Archive for July, 2006

It’s official: the most-used word in Ukrainian politics is…

July 31, 2006

“шантаж” (blackmail.)

It seems to be the only way that the various political forces in Ukraine deal with each other. Yushchenko has stated that he sees blackmail in the approach of the Regions in demanding that Yanukovich be made Prime Minister; whereas the Regions have charged that Yushchenko is blackmailing them.

Previously, we had Russia blackmailing Ukraine over gas shipments and Yulia Tymoshenko blackmailing (according to Bessmertniy and others) Nasha Ukraina over her desire to be named PM.

Ugly.

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Some linked friends and acquaintances

July 27, 2006

I’ve added links to some of the blogs I read on a near-daily basis. There will be more.

Marginalia was created by a Latvian friend named Peteris Cedrins. Peteris is an interesting fellow: broadly and well read and – forgive me PC – of strong opinions. He and I often disagree, but I have to respect his point of view.

Redwine is another interesting blog, especially for those of you interested in Romania, leftist politics, etc. The creator is an utterly fascinating woman!

Neeka’s Backlog. Veronika Khokhlova has been writing in less than usual of late, but this is no doubt due to the fact that she has an 8-month old baby girl at home to look after. Perhaps another reason is what looks like utter exasperation on her part with the circus that Ukrainian politics is becoming. If so, I share the feeling. Anyway, she writes well and takes superb pictures.

Well said, Yush!

July 26, 2006

Having just bitched about the backroom dealing in Ukrainian politics, this from Yushchenko gave me some hope.

“«Я инициирую круглый стол, потому что убежден, что нация должна знать то, о чем говорит политическая элита и политические силы на переговорах», – сказал В.ЮЩЕНКО.”

http://unian.net/rus/news/news-161663.html

I sincerely hope that he means it.

Thoughts on party and NGO funding (Part I)

July 26, 2006

A recent issue of The Economist had a very interesting article on Russia under Putin, touching on a great many aspects of the country today. Two issues that really piqued my interest were the funding of political parties by big business, and NGOs by foreign aid funds. I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of any readers (I think I have precisely 2, but they’re 2 good readers!)

The article’s author maintains that among the reasons for Khodorkovskii’s incarceration was the fact that he tried to buy up political support in the Duma – an allegation that is, to the best of my knowledge, unproven. If he did, however, what’s the problem? Businessmen in the West certainly use some of their money to support parties either ideologically sympathetic to further goals/values held mutually, or willing to trade influence for monetary support. Politics and media being what they are, we never hear of the innocuous cases (if there are such things) – only the ones in which financing has been used to secure favours, “access,” favourable legislation, even fast-tracked citizenship status, etc.

Well, clearly, there are several problems with the idea of political financing by business, in both West and East. In the West, one need only look as far as recent scandals with both Democrats and Republicans, Lord Levy and “peerages for cash,” or the Canadian Liberal meltdown. It’s a fairly off-putting spectacle. But what of the East?

I would posit that crucial parts of the “money + politics” system are missing here, only making the potential for abuse even greater. In no particular order, these are: a truly independent and more or less responsible press, a taxation system conducive to political (or charitable) giving (and requiring reporting of gifts,) endemic corruption and utterly opaque political decision-making.

The press in the West is a key element in calling attention to suspicious instances of money for access, and they do flag these. While the media in the West is far from perfect and/or perfectly independent, and press vendettas do take place, they have a considerable edge over their East European counterparts (in Ukraine, Russia, etc.) in this regard. However much one may dislike the idea of massive media conglomerates like News Corp, Clear Channel (or the former Conrad Black empire) — and I do dislike them — I have a perhaps mistaken belief that the driving motive behind the agglomeration of these media resources is profit, not what could be called, for lack of a better term, the propaganda imperative.

Contrary to apparently popular belief, there are newspapers and radio stations not run by the Kremlin in Russia. However, just as a Kremlin-controlled newspaper or radio/TV station is not likely to step over the line in reporting anything that would be frowned up by the handlers (and we have seen many examples of what happens when one does dare to infringe,) and is frequently used as a clearing-house for official views, attacks, etc., the privately-owned press has been similarly used as a cudgel against the political or business enemies of the respective owners. And journalists are for sale. One need only remember how Sergei Dorenko sold himself to the Putin camp, using his Sunday broadcast to villify Luzhkov, only to later perform a similar function for the anti-Putins. Or one can think back to the spectacle of Berezovskii vs. Gusinskii – not the finest hour of the non-official press.

At the end of the day, therefore, it apears to me that the media in Russia and Ukraine has two functions: to promulgate the official “line” and to attack one’s enemies. I see no public information component. This, of course, applies to the “serious” publications. For that reason, one has every reason to be on one’s guard when learning of allegations of corruption here (although it’s so obviously widespread!): it’s simply too likely that the charges are political. So, who does one trust? Do not answer “The court system,” please.

This utter inability to trust the media, coupled with the fact that even the most positive political developments take place almost exclusively behind closed doors (and Yushchenko is a past master at cutting the ground out from under his own feet in this regard) leaves your average Ukrainian or Russian with few options other than to believe that they (public figures) are uniformly corrupt.

More to come, but your thoughts, please.

(sigh) here we go again?

July 25, 2006

According to the website of perennial weirdo party “Bratstvo,” there are now Polish special forces troops massed at the building of the Presidential Secretariat.

Here’s the link: http://bratstvo.info/bratstvo-text-2713.html

It’s a throwback to the days of the OR, where multitudinous reports of Russian spetsnaz troops made their way into the Western press, only to later be downplayed by Yulia and outright denied by Turchinov…after the revolution.

Bratsvo seems to have admired this tactic and decided to use it itself. I think it has the same credibility as the OR instance: none. These Poles will turn out to be invisible, just like the Russians.

A plague upon all of their houses

July 12, 2006

See here: http://www.pravda.com.ua/ru/news/2006/7/12/43205.htm

My hopes for Ukraine becoming a mature democracy always seem to run up against the apparent lack of any mature politicians.

The link above has pictures from the sandbox.

Вас вітає мій блог! Добро пожаловать в мой блог! Welcome to my blog!

July 12, 2006

Hi,

I hope you find something here to engage you. I have no doubt that some things will enrage you. If they do, write in (just don’t bother with profanity, as your comment will be subjected to concentrated neutron rays and exploded.)

I’ve been living and working in Kiev for nearly 3 years now, taking a great interest in the events we’ve all been witnesses to in that time. I lived for 7 years in Central Asia and did research in Russia, so the states of the former USSR are clearly a matter of intense interest for me. I’m a Canadian from the lovely city of Montreal (found in the equally lovely province of Quebec,) but speak Russian quite fluently. Obviously, I speak and read French and am pretty handy with Ukrainian. With that in mind, comments are welcome in English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Kazakh (my daughter will translate them for me) or German.

I held out a long time before putting a blog up, but have become increasingly frustrated by the quality of reporting found in most media outlets on this region. I have no illusions of being able to change that quality, but — at the very least — I’ll be able to get that frustration off my chest and rail against instances of what I see as clear bias or willful ignorance. Again, if you’d like to ream me for similar instances — write in, but keep it clean.