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FTR #837 Cauldron: Update on Ukraine

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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment

Jaaniko Merilo

Introduction: As the Ukraine crisis lurches forward, the beginnings of the episode during sniper fire in Kiev during the Maidan coup have come back into view. Although much of the media coverage remains locked in to the “group think” now affecting Ukraine, some rays of light have penetrated the deliberately created journalistic darkness.

In addition to the disintegrating story of a one-handed sniper firing on demonstrators in the coup, we note demonstrators’ stories of being recruited to wield rifles in the Maidan riots. The security in the areas in which the snipers operated was supervised by Andriy Parubiy,  the former defense minister from the fascist Svoboda party. Parubiy is now the deputy speaker of the parliament. (The “investigation” into the alleged shooter with one hand was overseen by Oleh Makhnitskiy–the former justice minister from Svoboda and now an adviser to Petro Poroshenko.)

In the U.S. and elsewhere in the West, the Orwellian journalistic coverage of the Ukraine crisis continues unabated, with misinfomation and disimformation carrying the day. Officers, as well as founders of, the Nazi Azov Battalion are presented uncritically in U.S. media, while the American ambassador to Ukraine–Geoffrey Pyatt–cites material provided by DigitalGlobe as credible proof of direct Russian involvement in Ukraine. (For more about DigitalGlobe, see FTR #811.)

Ukrainian veterans of the punisher battalions have deliberately misled GOP Senator James Inhofe (Oklahoma), giving him photographs purporting to show a Russian invasion of Ukraine, when the pictures are actually from other operations.

We note, again, that Michael Boriurkiw, head of the OSCE’s contingent in Ukraine, is networked with the OUN/B heirs, as well as with a Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood milieu that overlaps elements figuring in the disappearance of MH 370. Boriurkiw’s pronouncements have done much to shape Western public opinion about Ukraine.

Emblem of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion whose commanders occupy key positions in that country's government

In spite of rigid state censorship, some Ukrainian media have actually let slip the fact that there are no Russian military units in Ukraine.

Pravy Sektor: It has chapters in the U.S.

The recruitment of foreigners to work in the Ukrainian government continues unabated. In addition to Jaanika Merilo, who will be “attracting foreign investment” (when she isn’t trying to “one-up” Miley Cyrus), former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili will be heading to Kiev.

A wanted criminal in his native country, Saakashvili will be in charge of procuring arms for Ukraine, one of whose top officials has reiterated a common theme of Ukrainian propaganda–the U.S. and other Western countris should risk nuclear war to aid Ukraine.

The program includes with a frightening look at Pravy Sektor (“Right Sector”) chapters in the United States and their apparent involvement in disruption of political activities they deem to be “pro-Russian.”

Previous programs covering the Ukraine crisis are: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800803804, 808811817818824826829832833.

Program Highlights Include: The economic and ethnic factors that are motivating the insurgents in Eastern Ukraine; comparison of the ginning up of information about the Balkans’ wars with the dissemination of lies to justify our involvement in Ukraine; a plan by the Ukrainian government to shoot deserters from the military; review of previous elements of our analysis on Ukraine.

Svoboda leader Oleh Tiahanybok salutes

1. The BBC has an update on the “inves­ti­ga­tion” into the Maidan square sniper mys­tery and the dif­fer­ing accounts of Andre Paru­biy, then the head of secu­rity for the Maidan pro­tes­tors. Parubiy is the former defense minister and a member of Svoboda.

He was in charge of “security” for the Maidan protesters and is now the deputy speaker of the Ukrainian parliament.

“The Untold Story of the Maidan Mas­sacre” by Gabriel Gate­house; BBC News; 2/11/2015.

A day of blood­shed on Kiev’s main square, nearly a year ago, marked the end of a win­ter of protest against the gov­ern­ment of pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych, who soon after­wards fled the coun­try. More than 50 pro­test­ers and three police­men died. But how did the shoot­ing begin? Protest organ­is­ers have always denied any involve­ment — but one man told the BBC a dif­fer­ent story.

It’s early in the morn­ing, 20 Feb­ru­ary, 2014. Kiev’s Maidan square is divided — on one side the riot police, the pro­test­ers on the other.

This has been going on for more than two months now. But events are about to come to a head. By the end of the day, more than 50 peo­ple will be dead, many of them gunned down in the street by secu­rity forces.

The vio­lence will lead to the down­fall of Ukraine’s pro-Russian pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovych. Moscow will call 20 Feb­ru­ary an armed coup, and use it to jus­tify the annex­a­tion of Crimea and sup­port for sep­a­ratists in East­ern Ukraine.

The protest lead­ers, some of whom now hold posi­tions of power in the new Ukraine, insist full respon­si­bil­ity for the shoot­ings lies with the secu­rity forces, act­ing on behalf of the pre­vi­ous government.

But one year on, some wit­nesses are begin­ning to paint a dif­fer­ent picture.

“I didn’t shoot to kill”

“I was shoot­ing down­wards at their feet,” says a man we will call Sergei, who tells me he took up posi­tion in the Kiev Con­ser­va­tory, a music acad­emy on the south-west cor­ner of the square.

“Of course, I could have hit them in the arm or any­where. But I didn’t shoot to kill.”

Sergei says he had been a reg­u­lar pro­tester on the Maidan for more than a month, and that his shots at police on the square and on the roof of an under­ground shop­ping mall, caused them to retreat.

There had been shoot­ing two days ear­lier, on 18 Feb­ru­ary. The 19th, a Wednes­day, had been qui­eter, but in the evening, Sergei says, he was put in con­tact with a man who offered him two guns: one a 12-gauge shot­gun, the other a hunt­ing rifle, a Saiga that fired high-velocity rounds.

He chose the lat­ter, he says, and stashed it in the Post Office build­ing, a few yards from the Con­ser­va­tory. Both build­ings were under the con­trol of the protesters.

When the shoot­ing started early on the morn­ing of the 20th, Sergei says, he was escorted to the Con­ser­va­tory, and spent some 20 min­utes before 07:00 fir­ing on police, along­side a sec­ond gunman.

His account is par­tially cor­rob­o­rated by other wit­nesses. That morn­ing, Andriy Shevchenko, then an oppo­si­tion MP and part of the Maidan move­ment, had received a phone call from the head of the riot police on the square.

“He calls me and says, ‘Andriy, some­body is shoot­ing at my guys.’ And he said that the shoot­ing was from the Conservatory.”

Shevchenko con­tacted the man in charge of secu­rity for the pro­test­ers, Andriy Paru­biy, known as the Com­man­dant of the Maidan.

“I sent a group of my best men to go through the entire Con­ser­va­tory build­ing and deter­mine whether there were any fir­ing posi­tions,” Paru­biy says.

Mean­while the MP, Andriy Shevchenko, was get­ting increas­ingly pan­icked phone calls.

“I kept get­ting calls from the police offi­cer, who said: ‘I have three peo­ple wounded, I have five peo­ple wounded, I have one per­son dead.’ And at some point he says, ‘I am pulling out.’ And he says, ‘Andriy I do not know what will be next.’ But I clearly felt that some­thing really bad was about to happen.”

Andriy Paru­biy, now deputy speaker of the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, says his men found no gun­men in the Con­ser­va­tory building.

But a pho­tog­ra­pher who gained access to the Con­ser­va­tory later in the morn­ing — shortly after 08:00 — took pic­tures there of men with guns, although he did not see them fire.

What hap­pened in Maidan Square: A photographer’s story

Sergei’s account also dif­fers from Parubiy’s.

“I was just reload­ing,” he told me. “They ran up to me and one put his foot on top of me, and said, ‘They want a word with you, every­thing is OK, but stop doing what you’re doing.’”

Sergei says he is con­vinced the men who dragged him away were from Parubiy’s secu­rity unit, though he didn’t recog­nise their faces. He was escorted out of the Con­ser­va­tory build­ing, taken out of Kiev by car, and left to make his own way home.

By that time three police­men had been fatally wounded and the mass killings of pro­test­ers had begun.

Kiev’s offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion has focused on what hap­pened after­wards — after the riot police began to retreat from the square. In video footage, they are clearly seen fir­ing towards pro­test­ers as they pull back.

Only three peo­ple have been arrested, all of them mem­bers of a spe­cial unit of riot police. And of these three, only two — the lower-ranking offi­cers — remain in cus­tody. The unit’s com­mand­ing offi­cer, Dmitry Sadovnik, was granted bail and has now disappeared.

Some of the dead were almost cer­tainly shot by snipers, who seemed to be shoot­ing from some of the taller build­ings sur­round­ing the square.

Lawyers for the vic­tims and sources in the gen­eral prosecutor’s office have told the BBC that when it comes to inves­ti­gat­ing deaths that could not have been caused by the riot police, they have found their efforts blocked by the courts.

“If you think of Yanukovych’s time, it was like a Bermuda tri­an­gle: the prosecutor’s office, the police and the courts,” says Andriy Shevchenko. “Every­one knew that they co-operated, they cov­ered each other and that was the basis of the mas­sive cor­rup­tion in the coun­try. Those con­nec­tions still exists.”

Con­spir­acy the­o­ries abound

Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral, Vitaly Yarema, was dis­missed this week, amid harsh crit­i­cism of his han­dling of the investigation.

The lead­ers of the Maidan have always main­tained they did their best to keep guns away from the square.

“We knew that our strength was not to use force, and our weak­ness would be if we start shoot­ing,” says Andriy Shevchenko.

Paru­biy says it is pos­si­ble that a hand­ful of pro­test­ers with weapons may have come to the Maidan as part of a spon­ta­neous, unor­gan­ised response to vio­lence from the secu­rity forces in the days run­ning up to 20 February.

“I did hear that, after the shoot­ings on 18 Feb­ru­ary, there were guys who came to Maidan with hunt­ing rifles. I was told that some­times they were the rel­a­tives or par­ents of those peo­ple who were killed on the 18th. So I con­cede that it’s pos­si­ble there were peo­ple with hunt­ing rifles on Maidan. When the snipers began to kill our guys, one after another, I can imag­ine that those with the hunt­ing rifles returned fire.”

Sergei, again, tells a dif­fer­ent story. He says he was recruited as a poten­tial shooter in late-January, by a man he describes only as a retired mil­i­tary offi­cer. Sergei him­self was a for­mer soldier.

“We got chat­ting, and he took me under his wing. He saw some­thing in me that he liked. Offi­cers are like psy­chol­o­gists, they can see who is capa­ble. He kept me close.”

The for­mer offi­cer dis­suaded him from join­ing any of the more mil­i­tant groups active on the Maidan.

“‘Your time will come,’ he said.”

Was he being pre­pared, psy­cho­log­i­cally, to take up arms?

“Not that we sat down and worked out a plan. But we talked about it pri­vately and he pre­pared me for it.”

It is not clear who the man who appar­ently recruited Sergei was, or whether he belonged to any of the recog­nised groups active on the Maidan.

And there is much else that we still do not know, such as who fired the first shots on 20 February.

As for con­spir­acy the­o­ries, it is pos­si­ble that Sergei was manip­u­lated, played like a pawn in a big­ger game. But that is not the way he sees it. He was a sim­ple pro­tester, he says, who took up arms in self-defence.

“I didn’t want to shoot any­one or kill any­one. But that was the sit­u­a­tion. I don’t feel like some kind of hero. The oppo­site: I have trou­ble sleep­ing, bad pre­mo­ni­tions. I’m try­ing to con­trol myself. But I just get ner­vous all the time. I have noth­ing to be proud of. It’s easy to shoot. Liv­ing after­wards, that’s the hard thing. But you have to defend your country.”

2a. In FTR #779. we noted the dominant presence of Svoboda and Pravy Sektor ministers in the interim government in Ukraine. This may well have affected the investigation of the sniper deaths that take place during the demonstrations that brought about the fall of Viktor Yanukovych.

Oleh Makhnitsky is from Svoboda and has been central to the “investigation” of the sniper attacks. He is now an adviser to Petro Poroshenko.

Evidence has been destroyed, investigators have made prejudicial public statements about the accused, the deaths of the policemen have not been investigated and at least one photograph of the accused has obviously been doctored.

“Spe­cial Report: Flaws Found in Ukraine’s Probe of Maidan Massacre” by Steve Steck­low and Olek­sandr Akymenkoreuters.com; 10/10/2014.

For mil­lions of Ukraini­ans, it was a crime against human­ity. In Feb­ru­ary, more than 100 pro­test­ers were gunned down in the Maidan upris­ing that top­pled the pres­i­dent, Vik­tor Yanukovich. The vic­tims are now known as “the Heav­enly Hundred.”

In April, pros­e­cu­tors arrested three sus­pects, mem­bers of an elite unit within the “Berkut” riot police. Senior among them was Dmytro Sadovnyk, 38, a dec­o­rated com­man­der, who was accused of order­ing his men to fire on the crowds on the morn­ing of Feb. 20. The three stand accused of mas­sacring 39 unarmed protesters.

On Sept. 19, the case took a turn when a judge released Sadovnyk into house arrest – and, two weeks later, he went missing.

Maidan activists were out­raged, con­vinced that a cor­rupt sys­tem had let a killer escape. The judge was placed under inves­ti­ga­tion. The pros­e­cu­tor said in a state­ment: “D. Sadovnyk, sus­pected of com­mit­ting an extremely griev­ous crime, aim­ing to avoid pun­ish­ment, dis­ap­peared from his place of per­ma­nent residence.”

But in a coun­try where jus­tice often isn’t blind, there’s another pos­si­bil­ity: Sadovnyk was being framed, and saw flight as his best option. In court last month, he called the case against him “a polit­i­cal lynch­ing.” In the days before he van­ished, his wife and his lawyer say, Sadovnyk and his fam­ily received death threats.

A Reuters exam­i­na­tion of Ukraine’s probes into the Maidan shoot­ings — based on inter­views with pros­e­cu­tors, defence attor­neys, pro­test­ers, police offi­cers and legal experts – has uncov­ered seri­ous flaws in the case against Sadovnyk and the other two Berkut officers.

Among the evi­dence pre­sented against Sadovnyk was a pho­to­graph. Pros­e­cu­tors say it shows him near Kiev’s Inde­pen­dence Square on Feb. 20, wear­ing a mask and hold­ing a rifle with two hands, his fin­gers clearly vis­i­ble.

The prob­lem: Sadovnyk doesn’t have two hands. His right hand, his wife told Reuters, was blown off by a grenade in a train­ing acci­dent six years ago. As pros­e­cu­tors intro­duced the image at a hear­ing in April, said Yuliya Sadovnyk, her hus­band removed a glove and dis­played his stump to the courtroom.

“He can’t really shoot,” said Ser­hiy Vilkov, Sadovnyk’s lawyer. “To blame him for the crime is a polit­i­cal game.”

The probes into the killings have been hin­dered by miss­ing evi­dence. Many guns allegedly used to shoot pro­test­ers have van­ished; many of the bul­lets fired were taken home as sou­venirs. Bar­ri­cades, bullet-pierced trees and other items of foren­sic evi­dence were removed, lawyers say.

A for­mer Berkut com­man­der told Reuters that Berkut offi­cers destroyed doc­u­men­tary evi­dence that poten­tially could iden­tify fel­low offi­cers. They did so, he said, because they feared the Berkut’s head­quar­ters would be attacked by a mob of revenge-seeking pro­test­ers after Yanukovich fled to Russia.

The for­mer pres­i­dent isn’t the only key fig­ure miss­ing. In an inter­view before Sadovnyk van­ished, Ukraine’s gen­eral pros­e­cu­tor, Vitaly Yarema, said inves­ti­ga­tors had iden­ti­fied 17 Berkut offi­cers as alleged par­tic­i­pants in the pro­tester shoot­ings, based on sur­veil­lance cam­era videos and mobile-phone loca­tion data. Of the 17, he said, 14 had fled to Rus­sia or Crimea, includ­ing the Berkut’s top com­man­der in Kiev. Sadovnyk and his two co-defendants were the only iden­ti­fied sus­pects who had remained behind.

MILESTONE

Inde­pen­dence Square was the ral­ly­ing point in Kiev where the anti-Yanukovich rev­o­lu­tion largely unfolded between Novem­ber and Feb­ru­ary. (The word Maidan means “square” in Ukrain­ian.) The killings there quickly were recog­nised as a mile­stone in mod­ern Ukrain­ian his­tory, part of a chain of events that set off a sep­a­ratist con­flict and Russ­ian incur­sions that have shaken the coun­try to its core.

Videos and pho­tographs appear to show how Berkut offi­cers shot at pro­test­ers and beat them with sticks. In one video, the Berkut are seen mak­ing a man stand naked in the snow.

The pub­lic is demand­ing answers and jus­tice. But the inves­ti­ga­tions are test­ing Ukraine’s abil­ity to rise above the kinds of fail­ings that have hob­bled the coun­try ever since its inde­pen­dence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In con­trast to, say, Poland, Ukraine has never gelled into a robust state. Kiev has had two rev­o­lu­tions since inde­pen­dence. A host of endemic prob­lems — polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, rack­e­teer­ing, a divide between speak­ers of Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian — have left it fee­ble and frac­tious. Another of the state’s chief fail­ings, out­side observers say, is a bro­ken jus­tice system.

Under Yanukovich and his rivals before him, courts and cops were polit­i­cal instru­ments. Yulia Tymoshenko, runner-up to Yanukovich in the 2010 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, later was jailed in a case widely crit­i­cised as political.

In its 2013 report on human rights, the U.S. State Depart­ment cited the Tymoshenko con­vic­tion in observ­ing that Ukraine’s courts “remained vul­ner­a­ble to polit­i­cal pres­sure and cor­rup­tion, were inef­fi­cient, and lacked pub­lic con­fi­dence. In cer­tain cases the out­come of tri­als appeared to be predetermined.”

The post-Yanukovich gov­ern­ment acknowl­edged as much this July, in a report it pre­pared with the Inter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. “The tax admin­is­tra­tion, the police, the Pros­e­cu­tor General’s Office, the State Enforce­ment Ser­vice, and the judi­ciary were noted as hav­ing tra­di­tion­ally been viewed as among the most cor­rupt pub­lic insti­tu­tions,” the report found.

The past shows signs of repeat­ing itself.

The two pros­e­cu­tors and a gov­ern­ment min­is­ter who have led the Maidan shoot­ing probes all played roles in sup­port­ing the upris­ing. One of these offi­cials told Reuters that the inves­ti­ga­tors gath­er­ing the evi­dence are com­pletely independent.

Another gap in the pros­e­cu­tion: To date, no one has been appre­hended in the shoot­ing of police­men. Accord­ing to Ukraine’s Min­istry of Inte­rior Affairs, between Feb. 18 and 20, 189 police offi­cers suf­fered gun­shot wounds. Thir­teen died.

In addi­tion, the for­mer act­ing gen­eral pros­e­cu­tor who over­saw the arrests of the three Berkut offi­cers declared on tele­vi­sion that they “have already been shown to be guilty.” That state­ment, said legal experts, could prej­u­dice the cases. Ukraine is a party to the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Human Rights, which states that crim­i­nal defen­dants are pre­sumed inno­cent until proven guilty.

“A pub­lic state­ment by a pros­e­cu­tor that directly chal­lenges that pre­sump­tion is a denial of due process,” said Richard Har­vey, a British bar­ris­ter who spe­cialises in inter­na­tional crim­i­nal law.

Even some of the bereaved fam­i­lies ques­tion the fair­ness of the pro­ceed­ings. Ser­hiy Bon­darchuk, a physics teacher, died of a gun­shot wound to the back on the morn­ing of Feb. 20. His son, Volodymyr Bon­darchuk, said the killing is one of the 39 in which Sadovnyk and his two col­leagues are sus­pected. Volodymyr said that based on his own inquiries, he doubts the three were respon­si­ble for his father’s death.

“They are try­ing to close the case because their bosses and the com­mu­nity just want to have some­one to pun­ish,” he said. “The inves­ti­ga­tion does not have enough evi­dence to prove the guilt of these three people.”

Volodymyr Bon­darchuk recently helped organ­ise an asso­ci­a­tion of about 70 fam­i­lies of dead pro­test­ers. “The main aim for us,” he said, “is an objec­tive and accu­rate investigation.”

GOLDEN EAGLES

Feb­ru­ary 20 was the blood­i­est day of the Maidan upris­ing. Scores of pro­test­ers and police offi­cers were shot and killed. A day later, oppo­si­tion lead­ers signed a Euro­pean Union-mediated peace pact.

Pub­lic pres­sure mounted to pros­e­cute the per­pe­tra­tors. Within a week, Yanukovich, by then a fugi­tive, was indicted for the mass mur­der of pro­test­ers. An interim gov­ern­ment dis­banded the Berkut, a force of sev­eral thou­sand whose name means “golden eagle.”

On April 3, Ukrain­ian author­i­ties announced the arrests of sev­eral mem­bers of an elite spe­cial unit within the Berkut. One was Sadovnyk, the unit’s com­man­der. A father of three, he first joined the Berkut in 1996 after serv­ing in the Ukrain­ian army. He later won numer­ous com­men­da­tions for his police service.

Also detained were two younger offi­cers: Ser­hiy Zinchenko, 23, and Pavel Abroskin, 24.

An inter­nal pros­e­cu­tion doc­u­ment, reviewed by Reuters, sketches out inves­ti­ga­tors’ ver­sion of events. It is a “Notice of Sus­pi­cion” for Zinchenko, dated April 3.

The doc­u­ment alleges that on Feb. 18, the Berkut’s top com­man­der, Ser­hiy Kusiuk, gave an oral order to Sadovnyk to deliver auto­matic rifles to his unit. Kusiuk is among the Berkut offi­cers who fled to Rus­sia, pros­e­cu­tors say. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

On the morn­ing of Feb. 20, sev­eral mem­bers of Sadovnyk’s unit were shot. At around 9 a.m., the doc­u­ment alleges, Sadovnyk ordered his men to fire in the direc­tion of unarmed pro­test­ers walk­ing up Insty­tut­ska Street in down­town Kiev. The shoot­ing lasted nearly two hours, and more than nine pro­test­ers were killed, the doc­u­ment states.

Sadovnyk’s order to shoot was an abuse of power, “given that there was no imme­di­ate threat to the lives of the police offi­cers,” the doc­u­ment alleges.

Vilkov, Sadovnyk’s lawyer, dis­putes that account. Although the doc­u­ment indi­cates Sadovnyk was at the scene, Vilkov said his client was not on Insty­tut­ska Street when the pro­test­ers were killed the morn­ing of Feb. 20. Vilkov declined to dis­cuss Sadovnyk’s whereabouts.

In a tele­phone inter­view on Sept. 30, Sadovnyk told Reuters he was at a meet­ing on the morn­ing of Feb. 20 at Kiev police head­quar­ters. It began some­time between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., he said. The pur­pose, he said, was to deal with reports that many armed pro­test­ers would be arriv­ing in Kiev after a call by protest lead­ers to mobilise.

Sadovnyk said about seven police offi­cials and offi­cers were present, and he named three of them. Reuters was unable to locate the three for comment.

At the meet­ing, Sadovnyk said, the atten­dees heard gun­shots and screams over police radios. The radios car­ried reports of the death of a Berkut offi­cer and of other police wounded on Insty­tut­ska Street.

Sadovnyk said at that point, he left and drove to the scene, tak­ing about 15 min­utes to get there. He said he does not remem­ber what time he arrived, but that inves­ti­ga­tors could fig­ure it out by track­ing his mobile phone. He said he brought a gun and pro­tec­tive equipment.

When he arrived, he said, he found a nearly empty scene, with police offi­cers run­ning and the sound of ric­o­chet­ing bul­lets. He said he nei­ther received nor gave any order for his unit’s mem­bers to shoot at pro­test­ers, nor did he fire at any­one himself.

“I deny killing,” he said.

Vadim Ostanin, an attor­ney for the Berkut’s Kiev branch, gave a sim­i­lar account to Reuters. He said there is a video show­ing that Sadovnyk attended the meet­ing at police head­quar­ters. Ostanin said that when Sadovnyk arrived at the scene of the shoot­ing, his unit’s men already were retreating.

“GUILTY”

The gen­eral prosecutor’s office declined to dis­cuss the defence’s account. In a state­ment, the office said it has plenty of evi­dence against Sadovnyk. This includes videos of a pro­tester being shot by a gun­man. The office believes the gun­man is Sadovnyk, based on the “spe­cial way” the shooter is hold­ing the weapon. In a pre­vi­ous state­ment, the office said: “The ques­tion of guilt or, con­versely, inno­cence of men­tioned per­sons will be resolved by the court.”

Oleh Makhnit­sky was Ukraine’s act­ing gen­eral pros­e­cu­tor until June. In an inter­view, Reuters asked him about the pur­ported pho­to­graph of a two-handed Sadovnyk, which was cited at a hear­ing in April.

The pur­pose of that hear­ing, Makhnit­sky said, was not to judge the reli­a­bil­ity of the evi­dence but to deter­mine whether Sadovnyk was a flight risk. He said the evi­dence against Sadovnyk would be pre­sented at a future trial.

Makhnit­sky, now an adviser to Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, said he was a leader of a lawyers’ group that pro­vided legal assis­tance to anti-Yanukovich pro­test­ers dur­ing the Maidan demon­stra­tions. He said pol­i­tics played no role in the pros­e­cu­tion of the three Berkut officers. . . .

Combat helmets of the Ukrainian government's Azov Battalion

2b. German-Foreign-Policy.com features a comparison with the “cooking” of journalistic information about Ukraine with what took place in the former Yugoslavia, the NATO operation against Kosovo, in particular. (German-Foreign-Policy.com feeds along the lower right-hand side of the front page of this website.)

“From Racak to Maidan;” german-foreign-policy.com; 2/23/2015.

A year after Berlin helped instigate the putsch in Ukraine, new information is coming to light about the February 20, 2014 Kiev Massacre. That bloodbath, of more than 50 people killed, accelerated the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych and was also used – even in Germany – to justify the putsch. As has now been confirmed by witnesses, armed demonstrators were the first to open fire on police, and only then, did repressive forces return fire, when they were caught in a hail of bullets while retreating. If this proves to be true, it could not have been a government-planned massacre. Furthermore, evidence indicates that also the snipers, who had shot to kill, were on the side of the government’s opponents. Today, the responsibility for that bloodbath is as unsolved as that for the deaths of more than 40 Kosovo Albanians in Račak in mid-January 1999, which the West labeled a mass execution – in spite of all contradicting evidence. Račak served as a decisive justification for the military aggression on Yugoslavia. The political and media establishments’ other forgeries and lies preceding and during the war on Yugoslavia demonstrate that manipulations, such as the ones we are currently seeing in the Ukraine conflict, are nothing new. They are rather consistent props in the German establishment’s standard repertoire for escalating conflicts.

The Massacre of February 20, 2014

A year after the putsch in Ukraine, two reports in leading western news organs are – independently from one another – shedding a new light on the fatal shots in Kiev on February 20, 2014. That day more than 50 people were shot to death in downtown Kiev. This bloodbath accelerated the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. In Berlin this was also used as a justification for the putsch: a president, who deliberately orders the massacre of demonstrators, has forfeited his right to office.

The First Shots

Since a few days, new witness testimonies on the massacre have been made available. According to witnesses, on February 20, armed government opponents continued the deadly escalation strategy, they had started just a few days earlier. Already February 18, violent fascists had broken away from a “peace offensive” protest demonstration attacking police with Molotov cocktails, and stormed the office of President Viktor Yanukovych’s “Regions Party,” killing a guard and two party members. The police retaliated brutally. On the evening of the same day – February 18 – there were reports of around 25 people killed, one third of the casualties were police officers, of whom several had died of gunshot wounds. February 19, preparations were made to escalate the conflict. A Maidan demonstrator just confirmed to the BBC that he was given a Saiga hunting rifle on the evening of February 19 and had gone to Kiev’s Conservatory, adjacent to the Maidan, on February 20, which was under the control of the demonstrators. From there, as photos suggest, and as the demonstrator and an opposition politician’s report confirm, shots were fired at police, killing the first three police officers.[1]

In a Hail of Bullets

A former “Dnipro” Battalion combatant, the current parliamentarian, Volodymyr Parasyuk, has recounted what happened next to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Parasyuk, at the time, was a commander of one of the “Hundertschaften” [a military formation of 100 men, approx. the size of a U.S. military company] at the Maidan. He describes how, after the first police were killed, they began to retreat – “going along Institutska Street, up the Pechersk hill crossing the Maidan,” according to the daily. Parasyuk then recounts that his Hunderschaft pursued the police immediately: “Everyone, who had been at the barricades, began to storm Institutska Street.”[2] “Many,” by this time, were already armed; and they “used” their rifles, “as they made the assault.” Police in more secure positions provided cover fire for their colleagues, withdrawing in a hail of bullets, killing a number of the attacking demonstrators. If this version of events is true, it could not have been President Yanukovych, who had planned a massacre of the opposition.

Under Opposition Control

It is still not clear, under whose command the obviously professional snipers had then proceeded to gun down numerous people at the Maidan. Back in the spring of 2014, research made by a German television team had revealed that the snipers were firing from the upper floors of the “Ukraina” Hotel at the Maidan.[3] A BBC correspondent, who was an eyewitness to the events of February 20, had spotted a sniper in a window high up in the building. At the time in question, the hotel was under the control of the opposition, who strictly regulated entry onto the premises. The suspicion “that Yanukovych was not behind the snipers, but rather someone from the new coalition,” had also been expressed by the Estonian Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet to the head of the EU’s foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, already in early March. He quoted Yanukovych’s opponents as his source.[4] The objective would have been to escalate the violence to provoke the ultimate overthrow of the government. Attorneys for the victims are still complaining that an official investigation of the massacre has been stagnating and not seriously pursued. Initially, an investigation of the bloodbath by international experts had been demanded, however that also never materialized.

German Instructions

That, in spite of all the unsolved mysteries surrounding it, this massacre is still today used to justify Yanukovych’s overthrow, brings to mind similar methods used in earlier conflicts – for example to justify the military aggression against Yugoslavia. At the time, the “Račak Massacre” was given the most attention. On January 16, 1999, more than 40 Kosovo-Albanian bodies were discovered in that south Serbian village. At the time, the claims by western politicians and the media that Serbian forces of repression had executed them have never been followed up with tangible evidence. Numerous indications point to the possibility that they had been killed in combat between Yugoslav government units and the UÇK terrorist militia. The Finnish forensics specialist, Helena Ranta, later complained, she had been put under pressure, and was given “instructions” by Germany’s “special emissary” for Kosovo, Christian Pauls: It had been clear “that a whole group of governments had an interest in a version of what had happened in Račak,” which “placed responsibility on the Serbian side.”[5] Like the deadly sniper fire at the Maidan on February 20, 2014, the causes of these deaths have never been solved.

Fischer’s “Auschwitz”

Other incidents prior to and during the war on Yugoslavia also demonstrate how, long before the Ukraine conflict, news reporting in the “free West” was being massively manipulated. For example, one can see this from the account furnished by German military experts, who, on behalf of the OSCE and an EU mission, had observed the situation in the south Serbian province at the turn of the year 1998/1999. Brig. Gen. Heinz Loquai, was stationed at the German OSCE representation in Vienna, in early 1999. In his conversation with german-foreign-policy.com, he recalls that on March 18/19 he had read in an OSCE report on Kosovo, “the situation throughout the province remains tense, but quiet.” Even experts at the Ministry of Defense had drawn the conclusion on March 23, “still no trends toward ethnic cleansing are discernible.” This was “the situation,” says Loquai, that Rudolf Scharping, Defense Minister at the time, and his colleague, Foreign Minister Josef Fischer had “compared to the Holocaust, with its murder of six million Jews,” to justify the aggression on March 24, 1999.[6]

Nothing to do with Reality

Dietmar Hartwig, a former Bundeswehr officer, who had been stationed in Kosovo as an observer for the EU, in 1999 up until the war, made similar observations. Hartwig explains, he had had no knowledge of “large-scale, or even state-ordered crimes against the population” – “neither from the reports of his fellow observers, nor from his conversations with leading Kosovo Albanian politicians.” Yet the media was constantly claiming that Serbian security forces were using senseless brutality on the population.” Hartwig notes that “media information that I encountered during and since I was in Kosovo, gave a picture that had nothing to do with the reality.”[7] This is also the case of the alleged “Operation Horseshoe,” cobbled together from dubious, intelligence service files and panhandled by the German Defense Minister, Rudolf Scharping (SPD) and the German government as a Yugoslav government plan. According to what SPD Whip, at the time, Peter Struck, told the Bundestag April 15, 1999, the paper supposedly depicted the plan “to depopulate Kosovo of ethnic Albanians.”[8] This allegation was then trumpeted, without hesitation, by all the leading media organs in Germany, seriously weakening opposition to the war.

Dateless Tanks

With this in mind, the current anti-Russian reporting in German media and recurring proof of media forgeries can be considered a normalcy in times of conflict escalation. Most recently, the Second German Public TV Channel (ZDF) had to admit that its news report alleging that more than 50 Russian tanks had entered Ukraine, had been illustrated with the photo of a Georgian tank from 2009. A graphic designer had “inadvertently transformed 2009 Georgian tanks into dateless Russian tanks.” “The ‘Heute.de’ program editor in charge” had been incapable of “recognizing … the mistake,” explained ZDF.[9] Last year, similar “mistakes” had harvested massive criticism. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[10]) From the experience during the war on Yugoslavia, it seems unlikely that before an – at the moment unforeseeable – end of the conflict, there will be no change in the news reporting of major media organs nor in the lack of serious investigations of who was really responsible for those conflict-justifying massacres.

 

Other reports and background information on the media’s role in the Ukrainian conflict can be found here: The Free World and Crisis of Legitimacy.

[1] Gabriel Gatehouse: The untold story of the Maidan massacre. www.bbc.co.uk 12.02.2015.

[2] Konrad Schuller: Die Hundertschaften und die dritte Kraft. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07.02.2014.

[3] “Monitor” vom 11.04.2014. S. auch Legitimationskrise.

[4] S. dazu Die Kiewer Eskalationsstrategie.

[5] Markus Bickel: Kein Interesse an gefallenen Serben. www.berliner-zeitung.de 17.01.2004.

[6] S. dazu Interview mit Heinz Loquai.

[7] Cathrin Schütz: “Medienbild hatte mit der Realität nichts zu tun”. junge Welt 26.02.2008.

[8] Deutscher Bundestag: Plenarprotokoll 14/32, 15.04.1999.

[9] Marvin Schade: Immer wieder Panzer-Probleme: ZDFheute.de zeigt falsche Russenpanzer zu Ukraine-Ticker. meedia.de 16.02.2015.

[10] See Moskaus Drang nach Westen.

 

3. In keeping with its Orwellian coverage of the Ukrainian crisis, the New York Times sourced the Azov Battalion for an account of the fighting in, and around, Mariupol without mentioning the Azov’s Nazi affiliation and heraldry.

“NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 2/11/2015.

. . . . On Wednesday, the Times published a long article by Rick Lyman that presented the situation in the port city of Mariupol as if the advance by ethnic Russian rebels amounted to the arrival of barbarians at the gate while the inhabitants were being bravely defended by the forces of civilization. But then the article cites the key role in that defense played by the Azov battalion.

Though the article provides much color and detail – and quotes an Azov leader prominently – it leaves out one salient and well-known fact about the Azov battalion, that it is composed of neo-Nazis who display the Swastika, SS markings and other Nazi symbols.

But this inconvenient truth – that neo-Nazis have been central to Kiev’s “self-defense forces” from last February’s coup to the present – would presumably disrupt the desired propaganda message. So the New York Times just ignores it and refers to Azov as simply a “volunteer unit.” . . . .

4. In similar fashion, “The Gray Lady,” as the Times is known, accessed Oleh (“Oleg”) Lyashko, the Ukrainian parliamentarian and one of the founders of the Azov Battalion. Note that Lyashko is part of the majority coalition in the Ukraine parliament.

“U.S. Faults Russia as Combat Spikes in East Ukraine” by Andrew E. Kramer and Michael R. Gordon; The New York Times; 2/13/2015.

. . . . Oleg Lyashko, the leader of the Radical Party, which is part of the majority coalition in Ukraine’s Parliament, said that Mr. Poroshenko had made overly steep concessions to Mr. Putin that he described as a ticking “time bomb” that would give Russia a premise for resuming hostilities in the east. . . .

5a. Republican Senator James Inhofe presented photographs of “Russian military equipment” in Ukraine that were quickly debunked. The men are members of the “punisher” battalions, as discussed in FTR #826.

Note that one of the mem­bers of the list, Ana­tolli Pinchuk, is listed as “pres­i­dent of the UPA”. Is that a ref­er­ence to the UPA? Because, if so, that adds and extra level of ‘yikes’ to the whole situation.


“Here’s The Ukrain­ian Del­e­ga­tion That Gave Mis­lead­ing Pho­tos To Senator’s Office” by Rosie Gray; Buz­zFeed; 2/12/2015.

A del­e­ga­tion con­sist­ing of Ukrain­ian mem­bers of par­lia­ment, a para­mil­i­tary leader, and one George­town pro­fes­sor gave a senator’s office pho­tos pur­port­edly of the Russ­ian mil­i­tary invad­ing Ukraine that were later debunked.Sev­eral pho­tos allegedly show­ing the Russ­ian mil­i­tary in east­ern Ukraine that ran on the Wash­ing­ton Free Bea­con on Tues­day were quickly shown to actu­ally be pho­tos from other con­flicts, some from years ear­lier. A spokesper­son for Okla­homa Sen. Jim Inhofe told the Free Bea­con that the office had pro­cured the pho­tos from a “Ukrain­ian del­e­ga­tion” in Decem­ber.

Inhofe’s office pro­vided Buz­zFeed News the list of names of the peo­ple who pro­vided the mis­lead­ing pho­tos:
[see list]

None of the Ukraini­ans on the list are par­tic­u­larly well-known to West­ern­ers and the list does not include high-level gov­ern­ment officials.

A spokesper­son for Inhofe said that the del­e­ga­tion had pro­vided the images in print form when Inhofe was the rank­ing mem­ber of the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, and that Kar­ber, who led the del­e­ga­tion, had recently said that the pho­tos were authen­tic when staff reached out to him.

“Prior to using these pho­tos this week, staff reached out to the George­town pro­fes­sor who said he could con­firm that these pho­tos were taken between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5 in East­ern Ukraine,” Inhofe spokesper­son Donelle Harder said. “We scanned them in to pro­vide to the Free Bea­con. Since they were in print form and we had other sources con­firm that these pho­tos match the sce­nario on the ground, we failed to Google image search them.” Harder said that the office had learned that one of the pho­tos is an AP photo from the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, and the office was able to find two oth­ers online here and here..

“The Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment mem­bers who gave us these pho­tos in print form as if it came directly from a cam­era really did them­selves a dis­ser­vice,” Inhofe said in a state­ment. “We felt con­fi­dent to release these pho­tos because the images match the report­ing of what is going on in the region. I was furi­ous to learn one of the pho­tos pro­vided now appears to be fal­si­fied from an AP photo taken in 2008. . . . .”

5b. Note that one of the mem­bers of the list, Ana­tolli Pinchuk, is listed as “pres­i­dent of the UPA”. Is that a ref­er­ence to the UPA? Because, if so, that adds an extra level of ‘yikes’ to the whole situation.

“Sen. Inhofe Snookered by “President of the UPA”–Ukrainian Wartime Collaborators Who Participated in Holocaust;” Twitter; 2/13/2015.

5c. In previous programs dealing with the Ukraine crisis, we have noted the role of the Ukrainian diaspora in the generation, perpetuation and accession of fascism in Ukraine. It comes as no surprise to see that there are apparently Pravy Sektor (“Right Sector”) cells in the U.S.

It is impossible, under the circumstances, to encapsulate our ongoing analysis of the Ukraine crisis. Please utilize the extensive archive of material presented in the programs recorded to date.

“Attack on NYC Art Gallery Highlights Fascist Organizing in U.S. Immigrant Communities” by Spencer Sunshine; Political Research Associates; 10/08/2014.

Last week the New York City stop of the Material Evidence photo exhibition, spotlighting the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, was attacked. The curator was maced, the exhibit was vandalized, and fascist propaganda was left behind. As unlikely as an attack on a well-heeled art gallery may seem, it’s only the latest in a number of similar events in the city, which are tied to expatriate fascist organizing. . . .

. . . . Although the identities of the alleged assailants are unknown, the New York Material Evidence show has been the focus of some ire from some Ukrainian nationalists since its opening, who claim it is a pro-Russia propaganda vehicle. The flyers left behind, among other things, apparently promoted the Azov Battalion, an anti-separatist Ukraine volunteer military group with links to the ultranationalist Right Sector party, and considered by some to be fascists. (The Battalion is also the favored place for foreign Far Right volunteers.) In Chicago this past Spring, a group of 40 Ukrainian nationalists attempted to disrupt an anti-fascist meeting about the Ukraine situation; they left behind Right Sector literature.

In 2014, Right Sector has had chapter meetings in New York and New Jersey. They have participated in at least two public demonstrations at the Russian consulate in New York, and have been active in fundraising for non-military supplies for the Ukrainian military.

This kind of expatriate (and particularly Ukrainian) organizing by Far Right and neo-fascists in the United States is nothing new. Russ Bellant documented it for Political Research Associates in the 1980s in his book Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic Fascist Networks and Their Effect on U.S. Cold War Politics (PRA/South End Press, 1991). Among the various Far Right and fascist groups with ties to Nazi collaborationist governments that Bellant documented include the OUN-B (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-Bandera), which was a collaborator with the Nazi occupation of Ukraine. During the Cold War, their leadership was in exile in the United States, where they were able to exercise influence on the Reagan administration. The OUN-B is seen by some as the ideological predecessor of the Right Sector. . . .

6. Although The Ministry of Truth will never admit it, occasional cracks in the disinformation wall surrounding the Ukraine crisis have appeared. “On the ground” in Ukraine, George Eliason informs us of a couple of slip-ups on Channel 5, owned (ironically) by president Petro Poroshenko.

Both a Ukrainian general and one of that country’s intelligence officers let slip that there has been no “Russian invasion,” as we have been told.

“Kiev Announces Russian Invasion of Ukraine a Hoax” by George Eliason; OpEdNews; 1/29/2015.

Throughout this conflict every once in a while Ukrainian government officials have come clean about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To the chagrin of the Obama Administration and NATO Russia has not invaded. This latest admission came twice today. Once by inference and the other a direct admission from Ukrainian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Victor Muzhenko.

During a briefing with General Muzenko he announced that “To date, we have only the involvement of some members of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Russian citizens that are part of illegal armed groups involved in the fighting. We are not fighting with the regular Russian Army. We have enough forces and means in order to inflict a final defeat even with illegal armed formation present. “- he said.

If that wasn’t embarrassing enough for the Poroshenko regime which has consistently stated Russia had invaded and that Ukraine is fighting the Russian Army, it was Petro Poroshenko’s own TV station Channel 5 news that broke the story!

Earlier in the day Ukrainian Military spokesman Lusenko said he was worried if a provocation happened Russia would justify bringing in the Russian army.

This was perfectly in line with General Muzenko’s statements which fully destroy western propaganda and agree the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a hoax. . . .

7. Once again we are being treated to photographs purporting to show: Russian military units “invading” Ukraine and/or Russian military equipment being “given to the rebels” by the Russian military.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine–Geoffrey Pyatt–Tweeted what are supposed to be pictures “proving” direct Russian military assistance to Ukraine after the “Minsk II” cease fire.

Apart from the lack of coordinates on the photographs and the dubious nature of the images presented, these pictures come to us courtesy of DigitalGlobe, discussed at length in FTR #811.

DigitalGlobe is neither a credible, nor a disinterested party in this.

“Debaltseve. We are confident these are Russian Military, not separatist, systems;” Tweet by Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine; 2/13/2015.

7. Never lose sight of the fact that Michael Bociurkiw is in charge of the OSCE’s delegation in Ukraine. He is neither a disinterested party nor a credible one.

“Ukraine Crisis: Poroshenko Says Peace Deal in Danger;”BBC News; 2/14/2015.

. . . . The group responsible for monitoring the ceasefire said it remained hopeful, despite there being “quite serious live fire” in several areas.

“We feel that the Minsk agreements are really the only available roadmap to a sustainable ceasefire,” Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the OSCE, told the BBC. . . .

8. Kiev has a solu­tion to its mil­i­tary deser­tion prob­lem: shoot the desert­ers:

“Ukraine Passes Law to Shoot Desert­ers” by Damien Sharkov; Newsweek2/6/15.

The Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment has approved a motion to allow com­man­ders in the armed forces to fire at army desert­ers and use force against ser­vice­men for “neg­li­gence” or “drink­ing alco­hol” while on duty.

The motion was dis­cussed in a ses­sion yes­ter­day after­noon, with 260 MPs pass­ing it out of a total 320, accord­ing to Ukrain­ian news agency Unian— sur­pass­ing the nec­es­sary 226 votes needed to pass the bill. It will now be added as an amend­ment to the cur­rent Ukrain­ian leg­is­la­tion on the reg­u­la­tions imposed on com­man­ders’ actions toward their charges.

The act will allow com­man­ders to “utilise dras­tic mea­sures” — defined by the UN as the use of force and firearms — towards offi­cers caught act­ing “neg­li­gently” or in vio­la­tion to the code of con­duct dur­ing com­bat duty or while they are on bor­der patrol. The new act adds “drink­ing alco­holic or low-alcoholic bev­er­ages” while on duty as an offence pun­ish­able by force.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), an inter­na­tional watch­dog doc­u­ment­ing vio­la­tions of human rights, has spo­ken out against the move. “Using force to harm or kill when some­one is ‘neg­li­gent, deserts or drinks alco­hol while on duty’ is unlaw­ful under inter­na­tional law,” Yulia Gor­bunova, a HRW researcher in Ukraine says.

“It is a dis­pro­por­tion­ate response which could con­sti­tute pun­ish­ment in vio­la­tion of inter­na­tional stan­dards,” she adds. “Force in the army can only be used in self defense or where the per­son is pos­ing an immi­nent threat to oth­ers. Shoot to kill would be an extra­ju­di­cial exe­cu­tion and is unlaw­ful,” Gor­bunova concludes.

When asked if there was a seri­ous prob­lem with dis­ci­pline and deser­tion within the Ukrain­ian army, the Ukrain­ian armed forces did not comment.

Balázs Jarábik, a researcher for the Carnegie Endow­ment for Peace, spe­cial­is­ing in cen­tral and east­ern Europe, believes the new law is not as sur­pris­ing as it seems, but rather “an old Soviet prac­tice.” Asked if the new law indi­cates a lack of com­mit­ment in Ukrain­ian troops he replied “Not at all.”

“The armed forces are very com­mit­ted — look at the bat­tle for Donetsk air­port or the fierce fight for Debalt­sevo. Kiev could not even order those folks to with­draw,” he said refer­ring to the fierce bat­tle for Donetsk’s air­port which has been ongo­ing since Sep­tem­ber, and the Ukrain­ian forces defence of the small town of Debalt­sevo in the face of advanc­ing rebel militants.

Accord­ing to Jarábik, Kiev’s major mil­i­tary chal­lenges are to do with its admin­is­tra­tion, and issues regard­ing recruit­ment and alle­ga­tions of cor­rupt lead­er­ship are par­tic­u­larly problematic.

“Cru­cially, Ukraine failed to ensure the nec­es­sary quan­tity of sol­diers alto­gether in the stan­dard four mobi­liza­tion rounds dur­ing the last annual cycle,” Jarábik adds. Accord­ing to a state­ment made by the deputy com­man­der of Ukraine’s armed forces Vladimir Talay­lay, 78,000 peo­ple had been called up for duty by last month, but only 46,000 new recruits were enlisted into the mil­i­tary as a result.

The Ukrain­ian armed forces announced ear­lier this week they may resort to call up women aged over 20 in the next recruit­ment cycle to make up the numbers.

Along with Ukraine’s troops a series of vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions have formed with the back­ing of wealthy busi­ness­men, the most famous of whom is Igor Kolo­moyski, who report­edly funds the vol­un­teer Aidar, Azov, Dnepr-1, Dnepr-2 and Don­bas battalions.

The exis­tence of such units has remained a con­tro­ver­sial topic as there are no uni­ver­sal rules about who reg­u­lates their practices.

“Many of the vol­un­teer bat­tal­ions par­tially assim­i­lated in the army are paid for by oli­garchs,” Jara­bik says. “Ukraini­ans increased their mil­i­tary spend­ing this year but indeed cor­rup­tion remains a big issue,” Jarábik adds.

9. Robert Parry of Consortium News is one of the few noting the economic, as well as ethnic considerations in the civil war.

“Wretched U.S. Journalism on Ukraine” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 2/9/2015.

. . . . step back for a minute and look at the crisis through the eyes of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

A year ago, they saw what looked to them like a U.S.-organized coup, relying on both propaganda and violence to overthrow their constitutionally elected government. They also detected a strong anti-ethnic-Russian bias in the new regime with its efforts to strip away Russian as an official language. And they witnessed brutal killings of ethnic Russians – at the hands of neo-Nazis – in Odessa and elsewhere.

Their economic interests, too, were threatened since they worked at companies that did substantial business with Russia. If those historic ties to Russia were cut in favor of special economic relations with the European Union, the eastern Ukrainians would be among the worst losers.

Remember, that before backing away from the proposed association agreement with the EU in November 2013, Yanukovych received a report from economic experts in Kiev that Ukraine stood to lose $160 billion if it broke with Russia, as Der Spiegel reported. Much of that economic pain would have fallen on eastern Ukraine.

Economic Worries

On the rare occasions when American journalists have actually talked with eastern Ukrainians, this fear of the economic consequences has been a core concern, along with worries about the harsh austerity plan that the International Monetary Fund prescribed as a prerequisite for access to Western loans.

For instance, in April 2014, Washington Post correspondent Anthony Faiola reported from Donetsk that many of the eastern Ukrainians whom he interviewed said their resistance to the new Kiev regime was driven by fear over “economic hardship” and the IMF austerity plan that will make their lives even harder. . . .

Jaanika Merilo

10.  In FTR #’s 824 and 826 (among other programs) we discussed the incorporation of foreign nationals (many of Ukrainian descent) into the government of Ukraine.

Joining Ukrainian-American Natalie Jaresko (Minister of Finance) will be Jaanika Merilo, an Estonian of Ukrainian heritage. Merilo’s designated task will be to attract foreign investment.

Merilo has demonstrated a penchant for suggestive photographs and quasi-b & d and s & m staging. Ms. Merilo has not displayed what would be considered professional conduct for a businesswoman. She has also been a member of the Estonian parliament!

If she were, say, Miley Cyrus, we would expect such behavior.

It is strikingly inappropriate, under the circumstances.

Examining the pictures Ms. Merilo has posted of herself, we cannot help but wonder just WHAT type of “investment” she is trying to “attract,” and WHERE, exactly, it is going to be “invested?”

Good grief, Charlie Brown!

“John HelmerThe Lure of Foreign Investment in Ukraine–Meet Jaanika Merilo” posted by Yves Smith; Naked Capitalism; 1/20/2015.

The case for foreign investment in Ukraine is to be made by a specialist in sado-masochism, cosmetic surgery, and undress. Jaanika Merilo (above), 35, a member of the Estonian parliament of Ukrainian origin with US and UK training, was appointed the government advisor on foreign investment in Kiev on January 5. She will report to Aivaras Abromavičius, a Lithuanian and Ukraine’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade since December. In a press campaign this month which Merilo has authorized, she likens herself to the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie.

In London and Brussels, Merrilo has promoted herself as the executive head of the Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (UVCA), which is backed by Horizon Capital, the US Government-funded operation of Natalie Jaresko, who became the Ukrainian Finance Minister on December 3. The Warsaw Stock Exchange and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are backers of Merilo’s association, through which she also claims to be a protégé of Sir Richard Branson (below, left), and a “Facebook friend” of Edward Lucas (right). Lucas is the first e-citizen of Estonia, and is basing his media promotion business there. . . .

11.  Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili–a fugitive from the country he once governed–is another or Poroshenko’s new “advisers.” Saakashvili’s criminal record doesn’t seem to have been an object to his assumption of office.

Saakashvili’s appointment calls to mind the deep political connections underlying more than a century and a half of anti-Russian/anti-Soviet maneuvering in the Earth Island. Georgia was part of the Promethean League, sort of a pre-WACL WACL.

Saakashvili gave open recognition to the historical importance of the Prometheans by unveiling a statue of Prmethes in Georgia.

Note than Saakashvili is a wanted criminal in the country he once governed.

“Saakashvili Appointed Adviser to Ukraine’s Poroshenko”; Democracy and Freedom Watch; 2/14/2005.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was Friday officially confirmed as adviser to the Ukrainian president, despite being wanted for crimes in his home country.

Saakashvili will be head of the Advisory International Council of Reforms, a body subordinate to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

“The Advisory International Council of Reforms is a consultative body the main task of which is to elaborate proposals and recommendations on the implementation of reforms in Ukraine taking into account the best international experience,” a statement published on the official website of Poroshenko reads.

Prosecutors in Georgia have charged Saakashvili in four different criminal cases, which include covering up the murder of a 28 year old bank employee in 2006.

Toward the end of his nearly ten years term – the last year in a fragile power-sharing agreement with a hostile coalition – his rule became increasingly unpopular. The coalition, called Georgian Dream, won a landslide victory in 2012 on a promise to ‘restore justice’, and proceeded to put former officials on trial and free over half of all prisoners in the country based on the perception that there were too many miscarriages of justice to go through each case individually.

Last year also Saakashvili personally was charged. He is currently wanted for covering up the murder of bank employee Sandro Girgvliani in 2006, for ordering the beating of a parliamentarian in 2005, embezzlement of more than four million dollars, and for ordering the violent dispersal of an opposition rally and storming of a TV studio in 2008. . . .

12. It is less than comforting to contemplate that a criminal like Saakashvili will be handling arms purchases for Ukraine.

“Ex-Georgian President Says Will Coordinate Ukraine Arms Supply Issue” [FOCUS News Agency]; FOCUS Information Agency; 2/14/2015.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was appointed Friday as the chairman of Ukraine’s international consultative reform council, has said he will coordinate the issue of arms supplies to Kiev, TASS reported.

“Now it is most important to help Ukraine with weapons. Over the next several days, I will be coordinating this,” Saakashvili told a Ukrainian TV channel.

US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Friday the arms supplies to the war-torn Ukraine are still on the table even after this week’s signing of the new Minsk agreements.

In comments to his appointment to the post, Saakashvili, who earlier refused to obtain the Ukrainian citizenship, said: “I am a free politician and a Georgian citizen, all other proposals on getting Ukraine’s citizenship were not fitted in a whole strategy, and of course, I should return to my country,” he said.

The decree published on Friday says that the council will be a consultative agency under the Ukrainian president tasked to provide proposals and recommendations on reforms in Ukraine on the basis of the best international experience.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Saakashvili, who has unique knowledge and experience and has in fact worked as a free-lance advisor on Ukrainian reforms, has finally received his official status.

President Poroshenko said Saakashvili would become “Ukraine’s representative abroad and at the same time the representative of the international community in Ukraine.”

Earlier reports said Saakashvili could head the country’s newly created Anti-Corruption Bureau. However, he was not included on the published list of candidates for the post.

Saakashvili was the president of Georgia for two consecutive terms from January 2004 to November 2013. In his home country, Saakashvili is accused of embezzling state funds. In September, the property of the ex-president and his family members was arrested. Saakashvili’s personal bank accounts in Georgia were also arrested.

13. Exemplifying the extremism at the foundation of the government in Ukraine is a call by Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister for the West to risk nuclear war in order to fulfill the Kiev regime’s goals.

“Ready for Nuclear War Over Ukraine?” by Robert Parry; Consortium News: 2/23/2015.

A senior Ukrainian official is urging the West to risk a nuclear conflagration in support of a “full-scale war” with Russia that he says authorities in Kiev are now seeking, another sign of the extremism that pervades the year-old, U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.

In a recent interview with Canada’s CBC Radio, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said, “Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine — we’ve lost so many people of ours, we’ve lost so much of our territory.”

Prystaiko added, “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Russian President Vladimir Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe.” The deputy foreign minister announced that Kiev is preparing for “full-scale war” against Russia and wants the West to supply lethal weapons and training so the fight can be taken to Russia.

“What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little,” Prystaiko said.

Yet, what is perhaps most remarkable about Prystaiko’s “Dr. Strangelove” moment is that it produced almost no reaction in the West. You have a senior Ukrainian official saying that the world should risk nuclear war over a civil conflict in Ukraine between its west, which favors closer ties to Europe, and its east, which wants to maintain its historic relationship with Russia.

Why should such a pedestrian dispute justify the possibility of vaporizing millions of human beings and conceivably ending life on the planet? Yet, instead of working out a plan for a federalized structure in Ukraine or even allowing people in the east to vote on whether they want to remain under the control of the Kiev regime, the world is supposed to risk nuclear annihilation.

But therein lies one of the under-reported stories of the Ukraine crisis: There is a madness to the Kiev regime that the West doesn’t want to recognize because to do so would upend the dominant narrative of “our” good guys vs. Russia’s bad guys. If we begin to notice that the right-wing regime in Kiev is crazy and brutal, we might also start questioning the “Russian aggression” mantra. . . .

. . . . But it’s now clear that far-right extremism is not limited to the militias sent to kill ethnic Russians in the east or to the presence of a few neo-Nazi officials who were rewarded for their roles in last February’s coup. The fanaticism is present at the center of the Kiev regime, including its deputy foreign minister who speaks casually about a “full-scale war” with nuclear-armed Russia. . . .

. . . . To a degree that I have not seen in my 37 years covering Washington, there is a totalitarian quality to the West’s current “group think” about Ukraine with virtually no one who “matters” deviating from the black-and-white depiction of good guys in Kiev vs. bad guys in Donetsk and Moscow. . . .

 

Discussion

16 comments for “FTR #837 Cauldron: Update on Ukraine”

  1. Just FYI, if you happen to end up as the new head of Ukraine’s State Property Fund (which handles things like privatizations), you might want to shop around for life insurance coverage that includes apparent suicides:

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty
    Suicide Or Homicide? In Ukraine, Old-Guard Officials Dying Mysteriously

    By Marichka Naboka

    March 08, 2015

    This year Ukraine has seen a bizarre string of deaths involving high-ranking officials, including a ex-city mayor, a former railway executive, and the former head of the state body in charge of privatization.

    A total of five officials died in a single 34-day period between January 28 and February 28. In each case, the deaths have been ruled probable suicides. But the victims’ political allegiances and job histories have led many in Ukraine to suspect that the men were in fact murdered:

    January 26 — Mykola Serhiyenko, the former first deputy chief of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, died in his Kyiv home after apparently shooting himself with a registered hunting rifle.

    Investigators said Serhiyenko, 57, was alone at the time of the tragedy, and that all of the flat’s doors and windows had been locked shut from the inside and showed no signs of tampering.

    Serhiyenko, who worked with Ukrainian Railways from April 2010 to April 2014, had been appointed to the post by Mykola Azarov, the former prime minister under Viktor Yanukovych. Azarov and Yanukovych are both wanted by Interpol on charges including embezzlement and misappropriation.

    January 29 — Oleksiy Kolesnyk, the former head of the Kharkiv regional government, died after apparently hanging himself.

    February 25 — The former mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol, 57-year-old Serhiy Walter, reportedly hanged himself. A member of the Party of Regions who had served as the head of Melitopol since 2010, Walter had been dismissed from his post in 2013 and put on trial for abuse of power and ties to organized crime.

    Walter was forced to attend some 145 hearings during his trial, with prosecutors calling for 14 years’ imprisonment. Throughout the proceedings, he insisted he was innocent. Walter was due to attend a new hearing on the day he died.

    February 26 — One day after Walter’s death, the body of the 47-year-old deputy chief of the Melitopol police, Oleksandr Bordyuh, was found in a garage. According to news reports, Bordyuh’s former boss was a lawyer involved in Walter’s trial.

    February 28 — Mykhaylo Chechetov, the ex-deputy chairman of the Party of Regions faction in Ukraine’s parliament, died after jumping or falling out of the window of his 17th-story apartment.

    The death came just days after Chechetov was arrested for fraud and abuse of office stemming from his two years at the helm of the powerful State Property Fund. (Chechetov posted bond to avoid being held in pretrial detention.)

    Chechetov’s time at the property fund, from April 2003 to April 2005, marked one of the busiest periods of post-Soviet privatization, with the steel giant Kryvorizhstal among the cut-rate sales made during his tenure. The plant, notoriously, was sold to a group that included the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Pinchuk, for just $850 million. (In October 2005, Viktor Yushchenko reversed the sale, reselling a 93-percent stake in the plant to Mittal Steel for $4.8 billion.)

    Anton Herashchenko, a Popular Front lawmaker and adviser to the Interior Ministry, has speculated that Chechetov may have been driven to suicide by fellow old-guard members whose role in the deal stood to be exposed by his testimony. “It’s a shame we’ll never get to learn all of the interesting things we would have heard from Chechetov’s evidence,” he wrote on Facebook.

    Chechetov isn’t the first head of the State Property Fund to die an unnatural death.

    On August 27, 2014 the body of Valentina Semenyuk-Samsonenko was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head, with a gun lying nearby. She led the agency from April 2005 to December 2008. Her family told reporters they dismissed the possibility of suicide, saying that she had spoken fearfully of someone taking out a contract on her life.

    The third death of an official tied to Ukraine’s privatization took place even earlier. In May 1997, the head of the Crimean branch of the State Property Fund, Oleksiy Holovizin, was killed in the entryway of his house.

    Lawmaker Ihor Lutsenko, a member of the new government’s anticorruption committee, wrote in Ukrainska Pravda that eliminating Property Fund chiefs makes it almost impossible to reverse corrupt privatization sales, like that of Kryvorizhstal.

    “Semenyuk and Chechetov won’t be saying anything,” he wrote. “And that will cost us, the citizens of Ukraine, tens of billions of dollars.”

    The recent string of deaths comes 10 years after two more resonant cases that followed closely on the heels of the Orange Revolution. Heorhiy Kirpa, transport minister under Kuchma, was found dead in late December, 2004. His death came two days after the rerun of the second round of presidential elections that handed Yushchenko the win over Yanukovych.

    The following March, Kuchma’s former interior minister, Yuriy Kravchenko, died one day after being called as a witness in the resurrected case of slain journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.

    Both deaths were officially ruled suicides — even though, in Kravchenko’s case, it had taken two gunshots to kill him.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 9, 2015, 11:47 am
  2. Here’s a reminder that returning Crimea to Ukraine is still officially on the agenda:

    Germany’s Goal: Restoring Russia-Annexed Crimea to Ukraine

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

    MARCH 16, 2015, 12:31 P.M. E.D.T.

    BERLIN — Germany’s goal remains to restore the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, a year after Crimea’s annexation by Russian forces.

    Speaking after talks in Berlin with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Merkel said the March 19, 2014, annexation of the peninsula was a violation of international law that “called the peaceful order in Europe into question.”

    “It’s important despite, or because of, this to work for a peaceful solution and not rest until the full sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored, and of course this includes Crimea,” she said.

    Merkel said if necessary, the European Union was prepared to bring more sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

    “We don’t want them. But if there’s no other way, then they need to be implemented,” she said.

    Poroshenko said he hoped if Russia and the separatists it backs in eastern Ukraine have not fulfilled their obligations under a cease-fire deal worked out in Minsk last month, “it will be made clear that the sanctions (against Russia) will continue and be strengthened” at a EU summit in Brussels this week.

    Yikes. Well, it’s looking like it’s going to be a long cold war, but still try to enjoy the crisp seasonal air. The season that follows might not be any warmer.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 16, 2015, 10:41 am
  3. It looks like Kiev doesn’t just have to worry about the neo-Nazi-infested “volunteer battalions” deciding to “march on Kiev”. One of their top oligarch sponsors appears to have similar ideas in mind:

    Bloomberg View
    Ukraine’s Oligarchs Are at War (Again)
    Mar 20, 2015 11:09 AM EDT
    By Leonid Bershidsky

    Ending the destructive power that billionaires exercised over Ukrainian politics was an important goal of last year’s “revolution of dignity” in Kiev, yet some of the more civic-minded of these businessmen wound up running the country anyhow. They now seem to have gone back to their old ways.

    Even before the chocolate mogul Petro Poroshenko became president last year, Igor Kolomoisky (net worth $1.3 billion)) was appointed governor of his native Dnipropetrovsk region. Now, the two so-called oligarchs are locked in an open battle that augurs ill for Ukraine’s immediate future.

    Kolomoisky was for many Ukrainians a hero of the post-revolutionary period. He took on the governorship as Russia was stirring up trouble throughout eastern Ukraine in the hope of producing a broad-based uprising against the pro-Western provisional government in Kiev. To keep Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, Kolomoisky became the most generous sponsor of Ukrainian nationalist volunteer battalions. Even the fleet of armored vehicles used by his Privatbank, the biggest retail bank in Ukraine, was partially repurposed for use in the war.

    Thanks to those efforts, separatism failed to catch on in Dnipropetrovsk. Another wealthy industrialist, Sergei Taruta, who was appointed governor of Donetsk, failed in part because he couldn’t match Kolomoisky’s passionate personal commitment. Much of the Donetsk region is now controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    Kolomoisky, however, wasn’t being entirely selfless. He lobbied hard against competitors, such as Rinat Akhmetov (net worth $6.7 billion) and Viktor Pinchuk ($1.5 billion), and seemed to believe he should be able to expand his business empire in exchange for the help he rendered to the Ukrainian state. He also continued exerting power over several nominally state-controlled businesses at which he had installed his managers under the previous regime.

    One of these was Ukrtransnafta, Ukraine’s state-owned oil pipeline operator, where Kolomoisky had a loyal figure, Oleksandr Lazorko, appointed as chief executive in 2009. That personnel change resulted in a redistribution of pipeline capacity in favor of an underused, Kolomoisky-owned refinery and enabled the plant to receive crude oil from Azerbaijan without incurring the substantial extra cost of carrying it by rail. The Russian oil giant Lukoil, which as a result had to shut down its refinery, complained bitterly about being squeezed out of the pipeline and was forced to look for alternative transport.

    Poroshenko remains an oligarch despite a (unfulfilled) promise to sell his confectionery company as president, but he has no personal interest in the oil business. Kolomoisky’s independence and influence, however, pose a political threat. “He was too demonstrative in his puppeteering,” Mustafa Nayyem, a legislator with Poroshenko’s electoral bloc, told me of Kolomoisky. “The elite grew scared of him.”

    On Thursday, the government appointed a new chief executive for Ukrtransnafta, but Lazorko didn’t want to leave. The bodyguards for the new appointee had to fight through a security cordon to get their boss into the office. Kolomoisky’s reaction was swift. He occupied Ukrtransnafta’s headquarters with a detail of camouflaged men, arriving with an entourage that included legislators.

    Video footage of the raid looks as dramatic as anything seen in the 1990’s, when the former Soviet Union’s first billionaires were working on their first millions. Asked by a Radio Liberty journalist what a regional governor was doing at a state company’s office so late, Kolomoisky replied (I’m editing out copious cursing): “I came to see you. I have no other chance to see your face, Radio Liberty. Why aren’t you asking how Ukrtransnafta was seized and Russian subversives got in here? Or have you come to see Kolomoisky? We liberated the building from Russian subversives who had seized it, and you and your Liberty are sitting here watching like a dame watches for her unfaithful husband.”

    Apparently, Ukrainian energy minister Vladimir Demchishin, who visited Kolomoisky from Ukrtransnafta, got a more convincing explanation, because he decided against calling the police to oust Kolomoisky from the building. Sevgil Musaeva, editor of Ukraine’s most popular news website, Pravda.com.ua, quoted a Ukrainian official as saying Kolomoisky told Demchishin that if needed he could bring 2,000 volunteer fighters to Kiev, “because enterprises are being taken away from him.”

    By “enterprises” Kolomoisky meant Ukrtransnafta and another state-controlled energy company, Ukrnafta, in which he owns a minority stake but controls the management. On Thursday, the parliament in Kiev passed a law allowing the government to reassert control over such companies.

    It would now be natural for Poroshenko to fire Kolomoisky as governor. “The country received a challenge yesterday,” Nayyem wrote in a blog post. Failure to respond, he said, would show Ukraine’s creditors and allies that it is indeed “the failed state of which Vladimir Putin has been dreaming for many years.”

    Even if Poroshenko fires Kolomoisky, however, his wealth and influence on the volunteer battalions would still make him a powerful figure. When he labels someone a “Russian subversive,” thousands of armed people listen, if only because he has been better able to equip and pay them than the government in Kiev. Kolomoisky is too shrewd a businessman to bring about a military coup, but he will hardly allow Poroshenko — who was until recently his equal — to push him around.

    “Sevgil Musaeva, editor of Ukraine’s most popular news website, Pravda.com.ua, quoted a Ukrainian official as saying Kolomoisky told Demchishin that if needed he could bring 2,000 volunteer fighters to Kiev, “because enterprises are being taken away from him.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 21, 2015, 4:09 pm
  4. Ukraine’s oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky may have been Kiev’s ‘secret weapon‘ over the past year, but it’s looking more and more like the safety on this secret weapon is also a secret:

    The Wall Street Journal
    Ukraine Government Tries to Rein In Oligarch Ally
    Tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky helped stop Russia-backed rebels last year, now skirmishes with Kiev over businesses

    By James Marson And
    Nick Shchetko
    March 23, 2015 5:06 p.m. ET

    KIEV, Ukraine—When Russia-backed separatists swept across eastern Ukraine last spring, banking and media tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky funded paramilitary units to stop their advance.

    Now he’s turning his fire on Kiev, which is trying to wrest back control of energy companies that are majority owned by the state but for years have been controlled by him.

    Allies of President Petro Poroshenko say they’re fighting to diminish the power of so-called oligarchs, who for years have reaped huge financial gains straddling the line between business and politics in the former Soviet republic, while per capita incomes remain among the lowest in Europe.

    But the government faces the risk that confronting a powerful billionaire and ally in the fight against the separatists will destabilize an already-fraught political situation.

    Last Thursday, when officials moved to oust the head of the state oil transportation firm Ukrtransnafta, Mr. Kolomoisky marched into the headquarters in Kiev with his bodyguards and blocked the appointment of a new one.

    On Sunday, men in camouflage converged on the headquarters of Ukrnafta, the national oil producer. The company and Mr. Kolomoisky said they were extra security.

    Government security officials said they had received orders from Mr. Poroshenko to disarm the men, although the situation was calm around the building in Kiev late Monday.

    “None of our governors will have puppet armed forces,” Mr. Poroshenko said in a speech at the National Defense Academy on Monday.

    Mr. Kolomoisky, who denies any wrongdoing, said he is protecting national security and accused rival tycoons of trying to take control of the companies.

    “It’s a challenge for the president,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, a lawmaker from Mr. Poroshenko’s bloc. “It’s a demand of Maidan that oligarchs should lose power, and the state has to implement that,” he said, referring by Maidan to street protests last year that ousted the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

    The attempt to tame the oligarchs has received unusually vocal support from U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, who said in a radio interview Friday that tycoons can’t go back to old ways.

    After a meeting Friday with Mr. Kolomoisky, the ambassador said: “I think he understands, as do most political leaders today, that the environment has changed and that the law of the jungle, which is what existed under Yanukovych, is a recipe for disaster in Ukraine.”

    Mr. Pyatt said control of Ukrtransnafta should be decided by the law, “as opposed to muscle.”

    Mr. Kolomoisky, whose interests include banking and media companies, quickly threw his weight behind the government’s fight against militants in the east last spring.

    Appointed governor of the industrial Dnipropetrovsk region, he spent millions on a battalion that is widely credited with stemming the separatists’ westward march at a time when Ukraine’s regular army was lacking men, morale and direction.

    He has won fans with his blunt style, but also courted controversy. Asked by a reporter whether he was breaking Ukrainian law by holding passports from two countries, he said he wasn’t as he has three.

    Earlier this month he said he used to pay $5 million a month in bribes to avoid hindrances to his businesses.

    For years, Mr. Kolomoisky has effectively controlled Ukrnafta and Ukrtransnafta, according to officials and lawmakers. This enabled him to push aside competitors and have oil sent to a processing plant that he controls, the officials and lawmakers said.

    Mr. Kolomoisky says he shares control of the companies with the state and is trying to keep them operating.

    In recent weeks, Mr. Leshchenko, a former investigative reporter, has spearheaded attempts in parliament to reduce Mr. Kolomoisky’s sway.

    On Thursday, a law was passed lowering the threshold for a quorum at board meetings of state companies. That would effectively allow the government to oust managers loyal to Mr. Kolomoisky at Ukrnafta, the oil producer.

    At the same time, officials dismissed the chief executive of the transport company Ukrtransnafta, saying he had made decisions that favored Mr. Kolomoisky, a charge the CEO denied.

    Their attempt to appoint a new one, however, was interrupted by company security guards and Mr. Kolomoisky with his bodyguards, resulting in chaotic scenes of shoving, broken glass and an expletive-laden outburst by the tycoon against a reporter.

    On Sunday, men in fatigues, some carrying weapons, swarmed around the headquarters of Ukrnafta, overseeing the construction of a metal cage around the entrance. An armored truck was parked behind a metal gate at the building Monday, as welders put finishing touches to the metal cage. There was no sign of the armed men.

    Mr. Kolomoisky defended his interventions Thursday and Sunday as protecting strategically important companies from “Russian saboteurs” and countering a “corporate raid” by rivals.

    “These are not unknown men but a private security company founded by Ukrnafta…getting ready to meet blockheads like you,” he told a pro-Poroshenko lawmaker outside the building Sunday.

    On Monday, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service said there were links between the regional administration in Dnipropetrovsk, headed by Mr. Kolomoisky, and criminal groups involved in smuggling and abductions.

    Mr. Kolomoisky’s deputy shot back that Kiev was giving cover to smugglers and hadn’t fulfilled pledges to hand more powers to regional governments.

    So Kiev wants to release itself from the oligarchs’ grip now? That’s a great sign overall for the country but it also means incidents like:

    On Monday, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service said there were links between the regional administration in Dnipropetrovsk, headed by Mr. Kolomoisky, and criminal groups involved in smuggling and abductions.

    Mr. Kolomoisky’s deputy shot back that Kiev was giving cover to smugglers and hadn’t fulfilled pledges to hand more powers to regional governments.

    are probably going to become a lot more common.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 23, 2015, 5:24 pm
  5. The oligarch showdown is heating up: Kolomoisky is out as Dnipropetrovsk governor:

    UPDATE 2-Ukraine leader fires powerful oligarch Kolomoisky as regional chief

    Wed Mar 25, 2015 9:34am EDT

    * Oligarch accused of sending armed men into state firm

    * But he credited with stopping rebel seizure of key region

    * Deputies pressing president to limit power of super-rich (Adds background, quotes)

    By Richard Balmforth

    KIEV, March 25 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s president fired powerful tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky as a regional governor on Wednesday in a risky move that could affect the internal balance of power and Kiev’s fight against Moscow-backed separatists.

    The 52-year-old Kolomoisky has been at the centre of a political storm since armed and masked men, apparently loyal to him, briefly entered the offices of the state-owned oil monopoly UkrTransNafta in the capital Kiev last Thursday night after its director, his ally, was summarily replaced.

    As governor of the eastern industrial region Dnipropetrovsk region, Kolomoisky, a banking, energy and media tycoon with a fortune that Forbes put at $1.8 billion last year, has been a valuable ally to the Kiev government in arming and financing militia groups and volunteer battalions there to hold off pro-Russian separatists.

    Commentators said dismissing Kolomoisky was a tough decision for Poroshenko who was under pressure from radical deputies to curb what they said was a dangerous power play in Ukraine’s capital city still gripped by political tension as an uneasy ceasefire holds in the east.

    Russian officials have increasingly portrayed Poroshenko as weak and suggested he faces a major challenge trying to rein in the oligarchs, as well as what it calls the “party of war”.

    A statement on Poroshenko’s website said the President had dismissed the hard-nosed, tough-talking mogul during a meeting on Tuesday after the oligarch had offered to step down.

    Kolomoisky is, alone among the so-called oligarchs, credited with taking firm action against separatism in the east – successfully snuffing out rebel attempts to seize control of Dnipropetrovsk last year. As such, he has been a pivotal figure.

    There was no immediate word from Kolomoisky’s camp on what his next step would be and whether his sacking as governor would affect his support for volunteer battalions that have fought alongside regular army in the east. The situation remains volatile with key cities such as Mariupol seen as under threat.

    Some say Poroshenko may have been motivated reluctantly to take a tough line with Kolomoisky to demonstrate to the International Monetary Fund and other of Ukraine’s Western creditors that he was determined to clean up the chaotic loss-making state energy sector.

    In a separate move partly intended to impress Ukraine’s creditors, two high-ranking state officials were detained in a glare of publicity at a televised government meeting in Kiev on Wednesday and accused of involvement in high-level corruption.

    But by alienating Kolomoisky, a highly influential figure in a sensitive region, Poroshenko has taken a risky step as he seeks to win back the diplomatic initiative in the crisis with Russia over the separatist conflict, commentators said.

    Some commentators suggest it could mark the start of an internal power struggle between Poroshenko and the powerful tycoon who has emerged from political upheaval and war in Ukraine to be the most dominant of the big business oligarchs controlling key parts of the economy.

    In what most commentators took to be an indication of growing alarm over Kolomoisky’s funding of volunteer armed battalions, Poroshenko said on Monday he would not allow governors to run their own “pocket armies”.

    “Sacking Kolomoisky was the most difficult, but the truest, decision that Poroshenko has made in staffing policy,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, one of those deputies who had pressed for the President to take action against the recalcitrant oligarch.

    And though Kolomoisky was not Poroshenko’s principal backer in his campaign for president last May, he is known to have the allegiance of about 15 deputies in Poroshenko’s political bloc in parliament, Ukrainian media say.

    POROSHENKO SECURITY

    Significantly, Poroshenko went out of his way to give an assurance that the region would continue to be well defended from encroachment by rebels who have taken control of large swathes of territory in the two neighbouring regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    “We must guarantee peace, stability and calm. The Dnipropetrovsk region must remain a bastion of Ukraine in the east to defend peace and calm for civilians,” he said, according to a comment on his website, after signing the decree on Kolomoisky’s dismissal.

    Kolomoisky is one of a handful of so-called oligarchs who emerged in the early years after Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 to secure control over large sections of the economy, including key areas such as energy, and becoming key political players behind the scenes.

    But the conflict in the east, in which 6,000 people have been killed since last April, has altered the dynamics and the balance of forces among the super-rich with the Ukrainian media now talking of a “war of the oligarchs”, commentators say.

    Kolomoisky’s star has risen, these commentators say, while the influence, for example, of steel magnate Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man whose fortune is now put at $6.5 billion by Forbes and much of whose business in the east has been hit by war, has faded.

    The influence of Dmytro Firtash, the owner of Group DF which has interests in the chemical, gas and banking sectors, has also waned since he was arrested in Vienna a year ago at the FBI’s request on charges of bribery.

    Kolomoisky himself is involved in a multibillion-dollar legal battle in the High Court in London which pits him against rival oligarch, Viktor Pinchuk, and relates to ownership of a iron ore mine which was sold off in 2004.

    Poroshenko himself built a billion-dollar empire in the confectionery business before becoming president last May after street protests ousted the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich from power, triggering Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the separatist rebellions in the east.

    The affair at the Kiev offices of UkrTransNafta on March 19 turned the spotlight again on the role of Ukraine’s big businessmen and the future of their empires as the country grapples with economic crisis and separatist war.

    Men, armed and masked, entered the offices late at night after the director, a long-standing ally of Kolomoisky’s was summarily dismissed. The tycoon himself appeared at the scene and angrily cursed and berated journalists.

    “I came to free the building from Russian saboteurs,” he could be heard saying on a YouTube video clip in which he swore at reporters.

    Commentators have suggested that Kolomoisky may have over-reacted after suffering a setback last week when the Ukrainian parliament passed a law reforming Ukraine’s state-owned joint stock companies.

    The new law, which lowers the numbers of shareholders required to be present for a vote at a meeting, directly hits the interests of Kolomoisky’s Privat Group, which owns 43 percent of shares in the oil extraction company UkrNafta and until now had been able to block voting.

    Poroshenko pointedly signed that new law into effect at the same time as he dismissed Kolomoisky as governor.

    As this plays out, keep in mind that Kolomoisky is reported to have provided financial backing for the Aidar, Azov, Donbas, Dnepr 1, Dnepr 2 volunteer battalions:

    Newsweek
    Ukrainian Nationalist Volunteers Committing ‘ISIS-Style’ War Crimes
    By Damien Sharkov 9/10/14 at 12:36 PM

    Groups of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists are committing war crimes in the rebel-held territories of Eastern Ukraine, according to a report from Amnesty International, as evidence emerged in local media of the volunteer militias beheading their victims.

    Armed volunteers who refer to themselves as the Aidar battalion “have been involved in widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions”, Amnesty said.

    The organisation has also published a report detailing similar alleged atrocities committed by pro-Russian militants, highlighting the brutality of the conflict which has claimed over 3,000 lives.

    Amnesty’s statement came before images of what appeared to be the severed heads of two civilians’ started circulating on social media today, identified by Russian news channel NTV as the heads of rebel hostages.

    Shortly after, Kiev-based news network Pravilnoe TV reported that it had spoken with one of the mothers of the victims who confirmed her son was a rebel, captured during fighting in Donetsk.

    She said she had received her son’s head in a wooden box in the post, blaming nationalist volunteers for her son’s death. Newsweek has not been able to verify the report independently.

    There are over 30 pro-nationalist, volunteer battalions similar to Aidar, such as Ukraina, DND Metinvest and Kiev 1, all funded by private investors.

    The Aidar battalion is publicly backed by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who also funds the Azov, Donbas, Dnepr 1, Dnepr 2 volunteer battalions, operating under orders from Kiev. Last spring Kolomoyskyi offered a bounty of $10,000 of his own money for each captured Russian “.

    Also keep mind mind that, according to a Guardian report last September, nearly all the members of the Azov battalion interviewed by the reporters were intent on “bringing the fight to Kiev”:

    Azov fighters are Ukraine’s greatest weapon and may be its greatest threat
    The battalion’s far-right volunteers’ desire to ‘bring the fight to Kiev’ is a danger to post-conflict stability

    An Azov battalion soldier stands next to an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol on 4 September. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/REUTERS

    Shaun Walker in Mariupol

    Wednesday 10 September 2014 08.36 EDT

    “I have nothing against Russian nationalists, or a great Russia,” said Dmitry, as we sped through the dark Mariupol night in a pickup truck, a machine gunner positioned in the back. “But Putin’s not even a Russian. Putin’s a Jew.”

    Dmitry – which he said is not his real name – is a native of east Ukraine and a member of the Azov battalion, a volunteer grouping that has been doing much of the frontline fighting in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russia separatists. The Azov, one of many volunteer brigades to fight alongside the Ukrainian army in the east of the country, has developed a reputation for fearlessness in battle.

    But there is an increasing worry that while the Azov and other volunteer battalions might be Ukraine’s most potent and reliable force on the battlefield against the separatists, they also pose the most serious threat to the Ukrainian government, and perhaps even the state, when the conflict in the east is over. The Azov causes particular concern due to the far right, even neo-Nazi, leanings of many of its members.

    Dmitry claimed not to be a Nazi, but waxed lyrical about Adolf Hitler as a military leader, and believes the Holocaust never happened. Not everyone in the Azov battalion thinks like Dmitry, but after speaking with dozens of its fighters and embedding on several missions during the past week in and around the strategic port city of Mariupol, the Guardian found many of them to have disturbing political views, and almost all to be intent on “bringing the fight to Kiev” when the war in the east is over.

    The battalion’s symbol is reminiscent of the Nazi Wolfsangel, though the battalion claims it is in fact meant to be the letters N and I crossed over each other, standing for “national idea”. Many of its members have links with neo-Nazi groups, and even those who laughed off the idea that they are neo-Nazis did not give the most convincing denials.

    Just how widely is that sentiment shared by the rest of the Kolomoisky-sponsored battalions? That would be useful knowledge to have as Ukraine’s oligarchs continue transitioning to a whole new phase of Ukraine’s national nightmare.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 25, 2015, 7:44 am
  6. Dmytro Yarosh is set to become a Ukrainian military ‘advisor’ as part of an effort to integrate the volunteer battalions into the armed forces:

    AFP
    Ukraine far-right leader made army advisor in move to control militias

    By Claire Rosemberg
    Apr. 6, 2015, 3:14 PM

    Kiev (AFP) – The controversial leader of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Pravy Sektor paramilitary group, which is fighting pro-Russian rebels alongside government troops, was made an army advisor Monday as Kiev seeks to tighten its control over volunteer fighters.

    Coming on the anniversary of the start of fighting in Ukraine, the move marks a key step in government efforts to establish authority over the several private armies that share its goal of crushing pro-Russian separatists in the east, but do not necessarily operate under its control.

    While some such militias answer to the interior ministry and receive funding, the powerful Pravy Sektor or “Right Sector” militia, which currently claims 10,000 members including reservists — but will not say how many are deployed at the front — had until now refused to register with the authorities.

    Its posture is expected to change following Monday’s announcement by the defence ministry of the appointment of its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, a hate figure in Moscow who was elected to Ukraine’s parliament last year, as advisor to the army chief of staff Viktor Muzhenko.

    “Dmytro Yarosh will act as a link between the volunteer battalions and the General Staff,” armed forces spokesman Oleksiy Mazepa told AFP.

    “We want to achieve full unity in the struggle against the enemy, because now our aim is the cooperation and integration of volunteer battalions in the armed forces,” he added.

    Asked whether the appointment might anger the West, political analyst Taras Beresovets said becoming army advisor “does not make him an influential person in the armed forces.”

    “I do not remember hearing official criticism of Yarosh or the ‘Right Sector’ by any country except Russia,” he added.

    President Petro Poroshenko has been working hard to bring up to strength the regular army, which now numbers 184,000 and is to swell to 250,000. Efforts are being made also to increase defence production.

    Yarosh is widely reviled in the separatist east and Russian media as a far-right bogeyman and is wanted by the authorities in Moscow on an international warrant for “incitement to terrorism”.

    He was injured in January in fighting around Donetsk airport, which finally fell to the separatists after months of combat.

    A spokesman for the nationalist hardliner told AFP that Pravy Sektor would remain independent from government control but would now receive funds from the defence ministry.

    “Our combatants will be well-armed from now on as up until now equipment was supplied by volunteers,” said Artem Skoropadskiy.

    Who knows if the Pravy Sektor claims that the group “would remain independent from government control” were just spin since it sounds like this is part of a larger plan to integrate the battalions into the military. But you have to love how the article includes this part about how no governments other than Russia are actually complaining about those neo-Nazi groups:

    Asked whether the appointment might anger the West, political analyst Taras Beresovets said becoming army advisor “does not make him an influential person in the armed forces.”

    “I do not remember hearing official criticism of Yarosh or the ‘Right Sector’ by any country except Russia,” he added.

    You don’t say

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2015, 3:16 pm
  7. More news out of Ukraine today: Poroshenko endorsed a referendum on federalizing the nation, something he clearly would prefer to avoid. Also, based on the comments by an advisor in the interior ministry, it sounds like Dmytro Yarosh’s role as an ‘adviser’ to the Ukrainian military might eventually involve creating a ‘volunteer defense union’:

    The Guardian
    Poroshenko endorses referendum on federalisation of Ukraine

    President concedes that ballot may be necessary for constitutional reform although he remains opposed to the concept

    Alec Luhn in Moscow

    Monday 6 April 2015 13.33 EDT

    President Petro Poroshenko has endorsed a referendum on the federalisation of Ukraine, jumpstarting the reforms foreseen by the peace plan to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in the country’s east.

    “I’m ready to hold a referendum about the structure of the government, if you think it’s necessary,” Poroshenko told a commission which will oversee constitutional reform at its first session on Monday.

    Federalisation was one of the key demands made by pro-Russia rebels at the start of the conflict last April as it would give largely Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine a great degree of autonomy from the central government. But analysts and politicians in Kiev argue such a move would weaken the country and allow Moscow undue influence in its politics.

    Poroshenko left no doubt where he stood on the issue, calling federalisation an “infection” that he hinted was being forced on the country by foreign powers, apparently referring to Russia.

    The adoption of a new constitution by the end of 2015 is one of the stipulations of the Minsk peace plan brokered in February by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Decentralisation will be a key part of constitutional reform, but it remains unclear what form it will take.

    Volodymyr Groysman, chairman of the constitutional reform commission, said planning for decentralisation would begin at the next meeting on 15 April, which would also discuss human rights and judicial reforms.

    Vadim Karasyov, a political analyst from Kiev, said that, the idea of federalisation was unpopular and a referendum was likely to fail. Nonetheless, the constitutional reform process would meet France and Germany’s demands that Ukraine give greater autonomy to eastern regions, he said.

    “I think we will be talking about the decentralisation of Ukraine within a unitary government, and Donbass will be able to hope only for special status allowing local self-government according to Ukrainian law,” he said, referring to a historical name for Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    Poroshenko also said on Monday that Ukrainian would remain the only official state language, arguing that three-quarters of the population supported this. Greater official recognition of the Russian language has been a rebel demand. Last spring, Ukraine’s parliament attempted to repeal a law that recognises Russian as a second official language in regions with significant Russian-speaking populations, but the acting president refused to sign the repeal.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defence ministry announced that ultranationalist MP Dmytro Yarosh was to become an aide to military chief Viktor Muzhenko and that his Right Sector fighting group would be integrated into the armed forces.

    The news was widely reported in Russia, where Yarosh has been criticised for his radical stances and anti-Russian statements. In February, Yarosh said in a post on Facebook that his forces would continue to fight the enemy despite the ceasefire agreed in Minsk as part of the peace plan. Rebels in eastern Ukraine have accused Right Sector of atrocities against Russian speakers.

    Karasyov called the appointment honorary and said it was part of an ongoing campaign to put an end to the “private armies” that had sprung up over the past year to help the ill-prepared Ukrainian military put down the separatist conflict. Last month, Ihor Kolomoisky, who bankrolled pro-Kiev volunteer battalions in eastern Ukraine, removed from his post of governor of Dnipropetrovsk

    “Ukraine doesn’t need scandals and it doesn’t really need Yarosh,” Karasyov said. “This is an honourable capitulation for him and his big military goals. He will remain an MP and an aide but he won’t significantly affect the policy of the defence department.”

    Anton Geraschenko, an advisor in the interior ministry, said Yarosh could keep working on military initiatives. “I see that he’s bored in the [parliament], plus he’s now been seriously wounded in battle, and I would love to create a volunteer defence union of Ukraine with Dmytro Yarosh like in the Estonian, Finnish and Swiss systems,” he said.

    “I see that he’s bored in the [parliament], plus he’s now been seriously wounded in battle, and I would love to create a volunteer defence union of Ukraine with Dmytro Yarosh like in the Estonian, Finnish and Swiss systems”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 6, 2015, 4:53 pm
  8. With Ukraine’s future still very much an open question, it’s worth recalling that, just over a year ago, it wasn’t clear whether or not Odessa was going to fall into open rebellion too following the fire that killed 42 pro-Russian protestors. And while Odessa hasn’t followed the path of its Eastern neighbors, those tensions didn’t just dissipate:

    BBC News
    Lethal divisions persist in Ukraine’s Odessa
    By David Stern, Odessa

    2 May 2015

    It is a year since the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa was convulsed by violent clashes between pro and anti-government protestors, killing 48.

    More than 40 of those who died were pro-Russian activists who perished in a fire in a trade union building. Investigations into what caused the blaze are still ongoing.

    The tragedy created deep rifts between the pro and anti-government camps in the city, and helped fuel outrage elsewhere in Ukraine, especially in the country’s east, where a separatist conflict was just beginning.

    Recently, a series of bomb blasts has added to the instability. Although these have caused no injuries, the uncertainty of when and where the next one might go off has heightened anxiety.

    Many of the explosions struck pro-government organisations, but no-one has said they carried out the attacks. Ukrainian officials blame pro-Russian “saboteurs,” however, and have made a number of arrests.

    Strategic city

    Fears have been increasing that a bigger incident could be in the works, as the city prepared for a number of public events – starting with the May Day holidays, then the anniversary of the trade union building fire and ending with ceremonies marking the end of World War Two.

    Officials have significantly beefed up security: the city is full of additional law enforcement personnel and armoured vehicles. On the city limits, numerous checkpoints have been set up, where interior ministry forces in full battle gear inspect vehicles heading into town.

    Pro-Kiev “self-defence” volunteer organisations have also stepped up their activities, going out on patrols by foot or car, and looking for anything or anybody “suspicious”.

    They say this could be as simple as a group of three young men, wearing track suits, with concealed faces.

    The volunteers say that they have no doubt that pro-Russian elements are behind the bombings, in order to facilitate a takeover of the city by separatist or even Russian forces.

    “Odessa is a strategic city for the Russian occupiers,” said Vitaly Kozhukhar, deputy commander of one of the “self-defence” groups.

    “The bombings are an attempt to destabilise the situation in the city,” he adds. “An attempt to intimidate the civilian population. An attempt to show that there are people here who want Russia to come.”

    But some observers claim that the security crackdown has been bluntly applied, which only deepens the political rifts in the city. Odessa is a Black Sea port with a devil-may-care attitude, and the hope is widespread that the city will be able to recover from the recent violence, and overcome its divisions.

    But some warn of what could happen if the divide persists.

    “The best case scenario — when it will be a conflict between radicals and normal people from both sides, it will be a very big step towards peace,” said Yuri Tkachev, the chief editor of the opposition news website Timer.

    “The worst case scenario, is that we have a police state in Ukraine, and another worst case scenario is that we have civil war here in Odessa.”

    Note that Vitaly Kozhukhar, deputy commander of one of the “self-defence” groups that’s patrolling the streets for anyone suspicious looking, is a member of the “Maidan Self Defense” group, one of the groups on the scene of the of Odessa fire. It’s a reflection of just how much of powder keg the situation in Odessa remains.

    But, as one observer put it, in addition to the worst case scenarios of police state and civil war, there’s still:


    “The best case scenario — when it will be a conflict between radicals and normal people from both sides, it will be a very big step towards peace,” said Yuri Tkachev, the chief editor of the opposition news website Timer.

    And that would be pretty much the best thing that could happen. Not just in Odessa but everywhere. But especially in places like Odessa that are on the edge of open conflict.

    So let’s hope that a best case scenario can still prevail, especially since it would probably require a whole new government that isn’t some play thing of the oligarchs but is actually dedicated to building a society that works for everywhere and acts as a bridge between Europe and Russia.

    Just, such a scenario seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Albeit, not necessarily good strange things. But they just happened:

    The Guardian
    Ukraine appoints Georgia ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili governor of Odessa

    Controversial pro-western exile, who fought a war with Russia, takes control of strategic region, where there are fears Moscow could be trying to stoke unrest

    Agence France-Presse in Kiev

    Saturday 30 May 2015 09.55 EDT

    The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, on Saturday appointed fiercely pro-western former Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili, who once fought a war with Russia, governor of the strategic Odessa region.

    Poroshenko made the announcement at a televised event in the Black Sea port alongside Saakashvili, calling the former Georgian president a “great friend of Ukraine”.

    “There remains a large number of problems in Odessa: preserving sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and peace,” Poroshenko said.

    The controversial announcement of the flamboyant Saakashvili as head of the southern coastal region is a pointed signal from Kiev to Moscow that it remains set on its pro-European course despite a bloody separatist conflict in the east blamed on the Kremlin.

    “Our main aim is to leave behind the artificial conflicts that have been artificially imposed on this amazing society,” Saakashvili said after his appointment.

    “Together with the president and his team we are all going to build a new Ukraine.”

    During his time at the helm in Georgia, reformist Saakashvili, 47, became an arch-enemy of the Russian leadership as he dragged his tiny ex-Soviet homeland out of Moscow’s orbit and closer to the west after taking power in a popular revolution in 2003.

    Saakashvili – a charismatic figure who speaks five languages, including Ukrainian – was already working as an adviser to Poroshenko and was granted Ukrainian citizenship just ahead of his appointment.

    Before leaving power in 2013 he ruffled a lot of feathers in Georgia with his radical reforms and clampdown on corruption, and he is a deeply divisive figure there.

    He has recently been living in exile after authorities last year issued an arrest warrant for him on abuse-of-power charges that he insists are politically motivated.

    Well, if anything can prompt:


    “The best case scenario — when it will be a conflict between radicals and normal people from both sides, it will be a very big step towards peace,”

    perhaps the appointment of Saakashvili as Odessa’s governor is that thing.

    Sure, it’s not exactly a sign of progress for the quality of the Kiev government. But keep in mind that, while it doesn’t necessarily get darkest before the dawn, it does get strange.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 30, 2015, 2:33 pm
  9. he BBC has a piece on the appointment of Mikheil Saakashvili to governor of Odessa that raises an in interesting motive for the move: As an outsider, Saakashvili was the one person that could be appointed governor of Odessa that wouldn’t upset the balance of rival oligarchic power:

    BBC News
    Saakashvili Ukraine’s new governor in Odessa splits opinion
    By David Stern, Kiev

    2 June 2015

    Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president, is a politician who inspires few neutral emotions.

    Discussions over his legacy often descend into two separate camps of those who love “Misha” (as he is commonly referred to) and those who harbour a less-than-generous opinion of him.

    The shock announcement on Saturday, that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had appointed him as governor of the southern region of Odessa, elicited a similarly varied response.

    Mr Poroshenko’s choice of such a divisive, head-strong character was interpreted as a sign of weakness, or a demonstration of strength. A stroke of genius – or a blunder of gargantuan proportions.

    Those in the “for” camp tout his numerous and Western-style reforms in the years following Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution that brought him to power, transforming a country on the verge of complete collapse.

    In the “against” camp, many point to his impulsiveness – which may have provided the spark to Georgia’s disastrous war with Russia in 2008 – and his heavy-handed methods in dealing with political dissent.

    Fragile relationship

    Odessa is one of Ukraine’s most critical and sensitive regions, one that has been convulsed by extreme political violence in the last year, and which appears to be coming under increasing pressure from pro-Russian separatists.

    And the former Georgian leader is also a well-known adversary, to put it lightly, of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    President Poroshenko’s relationship with the Russian leader is fragile and often appears about to disintegrate completely, but it nevertheless still exists, and the two men need to keep their their lines of communication open.

    The question is whether Mikheil Saakashvili’s strident anti-Putinism, now given a very public forum, could disrupt the delicate balance in Ukrainian-Russian affairs.

    ‘Running out of options’

    No-one questions Mr Saakashvili’s reputation as a reformer. The question is whether he can clean out the high level of graft, given that he is a complete political outsider with no grassroots structure of support to turn to.

    “It shows how empty Petro Poroshenko’s bench is, how little he trusts Ukrainians, and how he’s running out of options,” said one Western analyst, who asked not to be identified, because of the sensitivity of the subject.

    On the other hand, his lack of political connections – and therefore obligations – could be a strong point.

    Brian Mefford, a political analyst who keeps a blog on Ukrainian politics, wrote recently that President Poroshenko had killed two birds with one stone with the appointment: he had replaced the previous governor, widely seen as close to Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, without shifting “the balance of power amongst competing business interests in the region”, as a locally-chosen candidate would have done.

    “In appointing Saakashvili as Odessa governor, it would appear that Poroshenko has assigned a strong leader to govern a key region under pressure by the Russians,” he wrote.

    Audacious move

    The other looming question, of course, is why Mr Saakashvili, a former world leader, would accept a position as a provincial governor, especially as he had already turned down a more senior post as a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.

    Making this even more confusing is the fact that in accepting the Odessa position, he gave up his Georgian citizenship, which was the main reason he originally gave for turning down the other post.

    Mr Saakashvili said the situations in Georgia and Odessa were closely connected.

    “If Odessa ever falls, God forbid, then Georgia might be wiped out from the map,” he told the BBC. “That’s so obvious, if you look carefully at the geo-politics of the region.”

    One thing most seem to agree on is that this was an unquestionably audacious move by President Poroshenko.

    Mr Saakashvili himself commended the Ukrainian president’s boldness.

    “I think the president gets it,” he said. “My appointment shows that he is prone to very unusual, very radical decisions that took many people by surprise.”

    “It’s not business as usual, you know,” he added.

    So who knows, maybe Saakashvili’s pick really had more to do with internal Ukrainian power politics than anything else. And if that’s the case, and Saakashvili really is committed to a lifetime in Ukraine (as suggested by giving up his Georgian citizenship), then Saakashvili could end up becoming a controversial leader in more places than just Odessa, since his supporters apparently want him to be appointed Prime Minister next year:

    BrianMefford.net
    Ukraine Update 5/30: Special Saakashvili Edition

    May 30, 2015 By Brian Mefford

    Is Saakashvili Odesa’s Duke Richlieu or Iran’s Richard Helms? On May 30 Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced the appointment of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (aka “Misha”) as the new Governor of Odesa region. This surprise appointment comes just three months after Saakashvili’s appointment by Poroshenko as the Head of the International Council of Reforms. The Reforms Council post was a consolation prize for the former Georgian President who was initially offered the position of First Deputy Prime Minister but declined. Saakashvili’s reason for refusing the First Deputy Premier’s position was because it would have required him to give up his Georgian citizenship and take a Ukrainian passport instead. Since Saakashvili’s ultimate goal is to return to power in Georgia, this was not an option. Dual citizenship is not allowed under Ukrainian law, despite many Ukrainians – and especially government officials – possessing more than one country’s passport. In addition, one of Saakashvili’s key issues against his arch rival Bidzina Ivanishvili, in the 2012 Georgian Parliamentary Election, was that Ivanishvili held three passports: Georgian, French and Russian. This led to Misha’s political impulsive decision to strip Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship a year before the Parliamentary election to prevent him from running for office. Under political pressure from the US, and at a time when his party seemed likely to win the Parliamentary election, Saakashvili had the Georgian Parliament pass a law allowing the Prime Minister to be selected regardless of nationality. Under changes to the Georgian Constitution made late in Saakashvili’s presidency, all major powers were shifted to the Prime Minister and away from the term limited presidency (as Saakashvili had already served his two terms). The clever Georgian President’s plan was to win the Parliamentary election in October 2012 and be appointed as the new Prime Minister. However a late breaking scandal resulted in Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream party soundly defeated Saakashvili’s United National Movement by a 55% to 40% margin nationwide. Stunned by the defeat, Misha then restored Ivanishvili’s Georgian citizenship an insurance policy for his own legacy and future ambitions.

    According to insiders at the Secretariat, Saakashvili accepted Ukrainian citizenship on Thursday, May 28. This development suggests that Saakashvili still plans to return to Georgian politics as a future Prime Minister. It also begs the question about whether or not he will actually give up his Georgian citizenship to legally become a Ukrainian citizen. Again, Ukrainian law does not allow for dual citizenship and other ministers such as Jaresko, Kvitashvili and Abromavicius have had to renounce their foreign passports. Will Saakashvili also adhere to the letter and spirit of Ukrainian law – or be held to a different standard? Or perhaps Poroshenko and Saakashvili are counting on a loophole in Ukrainian legislation which allows for a one year transition process before the old passport must be denounced and the new Ukrainian passport takes effect? The other intriguing question is whether or not the Georgian government led by Ivanishvili’s protégé Prime Minister Irakli Garibishvili, will take revenge on Saakashvili by stripping him of his Georgian citizenship for holding a foreign passport. Garibishvili has lobbied Poroshenko against appointing Saakashvili to any high level official posts in the Ukrainian government, and normally very close relations between Ukraine and Georgia are at a record low. The Garibishvili government has also been pushing a criminal case against Misha relating to his breaking of protests in November 2007, and this appointment further undermines any remote hope that the current Georgian government has of prosecuting the former President. Of course the irony is that Saakashvili now accepts a foreign passport even though he once stripped his arch rival of citizenship for such an “offense”. Fortunately for him, the law changes he helped pass allow for such duplicity.

    In appointing Saakashvili as Odesa Governor, it would appear that Poroshenko has assigned a strong leader to govern a key region under pressure by the Russians. Faced with a tough decision among at least four Odesa political figures (Eduard Hurvits, Oleksiy Goncharenko, Ivan Plachkov and Volodymyr Kurennoy) that could potentially shift the balance of power amongst competing business interests in the region – Poroshenko opted for an outsider. It should be noted that another Odesa outsider and a leader with a record of fighting Russian influence, Serhiy Kunitsyn (the twice Prime Minister of Crimea and former Sevastopol Governor), was also on the short list of candidates for the post. However none of the short listed candidates have the international profile of Saakashvili. Perhaps more importantly, since it is oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi who is losing his hand-picked Governor in the region, Saakashvili’s appointment gives Kolomoyskyi a “soft landing”. This is because the oligarch’s “Privat Group” of companies invested heavily in Georgia under Misha’s presidency and was pleased with the relationship.

    The appointment of Saakashvili as Odesa Governor has mostly been interpreted as a desire on Poroshenko’s behalf to implement reforms in the troubled region. A recent poll by the International Republican Institute (IRI) of each region of Ukraine showed Odesa as consistency among the worst in terms of corruption, nepotism, and communal services. Though almost all regions received poor marks in these categories, Odesa was particularly bad. Given the regions’ strategic importance to Ukraine’s national security and economy, the numbers suggest that Odesa could flip to the Russian side if adequately persuaded. Thus, some sources are suggesting that Saakashvili will make Odesa a test case for reforms: ‘if reform can happen in Odesa, it can happen anywhere’. This would complement Misha’s credentials as a reformer by duplicating his Georgia success – but in the rough and tumble of Odesa politics. Hitting a home run in Triple AAA Scranton is one thing, hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium is another…Additionally, Saakashvili as a strong Governor could presumably guarantee a free and fair election in the pending electoral rematch this fall between incumbent Odesa Mayor (and Kolomoyskyi ally) Gennadiy Trukahnov, and former three term Mayor Eduard Hurvits. Word on the street is that Misha’s Governorship is on a trial basis till the end of the year. This is both to ensure a fair election in October Mayoral contest as well as to test Saakashvili’s ability to hit a Major League curveball (i.e. translate successful reforms in Georgia into Ukrainian realities). Meanwhile, Misha supporters are already giddy will the prospect of a successful Odesa governorship leading to his replacement of Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister early next year. While that possibility is speculative at this point, it does prove the old adage that in Ukraine, “anything is possible”.

    “Meanwhile, Misha supporters are already giddy will the prospect of a successful Odesa governorship leading to his replacement of Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister early next year.”
    So could we see Prime Minister Misha in early 2016? Well, “anything is possible”, so why not?

    And with that vast realm of possibilities in mind, here’s something else to ponder: Saakashvili’s appointment as governor to Odessa came shortly after Kiev voted to restrict Russia’s land access to Transnistria. So if there were plans and/or expectations that the “frozen conflict” of Transnistria was about to heat up, the former president of Georgia who previously went to war with Russia would be an interesting, albeit somewhat provocative, choice:

    Financial Times
    Transnistria shapes up as next Ukraine-Russia flashpoint

    Neil Buckley

    Jun 03 12:55

    Keep an eye on Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. On Monday, Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s best-known foreign policy analysts and a man with good Kremlin antennae, tweeted: “Growing concern in Moscow that Ukraine and Moldova will seek to squeeze Transnistria hard, provoking conflict with Russia.” On Tuesday, a columnist in the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper warned that Russia “seriously faces the prospect of a repeat of the [2008] situation” – when it went to war with Georgia – “this time around Transnistria”.

    What sparked the tensions was a May 21 vote in Ukraine’s parliament to suspend military co-operation with Russia. That included a 1995 agreement giving Russia military transit rights across Ukraine to reach Transnistria, which borders Ukraine’s Odessa region.

    Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the unrecognised statelet since its brief war for independence from ex-Soviet Moldova in 1992, and Russia has a base there with about 1,350 soldiers and heavy weapons. Losing access via Ukraine means Russia must resupply its base by air through Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, and across Moldovan territory.

    But Moscow complains Moldova has recently detained and deported several Russian soldiers. Mr Trenin alleged to the FT, moreover, that Ukraine had deployed S-300 air defence systems near the border.

    Cue claims by Russian and Transnistrian officials that Ukraine and Moldova are imposing an economic blockade; civic leaders in Transnistria last week appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin to protect them “in case of emergency”. On Monday, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s hard-line deputy premier, assured Transnistria’s leadership that “Russia will always be there” to ensure regional security.

    A senior Ukrainian foreign ministry official insists there is no Transnistria blockade, only a “political decision to suspend military-technical-co-operation with Russia because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This is a matter of principle for us.”

    It is for Moscow, he adds, to ensure in talks with Chisinau that its soldiers have access. He calls any suggestion that Ukraine might try to shoot down Russian planes resupplying its Transnistria base “absurd”.

    There have been false alarms around Transnistria before since the Ukraine crisis broke out. Its leaders appealed to Moscow to join the Russian Federation days after Russia annexed Crimea, but nothing came of it. About one-third of the region’s 500,000 inhabitants are Russians and almost another third are Ukrainians. Some 97 per cent voted in a 2006 referendum to join Russia, which Moscow has never recognised.

    But Russian and Transnistrian officials are making more of the issue this time. Transnistria’s foreign minister Nina Shtanski alleged on Monday that Ukraine had placed troops along the border – which Kiev denies. And Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s unorthodox appointment at the weekend of ex-Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili – a bête noire for Moscow – as governor of the Odessa region has added an element of psycho-drama.

    At least two Russian newspapers speculated on Tuesday that Mr Saakashvili’s task was to maintain the “blockade” of neighbouring Transnistria, and even act as “provocateur” to start a new war. The Izvestia columnist suggested that “the fate of all the issues that exist between Russia and the west is being decided today in the Kiev-Donetsk-Odessa triangle”.

    “This is not only the state TV narrative. Serious people are concerned about the implications of Ukraine’s moves,” Mr Trenin says. “Misha is best remembered here for launching an attack on South Ossetia.”

    In fact, Mr Saakashvili allowed himself to be lured into a trap after weeks of provocations in South Ossetia by launching an ill-advised assault on the Georgian breakaway region, which provided the pretext for Russia’s 2008 invasion. Russian media’s evocation of his role then may be just another way of Moscow registering chagrin over his Odessa appointment.

    Well, it’s kind of hard to be surprised by reactions like this:


    At least two Russian newspapers speculated on Tuesday that Mr Saakashvili’s task was to maintain the “blockade” of neighbouring Transnistria, and even act as “provocateur” to start a new war. The Izvestia columnist suggested that “the fate of all the issues that exist between Russia and the west is being decided today in the Kiev-Donetsk-Odessa triangle”.

    “This is not only the state TV narrative. Serious people are concerned about the implications of Ukraine’s moves,” Mr Trenin says. “Misha is best remembered here for launching an attack on South Ossetia.”

    Given a history like this:


    In fact, Mr Saakashvili allowed himself to be lured into a trap after weeks of provocations in South Ossetia by launching an ill-advised assault on the Georgian breakaway region, which provided the pretext for Russia’s 2008 invasion….

    So we’ll just have to wait and see what Mikheil Saakashvili has in mind for Odessa, Transnistria, or for his own career prospects. But if we do see Prime Minister Saakashvili emerge in 2016, it’s going to be very interesting to see if it’s part of some sort of attempt to triangulate the various oligarch interests, as some as suggested his appointment in Odessa represents, or if it ends up being a wedge. Prime Minister Saakashvili might be a concern for more than just Russia.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 3, 2015, 2:13 pm
  10. Dmytro Yarosh, who in addition to being a member of parliament is also now a high-level military adviser, recently shared some thoughts on Facebook regarding the annually Kiev gay pride march: Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh has promised in a Facebook post that the group’s members will “put aside other business in order to prevent those who hate family, morality, and human nature, from executing their plans. We have other things to do, but we’ll have to deal with this evil too,” he wrote.

    Kyiv Post
    Right Sector threatens Kyiv gay pride march (VIDEO)

    June 6, 2015, 9:23 a.m. | Kyiv Post+ —
    by Johannes Wamberg Andersen, Kyiv Post+

    Anti-gay groups in Ukraine, including the militant Right Sector, are threatening to stop a gay pride march planned for June 6.

    Referring to the Old Testament in the Holy Bible, the Right Sector — which fields a battalion of soldiers to fight against Russia in eastern Ukraine — called gay people “perverts” who “need to be cured” and promised to “prevent this sodomist gathering.”

    >“There will be thousands of us,” Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskyi told the Kyiv Post.

    The parade named Equality March will take place on June 6 in Kyiv.

    The organizers keep time and place secret until the last moment for safety reasons.

    On the morning of the day of the event, the details of the place and time will be sent out to the participants who registered online.

    The annual gay prides are often haunted by ultra-conservatives.

    In 2012, unknown men attacked and beat up gay rights activist Svyatoslav Sheremet on the day of a planned gay pride that was cancelled because of security reasons.

    Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh has promised in a Facebook post that the group’s members will “put aside other business in order to prevent those who hate family, morality, and human nature, from executing their plans. We have other things to do, but we’ll have to deal with this evil too,” he wrote.

    Yarosh then upped the stakes by connecting the parade to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

    He said that the event would “spit on the graves of those who died and defended Ukraine.”

    Echoing Russian rhetoric on the subject, Skoropadskyi said that “gay propaganda is destructive and doing harm to our Christian nation, we can’t allow that.”

    President Petro Poroshenko gave his support to the Equality Rights march during a June 5 press conference.

    He said citizens have a constitutional right to assembly and that law enforcement agencies would guarantee the safety.

    Kyiv Mayor rVitali Klitschko didn’t share the president’s confidence.

    He asked the Kyiv lesbian-bisexual-gay-transgender community to cancel the pride march to avoid “inflammation of hatred” and “not to provoke another confrontation in Kyiv.”

    Activists said they would go forward with the march anyway.

    Representatives from Germany, France and the European Union in Kyiv had engaged in a diplomatic effort to ensure that police would protect the manifestation, lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko said.

    The Right Sector gained broad popularity in Ukraine playing an active role in the EuroMaidan Revolution.

    The group’s intolerance was met with condemnation and disbelief from many Ukrainians, who reacted on the organization’s Facebook page.

    “You are properly just a few homophobes who not really represent the Right Sector,” a female wrote.

    “Who gave you the right to decide over the streets of Kyiv?” another commentary read.

    Alya Shandra, a EuroMaidan press coordinator, feels betrayed by the Right Sector’s anti-gay rights stance. She tried to convince the public that the group is not made up of “fascists and demons, as the Russian media called them.”

    So that was the threat. Did Right Sector follow through with the threat?

    Uh, yeah. They followed through with multiple bands of militants ready ready to ambush fleeing protestors after they fled the violent attack on the march. The violent attack that included fireworks
    and a nail bomb that almost killed one of the police officers:

    Kyiv Post
    Anti-gay extremists violently break up gay pride march in Kyiv; several injured, many arrests

    June 6, 2015, 5:50 p.m. | Ukraine — by Stefan Huijboom

    Protected by hundreds of police officers in Kyiv’s Obolon district, nearly 200 persons tried on June 6 to take part in the second gay pride parade in the last three years.

    But violence, almost from the start, marred the event and sent people fleeing in chaos and panic. Police broke up the gathering quickly, telling participants to leave because they could not guarantee their safety after dozens of extremists attacked the crowd and police with fireworks, fists and nails.

    Several police officers and participants were injured, including one officer who suffered serious wounds after being attacked with fireworks and nail bombs.

    More than 20 extremists were arrested on suspicion of violence. Others escaped, including one man who shouted “they should die!” in reference to homosexuals.

    Many attackers identified themselves as part of the militant Pravy (Right) Sector. Its leader, member of parliament Dmytro Yarosh, also fields a semi-autonomous battalion in the Ukrainian army. Yarosh, in a long Facebook post on June 5, condemned equal rights for gays and pledged to stop the gathering.

    At least two other members of Parliament, Svitlana Zalishchuk and Serhiy Leshchenko, attended the march along with the Swedish ambassador to Ukraine, Andreas von Beckerath, and other Western diplomats.

    Zalishchuk said that some of the extremists charged the crowd of marching activists, but were blocked by cordons of police that easily numbered several hundred officers to provide security. She praised the fast police response and witnessed some of the violence.

    “One of policemen was almost killed,” Zalishchuk said. “He was wounded very severely in the neck.”

    Zalishchuk said that the march and the accompanying violence show that Ukraine still has work to do in accepting gay rights.

    While Ukraine has “made great progress in the path of tolerance, which is the core of our European path,” it’s clear to her that only a minority of Ukrainians support equal rights for homosexuals. “It’s definitely a minority, not a majority,” she said, based on public comments in social networks and in conversations.

    She said that she has no plans to ask colleagues in Parliament to hold public hearings that would investigate, separately from the police criminal investigation, whether Right Sector instigated the violence.

    “I don’t know whether they were all part of Praviy Sector,”Zalishchuk said. “They wrote that they were against it…I don’t know if the instigators themselves were from Pravy Sector.”

    She said that the “consequences should be just” against those who committed violence and that, if Yarosh was behind the attacks, “this is unacceptable.”

    The march got off to a peaceful start, but for security reasons, the location remained a secret until two hours before its scheduled 11 a.m. start.

    “Ukraine is Europe! We are Europe!We share European values!” activists chanted as they marched along the Dnipro River in Kyiv’s Obolon District

    Journalists had to gather in Kyiv’s Pechersk district, where they were picked up by a bus and transported to the march.

    The extremists, however, were tipped off to the location. They were waiting near the scene and threatened violence from the start.

    “It’s a shame to be gay. It’s not normal. They are perverse!” shouted two men in front of the nearby Kyiv Golf Club complex. Police blocked these men. But one attacker injured a police officer with a powerful firecracker. The wound left a puddle of blood on the ground.

    “They should all die!” said a young man, his face covered in a balaclava. He didn’t want to explain why “all gays should die,” but constantly repeated that “it’s disgusting.”

    Leshchenko, a member of parliament with the Bloc of President Petro Poroshenko, wrote on Facebook that “the fate of Ukraine’s European integration will be determined this weekend during Kyiv’s gay pride parade.”

    He also vowed to introduce legislation that would ban discrimination based on someone’s sexuality, a prerequisite for European Union integration.

    “We are here not for a party. We’re here to show to the outside world that we’re human and don’t want to bescared of who we are,” said 20-year-old Maxim, a hair stylist, who attended the march with three of his friends. He was too afraid to give his full name as he claimed some provocateurs might hunt him down.

    “It’s hard to be openly gay. My parents have known it for a few months, and with my father, I no longer have any contact. There is so much violence targeted at openly gays,” he explained the Kyiv Post. Quickly he pointed to the massive police force. “Is this normal? No, of course not! I hope there will be one day that Ukraine accepts Europe’smoral standards when it comes to LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender) rights.”

    The event was supposed to start at 11 a.m., but police demanded that participants leave as soon as possible under police escort because they couldn’t guarantee the activists’ safety if they stayed.

    But even as the activists fled, anti-gay protesters gathered and clashed with police, some tackling police officers to the ground and beating them. Panic and chaos broke out, with people running through Obolon’s residential areas to find a safe way out.

    “Don’t go to the metro stations!” yelled some police officers.

    Anti-gay militants were waiting at Kyiv’s Minsk metro station, the closest station to the march, to confront gay activists.

    A minivan of Pravy Sektor’s volunteer battalion Ukraine’s Volunteer Corps was spotted on the Heroiv Stalingrad Street, one of the main roads in the Obolon district leading to the Minsk metro station.

    People ran across the streets to flee as police repelled the attacks with pepper spray that struck the eyes of two attackers, who fell to the ground. Paramedics quickly arrived. One of the injured men remained defiant.

    “I’m a military officer in the east. It’s a shame that our country is allowing these perverts to walk the streets. It’s not okay!” he yelled. He was taken away by medics, while police arrested the other one.


    Denis Panin, a board member of Fulcrum, one of the organizations involved in the Kyiv Pride event, is hopeful for the future, despite the violence.

    A gay pride parade in May 2012 was also called off because of violent threats while another march in December 2012 was also marred by attacks.

    “Let’s hope that every year the pride gets better and safer, and let’s talk more openly about it. Ukraine is a closeted country, and it has to come out of that closet,” Panin said.

    So that was horrific and it certainly must raise a number of questions for Ukraine’s European partners that seem so eager on invited Ukraine into the EU given what appears to be widespread condoning of violence against the LGBT community. Sadly, it’s not too surprising given the history of violence at these events.

    But it also raises a question that really can’t be asked enough at this point given the rise of Right Sector and similarly-minded groups: Just what are they so afraid of from the gay community? Was that nail bomb merely an attempt at mass murder? Or was there another level of projection involved in the act? Right Sector’s member clearly feel very strongly about gay people.

    As Ukrainian gays right activist Denis Panin put it, “Ukraine is a closeted country, and it has to come out of that closet.” So you got to wonder just how much of Ukraine’s far-right is stuck in the closet. After all, if Dmytro Yarosh turned out to be super gay, that also wouldn’t be very surprising.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 6, 2015, 11:29 am
  11. @Pterrafractyl–

    Nothing is more symptomatic of our “Serpent’s Walk,” Ministry of Truth media than the absence of coverage of this!

    This shouldn’t come as any surprise. The OUN/B fascists are back in power in Ukraine and are doing what should be expected of such creatures.

    On the subject of many homophobes actually being closeted gays, check out Miscellaneous Archive Show M13, titled “The Pink Triangle.” http://spitfirelist.com/miscellaneous-archives/shows-m1%E2%80%94m30/

    Bet Pussy Riot won’t be protesting this!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | June 6, 2015, 2:34 pm
  12. @Dave: Regarding the Ministry of Truth media, note that pretty much all other international reports on this attack don’t even mention the nail bomb. In almost all reports it’s simply stated that the officer suffered a “severe neck injury” or something equally vague. The Daily Beast’s report contains that info, but that’s about it.

    So it will be interesting to see if the nail bomb attack gets much more coverage going forward or if that aspect of the story ends up getting push into ‘the closet’.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 6, 2015, 3:39 pm
  13. @Pterrafractyl–

    Indeed. Most significant, in my opinion, is the fact that Yarosh is not only part of the Ukrainian government, but the Ukrainian military.

    EU values, eh?

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | June 6, 2015, 7:39 pm
  14. Oh look, Odessa got a new supervisor of social justice: Odessa governor Mikheil Saakashvili just hired Maria Gaidar, daughter of Yegor Gaidar, the architect of Russia’s calamitous and cruel neoliberal “reforms” and mass privatizations in the 90’s (although he had plenty of outside help).

    And, yes, this is going to be another one of Ukraine’s new officials , that’s going to need to acquire Ukrainian citizenship before she can start her new job:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    Russian Politician To Be Appointed Odesa Deputy Governor

    July 17, 2015

    The governor of Ukraine’s Odesa region, Mikheil Saakashvili, has announced that Russian politician Maria Gaidar will be his deputy.

    Saakashvili said on July 17 that he had asked Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to grant Gaidar Ukrainian citizenship and to formally appoint her to the post.

    Saakashvili added that Gaidar will be supervising social issues in the region.

    Gaidar is the daughter of the late Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s reformist prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

    She is a vocal critic of Yeltsin’s successor, President Vladimir Putin.

    Saakashvili, who served as president of Georgia in 2004-2013, has been leading Ukraine’s Odesa region since late May.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 17, 2015, 5:06 pm
  15. Check out the likely new speaker of the Ukrainian parliament following the big reshuffling in the wake of Yatsenyuk’s resignation: founder of the National Socialist Party of Ukraine (which would later become Svoboda), Andriy Parubiy. After being appointed secretary of defense following the Maidan protests, he later helped found Yatsenuk’s People’s Front. And now he’s about to become speaker of the parliament. Parubiy has certainly come a long way, unfortunately:

    The Atlantic Council

    Prime Minister Yatsenyuk Resigns. Why Now? What’s Next?

    By Anders Åslund
    April 11, 2016

    On April 10, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk submitted his resignation, and on April 12 parliament is expected to approve Speaker of Parliament Volodymyr Groisman as prime minister. It is, of course, good that Ukraine’s two-month long government crisis is being resolved, but it is not evident that the new government will be able to unlock the Western financial assistance that has been delayed because of political uncertainty. President Petro Poroshenko is about to take full control of the government, but he is also narrowing his power base.

    Poroshenko announced that he would present a new candidate for prime minister on April 12. It will undoubtedly be Groisman, 38, who made his career as two-term mayor in Vinnytsia, Poroshenko’s home town. Groisman is remembered there for his far-reaching local reforms, but most of all he is a Poroshenko loyalist.

    Presumably, they have secured the necessary 226 votes for Groisman’s parliamentary confirmation. Yatsenyuk affirmed that his People’s Front with eighty-one votes will support Groisman, and the Poroshenko Bloc has 136 votes. The remaining nine votes can be found in many places. Yatsenyuk will clearly stay active in his party.

    Yatsenyuk has been a strong and colorful prime minister with many pluses and minuses. His skill and intellect are undeniable. Virtually all the substantial reforms that Ukraine carried out in 2015 were strongly supported by Yatsenyuk. But he has come to symbolize all of the tough reforms to the populists.

    His biggest minuses are that he has been accused of corrupt dealings and lost all popularity. Reformers have complained that he has not carried out more reforms and that he has protected vested interests close to him. While Ukrainian media are cautious in criticizing the President, it has been open season on the prime minister.

    With Yatsenyuk, the three leading reformers in his government will leave. Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius and Transportation Minister Andriy Pyvovarskiy have effectively already left. Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko has made clear that she does not want to serve under Groisman, who opposed her tax reform. Respected Chairwoman of the National Bank Valeria Hontareva has threatened to resign with Jaresko, although she is a Poroshenko appointee. The two Yatsenyuk loyalists, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, however, will stay.

    The one big appointment that Yatsenyuk’s party will get is Andriy Parubiy, who will replace Groisman as speaker of parliament. Parubiy was the commander of the Maidan. Poroshenko Bloc faction leader Yuriy Lutsenko is supposed to become the new prosecutor general, which would be better than the appointment of any of the current deputy prosecutor generals, but Lutsenko lacks the legal training required by current Ukrainian legislation.

    According to the grapevine, almost all of the other vacant posts will be filled with Poroshenko loyalists and generally reduce the level of competence. Presidential chief of staff Boris Lozhkin is the chief candidate to become First Deputy Prime Minister, which would consolidate Poroshenko’s control over the government. Former Slovak Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Miklos had been slated to become finance minister, but he refuses to become a Ukrainian citizen, which precludes him from the post. However, highly-regarded parliamentarian Ivanna Klyumpush has been proposed as deputy prime minister for European integration, but it is unclear whether she will accept.

    An advantage with the change of prime minister would be that the steady battle between President and prime minister would cease, but so would the balance of power. Groisman is clearly subordinate to Poroshenko. Yatsenyuk has had a strained relationship with parliament, while Groisman with a softer image has enjoyed a good relationship as speaker. However, it will be difficult for him to manage Yatsenyuk’s party, which might have too little to benefit from this cohabitation and is embittered by how the Poroshenko Bloc treated Yatsenyuk.

    The main concern with a Groisman government is that it is likely to be less reformist and competent. It might be unable or unwilling to comply with the conditions of the International Monetary Fund. The Yatsenyuk government had committed itself to raise household gas tariffs by 70 percent on April 1, but current Energy Minister Volodymyr Demchishyn refused to do so and he is a Poroshenko loyalist. Groisman himself led the resistance against the IMF-supported tax reform in late 2015 and early 2016 and delayed the adoption of the budget for 2016, having put himself at odds with the IMF. Moreover, several candidates for senior ministerial posts are identified with financial malfeasance. It does not help that Groisman does not speak any Western languages.

    The one big appointment that Yatsenyuk’s party will get is Andriy Parubiy, who will replace Groisman as speaker of parliament. Parubiy was the commander of the Maidan. Poroshenko Bloc faction leader Yuriy Lutsenko is supposed to become the new prosecutor general, which would be better than the appointment of any of the current deputy prosecutor generals, but Lutsenko lacks the legal training required by current Ukrainian legislation.”
    Well, at least that’s one less reason for the neo-Nazis to “march on Kiev”: one of their own is now speaker of the parliament. It’s not a great reason.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 12, 2016, 8:54 am
  16. With the attack on an Orland gay night club by a man claiming allegiance to ISIS, and the subsequent praising of the attack by right-wing US pastors, bringing global attention to the ongoing threats to the LGBT community generated by religious extremists around the world, here’s a reminder that you don’t need to be a religious extremist to be the kind of person that thinks gay people deserve to be killed. Being a neo-Nazi street thug, or simply sharing a neo-Nazi street thugs views regarding gay people, is usually more than sufficient:

    The New York Times

    Ukraine Shields Gay Rights Parade From Repeat of Violence

    By ALISA SOPOVA
    JUNE 12, 2016

    KIEV, Ukraine — Gay rights groups in Ukraine celebrated a milestone on Sunday — holding a parade without being chased or attacked by right-wing opponents. But the march, in Kiev, was guarded by police and security forces who sealed off much of the city center and warned participants not to linger afterward.

    About 2,000 people turned out for the parade, called KyivPride. No violence was reported at the event, but a participant was beaten in the downtown area an hour or so afterward, organizers and the police said.

    The outcome was a striking contrast to last year, when members of far-right organizations attacked the 300 or so marchers, injuring dozens. Similar violence appeared likely to unfold on Sunday after right-wing paramilitaries, emboldened by their popularity for fighting in the war against Russian-backed separatists in the east, vowed to shut down the march.

    “In short, it will be a bloody mess on June 12 in Kiev,” Artem Skoropadsky, the spokesman for one group, the Right Sector, wrote in a joint statement with another group, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

    That threat was too much even for Ukraine, a society traumatized by a war that has often sought comfort in nationalist ideology, and stirred resentment far beyond the gay community. So what was initially planned as a gay pride parade transformed into a demonstration for equality and against nationalists who want to impose their own version of tradition.

    “I stood up during two Maidans because I didn’t want anybody to tell me how I should live,” Daniel Kovzhun, a participant in the pro-democracy protests in Maidan Square in 2004 and 2014, wrote in response to Mr. Skoropadsky’s threat.

    “I was at war to defend my family, my children, my home and my freedom,” Mr. Kovzhun wrote. “And my children will be free to decide how they should live, with whom to sleep and what to believe.” He posed with his wife and small son for an advertising campaign in support of KyivPride.

    Ukraine’s national police force, long notorious for brutality and venality, has been undergoing sweeping changes by hiring thousands of young officers. Some have pointed to that as a sign that the country can change for the better.

    The head of the National Police, Khatia Dekanoidze, promised to prevent violence at the march. She devised a security plan that minimized the possibility of clashes, at the cost of locking down part the capital.

    The police sealed a 10-block area in the city center, and entering the area was possible only after a thorough search. After the march, which lasted no more than half an hour, the police evacuated participants by buses and through a subway station that was open only to them.

    Ms. Dekanoidze later reported that 57 people had been detained. During the event, young men could be seen loitering around the blocked areas, and as the march ended, the police blocked a column of people in black ski masks moving toward the parade.

    ““In short, it will be a bloody mess on June 12 in Kiev,” Artem Skoropadsky, the spokesman for one group, the Right Sector, wrote in a joint statement with another group, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.”
    Well, considering Right Sector’s nail-bomb attack at last year’s Pride parade and their pledge to repeat the violence this year, this clearly could have been much worse. But when you also consider that recent polls show less than 5 percent of Ukrainians hold a positive view of gay people and 45 percent want their rights restricted, it’s hard to see where good Ukrainian LGBT news is going to come from in the future unless a large number of average Ukrainians, who presumably aren’t all a bunch of religious fundamentalists, stop the hate. So while stopping Right Sector from repeating last year’s shameful attack was indeed progress, it’s almost the only LGBT progress at all. The only other positive news was the passage of an anti-discrimination addition to the labor code that was adopted in November as one of the prerequisites for Ukraine eventually getting visa-free EU travel, and that was a week after Ukraine’s parliament failed to pass the law and the government started worrying about the consequences to Ukraine EU ambitions.

    So with the exception of Ukraine’s incredibly brave LGBT community who are willing to march in the face of Right Sector’s threats and an overall hostile society, the only other major force pushing Ukraine in the right direction on LGBT matters is the government’s and populace’s desires to join the EU. And that means the future of LGBT community in Ukraine is probably going to be heavily dependent on the ability of the EU to maintaining pressure the government to enact LGBT rights and continue enforcing those rights after the neo-Nazis predictably declare war on the LGBT community. Is that a feasible path forward for Ukraine? It seems like it should be since eventually joining the EU was the declared purpose of the whole Maidan revolution. But we’ll see. Getting Ukraine to adequately deal with its neo-Nazis is easier said than done.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2016, 12:40 pm

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