Share |

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Maidan 2 in the Making?

Unless it’s just another hoax, a number of telltale signs suggest that mass mobilization has begun.

Speaking at a press conference today, Yushchenko stated his willingness to take appropriate action to defend Ukrainians’ constitutional rights. A draft directive to dissolve parliament arrived at the Vice Speaker’s desk during an emergency session of the Anticrisis Coalition.

Reports began to emerge of train and busloads of Donetskites being shipped to Kyiv. Rounded up at their workplaces, they will provide ground support for the PRU’s Friday forum “A United Ukraine is Our Future” (read: no Coalition of ImpUnity, no future for Ukraine). This event is designed as a counterweight to the first meeting of the National Rescue Committee to be held on the same day. The opposition rally will be held on Saturday, the day the NSNU convention opens. Tymo cut her French trip short to take part in the events.

Is this the real thing or just an extreme point in Yu’s bargaining with Ya? Stay tuned and you’ll find out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kurochkin Killed

Russian mobster Maxim Kurochkin, aka “Mad Max,” was shot dead today outside a Kyiv courthouse by sniper gunfire from a nearby high-rise building. Police are looking for the gunman. A police officer was wounded.

Kurochkin, famous for his business interests in Kyiv and Dnipropetrovsk, was standing trial on charges of extortion, after being arrested on arrival in Kyiv on Nov. 20 last year. During the 2004 presidential campaign, he had presided over the Russian Club, a Kyiv-based lobbyist lounge with a clear pro-Yanukovych orientation.

At today’s hearings, Kurochkin made an emotional plea to the court, stating “I don’t want to die. Let me go.” Ukrainian news agencies also quote Kurochkin, minutes before his death, as saying, “I’ve done my job and I do not regret coming to Ukraine.”

His death comes two weeks after a highway shooting on the outskirts of Kyiv reportedly left several associates of his in a car sprayed with bullets.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Coalition of National ImpUnity v. National RescYu Committee
Ya Paranoid About Lu; Ty Optimistic About Yu

A duel of press conferences held in rapid succession on Friday had Ukraine’s heavyweights speak their minds.

Yanukovych took pains to impress us with something so pompous that even shamans of “guided democracy” like Putin would puke at it. Speaking before an audience of some 579 accredited reporters, Yanukovych unveiled a smoking pot of plans that included the following:

  • Keeping Lutsenko off the streets of Kyiv for the sake of “peace and stability”
  • Rebranding the Anticrisis Coalition to that of National Unity (read: ImpUnity)
  • Buying a 2/3 constitutional majority stake in the Rada (read: prostitutional majority)
  • Using that majority to make Russian a second official language
Having digested the best of Donbas cuisine, we tuned our stomachs to a different set of ingredients. Tymo went about her business by:
  • Appealing to the President’s better self and offering herself as an alter ego
  • Citing legal technicalities for Yu to disband the Rada, adding that he has no other choice
  • Maintaining a positive emphasis and rekindling the spirit of Maidan
  • Announcing the re-establishment of Maidan’s National Rescue Committee
At a time when the Coalition of National ImpUnity puts talk shows off the air and disenfranchises millions of Ukrainians, the President has no right to be a bystander. This country is getting ripe for a rescue operation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kid Pro Quo: Yatsenyuk to Helm Foreign Affairs

Surprise! Deputy Chief of the Secretariat Arseniy Yatsenyuk, 32, got a new job too.

Being a compromise candidate, he garnered a whopping 426 votes in the Rada on Wednesday. Analytically speaking, he’s reaping the dividends of his highly diversified portfolio of connections.

Other than that, he’s talented and energetic. Finally, the Yanukovych Cabinet has a guy who speaks a little English. (Ouch! Numb with shock, career diplomats like Tarasyuk could barely conceal their disdain.)

Anatoliy Kinakh has replaced Volodymyr Makukha as Minister of Economy. Speaker Moroz, posing as an expert on parliamentary democracy, has stated that the interests of the USPP should be represented in the government. Obviously, the alchemy of separating business from government must be entering some strange, shape-shifting phase.

Too bad Ukraine ranks a dismal 125th out of the 161 countries surveyed in the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom.

All of which suggests that cradle is not the only thing getting robbed in this country.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kinakh Kisses Yu Goodbye

Tuesday’s session of the Rada opened with an ominous speech by MP Anatoliy Kinakh, NSNU, who presides over the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (USPP).

Mr. Kinakh made himself very clear: The confrontation between the government and opposition is eroding Ukraine’s competitive edge. He summed up his readout of the situation with the following, “We have no right to waste time; it’s time to gather stones.”

Don’t you get it? He’s joining the Yanukovych Cabinet! And he’s taking a loyal cadre of eight MPs with him. Here’s some fresh blood for Turncoats, Inc.

Kinakh, whose premiership from 2001 to 2002 superseded Yuschenko’s and preceded Yanukovych’s, will reveal his new job title tomorrow.

Happy landing, Mr. Kinakh! Best of luck in breathing the spirit of entrepreneurship into Ukraine’s 20th-century industry.

Lutsenko’s House Searched

They came early in the morning. They came looking for PCs and furniture to be seized as evidence in a second attempt of building an abuse of authority case. The idea is to prove Lutsenko guilty of "misappropriating" a gift gun to a certain entrepreneur in exchange for consumer goods.

Yanukovych has claimed no prior knowledge of the search, saying he learned about it on the news. Well, he should have read the morning papers. There’s an article in “Segodnya” that says a munitions cache has been discovered not too far away from Lutsenko’s premises. Why not call your best friend and get a free copy?

They haven’t booked Lutsenko yet, but interrogations have already begun. Just like that. Once you become a threat to the country’s “political stability,” somebody has to put the brakes on your geographic mobility. And in this regard, the Anticrisis Coalition is becoming all too predictable.


Ohryzko Rejected Again

As expected, the Anticrisis-controlled parliament turned down Yushchenko’s pick for Foreign Affairs Minister. Word of advice for Ohryzko: If you really want this job, take a crash course in unlearning Ukrainian.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Stalin Big Boards to Discipline Donetskites

As the Dons of Donetsk file criminal charges against Lutsenko and take over banks and universities in Kyiv, the mortal denizens of Donetsk are having less fun. First, their utility bills tripled. Second, Generalissimo Stalin made a comeback — this time, in a slice-of-death advertising campaign launched by a local utility company slapped with mass non-payment.

According to company management, the use of Stalin as a visual image personality creates powerful associations with order and discipline. Not an unfounded claim in a city that had gone by the name of Stalino from 1924 to 1961. Of course, those creative people forgot to trace the blessings of “order and discipline” to Stalin’s experience in bank robbery and genocide.

Anyway, the message reads: “Comrades, this is not a movie. This is life. They who don't pay will be punished.”

Perhaps Angela Merkel should consider adopting these scaremongering practices to combat her country’s rampant unemployment. Don’t they have a mustached zombie of their own in Germany? So how about this: “Achtung! This is not a drill. They who don't work will be deported to Donetsk?”


Bonus tracks: Soviet Anthem (English version, 1949)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Trip to Kuchmaland
Lutsenko Rallies in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk Obstructed by Pro-Yanukovych Local Authorities

Half-pregnant with new parliamentary — and perhaps even presidential — elections, 2007 looks very much like 2004. “Narodna Samo'oborona,” or “People’s Self-Defense,” an opposition submovement headed by former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko that is haunting Ukraine in the runup to the long-awaited March on Kyiv, helps discover that similarity.

Talk about putting spokes in those wheels. Yanukovych and his allies seem to be intent on putting eastern Ukraine on the 2004 track.

But not all people take orders from Yanukovych there. In the three rounds of the 2004 presidential election, Kharkiv voted Yushchenko by 31.10, 21.11 and 26.12 percent, respectively. The figures for Dnipropetrovsk are 18.72, 29.62, and 32.01 percent.

Lutsenko’s roadshow in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk gathered from five to ten thousand people. Of course, those estimates do not include the brotherly legions of Communists and Regionalists (read: Capitalists) who stormed the streets to protest the project that threatens to shatter their highly profitable partnership.

Securing a venue turned out to be a major problem in Kharkiv: Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin answers to the PRU. In Dnipropetrovsk the city where Kuchma, as head of Yuzhmash, had spent most of his pre-presidential adulthood making ICBMs Lutsenko survived a retaliatory egg attack. (A single egg to Yanukovych’s chest in fall 2004 downed him in one fell swoop and kept him in the hospital for several days. Watch Tymo’s eggsperience.)

Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko, SPU, who has stocked up on police clubs and water cannons, and has populated his staff with Kuchma’s knights, has adopted Kuchma’s rhetoric as well. Speaking at a press conference that marked his first 100 days in office, he advised Ukrainians against participating in the March on Kyiv, calling it “political schizophrenia.” Well, look who’s talking. Hadn't Moroz, his party boss, shared the same stage with Lutsenko at Maidan?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moscow to Close Its Only Ukrainian Library

Local authorities are planning to “reorganize” the one and only Ukrainian library in a city with an estimated one million people of Ukrainian descent. (This is not to mention that Moscow was founded by Yuriy Dolgorukiy, Prince of Kyiv, in 1147.)

The library opened a year ago. Interestingly enough, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov, a front-runner of Russia’s claims on the Crimea, attended the opening ceremony.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Turncoats, Inc: Party-Shopping MPs Form Daughter Faction to Anticrisis Coalition

Apparent objective:

  1. Act as a sponge for similar-minded MPs badly-needed by the Anticrisis Coalition to gain a supermajority (300 votes) with which to silence Yushchenko’s veto-making machine;
  2. Maintain a pretense of acting independently.
Current membership list:
MP Inga Vershynina, former BYuT member
MP Maxym Lutsky, former BYuT member
MP Mykhailo Hladiy, former BYuT member
MP Mykhailo Zubets, former BYuT member
MP Olexander Borzykh, former BYuT member
MP Olexander Volkov, former NSNU member
MP Olexander Yedin, former BYuT member
MP Volodymyr Tolstenko, former BYuT member
MP Volodymyr Zaplatynsky, former NSNU member
MP Volodymyr Zubyk, former BYuT member
Ukrainian democracy has been suffering from post-election disenfranchisement for a long time. You come to the polls, you vote BYuT or NSNU, and the next thing you know a portion of people whom you voted into power to represent your interests is finding the grass to be greener on the other side.

Part of the blame goes to BYuT and NSNU. That’s what happens when you guys go selling parliamentary seats to gold-diggers. You can’t seriously expect more from people who can’t tell money-making from law-making. And so the never-ending story goes: “Money to get power, power to get money.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Verka Goes to Helsinki!
Ukraine-Mocking Comedian to Represent Ukraine at Eurovision Song Contest

Yee-hah! Verka Serduchka, a faux female character created by Andriy Danylko impersonating a train conductor who can’t get enough of marginalizing Ukrainian culture alongside Russian chauvinist stereotypes, should be packing his bags for Helsinki. Ironically, whatever he sings there on May 12 will most likely be interpreted as a quintessence of Ukrainian culture.

Over the last decade, Andriy Danylko has perfected his kinky pseudo-ethnic character into a huge commercial success in Russia and eastern Ukraine. He won the ticket to Helsinki having outperformed several other artists in a nationwide SMS vote broadcast live on state television. So how does someone who masquerades as the Ukrainian equivalent of the N-word get to go to Eurovision? Well, I guess it tells a great deal about Ukraine’s post-Soviet identity crisis. So far, only one local FM station has voiced a protest.

If, for some reason, Kazakhstan fielded Sacha Baron Cohen, I’d rather vote for him than Andriy Danylko. After all, Borat Sagdiyev did not mess with Kazakhstan without making some pointed jabs at Amerikastan. With Verka Serduchka, it’s always been a one-way street.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sold! ChernoCo Auctions Off 279 Acres of Land to RosUkrEnergo Co-Owner?

Brothers in public relations distress should be helping each other out, shouldn’t they? Pravda quotes a Komersant report that traces the newly acquired 279-acre patch of municipal land to Dmytro Firtash, the presumptive owner of the 45 percent stake in the notorious RosUkrEnergo.

The City Hall has already taken credit for the Tuesday transaction, comparing it to the iconic reprivatization of Kryvorizhstal. However, beyond the thin veil of the “open bid,” which pitted TOV Baski Plyus-2004 (ТОВ Баскі плюс-2004) against Investbudservis (Інвестбудсервіс), the picture looks anything but transparent. Try finding any of these ghost bidders on Google.

Starting price: UAH 869,359,000 (USD 172,150,297)
Hammer price: UAH 999,763,000 (USD 197,972,871)
The proud winner: TOV Baski Plus-2004, reportedly controlled by Mr. Firtash

It’s time to place bets on whether the housing project being advertised will push down Kyiv real estate prices below London levels.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tymo Shoots Verbal Ammo at Reporter

Pravda has captured a moment of tension that spiced up Tymoshenko’s meeting with the Ukrainian diaspora in Washington.

The provocative question came from an RFE/RL reporter who has tortured Tymo with inquiries on whether she feared detention by American law enforcement due to her past involvement with Pavlo Lazarenko, the exiled former Ukrainian PM whose trial is nearing the end in California.

This time the reporter asked her how she was going deal with the thugs in the PRU while consorting with such controversial figures as Feldman and Hubsky, at which point she became visibly distressed.

What followed was an awkward attempt to regain composure using a two-pronged rebuttal that included self-victimization and ad hominem components.

Ми вішаємо мітки на людей, не розбираючи їх сутності. Запорукою того, що наша команда ніде не схибить, не відступить на жоден крок від стратегічного шляху є моє власне ім'я і моя власна позиція.

І я буду крок за кроком руйнувати опорних людей Партії регіонів на сході, я буду перевербовувати і забирати кращих організаторів процесу, і забиратиму їх для того, щоб вони не працювали на їх перемогу. Бо я вважаю, що перемогу ми отримаємо тоді, коли переконаємо людей на сході, що Партія регіонів – це не їх партія.

А ця молода людина на першій публічній зустрічі, яку я мала, він перший вирвався з запитанням "що ж ви сюди так довго не їхали, тому, що ви є подільник Лазаренка і ви не їхали, бо боїтеся, що вас заарештують". Я хочу вам сказати, я просто не хочу, щоб ви й 10% пройшли з того, що пройшла я, моя родина і моя команда. Бо я бажаю вам добра, але не будьте чорним піаром в Вашингтоні проти України. Бо це чорний піар не проти мене, а проти України. Але я звикла до цього. Я заздалегідь пробачаю всі провокації, які є, були і будуть в майбутньому.

We put labels on people without looking into their substance. The guarantee that our team will not err and will not stray a single step from the strategic course is in my good name and in my personal stance.

And step by step I will destroy the PRU henchmen in the east, I will woo away and reclaim the best talent in organizational matters, and I will reclaim them so that they do not work to precipitate a victory for the PRU. For I believe that we will win only when we convince the people in the east that the Party of Regions is not their party.

And this young man here, during the first public meeting I had, he was the first and he came up with this question, “So what took you so long? Is it because you’re Lazarenko’s accomplice and you’re afraid of being arrested?” I want to tell you that I simply don’t want you to go through even 10 percent of what my family, my team, and I have been through. I wish you well, but don’t be a smear campaign here in Washington against Ukraine. For this is not a smear campaign against me, but one against Ukraine. I got used to this. I forgive all the attacks in advance those that have occurred, are occurring, and will occur.

The reporter drew catcalls from the Ukrainian American audience, which took the question a bit too personally, without giving thought to its merits. The way Tymo tried to make a sport out of shooting the messenger leaves no doubt that the guy hit the right spot.

Doesn’t the public have the right to know how, in the event of her comeback, she is going to manage her lyubi druzi?

If she wasn’t in the mood for a frank discussion, she should have injected humor into the situation, with something like, “Lazarenko? Let me think, why don’t you call Lt. Colombo and let him check things? I’ll be in touch.”

Instead, she threw a tantrum, exhibiting the very character flaws she has always trashed in Yushchenko.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Janukowytsch Does Deutschland

The land of beer and sausages has supplied a sizzling update to Yanukovych’s catalogue of faux pas. Pravda picks on the following episodes, in which Yanukovych

1. Bowed prematurely during the anthem ceremony with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

2. Rebuffed Merkel’s gastronomical niceties with, “I didn’t come here to dine, but to tell you about Ukraine.”

3. Put words in Merkel's mouth on Ukraine’s EU accession prospects.

4. Misspelled the name of former German President Richard von Weizsäcker as “Richard von Weizer…Weizer-berg.”

5. Projected a Boratish sense of humor, “Sitting here between two Alexanders, Kwaśniewski and Rahr, I can make a wish according to Ukrainian tradition. Whether it will come true I will tell you later.”
Scheiße! The German tour was off to a bad start when Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung came out with a scathing op-ed “Von der Marionette zum Lenker” (From Puppet to Chief) by Konrad Schuller. It wrought havoc on a soapy article “Janukowytsch für Neutralität der Ukraine” (Yanukovych for a Neutral Ukraine) published earlier in Die Welt by Russian-speaking political pundit Alexander Rahr.

Pravda quotes Yanukovych as saying, “Rahr is an interesting analyst and expert, and we’ve invited him to cooperate.” Well, well, well, Paul Manafort seems to have hired a German subcontractor for his reputation laundering operation in Ukraine.

Perhaps, there’s an opening position for boxing legend and former Orange Revolution fixture Vitaliy Klychko? (He happens to be the darling of Germans by virtue of having launched his career there.) How else should we interpret his increasingly frequent public appearances in close proximity to Herr Janukowytsch?