Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #850 Update on Fascism in 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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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment

Helmets of the Ukrainian Azov battalion, as filmed by a Norwegian documentary crew and shown on German TV

Introduction: We note a report in Stars and Stripes that elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade are to begin training of Ukraine’s national guard battalions. Those battalions include the “punisher” battalions, including the Nazi Azov Battalion. Azov will be the recipient of training by the 173rd Airborne, beginning on April 20th [Hitler’s Birthday–D.E.], this according to the Ukrainian interior minister.

In addition, Dmytro Yarosh, head of Pravy Sektor (one of the Nazi OUN/B heirs in Ukrainian power structure and government) will be an assistant to the head of that country’s army, this to “control” the “punisher” battalions, including Azov. The precise definition of the term “control,” in this context, remains to be determined.

Pink Triangle Badge used by the Third Reich to denominate gays

Yarosh and Pravy Sektor threatened a Kiev gay Rights parade, a threat on which they made good. In addition, Pravy Sektor has served as an enforcer element for Ihor Kolomoyskyi, a Ukrainian oligarch who has proved recalcitrant in his attitude toward regulatory measures exercised against him.

A startling move entailed the appointment of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili to govern the Ukrainian province of Odessa. Saakashvili cannot return to his native country because of serious legal problems there.

Seen as a way to maintain the status quo in Odessa with regard to the primacy of Ihor Kolomoyskyi in that province, the Saakashvili appointment is a distraction.

Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and the American-born Natalie Jaresko have threatened to suspend payments to creditors to finance the war in the Eastern part of that country. Creditors suspect that Ukraine has the money and Yatsenyuk is suspected of having embezzled $325 million.

Stephan Bandera

Their boss, president Petro Poroshenko has threatened to invade Crimea and the Donbass, which might very well lead to World War III.

Program Highlights Include:

  • Svoboda’s ideological pundit–Yuri Michalchyshyn–is now working for the Ukrainian intelligence.
  • A serious of suspicious deaths of opposition political figures and regime critics in Ukraine.
  • The re-routing of data about nuclear weapons from the UK to Ukraine.
  • The growing coordination of military hardware and operations between Ukraine and NATO.
  • Business connections between Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi and Georgia under the newly appointed governor of Odessa, Mikhail Saakashvili.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives recently declined to give weaponry to the Azov battalion, noting its openly Nazi character.
  • The OSS’s recruitment of Stephan Bandera in 1946.
  • It is impossible within the scope of this post to cover our voluminous coverage of the Ukraine crisis. Previous programs on the subject are: FTR #‘s 777778779780781782783784794800803804, 808811817818824826829832833837849Listeners/readers are encouraged to examine these programs and/or their descriptions in detail, in order to flesh out their understanding.

1a. In FTR #777, we highlighted the adoption of Stephan Bandera’s OUN/B by elements of U.S. intelligence to use as combatants against the Soviet Union. Having staffed SS and Gestapo ranks and participated in war crimes against Poles, Jews, Russians and other “racial undesirables,”  this Third Reich ally conducted guerilla warfare against the Soviets until the early 1950’s.

Transitioning from Nazi Germany to the Office of Policy Coordination (a CIA/State Department operation administered by Frank Wisner), the OUN/B combatants essentially switched uniforms from the Third Reich to American intelligence.

A declassified document from the Office of Strategic Services–America’s World War II intelligence agency and the forerunner of the CIA–discloses that Bandera and his organization were targeted for recruitment in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The document features discussion of Yaroslav Stetsko, the wartime leader of Ukraine whose Nazi puppet regime fulfilled the Reich’s ethnic cleansing doctrine with brutal thoroughness. In understanding the Ukraine crisis, the unbroken line of political succession from Stetsko/Bandera to the present should be borne in mind, as should the synthesis of U.S. covert operations and the GOP, specifically the Crusade For Freedom.

An illegal domestic covert operation, the CFF brought Nazi allies such as the OUN/B, the Croatian Ustachi, the Romanian Iron Guard, the Hungarian Arrow Cross, the Bulgarian National Front and others into the United States in order to drive the political spectrum to the right.

As of 1952, the  CFF became inextricably linked with the GOP, with Arthur Bliss Lane playing a key role in the GOP’s 1952 campaign, as well as being centrally involved in the CFF. The CFF spawned the GOP’s ethnic outreach organization, which was able to deliver the swing vote in five key states in Presidential election years. It eventually became a permanent part of the GOP.

Conceived by Allen Dulles, the CFF was overseen by Richard Nixon. Its chief spokesperson was Ronald Reagan. The State Department official responsible for bringing “fascist freedom fighters” like the OUN/B into the United States was William Casey (Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager in the 1980 Presidential race and later Reagan’s CIA director.) The Nazi wing of the GOP was installed as a permanent branch of the Republican Part when George H.W. Bush was the head of the Republican National Committee.

The OUN/B was a key element of the GOP’s ethnic outreach organization. It is noteworthy that the organizations that were represented in the GOP subgroup were all affiliated with the SS during World War II. They were also inextricably linked with the Reinhard Gehlen organization.

Perhaps the most important effect of the Gehlen organization was to introduce “rollback” or “liberation theory” into American strategic thinking. Rollback was a political wafare and covert operation strategy which had its genesis in the Third Reich Ostministerium headed by Alfred Rosenberg. This strategy entailed enlisting the aid of dissident Soviet ethnic minorities to overthrow the Soviet Union. In return, these minorities and their respective republics were to be granted nominal independence while serving as satellite states of “Greater Germany.”

In its American incarnation, liberation theory called for “rolling back” communism out of Eastern Europe and the break-up of the Soviet Union into its constituent ethnic Republics. Lip-service was given to initiating democracy in the “liberated” countries. Liberation theory was projected into mainstream American political consciousness through the Crusade for Freedom.

In FTR #778, we examined the projection of CFF Nazis into Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The OUN/B was primary among those elements. Following the so-called “Orange Revolution,”  Reagan’s Deputy Director of Public Liaison, Ykaterina Chumachenko married Viktor Yuschenko and became first lady of Ukraine. The UCCA is the key OUN/B front organization in the U.S.

The Yuschenko regime remade Ukrainian history in the ideological mold of the OUN/B. (see FTR #781.) Yaroslav Stetsko’s personal secretary in the early 1980s, Roman Svarych, was appointed minister of justice under Yuschenko and held the same post under both Timoshenko governments. (That is the Ukrainian equivalent of Attorney General.)

Svarych is an adviser to Poroshenko and, along with Stetsko’s widow Slava, founded the Ukrainian National Congress, an OUN/B-influenced party in Ukraine.

Svarych is the embodiment of the political and historical continuity between the OUN/B of the Second World War era and that organization’s heirs in contemporary Ukraine.

1b. Andreas Umland has openly crit­i­cized the Kiev gov­ern­ment for its embrace of the neo-Nazis, like this Novem­ber 7, 2014 Face­book post­ing where Muland warns:

WARNING: The naivete of Ukrain­ian politi­cians and bureau­crats keeps sur­pris­ing me. The appoint­ments of two neo-Nazis, Vadym Troyan to the Min­istry of Inte­rior and Yuri Mikhalchyshyn to the Secret Ser­vice, will cost Ukraine a lot. Urgent advice: As these appoint­ments will have to be reviewed sooner or later any­way, it is bet­ter to reverse these deci­sions before the enor­mous image dam­age that they can do to Ukraine across the globe is done. [Note that Yuri Michalchyshyn is the key ideological mentor for Svoboda, as discussed in FTR #781.

2a. In a previous post, we noted that elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade are to begin training of Ukraine’s national guard battalions. Those battalions include the “punisher” battalions, including the Nazi Azov Battalion. Azov was, indeed, scheduled to be the recipient of training by the 173rd Airborne, beginning on April 20th [Hitler’s Birthday–D.E.].

“US Forces to Hold Exer­cises in Ukraine” [AP]; Stars and Stripes; 3/31/2015.

The United States plans to send sol­diers to Ukraine in April for train­ing exer­cises with units of the country’s national guard.

Ukraine’s Inte­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov said in a Face­book post on Sun­day that the units to be trained include the Azov Bat­tal­ion, a vol­un­teer force that has attracted crit­i­cism for its far-right sen­ti­ments includ­ing bran­dish­ing an emblem widely used in Nazi Germany.

Avakov said the train­ing will begin April 20 [Hitler’s birthday–D.E.!] at a base in west­ern Ukraine near the Pol­ish bor­der and would involve about 290 Amer­i­can para­troop­ers and some 900 Ukrain­ian guardsmen.

Pen­ta­gon spokesman Col. Steve War­ren said the troops would come from the 173rd Air­borne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy. . . .

2d. In a partial admission of the realities of what is going on in Ukraine, the U.S. House of Representatives voted against giving aid to the openly Nazi Azov Battalion.

“U.S. House Admits Openly Nazi Role in Ukraine” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 6/12/2015.

. . . . . When even the hawkish House of Representatives can’t stomach these Nazi storm troopers who have served as Kiev’s tip of the spear against the ethnic Russian population of eastern Ukraine, what does that say about the honesty and integrity of the New York Times when it finds these same Nazis so admirable? . . . .

. . . . Yet, on June 10, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act – from Reps. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, and Ted Yoho, R-Florida – that would block U.S. training of the Azov battalion and would prevent transfer of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to fighters in Iraq and Ukraine.

“I am grateful that the House of Representatives unanimously passed my amendments last night to ensure that our military does not train members of the repulsive neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, along with my measures to keep the dangerous and easily trafficked MANPADs out of these unstable regions,” said Conyers on Thursday.

He described Ukraine’s Azov Battalion as a 1,000-man volunteer militia of the Ukrainian National Guard that Foreign Policy Magazine has characterized as “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist.” And Azov is not some obscure force. Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who oversees Ukraine’s armed militias, announced that Azov troops would be among the first units to be trained by the 300 U.S. military advisers who have been dispatched to Ukraine in a training mission codenamed “Fearless Guardian.” . . . .

2c. In addition, Dmytro Yarosh, head of Pravy Sektor (one of the Nazi OUN/B heirs in Ukrainian power structure and government) will be an assistant to the head of that country’s army, this to “control” the “punisher” battalions, including Azov.

“Ukraine Far-right Leader Made Army Advi­sor in Move to Con­trol Militias” by Claire Rosem­berg [AFP]; Business Insider; 4/6/2015.

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. . . .

2d. Bet Pussy Riot won’t be protesting this one! Dmytro Yarosh, who in addi­tion to being a mem­ber of par­lia­ment is also now a high-levelmil­i­tary adviser, recently shared some thoughts on Face­book regard­ing the annu­al Kiev gay pride march:He 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.

“Right Sec­tor Threat­ens Kyiv Gay Pride March” by Johannes Wamberg Ander­sen; Kiev [Kyiv] Post; 6/6/2015.

 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 Vi­tali 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. . . .

2e. Pravy Sektor fol­lowed through on its promise of violence, with mul­ti­ple bands of mil­i­tants 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:
“Anti-Gay Extrem­ists Vio­lently Break Up Gay Pride March in Kyiv; Sev­eral Injured, Many Arrests” by Ste­fan Huijboom; Kiev [Kyiv] Post; 6/6/2015.

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.

2e. Pravy Sektor has performed an “enforcer role” for one of Ukraine’s biggest oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoyskyi. Reform of his enterprises has proved elusive and is one of the thorns in the side of the Ukrainian government.

“Steinmeier and the Oligarchs;” german-foreign-policy.com; 6/01/2015.

. . . .Outpost Dnepropetrovsk

This has become even more complicated by the fact that – despite all its efforts – Kiev does not have control of the voluntary militia units fighting in eastern Ukraine. These militias are extremely nationalistic, some even openly fascist, who strictly reject the cease-fire and are repeatedly violating it. Therefore, Kiev cannot guarantee compliance with “Minsk II.” This is why German Foreign Minister Steinmeier went to Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk on Saturday, to use his personal influence. Following the February 2014 coup, Dnepropetrovsk was quickly and systematically turned into the pro-western government’s outpost in its struggle against the anti-Maidan opposition. Located relatively close to the Donbass region, Dnepropetrovsk became the scene of anti-Maidan protests in late 2013 and early 2014, and was therefore considered “at risk” by the new authorities in Kiev. On March 2, billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi was appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk Oblast. Kolomoyskyi has the reputation of being one of Ukraine’s richest and most ruthless oligarchs. The ramifications of his reign over Dnepropetrovsk can still be seen today.

“Illegal but Effective”

Kolomoyskyi has actually succeeded in largely neutralizing the anti-Maidan opposition. “The regional political forces in and around Dnepropetrovsk” had “already very early decided to move against the separatist and pro-Russian movement,” retrospectively reports the German Green Party affiliated Heinrich Boell Foundation.[2] Already last year, critical observers had vividly described Kolomoyskyi’s “resolute line of action” against dissidents. His deputy was quoted saying, “we reached an agreement with some and instilled fear in the others.”[3] “The job was taken care of by the thugs of the Right Sector, as Kolomoyskyi had offered them Dnepropetrovsk as their field of operation, as well as financial backing,” reports the Ukraine expert Reinhard Lauterbach. In the Oblast’s administration, the methods of the Right Sector, which, in April 2014, had set up its headquarters in Dnepropetrovsk, are euphemistically described as “not always completely legal, but effective.”[4] Kolomoyskyi set a bounty for the dissidents (“saboteurs”), who were caught and he provided finances for the creation of a voluntary battalion of fascists. In last October’s parliamentary elections, Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the “Right Sector,” was able to win a direct mandate to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian national parliament) in Dnepropetrovsk.

Maidan’s Main Beneficiary

Kolomoyskyi still wields an enormous amount of political influence in Dnepropetrovsk. Of the Ukrainian oligarchs, it was he, who has benefitted most from the February 2014 putsch, according to a study published by Warsaw’s “Centre for Eastern Studies” (OSW), early this year.[5] In fact, precisely because of his decisive influence on various voluntary battalions, Kolomoyskyi had become so powerful that, by the end of March, President Petro Poroshenko felt compelled to remove him from office in an unprecedented power struggle. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Although Kolomoyskyi no longer holds political office, he has lost none of his influence. Alongside his business dynasty, he controls numerous parliamentarians in various caucuses of the national parliament. Whoever wants to impose a cease-fire on the East Ukrainian militias, can achieve this quicker by going through Dnepropetrovsk than through Kiev. This is why Foreign Minister Steinmeier arrived there last Saturday. The Foreign Ministry stresses the fact that the minister did not meet personally with Kolomoyskyi, while politely mentioning that his successor in office, Valentyn Reznichenko, certainly “cannot oppose” the oligarch.[7] Saturday, Steinmeier had negotiations with Reznichenko. . . .

3. Although Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, it is steadily solidifying its cooperation with the alliance.

“Moving West;” german-foreign-policy.com; 4/10/2015.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine has announced a new cooperation accord with NATO, under the terms of which Kiev will also intensify its cooperation with the transatlantic combat alliance in the domains of military intelligence and espionage. This announcement was made as NATO began initiating a large-scale deployment of military instructors in Ukraine. Ukraine is simultaneously transforming its arms industry production to meet NATO standards, which will permanently integrate that country into the structures of western arms producers. Experts are warning of exuberant corruption in Ukraine’s arms industry. A long-time notorious leader of fascist organizations has been appointed “advisor” to Ukraine’s Chiefs of Staff, just as the in part fascist-oriented volunteer battalions are being integrated into the ranks of the country’s regular armed forces. They too will benefit from NATO’s training and arming measures.

Military Cooperation

Ukraine is expanding its NATO cooperation. As Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced on Wednesday, the country would sign a memorandum with the western alliance to this effect. The memorandum will be signed within the framework of the “Partnership for Peace” program, reinforcing cooperation in advisory activities, military intelligence and espionage.[1] The new accord comes at a time when several NATO members are initiating large scale training measures for the Ukrainian armed forces. Already since last year, US and NATO military advisors are on duty in Ukraine. These include, according to media reports, an officer of the German Bundeswehr.[2] Washington plans, still in April, to dispatch 300 soldiers to nearby West Ukraine’s Lvov, where they will train three Ukrainian battalions. Great Britain is sending seventy-five military instructors, half of whom are already in Mykolaiv, in South Ukraine. According to media reports, Canada is also preparing to send military advisors. The German Bundeswehr has reported that its support goes beyond merely medical supplies and “medical treatment for seriously wounded soldiers;” it has also been “training” the Ukrainian army.[3]

Conform to NATO Standards

Running parallel to this training, the Ukrainian arms industry is converting its production to meet NATO standards. Already on the occasion of the “International Defense Industry Exhibition,” on September 3, 2014, which has been held annually in Kielce, Poland since 1993, a conference was convened under the auspices of NATO to discuss the future of Ukraine’s arms industry in the aftermath of Kiev’s pro-western coup d’état. Ukraine’s state-owned Ukroboronprom defense firm announced on March 4 that it was working with NATO’s codification and standardization teams to improve its industrial capabilities.[4] Ukroboronprom incorporates more than 130 arms companies. A “roadmap,” designating the path toward the Ukraine arms industry’s adaption of NATO’s standards by 2018, was established on March 31, at an international seminar of experts. Participating at the conference were experts from Poland and the Czech Republic, who had had the experience of making the identical transformations of their own arms industries, back in the 1990s. This standardization of their military products with those produced in the western combat alliance will mean that the Ukrainian arms industries are permanently shutting themselves off from the Russian companies, with which they had been closely cooperating up to 2013.

Remarkable Deals

Experts are warning of exuberant corruption in the Ukrainian arms industry, which is now definitely also infecting the Western camp. The Ukrinmash company, for example, which is part of the Ukroboronprom consortium, was “probably involved in illegal arms exports,” according to an expert at the Institute of International Relations of the University of Warsaw.[5] Ukrinmash became known, when Somali pirates seized a freighter carrying 33 Ukrainian tanks headed for South Sudan. Ukrinmash had also illegally delivered BM-21 “Grad” rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons to the secessionist regime in Juba – in violations of UN-sanctions – which, at the time, was still part of Sudan. The deal had been made in the interest of the West and in plain sight of military observers, including those from the Bundeswehr. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) As the Warsaw expert notes, Ukrinmash is cooperating now also with the French Thales as well as British and US arms companies – resulting in lucrative deals. Ukrinmash has also imported outdated British armored personnel carriers, a deal bringing such high profits that the competent military authorities felt obliged to launch investigations. It remains a mystery, why Ukrinmash would provide Kiev’s fighting units in Eastern Ukraine – of all things – hunting rifles.

Parallel Military Structures

While NATO is intensifying its cooperation with Ukraine and its arms industry, fascist combat units are strengthening their influence within the country’s armed forces. In February, 17 volunteer – including openly fascist oriented – battalions fighting in Eastern Ukraine, united to form a “Joint Staff,” claiming they were an “alternative to the Chiefs of Staff of the regular armed forces.” (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) . . . .

4a. A telling move by Ukrainian president Poroshenko was described by Robert Parry: ” . . ..The latest political move by the U.S.-backed “pro-democracy” regime in Ukraine was to foist on the people of Odessa the autocratic Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neoconservative favorite and currently a fugitive from his own country which is seeking him on charges of human rights violations and embezzlement. . . .”

“Neocon Fugitive Given Ukrainian Province” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 6/2/2015.

The latest political move by the U.S.-backed “pro-democracy” regime in Ukraine was to foist on the people of Odessa the autocratic Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, a neoconservative favorite and currently a fugitive from his own country which is seeking him on charges of human rights violations and embezzlement.

New York Times correspondent David M. Herszenhorn justified this imposition of a newly minted Ukrainian citizen on the largely Russian-speaking population of Odessa by saying that “the Ukrainian public’s general willingness to accept the appointment of foreigners to high-level positions underscores the deep lack of trust in any government after nearly a quarter-century of mismanagement and corruption.”

But Herszenhorn made no apparent effort to gauge how willing the people of Odessa are to accept this choice of a controversial foreign politician to govern them. The pick was made by President Petro Poroshenko and is just the latest questionable appointment by the post-coup regime in Kiev.

For instance, shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the new U.S.-endorsed authorities in Kiev named thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk in southeastern Ukraine. Kolomoisky, regarded as one of Ukraine’s most corrupt billionaires, ruled the region as his personal fiefdom until he was ousted by Poroshenko earlier this year in a dispute over Kolomoisky’s use of strong-arm tactics to maintain control of Ukrainian energy companies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other.”]

Poroshenko also has granted overnight Ukrainian citizenship to other controversial foreigners to hold key positions in his government, including Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, an ex-U.S. State Department official whose qualifications included enriching herself through her management of a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Finance Minister’s ‘American Values’.”]

Beyond his recruitment of questionable outsiders, Poroshenko has made concessions to Ukraine’s far-right nationalists, including signing legislation to extend official recognition to Ukrainian fascists who collaborated with the Nazis in killing Jews and Poles during World War II. In a bitter irony, the new law coincided with the world’s celebration in April of the 70thanniversary of Russian and U.S. troops bringing an end to the Holocaust. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Ukraine Commemorates the Holocaust.”]

Now Poroshenko has given Saakashvili his own province to govern, rescuing him from an obscure existence in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. According to a New York Times profile last September, Saakashvili was there “writing a memoir, delivering ‘very well-paid’ speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state.”

McCain and Nuland were key neocon backers of the coup that ousted Yanukovych and touched off the bloody civil war that has killed thousands of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, while also reviving Cold War tensions between the West and Russia. Before the coup, McCain urged on right-wing protesters with promises of U.S. support and Nuland was overheard hand-picking Ukraine’s new leadership, saying “Yats is the guy,” a reference to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who became prime minister after the coup.

According to the Times profile, Saakashvili also “entertained David H. Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” another neocon favorite who ran into legal trouble himself when the FBI discovered he had shared top-secret information with his biographer/lover and then lied about it to FBI agents. Petraeus, however, received only a suspended sentence and a fine in contrast to intelligence-community whistleblowers who have faced serious prison time.

Models, Nude Artist and Massage Therapist

While cooling his heels in Brooklyn, Saakashvili fumed over charges leveled against him by prosecutors in his home country of Georgia. According to the Times profile, Saakashvili was accused of “using public money to pay for, among other things, hotel expenses for a personal stylist, hotel and travel for two fashion models, Botox injections and hair removal, the rental of a yacht in Italy and the purchase of artwork by the London artist Meredith Ostrom, who makes imprints on canvases with her naked, painted body. …

“Mr. Saakashvili is also accused of using public money to fly his massage therapist, Dorothy Stein, into Georgia in 2009. Mr. Saakashvili said he received a massage from Ms. Stein on ‘one occasion only,’ but Ms. Stein said she received 2,000 euros to massage him multiple times, including delivering her trademark ‘bite massage.’ ‘He gave me a bunch of presents,’ said Ms. Stein, who splits her time between Berlin and Hoboken,” including a gold necklace.

The Georgian prosecutors also have charged Saakashvili with human rights violations for hisviolent crackdown on political protesters in 2007.

However, in Herszenhorn’s May 31 article about Saakashvili’s appointment as Odessa’s governor, the Times correspondent (who has behaved more like a pro-Kiev propagandistthan an objective reporter) wrote that the criminal charges against Saakashvili and other officials from his government are “widely perceived as a campaign of political retribution.”

Herszenhorn didn’t say where he had gained that perception, but it is true that Official Washington’s neoconservatives will broach no criticism of their longtime hero Saakashvili, who was a big booster of the Iraq War and even named a boulevard in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi in honor of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Saakashvili apparently felt that his close ties to the Bush administration would protect him in summer 2008 when he provoked a border clash with Russian troops over the rebellious territory of South Ossetia. Georgia suffered a sharp military defeat and Saakashvili’s political star quickly faded among his countrymen, leading to his party’s rejection at the polls and his exile.

But Saakashvili’s love of the high life might find similar attitudes among some of the other “carpetbaggers” arriving in Ukraine to take Ukrainian citizenship and get top jobs in the post-coup government. Estonian Jaanika Merilo, an associate of Finance Minister Jaresko’s, was brought in to handle Ukraine’s foreign investments, but Merilo is best known on the Internet for her provocative party photos.

4b. It turns out that Saakashvili has long-standing business connections to the Kolomoyskyi interests in the region.

“Ukraine Update 5/30: Special Saakashvili Edition” by Brian Mefford; Brian Mefford; 5/30/2015.

. . . . 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. . . .

4c. Financial shenanigans appear to be dogging the Ukrainian government. U.S.-born Natalie Jaresko, an AID employee of Ukrainian extraction, is the Ukrainian finance minister. She is discussing suspending Ukraine’s debt payments as suggested by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, in order to finance that country’s civil war.

Ukraine’s creditors are not pleased.

“Ukraine Says It May Freeze Debt Payments to Fund War” by Dmitry Zaks [Agence France Presse]; Yahoo News; 6/12/2015.

Ukraine’s premier warned Friday that Kiev will freeze its debt repayments if no immediate deal is found with private lenders because it has to fund its escalating campaign against pro-Russian fighters.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on his return from a visit to Washington that the International Monetary Fund had given his embattled government a few weeks’ reprieve to enact laws needed for the release of new loans.

But the Western-backed cabinet leader said the IMF had signalled its willingness to let Ukraine restructure debts at its own pace — and that interest payments to Western commercial lenders and Russia may stop as early as next week. . . .

. . . . Growing security concerns have been compounded by seemingly deadlocked talks with foreign creditors who soaked up Ukrainian Eurobonds in far more peaceful times.

Kiev is up against seasoned financial heavyweights such as US investment firm Franklin Templeton, who believe thatUkraine has the funds stashed away in its central bank to repay its debts in full.

Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko has firmly refused to do so — a position that has left the private lender increasingly anxious and Russia visibly irate.

“We are deeply concerned about the stance (Jaresko) is taking, which is not in the interests of Ukraine,” Kiev’s four biggest commercial lenders warned in a joint statement Thursday. . . .

4d. It is against this background that accusations of profound corruption against Yatsenyuk must be weighed.

“In Ukraine, Corruption Concerns Linger a Year After a Revolution” by David M. Herszenhorn; The New York Times; 5/17/2015.

. . . .The Parliament, in which pro-European parties control a huge majority, voted last month to create a special committee to investigate accusations that Mr. Yatsenyuk, a suave English speaker admired in the West, and his cabinet have presided over the embezzlement of more than $325 million from the state. . . .

 5. There has been a series of suspicious deaths of opposition political figures and critics of the Poroshenko/Maidan regime in Ukraine. One wonders of the “European Union values” supposedly being manifested in Ukraine includes systematic political assassination of the opposition, a possibility that must be considered in this context. Recall that the deputy commander of the Azov Battalion is the chief of police in Kiev.

“Mysterious Deaths in Ukraine” by William Blum; Consortium News; 4/3/2015.

Following the murder of Russian opposition leader, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov in Moscow on Feb. 27, the West had a field day. Ranging from strong innuendo to outright accusation of a Kremlin-directed political murder, the Western media and politicians did not miss an opportunity to treat Russian President Vladimir Putin as a football practice dummy.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging an international investigation into Nemtsov’s death and suggested that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Council, and the United Nations could play a role in the probe.

U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham introduced a Senate Resolution condemning the Nemtsov murder. The Resolution also called on President Barack Obama and the international community to pursue an independent investigation into the murder and redouble efforts to advance free speech, human rights, and the rule of law in Russia.

In addition, it urged Obama to continue to sanction human rights violators in the Russian Federation and to increase U.S. support to human rights activists in Russia.

So it went … all over the West.

Meanwhile, in the same time period in Ukraine, outside of the pro-Russian area in the southeast, the following was reported:

Jan. 29: Former Chairman of the local government of the Kharkov region, Alexey Kolesnik, hanged himself.

–Feb. 24: Stanislav Melnik, a member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), shot himself.

–Feb. 25: The Mayor of Melitopol, Sergey Valter, hanged himself a few hours before his trial.

–Feb. 26: Alexander Bordiuga, deputy director of the Melitopol police, was found dead in his garage.

–Feb. 26: Alexander Peklushenko, former member of the Ukrainian parliament, and former mayor of Zaporizhi, was found shot to death.

–Feb. 28: Mikhail Chechetov, former member of parliament, member of the opposition party (Partia Regionov), “fell” from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev.

–March 14: The 32-year-old prosecutor in Odessa, Sergey Melnichuk, “fell” to his death from the 9th floor.

The Partia Regionov directly accused the Ukrainian government in the deaths of their party members and appealed to the West to react to these events. “We appeal to the European Union, PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], and European and international human rights organizations to immediately react to the situation in Ukraine, and give a legal assessment of the criminal actions of the Ukrainian government, which cynically murders its political opponents.”

We cannot conclude from the above that the Ukrainian government was responsible for all, or even any, of these deaths. But neither can we conclude that the Russian government was responsible for the death of Boris Nemtsov, the American media and politicians notwithstanding.

A search of the mammoth Nexus news database found no mention of any of the Ukrainian deceased except for the last one above, Sergey Melnichuk, but this clearly is not the same person. It thus appears that none of the deaths on the above list was ascribed to the Western-allied Ukrainian government.

Where are the demands for international investigations of any of the deaths? In the United States or in Europe? Where is Sen. McCain?

6. More about the suspicious deaths in Ukraine:

“How Ukraine Comemorates the Holocaust” by Robert Parry; Consortium News; 4/17/2015.

. . . . Over the past several months, there have been about ten mysterious deaths of opposition figures– some that the government claimed to be suicides while others were clearly murders. It now appears that pro-government “death squads” are operating with impunity in Kiev.On Wednesday, Oleg Kalashnikov, a political leader of the opposition Party of Regions, was shot to death in his home. Kalashnikov had been campaigning for the right of Ukrainians to celebrate the Allied victory in World War II, a gesture that infuriated some western Ukrainian neo-Nazis who identify with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich and who now feel they have the current government in their corner.

On Thursday, unidentified gunmen murdered Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina, a regime critic who had protested censorship being imposed on news outlets that didn’t toe the government’s propaganda line. Buzina had been denounced by a pro-regime “journalistic” outfit which operated under the Orwellian name “Stop Censorship” and demanded that Buzina be banned from making media appearances because he was “an agent of the Kremlin.”

This week, another dissident journalist Serhiy Sukhobok was reportedly killed in Kiev, amid sketchy accounts that his assailants may have been caught although the Ukrainian government has withheld details.

These deaths are mostly ignored by the mainstream U.S. news media – or are mentioned only in briefs with the victims dismissed as “pro-Russian.” After all, these “death squad” activities, which have also been occurring in government-controlled sections of eastern Ukraine, conflict with the preferred State Department narrative of the Kiev regime busy implementing “democratic reforms.” . . . .

7. We are not in a position to say precisely if there is more to the suicide-crash of a Germanwings plane, apparently deliberately destroyed by the co-pilot. He had a history of psychological problems, however, in the age of mind control, the possibility that the co-pilot may have been subjected to such procedures is one to keep in mind.

Among the casualties in the crash was Yvonne Selke, an important employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. We wonder if her death may have had something to do with the ginned-up satellite imagery being produced by DigitalGlobe to buttress claims of a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine?

“Germanwings Cockpit Recording to Be Analyzed for Alarms; Voices Before Crash” by Kim Wilshire; The Los Angeles Times; 3/25/2015.

. . . . Yvonne Selke was a contract employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which produces maps and interprets satellite imagery for U.S. intelligence operatives and special operations missions. It is the agency that produced models of Osama bin Laden’s house in Pakistan to help Navy SEALs in the raid that killed the Al Qaeda leader.

“Every death is a tragedy, but seldom does a death affect us all so directly and unexpectedly,” NGA Director Robert Cardillo said in a statement. “All of us offer our deepest condolences and will keep her family and her colleagues in our thoughts.” . . .

8. EMail traffic of a British atomic weapons organization was re-routed to Ukraine. We wonder if the vow by Azov Battalion founder Andrei Biletsky to bring Ukraine into the nuclear club has anything to do with this?

“EMail Traffic of UK Atomic Weapons Organization Hijacked, Rerouted to Ukraine”; Nextgov; 3/13/2015. 

It’s unclear how the Internet traffic for many British Telecom customers—including a defense contractor that helps make nuclear warheads —was diverted to servers in Ukraine before being passed along to its intended recipients.

The snag may have allowed adversaries to intercept or tamper with communications sent and received by the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, one of the affected clients. Other organizations with redirected traffic include Lockheed Martin, Toronto Dominion Bank, Anglo-Italian helicopter company AgustaWestland, and the UK Department for Environment, according to a blog post by researchers at Dyn, an online infrastructure consultancy.

The affected traffic appears to include email and virtual private network connections. The circuitous path caused the data “to travel thousands of miles to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev before turning around, retracing that route, and being delivered to its normal hub in London,” Ars Technica reports.

Sending the data to Kiev may have made it possible for employees with network access to Ukrainian telecom provider Vega to eavesdrop or manipulate data that wasn’t encrypted. . . . .

. . . . This sort of rerouting – called a man-in-the-middle attack — is the result of the implicit trust placed in the border gateway protocol used to exchange data between large service providers and their customers, which include banks, governments, network service providers, aerospace companies, and other sensitive organizations.

9. Petro Poroshenko has been threatening to invade Crimea and the Donbass, which would violate Minsk II and, in all probability, start World War III. John Kerry rebuked him for this and was sidelined by Obama in favor of Victoria Nuland.

“The Reversal of Kerry’s Ukraine Statement Came from Obama, Not Nuland” by Eric Zuesse; washingtonsblog.com; 6/9/2015.

 When Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on May 15th contradicted her boss John Kerry’s statement of three days earlier, in which Kerry had warned Ukraine’s President Petro Petroshenko not to violate the Minsk II agreement, and not to invade Crimea, and not to re-invade Donbass, the source of this reversal was actually U.S. President Barack Obama, and not Victoria Nuland, as the State Department had reported.

When I first noticed the contradiction as I reported on May 21st, Nuland’s statement on May 15th was being quoted by Ukraine’s Interfax News Agency, without any link to its U.S. source. I looked but didn’t right away find its U.S. source, but the official Ukrainian news agency would not quote a U.S. Government official falsely, and so I went with the story on that basis.

Now that I have found the U.S. source in the full May 15th U.S. State Department press briefing in Washington, there can be little doubt that Nuland had actually been instructed by the White House to be quoted there as issuing this reversal of Kerry’s statement. . . .

. . . . This likewise explains the reason why Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, as I reported on June 7th, said again, on June 5th, that Ukraine will retake both Crimea and Donbass. . . .

 

 

 

Discussion

11 comments for “FTR #850 Update on Fascism in Ukraine”

  1. Odessa’s new governor, Mikheil Saakashvili, just appointed a new chief of police for the Odessa region who happens to be Saakashvili’s former Georgian Deputy Interior Minister:

    unian.info
    Saakashvili confirms appointment of Lortkipanidze as police chief in Odesa region

    10.06.2015 | 08:30

    Chairman of Odesa Regional State Administration Mikheil Saakashvili has confirmed that former Georgian Deputy Interior Minister, General Gia Lortkipanidze will be appointed head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s Main Department in Odesa region.

    Speaking at a press conference in Odesa on Tuesday evening, Saakashvili said that Lortkipanidze would be his only “import from Georgia.”

    According to Saakashvili, this appointment has been agreed with Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, while President Petro Poroshenko took it with understanding.

    Police in Odesa region will start working completely differently by the end of summer,” he added.

    Saakashvili said that Lortkipanidze, who was deputy interior minister and headed the department for the execution of sentences in Georgia, is characterized by complete moral honesty.

    Well, at least Lortkipanidze is Saakashvili’s only “import from Georgia.” That would have just added to the creepiness factor if these was a new Saakashvili pal getting imported every month. The other Georgians working for the Kiev government must have been imported from someone else.

    And let’s hope Lortkipanidze really is “characterized by complete moral honesty” given that the plans for him apparently involve wage a war on drugs on the Odessa police:

    Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

    Saakashvili Hits Ground Running In Odesa

    By Claire Bigg and Maksim Penko

    June 17, 2015

    Less than three weeks into his new job as Odesa governor, Mikheil Saakashvili is rolling up his sleeves.

    Georgia’s flamboyant former president was seen touring the Ukrainian port city on June 16, mingling with locals and doling out promises of sweeping change.

    The excursion was partly aimed at introducing his new, handpicked regional police chief, Giorgi Lortkipanidze, to the people of Odesa.

    “This is Odesa’s new police chief,” Saakashvili told vendors in a store, cheerfully patting Lortkipanidze on the shoulder. “I brought him here so he can get familiar with the problems, see where real people go, not bosses, and make sure everything depends on you rather than run to his bosses.”

    He then took his new protege to the market, where he launched into a passionate tirade about the need to rid Odesa of drugs and corruption.

    Saakashvili, who oversaw a harsh crackdown on drugs and government corruption in his home country, seems intent on launching a similar campaign in this Ukrainian city, which is notorious as a hub for crime and drugs.

    “Drug trafficking in the city, in Odesa and in the resort area, is entirely controlled by the police,” he told journalists in front of the market’s meat section, his hand still on Lortkipanidze’s shoulder. “As soon as they say they are fighting against drugs, they are lying.”

    So a war on drugs is coming to Odessa, it’s going to be waged by the Georgian governor of Odessa, enforced by his former Deputy Interior Minister of Georgia, and the target of this effort apparently include the Odessa police themselves. That should go over well.

    What’s next in Ukraine’s experiment in outsourcing its leadership? Will Tony Blair get appointed governor or Crimea?

    No, nothing that silly. But he might become a Poroshenko advisor. He’s reportedly considering the offer:

    The Guardian
    ‘A true friend’: Ukraine president asks Tony Blair to take on advisory role

    Unclear whether former British PM will take up offer by Petro Poroshenko, as Blair meets other key figures in Kiev hosted by oligarch Viktor Pinchuk

    Katya Gorchinskaya in Kiev and Shaun Walker in Moscow

    Thursday 18 June 2015 11.47 EDT
    Last modified on Thursday 18 June 2015 20.20 EDT

    Tony Blair has been offered a role advising Ukraine’s president after the pair met in Kiev on Wednesday. Blair, whose foundation has long-standing links with a Ukrainian oligarch, is said to be considering the role.

    “You are now facing great challenges in the spheres of security and reforms,” Blair told Petro Poroshenko, according to the Ukrainian presidential website. Poroshenko called Blair a “true friend of Ukraine” and offered him an advisory role. A source close to Blair declined to comment, and it is unclear whether Blair has accepted the role. It is understood that Blair would not be paid.

    The former British prime minister attended a private dinner on Wednesday night in Kiev hosted by Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk and attended by other Ukrainian business and political figures, in which he was briefed on the current situation in the country and asked how he could help.

    Pinchuk’s foundation paid $500,000 to Blair’s Faith Foundation in 2011 and 2012, $230,000 in 2013 and $330,000 in 2014 and a spokesperson for Pinchuk confirmed there is a long-term relationship between the two. Pinchuk has hosted several visits by the former prime minister to Ukraine.

    It would not be the first time Blair has advised the government of a post-Soviet state. While billionaire chocolate magnate Poroshenko says he wants advice on driving through difficult reforms, Blair has been criticised in the past for cosying up to authoritarian governments in the region.

    As part of his advisory role to Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Blair counselled the authoritarian ruler on how to handle criticism over the massacre of oil workers by riot police in 2011. Blair told Nazarbayev in a letter that the deaths, “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made”.

    Poroshenko has appointed a number of foreign officials to key roles in his government, most notably naming former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of Odessa last month. Saakashvili is known for the reforms he carried out in Georgia, but is also a controversial figure despised in Russia and wanted on criminal charges in Georgia. He claims the charges against him are politicised.

    Saakashvili also sits on Ukraine’s International Advisory Council for Reforms, the body which Blair has been asked to join, along with former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt. US senator John McCain turned down a role with the body, citing US Congress regulations.

    That’s quite a foreign adviser resume:

    As part of his advisory role to Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Blair counselled the authoritarian ruler on how to handle criticism over the massacre of oil workers by riot police in 2011. Blair told Nazarbayev in a letter that the deaths, “tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made”.

    Uh oh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2015, 2:56 pm
  2. The Daily Beast has a fascinating investigation of the steps that are in place to assure that no neo-Nazis from are receiving US military training and equipment in Ukraine. A variety of officials from the different agencies involved the vetting process are interviewed, but a common answer emerges: no, there are no neo-Nazis are being trained because we have a vetting process to prevent that…although the vetting process doesn’t actually vet people for being neo-Nazis and no one really knows who the neo-Nazis are anyways:

    The Daily Beast
    Is America Training Neonazis in Ukraine?
    Officially no, but no one in the U.S. government seem to know for sure.

    07.04.1512:01 AM ET

    Written by Will Cathcart and Joseph Epstein

    There are no doubts about the neo-Nazi and white supremacist background of the Azov Battalion, a militia that has positioned itself at the forefront of the fight against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. As the founder and head of the battalion Andriy Biletsky once put it,, “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival.”

    That Russian President Vladimir Putin and his propagandists exploit this fact, using it to build support for their aggression and to undermine the international effort to help Ukraine defend its independence, is undeniable. But knowing that, and wanting to resist that, does not resolve some very important questions about the basic facts.

    What is the relationship of the U.S. government to these people? Is it training them? Might it arm them? Is this, like the Afghan war of the 1980s, one of those cases where we aid and abet the kind of monsters who eventually become our enemies? Concerns about that possibility have been growing on Capitol Hill.

    Because of uncertainties surrounding the Azov Battalion’s role in the U.S. training initiative and worries about the possible supply of shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles to such characters, the House unanimously adopted bipartisan amendments to H.R. 2685, the “Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015.” And one of them specifically blocks training of the “Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary militia ‘Azov Battalion.’” Representatives John Conyers and Ted Yoho sponsored the amendment to the bill, which was passed unanimously by Congress.

    This is in addition to criteria established in an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, originally sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, known as “the Leahy Vetting Process.” The Leahy process consists of screening foreign forces applying for U.S. Government training and support to certify that they haven’t committed any “gross human rights violations.” If they are found to have done so, support is withheld.

    But the highly problematic truth is that the U.S. currently has no real way of ensuring that members of neo-Nazi groups like the Azov Battalion are not being trained by U.S. forces, because most, if not all, have not committed a “gross human rights violation.” Even more difficult to determine is whether ex-U.S. military are training crypto-Nazis in a private capacity, and the issues speaks volumes about the complexities that have to be confronted by the United States in its efforts to help Ukraine defend itself from the Russian-supported secessionists.

    In an interview with The Daily Beast, Sgt. Ivan Kharkiv of the Azov battalion talks about his battalion’s experience with U.S. trainers and U.S. volunteers quite fondly, even mentioning U.S. volunteers engineers and medics that are still currently assisting them. He also talks about the significant and active support from the Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S. As for the training they have and continue to receive from numerous foreign armed forces. Kharkiv says “We must take knowledge from all armies… We pay for our mistakes with our lives.”

    Those U.S. officials involved in the vetting process obviously have instructions to say that U.S. forces are not training the Azov Battalion as such. They also say that Azov members are screened out, yet no one seems to know precisely how that’s done. In fact, given the way the Ukrainian government operates, it’s almost impossible.

    The Ukrainian Ministry of Interior brings what one U.S. official calls a “mishmash” of troops, consisting of volunteers, members of militia battalions and official army to be trained, and the Leahy process exists to check and see if any have committed a “gross violation of human rights,” which most likely they have not—at least not yet. But much less care is given to the question of ideology. When officials are asked for details of any kind regarding how the vetting process actually functions, answers are ambiguous, details are scarce and the explanations become contradictory.

    In an interview with The Daily Beast, the U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer from the 173rd Airborne Brigade training Ukrainian forces in Lviv in western Ukraine, Capt. Steven Modugno, says that no one from the Azov Battalion or Right Sector is being trained in Lviv because the embassy uses the Leahy vetting process, which is in place to make sure no one has committed any kind of gross human rights abuses. When asked about members of the Azov Battalion who have not committed gross human abuses, more specifically how they are screened out, he says, “You know that’s actually a great question. It’s one the State Department would need to answer.”

    The Daily Beast then interviewed State Department representative, Press Officer Yarina Ferentsevych of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. Ferentsevych told us, “At this point, as far as we are aware, no”—that is, no members of Azov. “Whether or not some may be in the lineup, that is possible. But frankly, you know, our vetting screens for human rights violations, not for ideology. Neo-Nazis, you know, can join the U.S. army too. The battalions that are in question have been integrated as part of Ukraine’s National Guard, and so the idea is that they would be eligible for training, but in all honesty I cannot tell you if there are any on the list we train. There were not any in the first rotation as far as I am aware.”

    Ferentsevych confirms that it is practically impossible to know which trainees are from which battalion, “It’s a mishmash of folks: volunteers, soldiers, war heroes, Maidan veterans—I mean I couldn’t tell you, you know, short of investigating the background of each guy.”

    At this point, she recommends that we speak to the press officer of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We explain that he actually directed us to her. She laughs. Welcome to the United States Government.

    When we asked PAO Capt. Modugno whether it was possible to detect all the Azov guys who are dispersed into the national guard battalions, he told us, “I don’t know if any of them could get through.” He explained that he is not an expert on the Leahy vetting process, but, “From what I’ve seen here, I haven’t seen any extremists, I’ve seen patriots.” The acting head of Ukraine’s national guard, Mykola Balan, told The Daily Beast, “Azov hasn’t been trained by the U.S. military. Currently they are at the front line.”

    Regarding the Ukrainian government’s involvement in the vetting process, Capt. Modugno explains that one section of the government is doing all the heavy lifting, “I believe it is the Ministry of Interior that is picking companies to come here.”

    The Azov Battalion not only answers directly to the Ministry of Interior, but it is ingrained deeply in that structure. The founder and head of Azov, Andriy Biletsky works closely with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior and as the BBC reported last year, “The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry.”

    Biletsky claims, however, that his battalion hasn’t been trained by the U.S. military. In a comment to The Daily Beast, he said: “No, American army representatives do not train and had never trained the battalion. What I know so far is that there are regular training of the Ukrainian armed forces and Azov has nothing to do with it.”

    Capt. Modugno says that he is more of a “boots on the ground type of guy… When it comes to vetting and the Ukrainian government, the most I can tell you is that we are training at the request of the government and where these guys come from and where they go—it is their [the Ukrainian government’s] decision not ours.”

    As for American private individuals training Ukrainians elsewhere, Capt. Modugno says, “I can’t tell you that no Americans are there because any American who believes in a cause can go anywhere in the world. I can tell you in an official capacity, no, there are no American forces east of Kiev.”

    When asked if, in an official capacity, any Azov members have been trained by the U.S. military in the past he says, “I don’t know. I don’t want to say ‘no’ because I am not a big history buff on military training here. As far as I know, no. But I also know the U.S. and other nations have been doing exercises here in Ukraine since like 2002. Rapid Trident is one of those exercises. I really don’t know what units would come to that because I believe that’s active duty military. So I’m not sure, but I don’t believe so.”

    Capt. Modugno continues, “As far as who has been trained here on the ground, there were two companies that came in the first rotation. They were called Jaguar and Cheetah Company. It is my understanding they were complete companies when they came here. They augmented them with some of their war heroes from the ATO [Anti-Terrorism Operations] from other locations. They just graduated this past week. And right now we have the North and East Company. They are kind of a mishmash of different units and soldiers being trained here. Part of the Ukrainian government’s intent here is that when they graduate they’re actually dispersing them throughout Ukraine so they can take some of these tactics and techniques and see what they’ve learned… to take back to their units.”

    This is exactly the concern of many about who is being trained by U.S. forces in Ukraine.

    “You know, I know I’m about to speak speculatively here and I say that because I don’t know the entire process. But I do know that the State Department is very aware of the concerns that many news agencies and U.S. citizens have, that as [The Daily Beast’s]  article says, we’re training neo-Nazis over here. I’ve seen them. I keep up on the news. I’m not saying that’s what we’re doing. I think what is really happening is the U.S. State Department is taking a serious look at these guys before allowing them to come here [to Lviv]. Again, that’s entirely speculative. But I think because concerns are so high, they’re being very careful.”

    The captain continues describing what he has seen on the ground. “With most of the guys that I’ve seen here though, I haven’t seen anything extremist.” In order to convey the cultural diversity he has seen, he begins to name various sects of Christianity he has come across: “I’ve seen Roman Catholics; I’ve seen Mormon soldiers on the ground both U.S. and Ukrainian; I’ve seen Latter Day Saints; I just haven’t seen anything too crazy or anything you wouldn’t expect from any other military.”

    When asked if there are any Jewish Ukrainian forces he replies, “You know that’s a fair question and one I can’t answer. I know on the U.S. side we’ve had Jewish soldiers here. I don’t know for the Ukrainians.”

    Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation for the United States Embassy in Ukraine, Col. Cynthia Matuskevich, also denies that U.S. forces are training anyone from the Azov Battalion. Col. Matuskevich says, “The [Ukrainian] National Guard has told us there are none and that they all went through the normal vetting process that we’re required to do by the State Department.”

    When asked for specifics on the vetting process she says, “Essentially, in its nearest sense, it’s like background checks on individuals. I can’t really elaborate, but we check with various agencies including the consular section and they just kind of do background checks. I can’t personally say what happens in D.C. because I’ve never been on that end of the process but the State Department in D.C. is the ultimate clearer—if you want to call it that.”

    When asked how the Leahy process weeds out Azov members, for instance those who have not committed “gross human rights violations” but identify themselves with the Nazis and even with the SS, Matuskevich explains, “Unfortunately I can’t comment anymore—I mean we have Leahy requirements and we ask for human rights vetting but I mean we don’t individually interview everyone and ask them what their individual philosophies are because we know people could lie. But we do our utmost to abide by the Leahy vetting and we work with partners that you know we trust and have told us that none of them are members of those organizations.”

    As for the “partners” they work with, Matuskevich says that they work directly with the Ukrainian National Guard, “which coordinates all the trainees. They fall under the Ministry of Interior, so our political section at the embassy would be the ones who are dealing with them… The Ukrainian Government, and I guess it’s in the form of the Ministry [of Interior] are the ones that nominate the candidates for the training.”

    When asked why the new House amendment would be necessary if the Leahy process was already in place, Ferentsevych said, “That’s a good question, you should ask the congressman.” So we did.

    In an interview with The Daily Beast, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) said: “This is an important precautionary action. The Leahy Law takes the essential retroactive step of prohibiting assistance to units that are credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights. The issue here concerns who is eligible for aid in the first place, and America must choose allies whose interests and ideas align with ours. Congress can—and should—provide additional guidance to the executive branch when candidates for U.S. security assistance are publicly associated with goals that conflict with our foreign policy.”

    Ferentsevych would seem to corroborate the need for the amendment, in effect, when she says, “If these guys have violated human rights, then you would think that you would know. But human rights and ideology are two different things. It’s kind of like hate speech, people talk trash, it’s one thing, but if they do something about it, oh my God…”

    When asked whether the Leahy process would screen out people with Nazi tattoos, she responds, “I have no idea… I don’t know. Is it on their neck where all the world can see it? Or is it on their bum, where nobody can see it? I don’t know. I’m not a legal expert.”

    This is an issue that simply needs more attention than “I don’t know” from the United States Government. Even those most closely connected to the process seem unclear on the specifics of it.

    As Congressman Charlie Wilson, the godfather of American support for the Afghan mujahedeen once said, looking back on the disaster that followed their “victory,” “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fu cked up the endgame.” The United States’ desire to train Ukrainian troops comes from the right place—the need to stop Russian covert and overt aggression. The problem is that the Azov battalion is nuzzled so deeply into the Ukrainian government that they are nearly impossible to weed out.

    So that could have been more reassuring. Especially this part:


    Regarding the Ukrainian government’s involvement in the vetting process, Capt. Modugno explains that one section of the government is doing all the heavy lifting, “I believe it is the Ministry of Interior that is picking companies to come here.”

    The Azov Battalion not only answers directly to the Ministry of Interior, but it is ingrained deeply in that structure. The founder and head of Azov, Andriy Biletsky works closely with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior and as the BBC reported last year, “The Azov Battalion was formed and armed by Ukraine’s interior ministry.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 9, 2015, 6:42 pm
  3. Right Sector is engaged in an armed standoff with police in Western Ukraine. It’s a standoff that Right Sector claims was over police cigarette smuggling (others characterize it as a smuggling turf war) and it appears to include rocket launcher attacks on a police station and an unknown number of fighters that are now hiding out in the woods:

    The Telegraph

    Far-Right group Pravy Sektor challenges Ukraine government after shootout
    An armed standoff between government forces and the group entered its second day after a confrontation between Pravy Sektor and men loyal to a local MP critical of the group turned violent

    By Roland Oliphant, Moscow

    7:13PM BST 12 Jul 2015

    A standoff was under way between government forces and members of the far-Right paramilitary group Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) on Sunday after the militia reportedly launched a gun and grenade attack in a western Ukrainian town and later demanded the resignation of the country’s interior minister.

    Army troops and police surrounded Pravy Sektor’s bases in the area following the battle in the town of Mukachevo on Saturday, which appeared to have erupted after its fighters confronted men loyal to a local MP critical of the group.

    At least two Pravy Sektor fighters were killed and seven people injured in the fighting, which also saw two police cars destroyed by grenade launchers.

    An unknown number of Pravy Sektor fighters were still believed to be hiding in countryside near the town, close to the Polish and Hungarian borders, on Sunday evening.

    Dmitro Yarosh, the head of the far-Right group, flew into the town on Sunday to negotiate an end to the stand off.

    Mr Yarosh said in a conciliatory statement on his Facebook page that he would “promote an objective and impartial investigation” into the gun battle in order to avoid “the danger of destroying Ukraine as a unified state”.

    But he went on to issue a string of demands, including the arrest of Mikhail Lano, the member of parliament who openly opposes the group, and the resignation of Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, along with the entire leadership of the regional police force.

    Mr Yarosh was engaged in direct negotiations with Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, and the head of the SBU, Ukraine’s interior security service, on Sunday evening. Officials have called on the group to surrender or face arrest.

    Government special forces reportedly postponed a planned assault on the surrounded fighters on Saturday night to allow negotiations to take place.

    But as tensions grew on Sunday, Pravy Sektor said its bases in western Ukraine had been “blockaded” by police and government troops.

    The precise origins of the violence were unclear on Sunday, as were the details of the standoff.

    Andrei Tarasenko, a deputy leader of the group, said the Pravy Sektor fighters involved in Saturday’s incident were now “in the mountains”.

    “I can’t tell you how many of them are there, we have lost contact,” he told Kiev-based Hromadske television. But another spokesman, Artem Skoropadsky, said the fighters were camped out in a forest and did not intend to surrender.

    Another Pravy Sektor leader said the group had established a checkpoint on a main road outside Kiev in order to prevent security services from being sent west to hunt the fugitives.

    Pravy Sektor said its men were attempting to disarm an “illegal armed formation” loyal to Mr Lano, who in turn claimed the violence broke out when members met with him to ask for help arranging sanatorium stays for men injured in the eastern conflict zone.

    But Mustafa Nayyem, a Ukrainian MP and investigative journalist who arrived on the scene on Saturday, said the violence was sparked by dispute over control of the contraband cigarette trade.

    Citing local residents, Mr Nayyem said “all sides in the conflict” had been involved in a profitable cigarette smuggling business that sees between three and five lorries pass through the region’s border crossings en-route to Germany and Italy each week.

    But their increasing power and influence has stoked fears that they could one day challenge the authority of the state itself.

    Many members of volunteer battalions fighting in the east have openly criticised Mr Poroshenko’s government, and some have called to “finish the revolution” in Kiev once the war in the east is over.

    A member of Mr Poroshenko’s parliamentary bloc, Irina Friz, meanwhile said on Facebook: “I don’t exclude the presence of Russian traces in the incident … as this region is in the zone of interest for Russian special services.”

    Around 200 supporters of Pravy Sektor, many in military dress, gathered in front of the presidential offices in Kiev as the standoff unfolded.

    Two of the most powerful volunteer battalions involved in the war against Russia-backed rebels in east Ukraine have spoken out in support of Pravy Sektor.

    In separate statements, the Donbass and Azov battalions called for the situation in Mukachevo to be resolved “without use of force”.

    And, yes, Dmytro Yarosh is apparently negotiating with the government, and issuing demands:


    Mr Yarosh said in a conciliatory statement on his Facebook page that he would “promote an objective and impartial investigation” into the gun battle in order to avoid “the danger of destroying Ukraine as a unified state”.

    But he went on to issue a string of demands, including the arrest of Mikhail Lano, the member of parliament who openly opposes the group, and the resignation of Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, along with the entire leadership of the regional police force.

    Mr Yarosh was engaged in direct negotiations with Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, and the head of the SBU, Ukraine’s interior security service, on Sunday evening. Officials have called on the group to surrender or face arrest.

    How the standoff ends remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t going to end
    without Right Sector forces kidnapping a six year old and holding him hostage:

    Right Sector gunmen take boy hostage in western Ukraine
    Jul. 13, 2015 10:06 AM EDT

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Two gunmen from Ukraine’s nationalist Right Sector militia on Monday briefly took a 6-year-old boy hostage in western Ukraine as a standoff between the gunmen and police entered its third day.

    Two people were killed Saturday in a Right Sector gun-and-grenade attack on police in a western Ukrainian city. Police had surrounded some gunmen in a wooded area of Mukacheve and have been trying to negotiate their surrender since then.

    The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday that police and security services had tracked two Right Sector gunmen outside Mukacheve but they took the boy hostage and managed to escape. It said as soon as the gunmen were at a safe distance they let the boy go.

    Right Sector said its members were trying to confront policemen who they said were involved in a major smuggling business in the region.

    Mukacheve is not far from the border with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, and local officials have long faced accusations of setting up and controlling the smuggling of contraband.

    Right Sector was one of the most militant factions in the massive protests in Ukraine’s capital that led to pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing the country in February 2014. Since war broke out in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russia separatists several months later, Right Sector has fought on the government side and Amnesty International has accused the group of holding civilians as prisoners and torturing them.

    Olena Hitlyanska, a spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Security Service, said on the Ukrainian Channel 5 that the authorities are trying to resolve the standoff peacefully and insisted that “it’s important that those who took up the arms illegally lay them down.”

    “In turn,” she said, “we guarantee a fair and transparent probe.”

    The Ukrainian Fiscal Service on Monday suspended all top officials of the Transcarpathian customs office pending a corruption investigation.

    Regional governor Vasyl Gubal said on Monday that he had spoken to Yarosh, who went to the region on Sunday to negotiate, and “asked him to prevent more bloodshed.”

    Gubal reported that Yarosh said he was committed to resolve the standoff peacefully but added that “the Right Sector members do not seem to follow Yarosh’s orders to lay down their weapons and leave peacefully.”

    Earlier in the morning, two Right Sector fighters surrendered to police because of injuries sustained in an earlier shootout.

    Kidnapping a 6 year old on top of rocket attacks on the police. Those Right Sector members must really hate cigarette smuggling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 13, 2015, 1:16 pm
  4. The tenuous truce that’s been in place since February appears to be collapsing: Residential areas of central Donetsk just experienced heavy shelling.

    Not surprisingly, the rebels are accuse the Kiev government of putting civilians at risk. Somewhat more surpisingly (not really), the government is accusing the rebels of doing the same thing:

    Reuters
    Ukraine, rebels trade blame over shelling of central Donetsk
    DONETSK, Ukraine

    Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:56am EDT

    The Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists accused each other on Sunday of shelling residential districts of separatist-held Donetsk overnight, the first attack on central parts of the city since a February ceasefire agreement.

    Late on Saturday, rebels said the attacks had killed one civilian, destroyed buildings and started several fires in the city.

    More than 6,500 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in April last year. Attacks have lessened since a peace agreement was brokered in Minsk, Belarus, five months ago, but both sides accuse each other of violations.

    Ukrainian military observers said they witnessed rebel missile systems “turned towards Donetsk, shelling residential areas of Donetsk, then turning and starting to fire in the direction of Ukrainian positions,” Ukrainian General Andriy Taran said in a televised briefing.

    Military spokesman Serhiy Galushko said the army had intercepted rebel radio traffic that also suggested separatists planned to shell the city.

    Senior rebel commander Eduard Basurin denied separatists were responsible for the attacks.

    “Last time the center of Donetsk was hit was in February…I have no explanation. The Ukrainian side says we shelled ourselves. Do you believe we can shell ourselves?,” he told Reuters by phone.

    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is monitoring the ceasefire, has said neither side has fully withdrawn heavy artillery from the frontline as required by the peace deal.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 19, 2015, 5:30 pm
  5. Dmytro Yarosh led a protest of hundreds of Right Sector members and supporters in Kiev on Tuesday. The list of demands could have probably been a bit more modest: in addition to calling for a referendum to impeach President Poroshenko, Yarosh wants official recognition of the volunteer battalions along with officials rights to carry weapons around the country. Also, martial law. And this is part of his response to an ongoing stand-off between Right Sector and the rest of the government.

    So the leader of a group that is currently in a violent stand-off with the government and is calling for his group to become an officially armed part of the state security apparatus also demands that the government declare martial law. What could possibly go wrong?

    Associated Press

    Hundreds of Ukrainian right-wingers rally against govt
    By EFREM LUKATSKY
    7/21/2015

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Hundreds of Ukrainian right-wingers were rallying in Kiev on Tuesday to protest against government policies in the wake of a deadly stand-off between radical nationalists and police in the country’s west.

    The radical Right Sector group was one of the most militant factions in the massive protests in Ukraine’s capital that prompted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014. Since the war broke out in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russia separatists several months later, the Right Sector has fought on the government side.

    However, Right Sector militants keep running into disputes with local Ukrainian authorities and Amnesty International has accused the group of holding civilians as prisoners and torturing them. The activists claim they are trying to clamp down on corruption and nepotism but Ukrainian authorities accuse Right Sector of using violence to reach its goals.

    Speaking Tuesday at the national Right Sector congress, group leader Dmytro Yarosh called for a referendum to impeach President Petro Poroshenko and his government.

    Yarosh also called for the recognition of volunteer battalions and their right to carry arms as well as introducing martial law, which he said, will help defeat the rebels in the east.

    Right Sector supporters gathered on Tuesday evening on Kiev’s main square to support Yarosh’s motion. Most of them were civilians and appeared to be unarmed, although some young men wore camouflage.

    Yarosh told the supporters at the square that the new government that replaced Yanukovych’s regime was only about “changing names” but not the political system.

    “We are an organized revolutionary force that is opening the new phase of the Ukrainian revolution,” he told the rally.

    The Right Sector leader garnered about 1 percent of the vote in the May 2014 presidential election. His radical anti-Russian stance prompted the Kremlin to dismiss the uprising in Kiev as a neo-Nazi coup.

    The Ukrainian government has attempted to rein in the volunteer battalions who often took frontline positions in eastern Ukraine where soldiers were reluctant to go by encouraging them to join the National Guard and police forces. In reality, hundreds of men in government-controlled eastern Ukraine still carry arms without any authorization.

    Two Right Sector members were killed earlier this month after the group attacked police in the western city of Mukacheve with gunfire and grenades. Police responded and then surrounded some gunmen in a wooded area of Mukacheve and have been trying to negotiate their surrender since then.

    Right Sector insists that the men were trying to confront local policemen who he said were involved in a major smuggling business in the region.

    Yarosh accused the government of deploying troops and weaponry to hunt down the Right Sector members instead of focusing on the war in the east: “Our guys were spilling their blood (in the east) but now they are being punished behind the lines.”

    In a sign that he does not control the men in Mukacheve, he said Tuesday he did not know for sure how many men were still out there but said it was likely to be nine. He also dismissed reports that Right Sector fighters are roaming the country with the arms they were given to fight the rebels in the east.

    “We are an organized revolutionary force that is opening the new phase of the Ukrainian revolution”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 22, 2015, 10:29 am
  6. Th euobserver has a piece on the growing threat Right Sector’s showdown with Kiev presents to Ukraine and it contains this interesting aspect of the ever evolving clusterf#ck of a situation: One of the key demands of Right Sector and other volunteer battalions is that the government officially declare war on Russia, based, in part, on claims that they have been engaging with Russian troops in the East. But one (of the many) dangers associated with the Kiev government actually declaring war on Russia is that the IMF can’t make financial assistance packages (austerity “bailouts”) to countries at war. And since open war between Ukraine and Russia is a flirtation with WWIII, we might actually be seeing a situation where IMF might actually be preventing further catastrophe instead of causing it. That doesn’t normally happen. Strange times:

    euobserver

    Opinion
    Kiev’s far-right problem

    By Alina Polyakova
    BRUSSELS, 24. Jul, 09:29

    Ukraine’s government has a problem on its hands: A far-right group has tapped into growing frustration among Ukrainians over the declining economy and tepid support from the West.

    Right Sector (Pravy Sektor) has a dangerous agenda.

    In the most direct challenge to Kyiv’s government, Right Sector announced that it will begin organising a national referendum on the population’s distrust of Ukraine’s parliament, cabinet, and the president.

    A call for an illegitimate and unmonitored referendum against the government will neither unite Ukrainians nor help Ukraine’s reformers navigate the country’s difficult economic situation.

    The referendum call came at a 21 July rally in Kyiv at which the Right Sector’s leader and only member of parliament, Dmytro Yarosh, demanded that the government’s “Anti-terrorist operation” (ATO) in eastern Ukraine be called what it actually is: a war with Russia.

    He also called for a full blockade of the separatist-controlled regions of Luhansk and Donetsk; and legalisation of all volunteer battalions fighting in Ukraine’s east, which the Ukrainian military has been struggling to incorporate.

    Yarosh refused to give up his seat in parliament but claimed that Right Sector–which is both a political party and a paramilitary organisation–would not participate in the local elections in October.

    There is a glimmer of good news for the Ukrainian government. A majority of Ukrainians do not support Right Sector. The party holds one seat in parliament (Yarosh’s) and Yarosh received less than one percent of the vote in the presidential elections in May 2014.

    However, the government would be ill-advised to dismiss Right Sector outright. It must do more to address Ukrainians’ legitimate concerns about their future, but the government can’t do this alone.

    Economists agree Ukraine requires a much greater injection of macro-economic assistance than the International Monetary Fund’s promised package of $17.5 billion to bring the country back from the brink of collapse.

    The $50 billion called for by George Soros is the minimum “lifeline” that Ukraine needs to survive. Without this injection of financial support, groups like the Right Sector will continue to make political noise that distracts from the real work that Ukraine’s leaders must do.

    Right Sector has surely been a thorn in Kyiv’s side.

    The group’s meeting in Kyiv followed on the heels of a confrontation between Right Sector, police, and local authorities in the western town of Mukacheve on 11 July. The shootout left five dead and fourteen wounded.

    The armed conflict in Mukacheve was, in part, a result of the government’s push to bring under control the many volunteer battalions that have been fighting in Ukraine’s east.

    Volunteers returning from the front lines report fighting with regular Russian army forces, not Ukrainian separatists. While the Ukrainian government has repeatedly said that tens of thousands of Russian troops are fighting in eastern Ukraine, it has refused to call the conflict a war, preferring to use the ambiguous ATO label.

    The government has a legitimate reason for this ambiguity: calling the conflict a war would cut off Ukraine from much needed financial assistance from international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, which do not provide assistance to countries at war.

    However, as evidence of Russian troops and military bases in Ukraine mounts, volunteer fighters have grown frustrated with the language from Kyiv’s officials.

    As President Petro Poroshenko’s falling approval ratings show (17 percent according to some polls), Ukrainians are getting fed up, too.

    This frustration should not come as a surprise: reform governments are rarely popular, and this one has had to push through particularly painful reforms, including a 400-percent increase in gas prices and deep cuts in social programmes.

    Groups like the Right Sector, which claim to have Ukraine’s national interests at heart, are simply taking advantage of public frustration to ratchet up support for their misguided agenda.

    Despite its revolutionary rhetoric and anti-government stance, Right Sector is unlikely to succeed: Since independence, Ukrainians have shown themselves to be cautious when it comes to supporting extremist movements.

    Still, it is important to take this distraction for the government in Kiev off the table. Western leaders must connect the dots: Ukraine needs economic relief and political support. Without this, opportunistic and populist groups will continue to divert attention from the real challenges ahead.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 26, 2015, 7:20 pm
  7. It looks like banning communism didn’t quite do the trick:

    Global Post
    This crazy Ukrainian election shows the country has a ways to go toward reform
    Dan Peleschuk

    on Jul 27, 2015 @ 11:15 PM

    CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — The old and infirm crammed, cursed and complained as they fought for spots in line on Saturday under the oppressive afternoon sun.

    On offer at a local park were goody bags of pantry items — things like sunflower oil and sugar — courtesy of a well-connected millionaire eager to cast himself as a man of the people.

    That man, Hennadiy Korban, just happened to be running for a vacant seat in parliament the next day to represent a district in this charming, provincial city north of Kyiv.

    And what his team considered an act of goodwill most others saw as something different: bribing poor, unwitting voters.

    The scene was one of many peculiar images to emerge from this city of around 290,000 in recent weeks as it prepared for a special election that captured the national media’s attention.

    The top two candidates for legislator were accused of employing an array of dirty tactics — from simple mudslinging to outright vote-buying — in a campaign that observers believe undermined Ukraine’s trundle toward cleaner democracy.

    “Many people are talking about the fact that the elections for district 205 in Chernihiv are a very big step backward,” said Pavlo Pushchenko, the local head of a national vote-monitoring NGO.

    By Monday afternoon, the election had come and gone, with early results giving Serhiy Berezenko, the other top candidate, a hefty lead over Korban.

    Vote monitors and local police said they registered dozens of violations on Sunday, such as attempts at multiple voting.

    It was an undramatic climax to a campaign full of crooked political technology, as it’s known in this part of the world.

    Both leading candidates were juiced in: Berezenko is a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko, while Korban is the right-hand man to one of Ukraine’s richest and most powerful oligarchs.

    Neither of them were even from the region, using electoral district 205 simply as a springboard into parliament.

    Sunday’s vote was seen as a high-stakes proxy battle between Poroshenko and a very rich man, Ihor Kolomoisky, who has publicly challenged the president and remains his top political rival.

    That’s partly why the vote, a contest between political muscle and big money, was so important to win.

    Korban’s campaign was marked mostly by public handouts to cajole voters — known in slang here as “buckwheat” — and staging lavish concerts near his sleek campaign headquarters.

    But he also took an active role in engaging his competition. A week before the election, his security detail captured a car, allegedly belonging to Berezenko’s team, stocked with ammunition and cash. Korban claimed it was used to pay off voters.

    Berezenko, meanwhile, made full use of his ties to the president’s political machine, plastering the city with its party colors. He was even given a position on a brand new government advisory body for regional development. That gave him de-facto local authority — and access to purse strings — before the campaign even began.

    Experts believe the goal was to reassert the presidential party’s authority in Ukraine, especially before nationwide local elections later this year.

    “The president’s team cannot lose,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst in Kyiv.

    In the days before the vote, there were reports of hired thugs from both sides roaming the city to stir trouble. Fake campaign leaflets, like one announcing Berezenko was dropping out of the race, made their way around town.

    On election day itself, voters had to choose from an astounding 91 candidates, most of them spoilers, analysts said, designed to draw votes away from the front-runners.

    A particularly popular tactic is to register candidates with similar last names to confuse voters — hence “Karban” and “Korpan” on the ballot.

    Both leading candidates regularly denied any suggestions of wrongdoing, each accusing the other of political manipulation.

    But critics say they’re actually both guilty of tarnishing the values of the so-called “Revolution of Dignity,” which many Ukrainians expected would overhaul the country’s corrupt politics.

    Ihor Andriychenko, a local politician from a liberal grassroots party who came in fourth, called the election “a farce, a political theater of absurdity.”

    “They were supposed to demonstrate real, transparent elections: a battle of ideas, competition, debates, intellect — anything else,” he told GlobalPost before the vote. “But definitely not ‘buckwheat,’ and definitely not money.”

    Many locals, meanwhile, appeared either too uninterested or exhausted with the campaign to come out to vote. There was a 35 percent turnout, and city streets were noticeably empty.

    Some voters even resorted to the classic post-Soviet tactic of marking up their ballots with obscene or irreverent messages.

    Note the missed potential here that could have enabled the populace to REALLY stick it to the oligarchs:


    Many locals, meanwhile, appeared either too uninterested or exhausted with the campaign to come out to vote. There was a 35 percent turnout, and city streets were noticeably empty.

    “Some voters even resorted to the classic post-Soviet tactic of marking up their ballots with obscene or irreverent messages.”

    First, just imagine if, instead of 35 percent turnout, that 65 percent of the electorate that decided to send the the very unambiguous message of an obscenely marked up ballot instead of sending the completely ambiguous message of not voting at all (because who knows if it’s apathy, anger, or despair?). Two thirds of the vote would have been something along the lines of “F#ck You oligarchs!”, which would send a very different message than a 35 percent turnout. Ukraine is one of the nations with a “none of the above” options on its ballots which means not voting is basically a nonsense option if you want to protest the vote. So why not actually use the “none of the above” option and write obscene messages on your ballot too? If there’s one group of any electorate that you want to see voting it’s people that are so pissed off that they don’t even want to vote. That’s who should be voting the most!

    Of course, a far more optimal solution would have been for the non-voting 65 percent to have somehow collaborated independently in order to create a consensus around some random local person that doesn’t appear to be part of any of the political machines, and then have that 65 percent of non-voters vote for the anti-machine candidate on election day as a write-in candidate. That solution might not actually be an option in Ukraine since the law doesn’t recognize write-in candidates, but given the common tactic by the machines of filling the ballot with dozens of “spoiler” candidates designed to siphon off votes from the other machine candidates, couldn’t the pissed off 65 percent of non-voters find a better representative from that pool? Or, better yet, get a candidate of their own on the ballot before the deadline? With only 35 percent voting amongst a slew of candidates, it isn’t all that outlandish that a non-machine candidate could actually win. Obscene gestures AND non-machine elected officials: voting could be fun again!

    That said, there’s no guarantee that the anti-machine candidate will actually be an improvement. You just might accidentally elect Darth Vader(the ultimate machine candidate). Or, even worse, you might accidentally elect one his storm troopers. And you really don’t want a government run by storm troopers. Any variety of stormtroopers.

    Gesture obscenely, but vote wisely, Ukrainian non-voters.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 29, 2015, 6:09 pm
  8. Here’s another article on the existential threat posed by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi volunteer battalions and it includes an interview of the leader of battalion that isn’t reported on very much: the Saint Mary Battalion. The leader of the battalion certainly isn’t lacking in ambition: In addition to asserting that the revolution that began with the Maidan had been interrupted, but would one day be completed, he doesn’t stop there, saying, “I would like Ukraine to lead the crusades…Our mission is not only to kick out the occupiers, but also revenge. Moscow must burn.”

    It’s a reminder that if the volunteer battalions will really do collectively “march on Kiev” and overthrow the government in a violent coup, the marching doesn’t necessarily end in Kiev:

    Reuters
    Special Report: Ukraine struggles to control maverick battalions
    KIEV | By Elizabeth Piper and Sergiy Karazy

    Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:30am EDT

    From a basement billiard club in central Kiev, Dmytro Korchynsky commands a volunteer battalion helping Ukraine’s government fight rebels in the east. A burly man with a long, Cossack-style moustache, Korchynsky has several hundred armed men at his disposal. The exact number, he said, is “classified.”

    In the eyes of many Ukrainians, he and other volunteer fighters are heroes for helping the weak regular army resist pro-Russian separatists. In the view of the government, however, some of the volunteers have become a problem, even a law unto themselves.

    Dressed in a colorful peasant-style shirt, Korchynsky told Reuters that he follows orders from the Interior Ministry, and that his battalion would stop fighting if commanded to do so. Yet he added: “We would proceed with our own methods of action independently from state structures.”

    Korchynsky, a former leader of an ultra-nationalist party and a devout Orthodox Christian, wants to create a Christian “Taliban” to reclaim eastern Ukraine as well as Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. He isn’t going to give up his quest lightly.

    “I would like Ukraine to lead the crusades,” said Korchynsky, whose battalion’s name is Saint Mary. “Our mission is not only to kick out the occupiers, but also revenge. Moscow must burn.”

    Such talk and recent violent incidents involving members of unofficial armed groups have raised government concerns about radicals running out of control. President Petro Poroshenko now says that all “illegal groups” must disarm because they threaten to make the country even more unstable than it already is.

    “No political force should have, and will not have, any kind of armed cells. No political organization has the right to establish … criminal groups,” Poroshenko said on July 13.

    The president said he might legislate for emergency powers to deal with armed groups, and that anyone armed who was not a member of the law enforcement agencies “will be classed as a terrorist.”

    But interviews with members of volunteer battalions and Ukraine officials suggest it will not be easy for Poroshenko to impose his will. Some battalion leaders, while ostensibly under the control of the government, are increasingly critical of Ukraine’s political leaders. They want to press them to sack judges seen as favoring the rich and powerful, to oust oligarchs who control much of the economy and to prosecute the riot police accused of killing more than 100 people during protests early last year.

    HAPHAZARD FORMATIONS

    Most of Ukraine’s almost 40 volunteer battalions grew out of squads of protesters who battled the Berkut riot police during the protests on Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan Nezalezhnosti, which began in November 2013.

    After the protests toppled President Viktor Yanukovich, pro-Russian separatists rose up in the east of Ukraine in April, 2014, demanding independence from the new government in Kiev, which they called a “fascist regime.” In response, several leaders of the Maidan protests raced east with fellow protesters to try to stop the rebel advance.

    Numerous brigades and battalions formed haphazardly, with most leaders accepting anyone willing to fight. Serhiy Melnychuk, who founded the Aidar battalion in eastern Ukraine and is now a member of parliament, said he signed up people between the ages of 18 and 62 and “from the homeless to pensioners.”

    Irregular though theses forces were, some acquired weapons from the Defense Ministry, officials and battalion leaders said. Others received money and equipment from wealthy oligarchs. They became powerful forces in the struggle against pro-Russian separatists.

    In an interview in Kiev, Melnychuk, wearing a cross around his neck and a wristband in the national colors of Ukraine, said that he had five men on the day the Aidar battalion formed, but 250 within two weeks. They had all fought on the Maidan and “didn’t need military training,” he said.

    He conceded some Aidar members ran out of control. “I don’t deny people were looting there (in eastern Ukraine),” he said.

    Melnychuk now faces various charges from Ukrainian prosecutors connected to his time in the east. They include robbery and forming an illegal group; Melnychuk denies the charges.

    In addition, the human rights group Amnesty International has documented cases of abuse which it says were committed by members of Aidar last year and “amount to war crimes.” The allegations include abducting and beating men suspected of collaborating with pro-Russian separatists, and extorting money.

    Last year the Ukrainian government tried to bring Aidar and other volunteer groups under its control. It ordered Aidar to reform into the 24th assault battalion as part of Ukraine’s official forces. Melnychuk described that order as “criminal,” but said most of his men had demobilized or come under official control by this year.

    He and other battalion leaders said that their soldiers’ loyalty did not always lie with the authorities and that some groups still operate beyond official control.

    Melnychuk was scornful of attempts to crack down on the battalions, saying such moves had been provoked by Russia spreading propaganda. He said Russia was scared of the battalions because the volunteers inflicted the most losses on the pro-Russian rebels, “so they pretend that we eat little children for breakfast.”

    The political situation in Ukraine remained difficult and fragile, he said, criticizing the lack of change in government. “The (Maidan) revolution was interrupted by the aggression (in the east) and the patriots left Maidan and went to the east to protect Ukraine,” he said. “Only 10 percent of people in positions of power are new; the rest are all the same, pursuing the same schemes they always did.”

    Andriy Filonenko, a founder of the Tornado battalion, was equally defiant about accusations against his fighters. Eight members of the battalion have been accused of crimes including rape, murder and smuggling. Ukrainian officials say one video shows a re-enactment of how members of Tornado forced two captives to rape another man; they also say some 40 members of the battalion have criminal records.

    Filonenko told Reuters the charges were ridiculous. “I don’t understand all this talk about criminal records,” he said. “All I know is that people spilt their blood for Ukraine, for the motherland.”

    Like Melnychuk, Filonenko said the “old order” was out to protect itself. He said the charges were only made after the Tornado battalion had uncovered what it said was a smuggling ring involving local politicians in east Ukraine. Officials say the charges came before Tornado’s alleged smuggling discovery.

    Filonenko, who wore a black T-shirt with a red Ukrainian trident on it, defended the battalion’s actions, citing the violence and lack of resources in the east. “It’s a war. They’re not handing out sweets,” he said.

    “Think of it this way: There’s a task, for the task you need a vehicle to get there and back – but they don’t give you any vehicle or petrol to fulfill the task … You have to pick up wounded … so what do you do? … Of course, you stop a car and take it.”

    “THEY STEAL A LOT”

    Close to bankruptcy, Ukraine has struggled to implement reforms demanded by the Maidan protesters. Its police and courts are still widely seen as favoring the powerful, and bribes are still used for everything from avoiding speeding penalties to getting into good schools.

    For some powerful interests, the rule of force, not law, remains tempting. In March, a group of armed men in combat fatigues raided the Kiev offices of the state-owned oil company UkrTransNafta. Two parliamentary deputies accused the billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, who harangued journalists at the scene of the raid, of sending the masked men into the building after one of his allies had been sacked as chairman of the company.

    Kolomoisky is widely credited with funding volunteer battalions that defended the city of Dnipropetrovsk and fought against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    Poroshenko moved to assert his authority, meeting Kolomoisky in the aftermath of the raid. As a result, Kolomoisky stepped down as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, in the east of the country, though he remains a powerful business figure with political influence. Kolomoisky did not respond to requests for comment.

    Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told Reuters Ukraine was now “rebooting” all of its power structures to start with a “clean sheet,” and at the same time trying to root out criminal elements in the battalions.

    “As in all big communities of people, there are different types,” he said. “We must tell the truth: Some have looted and we will punish them.”

    He said that some armed groups “appropriated the names” of established battalions and that “no one really knows where they are fighting or where they have fought.”

    Ukraine’s military prosecutor, Anatoly Matios, says he is determined to take action. He told Reuters he intends to take members of Tornado battalion to court for their alleged offences.

    “Who made the decision, turned a blind eye to their criminal record and allowed them to become police officers? Who gave them weapons and did not foresee the possible tragic consequences?” he said in an interview at the prosecutor’s office. He said he wanted to check all police battalions “in order not to have a second Tornado.”

    Matios recognizes that his moves may prove unpopular. “I understand a very large part of society may even hate me for the thankless but legal work that we do. It’s not comfortable at a minimum.” On July 8, activists poured manure at the front entrance of his office. He described it as a paid-for protest.

    In his billiard club headquarters, commander Korchynsky of the Saint Mary battalion made his disdain for the government plain. “Like the majority of Ukrainian people, I think (the new leadership) is bad … They steal a lot. When Yanukovich was stealing, that was bad. But these people are clearing up when the country is at war, so they are guilty on two counts. This is marauding.”

    He said the revolution that began with the Maidan had been interrupted, but would one day be completed. He did not say when.

    If so, he will have to confront Poroshenko. On July 16, the president, decried the problems posed by unspecified “internal enemies” of the country. He told parliament: “I will not allow anarchy in Ukraine.”

    What an headline: “Ukraine struggles to control maverick battalions”. Yeah, they’re not a bunch of violent far-right ideologues intent on waging ethnic conflicts. They’re ‘maverick battalions’ that authorities struggle to control. Just like the A-Team! Although the A-Team was never really into leading crusades under the banner of a far-right revolution. And they probably wouldn’t be very welcoming towards someone of Mr. T’s ethnic background (their loss), so they aren’t really ‘A-Team’ material which is very unfortunate for the people of Ukraine. Hiring the A-Team is never an easy call. But no matter how bad the situation is, you never want to hire the B-Team.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 30, 2015, 1:28 pm
  9. Oh look, Odessa’s imported governor, Mikheil Saakashvili, is getting investigated back in Georgia for plotting a coup with with his former national security adviser by triggering mass protests:

    AFP
    Georgia launches probe into ‘coup plot’

    October 24, 2015 1:44 PM

    Tbilisi (AFP) – Georgia said Saturday it had launched a probe into controversial media reports suggesting that exiled former president Mikheil Saakashvili was plotting a coup to overthrow the authorities.

    “Georgia’s counter-intelligence department launched an investigation into a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing state authorities and seizing power,” the deputy head of Georgia’s secret service, Levan Izoria, said in a televised statement.

    He said the probe was launched following “investigative activities” and media reports.

    Izoria was apparently referring to a publication on an obscure website dubbed “Ukrainian WikiLeaks”, which is believed to be registered in Russia.

    The website published the transcript of a conversation that allegedly took place at Istanbul airport between Saakashvili and his former national security advisor, Giga Bokeria, with the two discussing plans to trigger mass civil protests against the government.

    Bokeria ridiculed the transcript as “grotesque delirium” and suggested the government had made it up.

    “It shows that the current government is in agony,” he told AFP.

    “All of this would be ridiculous, but unfortunately the government’s moves threaten constitutional order in Georgia.”

    The announcement came at a sensitive time for the Western-backed Caucasus nation of 4.5 million people, with tensions heightened over what critics say is a government attack against the country’s top pro-opposition channel, Rustavi 2 TV.

    Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream coalition and the main opposition party, Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM), have been locked in a political struggle since Georgian Dream defeated the UNM in 2012 parliamentary elections.

    Sparking an uproar, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Thursday called the UNM a “criminal organisation” which “has no right to remain in politics”.

    President Giorgi Margvelashvili criticised the remarks, saying they “added to tensions in an already tense situation.”

    Well, ok, so a transcript was published, but Saakashvili’s accused co-plotter, Giga Bokeria, ridiculed it as “grotesque delirium”. And transcripts can indeed be made up.

    Audio recordings of plans to ensure the protests become violent and “faces are smashed”, on the other hand, are a little harder to make up. Especially when Saakashvili and another co-plotter, the head of the top opposition TV station, both admit they’re real:

    BBC
    Georgia ex-President Saakashvili accused of ‘coup plot’

    10/30/2015

    Georgia has launched a criminal investigation into the former President, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is accused of a coup plot.

    In a leaked phone call between Mr Saakashvili and the head of an opposition TV channel he suggests using a “revolutionary scenario” and makes plans to provoke violent confrontation.

    The channel, Rustavi 2, is in a legal dispute over its ownership.

    Critics of the government say the dispute is a politically motivated attempt to shut the influential TV station down, reports the BBC’s Rayhan Demytrie in Tbilisi.

    The authorities deny that there is any political interference in the legal dispute. Rustavi 2 is the country’s most-watched broadcaster, our correspondent says.

    The channel’s boss and Mr Saakashvili have both confirmed the authenticity of the leaked phone call, and accuse the Georgian government of illegal wiretapping.

    In the recording Mr Saakashvili discussed erecting barricades to ensure a confrontation in which “faces are smashed”. That clash would take place outside the TV station, to prevent its takeover.

    Supporters of the ex-president – who is now a regional governor in Ukraine – say the charges against him and other former government officials are politically motivated.

    “The channel’s boss and Mr Saakashvili have both confirmed the authenticity of the leaked phone call, and accuse the Georgian government of illegal wiretapping.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 30, 2015, 2:51 pm
  10. The “politics is like to professional wrestling” isn’t a new analogy, although this isn’t generally the context that such an analogy is used:

    Reuters
    Ukraine lawmaker manhandles PM Yatseniuk in rowdy parliament scenes

    Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:10am EST

    Fighting broke out among members of Ukraine’s ruling coalition in parliament on Friday after a member of President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc physically picked up Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and pulled him from the podium.

    Yatseniuk was defending his embattled government’s record when lawmaker Oleh Barna walked over to him, presenting him sarcastically with a bunch of red roses. Barna then grabbed him around the waist and groin, lifting him off his feet and dragging him from the rostrum.

    Members from Yatseniuk’s People Front party waded in, pushing Barna and throwing punches. Lawmakers from Poroshenko’s bloc joined the fray and an angry brawl ensued for several minutes before deputies returned to their seats.

    The incident exposed deep divisions in the pro-Europe coalition that have fueled speculation the government could fall even as Ukraine’s Western backers warn that time is running out for Kiev to make good on its promises to root out endemic corruption and cronyism.

    Yatseniuk is, like Poroshenko, a pivotal player in the pro-Western leadership that emerged after the downfall of the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014. But support for him has fallen dramatically in the past year.

    “The atmosphere in the room provoked mentally unbalanced people. Oleh Barna served on the frontline and is therefore too impulsive, but that does not excuse his actions,” the head of Poroshenko’s bloc Yuriy Lutsenko told journalists.

    The brawl interrupted a question-and-answer session with Yatseniuk, 41, after he delivered a summary of the performance of his government, which after exactly one year in power is now no longer immune from being dismissed by parliament.

    Opposition parties are calling for a no-confidence motion to be tabled and commentators say enough votes could be gathered to dismiss the government, but a vote is not yet likely due to the lack of a candidate to replace Yatseniuk.

    In an impassioned speech on Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged parliament to put their differences aside to approve reforms, including critical tax and budget bills and judicial changes, without which he said Ukraine would fail to rebuild itself on transparent, democratic lines.

    “The President, the Prime Minister, the members of this august body — all of you must put aside parochial differences …If you fail, the experiment fails,” he told parliament.

    A disagreement over proposed tax amendments and the draft 2016 budget has delayed the disbursement of up to $4 billion in international loans which Ukraine had hoped to secure to boost its war-torn finances before the end of the year.

    Yatseniuk said the government had submitted a “compromise” tax reform bill and urged lawmakers to approve the amendments before the turn of the year.

    Yatseniuk’s People’s Front party triumphed in parliamentary elections in 2014, but the approval rating for the party is now around 1 percent.

    “Yatseniuk was defending his embattled government’s record when lawmaker Oleh Barna walked over to him, presenting him sarcastically with a bunch of red roses. Barna then grabbed him around the waist and groin, lifting him off his feet and dragging him from the rostrum.”
    Well, it’s not like a parliamentary scuffle is without precedent. Disturbing, yes. But not unprecedent. The disagreement over the new tax laws, on the other hand, might be unprecedented in the sense that the tax committee in parliament is actually proposing a tax-slashing reform package that’s quite possibly even more irresponsible than the flat tax put forward by Natalie Jaresko and the Finance Ministry (the Finance Ministry is proposing raising the income tax from 20 percent, whereas the tax committee’s plan would cut it to a much more oligarch-friendly 10 percent), which is rather amazing when you consider that Jaresko hired supply-side “guru” Art Laffer to help craft the Finance Ministry’s proposed reforms. When the IMF is like, “hey, you might be cutting income taxes a bit too much!” you’re probably doing exactly that.

    At the same time, the tax committee’s plan also calls for cuting the VAT tax, which falls much more heavily on the poor, from 20 percent to 15 percent, and when the IMF is like, “hey, you might be cutting tax on the poor a bit too much!” you’re probably on the right track. Ra

    So we’ll see if Ukraine manages to please the IMF enough with some sort of tax reform to get its $4 billion in international loans. But there’s another major shift in Ukraine’s governance that might also be on the way: If Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk does indeed lose his post in a no confidence vote, there’s the big question of who will replace him. And it’s a question that have a number of observers speculating the Mikhail Saakashvili feels that he is the answer:

    Kyiv Post
    Accusations build against Yatsenyuk’s team as critics mount drive to get him fired

    Oleg Sukhov
    Dec. 11, 2015 14:26

    Corruption accusations swirling around Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his allies have been steadily gaining momentum ahead of Dec. 11, the anniversary date of his government. From now on, Yatsenyuk can be fired by parliament’s 423 members.

    Some of the strongest accusations come from Mikheil Saakashvili, governor of Odesa Oblast and ex-Georgian president, and his ally Davit Sakvarelidze, chief prosecutor of the oblast and a deputy prosecutor general.

    Saakashvili, however, is seen as angling for Yatsenyuk’s job, casting doubt on the veracity of some of his claims. He has denied intentions to become prime minister.

    Yatsenyuk says he’s a victim of a political smear campaign.

    “This is a coordinated information campaign against the prime minister whose aim is to destabilize the situation in Ukraine,” Yatsenyuk’s spokeswoman Olga Lappo told the Kyiv Post. “There is no evidence or documents whatsoever.”

    Saakashvili and investigative journalists say they have amassed evidence implicating Yatsenyuk allies in corruption.

    At the Dec. 6 Odesa Anti-Corruption Initiative forum, Saakashvili unveiled accusations against Yatsenyuk and his allies, complete with flow chart.

    He said the Ukrainian government was losing $5 billion per year as a result of corruption schemes and accused Yatsenyuk of being responsible for that.

    Saakashvili also alleged that Yatsenyuk’s Cabinet was enabling several tycoons to profiteer at the expense of Ukraine’s budget.

    Saakashvili and Sakvarelidze have been accused of having a selective approach when emphasizing the alleged corruption of Yatsenyuk allies while paying little attention to Poroshenko associates.

    Specifically, Saakashvili did not name Ihor Kononenko, a Petro Poroshenko Bloc heavyweight, and Konstantin Grigorishin, Poroshenko’s business partner.

    However, Saakashvili has previously accused Petro Poroshenko Bloc lawmakers, including Dmytro Holubov, of corruption and clashed with Oleksiy Honcharenko, a Poroshenko ally.

    The Poroshenko allies deny the accusations.

    Sasha Borovik, an acting deputy of Saakashvili, argued that their team had no documents on the alleged corruption of Kononenko and Grigoshin but said journalists were welcome to present evidence against them at an upcoming forum in Odesa.

    “It’s a dragon that has seven heads,” Borovik told the Kyiv Post. “We demonstrated one of them and will show each of them… We don’t have any taboos.”

    He admitted that Poroshenko sometimes had “poor judgment” while appointing people with bad reputation but said Saakashvili’s team still treated him as an ally and “guarantor of reforms.”

    Borovik said that, unlike Poroshenko, Yatsenyuk had been sabotaging Saakashvili’s reform efforts in Odesa.

    “We’re fighting for the survival of our ideas,” he said. “If Yatsenyuk remains prime minister, I don’t know what we’ll do here. When I think of this, I just want to buy a Lufthansa ticket and fly away.”

    “Some of the strongest accusations come from Mikheil Saakashvili, governor of Odesa Oblast and ex-Georgian president, and his ally Davit Sakvarelidze, chief prosecutor of the oblast and a deputy prosecutor general.”

    Also not that Saakashvili was just stripped of his Georgian citizenship, not that he would have been returning there any time soon given the corruption charges Georgia leveled against him last year. It will be interesting to see if a future prime minister Saakashvili can avoid similar charges in Ukraine. If so, there’s always Williamsburg.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 11, 2015, 4:15 pm
  11. Here’s an interesting look at the zeitgeist in Ukraine: In the wake of the high-profile resignation of Ukraine’s Economy Minister, Aivaras Abromvicius, the long-time chief editor of the Kyiv Post, Brian Bonner(a US citizen), just wrote a scathing editorial regarding the how the Poroshenko administration has completely failed in terms of fulfilling the populist hopes of the EuroMaidan Revolution, hinting at the possibility of another revolution at the end of the piece.

    The consolidation of political and economic influence by the current set of oligarchs running the country is one of the key complaints, along with relatively lackluster prosecution and asset-stripping of oligarchs associated with the now-deposed Viktor Yanukovych. Continuing to do business with Russia and allowing trade with Crimea and Abromavicius’s difficulties in the privatization of more than 1,500 state-owned industries are also cited.

    So it’s possible that the resignation of Abromavicius could become a rallying cry for a Maidan 2.0. But at the same time, while stripping the oligarchs of power and influence is something average Ukrainians desired, keep in mind that Abromavicius also represented the larger neoliberal agenda being pushed on Ukraine, like mass privatizations, that aren’t necessarily going to have the same level of public support (polls indicate that public is overwhelmingly against mass privatizations).

    And that suggest that we could be entering a period where both populist anger, coupled with frustrations over the slow pace of “reforms” felt by Ukraine’s international backers in the West, might push the mass psychology back towards a revolutionary mode, but the key driving forces behind that revolutionary fervor (populist anger and Western governments) may not be on the same page. Of course, that same tension was also the case with Maidan 1.0, and look where we are now. So if there is a Maidan 2.0, it’s going to be very interesting to see if recent history repeats itself :

    Kyiv Post
    Brian Bonner: Poroshenko becoming another Yanukovych

    Brian Bonner
    Feb. 04, 2016 23:27

    The Feb. 3 resignation of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius may, once and for all, expose Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as the fraud that he is on the reform front – something most Ukrainians figured out long ago, judging from the polls.

    Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is also to blame, slightly less so, because people never elected him to this job and he has fewer powers than Poroshenko.

    Poroshenko has in several ways abused the trust placed in him by Ukrainian voters who put him in office by a landslide on May 25, 2014.

    His chutzpah is amazing, considering the fate of predecessors who betrayed the national interest, most recently Moscow resident Viktor Yanukovych, who couldn’t get out of Ukraine fast enough on Feb. 21, 2014, once he realized that flight was the only way to save his life.

    The dreams of the EuroMaidan Revolution have been blocked by two years of Poroshenko’s oh-so-clever obstructions. Poroshenko acts as if the rest of us are too stupid to figure out what is happening. I predict Ukrainians will soon bring severe consequences on him for his arrogant betrayals.

    I hate to agree with billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, but he was more right than wrong when he told Politico on Dec. 21 that the only difference between Poroshenko and Yanukovych is “a good education, good English and lack of a criminal record.” Otherwise, both are “craven to absolute power.”

    Oligarchs down, not out

    Poroshenko pledged to dismantle the oligarchy. He did not. The old oligarchy may be down, due to a war-induced recession, but they are not out. And the president is getting richer and so are his allies, if Abromavicius is to be believed. If anything, a new oligarchy is forming under his control.

    Abromavicius quit, alleging that a top Poroshenko ally in parliament, Ihor Kononenko, was scheming to install his loyalists in charge of key state-owned enterprises. Abromavicius had been pushing hard to sell as many as 1,500 state-owned enterprises, which have been milked by insiders, including several under the Economy Ministry’s management. But if Abromavicius is right, Kononenko and others want to keep stealing from these enterprises. Kononenko denies any wrongdoing.

    But in an incredible resignation statement, Abromavicius said that Kononenko pressed for “his candidates to take the position of CEOs at state-owned Ukrhimtransammiak, in which he seems to have a stake…he failed to support me in removing (Victor) Bondyk, who is affiliated with the (Yanukovych-led) Party of Regions, as CEO. Instead, Kononenko ensured his associates were appointed to senior positions and joined the old CEO in running the company as they see fit.

    “Through a crony of his in the parliament, Kononenko attempted to influence key appointments in the state-owned Derzhzovnishinform, in metal powder factories, and the National Accreditation Agency. This entire rampage culminated in Kononenko’s desire to have his personal deputy minister of economy – one responsible for Naftogaz and other state-owned companies,” Abromavicius said.

    His resignation statement in full is well worth reading here.

    No rule of law

    Poroshenko promised to change the corrupt and useless criminal justice system. He did not. Instead, he and Yatsenyuk have proven skillful in obstructing changes – especially when their allies attempted to jeopardize the independence of new anti-corruption bodies.

    The obstructionism ensures that corruption – old and new – will remain unpunished.

    I have interviewed each of these three ministers who resigned – Agriculture Minister Oleksiy Pavlenko, Infrastructure Minister Andriy Pyvovarsky and Abromavicius. Each of them sent criminal cases against Yanukovych-era predecessors to the prosecutor’s office, only to have them sink into a black hole. Each of them complained about the bureaucracy and about their inability to fire corrupt managers of state-owned enterprises. While they didn’t complain about Poroshenko or Yatsenyuk during the interviews I had with them, it seemed clear to me that they weren’t getting the backing they needed.

    Ukraine’s top political leaders will simply not give up their power to decide who goes to jail and who doesn’t and leave these issues to judges, prosecutors, and police – or better yet, citizen juries.

    So Poroshenko keeps a useless prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who leads 15,000 useless prosecutors.

    Poroshenko keeps 9,000 judges, most of whom are useless and corrupt as well.

    Yatsenyuk keeps a useless interior minister, Arsen Avakov.

    And meanwhile, allegations of corruption – yes, all denied – swirl around Shokin, Avakov and too many police, prosecutors and judges to name.

    Bottom line: Law enforcement has delivered nothing but injustice two years after the EuroMaidan Revolution. And as long as they get to call the shots, that’s the way Poroshenko and Yatensyuk want it.

    Keeps his assets

    But Poroshenko’s deception goes farther. He promised to sell his business assets, including Channel 5, but did not.

    He keeps doing business with the nation that has waged war against Ukraine and stolen Crimea. He also, with a wink and a nod, allowed Ukrainians to keep trading with Russian-occupied Crimea until activists last fall erected a blockade.

    At home, he gives interviews mainly to controllable journalists.

    Abroad, he counts on answering questions from foreign journalists who don’t have an in-depth knowledge of Ukraine’s situation to pose harder questions.

    So he gets away with such generalities as this in an interview with German’s Bild newspaper this month:

    “We have implemented many reforms, in the police, in the fight against corruption, in the army, in decentralization process, in economy as a whole, but of course we want faster progress. But please do not forget that we have been suffering from a war for one and a half years now. Without the war, without Russian troops in the east of Ukraine, we would already have made much more progress with our reforms.”

    The answer is very revealing as to why Poroshenko hasn’t faced a revolution yet. Russia is at war against Ukraine, so the public is more patient with this president. But every time he is criticized about his failure to attack corruption, he uses the war as an excuse, another abuse of his public trust.

    Dishonesty

    When he can’t bluff his way through interviews, he lies. We haven’t forgotten his Wall Street Journal op-ed of June 10, 2015, when he wrote: “Over the past year, 2,702 former officials have been convicted of corruption.”

    To this day, the Presidential Administration cannot even name one of those officials – let alone 2,702.

    Poroshenko is very comfortable in the world of Ukraine’s corruption and oligarchs. He was a co-founder of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. And now his hand-picked prosecutor general is letting them all off the hook for – by the government’s own estimates –up to $40 billion in theft during Yanukovych’s rule.

    And so, they are reconstituting themselves. Parliament is still filled with old Yanukovych top dogs – Yuriy Boyko and Serhiy Lyovochkin among them – as corruption allegations against them go uninvestigated and unprosecuted.

    Yanukovych’s front man, the exiled fugitive Serhiy Kurchenko, continues to own one of Ukraine’s largest media empires from abroad, because prosecutors are too corrupt or inept to figure out how to remove him.

    If Poroshenko keeps this up, the Party of Regions is going to reconstitute itself and try to buy its way into power again. The president seems to think he can bluster his way past the Abromavicius resignation as he did previous ones. Elected officials are doing everything in their power to avoid early elections, because many of them know they cannot win.

    I don’t think the stall tactics will work this time. Abromavicius’ resignation is a turning point. Sooner rather than later Poroshenko will face judgment day from his people and the verdict will be brutal unless he performs a 180-degree turn and does so quickly.

    “Poroshenko pledged to dismantle the oligarchy. He did not.”
    Part of what makes the whole situation so alarming is that the expectation that Ukraine’s oligarchs dismantle themselves is basically not going to happen. Or at least is very unlikely.

    So, given the if the West gives up hope that Ukraine’s oligarchs will ever make the “reforms” necessary to make the country the neoliberal dreamland so many in the international community have in mind, you have to wonder if the various neo-Nazi threats to march of Kiev might become seen as an acceptable alternative if it can be branded as a larger populist movement. Especially if the person to replace Poroshenko happens to be a darling of the West:

    Politico EU

    Ukraine’s most popular politician

    Mikhail Saakashvili wants to be the “standard-bearer for reforms” — and possibly the next prime minister.
    By

    Maxim Tucker

    11/4/15, 4:46 PM CET

    ODESSA — Former Georgian President and current Odessa Governor Mikhail Saakashvili says he would be prepared to take on the premiership of Ukraine in order to turn the country into a bulwark against Kremlin expansionism in Europe.

    “I would like to take part in big changes and reforms, and in whatever capacity I can do it — I can do it,” he told POLITICO when asked about a potential prime ministerial campaign.

    Speaking as regional elections revealed the crumbling powerbase of the country’s western-friendly government, he argued that only a strong and stable Ukraine could prevent Moscow from devouring more territory across the region.

    “If Ukraine doesn’t contain Russia, I think Russia can easily wipe Georgia and the Baltic states from the map,” Saakashvili said during an exclusive interview in his new role as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region. “A strong Ukraine is the biggest check on Russia.”

    Ukrainians expressed widespread disillusionment with their political leaders at the recent elections, allowing pro-Russian candidates to win mayor and council positions across central and eastern Ukraine.

    By contrast, a recent opinion poll found Saakashvili was the most popular politician in Ukraine. A petition calling for him to be made prime minister has gathered more than 30,000 signatures.

    * * *

    Working characteristically late on the top floor of a deserted regional administration, he stressed that leading the cabinet was not a position he “aspired to,” and that he would not be joining any political parties as long as they maintain ties to the country’s billionaire businessmen.

    “It’s not the job I am dreaming of. I refused to run on a party list, I don’t want to have anything to do with oligarchs,” he said. “I want to be a standard-bearer for reforms.”

    But he delivered a withering indictment of current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his decision not to participate in the elections.

    “It’s not a normal thing for the prime minister’s party not to run in local elections — if you don’t want to test your popularity I don’t think you have a mandate to make reforms,” said Saakashvili.

    He accused Yatsenyuk of bypassing ministers and creating a “shadow cabinet” that represents vested business interests, including those of Mykola Martynenko, a lawmaker wanted for questioning in Switzerland over bribery allegations.

    “We need to reset this government. We should crack down on the shadow government … shadow figures who run the government’s oil and gas companies. Recently they did a huge reshuffle in the oil and gas sector and it’s all according to the blueprint of Martynenko, not the energy minister.”

    As president of Georgia from 2004 until 2013, Saakashvili led his tiny post-Soviet nation to war with Russia in 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Defeated in that round, Russian soldiers have continued to slowly shift the South Ossetian border towards Georgia’s capital.

    Oligarchs despise the Georgian for upsetting the status quo. Their media outlets rarely give him airtime. On Tuesday, a broadcaster took him off the air mid-interview when he suggested the country’s tycoons should be locked up. But Saakashvili’s team constantly updates supporters with YouTube videos and Facebook posts. It’s had a knock-on effect in his native Georgia, where his party has edged ahead of their rivals in power.

    Georgia’s ruling party has responded by releasing wiretaps of his telephone conversations and accusing Saakashvili and other party leaders of plotting a coup — allegations he dismisses as “schizophrenia.”

    With next year’s Georgian parliamentary elections drawing closer, I asked whether the Odessa job was simply a springboard back into politics in his homeland.

    “I’m deeply involved in Ukraine and I don’t think I should jump ship and swim back to Georgia,” Saakashvili responded. “Georgia is just my retirement plan,” he said, smiling.

    Might we see Mikhail Saakashvili help lead a Maidan 2.0 with international backing? Well, as laughable as the idea of Saakashvili leading an anti-corruption/anti-oligarch revolt should seem given his history, we definitely can’t rule it out:

    The New York Times
    Railing Against Graft, a Georgian Leads Calls for a Cleanup in Ukrainer

    By ANDREW E. KRAMER
    FEB. 3, 2016

    KHARKIV, Ukraine — It was supposed to be a routine cabinet meeting for Ukraine’s Western-backed government. The interior minister, Arsen B. Avakov, a banker and businessman, was reading a prepared speech about privatizing state assets.

    Finally, Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, who was appointed governor of the Odessa region last summer and has taken on the role of chief corruption fighter here, had heard enough, breaking in and flatly accusing the minister of wrongdoing.

    “Blah, blah, blah,” Mr. Avakov responded.

    “Blah, blah, blah?” Mr. Saakashvili snapped back. “Nobody ever talked to me that way.”

    Ministers and their aides looked awkwardly down at their feet or twirled pens.

    Mr. Avakov returned to his speech, but Mr. Saakashvili stopped him again, shouting, “I will prove that you are a thief!”

    With that, Mr. Avakov hurled a glass of water at Mr. Saakashvili. “You are a bastard and a circus artist,” he yelled. “Get the hell out of my country!”

    Mr. Saakashvili, 48, stared down Mr. Avakov for a few moments, then spat out the word “thief” and strode out of the room.

    While the water ended up on the Ukrainian foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, not on Mr. Saakashvili, the confrontation that many later compared to an elementary-school fight succeeded in bringing to light a dangerous fault line in Ukraine’s leadership, one that threatens the West’s $40 billion effort to build the country into a bulwark against President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

    President Petro O. Poroshenko’s appointment of Mr. Saakashvili and a number of foreign technocrats created tension between anticorruption forces and those who want to respect a tacit agreement made with the country’s business elite in exchange for their support against pro-Russian forces.

    The tension surfaced again on Tuesday when Ukraine’s economic minister resigned to protest pressure on his ministry from an oligarchic businessman with ties to Mr. Poroshenko.

    The minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, a Lithuanian and one of the foreign technocrats appointed to root out corruption, said that a businessman, Ihor Kononenko, had lobbied to have his loyalists appointed managers of a government-owned ammonia fertilizer company to skim off the profits.

    “I don’t want to be a smoke screen for obvious corruption or a marionette for those who want to return control in the old style,” he said.

    The United States ambassador, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, posted on Twitter in support of the aggrieved minister, calling him one of the country’s “great champions of reform,” as the gap widened between Ukraine’s oligarchs and a Western-backed, reformist wing of the government.

    Standing astride that chasm is Mr. Saakashvili, one of the post-Soviet era’s most contentious and best-known politicians in the region, a graduate of Columbia Law School who came to power in his native Georgia after the bloodless Rose Revolution in 2003. So impressed were Western politicians that Mr. Saakashvili once joked that when he walked through Congress he turned more heads than Britney Spears.

    Anger over corruption was one of the major issues that animated the protests in Independence Square in Kiev, known as Maidan, leading to the demise of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine. But two years and many proclamations later, the country’s ranking in a standard gauge of government malfeasance, Transparency International’s corruption perception index, has barely budged: Ukraine has moved to No. 130 in 2015, from No. 144 in 2013, in the list.

    That is little surprise to most Ukrainians, since the new government of Mr. Poroshenko is padded with people drawn from the same corrupt business circles as the old government.

    And now it has fallen to the unlikely person of Mr. Saakashvili, an outsider in Ukraine, to try to break the economic stranglehold of those ultrarich insiders.

    “I’m close to them, but I wasn’t part of them,” Mr. Saakashvili said in an interview here last month. “People tend to trust outsiders more than the decades-old insiders.”

    In addition to Mr. Saakashvili, the president has appointed Natalie Jaresko, an American-born financial expert, as his finance minister, and Maria Gaidar, a Russian advocate of overhauls, as Mr. Saakashvili’s deputy after he was appointed head of Odessa by Mr. Poroshenko.

    “People expected with a real revolution comes real change,” Mr. Saakashvili said. “But we had the revolution that basically didn’t produce real change. Now is the time to resolve this.”

    Mr. Saakashvili said he saw his role as unwinding a central compromise of the postrevolution government.

    That deal, attributed to a former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, offered the oligarchs a chance to retain their wealth and influence in return for loyalty in the fight against Russia.

    In exchange for appointments as governors, the oligarchs agreed to deploy their wealth to finance private militias to fight the separatists. Igor V. Kolomoisky, a gas station and airline tycoon, was appointed governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, where he founded Ukraine’s most powerful private militia, the Dnipro-1 battalion.

    Mr. Kolomoisky is now out of office, and Mr. Poroshenko has taken steps to incorporate Dnipro-1 and other private militias into the army.

    But with the war now seemingly winding down, Mr. Saakashvili argues, it is also time to strip the oligarchs of their ability to pull revenue out of Ukrainian state companies, lest the public lose faith in the new government.

    It is time, Mr. Saakashvili said, to renege on the deal.

    “The problem is, they had this agreement with the old elite,” Mr. Saakashvili said, not with ordinary Ukrainians.

    Rather than renationalize assets, as Mr. Putin did to sideline Russia’s oligarchs a decade or so ago, Mr. Saakashvili suggested that Ukraine could elbow the ultrarich from politics by cleaning up state-owned enterprises.

    “You can just cleanse them of their oligarch manager and basically destroy or abolish this joint stock company of oligarchs that is what they see, what they regard, as Ukraine,” he said.

    Mr. Saakashvili has faced some resistance to his plans, and not just from the oligarchs. Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister who speaks fluent English and portrays himself as a Westernizer, has insisted that the government stand by its agreement with those who backed the fight against Russian separatism, including the interior minister, Mr. Avakov.

    Mr. Saakashvili, a shrewd politician with a populist streak, has set about organizing rallies around Ukraine to build a grass-roots anti-oligarch movement called Cleaning Up Ukraine. And he started the movement, pointedly, here in Mr. Avakov’s hometown, Kharkiv, in January.

    “What I hear from Ukrainians, unfortunately, is it’s never been this bad in Ukraine,” Mr. Saakashvili told the crowd in Kharkiv. “We need to change this government. Who do we need to change it for? For us, for you and for me.”

    Mr. Saakashvili spoke of post-Soviet malaise, of kleptocrats and party hacks who steal the people’s money and hope. The crowd soon warmed to his heavily accented Russian. Given the anger at corruption, it seemed to work.

    The oligarchs who feed the rotten politics of Ukraine, even now, he said, must go. People chanted and cheered.

    Afterward, Mr. Saakashvili waded into the crowd. The poor and elderly in frayed sweaters and cheap overcoats pressed in, asking him to lead them out of the mess.

    Women sidled up to snap pictures. In the swirl, Mr. Saakashvili smiled and soaked up the attention. “He’s our last chance!” somebody yelled.

    “Mr. Saakashvili, a shrewd politician with a populist streak, has set about organizing rallies around Ukraine to build a grass-roots anti-oligarch movement called Cleaning Up Ukraine. And he started the movement, pointedly, here in Mr. Avakov’s hometown, Kharkiv, in January.”
    Saakashvili leading an anti-oligarch movement. That would be a “LOL!” moment if it wasn’t so sad. And scary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 5, 2016, 4:05 pm

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