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FTR #837 Cauldron: Update on Ukraine

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by 12/19/2014. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more) con­tains FTR #827.  (The pre­vi­ous flash dri­ve was cur­rent through the end of May of 2012 and con­tained FTR #748.)

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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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