushenko.

Mr Gryzlov is also a permanent member of the Russian Security Council.


In short he is a big name with significant political clout and possessing direct access to The Kremlin and its innermost (and ever-shrinking) decision making conclave.

Some may indeed interpret his appointment, being a Surkov ally, as Surkov currently getting the better of Deputy Prime Minister Volodin within The Kremlin when it comes to matters within the occupied Donbas.

It will be like old times for both former-President Kuchma and Boris Gryzlov – both sat together again around a table discussing outcomes that the Kremlin really doesn’t like, and Kremlin interference that Ukraine robustly rallies against.

However, it is one thing to communicate and arrive at mutually agreed and acceptable outcomes – it is another to communicate for the sake of communicating with the aim of obstructing mutually agreed and acceptable outcomes by obfuscation – and yet another to have the gravitas to deliver ultimatums that are immediately understood.

The “why Gryzlov”, and “why now” questions naturally arise.

The appointment of Mr Gryzlov would seem unnecessary simply to continue the obstructionism and obfuscation – thus far two lesser mortals (Zurabov, and then  Kulmuhametov) have been tasked and adequately accomplished such “bad will” talks effectively – so which of the other options?

Having charged the “nationalist” sentiment within Russia, upped the “fortress Russia” rhetoric, and projected the image domestically of return as a “global power”, is it feasible to believe that any genuine desire to fulfill Minsk II obligations will be forthcoming with Duma elections in 2016 (regardless of rigged results)?  A serious change of policy either before or immediately after those elections seems rather unlikely – nevertheless it cannot be ruled out now that Mr Gryzlov has been appointed.

Perhaps Mr Gryzlov has been appointed to “impress” not Ukraine with his political weight/name recognition – but the Kremlin proxies.  Time will swiftly tell.

Indeed the chances of a serious change in policy prior to the Russian presidential elections in 2018 seem somewhat unlikely too for the same reasons as those in the above paragraph – although if as is said, 24 hours is a long time in politics, just over 2 years is a metaphorical is a lifetime for a Kremlin dealing with the consequences of poor policy decisions both home and abroad in both ever greater quantity and scale.

It will be interesting to see not only how Mr Gryzlov changes the dynamic of the “Contact Group”, but why he has been specifically chosen (to do so) now.


The Steinmeier Proposal – What could possibly go wrong?

December 4, 2015

Having not written about the on-going war in The Donbas for quite some time, it is perhaps timely to glance across at a situation that is far, far from resolution.

Notwithstanding the high (almost certain) probability that The Kremlin will fail to meet the Minsk II deadline of handing control of the Ukrainian border back to Ukraine, nor even attempted to plug the open and gapping hole they have created from the Russian side of the demarcation line, the rest of the Minsk II agreements are a very long way from being met – in no small part as each line item is not only open to quite different interpretations, but that there is also no set order in which they were ever to take place (or so it seems).

An inherent problem throughout the negotiations is that these European foreign ministers have allowed The Kremlin to sit at the negotiating table and assume the same uninterested mediator role as themselves – which makes the entire process flawed for The Kremlin is a party to the conflict with clear involvement and obvious vested interests.  It is not a well-meaning bystander trying to mediate a reasonable outcome.

Thus with a belligerent and truculent Kremlin failing to make any useful gestures but only making demands, the soft soap offered up by the German and French Foreign Ministers way of “negotiation” has put the onus on Ukraine, the far more willing and coercible party, to uniltarerally give ground.

Indeed some readers may be inclined to believe that their “negotiation” is synonymous with “appeasement” and/or “accommodation” of The Kremlin line at best, or at worst a private recognition that pressuring Ukraine to continuously move along the tick-box compliance list is simply so that these two European foreign ministers can cite any progress whatsoever.

(For Ukraine by ticking more Minsk II boxes than The Kremlin, it has insured continuing sanctions against Russia – perhaps a price worth paying thus far.)

All too easily have these European ministers allowed matters to switch from clearly unresolved military agreements to political arrangements with a fairly blind eye now being turned to the former.  The “ceasefire” continues to claim lives daily.  Supposedly withdrawn weapons still manage to be used very frequently.  No condition has in fact been fully met and Russian heavy armour remains in situ in the occupied Donbas – as do Russian personnel.

Fortunately for these foreign ministers, Ukraine wants to keep Germany and France (read the Europeans) “on-side” and thus has had little choice but to keep these “negotiations” from stalling – but the Ukrainian leadership will soon meet internal resistance to many more further unilateral compliances with Minsk II – resistance which the Ukrainian leadership will be hard pushed to ignore.

It is somewhat unclear whether the Ukrainian leadership can garner the constitutional majority of 300+ votes to push through the amendments that facilitate “decentralisation” – with or without the single line regarding a “Special Law” for The Donbas.  Disregarding the line about the “Special Law” there remains issues within the “decentralisation” amendments that many parliamentarians are not particularly happy with.  The inclusion of the line relating to a “Special Law” for the occupied Donbas simply adds to the difficulty in forcing a constitutional majority.  Reaching 300+ votes may not be impossible – but it will be far, far from easy.

Readers will note that despite much official rhetoric for more than a year about “decentralisation”, similar to the rhetoric regarding the removal of parliamentary and judicial immunity throughout 2015, none seem likely to occur in 2015 – nor perhaps swiftly in 2016 either.

However, despite the fact the militaristic issues have not been properly addressed in the occupied Donbas, despite the fact there has been no movement by The Kremlin regarding its activities in the occupied Donbas, despite the fact that The Kremlin is extremely unlikely to return control of the Ukrainian border to the Ukrainians by 31st December as Minsk II stipulates, despite the fact that constitutional amendments have not been adopted by the Ukrainian parliament that would provide for “decentralisation” for the nation and a “Special Law” for the occupied Donbas – it does pay to pave the way for what comes next in the occupied Donbas even if what comes next is actually never arrived at.

Thus we have Mr Steinmeier’s proposals for the next set of sequenced political events – proposals that will be officially discussed in the next few days by all accounts


There would appear to be a few issues to be addressed within this list – but there is a serious  ab initio set of problems with implementation even if all points are agreed above.  (For example can Ukraine grant immunity to a successful candidate that is suspected of war crimes – war crimes that the ICC have been asked to investigate?  Ukraine ratifying The Rome Statute is an obligation under the Association Agreement with clear ramifications regarding the ICC).  Elections with Russian troops and military equipment within the occupied Donbas, and elections policed by illegal “People’s Republic” militsia’s/criminal groups clearly fall far outside the Constitution of Ukraine with or without a “Special Law” amendment.  Therefore any election results are highly likely to be challenged, not only on the ground within the occupied Donbas, but also constitutionally and thus placed before the Constitutional Court in Kyiv.  Perhaps cases will go as far as the European Court of Human Rights – or beyond.

When the standard allegations of fraud, corruption, misuse of administrative resources, intimidation, bribery, coercion etc that any and all Ukrainian elections produce results in numerous court challenges – it is an absolute certainty in an environment like the occupied Donbas that court challenges will occur.  But which court?  Which judge?  Who will accept the ruling of an “occupied court” – or a Ukrainian court from the other side?

Under such circumstances,  is the OSCE/ODIHR willing to effectively ruin its regional reputation permanently (and perhaps irreversibly) to baptize as as righteous what will be anything but free and fair elections under the current (or foreseeable) conditions?  Is that organisation prepared to commit reputational suicide for the sake of Mr Steinmeier (who will long be out of office, retired, enjoying a nice pension and writing his memories), whilst OSCE staggers onward mortally wounded from sanctifying such folly should facts on the ground within the occupied Donbas remain unaddressed and unchanged by his “negotiations”.

Just as peace at any cost does not bring a lasting peace, neither will elections in such circumstances bring legitimacy in the eyes of any constituency.

Perhaps Mr Steinmeier simply wants to get the process agreed prior to conditions on the ground somehow falling into place – or perhaps he wants to do it before he retires (or is retired at the next German elections in 2017).  A quick fix there is not.

All of this is perhaps a little harsh on Mr Steinmeier, even considering his apparently very weak diplomatic constitution which has been on display over the past week – where he has been very quick to suggest EU opening “discussions” with the hollow entity that is the Eurasian Union, and the resumption of the Russian-NATO Council.  As Jan Techau points out, in de facto representing the EU, he is inherently negotiating from a position of weakness – notwithstanding any of his own personal weaknesses some readers may attribute to him.  Nevertheless, you take the money and you’re expected to do the job – and be held accountable when the results are “limited” (to be charitable).

Indeed, readers may ponder, which will come first?   Ab initio illegitimate elections (in the current climate) within the occupied Donbas, or the German elections in October 2017.  It’s fairly clear which the OSCE/ODIHR would be happier certifying as “free and fair” in all good conscience when considering their reputation for the future.


Power cut-offs in Crimea raise an old disarming question

November 23, 2015

In a very sporadic and ad hoc fashion, throughout 2015 this blog has made numerous comments suggesting that the State get to grips with the illegal actions of certain groups employing the use of firearms and explosives on occasion that clearly falls far outside of the rule of law.

For example “…Right Sector (or anybody else) cannot be allowed to shoot people or blow up police cars without legal consequences…” from an entry in July.  There are several other entries during the year that call for the disarming of illegally armed entities (whatever the brand), and some thoughts upon just how to go about it.

And lo now in Kherson Oblast there is the downing of power lines to Crimea via explosives causing a blackout across the peninsula.  Readers may be right to point out that the Geneva Convention puts the onus on the Occupying Power (Russia) to keep the lights on (certainly in some facilities).  Indeed Russia would (unlawfully) consider Crimea as its territory, thus it is no less obliged to keep the power on for “its” citizenry.

Crimea, like the rest of Ukraine, is not unused to power outages or cut-offs.  The Kremlin has turned off the gas on more than one occasion over the years during the winter months, and Ukrainian power outages are hardly unheard of.  Only a sustained disruption will go beyond a collective “tut” within society.

It is perhaps right to bemoan what appears to be the absence of a “Crimean Strategy” by the Government of Ukraine.  If there is a “Crimean Strategy” then the Ukrainian leadership, as with so many other matters of import, has spectacularly failed to inform the Ukrainian constituency of its existence.  Even if the State policy more or less boils down to sustained international and domestic rhetoric, Crimea orientated sanctions, and then “wait” – then it should be communicated along with the reasons why.

It is certainly right to bemoan the failure to communicate any State “Crimean Strategy” if one actually exists, for it has led to an unofficial blockade of the peninsula, and now the demolition of power lines by “activists”.


Yet the most concerning issue these events raise remains the fact that the State has still not taken on the issue of illegally held weaponry (firearms and explosives), nor those groups that commit acts that fall squarely outside the rule of law.  There has been absolutely no attempt to address the issue since absorbing of those willing into the military, national guard and police.  Those now armed or employing the use of arms and/or explosives outside of the institutions of State are clearly acting unlawfully.

As uncomfortable and prickly as it may be politically, the issue has to be tackled.

That is not to say the blockading of Crimea by protesters has to stop.  It may not be State policy to blockade Crimea – but it may be that State policy is not to interfere with a lawful protest that results in great difficulty in the transit of anything to and from Crimea.  The point being it must be and remain lawful to be tolerated (or tacitly/deniably encouraged) by the State if official State policy is not to blockade for political reasons.

If State policy is to stop the supply of electricity to Crimea so be it.  If State policy is to continue to supply electricity to Crimea, fair enough.   What cannot be State policy is the allowing of activists to illegally blow up the power grid to Crimea and dictate policy to the State through entirely unlawful acts.  The State is obliged to tolerate peaceful protest, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and all fundamental human rights, as well as those it has undertaken via domestic statute, as well as regional and international instruments – it is not obliged to tolerate gross violations of the law, indeed it is obliged to effectively deal with such incidents.

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. – In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.” – Sir Karl Popper

The issue is that even if Kyiv was considering cutting the electricity supply to Crimea, it can hardly do so now lest it be seen to bow to the illegal actions of a small number of “activists” targeting and demolishing State infrastructure.   It is a precedent that it simply cannot be seen to be set.  Neither can it be seen to tolerate (once again) absolute criminality.  Whatever the justification felt in carrying out the act, it does not equate to legitimisation.

There is a growing and ever increasing urgency for the State to deal with the illicit arms and explosives within its territory, and the groups (of whatever brand) that employ their usage outside the confines of the law.


“In all its manifestations” – Poroshenko

November 16, 2015

Following on from the last two entries which in light of the heinous crimes in Paris only a few days ago related to international terrorism and Ukraine, here is one further entry before returning to domestic policy and politics.

President Poroshenko, for whatever reason, felt obliged to confirm that he will still attend the Climate Conference in Paris on 29th November.  Why ever would he not?

The President stated “Neither France, nor Ukraine will be intimidated by the international terrorism, and we are determined to fight all of its manifestations. This is not France’s problem, this is the problem for the whole world.”  And so it is, Ukraine claiming once more to have arrested yet more people with ties to international terrorist groups in the past few hours – this following the arrest on 11th November at Boryspil airport of a Russian citizen wanted by Interpol for being the leader of a Jamaat of the Al Nusra Front.

Terrorism is not a new nor recent phenomena of course.  David Rapoport’s “4 Waves of Terrorism” has long since identified distinctive times and modus operandi of terrorism over the past 200 years – The Anarchists – 1880s, the anti-colonial 1920s, the Left/Red wave 1960’s/70’s and the Religious 1979 – 1980’s.  It is perhaps possible to argue a 5th wave began in the 1990’s with Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Queda and all that spawned from it, but that is an academic argument based upon any specific differences between the “4th religious wave”  that this entry will not explore.

The issue to be raised by this entry relates to President Poroshenko’s words “in all its manifestations” – particularly when The Kremlin is seeking to put linkage outcomes between the atrocities in Paris, events in Syria and western support for Ukraine – and the continuing use by Ukraine of the term Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) for the war with Russia in its east.  (Albeit the reasons for this phrase relate to legalities and implications rather than facts on the ground.)

Nevertheless The Kremlin message to the West, with renewed vigor following the events in Paris, is work with Russia in a coalition but either give up on Ukraine to have one, or at the very least relax the sanctions imposed over Ukraine for Kremlin assistance.  This is, however, a topic for a different entry too.

The broader question this entry raises with the Poroshenko phrase “in all its manifestations” is who decides what is terrorism?  And who decides who decides?


Globally there is no accepted definition of terrorism by all States.

The UN does not have a definition of terrorism – though not for the want of trying to get consensus on one.  The last UN attempt your author can recall was one by the then UN General Secretary Kofi Anan in 2006 that failed.  The term  “deliberate killing of civilians and non-combatants for political purposes” – thus implying the moral message that such acts are unacceptable and unjustifiable under any circumstance – was rebuffed.  A reason for this rebuttal was that in the event a State is invaded and subjected to occupation, the injured State would deem some partisan/resistance acts as justified and/or legitimate.  Thus that something may be justified does not necessarily make it legitimate.  Likewise a legitimate act does not necessarily mean it is justified.  There are also questions of proportionality.  A grey zone in which to operate if necessary.

Thus terrorism is a contested concept subject to political expediency and is associated with deligitimisation and criminality rather than an exact globally accepted definition.  Ergo the ever perpetual “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” argument forever haunts the grey areas where some States agree an act is one of terrorism, or actors are terrorists, whilst others don’t.

An internationally agreed definition may pave the way to predictable and equitable international cooperation and judicial measures.  Just as importantly it would avoid the invitation to abuse the term for suppression.  This perhaps another reason why there is no international agreement regarding the definition of terrorism.  Dictators and autocracies, at some point, may have to rely upon repression and suppression.

Indeed there are not even commonly accepted labels for terrorism.  Europol as an institution lists the following types of terrorism – Religiously inspired, ethno (nationalist and separatist), left wing and anarchic, right wing, and single issue.  Quite where a “lone wolf” would be recognised and/or consistently recorded is not clear.  And what of a “State sponsor of terrorism”?  It is simply not a category within Europol terrorism categories.  Thus an EU wide “labeling” of certain categories of terrorism there is not.  Member States view and record things differently.

With the last UN attempt at defining terrorism globally failing, despite a very narrow definition, what of financial, cyber, or economic terrorism, terms oft seen in the media, that equally have no internationally accepted definition either?

Whose definition of terrorism does any international coalition against terrorism use?  The US?  The French?  The definition of the State upon whose territory terrorism is occurring?  Does the definition used then preclude or include members of any coalition regarding its domestic legislation and ability to engage in external actions?

What are the “in all its manifestations” to which President Porosehnko alludes?  Whatever definition he may have for them, are they shared definitions by a few, a majority, or none at all?

Is it possible to create an international coalition against terrorism – with or without Russia and Iran – when there is no uncontested accepted definition of terrorism, and no agreement over those who are the terrorists and those who aren’t?

Military action against ISIS for example, may bring short term impact, but what of viable long term outcomes?  In calling for (and perhaps creating) an international coalition against terrorism (if it can be agreed who are and who aren’t terrorists) for short term actions, then will there be the same longevity and commitment to the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy to which States agreed almost a decade ago?


One and the same? Syria related terrorist arrest(s) Ukraine

November 14, 2015

Whilst all the big issues relating to adopting much needed legislation in Ukraine, legislation also required to enable Visa-free with the Schengen nations of the EU at some point in the future, (whenever that may be) have been grabbing the headlines, the Ukrainian State Border Service and SBU have been arresting Islamic terrorist(s).

On 11th November, the Border Service of Ukraine announced it had arrested a Russian citizen “who was possibly a member of the Islamic State terrorist group” during the check-in at Boryspil airport, booked on a flight to Istanbul.  The Ukrainian State Border Service press release stating “the Ukrainian State Border Service detained a citizen of the Russian Federation who is on the international wanted list and suspected of participation in the terrorist group ‘Islamic State’. The Interpol National Bureau for Ukraine was informed about the detention of the Russian citizen.”

On 13th November the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) also released a statement, “The citizen of one of the former USSR republics took part in the Syrian armed conflict in 2013 – 2014. The combatant became head of a separate Jamaat of the international terrorist organization ‘Al-Nusra Front’ in 2015.”


It seems highly unlikely that these two statements would relate to two separate arrests only 48 hours apart for wanted Islamic terrorists.  It is to be expected that the SBU press statement would be far more accurate in identifying the terrorist organisation involved, and less specific regarding the nationality of the wanted terrorist, than the Ukrainian Border Service which was more specific about the nationality of the wanted terrorist and less specific about the Islamic terrorist organisation.

If these statements relate to the same arrest, the it would appear that a Russian national circulated as wanted by Interpol, and who took part in the Syrian armed conflict during 2013-14, becoming head of a separate Jamaat of the Al Nusra Front in 2015, was arrested at Boryspil airport attempting to board a flight from Kyiv to Istanbul.

Since that arrest, Kyiv’s Shevchenko District Court has remanded in custody this individual pending extradition to whichever nation circulated this Russian citizen as wanted – and which nation that is, at the time of writing, is not public knowledge.

Clearly there are questions to be asked as to how this Russian citizen  arrived in Ukraine having not only fought, but headed a Jamaat of the Al Nursa Front?  How long has this individual been in Ukraine?  How did they enter?  Were they wanted when they entered, or circulated as wanted after they entered therefore legitimately?  Is Ukraine simply an entry and egress point, and if so where else did this individual go?  Why did this individual leave Syria?  Who did they meet either in Ukraine, or elsewhere?  For what purpose?  Was Istanbul a safer point of entry than elsewhere in MENA?  The most convenient route, or route with planned safe-passage back to Syria?  Was a return to Syria the purpose of the trip to Istanbul?  Was this individual traveling on legitimate or false documents?  Mobile phone?  Computer?  What bank cards/details in their possession?  Where and when used?  How much of a picture can be gleaned of time spent in Ukraine – and with whom if there is CCTV in locations where any bank card use occurred?

One must expect that the SBU has asked all these questions (and many more) of this individual during the period between the first mention of an arrest on 11th November, and the remanding in custody of this individual, pending extradition, on 13th November.  Between now and any extradition, no doubt more questions will want to be put to this individual – and not only by the Ukrainians – prior to delivery of the wanted to the country requesting extradition.

Are all the answers to the questions above (and many more) already known?  Was the arrest at  Boryspil airport by the Ukrainian State Border Services the conclusion, rather than beginning, of SBU engagement with this individual?

Perhaps rightly, not a headlining incident in light of recent events within the legislative world of the Verkovna Rada, and also the notable up-tick in the continuing war (no fig-leaf “shaky ceasefire rhetoric) in eastern Ukraine – but nevertheless it is an incident that will catch the eye of some readers of this blog.


A rare public word of thanks for a gathering of minds

October 5, 2015

As regular readers will have noticed, there have been no entries at the blog for the past few days owing to your author being in Gdansk at a gathering of some exceptionally sharp minds (your author naturally excluded from that category).

Being fortunate to have the time to attend many such events when invitations are received should your author choose, few words of thanks and even fewer words relating to what was said (Chatham House Rule notwithstanding) following such gatherings have ever been written here.  It is perhaps time to break that unwritten rule and write a few words of genuine appreciation regarding the quality of the event in Gdansk.

Firstly it is right to thank the City of Gdansk for its support for an extremely high quality gathering in what can only be described as a spectacular and atmospheric historical venue.  The type of venue that adds an additional soberness and sharpening of the mind by default.

Secondly, there is a specific need to thank all panelists and moderators, and especially those who listened so attentively to the panel upon which your author sat and opined for 2 hours – and even more so for some very sharp and insightful comments and discussion.

Therefore, and in no particular order, a name check for one of the most erudite, intellectually challenging and stimulating groups it has been your author’s pleasure to mingle with for a very long time – Adamski Lukasz, Anton Barbashin, Fabian Burkhardt, Marek Cichocki, Slawomir Debski, Adam Eberhardt, Geir Flikke, Evgeny Gontmakher, Jonas Gratz, Olga Irisova, Maria Issaeva, Leszek Jesien, Michal Koran, Kadri Liik, John Lough, Lauri Malksoo, Nikolay Petrov, Hans Joachim Spanger, Rafal Tarnogorski, Sergey Utkin and Ernest Wyciszkiewicz – a heart felt thanks for a weekend where lazy thinking was banished and insightful comment was the branding of the entire event both on and off the official clock.


Indeed thanks to all at The Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding who work in the boiler room behind the scenes and made the event run seamlessly.

Lastly many thanks for the invitations to similar events over the coming months in Warsaw, Prague and London being hosted by other equally erudite organisations which appear to present an equally challenging arena.

Before normal service resumes tomorrow with matters Ukrainian, a special note of recognition to  Slawomir Debski who was an extremely engaging and considerate host.

Bravo to all, a very enjoyable and intellectually stimulating weekend  – how rare it is to leave such a gathering and want to keep all the business cards exchanged (rather than throw most of them away)!

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