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Friday, October 31, 2008

When Arbitrage Doesn’t Work

High rate, low rate. Buy low, sell high. Pocket the difference.

Not so fast.

Narrator: The sellers are trying to save the situation and are even playing into each other’s hands. In Kyiv’s Podil, side by side there are two currency exchange outlets of different commercial banks. In one, they buy the dollar at Hr. 6.65, in the other they sell the dollar at Hr. 6.45. But the thing is, in the “cheap” kiosk you can only sell the dollar at Hr. 6.15, while in the “expensive” one you can only buy the dollar at Hr. 6.95. Vikna did an experiment: We bought 10 dollars at Hr. 6.95, and a few minutes later, in that same place, we tried to sell them at Hr. 6.65. Still, once again, the kiosk didn’t have even 70 hryvnias in store for us.

Reporter [edited for clarity]: You should at least have enough hryvnia for 10 dollars, right?

Kiosk manager: [struck speechless, produces a “you got me” smile while chewing gum]

Reporter: I just sold you 10…
Kiosk manager: Yes, you did.

Reporter: I just bought 10 dollars from you, so you should have something in the way of hryvnia for that 10 dollars, right?
Kiosk manager: Well, I do.

Reporter: Then why did you…why didn’t you take the dollars from this man?
Kiosk manager: [gives a guilty look]

Well done, Vikna!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

MPs Scuffle As Dollar Shoots Over Hr. 7

In Thursday morning trading on the streets of Kyiv, the asking price for the U.S. dollar reached Hr. 7.0942, up from Hr. 6 last Friday. Some banks offered the dollar at a price as high as Hr. 7.4, Ekonomichna Pravda reports.

Now look at those dudes. Reaching across the aisle is a squad of BYuTies who came to NUNSville to extract the absentees’ voting cards there and thus ensure in-person voting.

Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk: I call on your faction to return to your sector. Break, comrades! Split up!

Did he say sector? He should have said ward!


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Russian Cartoonist Portrays Obama, McCain, Palin, Ukraine

Sergei Elkin (spelled yol-kin) is the king of political cartoons in Russia, famous for his satirical takes on Russian, Ukrainian and world leaders.

What sets him apart from Kremlin propagandists is his relatively balanced and multidirectional approach.

Here’s how he frames the U.S. presidential race. “Plan Putina” refers to Putin’s Plan; the cartoon addresses Palin’s recent remark on Obama and Ukraine.

Elkin appears to be an LJ user.
His works can also be found at:


Monday, October 27, 2008

Cartoons by Pro-Russian Crimeans Mock Ukraine

Rampant Ukrainization, provincialism, Ukrainian culture, the Ukrainian navy, Tymoshenko, Yushchenko’s cronyism, U.S. imperialism, neocons, the Orange Revolution, “Razom Nas Bahato, Nas Ne Podolaty,” and you name it.

These are the hot-button issues that pro-Russian Crimeans deeply resent, just as they resent all things Ukrainian. With a little bit of imagination and creativity, their resentment becomes art.

Ladies and gentlemen, the best of Ukrainophobia! See for yourself.

Interestingly, the parody lambastes MP Mykola Azarov, PRU, for his attempts to speak Ukrainian (broken and with a heavy Russian accent) in public. However, for some reason, you won’t see any episodes devoted to Crimean Tatars and their pro-Ukrainian orientation.

Maybe that’s because nobody wanted to raise the taboo subject of how some Russians had arrived in Crimea.

Visit for more cartoons. And by the way, su stands for Soviet Union.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Head of Ukrainian Association of Banks Weighs in on Crisis

With Ukraine’s banking system in turmoil and people rushing to close their accounts, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a temporary freeze on deposit withdrawals.

Although the official exchange rate remains at Hr 5.15 per dollar, the asking price on the streets of Kyiv has reached Hr 6, up from Hr 4.6 in July.

Oleksandr Suhonyako, President of the Association of Ukrainian Banks: What’s been going on with the exchange rate, to a large degree, is caused by surging demand on the one hand and by speculative moments on the other. For some reason, everybody thinks that the dollar means salvation again. There’s only one thing left for us to do: to be real citizens and to ask… perhaps even MPs will heed the call that…don’t run, don't demand, don't use it to withdraw your deposits before the maturity date. Be an example. May it be your money, not your shame, that will burn during…during this, because the absence of panic is prerequisite for our Ukrainian society to weather this crisis and solidify.

Do those MPs have any shame to start with?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Palin: Obama’s Stance "Would Only Encourage Russia’s Putin to Invade Ukraine Next"

Never before has Ukraine been as frequently mentioned in a U.S. presidential race as it is mentioned these days.

Speaking at a rally in Reno, Nevada, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said this about Ukraine:

After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence — the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.

Note: The remark comes 1:45 into the video.

Shushannah Walshe at Fox News did a blog posting on Palin’s speech, drawing more than a hundred comments, one which I would like to quote, partially:

Comment by BradKT
October 21st, 2008 at 4:12 pm

People…think this through. Do you actually think that the United States should go to war with Russia over its invasion of Georgia…or if it invades the Ukraine? I don’t think so…and neither does the Bush Administration.

This comment made me want to trot out the same old lines:

Dear BradKT,

Just think about it: If Russia invades Ukraine, oil will be trading at above $300 a barrel.

Of course, you won’t have to go to war with Russia. But you will be spending more on defense and humanitarian aid. Besides, the war will create a huge black market supply of conventional weapons plus, quite possibly, radioactive material. Do you actually think it will benefit your country?

You and I will be better off if you elect a president who will spare no foreign policy effort to make Russia’s invasion cost-prohibitive.

All the best from
the Ukraine,



Yanuk Misnames Babel as 'Bebel'

The city that owes much of its history to Duc de Richelieu has brought upon itself a history of déjà vu malapropisms by Yanuk de Regions.

While visiting Odesa in 2006, Viktor Yanukovych called Anna Akhmatova "Anna Akhmetova," in a Freudian slip that added to his already impressive “proFFessor” credentials. (In 2004, presidential candidate Yanukovych filled out an application form in which he claimed to be “proffessor of economics.”)

This year, he referred to the famous Odesa-born Soviet journalist-writer Isaac Babel as "Bebel."

Voiceover: Viktor Yanukovych confused writer Babel with revolutionary Bebel.

Yanukovych: And I want to quote this phrase from one of Bebel’s characters: “If you want to observe something from life, come to our yard. There’s enough to be laughed at.”

Touché, ProFFEssor! It’s not everyday that you quote from 'Bebel' or 'Montes-quieu.'

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama Voices Support for Ukraine, Cites Holodomor

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has sent his greetings to the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, VOA Ukrainian Service reports.

In a letter to the UCCA, which recently convened in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama said this about Ukraine:

Friends of Ukraine in the West should continue playing a key role in building a secure and prosperous future for Ukrainians.

The experiment of Ukrainian democracy should succeed — not only for the sake of prosperity for Ukrainians, but also to be an inspiration for those in the region who are struggling for democracy, including even Russia.

In courting Ukrainian American voters, many of whom favor McCain, Obama said he believes that Ukraine is ready for a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). He added that he will work with U.S. allies in NATO so that Ukraine will be granted the opportunity to make a further step toward joining the Euro-Atlantic community, VOA reports.

Obama called the Holodomor a “terrible crime,” saying, “We must never forget about this famine and must always ensure that future generations will know about this tragedy so that it will never be repeated.”

Note: Since no English-language sources could be found, I did a back-translation of Obama's quotes from Ukrainian into English.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Ukraine Ranks 64th of 104 on 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index

According to this year's study by the Legatum Institute, “Ukraine ranks amongst the lowest of the European states at 68th overall, on a par with Macedonia.” (h/t Ukrayinska Pravda)

The study ranks countries on economic competitiveness and comparable liveability, both of which contain a variety of sub-rankings.

Particularly interesting is the finding that Ukraine’s “Economic Competitiveness rank (45th) is substantially higher than its Comparative Liveability rank (91st).”

Below are some of the other excerpts from Ukraine’s country profile:

In terms of liveability, Ukraine scores very poorly on many indicators, including income. The health situation is particularly alarming: 49% of the population is dissatisfied with their personal health, and health-adjusted life expectancy is under 60 years. HIV prevalence is the highest in the region, and the population is decreasing by almost 1% annually, a trend which is amplified by massive emigration both towards the West and to Russia.

Although unemployment is relatively low, Ukraine is marked by a perceived lack of opportunity. A significant proportion of the citizens are dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what to do in life and do not believe they can get ahead by working hard, according to the Gallup World Poll.

For cross-country comparison-shopping, Legatum offers a tool called Prosperiscope™. Using this tool, you can compare:

Ukraine to the U.S.

Ukraine to Canada
Ukraine to the UK
Ukraine to Germany


Friday, October 17, 2008

A Guide to Tymoshenko’s Pragmatic Theism and Electionphobia

As her party goes forum-shopping to overturn the snap election, a practice to which Yushchenko responds with court-crushing, she makes a few more noteworthy statements:

Reporter: A non-political question. Yulia Volodymyrivna, what superstitions do you have?

PM Tymoshenko: Huh, dear friends, frankly speaking, I neither have time for superstitions nor for faith in them. I’m a rather pragmatic person and I also believe that superstitions contradict normal faith in God, and so I don’t have any superstitions. One should just live with faith in God in one’s soul.

PM Tymoshenko: Dear friends, it’s not black, it’s blue. It’s not that bad [giggles]. I think that we should do some fighting for the operation of this parliament. Snap elections are a disaster for the country, and therefore financing from the emergency fund is illogical. From the emergency fund, we finance disaster relief, not disaster creation itself.

Where one stands depends on where one sits.

In 2007, while campaigning for snap elections in a bid to unseat Yanukovych, Tymoshenko made the following statements (h/t Ukrayinska Pravda):

Snap elections — there’s no tragedy in this. In America, they have elections every two years. Or take Israel — the world’s smartest state as they say — you gather 100,000 signatures and, adios, you get snap elections.

The only solution in the current situation is to fear not snap elections and to get a confirmation of the mandate of trust from the people. If we hold snap elections, the country will spend 300 million hryvnias. But leave the mafia in power and we’ll lose tens of billions of dollars.

Snap elections are the price we have to pay to save Ukraine for its new, democratic and European future. It’s a fairly modest price.

I want to say that snap elections are not a whim of the President. It’s just that the country can’t live with this level of politics. And whatever ruling the Constitutional Court makes, this state [of affairs] will be of no consequence to the rejection of Yanukovych policies by his henchmen.

She probably meant that no matter how the Constitutional Court ruled, Yanukovych henchmen would stick to their guns. Alas, in September 2008, she found it hard to stick to her promise not to do business with the Party of Regions.

That’s when Yushchenko rained her parade. He wants to do business with the PRU just as badly.

They all talk stabilnist: stabilnist this, stabilnist that. They all sing from the same status quo hymn sheet, as if saying: “L'État, c'est moi; après moi le déluge.”

In 2007, Tymoshenko tried to convince Ukrainians that “not all politicians are alike.” I trusted her. Will I trust her again?


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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life Outside the Verkhovna Rada

I shot these in Mariyinsky Park, which adjoins the Mariyinsky Palace and our parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. Date: sunset of Sunday, October 12, 2008.

The skaters, the bicyclists and the rollerbladers reminded me of political Ukraine. And so did the sky.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Commies Rally Against UPA

Today, the UPA — the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought both Hitler and Stalin — marks its 66th anniversary.

Last year, I went to a UPA rally. This year, I went to a commie counter-rally. My improved memory capacity allowed me to capture some of the high moments of that event.

As expected, I found myself in the Jurassic Park of communism, progressive socialism, pan-Slavism, Russian monarchism, imperialism, Eurasianism and whatnot.

The diehard formulas:

Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians = Russians
UPA = SS Galizien = Nazis/fascists

Yushchenko, Oranges = Nazis/fascists

The event gathered a few hundred people. Aside from attempts to break the police cordon and "reach across the the aisle," the event went without much incident.


"Let's stop fascism!"

Nataliya Vitrenko, queen of the PSPU

"Let's protect Ukraine from the UPA!"

"The bandits of the OUN-UPA are Nazi scum."
Oops, looks like somebody forgot to put a T in there! The correct Russian word is нацистская, not нациская, as written on the above sign.

"OUN + UPA = 卐. Get out of Ukraine!"

Debates: anti-UPA vs. pro-UPA

"No to the descendants of collaborators and Banderites! Heil NATO!"

Shake it, baby!

Breaking through the police cordon

UPA supporters gather on the other side of Maidan

Conversation peace

Back to the U.S.S.R.


A view from the UPA side of Maidan

Riot police

E pluribus unum — Ukrainian style