Tag Archives: Viktor Yanukovych

Ukraine’s Capitulation Pleases No One #Ukraine #Russia #proRussianrebels

By Leonid Bershidsky.
A statue depicting Lenine next to a self-proclaimed Donetsk People Republic's flag at the Lenine square center of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on Sept. 16.A statue depicting Lenine next to a self-proclaimed Donetsk People Republic’s flag at the Lenin square center of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine on Sept. 16. © AFP

The compromises Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has made to end the fighting in his country have taken shape, and they are dangerous to his political future. His increasingly nationalist electorate considers them little short of treachery.

The Ukrainian parliament today passed Poroshenko’s bill on the special status of eastern areas held by pro-Russian rebels. It also ratified Ukraine’s association and free trade agreement with the European Union, although Ukraine now only intends to abolish customs duties on EU goods at the end of 2015. These concessions are less in some areas and more in others than Russian President Vladimir Putin squeezed from Poroshenko’s ill-fated predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, and they come at an enormous cost in human lives, lost trust and broken relationships between the two nations.

The special status law breaks with the Ukrainian government’s practice of calling the rebels “terrorists”. It describes them as “participants in the events in the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.” They are granted a broad amnesty, and Ukrainian organizations are banned from discriminating against them on the basis of their participation in the fighting.

The rebel-held areas are given full power to govern themselves for the three years that follow local elections scheduled for Nov. 9. That includes appointing their own police forces, prosecutors and judges. The local self-government will be allowed to cooperate with Russian authorities across the border “to deepen good neighborly relations,” and the law allows the region to conduct its business in Russian, while the rest of the country uses Ukrainian. The ministries in Kiev will only be able to participate in running the eastern areas if the local bodies deign to sign special agreements with them, yet the law promises Ukrainian budgetary funding to patch up the ravages of war and develop the semi-independent regions.

That, in effect, is Ukraine’s signature under the creation of a frozen conflict area. For Russia, that kind of buffer is the best: It’s not an unrecognized state with a murky status, but an officially recognized enclave within Ukraine. Kiev takes responsibility for it, but has little or no influence on what happens there. The law will probably stand for now, as long as Poroshenko and Putin manage to make the shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine stick.

This is a bitter pill for Ukrainians to swallow. “I wouldn’t have voted for this bill if I had been a legislator,” journalist Mustafa Nayyem, who is running for a parliament seat as part of Poroshenko’s electoral bloc, wrote on Facebook. “I see no value in compromises that can lead to another political split in Kiev, mutual accusations of treachery and a show-off patriotism contest.”

That’s a mild reaction by Kiev standards: “Poroshenko is giving up to Putin just enough Ukrainian interests to avoid getting beaten up by his own citizens,” Dmytro Gnap, another journalist, wrote on Facebook. Gnap, who was a prominent investigator of corruption under the Yanukovych regime, accuses Poroshenko of trying to shore up his personal power at any cost so he can run the country with the same corrupt officials who enriched themselves under the previous presidency.

Poroshenko’s bloc does indeed include odious figures implicated in the corruption of the old regime and, in a blatantly Yanukovych-style twist, Poroshenko’s son Aleksiy is running for a parliament seat with his father’s party. “The summit of nepotism,” Gnap fumed.

As for the idealists who joined the government after Yanukovych’s ouster, they have been losing faith and dropping out. Last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky resigned after he learned that Kiev had decided to put off implementing part of the EU trade agreement. He wrote that the delay sends “the wrong signal to everyone: the aggressor, allies, and, most importantly, Ukrainian citizens.”

The trade deal, which Yanukovych declined to sign last year and thus triggered the protests that ended his presidency, will for now operate as a set of unilateral EU concessions to prop up the Ukrainian economy. Ukrainian companies will be able to export duty-free to the EU within certain quotas, but EU goods will still be subject to duties as before. This is to please Russia, which claims it would lose about $3 billion a year in economic damage from transit imports.

More than 3,000 people lie dead; Russia is in deepening international isolation; Ukraine faces a 10 percent drop in economic output this year; and Poroshenko’s concessions will take a further toll on the impoverished nation. It is a Pyrrhic victory for Putin and makes no one happy: not even the Russian leader can be sure Ukraine will follow through on the compromises it has offered. That depends on the Oct. 26 parliamentary elections, from which Poroshenko may not emerge with a comfortable majority, as voters back populists and military commanders from the eastern war.

If Ukraine then returns to the political in-fighting and non-transparent dealings of the past, it will have a hard time persuading even its friends, the U.S. and the EU, to support it.

(To contact the writer of this article: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.net).

(To contact the editor responsible for this article: Marc Champion at mchampion7@bloomberg.net).

Bloomberg View.

Ukrainian, European parliaments approve long-awaited political association agreement; free trade pact delayed

by Anastasia Forina and Ian Bateson.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shows a newly voted Ukrainian law about the ratification of the Ukraine-EU association agreement on Sept. 16 at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. The Ukrainian and European parliaments on September 16 simultaneously ratified a landmark pact at the heart of the ex-Soviet country's bloodiest crisis since independence.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shows a newly voted Ukrainian law about the ratification of the Ukraine-EU association agreement on Sept. 16 at the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev. The Ukrainian and European parliaments on September 16 simultaneously ratified a landmark pact at the heart of the ex-Soviet country’s bloodiest crisis since independence. AFP PHOTO/GENYA SAVILOV © AFP

In sessions held simultaneously, the Ukrainian and European parliaments ratified association and free trade agreements on Sept. 16, nearly 10 months and a revolution after the deals were first rejected by former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by anti-government protesters in February as a result.

However, what many consider to be the most important provision of the association agreement, however, will be delayed. Under the agreement Ukraine is to join the European Union’s free trade zone, but in a concession to Russia it will not be allowed to join the free trade zone until 2016.

“The Heavenly Hundred and 872 brave Ukrainian fighters have died not only for Ukraine, but for us to take our rightful place in Europe,” said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in parliament, referring to protestors and servicemen who were killed in Kyiv during the EuroMaidan Revolution and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “There is not a single nation has paid as high a price for that since World War II.”

More than 100 people were killed during the revolution between late November 2013 and late February of this year, according to government statistics.

And some 3,000 people have been killed during the eastern conflict and more than a million displaced since the start of the government’s anti-terrorist operation in mid-April, the United Nations reported on Sept. 8. That figure includes 295 passengers who were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was allegedly shot out of the sky by a rocket in July while flying over the city of Torez, Donetsk Oblast.

In the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on Sept. 16, 355 MPs voted in favor of the agreement with 26 abstaining and none voting against. In the European Parliament, many of whose members came to Kyiv during the protests to show their support for the grassroots uprising, 535 voted for the agreement with 127 voting against and 35 abstaining.

“This is a historical moment,” said Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. “We will continue supporting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. These people are fighting for a better future, we are supporting the Ukrainian people in their will to make dreams of Maidan true.”

Russia has previously pushed Kyiv to join a Russian-led customs union and said it cannot be a member of both.

Critics have seen the delay of the free trade provision as Ukraine and the EU kowtowing to Russia. But not all experts agree.

“Russia wanted to change the text of the association agreement. It didn’t happen, and it was ratified as it was signed and prepared,” said Olexiy Haran a political analyst in Kyiv.

“It is a big step and something that took three presidents to achieve. It has finally been ratified and I think it is a choice of civilization,” he said.

Kyiv Post.

The British brain surgeon who joined the fight against #corruption in #Ukraine #HenryMarsh

Doctor and acclaimed author Henry Marsh had worked in Kiev for more than 20 years – then found himself in the middle of a revolution.

Henry Marsh stands in front of the Maidan protest in Kiev. Photograph: PRHenry Marsh stands in front of the Maidan protest in Kiev. Photograph: PR

I went to Kiev in December last year. The hospital where I work is in the centre of Kiev and only a few hundred yards away from Independence Square where Maidan – the demonstration against Yanukovych and his government – was in full swing. I helped operate on a young woman with a large brain tumour and saw the usual long queue of patients with awful problems in the dark and windowless corridor outside my colleague’s cramped little office.

While in Ukraine I made many visits to Maidan. To get to it you had to push your way through the lines of thuggish berkut – the special riot police. They were in visored black helmets, carried truncheons and shields and guns, and wore smart grey and blue camouflage uniforms. But once you were through the police lines you entered an extraordinary place. The central square in Kiev was packed with people, many draped in the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag. The air was full of the smell of wood smoke from the hundreds of oil drum braziers and field kitchens handing out free food. Flags and banners were flying everywhere. There were hundreds of tents, each with the name of the village or town from where the demonstrators had come. There were street musicians and bands playing all along Kreschatyk, the central street in Kiev. The atmosphere – despite the sinister police – was cheerful, yet you could feel a very real sense of determination. “We’re here to stay” everybody said while chanting “Bandu het!” ( Out with the gang).

I work as a senior consultant brain surgeon at St George’s Hospital in London. I had first gone to Ukraine in 1992 to give some lectures. The conditions I found in the hospitals I visited were terrible – the Soviet Union had been good at making guns and rockets but not much else. Healthcare – apart from for those in power – had been a low priority and, to make matters worse, the Ukrainian economy was in a dire state in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. I met a young neurosurgeon, Igor Kurilets, working in the State Emergency Hospital, who was burning with a fierce determination to improve things that most of his senior colleagues seemed to lack. It seemed a simple matter to help him and I took to driving to Ukraine with car loads of secondhand medical equipment – microscopes, operating tables, thousands of instruments –enough to equip an entire neurosurgical theatre. I soon learned, however, that the newly independent Ukraine had not lost its old Soviet habits; innovation and initiative and contact with the west, if not sanctioned by those in charge, were met with implacable opposition. Igor’s attempts, with my help, to do better for his patients, quickly ran into difficulties. There were endless enquiries and denunciations, and on several occasions members of Igor’s staff were sacked. At one time, following telephoned death threats, he even felt obliged to sleep in a different room each night. While his problems became ever greater, I felt I could not very well abandon him and I have continued to work with him, pro bono, in my spare time, ever since.

Igor eventually left the state system to set up his own private clinic, where he paid all his taxes, and bribes from patients were no longer required. Money and medicine are never far apart, and his transparent honesty and tremendous success (since patients flocked to see him) were seen by many as a threat.

At last, after more than 20 years, Igor’s position is reasonably secure. Since I first went there, healthcare in Ukraine has improved considerably, although by European standards the country remains very poor. But when I saw what was unfolding last winter, it seemed to me that the protesters against the Ukrainian government, and its closeness to Russia, were fighting the same fight Igor had been engaged in for so many years – a fight against corruption and arbitrary rule. Although Yanukovych had been democratically elected, the police and judicial system were so corrupt that this had little meaning. With his family and cronies he had quickly started to amass a personal fortune by embezzlement and intimidation, and this corruption had spread into every corner of Ukrainian life. Igor, for instance, had had to start paying regular bribes to the police and pharmacological authorities or face criminal prosecution for trivial infringements of unrealistic regulations. I visited Yanokovych’s notorious private pleasure palace at Mezhyhirya in March, when it was left empty and open to the public. Behind the 20ft high walls mounted with security cameras, there is a shooting gallery, a huge sauna surrounded by water gardens, a vast garage with its own petrol station and a six-litre Mercedes coupe parked outside ( the other cars had all been looted), as well as an enclosure with ostriches waiting to be eaten. And, of course, there is the palace and an airport. The way Yanukovych looted Ukraine is a perfect example of the “extractive” institutions (described by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson in their brilliant book Why Nations Fail) that lead eventually to the collapse of states and empires. Another country, which has similarly extractive institutions is Putin’s Russia.

‘Healthcare in Ukraine has improved since I first went there’… Henry Marsh. Photograph: PR‘Healthcare in Ukraine has improved since I first went there’… Henry Marsh. Photograph: PR

I returned to London on a wintry Sunday evening with deep reluctance, but I had a long list of operations for Monday. Then, on Tuesday of that week, Maidan turned violent when the government tried to evict the demonstrators. We have all seen the extraordinary scenes on television of the berkut locked in battle with the demonstrators, in temperatures down to -13C; scenes that looked like medieval battles. I rang Igor the following morning.

“They are heroes,” he said of the demonstrators, his voice breaking with emotion “Heroes. Henry, you must come back!” I felt a surge of patriotism within me for the country that has almost become my second home, even though I do not speak Russian or Ukrainian.

“Yes!” I shouted in reply because I had suddenly remembered that my outpatient clinic for the next day had been cancelled and I was supposed to be attending a rather dull meeting where nobody would notice my absence. I was able to get the last ticket out on the morning flight to Kiev the next day, 12 December, and so was back with my friends in Maidan by lunchtime.

The atmosphere now was very different. High barricades of bags packed with snow had been built round all the entrances to the square, so that the place looked like a fortress. Demonstrators wearing hard-hats or army helmets stood guard at the entrances, carrying shields and staves. Ruslana, the famous Ukrainian singer, was haranguing the crowd from the stage. “Bez krovni,” she said over and over again and they chanted it back: “Bez krovni” – “without blood”. I spent much of the next few days wandering around Maidan, since my visit was unplanned and there was little operating to be done. I was exhilarated (and worried) by what I saw but, once again, I had to return to London, deeply reluctant though I was to leave Kiev.

I next returned in early March. Yanukovych had fled the country, leaving a blackened and scarred Maidan behind him. Over 100 people had been killed there, shot down by snipers on the roofs of the buildings just next to the hospital in Institutska Street. One of the steel lamp-posts behind which the demonstrators had taken shelter was drilled with bullet holes – on the side facing away from the camp. So much for the Russian claims that the demonstrators had been shot in the back by their own side. Maidan was now a sad and sombre place with candles and plastic flowers and photographs of the dead on every corner, surrounded by smoke-darkened buildings.

Before Ukraine became headline news, when I told people at home of my enthusiasm for that country, they usually expressed some surprise.

“It’s in Russia, isn’t it?” was the usual response. I would explain how Ukraine was roughly divided into east and west, the west looking towards Europe and the east towards Russia, but would add that nobody expected that Ukraine would go the way of Yugoslavia. Ukraine was different. I would also say that it was a very important country but I doubt if anybody believed me.

All this has changed. Russia has invaded eastern Ukraine and the problem now is about Russia’s place in the modern world. Putin has replaced the dubious altruism of communism with the mystical pan-Slavism that has been the traditional response of some Russians to the existential threat they felt Russia faced from the west (which now takes the form of Nato). In this perspective, Ukraine is seen as part of Russia’s ancient heritage, while Ukraine’s move towards the west is a betrayal of this heritage and needs to be punished. The Russian equivalent of English jokes about the stupid Irish are told about Ukrainians. I suspect the closest analogy with many Russians’ view of Ukraine is with the patronising, colonial attitudes many people in England had toward Ireland in the past. The Soviet Union was, after all, the last of the great Empires and Putin has said that its demise was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Putin wants Russia to be a Great Power once again.

Equally important – perhaps more important – is the fact that Putin runs Russia on the same extractive, corrupt principles as Yanukovych ran Ukraine, and the success of Maidan at his back door has been a real threat to his own system of rule. It seems that Ukraine will pay a terrible price – it already has in terms of lives lost or ruined – for Russia’s failure to escape its past. I will be back in Kiev in December. I do not know what I will find, apart from a list of patients with difficult brain tumours and other neurosurgical problems waiting patiently outside Igor’s office.

(To buy Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh for £13.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on (+44) 0330 333 6846 or go to guardianbookshop.co.uk).

The Guardian.

#Ukraine: #Yatseniuk struggles to explain government achievements in half a year #Politics

by Katya Gorchinskaya.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk. © Courtesy

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk struggled to explain the achievements of his government to an international audience of a high-key conference in Kyiv on Sept. 13. He admitted that few vital reforms have been completed in the past half a year, and said that the war undermines further prospects for quick change.

“In the past six months we have (had) a revolution, we’re still in war, and there are two elections,” he said at Yalta European Strategy conference in Kyiv. He said that making any radical changes is difficult under current circumstances, but the energy to do it comes from people’s “strong desire to live in another country.”

Yatseniuk said that his government, which was brought to power after the EuroMaidan revolution that thwarted corrupt former President Viktor Yanukovych, failed to tackle corruption, overhaul a fundamentally flawed legislative system and judiciary system full of “corrupt judges and prosecutor,” and fix the Soviet-style police system.

“This is our agenda,” he said.

Yatseniuk is running for parliament in the Oct. 26 snap election at the helm of his newly created People’s Front party, who is planning to bring to the legislature a number of commanders from the front lines and revolution activists on their party list. Half of the 450-seat parliament is elected though party lists, and the rest through majority constituencies.

Yatseniuk, however, said that the government can boast a number of achievements. “After we took over the office of the prime minister, our key task was to resume the IMF program,” he said. Ukraine managed to do it in a short time, and received the second tranche of the Stand-By Arrangement from the IMF earlier this month, which has helped the government to plug the budget hole.

Yatseniuk also said that his government managed to also adopt two austerity packages, cut down public spending by more than 10 percent, as well as cut privileges, and hike housing bills and taxes to be able to fill the budget. “The majority of Ukrainian accepted those austerity measures,” he said.

He also said the government started a pro-transparency and anti-corruption campaign by passing a vital new public procurement law, eliminating a handful of controlling agencies and inspections, and cutting the number of various licenses from 143 to 84.

Yatseniuk said that the achievements of his government should not be under-estimated considering that it also has to cope with a war raging in the east. “This government is a war-time government. The key aggressor is the Russian Federation. Until we get peace it will be really difficult to get real change,” he said.

He said that a constant flow of news from the frontlines is in no way helpful. He said when people switch on the TV and see that the Russian tanks invaded, they “rush to the banks to get out deposits” and change them to hard currency, further escalating economic problems. Fear, he said, drives their moves.

On this background it’s a “key priority to deter Russia and start reform,” Yatseniuk said. “If we stop the war, if we contain Russia, we will get a chance to attract international investors. It’s not easy to attract investors when you have Russian tanks and Russian artillery in your country.”

Moreover, Russia is waging war on more than one front in Ukraine. One of the toughest is the energy. Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine in June because of an ongoing dispute over price for gas and Ukraine’s debt.

Yatseniuk’s government filed an arbitration claim against Russia’s Gazprom in Stockholm and started shipping gas from Europe through the so-called “reverse flow.” However, Russia made a new move in the past few days, cutting gas supply to some EU member nations who have been selling gas to Ukraine. “The idea was to stop the reverse flow,” Yatseniuk said. He also added that the Russian army has deliberately targeted coal mines with their strikes, and “a number of coal mines were entirely demolished and dismantled.”

“We have a problem with coal supply,” Yatseniuk admitted, saying that Ukraine started importing coal from other countries, including South Africa, “for the first time in two decades.”

“These are tremendous challenges. We have huge problems, but also huge opportunities,” Yatseniuk said.

(Kyiv Post deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at katya.gorchinskaya@gmail.com).

Kyiv Post.

#Ukraine: #Prosecutors say Kyiv #judges obstruct justice involving #EuroMaidan

by Katya Gorchinskaya.
More than 100 men from the protest camp on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, armed with clubs and wearing masks, take places near barricades on Feb. 11 to protest a court in Podil where a judge was deciding the fate of two protesters who had been under house arrest.More than 100 men from the protest camp on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, armed with clubs and wearing masks, take places near barricades on Feb. 11 to protest a court in Podil where a judge was deciding the fate of two protesters who had been under house arrest. © AFP

More than half a year after the end of the EuroMaidan Revolution, none of the crimes – including the murders of more than 100 demonstrators – have been punished.

Prosecutors say their attempts to bring to justice in a range of cases involving lesser crimes than murder are being blocked by the Kyiv Pechersk Court, the same court which sentenced ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to prison more than three years ago on politically motivated charges. Meanwhile, the investigations into the murders are continuing.

Instead of sanctioning certain procedural moves by the general prosecutor’s office against perpetrators of crimes, the court’s judges have, instead, been obstructing investigations, according to prosecutors, based on a preliminary batch of cases for lesser crimes for which they have sought court action.

The Pechersk court, however, refuted any allegations, of wrongdoing or obstruction. In written comments for the Kyiv Post, Svitlana Smyk, head of the court, said that her court acted within its legal powers and within the framework of law. She also warned against any attempts “to influence the court.” She also said that the court would not make any more details of the pre-trial investigations available.

There are 29 criminal cases open to investigate illegal arrests by Berkut and other police units of 130 protesters. They were accused of taking part in mass riots in January and February 2014. Those officials who ordered the illegal arrests still occupy their positions in the police force and other agencies.

In one case, seven students of Karpenko-Kary National University of Theatre, Cinema and TV were returning home late on Jan. 20, 2013 when several cars stopped next to them and the students were forced inside them. One young man managed to run away, but the other six were taken to the police station and accused of taking part in violent mass riots on Hrushevsky Street that started the previous day.

The students, however, explained that they were visiting protest sites to collect footage for a film, which was a part of their assignment at the university. Nevertheless, two students were jailed for a month, while four others were sentenced to house arrest.

After the end of the revolution, which deposed the authoritarian and corrupt regime of President Viktor Yanukovych, the prosecutor’s office found that these young people “had nothing to do with events on Hrushevsky Street, but were only collecting video footage for their academic works,” Larysa Milevych, spokeswoman of the prosecutor general, said in a letter to Anti-Corruption Action Center, a corruption watchdog. The letter was obtained by the Kyiv Post.

Around the same time, two drivers were arrested in the center of Kyiv simply because they had car tires in their trunk. EuroMaidan protesters burned tires in January to defend themselves from police fire as confrontations increased between rioters and the government.

The men who were transporting tires were accused of participating in riots on Hrushevsky Street, including hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the police, and setting police vehicles on fire. They were jailed despite a lack of evidence to prove their crimes.

Investigators of the general prosecutor’s office found these cases to be illegal, and assembled enough evidence to open probes against three police officers, two prosecutors and one judge for abuse of human rights of the drivers who carried car tires.

But to move any further, they needed the Kyiv Pechersk court to suspend these officials from their duties and the court refused to do it, Milevych said. The investigators filed an appeal, she added.

An investigator at the general prosecutor’s office, who spoke to the Kyiv Post on condition of anonymity, said that the Pechersk court, whose judges have not been rotated after the revolution, has been consistently stalling investigations against law enforcers, other judges and officials.

He also said sensitive and confidential information has been leaked from this court in high profile cases, for example, when prosecutors would request a search warrant. “The next day we arrive for a search, but the residence was cleared out the night before,” the investigator explained.

He said it was really difficult to work under such circumstances, especially now, when many high profile investigations are coming to an end and require procedural moves, including detentions, of senior former and current officials.

The Kyiv Post sources in prosecutor general’s office also said that the Pechersk Court refused to grant detectives access to files of criminal cases related to EuroMaidan and other earlier investigations. One of those cases is the 2011 arrest of ex-Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko. He was sentenced for abuse of office in a case that the European Court for Human Rights called political. Lutsenko was released from prison last year and has become an adviser to President Petro Poroshenko.

Kyiv Post.