Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Unjust treatment of journalists will continue to be opposed

In April three Party of Regions' deputies  - Iryna Berezhna, Yulia Lyovochkin and Iryna Horin were pelted with snowballs. Enraged 'Regionals' demanded minister of the interior,  Vitaliy Zakharchenko get to the bottom of the incident, round up as many witnesses as possible for questioning, and arrest suspects.

The next day the police obtained mobile phone numbers from mobile phone operators of  everyone who was near the scene of the incident. In the weeks that followed, investigators 'invited' them all in for questioning.

Ironically, one of those whose mobile phone was 'clocked' was well known journalist Olha Snitsarchuk. Even though she explained that she had been inside the parliament building when the snowball incident occurred and so saw nothing, it was made clear that she 'needed co-operate' and she was hauled in to give a statement.

Ironically, exactly one month later it was Olga herself who was beaten up during pro and anti government rallies just over a week ago, whilst police officers passively looked on.

As I posted previously, there is a mass of video and other evidence that thugs linked to Party of Regions led the nasty attack on the journalist and her colleague. Despite this, after Zakharchenko's disgraceful performance in parliament [see previous blog] it is unlikely the perpetrators will be properly dealt with by law enforcement officials.

The  snowball incident, [during which no serious injuries were sustained,]  was turned into a massive crime and many many dozens of people were questioned and/or detained.

In his blog describing this matter, Mustafa Nayem writes:

"The feeling of powerlessness and humiliation experienced by my [journalist] colleagues, is, every day and every minute also  experienced by millions of other Ukrainians.

Not because they are being hit and sworn at. But because, with the advent of the current authorities,  malevolence, rudeness and animal instincts are increasing winning [the day].

All this is occurring not just openly and demonstratively; but is accompanied with a silent grin by a party which is cultivating total permissiveness based on the rights of greater force.

If it is not stopped, there will be war. But not over slogans, not over parties and not over language. But over [the right for] basic human dignity."

Today journalists continue their fight for justice...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another landmark on the road to authoritarianism

On May 21 minister of the interior Vitaliy Zakharchenko stood on the podium of parliament to report on events surrounding two protest rallies, one pro-government and anti-government, that simultaneously took place in Kyiv the previous Saturday.

A mass of independently gathered video evidence indisputably shows that several dozen thugs/sportsmen who earlier in the day had been acting as 'security' during the pro-government rally where later involved in a violent assault on two journalists whilst numerous policemen passively watched on.

At the same time several anti-government 'Spilna Sprava' activists were surrounded by a many dozens of 'Berkut' riot police and brutally man-handled for pitching several tiny tents on Sofia square [video here]

There is credible photographic evidence that Zakharchenko, the country's top policeman, observed, and probably coordinated events on that day from the top of a tall hotel building.

Police actively co-operated with provocateurs who tried to drive a military personnel carrier-type vehicle decorated in provocative symbols [namely, a rabbit skull with crossed carrots] into the square where the opposition-organised 'Arise Ukraine' rally was taking place. [Opposition leader Arsen Yatsenyuk is sometimes called 'the rabbit']

Furthermore the same thugs who assaulted the journalists  were seen cordially discussing their days work with 'Berkut' 'space-cadets' before they were allowed to go their own way. These guys are well known and have figured in other situations e.g. during the previous election campaign when 'heads needed to be knocked'. They are known to train in police sports facilities.

Zakharchenko, in total contradiction to the video evidence, pitched an entirely different story in parliament - producing a complete pack of lies, laying the blame for the assault on the opposition..

Zakharchenko was for many many years high-ranking law enforcement officer. He knows in his heart of hearts he has lied to the country to cover for the misdeeds of his patron, Viktor Yanukovych. He knows the police are actively collaborating with mindless thugs. The man is now completely discredited.

Since becoming president there have been many landmark events on Ukraine's slide into authoritarianism. Yesterday was just the latest.

p.s. Note to European  politicians: It's not going to get better - the Ukrainian version of 'Lukashenisation' is well under way....and will be resisted...it will not be pretty.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yanukovych thugs reveal true face of PoR

On Friday 12th April the 'Arise Ukraine!' demonstration in Kharkiv organised by the three main Ukrainian opposition parties was seriously impeded by last-minute local court orders banning the demonstration, and by dozens upon dozens of public transport vehicles parked nose to tail to block the rally's passage through city streets. Numerous road works and associated traffic diversions were mysteriously commissioned by the city's authorities and sprung up overnight  around the city centre. Kharkiv was practically paralysed for the entire day as a result.

On Saturday 18th April the 'Arise Ukraine' demonstration in Kyiv was also seriously impeded. Many participants were prevented from travelling to the capital. They were denied tickets for public transport, their vehicles stopped, people were thrown of trains, private bus companies pressurised,  etc. etc.

Party of Regions organised an anti-fascist counter-demonstration on this Saturday. A gang of known thugs assaulted journalists whilst police special forces impassively looked on. A provocatively decorated military armoured vehicle was permitted to drive along blocked-off streets escorted by traffic police into opposition demonstrators.

The three main opposition parties, all of whom are well represented in parliament, have every constitutional right to stage peaceful public meetings without harassment or hindrance.

The ruling authorities are making great efforts to scupper such meetings. The use of organised thugs whose actions are all but ignored by law enforcement agencies is truly disturbing.

There are no grounds to believe that the ruling authorities will in any way change their attitude to their political opponents and such discriminatory anti-opposition campaigns, and probably much worse, will reoccur in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections.

European countries pondering whether to go ahead with November's scheduled signing of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement will take note and will not be impressed by the ruling authorities' ridiculously over-the-top response to not particularly impressive opposition demonstrations.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Yanuk just a responsible for high gas prices as Tymoshenko

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara complained during his visit to London today that in 2009 PM Tymoshenko struck a ruinous deal to buy Russian gas at an excessively high price harmful to Ukraine's interests, and therefore her seven year jail sentence for abuse of office was justified.

In 2010, instead of starting afresh, President Yanukovych signed a treaty between Ukraine and Russia whereby the Russian lease on naval facilities in Crimea was extended by 25 years in exchange for what Yanukovych claimed was a healthy discount on Russian natural gas. The contract was entirely based on Tymoshenko's 2009 deal.

The 2010 naval-base-for-cheaper-gas treaty merely added legitimacy to the 2009 Tymoshenko deal, struck under great duress during that year's gas crisis when half of Europe was being starved of gas.

Yanukovych is therefore just as culpable for the high price Ukraine currently continues to pay for Russian gas as Tymoshenko.

Her persecution is entirely politically motivated.


There seems to be a dichotomy of opinion on the chances that an Association Agreement will be signed between the EU and Ukraine in November in Vilnius. 

According to today's 'Daily Telegraph'"..there is limited appetite for letting the [Tymoshenko] matter prevent Ukraine signing the association agreement and free trade pact, partly because of fears that it would drive the former Soviet republic further back into Russia's sphere of influence. Poland and Sweden have already made it clear that they want the agreement to be signed, while British diplomats are understood to believe it [Tymoshenko's imprisonment] should not be a sticking point other."

Yet in the conclusion to their interview with Leonid Kozhara, 'Radio Svoboda' declare: "the British government has made ​​it clear to the Ukrainian side it sees a problem."

When prompted by the Radio Liberty correspondent to evaluate the likelihood of a successful signing of the AA agreement in Vilnius, 'experts' in London claimed that chances were 5-10%. and not 50%.

One would think the 'Daily Telegraph' would have good links with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, no?

In their joint statement the British and Ukrainian foreign ministers make no mention of 'the woman'...but there again, "frank and wide-ranging discussion" in diplo-speak means heated and possibly even bad tempered conversation..

Completed investigation will be completed....soon?

In mid-January this year Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka officially declared  that prosecutors had completed their investigation into the murder of Deputy Yevgen Sherban, who was shot dead nearly 17 years ago.

Yulia Tymoshenko was officially named as a suspect in the crime. Preliminary trial proceedings soon followed, and are still proceeding.

Today Pshonka's deputy, the odious Renat Kuzmin confirmed that investigation on the case had stopped on April 26...but would again be resumed after today.

The case against Tymoshenko is being investigated, and will be completed, said Kuzmin.

The prosecution service are running around like headless chickens.

What is going on? In a nutshell, after his killing the late Yevhen Shcherban's assets were immediately 'divvied up' amongst his so-called business associates, who now figure amongst the richest in the country. Shcheban's position in Ukrainian politics was rapidly taken over by Yanukovych. These people have instructed prosecutors to pin the blame onto the one they consider to be their greatest enemy - Yulia Tymoshenko. Problem is, there is no case....there is nothing to investigate...

Prosecutors, under pressure from those who gained plenty from Shcherban's death, are trying to kick into life a long-dead corpse..

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Will Kirichenko show up on the 15th? [Monday update]

Last month I wrote that the key prosecution witness, Petro Kirichenko, who now resides in the USA under a witness protection program, was scheduled to testify for the prosecution in the pre-trial hearing ahead of the Yevhen Shcherban murder trial. Former PM Yulia Tymoshenko is an official suspect in this crime.

Kirichenko was to provide evidence via video link from California, but his appearance was postponed until May 15, supposedly at the request of the Ukrainian consul in San Francisco for unspecified, 'technical reasons'. There have since been several unsubstantiated reports that Kirichenko simply got 'cold feet' and failed to turn up on the day.

This man has a highly dubious past. Here are some highlights [source]:

Born in Makiyivka, Donetsk oblast - 1952. Worked as trade representative in Hungary and Poland in Soviet times. Set up his own business in 1989 - knew Pavlo Lazarenko since 1986

In 1990 set up 'AgroPostachBut' but three years later allegedly had his 'arm twisted' and was forced to go '50-50' with Lazarenko, who was an oblast governor at the time. Kirichenko allegedly held a secret grudge against Lazarenko ever since.

Kirichenko spent much time in Poland and considered emigrating to the USA where he set up 'ABS Trading'.

In the summer of '95 Kirichenko was arrested in Poland after alleged being linked to a murder and illegal possession of a firearm. But heavy pressure from Lazarenko, by then a cabinet minister, enabled Kirichenko to be released on bail by Polish authorities, after spending a month behind bars.

Kirichenko skipped bail and flew to the USA to apply for permanent residence in that country. He fiddled his application and exaggerated 'ABS Trading's turn-over by many times. He included Lazarenko's ill-gotten money to inflate the figures. He also 'forgot to mention' his then-recent problems in Poland..

In 1999 he was arrested and detained in California at the request of Swiss authorities who were investigating his and Lazarenko's money laundering activities in their country. Kirichenko was involved with setting up intermediary companies to help Lazarenko 'divert' huge sums to which he had access to when he held high office.

In December 1999, having spent half a year sharing a jail cell with Lazarenko, Kirichenko decided to turn state's evidence against his former partner...as a result he was released from his prison cell and placed under house arrest.

In May 2000 he received immunity from prosecution and the right to naturalisation in the USA having pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and paying a $3 million fine.

Subsequently Lazarenko was found guilty of money laundering and corruption and sentenced eventually, to nine years in prison.

Although the prosecution have high hopes for Kirichenko in the Shcherban murder trial, until recently he had never linked Tymoshenko to Schcherban's killing whenever he was questioned by investigators. But he did claim, in 2001, that in 1995 Lazarenko asked him to get in touch with a criminal capo Milchenko a.k.a. 'Matros' to provide protection for Tymoshenko, whose life had apparently been considered to be in mortal danger.

In September 2011 Kirichenko's wife, Isabella, was tricked into returning to Kyiv on the pretext that a friend of Yanukovych's top legal adviser, Andriy Portnov, was interested in purchasing substantial property assets in Kyiv belonging to Kirichenko. These had been frozen after Kirichenko had fled from Ukraine. Isabella was arrested and banged up in prison accused of forging documents and fraud.

Kirichenko was contacted by Ukrainian prosecutors, and again failed to provide any linkage between Tymoshenko and Shcherban's murder...until 2012, after Isabella had been released and returned safely back to the USA, And after Kirichenko had successfully finally 'cashed in' his Ukrainian assets....

Will Kirichenko show up on the 15th?  I wonder...

American lawyers will tell him he has every right to remain silent if he so chooses.

p.s. Witness tampering. or attempting to pervert the course of justice is grave crime in most countries...any Ukrainian official who may have participated in such behaviour in this case could face two decades in a US prison...

[Update: Ukraine's prosecution service have terminated their investigation into the Shcherban murder case blaming US and Chech authorities for non co-operation] More later on this sensational development....

[Update 2 - It seems the investigation has been resumed after the previous termination....

Very unprofessional, I say...in fact very shambolic.. quite what Kirichenko and his advisors make of this is anyone's guess..]

Monday, May 06, 2013

Commenters on Shcherban murder

It is sometimes interesting to read comments at the end of articles on Ukrainian websites, particularly those articles concerning the assassination of Yevhen Shcherban in November 1996. Ukrainian authorities are now trying to pin his killing onto Yulia Tymoshenko.

Below are things, often unsubstantiated, that commentators say. [Some of them even claim to have been familiar to the business machinations of that period].

Tymoshenko's company had been given permission to sell a huge quantity of gas in the Ukrainian market. Approval must have been granted at the very highest level in Ukraine and Russia. At the time she was a successful businesswoman but had little involvement in politics, so she did not control these processes.

Every smart businessman knew that selling gas on credit to big, cash-strapped industrial plants in Eastern Ukraine would become a mechanism for amassing great wealth during a period of widespread privatisation. After more that a decade and a half, many records of business transactions from that period are no longer available, so many details of what went on are unclear.

In June 22 1996, six months before his assassination at Donetsk airport, Yevhen Shcherban, according to one report, allegedly survived a car bomb in Debaltseve, a highly criminalised town about 40 miles east of Donetsk. He was most aware his life was at risk - prominent businessmen/gangsters were being killed almost every month.

After this Shcherban apparently left Ukraine for several months and had allegedly attended the Atlanta Olympic games in July/August 1996 with Volodymyr Shcherban. The day before his killing that November he had attended the silver jubilee party of legendary crooner Yosyp Kobzon in Moscow.

There he also met US citizen Paul Tatum, who Shcherban had helped financially during the former's litigation at the Stockholm Court of Arbitration.

Tatum and Shcherban had known one another since 1992. The 'Aton' company where Shcherban had been deputy director, received a $50 million credit line guaranteed by the Government of Ukraine. This money was never returned, and the debt eventually settled by GoU. 'Aton's CEO, Markulov disappeared, and Shcherban took over running the outfit.

Tatum was  killed in Moscow a few hours after Shcherban flew back to Donetsk in a private jet, to be shot with his wife as they disembarked from the plane. Their killers were dressed as airport security staff and escaped practically unhindered after the crime took place.

Shcherban's sons claim law enforcement officers turned up, astonishingly, only after a huge one hour delay; and where more interested in getting their hands on their father's briefcase, rather than apprehending the killers.

Only a well-funded, professional network could have tracked Shcherban for the period he was out of the country, and organise such a high-profile, spectacular and brazen assassination.

This all suggests the likely involvement of 'Volodymyrska' [SBU headquarters is at no 33, Volodymyrska Street].  Russian FSB involvement is also frequently mentioned.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Yevhen Shcherban's sons hint bent cops were involved in their father's murder

Forbes.ua have posted an interview with the sons of Yevhen Shcherban, who was murdered with his wife in 1996. Shcherban may have been the richest man in Ukraine at the time of his death. Yulia Tymoshenko is being linked to these murders.

Below are portions of the sons' responses:

"Everything [all the business interests] that has been created by my father, collapsed in just over 8 months [after his death]... I was at the airport with my father when he was shot. Police arrived at the scene of a murder only after an hour, whereas [his] office was surrounded and documents seized faster. [What a] paradoxical situation. It was obvious that a well thought out and organized plan had been implemented. We are trying to sort out who and what sort of people had anything to do with this."


"State organs were very closely involved in this [threatening us]. A seizure of documents took place - which was very peculiar. At the airport, after the murder, over the body of my father, the first question I was asked was: "Where's the briefcase with the documents." The group of investigators who turned up included the heads of oblast departments of the Security Service, the Interior Ministry, the organised crime fighting agency, and head of the transport prosecutor's office. But they were primarily interested in our father's documents, rather than the details of the murder."

Ruslan admits that the recent fatal hunting accident, [where, its seems one of his friends fired his rifle, the bullet ricochetting from a tree to kill another friend], actually did take place. But he denies that he was blackmailed to issue any statement linking Tymoshenko and Lazarenko for the murder of their father.

The sons just say they are not accusing anyone of their father's murder, but only declared at the press conference a month after the hunting accident they had merely requested law enforcement agencies to check out any possible involvement of Lazarenko and Tymoshenko in the murder of their parents.

They say they have 'no beef' with one of their late father's associates, Rinat Akhmetov.

The sons say they only managed to retain 5% of their late father's assets. They say that they know a lot more that they are prepared to reveal at the moment...

They give no hint that Tymoshenko may have benefitted financially from the 'carve-up' of their father's assets.

[The actions of Ukrainian law enforcement officers is far from unique. E.g . in the case of Hermitage Capital Management,  corrupt Russian law enforcement officers allegedly stole corporate registration documents and company seals of various holding companies. They then defrauded the Russian state of hundreds of millions of dollars tax paid by those companies. Pre-dated documents offering "proof" of transfer of ownership, or changes in ownership, or pre-dated 'IOU's, for presentation before a shady court, can easily be created.]

But Shcherban's sons give little hint who was behind all of this dirty business...I guess they are using every trick  to take advantage of the situation and try and recover as much of their late father's assets as possible...if anyone gets hurt or suffers an injustice, so what?

Hard to believe that after a shooting at an international airport it took police one hour to arrive, no?

p.s. Important statement by European People's Party on Tymoshenko ruling here