Category Archives: News & Views

Will Ukraine Become a Giant Moldova?

From my office in Kyiv’s Golden Gate neighborhood, I see two notaries and three English schools. The notaries represent a faux legalism in a country where judicial decisions go to highest bidders. The English schools offer a ticket out.

In one generation, since independence in 1991, Ukraine’s population has fallen by 23 percent—from 52 million to 40 million today. For post-independence political elites, that is a failing grade.
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Without a red tape slashing revolution, Ukraine will become a big Moldova—a bedroom country for migrant workers building the dynamic economies of eastern Europe. While Ukraine’s bureaucrats cling to business as usual, Poland offers free mobile roaming for Ukrainians, Polish cities sell bus tickets in Ukrainian, and Polish farmers offer summer jobs with cheery Facebook pages, such as: “Pick Strawberries in Poland!” Ukrainians can easily make four times more in neighboring Poland, and they are. More ominous for the 2020s, Germany’s Bundestag is preparing a labor liberalization law designed to meet its growing labor shortage by allowing Ukrainians to work in Germany on short-term contracts. Here in Kyiv, German social scientist Andreas Umland and his Nuremberg colleague Andrej Novak make an eminently sensible proposal: reverse the flow. With Ukraine’s low cost of living, high-quality private health care, and proximity to the EU, Ukraine could attract European retirees to move here.


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Monday, May 20

Zelenskiy: Pro Business…Poroshenko Hails Jump in EU Trade and Travel…5G Mobile to Start Next Year…First Tenders for Public-Private Partnerships by June…Nord Stream 2 Admits Delay to 2020

By James Brooke

🔵With Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be inaugurated this morning at the Rada, cautious praise comes from one observer of Ukrainian leaders for the last 30 years. “He is pro business, pro market, and pro Western,” writes Timothy Ash, senior sovereign analyst for Blue Bay Asset Management in London. Drawing on interviews in Kyiv last week, he writes: “The consensus from those that have had any interaction with the President-elect is that he is clever, business-savvy, a quick learner, that he genuinely has the good of the country at heart and does want to deliver change, which is really what his electorate voted for. He is a joker, but certainly no fool.”

🔵While predicting that Zelenskiy will succeed in dissolving the Rada and holding parliamentary elections this summer, Ash said the major threat to the new government will be efforts by Igor Kolomoisky, Zelenskiy’s main media backer, to win back PrivatBank. While some in Kyiv say “Zelensky is his own man, knows the issues and problems and will box off Kolomoisky,” Ash writes, “his presidency will likely stand or fall on this very issue.” Given the question mark hanging over PrivatBank, the IMF is unlikely to disburse the second tranche, $1.3 billion, until this fall, Ash writes in his widely circulated email.

🔵In parting public comments, President Poroshenko said Saturday that he is proud that Ukraine’s trade with the EU has more than doubled since the free trade zone went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Speaking on Europe Day, he also said that 2 million Ukrainians have traveled to the EU since the new 90-day visa-free regime started June 11, 2017. “More and more flights are opening, airports and terminals that have not worked for years have reopened,” he said. “I am proud that during the period of my presidency, Ukraine and the EU have become closer than ever before in history.”

🔵5G mobile service should start next year in Ukraine, according to a decree signed Friday by President Poroshenko. The decree sets a schedule for releasing the necessary frequencies. Separately, Oleksandr Zhyvotovsky, head of the National Commission for Communications Regulation, writes on Facebook that this work will be done by fall. The Rada will have to pass implementing legislation.

🔵Given Ukrainians’ low cell phone bills, construction of 5G would take “decades” to pay off, warns Oleksandr Kohut, director of regulator support for Kyivstar, the nation’s biggest mobile phone company. “Implementation of 5G could require the purchase of a large number of frequencies, the costs of which, given the subscriber’s low mobile check and investment risks, could be paid back in decades,” he tells Interfax-Ukraine. “It is necessary to create conditions for improving the country’s economy, reducing tax pressure on the industry and adapting it to European regulatory practices.”

🔵One year after the launch of 4G, about half of Ukrainians have access to the fast service, according to separate reports from the nation’s two largest mobile phone companies, Kyivstar and Vodaphone. Kyivstar, which has 26.4 million subscribers of all levels of service, plans to invest about $110 million a year through 2022 to expand 4G service, Alexander Komarov, company president, told reporters recently. By comparison, Vodaphone has about 20 million subscribers of all service levels.

Unclear if Russia is issuing passports to Luhansk, Donetsk residents

ollowing a decree by the Russian President to simplify the passport issuance process for people living in the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LDPR) in eastern Ukraine, the Migration Service in Rostov has been bombarded with applications – all of which have been rejected, said Russian MP from Rostov-on-Don Anatoly Kotlyarov in a Facebook post.

“Citizenship? Aha. You’re getting ahead of yourselves! The Interior Ministry has received 1309 appeals concerning rejected citizenship applications,” Kotlyarov wrote under his video message.

The MP claims to have sat for two hours in the Rostov Migration Service, after which the head of the institution said that “Citizens of the LDPR are not covered by the president’s decree, which applies to Russian territory”.

In a video that Kotlyarov published later, he said that the migration service has heard of the decree but does not yet know how to implement it. “Citizens” of the LDPR must exit Russia and obtain the passport in the territory where they reside officially. In Kotlyarov’s opinion, it is absurd that people who already live in Russia would have to return to the LDPR to acquire a Russian passport.

Three million more Russians not allowed to leave country due to debts

The number of Russians who are not allowed to leave the country due to their debts continues to grow. During the first quarter, 4.4 million citizens were under travel restrictions, 50% more than last year. The number has been growing for four consecutive years, according to statistics from the Russian Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP). . . .

The FSSP considers travel restrictions an effective way to influence debtors – between January and March alone, Russians repaid more than 19 billion rubles (around $293 million), 45% more than last year. Travel restrictions can be placed on any citizens who owe more than 10,000 rubles ($154). This includes unpaid credit cards, taxes, alimony, traffic fines, utility bills, etc. The order restricts travel for six months and can be extended repeatedly until the debt is repaid.

The most persistent offenders are banks clients (40% of all debtors under travel restrictions), followed by those owing alimony (20%) and citizens with outstanding traffic fines (10%). People with unpaid utility bills account for 5%, and those who have borrowed from international financial institutions only 1.5%, Izvestia reports.

The increase in the number of debtors is related to the growing number of loans taken out by the general population, believes Igor Nikolaev, director of the Grant Thornton strategic analysis institute. He emphasizes that Russians’ incomes have been declining in recent years, leaving them unable to repay their loans. The bailiffs have also become more active, the expert explained.

According to the Bank of Russia, as of 1 April this year, banks had issued Russian citizens a total of 15.5 trillion rubles (around $239 billion) in loans. The United Credit Bureau reported that in the first quarter of the year, the proportion of delinquencies dropped by 1.9 percentage points year-on-year to 9.8%.

Kolomoisky announces his return to Ukraine to advise Zelensky

He should be in prison.

Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, currently residing in Israel, said that he is ready to help the new president of Ukraine run the country.

In an interview with NTV, he said that he will “go so far as to offer his consultation services” to Vladimir Zelensky, president-elect of Ukraine, after he takes office. At the same time, he admitted that in the last six months he had already given the showman advice “once or twice”.

“I am ready to offer him advice, sometimes I do offer him advice, but this is not happening on a mass scale,” the businessman modestly noted.

Speaking about Zelensky, the oligarch said that he “wanted him to win the election” and hopes that he will cope with the “big burden” he has taken on. Kolomoisky also promised to return to Ukraine after the results were officially released.

The oligarch had already announced his intention to come to Ukraine. Ihor Kolomoisky was going to return between the first and second rounds of the election, but changed his mind because he did not want to add to the “turmoil.

Horrible Corruption! Ukrainian Kangaroo Court says nationalization of Privat Bank illegal.

The ruling is a big setback for the government, which wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky, a co-founder of the bank, in December 2016.

PrivatBank was nationalized as part of a clean-up of the banking system backed by the International Monetary Fund, which supports Ukraine with a $3.9 billion loan program.

Ukraine’s dollar-denominated Ukraine bonds fell more than 1 percent after the ruling by a Kiev court as President Petro Poroshenko said in a televised address that overturning nationalization threatened “default and a new economic crisis.”
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He has previously said that any backsliding on PrivatBank would spark a “deep crisis in relations with the IMF.”

The central bank said it was impossible to reverse the nationalization and it would appeal against the ruling.

After taking over the bank the government had said it wanted to recover money it says was siphoned out while Kolomoisky owned it. It has shored up the lender with billions of dollars since it was nationalized.

Kolomoisky denies any wrongdoing and says the bank was forcibly nationalized without proper justification.

(humor) Pope Francis Mourns Excess Carbon Emissions Given Off By Notre Dame Fire

Pope Francis has called for a time of mourning within the Catholic Church after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned earlier this week.

The period of mourning is said to be a time of weeping for the extra carbon dioxide emissions let off into the air from the fires.

“Court” Returning Privat Bank to Kolomoiski!?????

This is outrageous. So depressing. Ukraine has a bazaar instead of a legal system.

Kolomoiski stoke $5 Billion from Ukraine, whose M2 monetary supply is less than $50B.

The District Administrative Court of Kyiv satisfied Igor Kolomoisky’s claim to the National Bank and the Cabinet of Ministers regarding the privatization of Privatbank.

This is stated on the official website of the court.

The court found it illegal and abolished the decision to withdraw the insolvent “Privatbank” from the market with the participation of the state.

“The court … recognized the illegal decisions of the defendants, which resulted in the nationalization of PJSC CB” Privatbank “, and declared invalid from the moment of the conclusion of a contract of sale by the state of the bank’s shares,” the statement reads.

According to judges, the procedure for withdrawal of “Privatbank” from the market violated the norms of the current legislation.

“The grounds for adopting such a decision were, among other things, the lack of knowledge of the defendants in the availability of statutory grounds for assigning PJSC CB” Privatbank “to the category of insolvent, as a result of which the procedure for its nationalization was initiated, and the violation of the nationalization procedure of the bank itself, the procedure of which is regulated at the legislative level, “the press service of the court reported.

“Thus, the procedure for the nationalization of PJSC CB” Privatbank “was declared unreasonable by the court and carried out with numerous violations of the legislation in effect at that time, resulting in unlawful interference of the state with the right of shareholders of the Bank, including the plaintiff, to peacefully own a proper one property that violates both the requirements of national legislation, including the Constitution of Ukraine, and the provisions of international standards in this area, “the report said. (Ukrainian)

Hacked Emails Appear to Reveal Russia Is Backing Comedian Likely to Be Ukraine’s Next President

Comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice, has upended Ukraine’s presidential race over the past several months by promising young voters a break from a past riddled with corruption and leaders beholden to powerful oligarchs.

But now, a tranche of hacked emails suggest that Zelenskiy may have a powerful patron of his own: the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s security services revealed that they are investigating whether Zelenskiy’s campaign received financing from members of the Russian security service who are supporting the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a self-proclaimed, pro-Russian separatist proto-state in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Typical propaganda: “Ukraine cannot be a homogenous ethnic nation-state”

Here’s the trash article:

The story of this election was corruption, not an embracing of any sort of multiculturalism.

This sentence, “Given its radicalism and close association with fascist ideology, Ukrainian nationalism,” is straight out of Kremlin’s playbook.

Ballingcat hit piece against Azov

A culture that doesn’t respect its warriors gets replaced by one that does.

Bellingcat has produced some great research which I’ve posted here before. But their latest work —

“Defend the White Race”: American Extremists Being Co-Opted by Ukraine’s Far-Right

is slander and guilt-by-association. It mixes fascism with any expression of ethnic identity or solidarity.

Sure some members of Azov have troubling views. You know what? So did a lot of the soldiers in my platoon in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne division. The guys who show up to fight are not your fucking gender studies majors and male feminists.

When I visited the Azov battalion in Shyrokyne, I was moved almost to tears by the quality of people I encountered. A film maker, an architect, the head of a Ukrainian lawfirm. An eighteen year old leader with as much poise, clarity, and maturity as I have ever seen from any military leader. It was only during my third time seeing him that he revealed me he was injured during the evacuation at Illovaisk — 17 at the time.

Azov stared down the Russian army when the fate of Mariupol and Ukraine in general was very much in doubt. And many of them died. They deserve our gratitude.

Here are Azov’s position under Russian Grad Rocket fire.

Here’s a short documentary about a Georgian fighter killed while fighting with Azov.

Remembering “Kozak” of the Azov Regiment (he was from Odesa)

The crazy story of “Swampy”, and Englishman fighting with Azov who ended up lost in the enemy camp

Saakashvili to return to Ukraine if Zelensky wins presidential election

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said he is confident of Volodymyr Zelensky’s victory in the runoff presidential election in Ukraine, and wants to return to Ukraine and to restore his Ukrainian citizenship.

“In fact, a revolution has happened in Ukraine. There is no doubt that Volodymyr Zelensky will win the runoff election,” Saakashvili told the television channel Rustavi 2 in an interview.

He also commented on claims that Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoysky was behind Zelensky.

“These allegations are wrong. Perhaps, Kolomoysky stands by Zelensky. I have known Kolomoysky for a long time, and he is very favorably disposed towards me,” Saakashvili said.

Zelenski, the favorite to become Ukraine’s next president, took son’s toy!

True story:

Volodymyr Zelensky, the guy who came in first in Ukraine’s presidential election, and will likely win the run off, once took my then-two-year-old son’s toy.

We were leaving a restaurant in Kyiv, and the toy was on a chair while my wife helped our son with his jacket. Zelenski, who was there with what I assume were his own kids, picked it up.

He returned it immediately after my wife said something, and he said quietly that he thought it was for everybody, which seems plausible.

I didn’t recognize him at the time. On the way home, my wife told me he was an actor.

Ukraine’s Presidential Election Results & Commentary

There will be a runoff between Zelensky and Poroshenko, but Zelensky, a former comedian, is the heavy favorite.

TOP 10 of the candidates for the presidency in Ukraine:

– Volodymyr Zelensky – 30,23%
– Petro Poroshenko – 15,92%
– Yulia Tymoshenko – 13,40%
– Yuriy Boyko – 11,68%
– Anatoliy Hrytsenko – 6,92%
– Ihor Smeshko – 6,03%
– Oleg Lyashko – 5,48%
– Oleksandr Vilkul – 4,15%
– Ruslan Koshulynsky – 1,63%
– Yuriy Tymoshenko – 0,62%

Good news:

* Ukraine demonstrating that it can peaceful transition power is a huge accomplishment for Ukraine, and for Russia too – because a neighbor demonstrating democracy puts a lot of pressure on their autocracy.

* This is a break from the old. Zelensky is young and popular with reformers.

* Poroshenko did some thing well, but he’s a horrible crook. It’s nice that he won’t be further entrenched.

* Zelenski is pro Western.

* Zelenski inspires the youth in what seems like a good way – activism, involvement, standing up to corruption.

* It is (hopefully) a message, that Poroshenko’s corruption, lack of judicial reform, and in-action on the Maidan killings will not be tolerated.

Bad news:

* Zelenski is probably a puppet of Kolomoisky, on whose television station he built his career. Kolomoisky’s Privat Bank fraud cost Ukraine 6 Billion.

* If Kolomoisky manages evade prosecution, or worse, return to Ukraine from his self-imposed exile is Israel / Switzerland, it will be humiliating for Ukraine.