Category Archives: Wasteland

Ukrainian Bureaucrats and Russian Tanks

Yesterday my wife made arrangements to have a relative watch our two kids while I worked so that she should go to Ukraine’s equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles and renew her international driver’s license. She went, and after an hour waiting, she was told to re-take the pictures she had brought, so she went to a nearby photographer, returned, and waited again this time for a little less than an hour. Then they told her the printer was broken, and that she should come back some other day.


I had a similar adventure today, and after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ukrainian bureaucrats, I do what little I can. I write.

The whole reason I’m currently visiting the in-laws is because I had a long-standing appointment in Kyiv to FINALLY (after six months of trying) get my Ukrainian driver’s license. We planned a week long visit around this appointment to get the driver’s license.

I announced a day off from work well in advance. Early this morning, I drove for two hours accompanied by a contact I nurtured who would help me with the processes. We waited for two hours and told their system was down and wouldn’t be working today, and drove two hour back. They told my contact to call back on Saturday. There was no mention of why they wrote off Thursday and Friday.

I had planned to return to Lviv on Saturday.

This is the dehumanizing, soul destroying reality of Ukrainian bureaucracy. It’s waiting for hours in crowded Soviet style offices with piles of documents on your lap hoping everything is in order. My relatives smile when I relate to them my struggles, not because they enjoy my suffering, but because after a life time of abuse, they’re happy to have a foreigner empathize with them.

“See?” They tell me. “This is why everybody wants to leave. Do you understand now?”

One of my nephews, a very talented artist who dreams of leaving, tells me he was once caught in a perfect contradiction of the kind that only Ukrainian bureaucracy can create: If I understood him correctly, he couldn’t update his residency without a passport, and he could get a passport without an updated residency.

My quest to get a Ukrainian driver’s license began about six months ago. I was pulled over in a cleverly designed speed trap, where the main highway is suddenly designated a residential zone, though there are no building nearby. There was a sign though. Fair enough.

I was told the rules had changed, and American driver’s licenses no longer qualified someone to drive on Ukrainian roads. I paid the speeding ticket – about 250 hryvnias ($10), and a 3500 hryvnia ($140) fine for driving without a license.

Knowing the predatory nature of Ukrainian bureaucracy, I always try to find a sympathetic insider before approaching any government institution. In this case, I found through some relatives a former high ranking police official who can contacts in Ukraine’s equivalent of the department of transportation. He wanted to hang out a bit before we began, so I spent a pleasant evening with min his yard, drinking beer, grilling shashlynk, and late in the evening even singing.

I asked him three times, both by phone and during our evening whether I needed to pay for these service. I didn’t use the word “bribe”, but it was obvious that’s what I meant. He told me emphatically that I did not.

Eventually, he told me everything was set, and gave the contact, and I called the contact, and received, somewhat impatiently, instructions how to proceed.

What followed were SEVEN visits to a department of motor vehicles. Each was book-ended by an hour of travel. Also, I would arrive a half hour early or more to reserve a place in line, then wait for the place to open, then elbow my way to a ticket in the order that people showed up, and wait for the ticket number to be called. Since I always showed up well before opening, I never had to wait more than about 45 minutes to get called.

1st visit – general review of documents. One of the translations needed to be notarized.

2nd visit – I returned the same day with a notarized translations, instead of a normal translation. I was surprised when he simply asked to return in about a week. There was some process that needed to happen.

3rd visit – The third visit was infuriating. I went to the trouble to traveling there, claiming a place in line, etc, just to be told that I needed some additional materials. Apparently, he was unable to verify that my American driver’s license was legitimate. He could have easily told me this over the phone – but they always surprise you with problems at the last minute. I’ve been warned that this twisting of the knife is how Ukrainian bureaucrats try to get you to offer a bribe, but I remembered the guidance of the ex-police officer and bit my tongue.

He told me to get some proof from the US embassy that my driver’s license was legitimate. I explained that the embassy doesn’t do any such thing. Licenses are done state by state. He shrugged the typical shrug of a Ukrainian bureaucrat – “That’s our system,” he said. Nothing is every the bureaucrat’s fault. He told me to get something, even a notarized statement.

I tried to explain to him the extreme stupidity of this. The notary at the embassy will notarize ANY statement. The notary confirms the authenticity of a signature. That’s it. It means nothing about the validity of a statement, or legitimacy of an American driver’s license.

“That’s our system,” he said. I need something. So, thinking I was receiving a coded message, I asked if I needed to pay for these services, but he waved his arms as if my question was utterly absurd.

I made an appointment at the US embassy, which had a month long waiting list at the time. I returned to Lviv to continue running my IT business and returned in a month, first to visit the embassy in Kyiv, which is itself a long procedure to pass through security. Then I made my next trip.

4th visit – He was very pleased by the notarized statement. Everything was set. “Now just give me your medical exam, and we’ll make your license.” He seemed irritated that I didn’t have, never heard of, and never even thought about a special medical exam for a driver’s license.

I made another trip to Kyiv (2 hours each way), and received my medical exam – which was a completely fake procedure. You pay money, and they pretend to examine you and give you a piece of paper with a stamp.

5th visit – He accepted the medical exam, and then sent me to another office to pay the fee for my license. He told me not to wait in line again after paying, which I appreciated. When I returned with the receipt, he took my photograph, and as often happens with Ukrainian bureaucracy, my goal seemed very, very close, almost imminent.

It’s probably an exaggeration to call this deliberate sadism, though it certainly seems that way. Next, he showed me to a computer and told me all I had to do now was take an exam.

I thought the whole point of me verifying (or pretending to verify) my US driver’s license was to prove myself a qualified driver. That’s how it works in the US — you can get an international driver’s license with your existing driver’s license. You just pay a fee and fill out an application. You can even do it by mail without making multiple visits to some hellish, crumbling Soviet style office.

“That’s our system,” he shrugged.

I asked him why he hadn’t told me about this, and again he told me that that’s their system.

I was Sisyphus, and the boulder had just rolled down the hill again.

“I will not pass an exam in Ukrainian,” I said. “Can I take it in English?”

He said I could. It turned out that selecting English only changed the labels on the buttons to English: “okay” / “next question” / “cancel”.

The content remained Ukrainian. He telephone somebody to ask questions, and said he had an American who needed to take the exam in English, and he talked about what a stupid broken system they have. When he got off the phone, he continued telling me about their stupid broken system, but said there was no other option.

The test continues until you get three questions wrong. I had a hard time reading technical terms, and made it to about question number eight of twenty. From what I hear, the test is even difficult for native Ukrainians to pass.

He told me to come back in a few days. From his earlier complaining about their system, and from his tone of voice I got the impression that her take the test for me, or find some work around.

6th visit – Inexplicably, I had to take the test in Ukrainian again. When I asked him why he was wasting my time, he said something about the ex-police officer indicating some dispute between them. It was something like “you tell your friend that he needs to start acting like a human being,” as if I’m supposed to know what the hell that means.

Ukrainian bureaucracy has been so incredibly disorienting. Neither doing everything I was told, nor trying to offer a bribe as my relatives insist is the only way seemed to work for me. I didn’t know if this was incompetence, or if he was angry at the ex-police chief and taking it out one me, or if he was speaking to me in coded language that I should offer a bribe in some different way, even after he waved off my suggestion that I pay for services.

The point for foreigners is that you have to work very hard just to get on with life in Ukraine.

Inexplicably, he asked me to return in a few days. I asked what would be different, and he said something vague like “we’ll see.”

I needed to return to Lviv to refocus on my business, and we had vacation planned to the United States.

Frustrated, demoralized, and dejected, I did not return, but looked for an alternative plan to get a Ukrainian driver’s license. I found another contact of my wife’s family who had helped other people get their driver’s licenses. However as I had an in-process application at a different department, I need to cancel it

7th visit – After we returned from our vacation to the United States, I made a last trip to that god-forsaken Soviet little bureaucracy, this time with my wife. She cut the line, and told the manager she needed to cancel an application for her foreigner husband. The manager, without seeing me or asking her to name her husband, waddled to the cabinet and retrieved my file. It had been about four months since I’d started it. He returned some documents, and asked for a statement about cancelling the process, which my wife wrote and I signed.

Today was a visit to a separate department, coordinated by a separate insider. I wasted six hours. Four of them driving, and two of them waiting. Their system was down. They asked to call back on Saturday without explaining why Thursday or Friday were out of the question.

So that’s where I am.

All I want to do is drive legally in Ukraine, as I did for eight years before the laws were changed. After six months of trying and wasting countless hours, I have nothing to show for my efforts.

Perhaps I made a mistake by even trying to get a Ukrainian driver’s license as the police man who gave me that speeding ticket six months ago told me I needed to do. Perhaps during my vacation in America, I could have just applied for an international driver’s license and that would have covered my needs.

But the point it – why are such mistakes possible? And why should it be a mistake?

The types of people Ukraine wants to attract and retain will not be willing to live under this dystopian bureaucracy.

I’m not even sure if I should return and try again if I get the go-ahead on Saturday. After nine years in Ukraine, I bought one way tickets for myself and my family to the US. We made this difficult decision (and it was difficult) in October, before the tensions with Russia went crazy, and now I hate the feeling of abandoning Ukraine, or failing to stand up to Russia the bully.

Update: On Saturday, my contact called me and said I could try again on Tuesday or Wednesday. I decided to follow through with plans to return to Lviv to resume packing.

Even if I did take an additional day off from work, and even their systems did not go down again, and even if I pass through their hoops and qualify for a driver’s license, I’m worried they wouldn’t be able to give me one because of fresh problems with my residency (see below). This is best part yet!


Residency Woes

After living in Ukraine for NINE years, Ukraine will not renew my Residency Permit. I have a “permanent” residency which requires only a one time renewal which should have happened this year.

Just to get to the point where my renewal was rejected took over 40 interactions. I recorded each one as a civics lesson, and perhaps I’ll list them in a separate blog post. For example:

* wait in line to be told to come back another day
* get sent to a different office to review documents
* have him refer me to a different office
* go somewhere else to fill out and submit the form to pay the penalty
* have my finger prints taken in one office on the second floor
* later the same day, have my finger prints taken on the first floor (the nice lady apologized for the absurdity, saying, as always: “that’s our system”)
* go to the bank to pay a penalty for applying for renewal several months late

In total there were FORTY interaction. They bounce you around like a ping pong ball.

And the reward for such determined effort: my renewal was rejected.

I had received the permit in 2013 based on the fact that my mother was born in Ukraine. In fact, both my parents were born in Ukraine, but Ukraine’s ministry of immigration wouldn’t accept American naturalization documents which specified them as being from Ukraine. No, that would be too easy. I spent six month scouring Ukrainian archives, and being horribly abused by Ukrainian bureaucrats. Eventually I received the residency based on my finding documents about my mother’s Christening, the only trace left from those chaotic, turbulent times into which my parents were borns.

Well, nine years later, I cannot renew my residency because my mother was Christened “Maria-Ivanna”, and on all the American documents which prove that she’s my mother, she dropped the secondary name and appears only as “Maria”. Her birth date is the same. Her maiden name is there on her marriage certificate. Everything lines up, except for the double name on her Christening.

I cannot imagine the mindset of the bureaucrat who scours documents to find such minuscule, irrelevant errors. I’m biased by my frustration, but it’s hard for me to imagine it being anything other than extreme sadism or extreme stupidity.


It’s fashionable to discuss Ukraine’s bureaucracy and corruption in terms of attracting foreign investment or productive foreigners. I believe President Zelensky has talked about trying to get diaspora Ukrainians to live and do business in Ukraine. Pro tip: don’t kick out the ones already here who are trying to stay.

I’ll note that some modest improvements have been made – I don’t meet as many rude bureaucrats as I used to. The ones in the Lviv Immigration office were especially helpful, showing great patience, and offering advice everywhere they could. This is a vast improvement from the outright abuse I suffered in 2012 and 2013 when I first received my residency.

While the context of foreigners and foreign investment is relevant to bureaucratic reform, it’s a bit of a shame to prioritize it. Bureaucratic reform should, first and foremost, be discussed in the context of unlocking the considerable potential of Ukrainians. There’s tremendous talent here trying to bloom.

How many businesses were never created? How many beautiful things never materialized because people were too demoralized? How many projects were never attempted? How many workdays were wasted sitting in those horrible offices with stacks of documents on people’s laps? How many hours were never spent relaxing? How many talented Ukrainians fled this madness as soon as they got the chance?

Yes, save Ukraine from Russian, but save Ukraine from itself too.

Everything is taken care of! $10,000 each for the Holy Icon!

The corrupt late-mayor of Kharkiv, a city in Eastern Ukraine and once Ukraine’s capital, died in December. He spent the last few years of his life in a wheelchair after being shot in the back in a failed assassination attempt. One rumor is that the assassination attempt was revenge for failing to deliver Kharkiv into the hands of the Russians during the 2014 invasion, but he was involved in so much corruption that anything is possible.

Kernes was literally a three-card monty dealer at a bazaar earlier in his life. Yes, Ukrainians voted him in as mayor — multiple times, no less. There seems to be a preference for individual strong men, especially in the East.

I caught rumor of the following story that involved mayor Kernes:

Most of mayors of major Ukrainian cities gathered for the birthday of a president — I’m not sure if it was Poroshenko, or Yanukovych. As a gift, one mayor from a Western City brought expensive alcohol and an old, first edition book by a historical Ukrainian figure. Kernes was lively and outspoken as the mayors arrived. He only understood Russian, and spoke in this aggressive slang of Soviet strong men which is impossible to convey in English.

“Everything is take of,” announced Kernes in his Russian slang. “The gift will be this holy icon,” he explained waving it around. “$10,000 from each of you.”

After some consideration, the Western mayor gently explained that he hadn’t agreed to it, and that he already brought a gift.

“What are you talking about?” Demanded Kernes. “It has been blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Listen to me, I arranged everything. It will be $10,000.”

The western mayor politely refused, and for a while Kernes was sour, but then returned to his usual self.

Corruption Battle Between Oligarchs to Begin Building New Ukrainian Ski Resort

Here’s the story:

Ukrainian ski resort to undergo 500 mln Euro investment

A Carpathian resort town is due to undergo extensive investment and development to turn it into a major all year round destination.

The investment will be provided by Vitaly Antonov, owner of Galnaftogaz and the OKKO gas station network.

The town in question is Slavsk, located just over an hour away from Lviv city and easily accessible from its airport. Over 500 million Euros is due to be spent on Slavske and the surrounding resort villages to provide a modern rival to Bukovel.

Antonov has moved his business interests to the Skole District (the municipality in which Slavsk is located) and in an official announcement at the end of October, Skole District Council Leader Mikhail Luchinets stated that “ Since 1st January OKKO Group has registered in Slavske and are now taxpayers in the region contributing 3.2 million Dolalrs monthly. The plans laid out by OKKO include the construction of a summer-winter resort”.

According to Luchinets, OKKO’s corporation tax payments will go towards improvement of local infrastructure to help cope with the expansion of Slavsk and the surrounding villages.

Apparently there was a battle of corruption that demonstrates the realities of Ukraine’s corruption – but also lack of sophistication. I think corruption in the US is there too, but it’s more sophisticated and hidden.

Right now, there is only one big, modern ski resort in Ukraine – Bukovel – owned by the super-corrupt, and super-powerful Igor Kolomoiski. His people attempted to bribe both individual property owners, and local officials to prevent the construction of this new resort. Vitali Antonov’s people had a system of counter bribes — to both local property owners and local officials, and in the end they triumphed. I heard a rumor once that Vitali himself had made exasperated comments about the amount of time he spent in restaurants and saunas with local officials before they would finally trust him.

Horribly biased pro-Russian article about Crimea in WaPo

Points I’d like to correct or see included:

1) the “vote” was an absolute joke, tightly controlled by armed men, and not even Russian media was allowed .

2) From what I understand, lots of Russian pensioners, following Moscow’s encouragement and moved to Crimea. Population displacement has been a Russian / Soviet strategy for centuries.

3) Two points for historic context:

a. Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, 55% of Crimeans voted to join independent Ukraine.

b. As part of Ukraine giving up it’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, Moscow signed the Budapest Memorandum, promising to recognize and respect Ukraine’s borders.

Joe Biden accused of received $900k from Ukrainian Energy company

Tim Pool Video:

As Tim Pool points out, it’s hard to know who to trust in this story.

MORE Documents Implicate Joe Biden in Ukraine Scandal, Politician Says Joe Was Paid $900K By Burisma.

A Ukrainian MP has issued a statement and released documents alleging that Joe Biden himself was paid $900,000 in exchange for consulting services by Burisma. The story, reported by Interfax, directly implicates Joe Biden and if true would present a scenario in which Joe Biden got a prosecutor fired to protect himself from investigation.

The issue in the end for all of us is who to trust. Do we trust this Ukrainian politician? Well the media reported that Hunter Biden and Joe did nothing wrong, but their source? A Ukrainian political figure.

In the end it seems like we have no way to know who is telling the truth unless the US launches an investigation into Joe Biden. At the very least, even if the latest allegations are true Joe has been accused for a while of enriching himself and his family with the office.

It is common “soft corruption” and we all know it happens.

Regardless of the latest claims against Trump, Democrats, Or Biden we need to stop pretending the nepotism and corruption doesn’t exist.

Even many leftists have come out slamming the Bidens for their misuse of public office and at the very least we can all agree on that.

If these new allegations are true then Trump would be right to want it investigated and it makes an absurd reason for impeachment. Regardless though, the call with Ukraine by Trump pushed it regardless if it warrants the calls to impeach.

In the end the best we can hope for is that this matter is investigated properly and fairly.

Scandal: Joe Biden’s Son earned more than $50,000/month from a Ukrainian gas company . . .

. . . and then-Vice-President Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the company.

Trump Tweeted a highlight video of the scandal:

Two years after leaving office, Joe Biden couldn’t resist the temptation last year to brag to an audience of foreign policy specialists about the time as vice president that he strong-armed Ukraine into firing its top prosecutor.

In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Biden recalled telling Poroshenko.

“Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations event, insisting that President Obama was in on the threat.

Interviews with a half-dozen senior Ukrainian officials confirm Biden’s account, though they claim the pressure was applied over several months in late 2015 and early 2016, not just six hours of one dramatic day. Whatever the case, Poroshenko and Ukraine’s parliament obliged by ending Shokin’s tenure as prosecutor. Shokin was facing steep criticism in Ukraine, and among some U.S. officials, for not bringing enough corruption prosecutions when he was fired.

But Ukrainian officials tell me there was one crucial piece of information that Biden must have known but didn’t mention to his audience: The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member.

U.S. banking records show Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers into one of its accounts — usually more than $166,000 a month — from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, during a period when Vice President Biden was the main U.S. official dealing with Ukraine and its tense relations with Russia.

PrivatBank and How Ukranian Oligarchs Buy Up Most of Cleveland and Launder $470B in the Process

In an explosive legal complaint filed last month in Delaware, attorneys for a major Ukrainian bank alleged that two oligarchs who founded the bank and controlled it from 2006 to 2016 laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent corporate loans to purchase assets in the United States and unjustly enrich themselves and their associates.

Dubbed the “Optima Schemes” in the 104-page document, these “brazen fraudulent schemes” were successful, among other things, in making the oligarchs and their co-defendants the largest commercial real estate holders in Cleveland.

(You can read the full complaint here.)

With money siphoned from public bonds and 20 million private Ukrainian citizens who’d opened accounts with PrivatBank, the oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov doled out corporate loans to shell companies that they controlled. They used PrivatBank “as their own personal piggy bank,” in the words of the complaint.

Those loans were then laundered in multiple digital transactions, sent through dozens of other shell companies that had been created exclusively for the purpose of laundering. These accounts were managed by co-conspirators at PrivatBank’s branch in Cyprus.

The true origin of the money thus concealed, funds were then shipped to LLCs in Delaware (hence the legal filing there). Those LLCs — “One Cleveland Center, LLC,” to take just one example — were used to acquire properties and metalworking facilities in the U.S. Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov are mineral magnates and own mining factories and metalworking plants in Ukraine.

The men on the ground in the United States, according to the complaint, were a Miami-based trio: Mordechai “Motti” Korf, his brother-in-law Chaim Schochet, and Uriel Laber. These three men managed the “Optima” companies: Optima International, Optima Ventures and Optima Acquisitions, all of which were created and ultimately controlled by Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov.

“Optima Ventures” should be a familiar local name. It was the company, launched in 2007, used to acquire properties in the U.S. for Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov. The majority of these properties were in Cleveland.

Chaim Schochet was Optima’s “front man” in Northeast Ohio. He told the Plain Dealer in 2012that his local goals were twofold: “making money for investors betting on the upside of a Midwestern city, and contributing to the betterment of a downtown that more high-profile buyers ha[d] passed by.”

But his investors’ funds were ill-gotten, according to the complaint, proceeds from “massive, systematic and fraudulent loan misappropriation and recycling schemes. (In the 2012 PD piece referenced above, Schochet was reportedly “circumspect about discussing how [Optima Ventures] is structured or who the major investors are.”)

The loan recycling schemes were functionally identical to a ponzi scheme, except instead of paying purported profits to early investors with funds from more recent investors, the Ukrainian oligarchs and their cronies within PrivatBank paid off early fraudulent corporate loans with money from new fraudulent corporate loans. . . .

“Nowadays it’s cheaper to bribe a judge than to kill a journalist.”

A journalist friend of mine has been reporting on corruption. Specifically two types:

1) “Veteran” Land grabs. Corrupt oligarchs are partnering with real and fake veterans to take advantage of a land-donation privilege which has been extended to veterans of the war with Russia.

2) Illegal lumber. Corrupt gangsters team up with everybody from cheap local labor, to the forestry service, to the police, to the prosecutor, to the local governor. Everyone makes money.

I asked him if exposing such corruption may be a threat to his safety. He shrugged it off. “Nowadays it’s cheaper to bribe a judge than to kill a journalist.”

Kangaroo Courts & the Revenge of the Medical Mafia

Kyiv, Ukraine – The ongoing transformation and modernization of Ukraine’s healthcare system was dealt a blow this week when a Kyiv District Court judge issuing a bizarre ruling that prohibited Dr. Ulana Suprun, the country’s Minister of Healthcare, from performing her duties. Having lost the battle in parliament in October 2017, and with sociology showing the key elements of the reform being solidly popular, the medical mafia retreated to the murky court system in a last ditch effort to thwart the transformation of the healthcare system. Now the country’s progress in healthcare hangs in the balance as the battle continues in the courts next week.

Serhiy Karakashiyan, an odious judge, from Kyiv’s notorious District Administrative Court, issued the dictate on February 5th stating that Dr. Suprun could not serve as an “Acting Minister” for more than a period of a month, and also made mention of her citizenship. Based on these arguments, Karakashiyan prohibited Dr. Suprun from performing her duties as the Acting Minister of Healthcare. However, the basis for the ruling is dubious. Dr. Suprun has served as the Acting Minister of Health since her appointment by the Cabinet of Ministers, led by Premier Volodymyr Groysman, since August 2016. The post of Minister, which requires parliamentary approval, has been vacant since April 2016. Constitutionally, the Parliament is responsible for approving government ministers, but in their dereliction of duty, the Cabinet of Ministers can appoint Acting Ministers. Without Acting Ministers, medicines can’t get to patients, hospitals can’ receive state funding, and medical professionals can’t be paid. For example, currently, more than $23 million dollars of medicine is held hostage by Karakashiyan’s ruling and is prevented from getting to patients and doctors.

Land Lady

This month, we are moving away from our crazy and oppressive land lady. We found out from a neighbor whom we said goodbye to that she got the property in a deeply immoral way. She was hired to help an aging couple that lived there. She either forged documents or somehow manipulating or tricking them into signing the property over to her.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior isn’t unusual in post-communism. I would like “post-communism” to be thought of and discussed as its own distinct social order.

Ukrainian regional court refuses to hear NBU claims against uber oligarch Kolomoisky because he lives in Switzerland

“The court refused to open proceedings due to the fact that the former owner of PrivatBank cancelled registration in the Dnipropetrovsk region in March, 2017, and sold his local apartments. The court did not find other real estate belonging to Kolomoisky. According to the court’s information, Kolomoisky’s current residence is Geneva.”

Comments from a friend:

Knowing how things work in Ukraine, and the fact that oligarchs have a huge preference for courts in England – until it doesn’t suit them – I wonder if the NBU proceedings were delayed until Kolomoisky could scoot to Geneva.

After all, the former standard procedure was to “get sick”, go to hospital, and then disappear.

Going to hospital probably wouldn’t work any more.

Your Ukrainian Bank Card is blocked . . . always

Avoid banking in Ukraine at all costs. While the rest of the countries seems to have taken small but significant steps forward, banking seems to be trapped in some barbaric, ponderous, Soviet past.

You can safely assume that you credit card is blocked for online purchases (like train tickets). That’s my default assumption.

I’ve made hour-long visits to banks on what seems like a dozen different occasions. Every time I want to use my card online, I have to start by visiting the bank to unblock it.

I can’t get help over the phone because I never pass the verification process. Sometimes I forget whether I’ve used my middle name (as per my US passport) or my patronymic (as per my Ukrainian residency). Sometimes I just don’t understand the questions they ask.


1. Your credit card is blocked for online purchases, and you should plan to spend an hours in a bank prior to any online purchase. If you succeed, your card will immediately be blocked again.

2. You will not pass verification over the phone. I suspect there’s no way to actually pass. It’s just there for show. A Potemkin Village of customer service.

3. Avoid banking in Ukraine at all costs.

Earlier rants about Ukrainian Banking:

Ryanair drops plans to serve Ukraine – Oligarch Kolomoisky protects his interests

Ukrainians should boycott UIA.

The low-cost carrier scrubbed its plans last month, accusing Boryspil International Airport in Kiev of bowing to the wishes of its largest customer, flag-carrier Ukraine International Airlines (UIA). . . .

Within hours of the agreement collapsing, Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s prime minister, pleaded with Ryanair to resume negotiations. His infrastructure minister, Volodymyr Omelyan, scolded UIA for meddling in the process. But government officials are not the only powerbrokers in Ukraine. Ihor Kolomoisky (pictured), the billionaire oligarch who part-owns UIA, has now filed court claims against the government, seeking to have all Ryanair contracts annulled and, quite remarkably, demanding compensation for the mere prospect of future competition.

Ukraine ranks 46th most corrupt country in the World :-(

The index, which is published by Berlin-based Transparency International, aims to rank nations “based on how corrupt a country’s public sector is perceived to be.” The index ranked 176 countries on a scale of 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).

I don’t think this is accurate.

I hate banking in Ukraine (rant) #PrivatBank

Banking in Ukraine continues to be a nightmare.

The competence that seems to be lifting the quality of restaurants and retail in Ukraine barely penetrates into banking. I hate it. Most tellers are like incompetent little girls terrified that you’ll ask them to do something difficult or unfamiliar — that you’ll give them an opportunity make a mistake. I blame their managers. Mostly they seem ready to tell you whatever they must, really to make whatever sounds they must, as any connection to the real physical world being incidental, to get you to leave them alone.

A couple years ago, I used to bank with Raiffeisen Bank Aval Ukraine. I opened an account to transfer myself some money from the US, expecting it to be cheaper and more convenient than ATMs.


I wanted an alternative to physically walking to the bank to check whether the deposit arrived and asking whether I could check online. They gave me a brochure with instructions how to do so. (First visit.) Great! The instructions did not help, so I returned to ask again. Apparently I would need to set up some special thing, and the teller who could help me would only be in tomorrow. (Second visit.) On my third visit, she started helping me and then asked for my passport, which I did not realize I needed. On my forth visit, she wasn’t there again, and asked me to return after lunch. On my fifth visit, she started helping me, got through the step with my passport, and then asked for the form which shows my tax id number. On my sixth visit, the job was done, and I was able to then check my balance online.


Can you please exchange this big stack of 50s for a small stack 500s? (It was maybe $100 worth.) She counts my 50s. Then she looks around confusedly. “I don’t have enough 500s.” “Is this a bank?” I ask. I suggested that maybe her neighbor had more. She said she wasn’t allowed to ask.


Similar to Episode 1, it took about five visits to close my account with Raiffeisen Bank Aval. A comedy of incompetence and bad manners.

The one thing they did right was telephone me months later asking why I closed my account. I put down my work, shut the door, and let them have it. We spoke — meaning, I spoke, they (surprisingly) listened — for a good twenty minutes.

So I opened an account with Privat Bank for it okay online banking. It’s Ukraine’s largest bank, with branches everywhere. The owner is a sleazy oligarch, but one who at least had the decency to support Ukraine, both vocally and materially. For this he was rewarded with a governorship which he promptly lost after using his personal army to settle a business disagreement.

Anyway, Privat Bank.

Mostly okay.


This summer I had to transfer money to another account for an office expense. It was about $8 to buy water, if I remember correctly. I did the transfer online. Then I received a phone call as a security check. There was a live human doing the check. He spoke quickly and impatiently, and in Russian. He asked for a name and I told him the name of the recipient. He said no, he needed my name. I told him my name. He said it was wrong. (WTF!?) He said I failed the security check, and then hung up. My card was blocked.

It took about an hour sitting in a Privat bank while a surprisingly polite and heroic teller named Allah made phone calls on my behalf. I considered buying her flowers.


For about a week, Privat’s online banking seemed to be down. When I tried logging in, I would get a message that “service is temporarily unavailable.” But then something strange happened. I mentioned this to someone, and they said they used the service daily without any problems.

It turns out that the genius UX team of their website was giving me a “temporarily unavailable” message when I had been blocked! I was blocked because apparently, I don’t know my own name. (see Episode 4)

So I went back to Allah. This time it took over an hour, but eventually I was unblocked.

EPISODE 6 (today):

I try to add 110 uah (about $5) to my phone card. The transaction on the website seems to go through, but then I get an SMS saying that 110 uah is over my limit for internet transactions. (I pay this amount monthly.)

After struggling with their website with only PRETENDS to provide an English language option, I walk to my favorite teller in all over Ukraine, Allah. It took about an hour.

Over the phone, they told her that everything with my account was fine and that I should try again. I did. Same result. They didn’t believe her, so she photographed my cellphone showing the SMS and sent it to them.

It turns out my maximum internet transation was set to zero. Just because . . . because fuck you for trying to do banking in Ukraine.

She walked me through the not-quite-English interface and showed me where to change it. The change required an SMS confirmation code. Apparently, it takes a few hours to go into effect. I thank Allah profusely and thought again about buying her flowers or chocolates, but I’m married now and wouldn’t want her to get the wrong idea.

Hour later, I received an automated phone call from Privat bank asking me whether I wanted to raise my credit limit or if someone told me to do so. The message seemed to ask me the same question three times worded in slightly different ways.

Do you know what the best part of Episode 6 is? Even though the website now indicated a higher limit for online transactions — significantly higher than $5, I still get the same rejection when I try to add money to my phone.

Moral of the story: DO NOT BANK IN UKRAINE!

EPISODE 7: I’m unable to make online purchases. When I try, I get a cryptic SMS “Purchase amount too low”. But I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that error messages — whether on their website or via text messages — often seem deliberately designed to confuse you.

I consult with Alla and Nadia, the two kindest bank tellers in Kyiv for whom I am very grateful.

After 45 minutes, my inquiry remained unresolved and I suggested I return to work and they call me when they get answers.

That evening, Nadia calls. Apparently, Privat Bank no longer allows internet purchases over 700 uah unless it is through their payment system, Privat24.

Sorry, Kolomoiski. I’m done with your bank.