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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

This song by Swedish pop group ABBA dates back to 1980, the year I was born.

ABBA even did a Spanish version:

The year 2009 may be a tough one, but still I want to say Happy New Year to all of you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kosmos Shares His Dry Dream About Tymoshenko, Sniffs Out Glue Sniffers

While presenting his luxury tax legislation in the Kyiv City Council, Mayor Chernovetsky said the following: "She [Tymoshenko] came to me in a nice dream yesterday…not in an erotic dream. Nothing happened, because I love my wife, and she [Tymoshenko] doesn’t love me sometimes."

Comparing his initiative with Tymoshenko’s philosophy, Chernovetsky added: "We think alike with her, and what’s more, at night, in my dream, I received full confirmation of that."

Ain’t that some food for thought for sexologists, ufologists and toxicologists?

So how about Tymoshenko starts paying him $100,000 for appearing in his dry dreams?

Speaking of toxicologists...

Chernovetsky: I can tell by your eyes you don’t sniff glue, right?
Homeless kids: No.

Chernovetsky: Why?
Homeless kids: Why should we?

Chernovetsky: Is it fun?
Homeless kids: No.

Chernovetsky: Do you use drugs? At what age did you start smoking?
Homeless kid: Me? Well, I’ve been smoking for three months already.

Chernovetsky: You quit? That’s a good boy!

That’s a good listener!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

$100,000 for a Meeting With a Babushka Lover-Singer

Down with bribery! Long live babushkas!

Kyiv Mayor Leonid “Kosmos” Chernovetsky: For the last lunch, the entrepreneurs paid me $800,000 — paid to the budget. All of this will go to my beloved babushkas. They will also pay us for meeting with every one of my deputies. I’ll charge not less than $100,000 for a meeting.

Wow! The $50,000 rate is history! The stakes are skyrocketing!

The “pay grades” per meeting: Deputy Mayor Irena Kilchytska, up to $10,000; other deputies, at least $11,000, the land department chief, $5,000. (Poor Irena! I think the City Hall needs to hire someone from Hay or Mercer to ensure internal consistency, or some talent may walk out the door.)

Chernovetsky: First, you show me a slip certifying that you paid for a meeting with the modest Mayor who loves babushkas — to the tune of $100,000 — and then you talk about your problems. And this goes only to the budget of Kyiv. There will be a note from the bank: “Paid to the budget of Kyiv for the benefit of the Mayor’s beloved babushkas.” That’s it! If you want to do business fast, please pay less than a bribe — to the budget — and breathe easy. That’s the approach I declare.

He doesn’t just declare it. He serenades it.

Bonus track: “Pisnya pro rushnyk (Ridna maty moya),” or “A Song About the Towel (Native Mother of Mine)”

Chernovetsky: I’m a very creative person. I have a tender soul. I have a musical education, absolute pitch. On New Year’s Eve, I will sing to all Ukrainians…the song I was born with: “Ridna maty moya,” alright, “ty nochei ne dospala.” I’ve sung this song for the outstanding Channel 5 — completely — I was euphoric, it was Sunday, before I went to bed. Then I had a good night’s sleep myself. And now, to the world’s best channel, TV channel, TRK Kyiv. Enjoy! Say what? Shall we do it? Will you show it? Maybe I shouldn’t?

Reporters: Go ahead! Go ahead!


Рiдна мати моя, ти ночей не доспала,
Ти водила мене у поля край села, [hums]
I в дорогу далеку ти мене на зорi проводжала,
I рушник вишиваний на щастя дала.
I в дорогу далеку ти мене на зорi проводжала,
I рушник вишиваний на щастя, на долю дала. [hums]

Bye! [laughs]

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

27 Dead in Apartment Blast in Yevpatoria, Crimea (Updated)

A massive explosion on Wednesday night blew an apartment block off a 5-storied building in Yevpatoria, Crimea, killing 27 people, including three children and entire families, one of them of five people. (as of Friday morning)

A group of 6-7 children believed to be trapped in the basement used cell phones to call their parents.

Almost 300 rescue workers are working around the clock.

The cause of the accident may have been oxygen tanks stored in the basement.

The rising death toll puts the tragedy in Yevpatoria next to last year's gas blast in Dnipropetrovsk.

PM Tymoshenko has pledged full government support to the victims and their families.

According to Channel 1+1 reporters, investigators retrieved a tank from the basement and, forbidding the reporters to film it, whisked it off the scene.

December 26 will be a day of mourning in Ukraine.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas! З Різдвом Христовим!

Enjoy different choirs perform "Shchedryk," also known as the "Ukrainian Bell Carol!"

Ukrainian choirs

Israeli choir

Russian choirs

Polish choir

Romanian choir

Merry Christmas to all Protestants and Roman Catholics!
З Різдвом Христовим!

Yushchenko Wrestles With a Democratic Question (Updated)

On Tuesday, President Yushchenko threw a grand Putin-style annual press conference. With Ukraine being more democratic than Russia, he had to answer the most democratic question.

Serhiy Leshchenko, Ukrayinska Pravda: The question that drew the greatest amount of feedback — on all of the three web sites — I think most people present here know it, as do you, Viktor Andriyovych. The question reads as follows: “Dear Mr. President, please tell us how much we, the ordinary people, should pay you so that you, along with all the MPs, ministers, and government officials, will leave the country forever and will not stand in the way of Ukraine’s normal development?” This question generated 85,850 votes and the greatest number of votes on our sites as well. Thank you, in advance, for answering.

President Yushchenko: Thank you, Mr. Serhiy. Well, first of all, I was thinking whether I should…answer it in as humo…in as humorous a manner as this question is being asked. Obviously, this question is a provocative one. Obviously, it’s being asked for posturing. It’s not all that important how one answers it. But I would like to add a somewhat serious note here. You know, dear authors of this question…though, let me tell you a secret: two-thirds of the authors of this question are not from Ukraine — or represent non-Ukrainian outlets. But that’s alright. That’s how in Ukraine they got used to viewing various aspects of domestic policy, which solely pertains to the affairs of this state, this government. Very often, we can’t even formulate a question without “tips.” But, alright, let’s set emotions aside. We’re talking about people, dear nation, dear journalists, whom you elected. I think you elected every single MP who’s in Parliament today. Every minister who works today is a person who, as a rule, previously worked as an MP in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and who received electoral support, including the support of those people who are asking these questions, apparently.

This question is not as banal as it seems. It’s a question that spurs the creation of common responsibility of those who were elected and those who elect. It’s a rhetorical question: The government merely reflects the people, although I don’t accept this notion because the government, a true government, I am convinced, should be a few steps ahead, showing the nation, showing the people, the way — perhaps today some may find it impossible or infeasible — or showing the answer to the questions that are not popular. But born by the elite is a new politician who tells the nation every day: “Our choice is this. We must go there. Tomorrow, we must be there.” Like it or not, we should discuss the things that perhaps are emotional and unacceptable to some, but in the absence of this truth in the life of society, we are reverting to Asiatic society. We are reverting to feudalism. We are reverting to yesterday.

I am happy — I genuinely want to say — that you, Serhiy, have the right, as a journalist, to voice this question, because I believe that in many countries, including neighboring countries, such questions would never even get off the ground. And not only are we here today asking these questions, but we are also trying to gi…to give an answer to…for whom it is a challenge and how to deal with it.

And lastly…speaking of pay…it's corruption. Such propositions won’t cut it. We should improve relations between the government and the voter. I am convinced that a better formula for answering this question is…democratization. We should never fool around with democratic processes. We should be watchful of the processes taking place. And the fact that today is not an easy time for Ukrainian democracy — that the whim of some today to portray democracy as ineffective, that today we should revert to the mode we had four, five, six or seven years ago — this…this is also one of the contexts of our discussion today: so that we won’t have second thoughts after abandoning democracy, so that we won’t be witness to the scene of 47 million common sense people being sent on the same route.

He just didn’t get it, did he?

It was not a provocative question! It was a practical question. It was not about posturing. It was about problem-solving. It concerned the entire government machinery and political elite, including his arch-enemies and arch-friends.

A straight question needs a straight answer. Instead, we got a rambling lecture, replete with peripheral thinking. The President totally withdrew his persona from the story, unless, of course, he referred to himself as the “new politician” born by the elite.

Now, the President maintains that two-thirds of the question voters came from abroad, alluding to Russia. According to Ukrayinska Pravda, more than 66% of the question referrals came from the Ukrainian segment of the web, as supported by sitemeter data.

Moving on, the President addresses Serhiy Leshchenko by the informal pronoun ти instead of the polite Ви, as required by the basic rules of ethics. (Well, that’s a great leap forward considering how the President lashed out at Leshchenko in 2005 for probing his son’s luxury lifestyle.) Anyway, not only does the President patronize the reporter, but he also makes interesting compliments about the advantages of democracy.

Speaking of democracy, shouldn’t we distinguish it from plutocracy and kleptocracy? Speaking of corruption, wasn’t it in the office of the President’s representative in Lviv oblast that The Hon. Ihor Zvarych harvested some of his bribes?

And what about that "ambulance for every village" promise championed by the President’s party in 2007? What about "lifting parliamentary immunity?" What about "one law for all?"

47 million common sense people? Mr. President, as of December 2008, we only have about 46.2 million people left in Ukraine.

Ukrayinska Pravda and Korespondent today issued a joint statement, demanding a clarification from the Presidential Secretariat.

They claim that more than 82 percent of the Internet questions posed to the President, and the votes they generated, came from Ukraine.

According to the latest geolocation report released by Ukrayinska Pravda, the most popular question drew 70,663 votes from Ukraine (82.31%), 9,126 votes from Russia (10.63%), and 821 votes from the U.S. (0.96%).

Other countries:

Germany, 776 (0.9%)
Belarus, 406 (0.47%)
UK, 260 (0.3%)
Canada, 256 (0.3%)
Moldova, 214 (0.25%)
Estonia, 182 (0.21%)
Czech Republic, 130 (0.15%)
Norway, 129 (0.15%)

Moreover, because the presidential press service attributed its "two-thirds" figure to "state intelligence agencies", Ukrayinska Pravda and Korespondent demand a thorough and independent investigation of the matter. No such numbers would have been available in the first place without unauthorized access to their computers, the two news engines said.

At the same time, the two rejected the idea of an SBU investigation, citing visitor privacy concerns.

We demand that the Secretariat of the President clarify the statements made at the live-broadcast press conference.

We will deem the absence of a response as a violation of freedom of speech. Unfortunately, it has become accepted practice in Ukraine to leave socially newsworthy information made public by journalists unanswered.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa Kosmos Lights Up Christmas Tree

As thousands of Kyivites get fired, Kyiv Mayor Leonid “Kosmos” Chernovetsky imports a Finnish Santa Claus and paints the sky with fireworks.

On December 20, Kyivites witnessed the best of bread and circuses.

The Finnish Santa Claus-for-hire

Kyiv Mayor Leonid "Kosmos" Chernovetsky: Kyiv has many problems, but today we will not talk about bad things. Today, there’s a holiday waiting for us. At the City Hall, we prepared for you the best, the tallest, the most beautiful, and the fluffiest Christmas tree. It’s made up of four hundred…and fifty pines. We spent half a million hryvnias on it.

Let’s not talk about how much we spent!

Mayor Chernovetsky:
Every year, we add one meter to the Christmas tree. Soon, it will reach the sky. Citizens, have fun! It’s all for you!
Now, I have the magic word. I suppose the Christmas tree should be lit. You’re not screaming loud enough! Louder!

Finito la comedia!

P.S. Here’s a funny Soviet postcard I found by happenstance.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kyivites Honk Horns Against Oppression of Middle Class

On December 22, at noon, Kyivites honked their horns to protest against rampant government corruption and endless power struggles wrecking the Ukrainian Dream amid the country’s deepest economic crisis since the early ‘90s.

Signs on cars: “Enough!”
Banners: “Rescue team”

The man who mobilized this mini-Maidan on wheels is journalist Yuriy Romanenko, author of the The Middle Class Manifesto.

Romanenko explains the self-organized protest, denies partisan affiliation, thanks activists, outlines further we’ll-get-them protests, and narrates Ukraine political landscape:

It’s understood in this country that none of them is adequate: neither Yushchenko nor Yanukovych nor Tymoshenko nor Chernovetsky — no one. It’s just a bunch of people who got entangled in their petty games.

Man atop SUV: “Enough! Enough! Enough!”

Man on sidewalk: “It’s important that people react, that they don’t feel afraid to squeeze out the slave inside.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tymoshenko, Stelmakh Trade Barbs; Yushchenko Offers Reassurances

With the dollar trading close to Hr. 9 on the interbank currency exchange, up from Hr. 4.60 in the spring, Ukraine faces its deepest economic crisis since the early ‘90s.

Millions will lose their subsistence jobs, and thousands already have. Currency speculators are ringing up record profits, and government officials keep finger-pointing.

PM Yulia Tymoshenko on Thursday charged President Yushchenko and National Bank Governor Volodymyr Stelmakh with having a role in the currency speculations. Stelmakh countercharged:

NBU Chairman Volodymyr Stelmakh: Today, Ukraine’s economy is in a very difficult situation. The government’s grossly incompetent policies in managing the economy have led to a point where, already in December of this year, Ukraine may find itself in domestic default. Today, the government has no money for wages, pensions, social security, and liabilities of foreign and domestic kind. The Board of Governors of the National Bank of Ukraine is concerned about today’s situation, when the Prime Minister has crossed the line that no one has ever crossed. Particularly cynical is the fact that the ammo in the government’s political wars may very well be ordinary people who will be the first to suffer from the banking system’s stabilization. [sic]

This reminds me of Yanukovych’s Freudian slip during the presidential debates: “We must secure for our citizens a feeling of insecurity.”

To soothe the soul of the insecure “little Ukrainian,” Yushchenko offers his reassurances:

President Yushchenko: Currently, the National Bank is switching to daily auction mode, which aims to start currency trading from the highest bid. Those who made such a high bid, let them buy. But they will know that tomorrow they will lose because the announced exchange rate for tomorrow will be different.

The good news: In today’s interbank exchange trading, the hryvnia rebounded to Hr. 8.5 per dollar.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

$50,000 for a Lunch With Kosmos

Enjoy this follow-up report!

Kyiv Mayor Leonid “Kosmos” Chernovetsky: The President of the United States of America poses for pictures and meets with entrepreneurs, no matter what they do, as long as they stay within the boundaries of the law. Today, there were 14 people, $50,000 apiece, for a total of $700,000.

Reporter: You just had lunch for $50,000!
Respondent: No, there’s something...this is a totally different kind of info.

Chernovetsky: We agreed that each of the gambling operations will be running powerful charitable programs.

Respondent: We now have to discuss this, these questions, whether it’s $50,000 or more.

Chernovetsky: …to set up a patrol using the proceeds from the gambling business and, within three months, to destroy all the illegal slot machines.

Respondent: You can pay once in a month and you can pay ten times.

Chernovetsky: I’ll send the money they paid me for this lunch to my dear babushkas in the way of social security.

Quick facts:
Bush’s going fundraiser rate: from $500 to $25,000.

Obama campaign’s average donation in June: $68.

Ukraine’s distribution of wealth differs significantly from America’s.

In 2008, Kyiv ranked as the world’s 42nd/45th expensive city, while Ukraine occupied Europe’s next-to-last purchasing power position.

So this Robin Hood wants “rob” the gamblers to “pay” the babushkas so they will reelect him. And what do those babushkas get when they sell their votes for a pack of buckwheat?

First, they sacrifice their grandchildren’s playgrounds and parks to the City Hall’s barbaric construction/zoning policies.

Second, they set the ground for a fourfold transport fare hike.

Third, they go without hot water for a few winter days.

Now toss out a few crumbs to them and do it all over again. That’s the plan.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kosmos Praises Babushkas

Coming on the heels of last week’s 4-day hot water outage, he talks about love.

Kyiv Mayor Leonid “Kosmos” Chernovetsky: I love Kyiv babushkas and dedushkas very much. This love is sincere on both sides. I just adore them. I know they will never forsake me. They will never believe that I can even think poorly of them, let alone do something. It’s they who are today’s only contemporary heroes in Ukraine. They secured heating in every home in all of Ukraine. All mayors should bow down before these people, right to their feet. That’s my business with my babushkas. There are 500,000 of them in Kyiv — those who support me — and as long as they treat me with love, I will not leave the post of mayor no matter what positions I’m offered.

Wait a minute. Did he say “offered” in the passive voice? What about his PM ambition? What is this guy on?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Judge Who 'Borrowed/Harvested' $2M+Hr. 2M Gets Away

Forget about Blagojevich. Forget about the penis pump judge.

Channel 1+1 presents a Ukrainian judge who claims to have borrowed — and harvested — the nearly $2M plus Hr. 2M that the SBU found in his office.

The Hon. Ihor Zvarych: I borrowed about 1,900,000 dollars from a colleague…via an I-O-U! Right on my desk, in my apartment, there was a ledger that clearly stated the types of construction works, the whos and whens, and the amounts of money allocated.

Ukrainians have this habit: to "sow" an offi...a new office — some with kopiykas, some with hryvnias, and some with dollars. [refers to the Ukrainian caroling tradition of tossing grain; panel explodes with laughter]

I appreciate your jokes and applause, but...

Here were these 10 to 20-kopiyka coins, hryvnias, dollars and all the rest that was in the package, known as “big sack one.”

Here I was falling. I’d ask them to let me use the bathroom. They mistreated me and told me they’d bring it over here and that I would relieve myself right here, on this spot. It was right here that they were throwing me around. It was from this window that I wanted to jump while suffering from this lawlessness being committed against me, and I’m not bluffing at this point. From there, I was hauled around the office by physical force.

Can you f*****g believe this? Not only does he excel in accounting, but, alas, he also dabbles in anthropology! This is the Chief Judge of Lviv Administrative Court of Appeals that deals with multimillion land and VAT rebate disputes!

After the SBU searched his office on December 3, The Hon. Ihor Zvarych checked into a private clinic, under oath not to leave town.

Dismissed from his position but not disbarred from judicial immunity yet, he then used that immunity to breach that oath. The SBU, which apparently had not placed him under surveillance, has now put out an APB on him.

One more thing: According to a bizarre article of Ukraine’s Constitution, a judge may be disbarred only after being convicted.

So, it’s “catch me if you can,” or “one law for all,” as Yushchenko put it.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Yushchenko’s Guards Beat Up Elderly Orange Revolution Vet

Baba Paraska represents the Orange Revolution as Joe the Plumber represents the American middle class.

I last saw her on November 22, at the Holodomor commemoration service attended by President Yushchenko. On December 15, President Yushchenko came to lay flowers at the Monument to Vyacheslav Chornovil, the famous Rukh opposition leader. And so did Baba Paraska, except that she came uninvited. She’s now in the hospital — thanks to Yushchenko’s guards.

Her story epitomizes the plight of the Orange Revolution. It highlights the downslide of Yushchenko’s leadership: from the “People’s President” who mixed and mingled with Maidaners to one who shuns them.

Still, he has to live with increased freedom of the press, the salvage value of the Orange Revolution. Baba Paraska’s story gained wide publicity in the Ukrainian media.

Baba Paraska: Isn't it because of the presidential entourage that you don’t want to talk to me? I didn’t sell myself for money.

Narrator: Baba Paraska got beaten — by none other than the President’s security detail. The warrior woman is certain of that, as certain as she is of the ideals of Maidan.

Baba Paraska: So here I am standing. They all surrounded me real tight here. A car came and instantly they grabbed me by the shoulders and legs, and, folding me in half, they’re hauling me into the car, and from above, and mumbling and pummeling me with fists in the shoulders and kidneys. And from the back, one can’t see that the car has approached, and already they’re hitting me in the back and twisting me into a bow and throwing me into the car. Now I’m beaten and it’s been four years since they haven’t allowed me near him. I’m very upset about Na…because I don’t know if it’s Nasha Ukrayina or whatever that’s putting such entourage on me. I’ll tell the President what entourage…[incoherent]

Narrator: The President didn’t find any time at all for his fellow Maidaner. Yushchenko’s spokeswoman, Iryna Vannykova, did find the time: 2 minutes.

Iryna Vannikova: Hello?
Baba Paraska: Irusyu, good evening, sweetheart. This is Babka Paraska…

Iryna Vannikova: Good evening.

Baba Paraska: …calling.

Iryna Vannikova: Yes, please.
Baba Paraska: Do you hear me, sweetheart? Do you hear me? Hello? Hello? What’s up with her?

Narrator: Paraska is disappointed. She doesn’t have the courage to call the man himself, even though she says she does have the number. She dials Larysa Mudrak, chief of the presidential press service.

Larysa Mudrak: Don’t worry, don’t cry. Everything will be alright. Go get some rest and medical treatment. Everything will be alright. We’ll get the word out, we’ll file a complaint against the guards.

Baba Paraska: Don’t hang up on me, I’m begging you, because Irynka, the President’s secretary, hung up on me. They dumped me like a dog. Mr. President, did I really deserve this, darling?

A report in Segodnya quotes Baba Paraska as saying:

My back hurts, and so does something inside. It’s hard to get out of bed. Perhaps there’s a crack in a rib or some abdominal trauma. While being pulled away, I kept saying: Don’t beat me, I’m old enough to be your mother. But they just laughed and pummeled me with fists in the shoulders and kidneys, and then I felt that something cracked in my back.

I had an X-ray but the doctors aren’t telling anything. They only said that the treatment would take six weeks. I’m in a two-person ward. As for medications, they’ve mainly administered painkillers. I feel hurt and bitter to have been treated this way. I’m not a thug. The whole country knows me by face. I believe it’s a spit in the face of all who were at Maidan.

I believe she's right.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Did I Miss? (Updated)

A number of major events took place during my 9-day blogging hiatus.

Patriarch Alexy died. Influential in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church needs to find a successor for the job that traditionally involves theopolitics. Of the 27,942 parishes the ROC controls, 10,875 come from Ukraine (under the title of UOCMP).

Lytvyn in, Yanuk out. On Tuesday, the Rada elected Volodymyr Lytvyn speaker. The voting breakdown: PRU, 3 out 175; BYuT, 154 out of 156; NUNS, 40 out of 72; CPU, 27 out of 27; LyB, 20 out of 20. It’s unclear whether this de facto Lytvyn coalition will gain de jure status. Nor is it clear what cabinet roles, if any, will be awarded to the Communist Party, which jumped on the Lytvyn bandwagon. What’s clear is that big boy Yanukovych remains in the opposition ranks. (Three Regionalist dissenters supported Lytvyn, among them MP Zvyahilsky.) For Lytvyn, the appointment ends more than a year of fence-sitting and opens a fast track of crisis management window-dressing. The man and his party must show some results. Empty-handed, the Lytvyn Bloc stands little chance of being reelected in case Yushchenko unfreezes his snap parliamentary elections initiative. And by the way, Yushchenko has urged NUNS to abstain from the new coalition, blessed by Tymoshenko.

Gas deal stalls as debt lingers. Ukraine owes Russia $2.4B. Negotiations continue.

Baba Paraska got beaten. By Yushchenko’s security detail, as the main theory goes. Here, the iconic Orange Revolution vet tells a story of being assaulted by a group of men as she tried to get in touch with the President. The men grabbed her and hauled her into a car, hitting her in the shoulders and kidneys, Grandma Paraska, 69, says. Once the darling of Yushchenko and Orange patricians, she no longer gets the warm reception she got in the heyday of Maidan. After marketing himself as the “People’s President” in 2004, the Yushchenko of today rarely fraternizes with the “little Ukrainian,” the elixir of his presidency. Now that he pissed it all away, he obviously believes in the divine origin of power. The trouble is, the emperor has no clothes.

Hot water went off in Kyiv. It’s not just Russia who turns the heat off in winter. Starting Thursday, Kyivenergo, the local electricity company, turned off hot water in most Kyiv districts. Background: The local utility industry belongs to Kyivenergoholding, a company started in 2006 by the City Council and two Cyprus-registered partners: Densec Ltd, and Zarova Ltd (well represented in the City Council). Kyivenergoholding, in turn, owns three utility companies: Kyivgas, Kyivvodokanal, and Kyivenergo. Citing non-payment of Hr. 347M by Kyiv municipal authorities, Kyivenergo pulled the plug on most of the city, including about 200 HMOs, 300 kindergartens and 230 schools. You’d think Kyivites would take to the streets and put the water barons in hot water. Naw. So far, we have suffered in silence. President Yushchenko, Premier Tymoshenko and Mayor Chernovetsky have issued orders and made promises to restore hot water supplies. As of 10:20 Sunday morning (Kyiv time), the hot air in my apartment has yet to become hot water.

As of 11:54 Sunday morning, hot water has been restored.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Putin Tries to Speak Ukrainian

Enjoy this rare video, courtesy of ICTV.

Russian PM Vladmir Putin: One of my pals, in years gone by, used to say — whenever I posed some difficult questions to him, he’d say to me: “Ty sho, z gluzdu zyikhal chy sho?” Now, if you’ll excuse my pronunciation — it may be wrong — but the translation is: “What, have you lost your mind?” Same here. Just go to Germany and sa…walk into any store and say, “I want to take this Mercedes for free.” Will they give it to you? Or at half price? Why should we then give it away at half price?

Nice try, Mr. Putin! It’s actually “Ty shcho, z gluzdu zyikhav chy shcho?” (“Have you lost your mind or what?”)

But that’s not the point. Of course, Ukraine pays less for Russia’s natural gas supplies than Europe does. Reciprocally, Russia pays less for gas transit and storage in Ukraine than it does in Europe.

Our price survey would be incomplete without mention of rent for military bases. And guess what? That’s where the reciprocity ends.

Just a few benchmark figures:

At the lower end, we have the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Annual rent: $4,085.

At the upper end, we have the Subic Bay Naval Base. Annual rent: $481,000,000.

That sum comes from the 1988 agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines and does not include the money funneled into the local economy all the while: about a billion dollars a year.

Adjusted for inflation, the sum would be even bigger. And by the way, the U.S. Navy vacated the base in 1992, fulfilling the request of the Philippine government.

By comparison, Russia refuses to discuss withdrawal plans and, since 1997, has paid Ukraine $98M a year for using the naval base in Sevastopol.

You do the math.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Rogozin to Ukraine: We’re Glad You Didn’t Get MAP

As NATO once again rejected Kyiv’s application for MAP, the man who routinely patronizes Ukraine could hardly contain his joy. “Pomatrosili i brosili” (“humped her and dumped her”), he summed up.

He said more:

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO: Ukraine has a very important choice to make: uh…to become a state…uh…desired by truly all — both by Russia and the West — uh…and to dev…to think about its economy, to raise quality of life standards, or, in such a silly manner, to throw itself into the whirlpool, whether by cordial attachment or arrangement — I really don’t know what it is that you have. We’re just worried about you and glad for you — glad you didn’t get MAP, and I think you should share this joy with us.

Thank you, Kremlin! Thank you, Europe! You’ve been very helpful!

Here’s your “Ode to Joy!”

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"Ode to Joy":