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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Gazprom Strengthens Spiritual Ties with Belarus, Ukraine, Russian Orthodox Clergy Believes

Reddite igitur quae sunt Caesaris Caesari et quae sunt Dei Deo. (Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.)

Ever been to a country where God takes orders from the Caesar? Welcome to Russia! An organization called the International Fund for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples seems to have no qualms about basing its ecumenical judgment on current geopolitical trends. You’re gonna love this. In doling out annual awards, the board of governors at the IFUOP has picked the Russian gas monopoly as an icon of promoting Christian values.

For Patriarch Alexy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who happens to preside over the IFUOP, the publicity stunt breaks no new ground.

Since times immemorial, the Orthodox clergy has been in lockstep with the Kremlin’s policy, using every opportunity to adorn the Caesar with Christian confetti. Most of the episcopate spared by the Bolsheviks ended up on KGB payrolls, a trend that showed no signs of stopping after the collapse of communism.

Alexy’s Orthodox brethren in Ukraine and Belarus should pray for his soul, for the IFUOP’s choice certainly strikes many of them as an outrageous pinnacle of absurdity.

This New Year, Gazprom is holding a spiritual déjà vu workshop with Belarus.

Suggested New Year’s resolution for the IFUOP: diversify into the indulgence business. If Rome did it in the Middle Ages, why can’t you in the Information Age? Gazprom got gas to burn. God bless Gazprom!

P.S. Perhaps honoring Saddam with a posthumous award for resisting the enemy of the Orthodox peoples would not be amiss.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Limoboy Yanukovych Escorts Putin Out of Yushchenko’s Office

The lackluster Yushchenko-Putin meeting ended with a blockbuster starring Yanukovych.

Mindful that the walls on Bankova have ears, and careful not to infringe on President Yushchenko’s foreign policy prerogative, President Putin and Premier Yanukovych went one-on-one Beverly Hills-style.

Reporters covering the event sighted the Don of Donbas speeding away in Putin’s Pullman, a custom-built Mercedes airlifted from Moscow, where he presumably accompanied the Russian guest to Boryspil Airport. Details of the conversation were not immediately available. It should be noted that the two have a rather bizarre relationship built on rejected candies and premature congratulations.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in Vladimir’s armored sleigh.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turkmenbashi Meets His Maker

Saparmurat "Father of the Turkmen" Niyazov, 66, the semi-godlike leader of the gas-rich Turkmenistan, passed away last night, Reuters reports.

His sudden death after twenty years of rule over the Central Asian former Soviet Union republic reduces the cadre of Gorbachev-era Genghis Khans down to two, Islom Karimov of Uzbekistan and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. It leaves the bereaved country with a grotesque personality cult that rivals Stalin’s.

The late President-for-life Niyazov can be rightfully considered a 21st-century embodiment of Big Brother.

Turkmenbashi, whose highfalutin self-title has made him political shorthand for authoritarianism, followed his subjects almost everywhere. He followed them on the streets and in facilities that bear his name; in parks and squares that exhibit his statues; in pockets full of — or rather, not-so-full-of — manat, the Turkmen national currency that glorifies his face. In fact, the Turkmen may not be the only people he pursued in this universe. A meteorite named after him may well be carrying some sort of ambassadorial aura to extraterrestrial civilizations.

Back on earth, Turkmenbashi’s communication strategy reached way beyond his realm. With “Ruhnama,” an ultra-Leviathan farrago of folklore and philosophy, Niyazov took a dive into the global book business. Thanks to a steady stream of gas revenues, this supposedly ghostwritten masterpiece has been translated into 30 languages. What a way to spend money!

“Ruhnama,” a must-read for the pubescent Machiavellis of the world, comes as a red-blooded addition to the “Despot Dreamers” library of such works as Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book,” Kim Il-Sung’s “Juche,” and Kuchma’s “Ukraine Is Not Russia.” Sascha Baron Cohen should be gnashing his teeth for picking the wrong country.

Niyazov walked out of this life having secured a higher rate for gas exports to Russia. Starting next year, Russia will shell out $100 per 1000 cubic meters, up from $60.

A tight and highly profitable web of interrelationships characterizes Eurasian politics. Through the Russian pipeline, Turkmenistan supplies most of the gas consumed in Ukraine. Russia, in turn, exports its own gas to Europe through the Ukrainian pipeline, while importing cheaper gas from Turkmenistan to cover domestic demand.

Questions abound: Will Vlad the Impaler manage to drill his proboscis into a demoralized gas kingdom? What’s in the pipeline for Ukraine? How will Turkmenbashi’s death affect Europe’s energy equation? Hopefully, one day the people of Turkmenistan will wake up and put their idols where they belong.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kefirman Azarov to Rada Minority: "Screw You!"

Elitism aside, emotions can be just as hard to contain for Vice Premier Mykola Azarov. Seeking support needed to override the presidential budget veto, Kefirman came soliciting before the Verkhovna Rada.

Rumors of BYuT’s Faustian deal with the Anticrisis Coalition did little to alleviate the heightened speech anxiety he must have experienced due to the polarity in the audience. It didn’t take long before his rhetorical molecules reached the boiling point. With a bad-tempered yet non-offensive hand gesture, Kefirman shot back at his scoffers, “Da poshli vy!”

What followed was a tornado of laughter and mock applause from BYuT and NSNU. “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself,” as Madonna put in “Human Nature.”

Azarov has already discovered a lyrical niche in the anatomy of Russian-Ukrainian relations. His thanksgiving single “For Distinguished Service in Reviving Ukraine,” devoted to Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin, topped Ukraine’s political Billboard.

In fact, the single was more of an award, as it came in the form of a medal of honor — custom-commissioned by Azarov. Wait until you hear this. Konstantin Zatulin, the beneficiary, currently ranks on the SBU’s persona non grata list for meddling in Ukrainian internal affairs.

Perhaps, if maestro Azarov sat on the Board of Governors at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he would backorder an Oscar for Osama bin Laden.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

You Voted a Strange Person, or "Got Kefir?"

The strange person is Mykola Azarov, Vice Premier and Finance Minister in the Yanukovych Cabinet.


Появляется мнение о том, что якобы существуют такие проекты, от которых нужно отказаться, и нужно экономику развивать через увеличение потребления кефира нашими пенсионерами. Я задаю себе простое питання: сколько надо кефира дополнительно выпить нашим пенсионерам, чтобы построить мост через реку Днепр?"
One school of thought has it that there are projects out there that we should forgo, and that we build the economy through increased consumption of kefir (fermented milk) by our seniors. Now here’s a simple question I ask myself: How much more kefir does it take our seniors to build a bridge across the Dnipro?
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? If you voted PRU, contact your representative and invite him or her to a kefir party.

BLT, or “Better living today,” (Yanukovych’s campaign slogan) could definitely make a smashing success in the world of kefir brands.

How about this: BLT. Bringing Lives Together. Every time you vote.

Mouthwatering, isn’t it? Enjoy responsibly.

Brought to you by Yanukovych and Co.

Baby Killers, Inc: Ukraine’s Ethical Chernobyl

Following a gory BBC report that put Ukraine as the world’s No. 1 stem cell supplier, the Ukrainian Healthcare Ministry has issued a denial.

The story picked up with a footage of a post mortem exam dating back to 2003, conducted on the bodies of newborns and fetuses exhumed in a probe into a Kharkiv maternity hospital.

Judging by the nature of prior surgical interventions discovered during the exam, namely the openings in the skull and the absence of brain tissue, the bodies could have been harvested for stem cells.

Once the people high up realized the inconvenience it would cause them, further investigation stumbled and died quietly. Somehow, the tape has found its way to the Council of Europe and BBC.

Stem cell research, the cutting edge of microbiology, remains at the forefront of public debate. Religious groups have protested it on ethical grounds, claiming that stem cell research would open a Pandora’s box of issues that only the Creator can deal with. Scientists have defended it, arguing that stem cell research promises a cure for a wide variety of illnesses.

In the highly profitable beauty industry, stem cells go into the production of rejuvenation applications, although their effectiveness has yet to be proved. Often performed in offshore outlets by professionals of questionable standing, these joys of life are affordable to an affluent clientele.

To the Western public, the Ukrainian edition of the “Extreme Makeover” show comes in a satanic script. The BBC report does not preclude the possibility of stem cells being harvested from live babies.

Unlike the Kolchuha story, now largely believed to be an urban legend on par with the Iraqi WMD hoopla, this case requires a mind open to extreme possibilities. Suffice it to say that in Kuchma’s Ukraine journalist beheadings were normal practice while having babies was next to an economic anomaly.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hurricane Yuliya Makes Landfall on Kyiv City Hall; Cher Runs for Comfort Station

The nemesis of Ukrainian politics has refused to sit idly and watch Kyiv go through another crony capitalism attack. After all, in the March election, 39 percent of Kyiv voters, more than in any other city, put a checkmark next to BYuT.

Tymo, accompanied by BYuT MPs, Tuesday paid a series of visits to the City Hall, where she engaged in a live-broadcast war of wards with Mayor Chernovetsky.

According to Tymo, at the end of the day, Cher and his loyalists barricaded themselves in the bathroom on the tenth floor. (No jumpers spotted.)

Cher said Wednesday he will scale back his 340 percent utility price increase, but he didn’t specify to what extent.

Let us hope that the magnitude of Yuliya’s next appearance in the City Council will merit the attention of the newly-appointed Emergency Minister Nestor Shufrych.

Mr. Shufrych, rated as a walking emergency by many, gained prominence as a member of the pro-Kuchma SDPU who carried the torch for presidential candidate Yanukovych all the way until the bitter end in the courtroom.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Consensus Is Only As Strong As Consent

¡Hola, amigo Stefan! The Counterpunch article you posted sent me on an emotional roller-coaster. So let me share my geopolitical musings with you.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!:) My razom, bahato i nas ne podolaty! We chanted the Ukrainian cover version of that Latin American revolutionary anthem at Maidan not because Fidel Castro had once ridden around town somewhere in the 60s. We chanted that anthem because we admired Castro's energy, the energy with which he had overthrown the Caribbean equivalent of Kuchma. At that high point in our history, little did we know of our comandantes’ eventual degeneration into the vices of their predecessors, but of Castro’s we already did.

I’m for a multipolar world, with room for everyone — culturally, politically, economically. And that’s the shape of things to come, even according to Samuel Huntington.

Whatever the Washington Consensus is, China has successfully resisted it. For years, the Washington has urged the Chinese to loosen the yuan peg. Not much progress has been done.

Meanwhile, controlled capitalism, coupled with Confucianism, works miracles in China. Over the last two decades, China has advanced immensely, prospering from foreign trade and investment, all of which indicates that it takes two to tango. For the Washington Consensus to work, local consent is key. They call it the Beijing Consensus, I guess.

With a trillion greenbacks sitting in its foreign reserves, China could bring the Washington Consensus to its knees in one fell swoop. But it’s a small world — getting smaller day by day — and we’re in it together. China surely knows better than to saw the branch it is sitting on. And it has a long way to go in terms of raising overall living standards.

For an OPEC member like Venezuela, funnelling oil revenues into New Deal economics is probably the right thing to do. That’s what makes Hugo Chavez so popular. And that’s the way they handle the commodity curse in Kuwait and Bahrain. No country can create a well-educated middle class without socially responsible income distribution patterns. Financial benefits stemming from factor endowments should be allocated for the benefit of all people. For Venezuela, the challenge lies in diversifying the economy: making it competitive and less dependent on oil exports to America, its major market.

Not all countries can afford the Venezuelan economic model. Take Belarus, the isolated authoritarian preserve. Keeping Belarus oligarch-free and relatively socially secure has been Luka’s saving grace. However, the intake of cheap Russian gas as the lifeblood of the economy has resulted in severe hypertension. Just a little change of heart from Puttie the Gasman, and Luka the Leech comes knocking on Ukraine’s door with an offer to set up a pipeline cartel.

Latin America’s love affair with socialism and protectionism in the 70s ended even worse than it began — with mountains of debt and lousy quality products that nobody wanted to buy.

That doesn’t mean that the resurgence of socialism in Latin America spells trouble for that part of the world, provided that the current cohort of leaders will not repeat the past.

One could endlessly discuss the Iraq syndrome, the dollar slide, consumerism, etc and get it all right. That said, it would be just as right to acknowledge that the folks running away to America vastly outnumber the folks running away from it.

As for me, anybody who supports the Castro regime raises a lot of suspicion. My vida loca test would be: Would I exchange my rights and living standards for those available in the country whose political system I admire? If I could observe a Western intellectual living a happy life on a monthly income of $20 bucks and singing praises to Castro, I would have no further questions.

Short of that, I would consider it a classic case of a fiat experimentum in corpore vili masquerade. (Let the experiment be made on a worthless body.) If I prefer endorsing oppressive Third World regimes without stepping outside my Western lifestyle, it’s only because, for some reason, I’m getting off on this exercise in pseudo-philosophy. That’s just how my ego makes me feel. And the way I feel may diverge significantly from the way they, the locals, feel. That’s it.

In the Soviet epoch of the Moscow Consensus, of which I was a subject-citizen, they practiced their own brand of imperialism called internationalism, a helping hand to postcolonial, newly-socialist countries. Soviet troops rampaged villages in Afghanistan; Cuban troops operated in the jungles of Angola. Millions of lives and billions of dollars lost in the Cold War game of chess would have been better spent elsewhere.

In summer of 1987, I watched a serviceman's funeral. It was in my parent’s home town of Korets. I was 7 and he was 20, a life cut short in a distant land. And I thought to myself: “If this whole thing in Afghanistan thing goes on the way it does, I may end up just like this poor fellow.” Well, thank God, I never did. The USSR did.

With 11 years of experience in Soviet socialism, I can proudly say: I’m not coming back. Sadly, the Moscow Consensus turned out to have a fulfilling capitalist half-life, outliving even the Orange Revolution.

So here’s my Kyiv Consensus: People of the world, do our homework. Treat each other as you would like to be treated. That would solve much of the problem associated with whatever consensus you have a problem with. Don’t give up on your dreams.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Chicken Chernovetsky

If Pavlovian handouts worked for you, you’re toast. If Mayor Omelchenko turned your world upside down, you haven’t seen anything. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Mayor Chernovetsky, the heaven-sent man about to explain to you the ways of the world.

Mr. Chernovetsky, laughed at as an eccentric banker and Jesus peddler who spoke a language few could understand, raised quite a few eyebrows when he landed the job jack-in-a-box-style, scoring a mere 32 percent of the vote. Compared to a lofty 73 percent for Omelchenko in 2002, not exactly a landslide victory, isn’t it?

More surprise awaited those who pictured him as a harmless do-gooder. They soon realized that the mayor of their jokes had a plan that didn’t exactly match their own.

On his orders, a loyal legion of Pravex managers, including his close relatives, infiltrated the City Hall. Contrary to what some naive Kyivites had expected, these servants of the “public good” perfected the den of nepotism built by outgoing Mayor Omelchenko. The philosophy gave itself away with the thunder of favoritism scandals involving metropolitan land sales. This ear-splitting, heartbreaking wedding march effectively consummated the City Hall’s remarriage to conflict of interest. Thanks to the local media keeping a watchful eye from day one, the truth finally hit home: Boy will they rock this town.

And here’s the great leap forward for us mortals: Starting December, we will be paying 340 percent as much for utilities as we used to.

For the Mayor and utilities bosses he’s chummy with, this surely sounds like a good idea. But not for the metro crowd! Given Kyiv’s median take-home pay of $350 per month, not all Kyivites own cars, let alone Maybachs and Bentleys.

Experts believe that Chernovetsky’s costing contains a hefty overcharge. President Yushchenko has already cautioned him to that effect. Interestingly enough, in the previous Rada, Chernovetsky had shined on the NSNU rolls.

According to the opposition, Chernovetsky and Co. have been constantly wooing avaricious representatives of other parties with lucrative offers to use them as the voting lubricant for their beggar-thy-neighbor policies.

Aware of the tide of public opinion against him, Chernovetsky responds to criticism with self-deprecating statements, calling his policy “unpopular” yet “inevitable.” Why not compare himself to Chirac, the 1995 president-elect who introduced himself to the global village by approving nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll? The sad thing is, despite the tsunami of Greenpeace protests, he went through with it.

If Leonid Chernovetsky goes for the kill with the same rate of success, the next bestseller on Petrivka market might well be called NukLeo.

Meanwhile, BYuT leprechauns in the City Council have been quitting in droves to join the docile majority. Those with a different value system have to fend for themselves — physically. In the heat of the recent live-broadcast sparring over utility bills, a BYuT representative was hospitalized, having sustained a concussion from a muscular male duo dressed in civvies. The episode is pending investigation.

In another episode, a comic one, BYuT representative Mykhailo Brodsky, a rather rambunctious figure, staked the Mayor to a loaded question, “Sniffed a line today?” “I never do,” replied Chernovetsky. Brodsky then added tauntingly, “Oh, I forgot he’s on wheels.” The prank directly addressed the widespread rumor of the Mayor’s substance abuse problem. Joking aside, Kyivites would be better served if Mayor Chernovetsky enriched his polygraph testing commitment, as applied to top-level municipal employees, with urine testing.

Boxing legend Vitaliy “Dr. Ironfist” Klychko, who happens to occupy a City Council seat, has not shown much fighting spirit. Hey man, why don’t you show us what you got? We need you on the ring as never before. Nope to dope!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Once Upon a Time in the Land of the Free
How the Don of Donbas Told Gringos What They Wanted to Hear and Dodged the Diaspora

I'd lie for you and that's the truth
Move mountains if you want me to
I'd walk across the fire for you
I'd walk on the wild for you
If you'd just believe in me...

Meat Loaf “I’d Lie For You And That’s The Truth”

He whose name conjures up reports of election fraud in Ukraine came to the land of the free neither sorry-assed nor empty-handed. He came cool, calm, and collected, with a smorgasbord of promises and reassurances — if only you could look into his eyes and see his soul and maybe reevaluate your preexisting beliefs.

He knows you like 'em Orange. But the tables have turned: The Orange plantation has all but perished due to a fungus culture of incompetence and special interests that thrived untrammeled there. So there he is, the old kid on the block, ready to do business with you.

Only by negating the ironclad association that ties him to foul play would he see that happen. It appears unlikely that the Don of Donbass took to the task unaided. Most probably, the task force of American spin doctors that helped him drug 32 percent of Ukrainian voters with BLT in the spring parliamentary campaign reported for duty again. Thus, a reputation laundering bid kicked into gear. Their positioning strategy against Yushchenko, in a nutshell:

  • Personality Type — position client as a born-again, true Blue type of leader, easily contrasted with a maladaptive shrinking Orange
  • Status in the Hierarchy — position client as the guy in charge, not in a coma; on centerstage, not on the edge
  • Knowledgeability — position client as the guy who knows the whens, whys and hows, not the guy who can’t figure out how many ministers he has under direct command
  • Management Style — position client as a doer — the doer — not a dreamer; a guy who makes things happen, not a guy who watches things happen or wonders what the hell happened

Once in Washington, that meant wearing a certain mask and weathering geopolitical spelling bees. Target behaviors and verbalizations included the following:

  • aggressively picking up the rusty baton of democracy and political stability
  • wholeheartedly lighting up the torch of ambitious energy projects
  • generously reopening the floodgates of grain exports
  • tirelessly patronizing American investment and free trade

Yanukovych did just that. And, with the notable exception of the ongoing wrangle over Tarasyuk, he picked no fights with Yushchenko. The Don of Donbas knew he had a lot to prove. In promoting his own agenda, he went by the book, skillfully feigning respect for Yushchenko’s authority and injecting a positive emphasis into every soundbite that fell from his lips. As much as he wanted to gloat over the removal of his rival from sacred cow status in Washington, Yanukovych fully realized the wind would still be blowing in his face. No one would swallow the bait unless he did his fishing in calm waters.

If he ever outperforms Yushchenko, most likely he will do so in the theater of voter deception. Hordes of comparison shoppers are already giving the Yanukovych campaign a stronger deception rating. Winter of 06/07 may well become a litmus test for the two political systems, pre-Politreforma and post-Politreforma. Once the family budgets of Ukrainians with the lowest income bracket get frostbitten by the snowballing costs of living, the PRU’s “Better living today will stir a higher degree of emotion than NSNU’s Dont fail Maidan!”

Despite the risk of a Katrina-like crisis hovering over the dilapidated utilities sector of urban Ukraine, the Don of Donbas had no qualms about dumping megatons of promotional materials on Washington and New York. Naturally, in the land of the free, some friends of Russia might feel intrigued by those rosy reports, as many did during the Great Depression while reading Walter Duranty’s. But they would certainly explode with disgust once they learned how perfectly “Better living today” matches “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Of the two giant hoaxes, the Ukrainian one involves far greater social stakes, since most Ukrainians neither boast as long a lifespan nor as much of an income. That’s why the American one reads like a funny bumper sticker and ours like a funny toe tag.

So far, breakthroughs in the international arena have eluded Yanukovych. As of today, many observers consider Georgia and Russia on a faster track to NATO and the WTO, respectively. While shrugging off the former has become a sport for Yanukovych, missing the train on the latter could get him in hot water. Whoever gets to the WTO first will hold all the cards, and Regs, who hold the lion’s share of Ukrainian industry, would rather take a crash course in Ukrainian than let themselves be outrun by Russia.

A crowd pleaser only in his native region, the Don of Donbas entertained no illusions about charming the million-strong Ukrainian American community. Hardly a soul needed a primer on his persona. Before Premier Victor Yanukovych set foot on American soil, Askold Lozynsky, President of the World Congress of Ukrainians, called on Ukrainian Americans to boycott the visit. He defined Yanukovych as the Kremlin’s fifth column. Even so, some diaspora organizations pursued the Ukrainian Premier, seeking straight answers regarding his unflinching espousal of Russian as a second official language and his business-as-usual ignorance of the Holodomor and UPA. Faced with a potentially embarrassing situation, the head of the Ukrainian delegation chose not to make himself available.

Minimizing the bad publicity from the anathema turned out to be a task of extreme proportions for the Yanukovych posse. The Don of Donbas pounced on the Holocaust Memorial, as if trying to blow smoke in America’s eyes and thus obscure his Holodomor denial. One must admit that playing the Holocaust off against the Holodomor opens up a whole new chapter in public relations. Should we expect its canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church?

The U.S. media had more luck getting in touch with Ya. In interviews, he related to the Orange Revolution as Ukraine’s major achievement. Far from pronouncing it dead, he went on to point out that, insofar as the Orange leaders have left a lot undone, the Revolution continues to this day. Taken at face value, that virtuoso statement of his might give the impression that current penetration of Ukrainian society by freedom has been an orgasmic experience for Yanukovych, philosophically speaking.

In a classic make-your-enemy-your-ally maneuver, he spoke of the OR gracefully, noting that the country had been ripe for change. He blamed the system, forgetful of his own sins. He took pains to detach himself from the bad boy image. He objectivized the Orange Revolution with a devotion that could profile him as a double agent. One more soundbite — and presto the antagonist we always loathed transmogrifies himself into the protagonist we never knew.

Hopefully, denizens of the land of the free had the eyes to see. Using Yushchenko’s blunders and the blessings of the Politreforma as the propellant for graduating from caterpillar to butterfly, the Don of Donbas made an art out of messing with your minds.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cosa Regio Nostra Fires Lutsenko, Tarasyuk

Cuius regio, eius religio. Whose rule, his religion.

Coming straight from the Middle Age, this proverb is right on the money. It perfectly illustrates the Armageddon in Ukrainian parliament that has culminated in the ouster of Yushchenko-centric Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko and Foreign Affairs Minister Borys Tarasyuk.

Well done. The Yanukovych-centric Anticrisis Coalition certainly deserves praise for having positioned itself as something of a Cosa Regio Nostra/Holy Inquisition. Among the demoralized Orange Revolution vets, these two had a faint image of Robocop/Copernicus-like figures. (The only remaining martyr on death row is Defense Minister Hrytsenko.)

Whether by error of omission or commission, Bankova made their dismissal look like a foregone conclusion. Before the voting even started, President Yushchenko, for one, had discontinued his rumblings about the protectorate he held over them as accorded by the Constitution. The general impression is that Yushchenko has retired to his cell to deicide on further course of action. So far, he is holding himself incommunicado.

Such constitutional collisions, the hallmark of the post-Politreforma political landscape, add to Yanukovych’s confidence only to the extent that they embolden Yushchenko to go through with his referendum promise — once public outrage reaches a critical point: On the one hand, the three can only be appointed by the President, a status which makes them exempt from coalition considerations. On the other hand, because the Rada claims jurisdiction over them, the coalition has the power to fire them.

To expedite the public’s digestive process, the coalition had released enzymes detailing the trio’s misdeeds.

A parliamentary probe had found Lutsenko guilty of misappropriating several gift guns. (While there is no justifying the practice, the report did not provide comparison tables for Lutsenko’s predecessors.)

Multiple counts of financial wrongdoing had been uncovered in Defense Minister Hrytsenko’s realm of responsibility. (Here, due to the campaign’s fixation on financials, the rampant issue of military bullying went neglected.)

Foreign Affairs Minister Tarasyuk had been slapped with sabotaging Yanukovych’s meeting with Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe — not without the latter’s consent, as many believe. (As for Tarasyuk, my suggestion would be “breach of security, espionage, accepting bribes from Bush, kidnapping plot to fly Yanukovych to the NATO Summit in Riga.”)

Yanukovych had no problems with the Yushchenko-centric trio as long as he expected Yushchenko to do the wild thing with him. By the time that expectation proved to be overoptimistic, it had almost halved NSNU’s approval ratings.

The debris from these unmet expectations touched off a vicious vendetta. Lutsenko, along with the other two “untouchables,” stuck out like a sore thumb on the Yanukovych Cabinet uh Cupola. Day after day, they refused to take orders from it. Their blatant disregard for authority and crass insubordiNATiOn was nothing but trouble for Yanukovych.

Following an unsuccessful attempt on Thursday, Yanukovych-centric agenda-benders regrouped and stroke again — this time quite victoriously, ending a monthlong cliffhanger in Lutsenko’s law enforcement stint of 22 months.

The timing of the ouster evokes grim parallels. Not only does the ouster come on World AIDS Day, as if accentuating the fact that Yanukovych’s native Oblast of Donetsk ranks first in AIDS spread, but it also comes on a day that marks the 15th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence referendum.

Variable numbers of BYuT “leprechauns” (from 2 to 18) partook in the three voting rounds of the Lutsenko lynching. Obviously not happy with his robocopic watchfulness, these individuals customarily shun publicity and represent a BYuT equivalent of the lyubi druzi, that is, petty oligarchs who came to parliament to make money.

Tymo, who had used every opportunity to trash Lu as a PRU collaborationist, should have covered her bases first: The voting record pertaining to the ouster clearly lumps her entourage together with the Cosa Regio Nostra. Collaboration starts at home, doesn’t it?

Of course, the priestess immediately issued a statement saying that she holds herself to a higher standard and regrets what happened. Two “leprechauns” were banished from the BYuT temple.

Lessons learned:

1. Taking gold-diggers on board can make a captain cry bitter tears.

2. Somehow, the Lutsenko she had painted — one possessed by the demons of Donetsk — could not save his ass from burning at the stake.

A checklist for Yanukovych:

1. What could be more stupid than firing the No. 1 cop in the country who shouts from the rooftops of the Rada he’s onto something — something implicating your buddies?

2. What could be more self-incriminating than doing it when crime rates are down 15 percent?

3. Would this help do away with the stereotype that crime is encapsulated in the DNA of Donetsk Oblast, a region with the highest murder rate in Ukraine?

4. Does giving the axe to a pro-Western foreign policy guy lend credentials to your upcoming visit to the U.S.?

If making his X-file even more complicated was the goal, Yanukovych has surely succeeded. Or was this hardball assignment part of his recertification in Moscow?
In any case, the political exsanguination of Lutsenko and Tarasyuk strikingly reminds us of the vampirism of the Kuchma-controlled Rada in spring 2001 — when Premier Yushchenko was fired on lack of team play thinking, as it was phrased.

Given Ya’s DUI and Yu’s LID (Living in denial), somebody with a clean record has to stop this unhealthy thing.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holodomor Was Genocide, Rada Rules
Moroz Goes Maverick on Anticrisis Coalition

Three generations afterward, it finally happened. We saw light at the end of the tunnel, a tunnel of historical injustice spanning some 64 years. The events whose human toll could be compared to the effect of a nuclear bomb exploded over Los Angeles have found their way into Ukrainian law.

Late Tuesday, November 28, 2006, the Ukrainian parliament, a mirror reflection of centuries of Russian rule and of more than a decade of chaotic capitalism, gathered enough votes to pass a bill that recognizes the Holodomor as “genocide against the Ukrainian people.” (The Baltic countries had recognized it as such awhile ago.)

Secure, or rather insecure in the knowledge that Moroz and Co. would play a maverick on this one, the Rada Communists raised hell. They who trace themselves as direct descendants of the CPSU put on the same old charade. They bewailed Ukraine’s post-communist demographic drain, calling it the “real McCoy” in need of recognition, as if crimes against the economy committed under K&K (Kravchuk and Kuchma) somehow exonerate them from moral responsibility for crimes against humanity. (Has it ever occurred to them that by applying NKVD interrogation techniques to their capitalist coalition partners, most notably the PRU, they might yield some helpful answers as to the cause of Ukraine’s population decline?)

Yushchenko’s embattled bill, which had initially prescribed fines for Holodomor denial, underwent transplant surgery, as a series of politically correct adjustments reshaped it into a compromise bill. The centerpiece of all this makeover was the replacement of the “Ukrainian nation” in the Yushchenko version with the “Ukrainian people” in the compromise version

Don’t the “Ukrainian nation” and the “Ukrainian people” mean the same thing? Not according to the PRU, on guard as it is against nationalism (except Russian). From the PRU’s viewpoint, the term “Ukrainian nation” singles out the Ukrainians as an ethnic group.

This horrible "misnomer" certainly raised a red flag (read: Red) in the PRU psyche, activating a diehard communist mantra that the word “nation” equals Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism equals nazism.

For the Socialists, who joined the pro-recognition movement contingently, the term “people” it was a safety valve that helped them avoid large-scale confrontation with the Regionalists. For BYuTies and NSNUzers it was an “open Sesame” incantation that magically got the job done. Of course, the tradeoff somewhat downplays the genocide’s ethnic profile, but few would disagree that, for the time being, it was a compromise worth making. After all, until Russian lobbyism levels reach a lower point, the Ukrainian people can read into the “Ukrainian people” whatever definition they prefer.

As for communist drones, it was the sound of water flushing the toilet. Their presence in the Verkhovna Rada has been dwindling with every new election, thanks to the public’s growing awareness of their political promiscuity. The communists have been notorious for cheating their voters left and right. In light of the CPU’s track record, millions of Russified Ukrainians have given up on it, finding direct experience with the PRU more enjoyable.

The communists’ “secret” affair with oligarchs as well as the mothballed suitcase of idyllicized Soviet past they keep under the bed puts them light years away from the European-style welfare state.

The bill was passed by a small margin, with the golden vote exercised by the Socialists. To what degree Speaker Moroz’s personal experience, as opposed to his political experience, affected the decision would be a good question.

In numerous interviews, Moroz recounted how his native village of Tarashcha, Kyiv Oblast was hit by the Holodomor. Hard-hit are Moroz’s approval ratings, as the Ukrainian people surely remember what he did last summer. If elections were held today, the Socialists would be up to their necks in horse dung. This harsh reality leaves them no choice but to do whatever they can to give the Grain Belt the impression they’re still the guys. (If tobacco companies can fool the public by sponsoring cancer research and donating money to children’s hospitals, who says we can’t do a little Zorro act ourselves?)

President Yushchenko, who took the liberty of suggesting fines for Holodomor deniers, still hopes his legislative initiative will be incorporated. In its present form, the law characterizes Holodomor denial as an act of desecration, yet sets no penalties for offenders.

Aside from BYuT, NSNU, and the SPU, all of which supported the bill unanimously, two brave souls from the PRU did. Presumably, these were Hanna Herman and Taras Chornovil — reverse renegades, as one may call them.

In China, a country where communism had cut a deadly swath and would have made it into another North Korea, rather than the world’s fourth economy it is today — had it not been for Den Xiaoping’s infusion of smart capitalism — they say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Such Thing as Holodomor, PRU Concurs
Yanukovych Hides in Belarus as Ukraine Commemorates Moscow-Made Famine

In line with the Kremlin’s official policy, the PRU has joined the ranks of Holodomor deniers. On Saturday, when the less-Sovietized, more open-minded Ukrainians mourned the 6 to 10 million victims of the Moscow-made famine, Yanukovych was on a pilgrimage to neighboring Belarus, his fatherland. Tagline: “The Holodomor? Ha ha ha!”

His Soviet ways notwithstanding, Alyaskander Lukashenka, Europe’s last dictator, has rather strained relations with Russia. Ever since Yeltsin passed the black box to Putin, Lukashenka’s wet dream of presiding over a joint state has run dry. Recently, Belarus has become the second “brotherly” country to be slapped by Gazprom with the going "market rate” of $230 for FY 2007. For Belarus’s obsolete Russia-oriented economy, this would be even more a nightmare than for the Ukrainian one, whose alarm bell went off almost a year ago, prompting a modernization effort of sorts.

As an alternative, Gazprom is willing to kindly accept a 50 percent stake in Beltransgas, the state-owned pipeline company. Happy New Year, Belarus! Obviously, Putin views Yanukovych’s Ukraine as more valuable an investment than Lukashenka’s Belarus, for which the expression “Familiarity breeds contempt” aptly applies. That’s why Lukashenka has a heavier headache.

Being fully aware that his showy Sovietism will no longer buy him a free lunch, Luka has shifted gears. He called for closer cooperation on transit fee policy for Russian gas exports to the EU. He minced no words when he said that by acting together Ukraine and Belarus could achieve better results. Luka showed no fear of Puttie, as he threw himself into a ghostbusting crusade against the specter of a gas cartel between Russia, Algeria, and Qatar.

Will Yanukovych jump on the transit cartel idea? Certainly not at this time, having to his credit the $130 deal with Russia — a deal whose geopolitical currency remains the subject of debate, though. In view of the obligations already assumed, Yanukovych will be able to resist Lukashenka’s power of suggestion, dismissing it with “I’ll think about it.”

The Kremlin has always been an aggressive exporter of commodities, whether its own or not. In the 70s and 80s, Siberian oil and gas provided the Evil Empire with the revenues to sustain its military industrial complex and to import consumer goods. In the 30s, Ukrainian grain supplied the lifeblood of Stalin’s industrialization. But for communism to take over, it was never enough. Thus, the breadbasket of Europe became Uncle Joe’s genocide lab.

Why Ukraine, of all places? Collectivization had run aground here, in no small part due to the squeeze industrialization put on the agricultural sector. Stalin would not let it go at that. First, he killed the NEP. Second, he embarked on an all-out, two-in-one strategy based on the Marxist tenet of class struggle — a struggle that he said would escalate as the country approached communism. So, keeping industrialization in motion through grain exports, he and his henchmen unleashed a death machine that would pave the way for collectivization. They did it — by littering the land with corpses.

It’s important to note that Ukrainians farmers had formed the backbone of non-Russian national sentiment in the USSR. This, along with their economic power and private property instincts, made our grandfathers the most dangerous community in the eyes of the communist regime, which helps explain why the “Genius of Genocide” would focus his effort on them.

As shiploads of grain departed from Odessa, every hour a thousand Ukrainians were dying an inhuman death. Armed supply squads had ravished their villages, taking away the very last pound of their harvest. Once famine broke out, driving migration to safer areas, troops were deployed to quarantine the hunger-stricken villages, thus insuring their extermination. No exceptions were made for women and children, nor was there a centralized statistical effort to monitor the process. For this reason, the best demographers can do is offer educated estimates, never knowing exactly how many million people died. What remains dead certain, though, is that Stalin’s business plan had no place for them the moment they “paid their dues.” They had to disappear from the face of the earth, with as little paperwork as possible.

The Holodomor crowned collectivization. Its sedative effect on Ukrainian society helped the Kremlin quickly convert the surviving Ukrainians into a kolhosp-based serf race. One fact speaks for itself: In the countryside, no passports were issued and no wages were paid until the 70s.

The drainage of the Ukrainian gene pool went in sync with the influx of Russians into Ukraine’s major cities. If no crime component can be gleaned from a policy that drastically alters a country’s ethnic makeup, then ethnic cleansing ceases to be a crime against humanity.

By the end of the 30s, Ukraine’s intellectual elite had perished in the Gulag, and Russification had taken reigns. Of course, not a page of this would ever go into Soviet history textbooks. And by the time the Soviet Union turned its last page, generation upon generation of Ukrainian urbanites had grown up speaking little or no Ukrainian — without a clue why they should be. In school, office, and personal environments, Ukrainian was a dying rural dialect, a badge of cultural inferiority to be disowned at all costs.

Even though de-Ukrainization has come to the end of the road, de-Russification has yet to start. To large numbers of Ukrainians their country still feels like Canada to the Québécois. Just imagine this: Only recently have Ukrophone movie lovers been granted the opportunity to watch Hollywood flicks in Ukrainian. Quite an achievement for a country in its fifteenth year of independence!

Politically, the fruits of Stalin’s work continue to block Ukraine’s vision, preventing our nation from realizing its potential. Since the early 90s, when the ruptured communism gave way to the scorched earth capitalism, an army of USSR apologists captivated a certain percentage of the public. These false prophets strongly appealed to the Sovietized, nostalgic masses, many of whom, out of economic despair, prayed for Stalin’s second coming.

Impoverished by the Kravchuk and Kuchma regimes, they were easily led to believe that the Holodomor was nothing but a Russian-baiting conspiracy theory fabricated by Ukrainian nationalists and Americans imperialists.

The elderly will take their communist gods to the grave. But what about the youth? What about twenty to fortysomethings, whose pledge of allegiance to the USSR comes in a softer form, if at all? It’s their hearts and minds we should win over.

In fact, the generation gap may help close the history gap. Regardless of one’s cultural upbringing, knowing history can’t hurt as much as not knowing it. People who ignore history are bound to repeat it. How do we make sure the younger generations know better?

When we think of the Holodomor, we don’t think of a needle in a haystack. The SBU archives are brimming with photographs, eyewitness accounts, secret directives, and memos documenting all the horrors of this meticulously premeditated Moscow-made genocide. All it takes is an open mind and a visit to the Holodomor Exhibit at Ukrayinsky Dim.

Ukraine and the international community owe it to the victims to never forget the Holodomor. It’s time to spread the word and let the whole world know about what happened in Ukraine. Had the American public learned about it in 1933, the FDR administration would have balked at establishing diplomatic relations with the USSR. New York Times reporter and Stalin apologist Walter Durante would have never gotten his Pulitzer’s Prize.

Finally, how does the PRU come into play? That brings us to the ultimate question: Who bore the cost of industrialization and who cashes in on the benefits?

Among the proud owners of Ukraine’s post-agrarian economy, it’s Regionalists who make the top of the list. Unfortunately, their “hard-earned” status makes it hard for them to acknowledge the nature of death of those 6 to 10 million people who footed the bill for Stalin's industrialization in a way that sets them apart from the rest. It’s another way of saying “where one stands depends on where one sits.”

Now that Yanukovych has demystified his BLT (“Better Living Today”) formula, it would be safe to assume that his grassroots supporters in southeastern Ukraine should expect to be catered only on account of their ignorance of history.

By summarily denying the Holodomor and its ethnic profile, the Regionalists are soft-soaping Stalin’s reign of terror and desecrating the man, woman, and child whose bones lie at the foundation of all the stuff that makes them king of the castle today.

In effect, they are denying themselves the moral right to their multibillion-dollar possessions — that is, if they ever had one, given the economic atrocities of the privatization era.

In 1933, Sergio Gradenigo, Italian Consul in Kharkiv, then capital of Soviet Ukraine, became one of the few Westerners to report on the Holodomor, from what little he could in the urban landscape. As dead bodies and people on the verge of dying could be spotted on the streets of Kharkiv, Gradenigo frankly wrote in his dispatches that the developments he witnessed would facilitate Russian colonization of Ukraine.

“Am I a mayor or a colonial administrator?” That’s the question Mykhailo Dobkin (PRU), a distinguished Holodomor denier, should ask himself. Unlike the issue of UPA recognition, the Holodomor defies the much-exploited right-of-Dnipro-left-of-Dnipro cultural divide. The Holodomor truly brought them together, if not to say that left-of-Dnipro Ukraine bore the brunt of it.

Got a problem accepting the fact of the Holocaust? In a total of 11 countries, including Germany and Austria, a jail sentence will help you reconsider your point of view. If this sounds like a joke to you, ask David Irving.

Yushchenko, the first president to break with the practice of benign neglect of the issue, has an enormous amount of work to do to cultivate a nationwide awareness. His proposed Holodomor bill, which merely envisages fines for denying the Holodomor, has encountered stiff resistance among Regionalists and communists, who commonly label such legislative initiatives as witch-hunting.

Besides the long litany of apologetic theories such as crop failure and local despotism, one mainstream school of thought attempts to disprove the Holodomor as ethnic genocide by arguing that the famine did not discriminate between Ukrainian and non-Ukrainians. Indeed, among those who starved to death, small proportions of Jews, Poles, and Russians could be found.

Continuing with this logic, it would be amiss not to elaborate that, in addition to Jews, Gypsies, and sexual minorities, Hitler also massacred Belarusians, Ukrainians, and Russians, the latter three in greater overall numbers. Now, the questions would be: Does that knowledge somehow produce a watered-down picture? Does it blur the ethnic lines, to the point of making them barely recognizable? Does it, relatively speaking, relegate the Holocaust to a category of ordinary events? And, finally, do Germany and Austria have an appearance of witch-hunting nations?

As the years go by, leaving us with fewer and fewer Holodomor survivors, Ukraine’s younger generations need a sound publicity campaign and activist effort that, among other things, would hunt down the motives of Holodomor deniers, in simple, friendly terms. By constantly exposing the symbiotic relationship between communist apologists and post-communist special interest groups, we may slowly lift the bewitchment off the people in southeastern Ukraine.

Only then, with their minds open and their hearts warm, will the Ukrainian people look to the past with understanding and to the future with confidence.

P.S. We miss you James Mace.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Chernovetsky Challenge
Kyiv Mayor Asks for More

The city that boasts the highest incomes in the country does not seem to be happy with its one-hryvnia mayor. Leonid Chernovetsky, who got the job with a meager 32 percent of the vote, could pass for a philanthropist, were it not for his determination to see to it that our cost of living remains the highest as well.

What comes to mind when we think of a three-and-a-half-fold utility spike? In civilized municipalities like Paris or Berlin, they would probably set the City Hall ablaze, along with countless cars and stores.

In Kyiv, they held one of the biggest rallies since the Orange Revolution. According to polls, most Kyivites want Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky out. However, attempts to veto the bill so far have failed. On Thursday, the day the rally rocked the downtown area, the opposition miserably fell short of a quorum.

Leonid Chernovetsky found his way to the hearts and minds of people through their stomachs. In fact, he paid his way. As the owner of Pravex, one of the biggest banks in Ukraine, he had run for mayor in 1999 and 2002, only to be outflanked by former Mayor Oleksander Omelchenko, the longtime darling of Kyivites.

But times changed, and so did Chernovetsky’s chances.

By early 2006, Omelchenko, who called the construction industry his second home, had ruined his re-election bid with a housing policy that favored the select few. That’s when Chernovetsky’s charity chain came in handy. For a period of several months before the March election, his “Salvation Army” canvassed Kyiv's elderly population.

Sticking to a neat segmentation chart, his volunteers in sheepskin went to door-to-door, lavishing Pavlovian handouts on babushkas and perfecting their soft-sell technique. It worked! Even Vitaliy "Dr. Ironfist" Klychko, one of the world's most famous boxers and his rival in the election, had to throw his towel in.

Chernovetsky and Co. have imported these “best practices” to the City Council, the opposition asserts. Specifically, Chernovetsky keeps an under-the-counter “catalogue of carrots,” mainly land offerings, that he eagerly trades to maintain a manipulative majority in the City Council.

According to the opposition, to make sure the offerees keep their lips sealed, his aides got the bargaining process on “candid camera.” The most serious allegation is that Chernovetsky stands to profit from the price spike through his connections in the highly monopolized utility industry.

If true, that would make Chernovetsky and Yanukovych two of a kind. The “Better Living Today” they promised turned out to be a “Big Lying Tease.” Both did a great job of teasing pensioners for personal gain: Yanukovych — with an impermanent pension increment; Chernovetsky — with humanitarian aid packages. Regardless of who you voted for, if Mayor Chernovetsky goes on unchallenged, it’s payback time for all of us.

Of course, considering the vast array of fancy cars clogging the streets of Kyiv, upper and middle-class households will not experience any significant losses on this one. But what about the family budgets of such cash-starved species as school teachers and public healthcare workers? The Mayor says he’ll get the subsidies program running. The question is, how smoothly?

Of course, utility costs cannot be divorced from the reality of skyrocketing energy costs. Nor can they exceed the customers’ ability to pay.

But no matter how much we pay, improvements in service quality will not be forthcoming, unless and until measures are taken to demonopolize the industry. Kyivites have the right to know what they are paying for. Transparent utility costing should be a top priority for a local government that represents public interests.

The Chernovetsky challenge has reawakened us to the need to keep tabs on local government. Our goal is constant plutocracy patrol and a City Hall with a fishbowl interface.

A Walk to the Bankova Wall
“People’s President” a No Show at Maidan Second Anniversary amid Low Participation

Orange vets were in for another let-down, as a fraction of them gathered to celebrate the bloodless victory over a regime whose election practices had attracted sympathy only from the governments of Russia, Belarus, and China.

To say that participation levels reflected satisfaction levels would be saying too little.

First of all, it took less than half of Yushchenko’s first term for the regime to partially restore itself, which is why, in all likelihood, there will be no second term for him. To add insult to injury, the guy they had put in charge to prevent the regime’s restoration gave them understand that they were not part of his holiday plan. This unpleasant episode cannot be attributed to Yushchenko‘s insecurities alone. It highlights the self-perpetuating “expectations glacier” evident in Ukrainian society since the Yushchenko>Yanukovych downturn.

After a short rally at Maidan, the battleground of the Orange Revolution, a column of approximately a thousand people moved out to the Office of President on Bankova Street. There they serenaded the “People’s President” with Ukraine’s national anthem, but all to no avail. They were refused audience.

The iron security fence separating the people from the president contained a message in itself. They could still recall Yushchenko comparing it to the Berlin Wall and vowing to tear it down. So, two years since the Orange Revolution began it’s the Wall that’s still there while Yushchenko is not. Obviously, he’s got more important things to do.

While new to Bankova, Yu said lots of nice things that ring hollow today. People from all over the country would camp outside his office, in hopes of finding a solution to problems they could not solve otherwise. They had exhausted all conventional avenues — having to deal with courts that rule in favor of the well-connected, police that cover up criminals, and social security that doesn’t cover the cost of living. So, they came straight to the “People’s President,” their last line of defense, expecting their voice to be heard.

Such citizen events supplied the inherent drama to the “Our Ukraine” brand. Yushchenko owes his presidency to the idea that if we stood up to the oligarchs, Ukraine could be “ours” as well, and not just “theirs.”

Yet the democracy-live honeymoon didn’t last long. For one, the PP soon let the wall issue die quietly, along with the open-air grievance hours. No wonder, the same happened to the brand: The people lost trust in it.

That explains Yushchenko’s agoraphobic attack. Like a mischievous child who broke a vase, he wouldn’t show up for dinner in fear of being spanked. What could be more fearsome than having to look them in the eye, them who once looked up to you with hope?

He could imagine all the catcalls he would draw for his misguided policy behavior. He feared Maidan’s feedback. But that’s the stage he should go through if he ever plans on reestablishing the communication link he has severed. That’s the barium pill he should swallow to get crony capitalism out of his system. Reinvention starts with repentance. It’s as simple as that.

Take the recent diversion scandal that features former Naftogaz top guns Ivchenko (NSNU) and Bolkisev. Just days after Gazprom pushed the button, these stewards of government property reportedly spent quite a fortune on Christmas festivities and a charter flight to western Ukraine (If the thought of going up in flames with the help of Europe’s longest pipeline arouses your public relations G-spot, Ivchenko is your man.)

Word got around that Yu was throwing a reception in Mariyinsky Palace. Shouting “hanba” (Ukrainian for shame) — an exclamation previously reserved only for Kuchma and Yanukovych — Orange vets walked the extra mile to meet with the President. Once they made it to Mariyinsky, it became apparent they were wasting their time.

Later in the evening, Poroshenko, Katerynchuk, and Yekhanurov patronized Maidan. The only problem was, it didn’t feel like Maidan. It certainly didn’t without Tymo, the Lady of Maidan.

Out in Brussels to flex her opposition muscles, she predicted the thawing of the Yanukovych Cabinet and politreforma by spring. There is no secret that the temperature buildup she based her forecast on comes from the impending three-and-a-half-fold increase in utility bills, which already reeks of a massive payment crisis. A case in point: Donetsk currently pays only 5 percent of its utility costs.

In his evening “anniversary address,” Yushchenko reaffirmed his commitment to the politreforma, at the same time reintroducing the possibility of a referendum.
Any recollection of the Orange Revolution would be incomplete without mention of how it became forum fodder for millions of netizens. Regrettably, some saw it as a geopolitical contest — the final showdown — between a hawkish Bush puppet and a dovish Putin favorite, the latter being the lesser evil. Put another way, they felt impelled to take sides between what appeared to be an expansionist Washington consensus and a defensive Moscow consensus.

Particularly, this misperception gained wide acceptance among people suffering from the posttraumatic stress disorder caused by Bush’s re-election. For them — the Western-educated hands-off-Russia crowd — taking revenge on Bush meant heaping scorn on Yushchenko and green-lighting Yanukovych.

The Orange Revolution featured not a single incident of vandalism or violence. Well, it could have. With tanks on the move to Kyiv, all bets were off. Thank God, General Popkov had the sanity to call them off. Had his loyalty to Yanukovych taken command of his mind, fratricide would have followed. In that case, the reality gap in Shcherban’s they-would-hang-me-on-Maidan imagery might have shrunk substantially, as we had a fair share of generals on our own side.

Because history hardly offers a wealth of examples of zero-casualty regime change, ours remains a rare phenomenon we should be proud of. They who raise mayhem from Seattle to Seoul may have a hard time reconciling their lifestyle with that of millions of hardworking Ukrainians, some of whom barely make ends meet. The regime Yanukovych was trying to inherit had scattered them from Moscow to Milan in search of a better living. What we’re looking at are two different types of geographic mobility — creed-driven and need-driven. Which one would you prefer?

On the one hand, few of us would wince at the idea of having Yushchenko miraculously replaced with someone of better leadership qualities. But, on the other hand, if we polled Russians or Americans on whether they would welcome a candidate with a criminal record, neither would answer yes by an overwhelming majority.

So, after weighing all the good things and the bad things, we can be sure we did the right thing: 2004 did not become 1984. Yet our work is not finished. Unless we want to face the Bankova Wall, we must dismantle the one that has swelled inside of us — the wall of disenchantment. We do that by restoring the can-do spirit of 2004.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Detained on Arrival: “Mad Max” Gets Madder

Russian national Maksim Kurochkin, aka “Mad Max,” landed in Boryspil Airport the “Shcherban way.”

Upon his arrival he was convoyed to the District Court of Holosiyiv, a Kyiv-based court that had issued a warrant for his arrest. Unless charges are pressed against him, his detention will expire within 72 hours.

The man whose interests in Ukraine have varied from business to politics and whom the press has long linked to organized crime is a suspect in an extortion case.

In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, Mr. Kurochkin gave birth to the Russian Club, a hangout for pro-Yanukovych exhibitionists. The member list included such notable figures as Gleb Pavlovsky, then Putin’s key strategist, and Viktor Medvedchuk, Kuchma’s Chief of Staff.

Some Kurochkin fans must have been so frustrated with face control that they left a little present for him outside, namely an explosive device. Fortunately, no one got hurt.

It was then that Mr. Kurochkin managed to acquire Dnipro Hotel at a price way below its market value. Following Yushchenko’s inauguration, the deal was rescinded in court. Since then, Mr. Kurochkin has enjoyed a spot on Ukraine’s most-wanted list. Needless to say, extradition efforts have stumbled.

Months after the March parliamentary elections in Ukraine, Kurochkin admitted to having contributed to the PSPU campaign. Led by virago Nataliya Vitrenko, this pro-Russian ultra-left organization had put representatives in local legislatures throughout southeastern Ukraine, yet had failed to win a single seat in the Verkhovna Rada. Both Vitrenko and Kurochkin initially denied the relationship.

On the eve of his visit to Ukraine, “Mad Max” openly discounted the possibility of being bothered by Ukrainian law enforcement. With Yushchenko and Lutsenko lame ducks, why be afraid? Well, surprise!

What brought Kurochkin to Ukraine, anyway? According to the visitor, he planned to mediate a settlement in an ownership dispute over the Dnipropetrivsk-based Ozerka bazaar, allegedly co-owned by local billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky. The dispute drew considerable media attention when tussles between rival groups erupted on bazaar premises.

Some analysts hypothesize that Kurochkin’s unplanned overstay would conveniently supply reasons for Putin to once again “reschedule” his visit to Ukraine.

But why would the Kremlin entrust shuttle diplomacy to a man with a reputation for being involved in organized crime?

One answer would be because, according to some sources, its denizens have a comparable reputation. Talk of Putin’s ties to the St. Petersburg clan has been around for years.

The recent poisoning of FSB defector Aleksander Litvinenko, a London resident and distinguished Putinologist, next only to exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky, provides food for thought.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Revisiting Counterpunch's Ukraine 2004 Coverarge

Counterpunch may be right about the right on many counts. But the way these pundits sided with Yanukovych in 2004 just didn't feel right to me. Nor did it feel left enough to me: Under my microscope, Yanukovych clearly represented capitalism's ugliest live-form.

During my Maidan off-duty hours, I nearly choked with the bitchy bias in Chad Nagle's reports. It was my right to freedom and better living standards that got counterpunched. Welcome to the left's symmetrical response to FOX News!

While hundreds of thousands of us were peacefully freezing our asses out on Maidan, my only thought — aside from visions of a Tiananmen-style crackdown — was for Chad Nagle to get the fuck out of my country. And as he kept misleading the world by picturing me and my freedom business through the prism of his knee-jerk anti-Americanism, I fantasized about a Tomahawk missile carefully planting itself in his hotel apartment. (Ditto The Guardian and

Had Bush's re-election depressed him so badly that the only action plan he had for exposing the imperialist in Bush was by pampering one in Putin?

I wonder if Counterpunch has improved its Ukraine coverage. I hope so. Enough time has elapsed for a balanced judgment to be passed on both Yushchenko and Yanukovych. If today somebody told me that Yu and Ya deserve each other, I’d almost have to agree. (That doesn’t mean that, at the end of the day, I feel as fucked up as Ya fancies it.)

What I would not agree with is that self-serving bias, whether right-wing or left-wing, can further a good cause.

So what do we do folks? I’d say it’s time to get rid of this mental straight-jacket we try out with every major depressive episode. It’s time to realize democracy is a full-time job. It's up to us freedom-loving, gutsy folks to put the spark back into the democracy department.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

MIB Unsettled by NSC Agenda

Talk about crisis management. It’s amazing how insecure the Anticrisis Coalition, aka the “Men in Blue,” can be when it comes to national security.

The recent NSC meeting offers plenty of insight.

Discussing the mess in the housing and utilities sector was one thing the “Men in Blue,” Yanukovych and Moroz, found too hard for their palate.

Instead of sharing their expertise on an issue that affects the daily lives of an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians living from paycheck to paycheck, Yanukovych and Moroz lodged a note of protest. According to one account, they even walked out of the meeting.

Similar to cats who mark their territory, they glaringly informed the audience that the handling of this issue is the sole prerogative of the Cabinet and demanded that it be from the agenda

Since blue is the official color of the PRU, what made them feel so blue psychologically? What pissed them off?

Why would Yanukovych, the champion of BLT (“Better Living Today”), be so possessive about the lines of authority and yet so inexpressive about his betterment endeavors?

Why would Moroz, the devout Socialist who co-starred in the summer blockbuster “How Goodfellas Got Their Groove Back,” make such a big fuss about talking social security?

Undoubtedly, it's the affiliation of the newly appointed NSC head Vitaliy Haiduk that adds intrigue to the affair. Known as a pragmatic nationalist and, what’s important, as ISD’s man, Haiduk poses a counterweight to archrival SCM, which smells of a turf war of sorts.

However, back to the bread and butter business, in Kyiv alone utility bills have climbed more than threefold, pending finalization by the Justice Ministry. (Attention fans of Mayor Chernovetsky, aka the “King of Handouts!” It’s payback time.)

Of course, Russia smiles on us all, but not all of us can smile back Unlike the oligarchs, who will certainly pull through, having billions of dollars stashed in offshore accounts, and unlike the burgeoning middle class, whose living standards will not suffer much, the urban intelligentsia and working class may fare differently.

What happens if half the country stops paying bills it simply can’t afford? That’s what the “Men in Blue, or better yet “Children of the Coal,” should think about, instead of throwing bureaucratic tantrums.

Just what did they expect national security to be about poker, or perhaps Monopoly?

Friday, November 17, 2006

No Such Thing as "Holodomor," Moscow Says

It means just that. On the eve of the commemoration of the Holodomor, the 1932-33 man-made famine that killed an estimated 6 to 10 million Ukrainians and is one the greatest yet only recently publicized genocides of the 20th century, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry offered its condolences, but no confessions.

The tragic famine in Ukraine, Moscow said, was the result of bad policy and crop failure that affected areas beyond Ukraine. Therefore, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that Ukraine was singled out on ethnic grounds.

Unfortunately, the Russian diplomats forgot to submit weather reports that would support crop failure theory. Also, they chose not to go into great detail as to exact ethnic distribution patterns. (What was the famine’s ethnic breakdown, anyway?)

Nor did they give much voice to the role of the Red Army, which cordoned off Ukraine’s famine-stricken areas to prevent mass migration in search of food supplies needed to survive. (Was it a routine military exercise?)

Too bad Uncle Joe, who cut his teeth as People’s Commissar of Nationalities Affairs, cannot be reached for comments. What is certain, though, is that the Russian Federation has been recognized by the international community as the successor state to the Soviet Union. (What percentage of its monthly oil revenue would go to compensate the victims, if Russia admitted guilt?)

Eager to play mindgames of its own, the Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry called the progress made by Russia laudatory. Talking the matter over with the Russians has not been a total waste of effort, Kyiv said, adding that the "UX-files" warrant further study by both countries.

Demographers believe that had it not been for Stalin’s Holodomor and repressions, Ukraine would have been a nation of some 100,000,000 people.

Ukraine to Become WTO Member in February?

While Yushchenko insists on the December deadline, analysts point to February as a more realistic time of accession.

Leery of the Democrats, the Russians are burning rubber. That’s why we have to make sure we get there first.

Hopefully, we will not see a repeat of yesteryear’s botched entry attempt.

The Return of the Faithful Exiled

They’re back. They’re hungry. And they’re not Orange.

If you ever watched this funny movie, you get the idea. Somewhere on this planet a spillover situation must have occurred, involving chemical agents whose properties the military would prefer not to talk about.

It’s responsible for triggering what appears to be the first wave of repatriation of high-profile crime suspects to Ukrainian soil.

Facing persecution from the Yushchenko regime, these poor people found asylum on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Thanks to the Anticrisis Coalition, the long-awaited democratization took place, which set the ground for their safe return.

Now that the venerable Shcherban is in da house, who’s next? Bakai? Bilokon? Zasukha? Bodelan? Welcome back, gentlemen.

Shcherban’s reunion with Ukraine came amid mass outbursts of joy, as residents of Sumy Oblast rallied for their beloved Governor (2002-2005). If he chooses to pay a visit to that little land he fled in pain, he certainly should expect being smothered with hugs and kisses.

The American lawyers he brought with him raised absolutely no suspicions when they made statements to the effect that their client’s middle name is morality, it its purest form. Good work. We the good-natured, hardworking people of Ukraine trust your every word. Your dedication has inspired us to be more accepting of our leaders. We cleansed our eyes of prejudice and our souls of selfishness. We rediscovered our true values. That way we can stay closer to the moral legacy of our founding fathers Kravchuk and Kuchma.

Not only do we know Mr. Shcherban as an entrepreneur par excellence — the man who is on good terms with the legends of Corporate Ukraine, one of which kindly posted bail for him — but we also know him as the pillar of the community.

It hurts to think of what an enormous opportunity GE and Boeing missed when neither chose to do the same for Kenneth Lay and Jack Abramoff. What kind of social responsibility do they believe in? Haven’t they ever heard of the presumption of innocence?

Perhaps the time is ripe — and the Russian Orthodox Church would certainly approve — for St. Shcherban’s Cathedral to be erected on the hills overlooking the Dnipro. Maryinsky Park, next to the Cabinet’s building, would be fine. It would serve as a beacon of renewed hope for the faithful exiled and the falsely accused.

O come home all ye faithful joyful and triumphant, and praise the Proffessor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

NSNU Convention Ends; Lyubi Druzi Diluted, Not Defrocked

They did it? No, they didn’t. Not much progress was been made in reinventing the party that once had symbolized progress itself. Instead of going to the core, NSNU let itself be satisfied with cosmetic changes.

Although far from straight talk, the atmosphere at the Saturday NSNU Convention was devoid of grandiloquence. Perhaps the realization that the NSNU needs help is starting to sunk in.

But that subtle mood change didn’t help much. During the three-week recess, the lyubi druzi must have pulled quite a few strings to secure their survival.

Their polished plea for mercy — augmented with ominous references to outside forces willing to drive a wedge between the two wings of NSNU (reform and counter-reform, presumably) — kept them from being cast overboard.

It’s funny how these number crunchers, who viewed the Orange Revolution and the Anticrisis Coalition as investment projects, can weather any storm.

Tymoshenko one of the sharpest-witted politicians and definitely one with the balls coined the lyubi druzi term when she made a mockery of Yushchenko’s vocabulary. Soon, it became the killer brand that made NSNU bleed profusely in the March parliamentary election, and even more so during NSNU’s summer fling with the enemies of the Orange Revolution.

No matter how hard we crave their disempowerment, the lyubi druzi always have a health pack.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko attended the Convention as a guest. (Even though BYuT has painted him as a tame tiger — tethered to the PRU — “Robocop” drew “friendly fire” after the event. Yanukovych strongly advised Lutsenko to make a choice between holding the office and maintaining a political profile. Keeping the “untouchables” in line poses quite an ego challenge for a micromanager like Yanukovych.)

At the Convention, Lutsenko unveiled his vision. The man reportedly wooed by Bezsmertny for the NSNU chairman position called for disaggregating NSNU and realigning it with the grassroots support base. As a way to deal with the successor problem, Lutsenko introduced the concept of primaries, something of a blood curdling chimera for the lyubi druzi. However, he neither identified himself with the Democrat nor with the Republican platform.

On hearing this, the lyubi druzi refused to suffer in silence. Petro Poroshenko, the face of the brand, said he couldn’t stomach the word primaries because of its foreign-ness. He also came up with the idea of annulling the Politreforma, as the elixir of NSNU’s fitness.

Well, all things being equal, that would be the wrong place to start. Even if the anti-Politreforma movement somehow galvanizes NSNU, as the lyubi druzi hope, it risks becoming an idée fixe that will eclipse the real problems that need to be confronted. These problems come from within; the Politreforma per se has nothing to do with them. Indirectly, though, it stands a good chance of catalyzing the disintegration of NSNU, in the event the real issues remain untackled.
With no one to fill the ideological vacuum and to repair the badly broken navigation system, the inertia and impotence of the lyubi druzi will consign their special interests club to the dustbin of history.

If that’s not the hotel of their choice, Snoozers should stop to think about their current standing. The truth is, excommunicated from the nipples of the government and despised by the grassroots supporters it has lost, NSNU is in the middle of nowhere. The end of NSNU as we knew it, when we marched with it in 2004, has eluded no one.

Katerynchuk quit. Of course, he didn’t buy the lyubi druzi’s problem externalization argument. Nor did he succeed in pushing the envelope at the convention. His recovery recipe: Put ideas first, not interests. He that he’s through with NSNU, he has a free hand in pushing his creative destruction initiatives

The Council added 29 new members. However, the jury is out on the question of whether this body of 214-member body will better represent local chapters or whether it will simply dilute responsibility.

The Convention continued well into the evening, and delegates who had same-day return tickets had to leave. Before the Convention drew to a close, a valedictory vote of “unsatisfactory” performance was passed, a don’t-give-up-on-us message to voters.

NSNU has a lot of awareness-raising to do before it lets someone special breathe new life into it.

Until then, it remains a rubber stamp for Yushchenko’s vainglorious fantasies, a leaderless bureaucratic backwater — half-dead, half-alive.