• Pre-Election Preview II: While the official campaign begins only on September 5th, Ukraine’s politicians are already in full fledged election mode. Billboards and television ads across the country are touting various new political parties and candidates on a consistent basis. Of course, these ads don’t actually ask for votes for specific candidates or parties (as that is illegal prior to the start of the actual campaign), but instead promote their party “brand” in preparation for the October 25th National Local Elections. Given the anticipated new powers that local government will wield following decentralization, these may be the most important local elections in Ukraine’s history. As a regular feature of this blog, we are covering the key races across the country.
1. Kyiv – Incumbent Vitaliy Klitchko is now set to run as the united candidate of the Solidarity Party of President Poroshenko. While the Solidarity Party has been owned by Petro Poroshenko since the late 1990’s, it has now been revitalized to become the joint Poroshenko-Klitchko (and apparently soon, Yatsenyuk) vehicle for the October 25th election. With most government coalition parties seeing their rating dramatically drop from their heights a year ago during the Parliamentary Election, the appropriately named “Solidarity” Party was dusted off and selected as pro-government party for this election cycle. The utter collapse in the rating of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s “People’s Front” necessitates the need for the Premier to join the “Solidarity” project. In doing so, Yatsenyuk buys additional time for his continued Premiership as well, apparently maintains his party’s quotas of Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Committee Heads, and gives his colleagues an untainted party label to run on. However it comes at a cost as Yatsenyuk is expected to get only about a quarter of the candidates on the Solidarity local lists, with the rest decided by Poroshenko. Earlier Klitchko cut a deal to get 30% of the list for Kyiv but essentially abandoned his organizations in the rest of the country. Officially under the agreement, the top candidates in each region will be decided by polling data. However with People’s Front at three percent or less in the polls and UDAR mostly nonexistent outside Kyiv, that translates into Poroshenko having the most influence in the candidate selection.
While candidate registration is open until the end of next month, the race appears to be shaping up between incumbent Vitaliy Klitchko and former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko. Interestingly, UDAR received 25% of the vote in the 2012 Parliamentary Election in Kyiv at a time when they Poroshenko Bloc/Solidarity was inactive. In that same election, Motherland finished first in the capital with 31%. A third candidate, Samopomich’s Sergiy Gusovskiy, is also a factor since the party received 21% of the vote in last year’s Parliamentary Election in the capital. While the Kyiv City Deputy and famous restaurant owner is probably in third place at the moment, he can play a significant role in the likely runoff election on November 8th. Thus, candidate personalities aside, the three parties all have noticeable support in Kyiv city which will make the race quite competitive.2. Odesa – Incumbent Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov experienced a setback this month with his close ally and friend, Igor Markov (see “The Peculiar Case of Igor Markov” below) was arrested in San Remo, Italy for an assault he is believed to have orchestrated in Odesa in 2007. While Trukhanov is not currently facing any criminal charges, Markov’s arrest was a warning shot for the current Mayor. Trukhanov is facing a rematch with three time former Mayor Eduard Hurvits. The arrest and possible extradition of Markov to Ukraine, could affect turnout in the anticipated November 8th runoff. Markov consistently polled around ten percent of the vote in Odesa and depending on the reaction of the electorate to the arrest, Markov supporters will either be disillusioned and stay home – or highly motivated on Election Day. The key for Trukhanov is mobilizing pro-Russian voters without irritating Kyiv (and Governor Saakashvili) in the process.
In Odesa, more than in other Ukrainian cities, personalities are more important than party labels. For example, the popularity of Eduard Hurvits allowed him to win the mayor’s office three times as a pro-European candidate, in a city with a pro-Russian electorate. However the new local election law prohibits candidates from running as independents and forces them to choose a party label. This provision will cost Hurvits votes in the election as all of the government coalition parties are in single digits in local polls. However, the party label requirement is also a complication for Gennadiy Trukhanov. The former Regions Party MP won as an independent last year in a controversial election. While Trukhanov clearly will not run with the Opposition Bloc, it is not clear if he is ready to run under Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance Party label either. Trukhanov and Kolomoyskyi have a long standing business relationship dating back to Trukhanov’s time as Deputy Head of the Odesa Port, and Kolomoyskyi financial support was crucial to Trukhanov’s victory in 2014. However with President Poroshenko and Governor Saakashvili on the warpath against Kolomoyskyi, if Trukhanov campaigns under a Kolomoyskyi party label, he risks the wrath of administrative resources being openly used against him. Another option is available via fellow Odesa MP and Head of the Bulgarian Community of Ukraine, Anton Kisse. Kisse is the Chairman of the “Our Land” Party has offered Trukhanov an opportunity to run under the “Nash Krai” label. “Our Country” is a constructive opposition party which will compete for votes with the Opposition Bloc in the east and south. For now, Trukhanov is buying time and building his name ID via the unregistered, eponymously named “Party of Trukhanov”. The “Party of Trukhanov” is not yet registered with the Ministry of Justice however, and so Trukhanov will have to select from among Ukraine’s 242 registered political parties in the coming weeks.
3. Kharkiv – Incumbent Mayor Gennadiy Kernes remains a favorite for re-election in Kharkiv. However the entry into the race by businessman and former Deputy Governor Yuri Sapronov will make the race more competitive. Sapronov served as Deputy Governor under Yanukovych era Governor Mikhail Dobkin until resigning early last year. Sapronov is best known for owning Ukraine’s largest golf course and his charitable fund. If Sapronov runs under the “Our Land” label (constructive opposition party), it could cut into Kernes support in the business community and attract new voters. With the Opposition Bloc ineligible to compete in local elections in Kharkiv this autumn due to a registration technicality (read: payback to Party of Regions for deregistering Motherland in Kyiv and Ternopol in 2010 local elections), Kernes is believed to be considering a run as the candidate from Kolomoyskyi’s Renaissance Party. Other candidates considering a race include former Svoboda MP Ihor Shvaika, but he is clearly a technical candidate with no chance of victory in Kharkiv. The previous Governor (for the first year of the new government) Igor Baluta, may also enter the race as the candidate from Tymoshenko’s Motherland Party.
4. Dnipropetrovsk – Ukraine’s third largest city of 1.1 million people will soon see its fourth mayor in a year when elections are held this autumn. While Dnipropetrovsk has produced an abundance of famous politicians in the past including Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, former President Leonid Kuchma, oligarch Viktor Pinchuk and former Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, the most powerful persona in the city is oligarch Igor Kolomoyskyi. Kolomoyskyi’s term as Governor was widely praised but his personal battle with President Poroshenko will make this autumn electoral confrontation additionally interesting.
While the political players are mostly the same in Dnipropetrovsk, the party labels are largely interchangeable. Last October for example, four term incumbent Mayor Ivan Kulichenko was elected to Parliament in Dnipropetrovsk District #28 (Lenin Rayon of the city) with the Bloc of Poroshenko. Previously he was elected with the Party of Regions in 2010 by a 40-14% margin over then Front for Change (Yatsenuk’s Party in 2010) candidate Andriy Pavelko (now also an MP from the Bloc of Poroshenko but elected on the party list). His election created a vacancy which the city council voted to fill with 43 year old lawyer Maksim Romanenko, a former Party of Regions City Council Deputy and protégé of former Yanukovych-era Governor Oleksandr Vilkul. However Romanenko didn’t last long as the local Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case against him in March for the embezzlement of 100 million hryvnas. Romanenko alleged that the case was politically motivated and instigated by then Deputy Governor Gennadiy Korban. Korban, a close ally of Kolomoyskyi’s, is the Chairman of the new Ukrop (“dill”) Party and recently lost a special election for Parliament in Chernihiv. Romanenko was quickly sacked and replaced with Halyna Bulavka, the City Council Secretary. Bulavka was #75 on the Opposition Bloc party list last year and participated in the 2004 “Separatist Congress” in Syeverdonetsk. However ironically, in 2010 she was the Motherland Party candidate for Mayor and received seven percent against the winner Ivan Kulichenko. Her decision not to run for re-election opens the door to a competitive election this autumn.
One of the leading candidates for Mayor is Kolomoyskyi ally, MP Borys Filatov. Filatov, a former Deputy Dnipropetrovsk Governor, is currently an independent MP in Parliament following his easy 57-19% victory last October in District #27 (October Rayon in Dnipropetrovsk city) over an independent. Despite Gennadiy Korban’s setback in with Ukrop Party in Chernihiv last month, Filatov is already working tirelessly to “brand” Ukrop into Dnipropetrovsk voters’ minds. For example, the “Borys Filatov Foundation for Clean Water” is giving away free drinking water at various city locations throughout the summer. The water bottles under the accompanying tents are branded with the Ukrop “dill” logo.
Filatov will likely face his toughest challenge from Poroshenko Bloc MP and former four term Dnipropetrovsk Mayor Ivan Kulichenko. Kulichenko, age 60, is a formidable opponent and was elected in a special mayoral election in 2000, and then re-elected as Mayor in 2002, 2006 and 2010. However, as evidence of the old saying that “politics makes strange bedfellows”, Kulichenko appears to have the backing of the local Opposition Bloc led by former Yanukovych Governor and current Opposition Bloc MP Oleksandr Vilkul. Vilkul served as Vice Premier Minister for the last two years of the Yanukovych regime. The administrative apparatus of Poroshenko combined with the financial resources of the Opposition Bloc (i.e. Akhmetov and Livochkin) may be sufficient to deliver a stinging defeat to Kolomoyskyi in his hometown. Another Poroshenko Bloc MP, Andriy Pavelko (whom finished second to Kulichenko in the 2010 Mayoral contest), was recently elected as Head of the Football Federation of Ukraine (FFU) and is considered as the chief replacement if Kulichenko balks. Other candidates include former Head of the City Executive Committee and Our Ukraine member, Vitaliy Shebanov. Dagestan-born businessman Zahid Krasnov with the Civic Power Party also appears ready to enter the race. Krasnov is another former Party of Regions official who actually ran for city mayor in 2010 with Our Ukraine Party, and finished fourth (just head of Bulavka). Suffice to say, party affiliations mean little in Dnipropetrovsk as this race stands to be a major battleground between Poroshenko and Kolomoyskyi.
5. Lviv – Incumbent Mayor Andriy Sadoviy, Chairman of the Samopomich Party remains a favorite for re-election. However, Poroshenko Bloc MP Dmytro Dobrodomov is now considering a challenge to the two term Mayor. Dobrodomov, an award winning journalist, defeated Ivan Vasyunyk from People’s Front by a 43-37% margin last year in District #115 (Sykhivskiy Rayon). Another Poroshenko Bloc MP considering a race is Oksana Yurinets from Lviv District #117 (Frankivsk Rayon in Lviv City). It is not clear at this time who will be the “Solidarity Party” candidate backed by the President, but it is highly likely that they will field a challenger to Sadoviy. Svoboda Party is also mulling their candidate options against the incumbent mayor.
6. Zaporizhya – Incumbent Mayor Oleksandr Sin is in a potential rematch with local businessman and City Council Deputy Volodymyr Kaltsev in this autumn’s mayoral election. Sin may also face the 31 year old General Director of Zaporizhstahl (Zaporizhya Steel Company), Rostaslav Shurma. Shurma is Chairman of the Opposition Bloc in Zaporizhya oblast and an ally of Rinat Akhmetov. In lieu of a Shurma run though, Akhmetov may tap another Zaporizhstahl executive, Volodymr Buryak for the post. Buryak has been generously donating money to renovate the city hospital in recent weeks and may end up being the Opposition Bloc candidate. Following the war in the Donbass, many big Donetsk businessmen have tried to make Zaporizhya their new base of operations and Shurma is among them. Shurma has previously served as a Donetsk Oblast Council Deputy for the Party of Regions. However such efforts though are not welcomed by local businessmen who view the “Donetskies” are raiders and competitors.
Regardless of the resentment within the business community against the Donetsk emigration to Zaporizhya, incumbent Mayor Sin will have difficulty in his re-election bid. Sin was elected from Motherland Party in an upset victory in 2010 against the Regions Party administrative apparatus. However after he won the election, he quickly quit the party and became an independent. Some argue that it was out of necessity for the city to receive government funds from the Yanukovych government in Kyiv. However the betrayal still stings with many Sin voters. In the 2010 election, then Party of Regions candidate Volodymyr Kaltsev lost to Sin 37-31%. However in this election, Kaltsev is the candidate from the constructive opposition party “Our Land”. The sense of betrayal by Sin may be enough to keep pro-European voters at home and lead to either a Kaltsev or Opposition Bloc victory this autumn.• The Peculiar Case of Igor Markov: On August 12th in San Remo, Italy, former Ukrainian MP Igor Markov was arrested for crimes relating to his involvement in an assault in Odesa in 2007. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General Office immediately filed for extradition so that Markov may face charges inside Ukraine. Currently Markov is in detention in Italy awaiting a decision on his extradition and has been given an electronic tagging device. He has refused Italy’s offer of a lawyer and instead appealed to Russia’s Embassy in Rome for assistance.
The case of Igor Markov is a peculiar one, not because of any lack of evidence of his involvement in orchestrating physical assaults against protestors in Odesa in 2007. By local accounts, Markov has even bragged about his involvement in having demonstrators beaten who protested the Catherine the Great monument erection in Odesa. The case is peculiar not because Markov is an unapologetic Russian chauvinist who is strongly suspected of being an FSB agent. Earlier this month, Markov appeared publicly with former Premier Azarov in Moscow as an initiator of the so-called “Committee on Saving Ukraine”. The case is peculiar because it asks begs the question, “why was Markov ever released from prison in the first place?”
Igor Markov has been a roguish fixture in Odesa politics for the last decade. Known in the mafia underworld by the nicknames “Maradona” and sometimes “Cheletano”, Markov is believed to have large influence over the drug trade in Odesa through his involvement in four different mafia organizations. Markov is also a public figure and was elected to the Odesa City Council in 2002, in 2006 with the Nataliya Vitrenko Opposition Bloc, and in 2010 with his Rodina Party, named after the nationalist Russian Party of the same name. During the September Odesa “City Days” celebration in 2007, Markov ordered the assault on protestors who were demonstrating by the newly erected monument to Catherine the Great. The protestors (some of which who were from Svoboda Party) were beaten with metal rods and several were severely injured. While he punishment for the crime of disorderly conduct and causing bodily injury is three to seven years in prison, the investigation into the matter went nowhere for six years. Meanwhile Markov was elected to Parliament in 2012 by defeating the Party of Regions candidate Oleksiy Goncharenko (and son of the then Mayor Oleksiy Kostyushyev, and now a Member of Parliament with the Poroshenko Bloc) in District #133 (Kyiv Rayon of Odesa City). Markov’s pro-Russian nationalism was useful to Yanukovych at the time since it made the President appear more moderate and pragmatic in comparison. As a Member of Parliament, Markov joined the Party of Regions faction. However in the autumn of 2013, when Yanukovych was flirting with supporting the European Union Association Agreement, Markov became a critic of the President. This lead to two retaliatory measures: First, a court challenge was filed to cancel Markov’s election victory in 2012 since at least forty polling stations had used pens with disappearing ink. This led to a court ruling in September 2013 that led to Parliament stripping Markov of his Parliamentary mandate; Second, now lacking immunity from prosecution, the criminal case against Markov for organizing an assault against protestors in 2007 was re-opened. Markov responded by promptly quit the Party of Regions faction and giving an interview in which he exposed the extensive degree of phone tapping, bribery and bullying of members by the Yanukovych government of members of his own party. A month later on October 22, 2013, Markov was detained and put in custody. With the events of Euromaidan beginning shortly thereafter, Markov’s detention was prolonged until Yanukovych finally fled the country on February 22, 2014.
Then on February 24, 2014, Parliament voted to restore the mandates of Pavlo Baloha and Oleksandr Dombrovskiy. Baloha is the brother of Viktor Baloha and Dombrovskiy has always been a close ally of Petro Poroshenko. Both were stripped of their mandates by the Yanukovych government in an effort to blackmail Baloha and Poroshenko (then both independent MP’s) to join the Party of Regions faction. In the flurry of legislative activity after the triumph of Euromaidan and fleeing of Yanukovych, the bill made perfect sense. Why not restore justice to two Members of Parliament who had their mandates stripped due to political persecution? Thus, Parliament voted on February 24th to do exactly that. However the next day when journalists studied the bill, they noticed not only Baloha and Dombrovskiy’s names, but also Igor Markov’s. No doubt, Markov, Baloha and Dombrovskiy were all critics of the Yanukovych regime, but in Markov’s case it was only because he deemed Yanukovych insufficiently pro-Kremlin. Then Vice Speaker Ruslan Koshlynskiy (Svoboda Party) said, “In the decision that I read out, the name of Markov wasn’t there. Now we find out the situation”. Markov’s name had been added over night and the decision held the power of law. Thus, on the following day, the Prymorsky District Court in Odesa freed Markov from custody.
How could a Russian chauvinist like Igor Markov could be released from detention by the Euromaidan government, while still facing charges for the assault of protestors from Svoboda Party? Fellow Odesa MP’s had the same question and initiated a private investigation. The answer they found was disturbing: They discovered that under direct orders from Yulia Tymoshenko, Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov agreed to insert Markov’s name into the document – ex post facto. At that time Turchynov was still Tymoshenko’s right hand and longtime trusted adviser, and at that moment Tymoshenko was gearing up for a Presidential election that she expected to win. In other words, obedience to an old friend who appeared to have a good chance to become the next President seemed like a good idea at the time.
Why would Tymoshenko help free a Russian nationalist with mafia ties like Igor Markov? Perhaps only Tymoshenko knows for sure, but we can at least speculate. The theory we would all like to believe is that Tymoshenko thought that if she released Markov, a man believed to be an FSB officer who is closely associated with the Kremlin, she might win favor with Putin and establish some goodwill for later use when she would be President. It is also possible, but highly unlikely, that the matter was a mere mistake by the Parliamentary clerks. Of course darker theories, which we will not print here, also exist…
Following his surprise release from detention due to his restored Parliamentary mandate (but while criminal charges were still pending), Markov quietly split time between Odesa and Moscow. He did not attend Parliamentary sessions or run for re-election. Following the October 26, 2014 Parliamentary election in which Markov was replaced in Parliament, Markov appears to have disappeared from Ukraine for good. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry listed Markov as “hiding from authorities” and claims he disappeared on November 4th, 2014.
Markov was noticeably absent from Ukrainian affairs until he appeared next to former Premier Mykola Azarov and Volodymyr Olynyk in Moscow as part of the “Committee on Saving Ukraine” this month. That appearance precipitated Markov’s arrest in San Remo, Italy, days later. At the time of the arrest, Markov was carrying two passports: a regular Russian passport and a Ukrainian diplomatic passport which he received when he became an MP. While it is unclear exactly when Markov lost his Parliamentary mandate (some say he voluntarily gave it up as early as March 2014 while others claim he kept it until the election in October), under Ukrainian law, MP’s lose must return diplomatic passports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when they leave office. Following the revelation that Markov was carrying a Ukrainian diplomatic passport when he was arrested in Italy, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a classic “CYA” (Cover Your Ass) press statement on August 20th in which they published a list of 89 persons who have had their diplomatic passports revoked. While the press statement was spun to sound as if the Ministry has been on top of the matter from the beginning, a closer look reveals that the MFA is merely tidying up their records following the last election. For example, the MFA ballyhooed that revocation of diplomatic passports for notorious characters like Mykola Azarov, Oleksandr Yefremov, Oleg Tsarev, Lev Myrymskyi and Pavlo Lebedyev. However the list also includes former MP’s with generally clean backgrounds like Lesya Orobets, Oles Doniy, and Svoboda’s Oleg Syrotiuk. Thus, this is something that should have been done last November following the election rather than nine months later.
As things stand now, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has until September 21st to prove Markov’s guilt to the Italian authorities in order for him to be extradited and stand trial in Ukraine. Radical Party MP Andriy Lozovy, who ironically may be stripped of his Parliamentary immunity next month, has called the case, “a matter of honor for our state”. While it is clear that Markov’s extradition is now a priority for the Ukrainian government following Markov’s announcement as a founder of the “Committee on Saving Ukraine”. Ukraine may yet win Markov’s extradition to stand trial for his involvement in the assault on protestors in September 2007. Let’s hope so.
However, the question remains: “Why was Markov given back his Parliamentary mandate on February 24, 2014?” And, “Why didn’t the Ukrainian government arrest him when they had the chance?” As usual in Ukraine, there are more questions than answers…
• Fallout from the Death of Ihor Yeremeyev: On August 12th, MP Ihor Yeremeyev died in a Swiss hospital following injuries sustained from a horse riding accident. Yeremeyev, age 46, was the Chairman of the People’s Will faction in Parliament consisting of 19 members and one of Ukraine’s wealthiest individuals. Yeremeyev was the owner of Continuum, a group of companies that own the WOG chain of gas stations, the Kherson oil refinery, the Halychyna Dairy Company and CDMA telecommunications. While Yeremeyev’s death was not nefarious in nature (it appears to be a real accident), the fallout from his death affects the current political scene.
Yeremeyev was elected to Parliament three times: in 2002, 2012 and 2014 – all by comfortable margins from the same Parliamentary District #23 in Volyn. Yeremeyev was known as an amicable individual who maintained friendships with politicians from all sides. In early April for example, shortly after Oleg Lyashko accused Yeremeyev of buying off one of his MP’s, the two were seen enjoying laughs at Coffee House on Passazh in Kyiv. Yeremeyev was also one of the first oligarchs to openly oppose the rising power of Igor Kolomoyskyi.
A special election will be held to replace Yeremeyev in District #23 (eastern part of Volyn oblast). Depending on how quickly Parliament acts, the election could be held in conjunction with the November 8th runoffs. More importantly though, what will be become of Yeremeyev’s “People’s Will” faction? Andriy Derkach, son of the former SBU Chief, is the Deputy Head of the faction and twice Parliamentary Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn is also a member. Thus, capable leadership exists within the faction – albeit without ideology. More importantly though, the reality is that small factions sponsored by an oligarch, tend to stay together based on the monthly continued cash flow from the oligarch to the faction members. Without Yeremeyev to keep the payments coming, it is likely that the faction will lose members and perhaps cease to exist. Interestingly, Mykhailo Lano (from District #70 near Mukachevo) who was involved in a shoot out with Right Sector last month, is also a faction member. Given that Lano is believed to have fled the country and may be facing a lifting of his immunity soon, it is another obstacle to keeping the faction from dissolving. It remains to be seen how Yeremeyev’s assets will be divided and who the key recipients will be. However for Igor Kolomoyskyi, Yeremeyev’s death is an unexpected, but beneficial gift as it marks one less major opponent in his war with Poroshenko.• Vitaly Kupriy, Ukraine’s Don Quixote of Anti-Corruption: Vitaly Kupriy, age 42, is an independent MP from Dnipropetrovsk District #29 (Dnipropetrovsk city suburbs). While August is typically a slow month, that has not slowed down Mr. Kupriy who has been “tilting at windmills” in an effort to “fight corruption”. Just like the fictional character Don Quixote who fought windmills in a quest to become a hero, Mr. Kupriy is on his own quest to become a hero of sorts.
Kupriy was elected with the Bloc of Poroshenko in 2014 by a 30-18% margin over his opponent from People’s Front in District #29 in Dnipropetrovsk. However on April 4th, Kupriy quit the Poroshenko faction following the sacking of Igor Kolomoyskyi as Dnipropetrovsk Governor. Since that time, Kupriy has become a loyal Kolomoyskyi lieutenant by attacking Poroshenko allies for alleged corruption.
On August 15th the Interior Ministry of Ukraine denied Kupriy’s Facebook post claim that his address to Arsen Avakov had “finally reacted to the abuses of the NBU (National Bank of Ukraine) Governor Valeriya Gontareva and…launched proceedings under Part 1 of Article 354 (abuse of power/office) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine”. The Interior Ministry stated, “No criminal cases against the Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine Valeriya Gontareva and her deputies were registered. No one was informed that he or she is suspected and no other procedural actions are carried out”.
Not deterred by failure, Kupriy attacked again, and this time directly against the new Head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnyk. Making use of his Facebook page once again, Kupriy called for an investigation into a recent trip to London by Sytynyk and his wife, Iryna Danko. Kupriy noted that since in Danko’s income declaration (as the wife of a government minister) she listed her 2014 income as 113,000 hryvnas (just under $5000), that the trip “raises doubts about such a possibility” that she could afford such travel on her own. However once again, Kupriy’s allegations were merely political posturing rather substantive. Sytnyk and his wife Danko flew to London to meet with British law enforcement agencies “to demonstrate to key individuals the methodology and processes used in similar UK agencies which have been developed over the years”. According to the British embassy, “The UK covered the costs of Mr. Sytnyk and the official party. Mr. Sytnyk reimbursed his wife’s costs”. The rare statement from a foreign embassy about an internal Ukrainian matter highlights the absurdity of Kupriy’s claim.
While questioning sources of payment for government trips is healthy in a democracy, filing frivolous cases to impede the operations of the government during wartime – is less than patriotic. Admittedly, Mr. Kupriy is merely a pawn in the war between Poroshenko and Kolomoyskyi. However his Don Quixote tactics do the country a disservice. If he or any other MP is worried about corruption and foreign trips, they should start investigating the number of MP’s traveling to Moscow, a city not less expensive than London. When that starts happening, we will know that there is a serious effort to fight corruption in Ukraine.
Dates to Watch (for Ukraine unless otherwise noted):
August 27-28: Next Round of Gas Talks in Vienna: Ukraine continues to use reverse gas supplies from Europe to fill its’ underground storage facilities. However with an expected harsh winter on the horizon, a deal will need to be reached soon with the Russians on a gas price for the third and fourth quarters of this year. Gazprom is talking about a $287 per thousand cubic meters price for the third quarter, and $252 for the fourth quarter. So far they have refused to sign anything longer than a three month agreement in hopes of a spike in energy prices.
August 31: Special Parliamentary Session on Constitutional Changes: Parliament has to pass decentralization on this date or the effort will fail and have to be postponed at best. Expect the Presidential Administration to lobby hard to secure the needed 226 votes for this measure. A second vote will need to be held in September to fully pass the constitutional change but that vote will require 300 votes (2/3) rather than a simple majority.
September 2: Last Practical Day that an Agreement with Bondholders must be Reached to Avoid Default: Even though most financial analysts are now betting on Ukraine securing a 20-25% haircut on debts to bondholders, the time is getting short to reach an agreement. Typically it takes three weeks notice to call a bondholders meeting to agree upon such a proposal. The refusal of bondholders led by the Templeton Group to accept minimal reductions in principal is the road block to reaching an agreement. Thus, the negotiations are going down to the wire…
September 5: Official Start of Campaigning for the October 25th Local Elections.
September 23: Ukraine must repay $500 Million in Foreign Debt. Ukraine made the August 24th payment of $60 million dollars to bondholders, but expect much more drama over the next month as Ukraine tries to win an agreement with bondholders to avoid invoking a moratorium on foreign debt payments.
October 18: Local “Elections” in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic: As if these elections were enough of a sham, the DPR authorities are now planning a referendum two to four weeks later on “accession to Russia”. It appears these pronouncements are designed to gain leverage over Ukraine in the ongoing Working Groups.
October 25: National Local Elections for Mayor and City Councils. If elections are canceled in the Donbass, Deputy Speaker Oksana Syroid (Samopomich) has called for the mandates of local deputies to be canceled. Syroid stated, “There is still a city council consisting solely of Party of Regions members in Slovyansk. You know Mariupol’s Mayor and his position…Therefore we can’t leave the people with these local councils”.
November 1: Local “Elections” in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic.
November 8, 2015: Runoff Election Date under the New Election Law
January 31, 2016: New EU Expiration Date for Donbass related Sanctions on Russia
February 2016: Stockholm Arbitration Hearings on Counter Claims between Naftogaz and Gazprom. Naftogaz is seeking $16 billion dollars and a decision is expected by June 2016.
June 23, 2016: New EU Expiration Date for Crimea related Sanctions on Russia