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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

8 Months In Ukraine: Snapshots of Ukrainian Life in a Chaotic April - #Kharkiv

8 Months In Ukraine: Snapshots of Ukrainian Life in a Chaotic April:

Near the train station, April 25th

It's been two months and four days since the previous Snapshots post, and the state of things remains pretty much the same.

Often I look around and see nothing more than a beautiful and calm spring, just like last year. All the photos below are from the past 2 weeks-

We recently spent a mellow weekend catsitting for two friends who took a quick trip abroad.

This beautiful girl is named Marka.
Last weekend a friend from South America threw a party that got a little crazy after some of the other party-goers organized a "Ukrainian-initiation": eating salo, drinking shot after shot of перцовка (spicy vodka), and a lesson in dancing gopak.

Time for salo and vodka!
The gopak, a traditional Cossack dance. This rather impressive dance is also known as "How to Drive Your Downstairs Neighbors Crazy in One Minute" ; )

But then a shocking piece of news will come along- like yesterday's assassination attempt on the city mayor- or a video like this one taken on Sunday will emerge and it becomes crystal clear that it's not a regular spring and that something serious is afoot.

In the past 3 weeks, Ukrainian flags have appeared everywhere. I look out the window and see them hanging from private balconies, waving from the tops of apartment buildings, and that's not all:

But the other side is not shy about sharing its colors either: 

Scrawled on the side of a nearby building: Junta, get out!
L: Kiev junta, oligarchs, agreement with the EU, fascists and neo-Nazis, usurper power, fewer social services, corruption, lawlessness, censorship, repression, debt

R: lawful governing, democracy, friendship with Russia, respect for veterans, a federal state, increase in social services, power to the people, constitutional order, freedom of speech and press, personal freedom, economic growth

It's a weird mix of this and that these days: honking cars driving down the streets with either Ukrainian flags or a Ukrainian flag out one window and Russian flag out the other. Passerby wearing little blue-and-yellow striped ribbons while we walk past a tram stop with a spray-painted Russian flag and the words "Kharkov is a Russian city". A sticker on the wall of the metro that proclaims "Russia is protecting us from genocide".

Only occasionally do I stumble across the non-political: 

"Your eyes are the color of the sea"

And at the same time, presidential campaigning is in full-swing:

Sergey Tihipko, who previously ran for president in 2010, promises "we will restore order and improve the economy!".
Mykhailo Dobkin, Kharkov's former governor, is also in the race, with the slogan "a united nation".

A few other recent billboards:

an anti-corruption billboard
This billboard for Kredo Bank states "Polish experience, Ukrainian success, European future!"
The green billboard is for a building materials company and offers "stable prices!"

Even emails are reflecting the times:

An email received this morning from a Ukrainian job site: How to survive in a crisis.
All of us worry about how to survive in a crisis. 
Many people consider having a job as the key to survivalShould we worry about career change as a survival tacticGet the details in our article.

It's a time of surprises now.

Changing weather.
Changing politics.

New green shoots appearing where before was only dirt.
New shootings.

Fluctuating temperatures.
Fluctuating currency.

Upcoming holidays.
Upcoming elections.

Let's hope summer will bring brighter days for nature and for us.

Did you know there are 17 past episodes of Snapshots of Ukrainian Life? Check them out here!

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#Ruslana - Chas Time. Voice of America | 28.04.2014 #EuroMaidan (with English subtitles) - YouTube

Ruslana - Chas Time. Voice of America | 28.04.2014 (with English subtitles) - YouTube: ""

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Welcome to the jungle - Donetsk, Kernes and rule of law - tks @OdessaBlogger @VoiceofDonetsk #EuroMaidan

Welcome to the jungle - Donetsk, Kernes and rule of law - OdessaTalk:

Yesterday evening saw a Ukrainian unity march in Donetsk violently ambushed by the anti-whatever supporters.
By employing the term “anti-whatever”  I am trying to be as inclusive as possible and not derogatory.
“Anti-whatever” therefore covers separatists, federalists, anti-Government, anti-fascists, ultra Orthodox, anarchists, paid thugs, pro-Russia disenfranchised locals, criminals, Russians and whomever else.  Unfortunately the commonly used media labels really don’t do justice to the various drivers that unite these people.
But the at its core, this entry is not about them.  They are all symptoms for the purposes of this entry.
Neither is this entry specifically about the clash between supporters of two different visions of the future.
This entry is about the of rule of law.
This incident occurred during the supposed protection of the rule of law, enforced by a supposedly neutral police force.
Yet this photograph taken by my twitter friend and fellow blogger @VoiceofDonetsk who was there and was beaten, clearly shows those who attacked the peaceful Ukrainian unity march carrying police issue shields – which were dutifully returned to the police after the incident according to many national and international witnesses to the incident.
The rule of law therefore not only going unenforced, but its local enforcers also seemingly actively taking a political side in this instance – to the point of lending police equipment and collecting it thereafter.
The rule of law – or indeed the lack of it – lays at the very heart of all of Ukraine’s domestic ills – both past and present.
There is a political class with immunity that all to often abused, and continues to abuse it, thus acting with impunity.  A politically controlled judicial class that acts just the same way.  Court results are bought and sold, police investigations stopped and started for political reasons or bribes paid to halt them where there is no political interest.  The police are woefully underpaid to the point where soliciting bribes are seen as necessary to have an even rudimentary life style.  Organised criminality, nefarious opportunism, politics and law enforcement cavort in the same bed whenever and where ever possible.  Cross the wrong well connected person and a police officer’s career ends immediately.
23 years of independence has done nothing to address this problem – it has been willfully neglected by a feckless political class, all wanting absolute control over the institutions of State when in power..
Now when the nation teeters on the abyss of dismemberment and disintegration, that same feckless political class reaps what it has sown – or perhaps what it failed to sow – and to make mattes worse, the sheer scale of infiltration into the institutions of State by foreign actors over many years aggravates matters even further.
So what are the interim Ukrainian authorities to do in eastern Ukraine?
As the above image displays, day by day eastern Ukraine is falling government building by government building, town by town, city by city to no more than a handful of people relative to the local populations.  Attempts by the local institutions of State range from occasionally successfully repelling irregular forces to actively or passively colluding with them.
Would sacking all the local and generally ineffective police help in Donetsk for example?  They would probably be on twice the pay and working for the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” (or whichever town/city) within 24 hours courtesy of The Kremlin – thus providing such illegitimate structures with trained institutions.  Perhaps sacking them – now at least – is not such a good idea.
Would sending in police from regions more loyal to the current interim government (and a united Ukraine) be a better idea?  Obviously not – as I am certain it will have been considered and dismissed but the current leadership.  A fear perhaps of a very adverse effect from sections of the local communities.  Naturally Kremlin propaganda would suggest police from Lviv or Kyiv arriving in Donetsk would be akin to the arrival of the Gestapo sent by the fascists in Kyiv.  It may make matters worse rather than better – and things can always get worse.
Perhaps citizen patrols accompanying the police would encourage them to act impartially and promptly – but then which citizens patrol with the police?  Those that get beaten or those that do the beating?  How would it insure the police act – let alone impartially – anyway?
Do the regional local politicians want their towns and cities to stand against The Kremlin wishes come what may?  Kharkiv stood 2 days ago with a huge Ukrainian unity rally, and yesterday the city mayor, Gennady Kernes was shot and seriously injured.  Who wants to be next to allow their town or city to rebuff Kremlin advances if that is the fate they will face?
This is writing on the presumption Mr Kernes was shot for political reasons – and not over nefarious business dealings with Pavel Fuchs and Alex Shishkin.  More inquiring minds may look beyond the obvious and toward the ЗАО Завод Здоровье company in Kharkiv and a few pharmaceutical deals in Germany and Switzerland involving Messrs Kernes and Fuchs for alternative motive – it remains to be seen which is the case.  Their relationship apparently took a turn for the worse over the past 6 weeks.  Enough said.  Perhaps we will never know if his attempted assassination was due to politics or business – perhaps it is both.
UN peacekeepers are not going to happen – The Kremlin would veto such a move at the UNSC, for it prefers instability rather than stability in Ukraine for the foreseeable future.   The clear Kremlin goal is to prevent or prove illegitimate any elections on 25th May – and thereafter an unstable Ukraine is preferred to a European leaning and democratic Ukraine which any election would bring.
A European police mission similar to that in Kosovo?  The chance of it being sanctioned if thefate of OSCE mission is any guide?
The question of how to effectively (re)install law and order to eastern Ukraine is quite a conundrum with no apparent answer other than to restore order by force – which will have its own consequences that sit  just over the Ukrainian-Russian border waiting for an excuse to cross into Ukrainian territory.
What is quite certain, the further Kremlin antics are allowed to spread, the more it will fill the space left to it – and in its wake – welcome to the jungle!
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Journal of others - to the events in Donetsk | К событиям в Донецке - #EuroMaidan tks @adagamov

Journal of others - to the events in Donetsk:

Photo: Scanpix / NTB 

28.04.2014, Ukraine | yesterday in Donetsk on marchers in a United Ukraine attacked supporters of the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk. As a result, injured dozens of people, including police.

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Sunday, 27 April 2014

After publication of documents from Mezhihirya, it will be difficult for Timoshenko to prove her commitment to democracy – experts : UNIAN news

After publication of documents from Mezhihirya, it will be difficult for Timoshenko to prove her commitment to democracy – experts : UNIAN news:

27.04.2014 | 17:42

Journalists published the records of Yanukovich, which reveal his agreement with Yulia Tymoshenko to create "grand coalition" between the Party of Regions and the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc in 2009. In these records, it was agreed upon the distribution of positions at all levels, also on their consecutive presidencies until 2029.   

 Українська правда

Sensational records were found in Mezhihirya residency after the ex-president fled Ukraine. As stated in these records, the most shocking and cynical detail of the agreements of a Prime minister at the time and Yanukovich was a schedule of presidential terms, upon which both politicians agreed. According to the schedule, Ukrainians would consequently get as a president either Yanukovich or Timoshenko, as a result of “elections”.
UNIAN has asked political experts, to what extent are the records authentic and correspond to the actual arrangements in 2009, and how the facts, that are now public, may affect the course of current presidential campaign (the prospects of Yulia Tymoshenko in particular).
Yevhen Mahda, politologist 
Євген Магда /

Most voters have already made their choice, but about a third of them have still not. I think, after publication of these documents, it will be difficult to support Yulia Timoshenko whatever she may say or whatever slogans she may declare.  
Українська правда

This is the case when it is not the will to distribute power that plays the main role, but the means by which it was implemented. Another problem for Timoshenko is that it was Yanukovich who rejected “grand coalition”. Were it her, she could now be “all clean”. At that time it seemed like tactical games, but in current circumstances it will be very difficult for her to prove her commitment to democracy. Desire for power prolongation by the means, that are kept secret from public, is inherent to authoritarian societies. So, after the Maydan, this fact will not be in favor of Timoshenko.
Volodymyr Fesenko, politologist
Володимир Фесенко /

I cannot confirm or disprove authenticity of these documents, and I do not understand why Yanukovich would keep them. But I do know from sources from both negotiating sides that such agreements existed. 
Українська правда

\I do not think it can strongly affect the course of presidential campaign. Even now, the gap in polls between Poroshenko and Tymoshenko is large enough. I also doubt that making these records public will make people, who are willing to vote for Timoshenko, change their minds.
Oleksandr Paliy, politologist
Олександр Палій

I know exactly how the relationship between Yanukovich and Timoshenko were developing. There were even newspapers, praising Yanukovich as future president, that were getting ready for print at Timoshenko’s headquarters. I do not rule out that Timoshenko has lost at the elections because of these agreements, and this is the reason why the situation in Ukraine is now developing so dramatically.
 Українська правда

These facts show us that she is unscrupulous. I publicly criticized her at the time, arguing that “grand coalition” means political suicide for Timoshenko. Her behavior implied that she does not know Ukrainian people, its reactions. She considered just economic indicators, saw the crisis but failed to feel the people. This lack of understanding people has led to the fall of both Yanukovich and Tymoshenko.
Will it affect her political rating? Even now, it is not that high.
 Maksym Rozumniy, political expert
Максим Розумний / Радіо Свобода

I do not think that the publication of these documents will be a significant factor in the campaign. More or less stable preferences have already been formed, and it may only strengthen the reasoning behind the choice of those who do not want to vote for Tymoshenko, but it will hardly affect her supporters. 
Українська правда

Those who were not happy with Tymoshenko about this issue, they had suspected her of backstage agreements even without such documents, so there is no need to convince them in anything. And those, who trusted her before, despite public addresses concerning “grand coalition”, also will not change their minds because of that one publication.  
Українська правда

Oleksandr Chernenko, head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (KVU)
It is good that Ukraine is aware of these facts now, but I would not overestimate their value. As of today, there is an acknowledged leader and there are outsiders of presidential campaign. At the same time, so much various information is being published, that voters developed certain immunity [to compromising material, - UNIAN].
Viktor Shlynchak, political expert
Віктор Шлінчак / Радіо Свобода

There is poor memory for political events in Ukraine, so this publication will help to refresh it. I was present at a meeting of Tymoshenko with mass media editors Tymoshenko during this period. Explaining her actions, she said that it was better to have a "half" of Yanukovych, which was to share authority with him, than to have him “whole”.  At that time, the argument was not accepted by a majority of those present and received no public support, because both leadership-type parties failed to consider that people did not need “grand coalition” but creating conditions for the country’s development. Distribution of positions between Yanukovych and Tymoshenko gave no answer to the question, what the people would get in that case.
Українська правда

This publication will not dramatically affect the course of the campaign, but it will once again confirm own rightness of the ones, who have already made up their minds on how they would vote. 
Українська правда

Andriy Zolotaryov, political technologist
I think that this publication will not fundamentally change the course of things. On the one hand, it is a “final head shot” for Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign. On the other hand, the publication will not affect the already existing gap between the leader of the polls and Tymoshenko. Only if something extraordinary happens.
Українська правда

By and large, new data can merely become an additional argument for those voters who have not yet made a decision and still hesitate, or consider that Tymoshenko and Poroshenko are both “one of a kind”. Really, both Poroshenko and Tymoshenko, in different ways, were involved in politics which led Ukraine to its current sad state. However, if Poroshenko identifies with the trend, the demand of society for order and at least some semblance of stability, Tymoshenko is identified with pressure and upheaval. Voters always choose “lesser evil”. Thus, the result of the campaign is clear.
Tetyana Stezhar
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