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

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.

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.

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. . . .





12 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:

    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:

    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

    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:


    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:

    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.


    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.”


    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:

    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:

    Geor­gia ex-Pres­i­dent Saakashvili accused of ‘coup plot’


    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:

    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.


    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.

    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

    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
  12. There’s a remark­able new angle being tak­en by the Repub­li­cans in the defense of Pres­i­dent Trump’s Ukrain­ian shake­down effort — the Burisma/Biden/‘Ukrainian Crowd­strike’ fias­co led by Rudy Giu­liani — that has sud­den­ly made top­i­cal the GOP’s long his­to­ry of court­ing the Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can vote through the GOP’s “Eth­nic Out­reach” orga­ni­za­tion:

    Fol­low­ing the con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny of Army Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vin­d­man — a Ukrain­ian expert on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil who was present dur­ing the now-infa­mous July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky when Trump made clear his desires to see an inves­ti­ga­tion opened up by Ukraine into Joe Biden’s role in the fir­ing of for­mer Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al Vik­tor Shokin — and the rev­e­la­tion that Vin­d­man was so dis­turbed by the con­tent of that phone call that he report­ed it to his supe­ri­ors. It’s a pret­ty dev­as­tat­ing tes­ti­mo­ny for the GOP’s nar­ra­tive giv­en that a main plank of the GOP’s defense of Trump from the begin­ning of this scan­dal has been the fact that the ini­tial CIA whistle­blow­er had­n’t heard the call direct­ly. So as we should expect, Vin­d­man is now ‘ene­my #1’ in the right-wing media and this has pre­dictably result­ed in accu­sa­tions that Vin­d­man is some­how dri­ven by unpa­tri­ot­ic motives for mak­ing these char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of Trump’s phone call. It’s all quite pre­dictable.

    But what’s high­ly unusu­al is that the pri­ma­ry basis of the right-wing attacks on Vin­d­man have cen­tered around the fact that he was born in Ukraine, lead­ing to sug­ges­tions that he’s was actu­al­ly work­ing on behalf of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment when he raised these con­cerns with the infer­ence that there­fore those con­cerns weren’t valid because they were dri­ven by an “affin­i­ty” for his Ukrain­ian home­land. Note that Vin­d­man came to the US when he was 3 years old and was award the Pur­ple Heart for his ser­vice in Iraq.

    So the GOP is basi­cal­ly mak­ing the charge that is often lev­eled against Jew­ish Amer­i­cans but you don’t hear very often against immi­grants from Europe: the accu­sa­tion of a duel loy­al­ty. And this is just get­ting start­ed. Vin­d­man could eas­i­ly end up being a cen­tral vil­lain in the GOP’s 2020 cam­paign to reelect Trump and that means this dual loy­al­ty accu­sa­tion against a Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can could be a cen­tral theme too. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly remark­able dynam­ic giv­en that Ukrain­ian Amer­i­cans, like so many refugee com­mu­ni­ties from the for­mer Sovi­et Union, have long been Repub­li­can lean­ing vot­ers.

    Then there’s the fact that when Vin­d­man took his com­plaint to the NSC a sec­ond time, he was accom­pa­nied by his iden­ti­cal twin broth­er, Lt. Col Yevge­ny Vin­d­man, who is also work­ing as an NSC lawyer for the White House. So we have iden­ti­cal twin Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can broth­ers both work­ing for the NSC and both involved with this com­plaint, which is per­fect fod­der for the right-wing dis­in­fo­tain­ment com­plex.

    And don’t for­get anoth­er Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can that is already in the GOP’s rhetor­i­cal cross-hairs: Alexan­dra Chalu­pa, the for­mer DNC employ­ee who report­ed­ly worked with offi­cials in the Ukraine’s embassy in DC in 2016 on dig­ging up dirt on Paul Man­afort. And unlike Vin­d­man, it’s not going to be very hard to accuse Chalu­pa of hav­ing extreme­ly strong ties to Ukraine and peo­ple in Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment. That’s kind of her job and life mis­sion. So it’s not hard to see how the GOP might find itself in a sit­u­a­tion where slam­ming Ukrain­ian Amer­i­cans as hav­ing dual loy­al­ty is an irre­sistible rhetor­i­cal cud­gel. And yet, as the GOP’s his­to­ry of court­ing the Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can vote makes clear, the Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty can be a vital con­stituen­cy for the GOP pre­cise­ly because they are con­cen­trat­ed in key mid­west­ern swing states. The same mid­west­ern swing states Trump’s 2016 vic­to­ry was based on.

    So the 2020 elec­tion is giv­ing the GOP a dark­ly fas­ci­nat­ing choice: use a ‘Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can dual loy­al­ty’ charge to pro­tect Trump at the risk of poi­son­ing the GOP’s appeal to Ukrain­ian Amer­i­cans or don’t do that and allow Vin­d­man’s words to and tes­ti­mo­ny to destroy the cur­rent GOP rhetor­i­cal defens­es they’ve already devel­oped for GOP. Maybe some­thing else will pop up about Vin­d­man’s back­ground that will allow the GOP to attack his char­ac­ter with­out turn­ing it into a dual loy­al­ty charge, but so far that has­n’t hap­pened:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump and his allies attack Pur­ple Heart recip­i­ent to defend against impeach­ment

    By Toluse Olorun­ni­pa
    Oct. 29, 2019 at 6:48 p.m. CDT

    As a White House nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cial pre­pared to give dam­ag­ing tes­ti­mo­ny in the House impeach­ment inquiry Tues­day, Pres­i­dent Trump and some of his allies imme­di­ate­ly began a push to attack the integri­ty and patri­o­tism of the dec­o­rat­ed Iraq War vet­er­an.

    For­mer con­gress­man and Trump sur­ro­gate Sean P. Duffy said Army Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vin­d­man had “an affin­i­ty for Ukraine” over the Unit­ed States because it was his birth­place. Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney Rudolph W. Giu­liani joined in with the sug­ges­tion on Twit­ter that Vin­d­man was “advis­ing two gov’s,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to dual loy­al­ties.

    And Trump him­self attacked Vin­d­man as a polit­i­cal oppo­nent: “Sup­pos­ed­ly, accord­ing to the Cor­rupt Media, the Ukraine call ‘con­cerned’ today’s Nev­er Trumper wit­ness,” the pres­i­dent tweet­ed Tues­day. “Was he on the same call that I was? Can’t be pos­si­ble!”

    But for many Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, the moves to dis­cred­it Vindman’s char­ac­ter were a bridge too far — sug­gest­ing that the esca­lat­ing attacks on the wit­ness­es tes­ti­fy­ing about Trump’s alleged mis­con­duct may have a lim­it.

    “We’re talk­ing about dec­o­rat­ed vet­er­ans who have served this nation, who have put their lives on the line,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R‑Wyo.). “It’s shame­ful to ques­tion their patri­o­tism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in that process.”

    The com­pet­ing mes­sages reflect inter­nal ten­sions among many Repub­li­cans as they seek to bal­ance defend­ing Trump with uphold­ing some of their long-stand­ing prin­ci­ples.

    While Trump has pushed for GOP law­mak­ers to “get tougher and fight,” he has embraced scorched-earth rhetoric that some in his par­ty have strug­gled to defend. Over the past month, Trump has com­pared impeach­ment to a “lynch­ing,” described his GOP crit­ics as “human scum,” called for the unmask­ing of a fed­er­al­ly pro­tect­ed whistle­blow­er and accused admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials tes­ti­fy­ing against him of being unpa­tri­ot­ic, or worse.

    As his attacks have esca­lat­ed, the Repub­li­can response has been dis­joint­ed, with loy­al­ists embrac­ing offen­sive terms such as “lynch­ing” and oth­ers dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the harsh lan­guage and tac­tics.

    On Tues­day, Trump’s cam­paign to brand his oppo­nents as part of a “Deep State” cabal of gov­ern­ment offi­cials work­ing against him ran head­long into the biog­ra­phy of Vin­d­man, who fled the Sovi­et Union with his fam­i­ly as a child and who received a Pur­ple Heart after being injured by a road­side bomb in Iraq.

    Vin­d­man, a Ukraine expert on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, found him­self in the president’s crosshairs as he pre­pared to tell Con­gress that he was con­cerned that Trump had sought to pres­sure the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to inves­ti­gate Democ­rats. While his tes­ti­mo­ny was the lat­est in a string of dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tions by Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, the effort by some Repub­li­cans to dis­cred­it him based on his birth­place cre­at­ed anoth­er fault line in the GOP’s impeach­ment response.

    Speak­ing on Fox News on Mon­day, for­mer George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial John Yoo said he found it “astound­ing” that Vin­d­man had report­ed­ly been speak­ing with Ukrain­ian offi­cials who sought guid­ance on how to deal with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    “And some peo­ple might call that espi­onage,” said Yoo, after host Lau­ra Ingra­ham said she found the Iraq War veteran’s back­ground, lan­guage skills and inter­ac­tions with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment “inter­est­ing.”

    By Tues­day, Yoo was walk­ing back his com­ment after sev­er­al elect­ed Repub­li­cans said attack­ing Vindman’s loy­al­ty to the Unit­ed States was inap­pro­pri­ate. Yoo told the Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er on Tues­day that he was accus­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment of poten­tial espi­onage, not Vin­d­man.

    Duffy, who said on CNN that he did not know if Vin­d­man was putting Amer­i­can inter­ests above Ukrain­ian inter­ests, also back­tracked lat­er Tues­day.

    “Lt. Col. Vin­d­man is an Amer­i­can war hero,” he wrote on Twit­ter, adding that he was only try­ing to high­light that Vin­d­man was “an unelect­ed advi­sor.”

    Those retreats came after sev­er­al elect­ed Repub­li­cans admon­ished some Trump defend­ers for their will­ing­ness to den­i­grate a vet­er­an.

    Sen. John Thune (R‑S.D.) said it was a “mis­take” to ques­tion Vindman’s patri­o­tism.

    In his open­ing state­ment, which was obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, Vin­d­man described him­self as a “patri­ot” and said he thought Trump’s push to get Ukrain­ian offi­cials to launch inves­ti­ga­tions tar­get­ing Democ­rats was inap­pro­pri­ate.

    His tes­ti­mo­ny added to the grow­ing col­lec­tion of evi­dence impli­cat­ing Trump in an appar­ent quid pro quo link­ing mil­i­tary aid or a White House vis­it for Ukraine to polit­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tions. It also forced Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to decide whether they would embrace a dual-loy­al­ty smear being pushed by some con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dits and right-wing fig­ures seek­ing to under­mine Vindman’s account.

    While many opt­ed against tak­ing that approach against a dec­o­rat­ed vet­er­an, Repub­li­cans con­tin­ue to strug­gle with defend­ing Trump on the sub­stance of the alle­ga­tions he faces, said Bren­dan Buck, who served as coun­selor to for­mer House speak­er Paul D. Ryan (R‑Wis.).

    “The ulti­mate prob­lem is the sub­stance is com­plete­ly inde­fen­si­ble,” he said. “Mem­bers can’t stom­ach argu­ing the mer­its so you get attacks on cred­i­bil­i­ty and the process.”

    Trump has already expressed his dis­plea­sure with Repub­li­cans’ process-focused approach, call­ing for a more robust defense of his deal­ings with Ukraine.

    “So one thing I said, I’d rather go into the details of the case rather than process,” Trump told reporters Mon­day, relay­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with GOP law­mak­ers.

    Defend­ing Trump on the alle­ga­tions has become increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult as sev­er­al mem­bers of Trump’s admin­is­tra­tion have effec­tive­ly tes­ti­fied against him.

    Vindman’s tes­ti­mo­ny echoed the open­ing state­ment deliv­ered last week by William B. Tay­lor Jr., the act­ing U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine. Tay­lor, a Viet­nam War vet­er­an and career diplo­mat, told law­mak­ers he was alarmed by the White House push for an improp­er quid pro quo short­ly after the Trump admin­is­tra­tion tapped him to be the top liai­son to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in Kyiv.

    Like Vin­d­man, Tay­lor used his open­ing state­ment to stress his bipar­ti­san back­ground and his decades of pub­lic ser­vice. Few Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have attacked Tay­lor per­son­al­ly after his tes­ti­mo­ny, which direct­ly impli­cat­ed Trump in an improp­er quid pro quo.

    Trump, how­ev­er, has been more than will­ing to ques­tion whether his crit­ics love the ­coun­try.

    “The Nev­er Trumper Repub­li­cans, though on res­pi­ra­tors with not many left, are in cer­tain ways worse and more dan­ger­ous for our Coun­try than the Do Noth­ing Democ­rats,” Trump said last week after Taylor’s tes­ti­mo­ny rocked Wash­ing­ton. “Watch out for them, they are human scum!”

    As some Repub­li­cans dis­tanced them­selves from that descrip­tion, White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Grisham expand­ed its mean­ing in an inter­view with Fox News.

    “The peo­ple who are against him and who have been against him and work­ing against him since the day they took office are just that,” she said, indi­cat­ing that the slur applies to all of the president’s oppo­nents. “They deserve strong lan­guage like that.”

    While Trump has not attacked Vindman’s her­itage, many of his most ardent sup­port­ers have begun point­ing to his Ukrain­ian back­ground. The charge of dual loy­al­ty — even that Vin­d­man was act­ing as a “dou­ble agent” — quick­ly gained trac­tion in right-wing cor­ners of the Inter­net.

    The con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry was advanced by Jack Poso­biec, a far-right provo­ca­teur known for pro­mot­ing the “Piz­za­gate” lie. In a tweet, he false­ly claimed that Vin­d­man was work­ing with his “home coun­try” to thwart Trump’s agen­da. He cit­ed the New York Times as his source, though the notion appeared nowhere in the newspaper’s report­ing.

    The false­hood gained more than 10,000 retweets Tues­day, and the same claim was also repeat­ed word for word by oth­er accounts. Oth­ers ampli­fy­ing the smear against Vin­d­man includ­ed Ryan Fournier, the co-chair­man of Stu­dents for Trump.



    “Trump and his allies attack Pur­ple Heart recip­i­ent to defend against impeach­ment” by Toluse Olorun­ni­pa, The Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/29/2019

    “His tes­ti­mo­ny added to the grow­ing col­lec­tion of evi­dence impli­cat­ing Trump in an appar­ent quid pro quo link­ing mil­i­tary aid or a White House vis­it for Ukraine to polit­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tions. It also forced Repub­li­can law­mak­ers to decide whether they would embrace a dual-loy­al­ty smear being pushed by some con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dits and right-wing fig­ures seek­ing to under­mine Vindman’s account.

    Yep, Vin­d­man’s tes­ti­mo­ny is so dam­ag­ing to the GOP’s pre­vail­ing defense of Trump — that the peo­ple mak­ing the com­plaints about the July 25 phone call did­n’t hear it first hand — that the GOP is forced to con­sid­er a dual loy­al­ty smear because his words are poten­tial­ly that dev­as­tat­ing. And whether or not GOP strate­gists think this is a good strat­e­gy is beside the point by now because the right-wing media com­plex, includ­ing ‘Alt Right’ fig­ures like Jack Poso­biec, is already embrac­ing that meme. It’s gone viral:

    For­mer con­gress­man and Trump sur­ro­gate Sean P. Duffy said Army Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vin­d­man had “an affin­i­ty for Ukraine” over the Unit­ed States because it was his birth­place. Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney Rudolph W. Giu­liani joined in with the sug­ges­tion on Twit­ter that Vin­d­man was “advis­ing two gov’s,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to dual loy­al­ties.


    On Tues­day, Trump’s cam­paign to brand his oppo­nents as part of a “Deep State” cabal of gov­ern­ment offi­cials work­ing against him ran head­long into the biog­ra­phy of Vin­d­man, who fled the Sovi­et Union with his fam­i­ly as a child and who received a Pur­ple Heart after being injured by a road­side bomb in Iraq.

    Vin­d­man, a Ukraine expert on the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, found him­self in the president’s crosshairs as he pre­pared to tell Con­gress that he was con­cerned that Trump had sought to pres­sure the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to inves­ti­gate Democ­rats. While his tes­ti­mo­ny was the lat­est in a string of dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tions by Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, the effort by some Repub­li­cans to dis­cred­it him based on his birth­place cre­at­ed anoth­er fault line in the GOP’s impeach­ment response.

    Speak­ing on Fox News on Mon­day, for­mer George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial John Yoo said he found it “astound­ing” that Vin­d­man had report­ed­ly been speak­ing with Ukrain­ian offi­cials who sought guid­ance on how to deal with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    “And some peo­ple might call that espi­onage,” said Yoo, after host Lau­ra Ingra­ham said she found the Iraq War veteran’s back­ground, lan­guage skills and inter­ac­tions with the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment “inter­est­ing.”

    By Tues­day, Yoo was walk­ing back his com­ment after sev­er­al elect­ed Repub­li­cans said attack­ing Vindman’s loy­al­ty to the Unit­ed States was inap­pro­pri­ate. Yoo told the Wash­ing­ton Exam­in­er on Tues­day that he was accus­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment of poten­tial espi­onage, not Vin­d­man.

    Duffy, who said on CNN that he did not know if Vin­d­man was putting Amer­i­can inter­ests above Ukrain­ian inter­ests, also back­tracked lat­er Tues­day.

    “Lt. Col. Vin­d­man is an Amer­i­can war hero,” he wrote on Twit­ter, adding that he was only try­ing to high­light that Vin­d­man was “an unelect­ed advi­sor.”

    Those retreats came after sev­er­al elect­ed Repub­li­cans admon­ished some Trump defend­ers for their will­ing­ness to den­i­grate a vet­er­an.


    While Trump has not attacked Vindman’s her­itage, many of his most ardent sup­port­ers have begun point­ing to his Ukrain­ian back­ground. The charge of dual loy­al­ty — even that Vin­d­man was act­ing as a “dou­ble agent” — quick­ly gained trac­tion in right-wing cor­ners of the Inter­net.

    The con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry was advanced by Jack Poso­biec, a far-right provo­ca­teur known for pro­mot­ing the “Piz­za­gate” lie. In a tweet, he false­ly claimed that Vin­d­man was work­ing with his “home coun­try” to thwart Trump’s agen­da. He cit­ed the New York Times as his source, though the notion appeared nowhere in the newspaper’s report­ing.

    The false­hood gained more than 10,000 retweets Tues­day, and the same claim was also repeat­ed word for word by oth­er accounts. Oth­ers ampli­fy­ing the smear against Vin­d­man includ­ed Ryan Fournier, the co-chair­man of Stu­dents for Trump.

    The xeno­pho­bic genie is out of the bot­tle. The GOP prob­a­bly can’t even stop this dual loy­al­ty meme at this point if it wants to. What is this going to do to the tra­di­tion­al ties between the Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty and the GOP? Or oth­er Euro­pean immi­grants who aren’t tra­di­tion­al­ly the tar­get of the GOP’s anti-immi­grant rhetoric. As the fol­low­ing piece notes, Vin­d­man was lit­er­al­ly shown in the “Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty” episode of Ken Burns’ 1985 “Amer­i­ca” doc­u­men­tary series. It turns out he was sit­ting with his mom and twin broth­er Yevge­ny in Brighton Beach when Ken Burns hap­pened to be walk­ing by and the three of them end­ed up in the film. So the Vin­d­mand fam­i­ly’s immi­gra­tion to the US has already been enshrined as a quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Amer­i­ca sto­ry in a clas­sic doc­u­men­tary:

    Talk­ing Points Memo

    Vin­d­man, Sub­ject Of Xeno­pho­bic Attacks, Was Fea­tured In Ken Burns’ ‘Amer­i­ca’ In ’80s

    By Kate Riga
    Octo­ber 29, 2019 3:53 pm

    Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vin­d­man, the NSC offi­cial who is giv­ing impeach­ment inquiry tes­ti­mo­ny damn­ing to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cause Tues­day, has become the tar­get of xeno­pho­bic attacks from the right-wing echo cham­ber due to his child­hood emi­gra­tion from Ukraine.

    But in a film of Ken Burns’ 1985 “Amer­i­ca” series, spot­ted by the eagle-eyed Philip Bump of the Wash­ing­ton Post, the Vin­d­mans are revealed to have such a com­pelling and clas­sic sto­ry as to be fea­tured in “Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty,” an ode to the immigrant’s Amer­i­can dream.

    The famed doc­u­men­tar­i­an was pound­ing the pave­ment of 1980s New York when he came upon an old­er woman sit­ting on a bench in Brighton Beach with young twin boys: Alexan­der and Yevge­ny Vin­d­man. The fam­i­ly had come from the then-Sovi­et Union. The boys would both one day serve in the Army and now work at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

    Their sto­ry­book Amer­i­can dream has not been enough to sate the appetites of Trump’s most rabid acolytes, how­ev­er. Born in the caul­dron of Fox News, the idea of Vindman’s tes­ti­mo­ny spring­ing from some kind of dual loy­al­ty has now fil­tered through right-wing cir­cles, with the likes of Lau­ra Ingra­ham call­ing into ques­tion Vindman’s patri­o­tism due to his far-flung birth­place.

    Trump and his cronies espous­ing xeno­pho­bic dis­like of all but the whitest, most west­ern-Euro­pean-est immi­grants isn’t new. But it’s still star­tling to watch them attack one who, along with his Pur­ple Heart, has a made-for-TV Amer­i­can sto­ry to his name.



    “Vin­d­man, Sub­ject Of Xeno­pho­bic Attacks, Was Fea­tured In Ken Burns’ ‘Amer­i­ca’ In ’80s” by Kate Riga, Talk­ing Points Memo, 10/29/2019

    “Trump and his cronies espous­ing xeno­pho­bic dis­like of all but the whitest, most west­ern-Euro­pean-est immi­grants isn’t new. But it’s still star­tling to watch them attack one who, along with his Pur­ple Heart, has a made-for-TV Amer­i­can sto­ry to his name.”

    A made-for-TV Amer­i­can sto­ry. That’s the Vin­d­man fam­i­ly’s sto­ry. And right now the GOP must find some way of dis­cred­it­ing the Vin­d­mans and dual loy­al­ty charges are the only weapon they have. So, again, we have to ask: what is this going to do to the Ukrain­ian Amer­i­can’s long-stand­ing GOP lean­ings? Are we going to see an aggres­sive ‘eth­nic out­reach’ cam­paign by the GOP tar­get­ing Ukrain­ian Amer­i­cans to counter the dam­age? If so, let’s hope the GOP does­n’t rely far right Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers for that pro­pa­gan­da work. Again.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 30, 2019, 1:13 pm

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