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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No Dough for ChernoCo
Kyiv Mayor Gets the Finger

Last year, the crackpot hit the jackpot. This year, he’ll probably hit the road.

According to a report quoted on Pravda, there hasn’t been a rush by Kyivites to pay those triple bills. It means that Mayor Chernovetsky’s fundraiser has met with limited success. (Independent experts believe Chernovetsky’s rates to be twice as high as the current costs would justify.)

The report takes a peek at Kyiv’s municipal-owned utility outlets, known as ЖЕКs (zheks). An accountant at one of the zheks confesses that, so far, only 15 to 20 percent of households in their area have made payments. (She does not specify the percentage of households that have paid the full amount, as opposed to those that have managed to apply for subsidies, despite bureaucratic hurdles.)

Using that figure as a sample, we can see that Kyivites are not particularly enthusiastic about coughing up those hard-earned hryvnias for ChernoCo. Despite the City Hall being a marketing extension of the utility sector, your local zhek the ripper still ends up undercapitalized. That’s where the food chain short-circuited. Not only did ChernoCo miscalculate the rates, but it also miscalculated its ability to impose them.

Widespread refusal to pay the overblown rates as well as the accelerating movement to impeach Chernovetsky in a referendum have prompted the City Hall to hold its horses. (But the train has left the station, hasn't it?)

There is talk of confidential instructions allowing zheks to accept payments based on the old rates. BYuT members of the City Council have confirmed this information. Zheks have denied it. Certainly, one should not expect the latter to be at liberty to comment.

Chernovetsky, aka Lyonya Kosmos (which can be loosely translated as Leo the Creepo, or Leo the Loony), has been an object of ridicule on the Web and has spawned countless Photoshop collages.

If handouts suit your taste, knock yourself out. But if you have a taste for democracy, how about sending this guy back to his bank? Let’s get him out of our pockets.

Tarasyuk Walks

Foreign Affairs Minister Tarasyuk resigned this Tuesday, ending a monthlong tug of war between Yushchenko and Yanukovych to the benefit of the latter, Ukrainian news agencies report.

Earth to Yu, earth to Yu! Please feel free to refer to yourself as “we, the Queen of Ukraine.” An internship with Buckingham Palace would be a plus.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Davos Is Not Donbas, or Viktor Ya’s Dirty Little Secret

Guess who's leading the Ukrainian delegation to the World Economic Forum in Davos. You got it. It's Viktor Yanukovych, the incredible “Proffessor [sic] of Economics!” That’s what his handwritten presidential candidate application told us in 2004. Wait a minute, didn’t it also state a certain degree of proficiency in English? Sure it did. Should we therefore assume his American spin doctors put that precious information on his badge? Well, they most certainly chose not to, for fear it would make Borat pale by comparison.

To look sexy at this annual carnival that brings together business and political elites from all over the globe, Proffessor (with a double "F")
masquerades himself as the head of the freshly-minted investment council. Hey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and the rest of you guys out there, you better pay attention. Our man Yanukovych here means business. As a student of Kuchma, he has a way with numbers you can’t imagine. Lakshmi Mittal, a colleague of yours, paid $4.8 bn for a steel mill that our man knew just how to sell for a mere $800 mn. You get the idea.

Viktor Pinchuk of Interpipe, a renowned Westernizer, philanthropist, Kuchma’s son-in-law and, by the way, former co-owner of that steel mill, will hold a lunch-conference titled "Where Is Ukraine Heading?” Among those who plan to attend are Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, financier George Soros, chairman of Russia's Vneshtorgbank Andrey Kostin, and Ukrainian American astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper.

So where is Ukraine heading? Yanukovych will probably trot out the same old lines about Ukraine destined to be a bridge — the bridge — between Europe and Russia, the latter, of course, being the neighbor everybody would love to have. (Lukashenka would beg to differ on that one.) And if Freud dropped by, he’d point out that the title of the conference clearly addresses the West’s repressed concern that, with Proffessor at the helm, Ukraine is going straight to hell.

OK, let's not overanalyze our humble leaders.The Ukrainian delegation includes Economy Minister Volodymyr Makukha, commodity kings Rinat Akhmetov of SCM, Serhiy Taruta of ISD, and Ihor Kolomoisky of Pryvat. The “old man” (Yushchenko), a no show at Davos, is represented by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, deputy chief of the Secretariat.

Of course, Yanukovych will go to great lengths eroticizing that 7 percent GDP growth rate for 2006. In fact, he’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. But there’s something he will avoid any discussion of. And here’s what it is: As of today, Ukraine remains one of the poorest countries on the continent, period. Ukraine ranks a dismal 125th out of the 161 countries surveyed in the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom.

With most of the profits from our retarded industry being sucked out to offshore banks, a sizable stream of investments comes from EU migrant workers who send remittances to their families back in Ukraine.

Whether you like it or not, sex tourism could become Ukraine’s next killer app. After all, it’s slightly more humane than the sex slave trade and could provide an additional source of income for local law enforcement.

That about wraps up our economic learnings of Davos for make benefit glorious region of Donbas. Proffessors of all banana republics, go hunting!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Red Card for Rudkovsky
Transportation Minister Probed for Turkmenbashi 2-Bashing

Minister Mykola Rudkovsky, SPU, one of the founding fathers of the Anticrisis Coalition, stands accused of running a travel agency on the side. Las month, the agency sparked a diplomatic scandal between Kyiv and Ashabad when it hosted exiled Turkmen opposition leaders, or so they presented themselves.

In the middle of the night, Minister Rudkovsky called Ukrainian missions in Vienna and Varna, urging that visas be granted to the Turkmen by 5 am. The decision had been approved in the upper levels of government, he added.

What followed was a vain voyage of two former high-ranking Turkmen officials, Khudaiberdy Orazov and Nur-Mukhammed Hannamov, ex-Vice Premier and ex-Ambassador to Turkey, respectively. Their value offering: better access to Turkmen gas wells in exchange for some sort of support.

It’s no secret that experts see no challenger to Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, the heir apparent to the recently deceased Turkmenbashi. Therefore, the easy question is, what was Rudkovsky’s interest in all this and was it worth it? The tough one is, were those opposition guys the real McCoy and, if so, what matters more to Ukraine — taking care of number one or babysitting democracies yet to be born?

Whatever the answers, once the exiles showed up in Kyiv, the Turkmen Embassy lodged a sulfurous note of protest, informing the Ukrainian authorities that warrants for their arrest had been issued by Interpol.

After the visitors safely sneaked out of Ukraine, the scandal seemed to have died quietly. Until a Saturday piece in ZN shed light on the story. The article states that Rudkovsky’s travel business has incited the wrath of Yanukovych.

Rudkovsky is suing the author for defamation. He considers himself to be the target of a smear campaign of reprisals orchestrated by his former business partners, some of whom have found employment in the Secretariat of the President. He claims it all began with his bold decision to remove a score of state-owned enterprises from the privatization list.

The SBU and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have launched separate probes. Both the Ukrainian Ambassador in Vienna and the Consul General in Varna have been relieved of their duties for issuing visas in violation of procedure. Apparently, the spasmodic turf wars so symptomatic of our government’s chronic gold/gas rush have acquired a Turkmen dimension.

Frozen Affairs
Embattled Foreign Affairs Ministry Faces Funding Freeze

This winter may by the warmest the world has known in the last 500 years. Not for the Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Ministry, headed by the President’s protégé Borys Tarasyuk, remains the last stronghold of resistance to pro-Russia PM Victor Yanukovych in his war for complete control over the Cabinet.

Yanuk, emboldened by the viagracious cornucopia of power, knows no stopping. Even though it’s only been a week since the Treasury cut off funding, employees have already missed their paychecks. Beyond that, the conflict at hand could also disrupt timely payment of membership contributions owed by Ukraine to international organizations.

We should have seen it coming. Having spent the last few millennia chasing universals of national unity, Yushchenko crash-lands on what looks like the Planet of the Apes, or should we say Planet of the PRU?

Anyway, neither the funding freeze nor the EU’s cold-shoulder treatment of Ukraine’s aspirations has prevented Minister Tarasyuk from continuing on the job.

P.S. Rejoice! As of Tuesday, the Ministry’s funding has been renewed, with the only exception being Minister Tarasyuk himself. That ends the mystery of Yanukovych’s job title. It’s Partially Merciful!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Double-Crossed! Joan of Anticrisis Coalition

The quid pro quo Tymo had in mind appears to have misfired.

Not only did the President veto the Cabinet Bill she had gone to the stake for, but the Anticrisis Coalition gave her understand they had no deal speak of. Specifically, the AC has no intention of handing over to her many of the political perks ascribed to the Opposition Bill, her bargained-for yet botched facelift.

What else would you expect from serial con artists, a ticket to the Extreme Makeover show?

Bread and Circuses
Mayor Chernovetsky Staves off Impeachment with New Wave of Handouts and BS

Attention senior citizens. You may pick up your handouts. Don’t forget to bring your ID. Enjoy!

Notices of this kind, often hand-written, have recently flourished on the entrance doors of Soviet-built high rise condos that that make up the bulk of Kyiv’s housing projects. Here’s the good news: Some recipients have the dignity to ship these unsolicited packages where they came from.

In the face of the mounting grassroots movement to put him out of business, Cher has changed his tactics. He and his plutocratic posse have launched a post-election gastronomic loyalty program spiced up with promises of gradually scaling back the 340 percent utility hike to previous levels. Bravo, Mr. Chernovetsky! It’s all about bread and circus, right?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tributes Paid at Kushnaryov’s Funeral; Questions Remain

As thousands of mourners file past Kushnryov’s casket in Kharkiv, netizens flock to discuss theories of his death.

What fuels the discussion are rampant discrepancies in the accounts of events regarding:

species hunted — wolf, boar?
victim’s location — inside vehicle, out on hunting range?
weapon used — Russian-made Saiga, Italian-made Benelli Argo?
number of charges — single, multiple?

The nature of the injuries, a function of the above variables, merits a separate discussion. It is known beyond doubt that the victim suffered acute trauma to his liver, one of his kidneys, and a portion of his intestinal tract.

The prime suspect is one Dmytro Zavalny, Vice President of Kharkiv-based AT Tochprylad. A few hours after the shooting, came up with a mainstream version of what had happened. This BYuT-friendly news portal traced the fatality to Zavalny’s “tunnel vision” as he closed his left eye and took aim at the animal. Bang! Zavalny shoots Kushnaryov, his hunting companion — the guy in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

What’s wrong with this story? On the one hand, it defies the laws of ballistics for a single bullet to result in such damage — unless the bullet was a hollow point one, or one fired from elsewhere. On the other hand, it defies common sense for someone of his superb shooting credentials to fire at a human being accidentally — let alone to fire more than one charge.

All of which raises grave suspicions about the official line of investigation, reckless homicide. If convicted on these charges, the defendant faces up to 5 years in prison. By now, many people in this country either believe that Zavalny executed someone else’s master plan or that he is not the one who pulled the trigger.

Granted, Kushnaryov was no Irwin, much less Kennedy, but he was certainly the PRU’s top ideologue, a hawk whose love for Russia surpassed Yanukovych’s earthly and mercantile flirtations. More than that, he was independent-minded, perhaps so independent minded as to have a contract taken out on him. Kharkiv, his native city and the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic until 1934, holds a claim to fame far more impressive than Donetsk does. With the Kushnaryov faction taking reigns, Kharkiv could not only become a hotbed of federalist fever but also a graveyard of Donetsk’s ambitions.

Given the strange circumstances of his death, Kushnaryov, who had served as Kuchma’s chief of staff from 1996 to 1998, does not seem to be alone in his fate. He will be joining Messrs. Kirpa and Kravchenko, Kuchma’s other cowboys, whose suicides in early 2005 looked very much like the work of a hit squad in a cleanup operation meant to destroy evidence of the departing regime’s crimes.

Aside from Y2K (Yanukovych, Kuchma, Kravchuk) and prominent figures from different political walks of life, mourners included Russian MP Konstantin Zatulin, something of part-time persona non grata in Ukraine. Zatulin called Kushnaryov’s death “an irreparable loss” for Ukraine.

Who benefits? Experts agree that Russia has indeed lost an influential and genuinely reliable partner. They also hint that the power vacuum Kushnaryov has left behind will be most likely filled by the ever-more elbow-pushing Donetsk clan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kushnaryov Dies; Shot Accidentally on Purpose?

Conflicting reports surround the shooting of MP Yevhen Kushnaryov, PRU, pronounced dead at 13:45 pm Kyiv time.

According to some eyewitness accounts, the bullets found him in the car. Still, others claim that he was out on the hunting range, where he was mistaken for game. Was the hunting legal and, most important, how did the hunter become the hunted?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yanukovych Associate in Critical Condition after Accidental Shooting

MP Yevhen Kushnaryuov, PRU, is struggling for his life, Ukraine’s leading news agencies report. Kushnaryov was rushed into a nearby hospital, having sustained multiple gunshot wounds Cheney-style while hunting in Kharkivska Oblast, where he had served as Governor and President of the Oblast Council. While in the emergency room, he suffered kidney failure due to a preexisting heart condition.

Opponents of Kushnaryov have accused him of treason and sedition. In early 2005, the Office of the Prosecutor General subpoenaed Mr. Kushnaryov for his role in the counter-Orange Revolution separatist demarche in Severodonetsk. However, no charges were pressed against him.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Joan of Anticrisis Coalition Retreats to Jerusalem

No sooner had the hate mail hit her than she evacuated herself to the Holy Land.
The timing of her soul-searching pilgrimage speaks for itself.
Apparently she’s trying to create the impression that every act of rapport with the cosa regio nostra causes her great emotional distress. So there she is, doing penance for her sins, just days before the Epiphany, celebrated on Jan. 19 according to Orthodox tradition.

Her manifesto to fellow Ukrainian politicians (paraphrased): Thy ways are squalid; thou shalt go to church and thou shalt not come out until thou have purified thyselves.

The Israeli leadership is giving her a royal reception. She said the Knesset supports the idea of recognizing the Holodomor as genocide.

OK everybody, let’s cool our judgmental conscience and see the good girl inside her. Girlpower!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oops, She Did It Again: Tymo Pampers Yanuk in Exchange for Opposition Bill

If Joan of Arc is what they call her, then Joan’s at it again. Or, pardon my French, Jeanne d’Arc et les garçons are in on it again. Except that she may well have turned herself from martyr to villain without even noticing it.

It seems that for Tymo the art of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” works just fine regardless of the cast of characters. Lately, she’s been offering herself as a reliable partner in the Anticrisis Coalition’s routine of overriding presidential vetoes.

Having traded her support of the Cabinet Bill in exchange for the PRU’s support of the Opposition Bill, she pulled yet another controversial coup.

Both bills set the ground rules in this country. And here’s what this quid pro quo boils down to: While the Cabinet Bill lavishes tsar-like regalia on Yanukovych, the Opposition Bill awards Tymo with a monopoly claim to the opposition title. In addition to that, Tymo brokered the so-called imperative mandate, a bill that allows parties represented in local radas to expel legislators guilty of professional misconduct and party-hopping, the bane of BYuT's existence.

Life is such a mystery. Consumed with grand ambitions that vacillate between the presidency and premiership — whichever will carry more weight — the primadonna finds herself in bed with a stranger.

Fortunately, her involvement with the PRU in last year’s vote of no confidence to the Yekhanurov Cabinet did not cost her a vote in the spring 2006 campaign. On the contrary, boisterous BYuTies came to the finish line with a solid lead over lethargic NSNUzers, as scores of late-deciders suddenly switched to BYuT.

Obviously, this recent misstep hardly brings us any closer to bridging the BYuT-NSNU divide.

What a sad sight to see: Those who sang “Together We Are Many” taking turns in rebranding the Verkhovna Rada to Verkhovna Zrada, as the longstanding observation has it. (Zrada is Ukrainian for treason.)

After the confetti fell, BYuT issued an apologetic statement, couching its act in metaphoric terms that ranged from the realm of biology to that of astronomy, albeit with less than scientific accuracy.

The rhetoric mimicked the missionary mask that Moroz had painstakingly tried to put on his summer
con trick. It almost described BYuT’s role as that of a peace dove whose sole purpose it was to lessen the tension between Yushchenko and Yanukovych. (How else would she explain her repeatedly bizarre behavior?) Below are some excerpts from

"Ще трохи, і секретаріат президента разом із Кабміном були б змушені кожен конверт їхньої переписки відправляти на хімічну експертизу, боячись вірусу сибірської язви".

“[Б]ЮТ зобов'язана взяти на себе відповідальність за вирішення глибокої кризи у системі влади, розуміючи, що протистояння секретаріату президента і уряду може тривати до наступного прильоту комети Галілея (так в оригіналі)".

“Any more of this, and the Secretariat of the President and the Cabinet would have to send every piece of their correspondence for lab evaluation, in fear of contracting anthrax.”

“[B]YuT has to take responsibility for resolving the deep crisis in the system of government, realizing that the confrontation between the Secretariat of the President and the Cabinet can continue well until the next coming of Comet Galileo [sic].”
BYuT public affairs people must have been in a bit of a hurry. Note that the metaphoric punch line in the last quote offers a textbook case of commonly confused names, Galileo Galilei and Comet Halley.

Creative thinker that Tymo is, she might as well have tried to convince her voters that Hitler and Stalin intended the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as the Preamble to the UN Charter.

Reinstated! Crackdown General Popkov, Kuchma's Security Chief Radchenko

Newly-appointed Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko, SPU, has found himself a hell of a deputy. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome General Popkov, the wonderful guy who allegedly ordered a strike against peaceful protesters who gathered at Maidan. What a brave soul! He called it off only amid persistent reports that Orange Revolution-friendly security forces might thwart his plans. Secretary of State Colin Powell also pitched in when he put a call through to Kyiv and expressly warned the Kuchma administration against the Kristallnacht, or should we say Kremlinnacht, in the making.

Because the oranges we held in high esteem started rotting and falling too early, the likes of Popkov never got their asses kicked for what essentially was a near-civil war incident. In fact, they are alive and kicking. Small wonder if the Russian Orthodox Church nominates Popkov for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Congratulations, Minister Tsushko! Your screening and selection procedures certainly have the merit of consistency. Keep up the good work!

Oh yeah, we’ve been blessed with another one! Volodymyr Radchenko, also a general and one of Kuchma’s cowboys, has been promoted to Vice Premier. He will be joining a team that currently includes Messrs. Azarov, Klyuev, Rybak, and Tabachnyk, all of them natural born Vice Premiers.

Well-rounded in Kuchmocracy as Minister of the Interior, Chief of the SBU and NSC, Radchenko was valued for not sticking his neck out. His appointment comes in the heat of the war for talent — or shall we say, the war of attrition — raging on between the Yanukovych cabinet and Yushchenko administration. It appears to be a preventive measure meant to boost manpower and thus thwart any spring street agenda Tymoshenko and Lutsenko may have.

When questioned about his Cabinet duties, Radchenko said he will handle national security matters, improve defense capabilities, and coordinate law enforcement agencies, the usual drill.

Meanwhile, the PRU has launched an initiative to truncate the national security apparatus, headed by Vitaliy Haiduk, whose affiliation to ISD, Donbas’s second-largest business group, makes him extremely inconvenient, if not dangerous.

Thanks to the redeployment of mothballed Kuchma HR, the wheel of the Orange Counter-Revolution slowly but inexorably continues its course.

Eavesdropping Leak Features Moroz Debriefed by British Envoy

In a rare move, Moroz has already confirmed the authenticity of the conversation. According to popular opposition blog, which offers a log of the conversation, the audio files were obtained from three recently stolen workstations that belonged to an SBU SIGINT unit. The blog claims that stored on the missing hard drives was a compilation of phone intercepts capturing the entire Ukrainian establishment.

Following the release of some of these sensitive records on the internet, the SBU denied role, firing a high-ranking operative who refused to sign off on the disclaimer.

In the intriguing James Bond-style dialogue, Moroz waxes eloquent on the mechanics of Orange Coalition building.

Even though Ukraine does have a replica of the Fourth Amendment in its Constitution, it has been rarely enforced. Eavesdropping — by whoever can afford the technical capability — has been normal practice in this country. Undoubtedly, the SBU enjoys a strong competitive advantage in this lucrative business. We are a wiretapped nation, aren't we?

Judging by the sheer cooperativeness of soon-to-be Speaker Moroz, one could get the impression that Moroz moonlighted in Her Majesty’s service. Still, it probably wasn’t too long before Mother Moscow seduced him with a higher price for his services.

Land Sale Ban Upheld; BYuT Helps Override Presidential Veto

Courtesy of BYuT, the Anticrisis Coalition has mounted a bullet-proof vest against Yushchenko’s veto-making chain gun.

Tymoshenko and Partners argues that the ban should not be lifted until the Rada works out an adequate legal framework that will protect the rights of would-be landowners.

The Yushchenko administration counters that inasmuch as the ban prolongs the absence of a free land market, it benefits the booming black market. More to the point, Mykhailo Brodsky, a former BYuT associate, asserts that proponents of the ban have gained strong inroads into the black market.

If Ukraine’s wealthiest political club, the PRU, clings to the ban with the intensity that generates sympathizers, there must be something special about it.

One way or the other, decollectivized Ukrainian farmers, whose lot in life could be compared to that of Native Americans, stand a great chance of being had. They make perfect candidates for guinea pigs in a project premised on the centuries-old principle that the fool and his money — or land, as is the case here — are soon parted. The trick for the powers that be, therefore, is to make sure fools remain in good supply.

There isn’t a damn thing they can do about it unless they beat plowshares into swords — swords of political awareness and self-organization. Unless Ukrainians run a total recall of the Kuchma voucher scam, they will be landless before they know it.

It gets even more interesting if we take stock of Article 13 of the Ukrainian Constitution. That article states that land belongs to the Ukrainian People. As antagonistic as it may sound, nowhere does the article refer to them as people living in the countryside.

One thing remains certain: Now that the industry pie has been sliced, the last wave of prykhvatization in Ukraine will be dubbed the “lust for land.”