Saturday, May 26, 2012

Europe Speaks Out on Ukraine

Ukraine should stand by the principles of the rule of law and democracy if it wants to join the EU at some point, MEPs said in a debate on the treatment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, views differed on whether it was a good idea for leading EU politicians to boycott the Euro 2012 football games in Ukraine over this. The parliamentary debate was also attended by Ms Tymoshenko's daughter, Yevgenia.


In October 2011, Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of abuse of power in connection with the conclusion of gas contracts with the Russian Federation. During the debate on Tuesday 22 May, MEPs highlighted the concerns they had over the case:

Tymoshenko's case does not stand alone and a comprehensive judicial reform is needed in Ukraine

selective and politically motivated justice is unacceptable

the respect of democracy and rule of law is indispensible if the country wants to become a member of the EU eventually

parliamentary elections this year will be a test of progress

opposition candidates should be given an even playing field


Monday, January 30, 2012

The tale of the two Viktors and the braided maiden

Which two Ukrainians most detest Yulia Tymoshenko, most fear her, and most obsess about her?

Source: World Affairs

It’s the two Viktors, of course: Yushchenko and Yanukovych.

Most Ukrainians have very strong opinions about the former prime minister turned political prisoner, but it’s only the two Viktors who’ve let their feelings about her become borderline psychotic.

In the last three years of his presidency, 2006 to 2009, Yushchenko abandoned whatever reform aspirations that may have guided him during the Orange Revolution and concentrated almost exclusively on squabbling with and attacking Tymoshenko, never passing up an opportunity to denounce her, regardless of whether his audience was listening or cared. I personally witnessed him bore two roomfuls in New York with hour-long attacks on Tymoshenko: the first group consisting of some 50 potential American investors who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s economy; the second, of some 100 Ukrainian-Americans who wanted to hear about Ukraine’s culture.

Just as Yushchenko let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency, so too has Yanukovych. After she lost the presidential election of 2010, Tymoshenko was washed up as a national politician. All Yanukovych had to do to keep her that way was to ignore her. Instead, by persecuting Tymoshenko, by jailing her at precisely the time that he’s ostensibly courting Europe and hoping to negotiate a gas deal with Russia, he’s given her the ethical stature she never had, undermined his standing at home and abroad, sabotaged Ukraine’s attempts to integrate more closely with the European Union, and provided the Kremlin with additional reasons for stonewalling Kyiv. Like that other Viktor, this one has let his obsession with Tymoshenko define, and ultimately destroy, his presidency.

So what gives? Although Yanukovych has moved toward many of Yushchenko’s positions in the last year, the fact is that the two are profoundly different presidents. Yushchenko was, despite his multitudinous faults, significantly more pro-democratic, pro-Ukrainian, and pro-market than the unabashedly anti-democratic, anti-Ukrainian, and anti-market Yanukovych. They are also very different politicians, with Yushchenko preferring the safety of a podium and Yanuovych preferring the safety of a designer suit.
Why would two such different policymakers share the same fear and loathing of Tymoshenko?

I suspect it’s because they’re the same kind of guys. It’s not Tymoshenko the politician they hate, but Tymoshenko the too-strong woman who knows they’re both pushovers and treats them as such. After all, Yushchenko knows how to deal with male enemies. He bores them to death or, as in the case of Yanukovych, cuts a deal with them.
Yanukovych’s approach is even simpler, and usually involves a sock to the jaw. Neither approach works with Tymoshenko. She can run rhetorical circles around Yushchenko and knock Yanukovych off his leaden feet.

Tymoshenko, as the strong woman of Ukrainian politics, has exposed both fellas for the vain weaklings they really are. When Yushchenko lost his charms after being poisoned and disfigured in the summer of 2004, Tymoshenko not only threatened his authority and standing as president. She also threatened his manhood and his sense of self as a ladies’ man. Moreover, she didn’t fall for his act precisely because she wanted what he only half-wanted: power. And she never failed to pursue it, for better or for worse, while Yushchenko never failed to let it slip out of his fingers.

Yanukovych is an even more transparently self-doubting male who is also burdened with the sense of inadequacy that comes from being a hoodlum-turned-honcho. Hence the big mouth and big talk and big fists. Hence the absence of women in his prime minister’s cabinet. When wife Ludmilla went off the deep end during the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych could respond only by banishing her to Donetsk. When political opponent Yulia claimed that he was a thug and a crook during the 2010 presidential campaign, he could respond only by banishing her to a jail. Small wonder that his leading female cheerleader, Hanna Herman, gets big bucks for her efforts.

Self-confident politicians and self-confident men would have treated Tymoshenko as just what she was—a strong-willed, tough, and ruthless politician—regardless of her sex. But neither Yushchenko nor Yanukovych can, evidently, see past that. And that obviously drives both fellas crazy, to the point of preferring political suicide to rational policymaking.

Tymoshenko’s inevitable comeback will be a traumatic defeat for both Viktors. When the queen bee returns, expect both of them to take up bee-keeping full-time.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Yushchenko's poisoning was invented by his staff

Deputy Prosecutor: Yushchenko's poisoning was invented by his staff

MP David Zhvania told us that the scandal around poisoning former president Viktor Yushchenko in 2004 was an idea of Yushchenko's election campaign staff, Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin said in an interview with NBN.

"Zhvania testified that nobody poisoned Yushchenko, that there was no poisoning at all and that this entire story was invented by Yushchenko's election campaign staff in order to win the election accusing then authorities of poisoning," Kuzmin said.

"Zhvania also said that he was against this idea. He says, he tried to explain that this lie would be eventual revealed that it was too cynical to lie to the whole world. After that he was excluded from the staff," the official added.

According to the Deputy prosecutor General, many witnesses state that Yushchenko was poisoned and believe in this, while the others assure it was a fraud. "That's why we asked Yushchenko to take a blood test again," Kuzmin said.

On September 5, 2004 Viktor Yushchenko, then candidate for presidency, met with Security Service authorities, after which he felt bad. On September 10 he was hospitalized to Vienna clinic for examination, which revealed that Yushchenko was poisoned by dioxin. Repeated examination in May 2006 confirmed the presence of dioxin in Yushchenko's organism.  

In November 2009 the temporary investigative commission of the parliament declared the necessity to change the composition of the investigation group of prosecution and to hold new tests in order to prove the version of poisoning.

After his appointment on the post of Prosecutor General (November 2010) Viktor Pshonka repeatedly confirmed his intention to take additional test of Yushchenko's blood in Ukrainian lab, but Viktor Yushchenko refused. The former President declared he would agree to take a blood test in the national lab only if the Prosecution had solid reasons.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Wikileaks Ukraine: US Cables during the Yushchenko Years

Wikileaks US Government Cables from 2005 to 2010 covering all the main points of US interest during the Yushchenko years. 

Now available on its own web site with  full text search and commentary options.

A must read for anyone following Ukrainian modern political history.

(data extracted from the Wikileaks US Cables archive)

Other regional WiKileaks US Cables


Friday, January 13, 2012

The greatest political blunders of this century

People First Comment: The decision to jail Tymoshenko must go down as one of the greatest political blunders of this century. In one stroke the presidential administration has totally destroyed the president’s entire national and international credibility and turned him and his administration into a pariah.

In addition they have clearly demonstrated to the world at large that they are not going to take any notice of internationally recognised legal due process or the rule of law and that has now set the tone not only for this Presidency but also for the nation as a whole.

The problem is that his administration would appear to neither care nor even notice as they continue to feed the President bad advice and irresponsible decision making.

The crazy part about the whole venture is that it was simply not necessary. He won the election, he was ahead in all the polls and Tymoshenko as leader of the opposition was floundering like a beached whale.

All they needed to do was to maintain a level head and she would have destroyed herself without the President having to lift a finger. Now she is Europe’s most famous political prisoner, an accolade she hardly warrants.

It was only natural that the President might want to exact some sort of revenge after his humiliation after the Orange revolution but wiser heads should have prevailed. Somebody should have whispered in his ear that the only person who suffers as a result of such malice is the bearer. Instead they have consigned him to one of the darker periods of Ukrainian history.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Doom and economic gloom prevails over Ukraine in 2012

Foreignnotes has another good appraisal of what waits Ukraine in the new year. 2012 does not offer high hopes for any change in fortune. Even the Euro2012 games will not lift the vale of despair.

'It is clear that post-Soviet system of governance and social division has exhausted itself - and not only in Ukraine" says  -TV journalist Vitaliy Portnikov

Fellow journalist, Mustafa Nayem, considers any change is not possible at the the moment. "Those who could potentially take over power are not capable of explaining why those currently in power are worse than they are.'

Whilst hopeful Mykola Knyazytskyi, considers a change is possible."If the country's basic democratic principles are neglected and there are no resources to fulfill the social needs of its citizens, mass protests may start any minute, and no one can predict when they could start."  The [revised] Ukrainian political system was formed by Viktor Yanukovych himself, so he has taken full responsibility for what happens in the country onto himself. Sociological reports indicate that neither he nor his party command a majority of the electorate. "Quite simply he is not liked as a leader. Dictators can retain power either by bayonets, or by the love of the people...And if there is no love, then Facebook and Twitter - are much more powerful weapons than bayonets"

The opposition are divided and lack direction, leadership and a vision of change.

Even if dissatisfaction in the current presidential ruler-ship takes hold and the opposition manage to win a majority of seats in the new Parliament (Unlikely given the rules of the election are already stacked against them)  they will still lack authority and power to implement change.

Ukraine will never be a free independent democratic state as long as Ukraine remains dominated and beholden to Presidential rule.  In the absence of a united polices and ground swell of public opinion calling for change in the system not just the faces Ukraine will  continue suffer its fate unknown.  Things are going to get a lot worst for Ukraine before they get better.

Democracy and responsible representative government is that much further and harder to reach as long as the opposition remain divided without vision or a road map for change.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

Is Ukraine democratic?

KyivPost, Ukraine's premier online English news source, recently published a op-ed piece by Leigh Turner, UK Ambassador to Ukraine, posing the question 'Is Ukraine democratic?'.  The article attracted considerable discussion and debate, including questions related to the quality and integrity of the US based think tank 'Freedom House'.

The vibrant discussion became so hot that it gave cause for KyivPost to censor the debate and remove all comments, even though the comments were relatively tame and in order.  There was no justification or merit in having these comments removed.

It is unclear if Kyivpost's decision was taken following representations by the author Leigh Turner or by the Editorial staff acting under direction of third parties.

This is not the first time Kyivpost has acted in such a censorial role denying public debate and discussion on political topics.  It is certainly not the first time Kyivpost have removed comments on Mr Tuner's Op-ed.

It does raise the question 'how free is Ukraine's media?' And should a media outlet that espouses western democratic values and campaigns for the rights of 'Free Speech' and a Media rights unilaterally, without explanation, remove public comments and discussion on such a important issue.

The withdrawal of public comments has brought KyivPost and UK's Ambassador into disrepute. KyivPost owes its readership an explanation and justification for its actions, if only to prove that it is a pro democratic free speech media outlet.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Polls and public opinion swing to support Tymoshenko, Ukraine's democratic maiden

Recent reviews and public opinion polls have Tymoshenko leading over Yanukovych in the primary vote.

This comes as no surprise. Yanukovych can thank his mate Yushchenko for this monumental strategic stuff-up. Yushchenko and the government administration helped turn Tymoshenko into a Martyr.

Yanukovych's term of office has virtually finished, as he has been overshadowed by the events surrounding Tymoshenko's imprisonment. He has no one else to blame for his own demise other then himself and those who he has taken advice from. No one is listening to any positive statements he has to make and he is one step short of being totally isolated from any meaningful negotiations with the west. I sincerely doubt if he can recover from this diplomatic disaster that has been imposed on Ukraine.

Tymoshenko's support was on the decline prior to her arrest, as was pointed out by Taras Chornovil in a recent interview published in the Day. She has become more powerful and influential whist locked up.

As Ukraine begins to feels the economic fall out and the impact of Tymoshenko's arrest begins to undermine the success of the Euro2012 games, pressure will begin to build for Yanukovych to stand down so as to avoid further economic isolation and decline.

Much will depend on how Ukraine reacts to the inevitable review by the European Court of Human Rights. Tymoshenko needs to exhaust her appeal rights within Ukraine before the ECHR can review her case.

It is in Ukraine's interest that this matter is brought before the European Court at the earliest opportunity. Further delay will only compound the diplomatic impact of the fall out.

The other still outstanding issue is the secondary charges laid against Tymoshenko. In theory they could be dropped if Tymoshenko's appeal to the ECHR is successful.

Once she is released all hell will break out.

It is still uncertain if she will be imprisoned in the lead-up to the 2012 Parliamentary elections. Any election without Tymoshenko will lack authority or acceptance.

The best option come would be for Yanukovych to initiate Constitutional reform, renounce presidential power in favour of Ukraine adopting a full Parliamentary system of government, and then resign once the new legislation is in place and a new government elected allowing the new parliament to elect a new head of state with reduced authority.


Monday, January 02, 2012

Vote 2012: Ukraine Parliamentary Election October

Ukraine goes to the polls in October 2012 in what is a make or break election.  The new electoral laws have already come fire and criticism by the European Venice Commission and look set to give the Government a distinct advantage. 

The Tymoshenko factor, political persecution has triggered international outrage which could seriously impact on Ukraine's economic and diplomatic standing is the President's downfall.  Already Yanukovych's presidency has been brought into disrepute as he becomes isolated by the international community.  How long can his presidency last as Ukraine's economic future is held in the balance?  It could even have a negative impact in the Euro2012 games. Already European Integration has been placed on ice.  Will sanctions follow?