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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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PRUyal Pageant Blemished by Senior Seeking “Better Living Today”

I see skies of blue..... clouds of white
Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.
Louis Armstrong “What a Wonderful World”

Not all went according to plan at a gala event marking the 100th Day of the Anticrisis Coalition. As the glitterati took turns in mounting the rostrum, one could probably hear the hissing sound of static electricity that accompanied this ego-stroking parade.

Resting on the laurels of fame was Premier Victor Yanukovych, the “Queen of the Night.”

Had he developed as much — or as little — appreciation of Western culture as Kim Il Sung or Saddam Hussein had, that night we would have heard him humming that famous Louis Armstrong song.

The speech he delivered glorified the many achievements of his Cabinet, such as getting a good deal from Russia on natural gas supplies for FY 2007 and lessening the pain at the pump by having fuel traders agree to voluntary price cuts. (He failed to mention that the former comes at a certain geopolitical price, and that the latter perfectly corresponds with the seasonal slowdown in world demand for oil.)

One of the exit lines he threw at the audience was “work is being done to expand the coalition.” (Well, if we heed the latest news, NSNU has once again settled its orientation in favor of an opposition role. Don’t be a menace to NSNU while drinking your juice in the hood.)

Rather than allowing closer contact with his voters, these days Yanukovych takes far more interest in achieving greater control over enterprises in which the government has a majority stake — through the practice of populating their management with his associates.

In fact, the miracle man who promised us BLT (“Better Living Today”) has now updated his vocabulary with words like populism and squandermania.

Just when he was done with impressing the hell out of the audience and was about to retreat from the rostrum, the moment of truth came.

Straight out of the blue, an unidentified senior citizen came flying down the aisles like a fighter jet, repeatedly calling Yanukovych by name, in a squeaky voice full of distress. Not even a Cabinet “janitor” like Anatoliy Tolstoukhov could prevent him from storming the stage, where he hoped to make physical contact with his idol.

But guess what? The idol took immediate evasive action and fell back to base, at full speed, in a tsarlike manner. His reaction to the man he left behind? Zero.

No one knows exactly how that passionate elderly man had landed on the invitation list, in the first place. But, according to the media, he meant Yanukovych no harm and merely intended to hand him a grievance letter. Presumably a Yanukovych supporter, he had a problem that he believed Yanukovych could solve. Well, it wasn’t his day. By the time his expeditionary tactics had propelled him on stage, no one was there for him, except for the security detail. So much for BLT.

This episode echoes Jimmy Carter’s infamous swamp rabbit encounter.

Yet, comparatively speaking, Carter comes across as more of a well educated idealist than an undereducated elitist, a role more suited for Yanukovych.

So, at the risk of being accused of overstating the case, the question would be: Does the man who enjoys the highest approval rating in Ukraine derive it from respect for the little man? Telltale episodes like this suggest that even America’s highest paid image makers cannot erase some deeply-seated power distance values that our dignitaries have to live with.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What’s in It for Ukraine?

The U.S. midterm elections have returned results that President Yushchenko can relate to. In this spiritual exercise, he should ask himself a couple of questions.

Question 1: Does Yushchenko still believe that being opposed by Parliament, by its own nature, contradicts the founding the principles of government?

As a Reagan White House intern, First Lady Kateryna Yushchenko probably never kept her husband in the dark about this not being true. That dealing with hostile legislatures is normal practice for Western leaders demands no further explanation. Needless to say, the piece of evidence America has just provided us with casts the local “lyubi druzi” school of thought in a less intellectually appealing light. It was those oppositionphobic gentlemen who posed as maids of honor to Yushchenko, their lucky star, whose marriage by arrangement to Yanukovych would have multiplied their fortunes.

Question 2: Does Yushchenko expect Bush to nurse his own Universal of National Unity?

When Yushchenko — obsessed with justifying his tango with “bandits” and “vote riggers,” as he once had gently termed them — came up with that political prenup of his, the only person he fooled was himself. And that summer coalition fling cost him dearly, by putting him in cahoots with individuals his voters had revolted against in the thing called the Orange Revolution. As the NSNU Convention reopens this Saturday, the patient is a bureaucratic mammoth debilitated with the special interest contagion, severely disconnected from its grassroots support group, stuck in single-digit territory. NSNU is a four-letter word, period.

No sooner had the Democrats uncorked their champagne than Moscow pocketed its pride and rushed to sign a bilateral protocol with the U.S., on concern that, with Dems taking both the House and the Senate, it may be grounded in the WTO limbo for a long time.

That explains why Moroz has been working against the clock on WTO-related legislation while steering clear of the NATO issue. The accounting formula behind the $130 price tag seems to be written on the walls: “NATO, for this you’ve paid us; WTO, for that you haven’t.”

The D-Day hardly spells a Moscow-centric U-turn on the Hill with regard to Ukraine. In fact, friends of Ukraine can even be found among the surviving Republicans like Richard Lugar, John McCain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
What it does spell is bad times for the bad guys.

By the way, there’s a ruling party in Ukraine that, behaviorally, has established itself as a much uglier version of everything that’s wrong with the GOP. For reasons outlined above, that party should watch itself very carefully. Otherwise, its day of reckoning, too, will come.

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

Obviously, the Goldilocks economy is faring much better than the GOP. Dubya has finally got his comeuppance. It took a whole D-Day — the Democrats’ Day — to smoke Rummy out of the Pentagon.

After an almost bloodless takeover of Iraq in 2003 had seemingly opened 1001 opportunities for making that woebegone country into an oasis of democracy, the Bush administration let them slip away one by one.

Having seriously misread one of the world’s oldest nations, not to mention its own, the Bush administration did very little to set the record straight.

As time passed by, one could hear the U.S. casualty clock ticking ever more loudly. Punctuated with gory, internet downloadable beheadings of Western contractors, not to mention the untold Iraqis killed by mistake, the clock went on and on, slowly sinking the Bush administration into a geopolitical quagmire beyond the resuscitative power of Kerry’s sense of humor.

The recent gains made by Reps turned out not to be a case of too little to little, for a scandal scarred party unable to heal itself.

Good news for Saddam: He may now occupy his well-deserved seat on death row secure in the knowledge that, in a way, he has settled the score. The unfound stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have finally made impact on his enemies, becoming weapons of mass defrockment.

The sea change in the U.S. legislature offers yet another perspective on the pendulum of public opinion. Power corrupts; absolute power corrupt absolutely. With that in mind, the Democrats should do their best to keep the pendulum from leaving their side. And that means avoiding mistakes their predecessors made.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Shcherban Comes Home to Party, Not to Roost

A few hours after landing in Boryspil Airport, Volodymyr Shcherban found himself not as uncomfortable as many had predicted.

In fact, royal treatment has followed him wherever he went. Arrested in Florida last year on charges of extortion and abuse of authority, he soon had managed to walk out on a $2 m bail.

Interestingly enough, in 2002, Shcherban had run for the Rada on the NSNU ticket, which he swiftly deserted once elected an MP. That same year Kuchma appointed him as Governor of the Oblast of Sumy. It was there that he is suspected of having suppressed the summer 2004 student sit-ins and the local opposition’s march on Kyiv.

By now it’s crystal clear that Lutsenko’s much-ballyhooed “cold reception” turned out to be a warm welcome, as far as the prowess of the PRU’s event planning department is concerned.

Being convoyed to the Office of Prosecutor General for a cup of coffee must have been the only uneasy part. Thereafter, friends of Mr. Shcherban took command. Representatives of the people of Ukraine on the side of the PRU vouched for their protégé and let the entire nation know that Mr. Shcherban is not alone in his struggle.

Bingo! Now that Mr. Shcherban drew a lungful of fresh air on a Saturday night, we could say “The people of Ukraine v Volodymyr Shcherban” is off to a good start — the "good ole" start, to be precise.

To some observers, this scenario may remind of “Die Hard 2.” Remember General Esperanza, the bad guy who had things fixed up, thanks to his robust ground support team? Unfortunately, Ukraine has no McClane to rely on.

In a post-arrival interview, Mr. Shcherban pleaded not guilty to the long list of charges levied against him, which he termed as fabricated and reprisal-driven. Poor boy, he fled his beloved country fearing for his life. Specifically, he mentioned the prospect of being hanged on Maidan. (May he pray for Saddam, whose chances of martyrdom via hanging are far greater than his own.)

And as for Mr. Shcherban, his end-of-life ideation can only be categorized as misplaced, given the fact that nobody met death on Maidan, except for a man from western Ukraine whose heart stopped beating on the eve of the Dec. 26 High Court-mandated runoff.

If President Yushchenko still has an itch for his 2004 sales pitch “Бандити сидітимуть в тюрмах,” he should try Shcherban. Well, whether he does or not, few believe that justice will be served. It’s safe to assume that Shcherban’s chances of getting locked up are close to nil.

Now listen to this: Speaking on Channel 5, Shcherban said he remains hopeful that his PRU white knights will put him back on the political track.

High-profile criminals are so hard to find these days. Whenever the cops claim they found one, next thing we know there’s not a shred of evidence to support a case. It's happened before. It may happen again. God bless Ukraine, my home, sweet, home.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

WTOverdrive: Why the Sudden Speedup?

Since Moroz got infected with the WTO virus, the Rada has chain-passed a whopping seven WTO-related bills, albeit in the first reading. That narrows the prerequisite down to fourteen.

What accounts for the unexpected resurgence in the passage of WTO legislation? Analysts attribute the cabin fever to an eagerness to realize first-mover advantages. When push comes to shove, the anticrisis coalition's love for the Russian ruble probably outranks its love for Russia itself.

Why not jam Russia’s fingers in the doorway for a handsome profit?
Some sources indicate that once Ukraine plants the flag, the temptation to press Russia for opening its pipe and oil field exploration markets would be impossible to overcome.

The WTO resurrection in the Ukrainian Parliament, if sustained, raises the possibility that the geopolitical bribe buried into the $130 price tag may cover non-membership in NATO, but not in the WTO.

For crying out loud, will somebody grab the phone and call the FSB hotline? The capitalist fatherland is in danger!

Yushchenko Untouchables Called on Carpet, NSNU at Crossroads

Surprisingly, the deNSNUization of the Yanukovych Cabinet did not stop with the eviction of NSNU rank and file ministers. The trio of ministers directly appointed by the President, made coalition-exempt by the Constitution, has also been challenged by the anticrisis coalition.

Each has received an invitation to appear before the Rada. However, at the end of the day, the Rada may lack the Constitutional clout to rid fire these ministers.
These worrisome developments come within days of the NSNU Convention’s reawakening from its three-week slumber.

Finding a turnaround-minded successor to Roman Bezsmertny remains on top of the agenda for a party trading at all-time lows. The pilot idea of co-opting Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a brainy outsider well-connected in both pre- and post-Orange worlds, has been met with stiff resistance from the lyubi druzi HR department.

Whatever course of action Yu chooses to pursue (e.g. derailing the Politreforma, seeking repeat parliamentary elections, etc) he is going out on a limb.
Not until a swift and serious overhaul effort reaches out to every facet of NSNU will that political vehicle ever get him anywhere other than his political deathbed. Katerynchuk, the only credible figure, had better get his act together. Debureaucratize or die.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Quorum Quake Averted
Yu Takes a Stand for Minority Stockholders

Equipped with an all-seeing eye, Bankova has embarked on a countrywide minesweeping mission.

Recently, President Yushchenko has vetoed a freshly-minted corporate governance bill that lowered the stockholder quorum requirement from 60 to 50 percent plus 1 share. Few independent analysts would disagree that the vetoed bill cut corners on the rights of minority stockholders, leaving them powerless in the corporate decision making process.

Undoubtedly, such an extreme regulatory zigzag would have hurt Ukraine’s investment outlook. Therefore, for his rescuer role, Yu deserves a thank-you note from the investment community.

Where did this abortive initiative originate? Analysts point to the corporate warlords of the anticrisis coalition. These they believe may be a little too anxious to reslice the equity pie in their favor.

At the very least, the intervention Yushchenko undertook has made him the personal hero of Pryvat’s Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the richest men in Ukraine, who allegedly holds a minority stake in the UkrNafta oil company, with the controlling stake being held by the government. The quorum quake engineered by the anticrisis coalition could have resulted in the ouster of Pryvat-friendly UkrNafta CEO Ihor Palytsya.

In light of the Cabinet’s crackdown on grain exports, the calculated risk taken by the anticrisis crowd has significantly added to the outrage already present in the investment community.

Up close and personal, the Yanukovych gov't has become a synonym for the comeback of unbridled vested interests to Ukrainian institutions, unmatched by the lyubi druzi experience.

One doesn’t have to go too far to reach that conclusion. Take the barebones 2007 budget proposal. That’s the gist of Yanukovych's BLT formula. (“Better Living Today”)

Lower taxes in 2007, maybe? Uh, forget about it too. Regionomics rules!
Ukrainian courts, overloaded as they are with takeover litigation, merit a separate discussion.

The Battle of Kyivstar has reinforced their reputation as warring fiefdoms that sell their services to the highest bidder. As long as Ukrainians of all walks of life continue shelling out on justice while keeping their lips sealed, justice will bear a very close resemblance to the oldest profession.

For Yu, it’s the anticrisis adventure that brought home the truth: Being a silent observer doesn’t pay.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lutsenko Goes On
Interior Minister Resists Rada’s Furlough, Says Constitution on His Side

One of the three untouchables in the Yanukovych Cabinet, Interior Minister Lutsenko has ignored a parliamentary bid to temporarily relieve him of his duties.
An investigation commission has been set up in the Anticrisis-controlled Rada to conduct a probe into his activities.

With the backing of President Yushchenko and Constitutional lawyers, the besieged Minister has stood his ground. It is still unclear whether the three ministers (Interior, Exterior, and Defense) will quit on their own volition, leaving the Yanuke Cabinet to its own devices.

Why mess with Lutsenko, anyway? There's no explanation other than he must have been a real pain in the ass for the immaculate region whose identity, for reasons of confidentiality, will remain undisclosed.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Building a Better Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen's bully behavior will hit the screen shortly. True, this cultural comedian has made a career out of carpet bombing, not sharp shooting. However, given his disapproval rating, he still can be a positive force.

What do the filthy rich Genghis Khans on the Eurasian Street share with the ethnocentric Cartmans on both sides of the Atlantic? They all need a cultural education.

Of course, Sacha’s career is his to make. But, hypothetically speaking, if he ever chooses to venture beyond his spicier replica of South Park — for “make benefit” of humanity — he needs to do several things. And here's the roadmap:

• enhance his CQ (cultural intelligence)
• eliminate grossly inaccurate, inconsistent, and offensive content
• equip his character with traits that would reposition him from an agent provocateur to an agent of change
• enrage the regimes, not the rank and file
• entertain, engage, educate

These add-ons would help him strike a balance between his provocative value and, let’s say, his “perestroika 2” value. (By all means, his character could do better culturally than Rambo!)

I'm not talking about outright clientitis, such as that found in the U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship. I'm talking about creative cultural ambassadorship — building bridges, not burning them.

With globalization on the march, the West often takes too many things for granted. The truth is, different cultures still react to humor differently, especially if it’s black humor. Take the case of the Danish cartoons and the Vatican’s pontifications on Islam. Stereotyped, culturally irresponsible depictions of the developing world create humor on one side and hostility on the other. They entertain Western audiences only at the expense of fueling extremism and alienating the cultures depicted. On neither side of the twisted window do good things really happen. And one can’t get away with cultural murder in the global village.

By now, it appears that Astana’s angry backlash, followed by a public relations mobilization, has softened to a cooperative approach. Concerned with its image among Western investors and policy makers, the Nazarbayev regime has made moves to befriend the comedian, inviting him on a see-for-yourself trip to Kazakhstan. Because anger amounts to an acceptance of fault, the Nazarbayev regime has put on a smile, effectively telling Sacha that he is barking up the wrong tree.

Once again, the idea is not to have Borat castrated in politically correct terms. The idea is to have a character like Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) from the Naked Gun series, or a culturally-savvy performer like "Weird Al" Yankovic. The idea is to spread democracy through a principle immortalized in Aesop's fable “The Wind and the Sun.”

That’s the only way the sun of Westernization can rise over Eurasia, extending the blessings of civilization not just to the post-Soviet sultans but to the subjects as well.

Lastly, of the 15,300,000 people that make up Kazakhstan’s population, an estimated 550,000 are of Ukrainian descent.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Hurricane Yuliya Makes Landfall on Energy Mogul

In a heated talk show on Channel 1+1, Ukraine’s unemployed PM and re-employed Energy Minister pulled each other’s hair.

Armed with stacks of confidential papers, Yuliya Tymoshenko and Yuriy Boiko staged a revelations-packed duel that kept the audience guessing as to whose side carried more truth.

Since no polygraph tests were taken in the studio, the X-Files catchphrase “The truth is out there” might be useful in describing the combatants’ credentials.
Still, most would agree that, on the battlefield, Tymo scored more points.
Whether it was the allegations she made or the finesse with which she played the heartstrings of her fans, it was Boiko who got his balls busted.

Sure, he went over her past dealings with the now extinct EESU gas trading empire she owned, but that was hardly anything new. (The most popular adage holds that, as PM, she wrote off some UAH 8 bn worth of EESU debt.)
What was new? The Gas Princess proudly produced the minutes of a RosUkrEnergo AG meeting dating back to 2004, which linked Boiko,then CEO of Naftohaz to the management of that secretive company.

Few experts would reject out of hand the proposition that Tymo may have skeletons in her closet. It is equally certain that, taking the West as a yardstick — with the exception of Hungary and Israel — any allegations of this magnitude regarding officeholders should be followed by their immediate resignation. Nothing of the kind transpired in Ukraine.

And that’s the distance our home-grown Western integrators should keep in mind.