Friday, September 30, 2005

Just finished reading Mikhail Brodsky's interview (Part 1 and Part 2, in Russian).

Amazingly sickening, regardless of whether any of it is true or not.

At one point, Brodsky speaks of how intelligentsia, people with access to information, are Tymoshenko's electorate.

Well, I sort of want to declare here that I am no one's electorate - neither Yushchenko's, nor Tymoshenko's.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

...WE LIVED ON A DIFFERENT PLANET THEN

Platon met Maria in Crimea, at the Yalta Hotel, where a conference on optimization methods was taking place. Along with the conference participants, also staying at the hotel were either Moscow or Leningrad music hall dancers, two cycling teams, and a small number of individuals who were there without any purpose - but definitely thanks to their connections [po blatu], as there existed no other way for anyone to get into the Yalta Hotel.


Platon's prototype is Boris Berezovsky; this passage is from Yuli Dubov's 2002 novel, Bolshaya Payka (The Big Ration), a thinly veiled story of Berezovsky's evolution from a more or less average research institute guy to the monster he is today. A very interesting book.

I read it at the end of 2002 and found this Yalta Hotel passage somewhat of a revelation.

With our tennis team, we used to go to Yalta twice a year, for three weeks in early spring and two weeks in the fall. Both seasons the weather was - already or still - warm enough to play, and there were few tourists around, so Yalta felt nothing like the hell it always became in summertime. And we stayed at the Yalta Hotel regularly.

It wasn't a completely ordinary thing: a bunch of tennis-playing kids - nothing special, not an Olympic team or something - living in a hotel most people weren't even allowed to enter. But I used to take it for granted, mainly because there was a lot more to Yalta than the Yalta Hotel, and a lot more to the hotel than its relative inaccessibility.

Trying to imagine Berezovsky unable to get himself a room there - or Berezovsky forced to spend even a moment thinking about such a possibility - was overwhelming, and very amusing. He was so much like us then, so much like everyone else - if only everone else's fortunes and status had changed to the same extent as his over the past 20 years! He's so rich and so high above it all now - but back then, just like everyone else, he probably had to stay on the 14th or 15th floor of the Yalta Hotel, the two upper floors reserved specifically for Soviet citizens, a ghetto of sorts...

***

Our own blat, the pass to places like the Yalta Hotel, were kids from the well-connected families: boys like Sergei Pereloma, for example, whose father was a close associate of Vladimir Shcherbitsky, the Communist czar of Ukraine from 1972 to 1989.

Sergei was two years my senior, had a beautiful face and wasn't very athletic. He was very smart, though. Shrewd.

Sometime in 1983 or 1984, in between tennis and at the Yalta Hotel, he managed to hook us on a game he called Business, a very rough imitation of Monopoly. Using a book as a ruler, Sergei divided an A4 paper sheet into 60 or so little squares, then filled most of them with Western company names, drew their logos or product pictures, and scribbled prices underneath each one, in tens of thousands of U.S. dollars. The game had banks full of fat money sacks, jails with barred windows, and the really evil-looking robbers - but there were no community chests or taxes.

We played Business all the time during that Yalta trip - in fact, we played it more than we played tennis. On our return to Kyiv, I got many of my non-tennis friends addicted as well. We played so much we had to create a new sheet weekly - and how I wish I had kept at least one of them!

Nothing seemed strange about the game then, not until 2002, when it occured to me that Sergei's knowledge hadn't been all that common for a 12-year-old, pre-perestroika Soviet kid.

In the early 1980s, both the word 'business' (biznes) and the process it signified were nothing but exotic; 'monopoly' was a term out of a Marxist theory text, not a board game (Monopol'ka) with those awesome, real-looking paper money bills; possession of foreign currency was a criminal offense; ads did not exist, nor did brand-name stores, and to know much beyond Adidas and Pepsi was a secret priviledge of the caste Sergei's father belonged to.

***

Thinking of all this in 2002, I began to wonder what became of Sergei Pereloma. I ended up googling his name, of course.

His face wasn't beautiful anymore, but otherwise he was doing very well. After obtaining a degree in international economics and working for state and private investment, banking and insurance companies, Sergei was appointed financial director of the not-yet-privatized Kryvorizhstal in 2000, at the age of 28. Two years later, in March 2002, he became acting CEO at Ukrtatnafta, a joint Ukrainian-Tatar oil processing plant, the largest in Ukraine.

Impressive, isn't it? And not surprising at all: Sergei was quite brainy even as a kid, and though his father's connections and Communist Party resources must have served as a terrific launching pad for his career, they couldn't have been the only decisive factors. After all, Vladimir Shcherbitsky's grandson Vova managed to get himself drafted into the army in the early 1990s - and that was it, as far as I know, despite all the family connections and resources once available to him.

For the next three years, I occasionally used Sergei's example to illustrate how the labels have changed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the names haven't - and how, at a closer look, everything turned out to be so much more complex.

Then, ten days ago, something suddenly reminded me of Sergei as I was reading the transcript of Oleksandr Turchynov's press conference, and I decided to google him up again. (I still can't quite figure out what got me thinking of him this time.)

He's still doing very well. After Ukraine's State Property Fund lost control over Ukrtatnafta to Tatneft and Tatarstan's government in early 2003, Sergei returned to Kryvorizhstal as financial director. He was there in summer 2004, during the company's disgraceful privatization.

After Yushchenko won the election, however, Sergei very quickly found himself near the top of Naftogaz Ukrainy, a state-owned oil and gas company: in late February 2005, he was appointed acting first deputy of the company's head, Yuri Boiko; a month later, he was confirmed in this position, though his boss was by then a different person, Oleksiy Ivchenko (hopefully, just a namesake of Valery Ivchenko, the corrupt guy asserting pressure on the courts, mentioned by Turchynov).

***

It's tempting to believe that Sergei Pereloma's invaluable finance skills make him a man of his own - but, unfortunately, politics is never too far away.

Sergei was once known as Oleg Dubina's protege; Oleg Dubina, in his turn, served as head of Kryvorizhstal from 1999 to 2001, until being moved to replace Yulia Tymoshenko as vice prime minister in Victor Yushchenko's government, under Kuchma.

Here's what the Halytski Kontrakty weekly wrote (in Ukrainian) about Dubina in January 2001, shortly after his appointment as vice premier:

The premier [Yushchenko] is trying to convince the public that Dubina is his candidate alone. The oppositional Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda considers the new vice premier to be under strong personal influence of Leonid Kuchma. Yulia Tymoshenko's allies claim the opposite: "According to some information, Victor Pinchuk has had a hand in Oleg Dubina's appointment. And this can affect his work in the government," said [...] Artur Bilous, a parliamentarian from [Tymoshenko's] Bat'kivshchyna faction.


This Dubina-Pereloma Connection farce is further complicated by Sergei's alleged/imaginary closeness to Yushchenko. Here's what Ukrainska Pravda wrote (in Ukrainian, reprinted in Obozrevatel) in late June 2005, when Sergei became head of the supervisory council of Ukrnafta, an oil company integrated into the structure of Naftogaz Ukrainy:

In early 2000, Pereloma was the financial director at Kryvorizhstal, then headed by Oleg Dubina; later, he worked at Ukrtatnafta; he returned to Kryvorizhstal when the company was owned by Pinchuk and Akhmetov. This may lead one to believe that the new head of the supervisory council [Pereloma] is connected with Dubina. But in reality, Pereloma's earlier biography demonstrates his connection with Oleksandr Morozov, a parliamentarian from Yushchenko's circle.

Pereloma worked at Prominvestbank, Derzhinvest of Ukraine, and Oranta insurance company, at the very same time Morozov was involved in these structures. Taking into account the friendship between Morozov, Tretyakov and Mykola Martynenko, head of Nasha Ukraina faction, and their proximity to Yushchenko, it appears that the person who'll be watching over the finances of Ukrnafta [Pereloma] is someone who enjoys the president's trust.


This is all so nonsensical and confusing that at some point it seems logical to ask this question: and whose man is Yushchenko himself?

One way or another, would it really matter, though? I mean, really...

***

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make in this entry. None, I guess.

Or - go figure. That's the best way to sum it up, as always.

***

Mishah said today: "And imagine if Ukraine were a really small country, like Estonia. You'd probably know every second state official personally, you'd be neighbors with them or something. And perhaps this is why it all works so much better over there - because they all know each other, more or less..."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sunsets are slowly moving back to where they were in winter, when we just moved into this apartment. It's getting more and more beautiful, colder and colder. The watermelon season is over.

Oh. Turns out Yulia Tymoshenko was in Moscow this past weekend. Oh.

According to Gazeta.ru (in Russian), she showed up at the Prosecutor General's office on Saturday and answered their questions. As a result, she no longer faces arrest and imprisonment in Russia, according to today's statement by the Prosecutor General's office.

Tymoshenko's consultant Dmitry Vydrin said this:

Tymoshenko was in Moscow on Saturday. [...] It is possible that she met with Putin - in any case, it looks like a meeting like this should have occurred.

What are they thinking of?

Mykola Martynenko, head of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine parliamentary faction said this (in Ukrainian) on Poroshenko's Channel 5 yesterday:

People didn't stand at Maidan for Tymoshenko, they did not come there for her. There was one Maidan, which stood against violations by the ruling elite, and in order to express people's will and support the democratic principles. And there was another Maidan, which yelled "Yulia, Yulia!" during the presidential inauguration. Excuse me, but I think that other Maidan had been paid for.


It's amazing how good this team is at self-annihilation... Perhaps they want to become the opposition again: to be loved by everyone again, to receive money and moral support supposedly for your righteous struggle against the corrupt regime, and to bear no responsibility whatsoever when the country's moving in all those wrong directions...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I can't write or think too clearly because of the cold, so I read a lot.

The book I'm reading now is about the wars of the early 1990s: Nagorny Karabakh, Chechnya; testimonies of soldiers who had to fight there, testimonies of civilians stuck there. These stories are interesting for the little details you rarely see in newspapers.

Stuff like this: a small group of Russian infantry men is retreating somewhere in Grozny, in 1995, and they stumble over the bodies of two Russian soldiers; they find and take the dead guys' documents and tear off the strings with their personal ID numbers: "The boys have no use for that anymore, but their families have to be notified. Otherwise, the government smartasses aren't going to pay pensions to them, explaining that the soldiers were missing in action or have even deserted." (From Vyacheslav Mironov's I've Been to This War.)

It hurts a lot to read it all, but it also reminds me of how to be very positive about Ukraine's post-1991 history: no matter what, we've been so very lucky.

***

Also, this little text by Yiyun Li in the New York Times Magazine - Passing Through - is very nice. In a way, it's about the degrees of luck, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mishah came back from Helsinki with bronchitis (as if two years in St. Pete haven't been enough to get used to that climate); I caught some kind of a cold yesterday, too; and to make things even worse, our internet shut off yesterday noon and hasn't reappeared until now. So - I apologize for the silence but I can't really do anything about it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yuri Yekhanurov is our premier.

289 parliamentarians have voted for him this time.

Regions of Ukraine gave him 50 votes; Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc - 7.

Communists and SDPU(o) did not vote.

***

According to Ukrainska Pravda (in Ukrainian), guys from the Regions of Ukraine are saying Yushchenko has signed an agreement with Yanukovych an hour before the vote.

Main points of the document allegedly are: no politicial persecution, freedom of speech, political reform begins Jan. 1, 2006 (according to Ihor Shkir); no reprivatization, amnesty to those election commission workers accused of violations during the 2004 election, adoption of the law on opposition and the law on the president (according to Vitaly Khomutynnyk).

Seems innocent enough except for the amnesty to election commision crooks item.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Found this quote of Joseph Brodsky in my 1999 scrapbook:

People become tyrants not because they have a vocation for it, nor do they by pure chance either. If a man has such a vocation, he usually takes a shortcut and becomes a family tyrant, whereas real tyrants are known to be shy and not terribly interesting family men. The vehicle of a tyranny is a political party (or military ranks, which have a structure similar to that of a party), for in order to get to the top of something, you need to have something that has a vertical topography.


It's from some essay of his, though I've no idea which one and what volume I found it in.

Someone from Multan (Punjab, Pakistan), stopped by here an hour and a half ago, looking for "sex sex sex fucking pictures just fucking pictures of muslim girls" through the Yahoo! Search. Neeka's Backlog somehow came up as the number-one result.

Forty minutes later, someone from the Syrian Arab Republic ended up here looking for something I deliberately haven't mentioned here, not once: "prime minister ukraina movie sex julia."



What am I doing wrong?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

State secretary Oleg Rybachuk said this (Ukrainska Pravda, in Ukrainian):

It'd be very logical to propose Lutsenko [for the premier's post] - then there'll be order in Ukraine.

[...]

There's also Oleksandr Turchynov, but he is now busy with the election preparations.


***

Oleg Bilorus, head of Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc's parliamentary faction, announced their intention to create a coalition government that would work until the March 2006 parliamentary election. "There is no other way," he said (Korrespondent.net, in Russian). This temporary coalition government might be headed by Yulia Tymoshenko, according to Bilorus.

***

Both Rybachuk and Bilorus have alleged violations during today's vote.

Rybachuk said parliamentarians were offered cash in the bathrooms during the break - in exchange for a 'no' vote.

Rybachuk said representatives of SDPU(o) were hurt when he said in the morning that this was being done by them [esdeki]. "They came up to me and asked - why we alone? Well, not only they but those who are close to them as well," added Rybachuk.


Bilorus said that Yekhanurov received "fewer than 223 votes because cards of the parliamentarians who were not there were being used in the voting."

Ukraine assembly rejects president's proposed PM

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's proposed candidate to take over as prime minister failed on Tuesday to win parliamentary approval.

Yuri Yekhanurov, a middle-of-the-road technocrat, won 223 votes in parliament, three short of the required majority in the 450-seat assembly.

Yushchenko had proposed Yekhanurov to replace Yulia Tymoshenko, his ally in last year's "Orange Revolution" protests, sacked this month to end months of infighting.

Monday, September 19, 2005

More abstract reading - a Zerkalo Nedeli text by Sergei Rakhmanin (in Russian) - very interesting, as long as I manage to keep chasing away this evil thought: it's always been interesting to read Rakhmanin - in Kuchma's times, too. (And my short attention span was as much of a problem then as it is now.) But what difference does it make?

Some selections, as usual:

On Sept. 13, the president, speaker, acting prime minister, leaders of the ten parliamentary factions and Anatoly Kinakh signed a declaration with a pompous title: "Union and Cooperation for the Sake of the Future." One Ukrainian TV channel called it a historical event. It sounded like a joke, even though the TV host was saying it in an absolutely serious manner. The president's team diligently tried to make the event appear solemn and significant. But, despite their efforts, it all looked absolutely routine, especially with all the numerous permanent and large-scale scandals looming on the background.

No one has yet had time to forget that similar collective oaths were popular with the former government. However, the new folks' attempt to use this old device looked like a talentless copy of a bad painting. It all seemed tasteless, pointless, secondary and even comic. A trite title, a threadbare text, unjustified pompousity - all this only served to emphasize the routine nature of the event. The document cannot be called the beginninng of a new alliance, nor is it a treaty of friendship and cooperation, and it is not even a non-aggression pact. Signing the declaration doesn't really impose any obligations on the signers - they wouldn't have to participate in the vote for the new government and they are free to vote for the new special temprorary investigation committee.

The only thing special about this event was this: among other autographs, under the text of the declaration was a signature of the leader of the Regions of Ukraine parliamentary faction.

[...]

There are several reasons [Yushchenko] has been forced to create such a document.

[1.] Victor Andreevich had to take initiative right away. Naturally, he had to pay much attention to the parliament. Only recently was [he] thinking about formalizing the numerous pro-presidential majority in the [parliament]. But today he's facing the threat of emergence of an anti-presidential majority, as numerous. He doesn't have much time to change the situation. He couldn't wait till some of his allies started having doubts and those who were having doubts already joined the opponents' ranks. It was necessary and urgent to demonstrate that the president elected by the people had a significant number of parliamentarians behind him. [Yushchenko] badly needed to have if not allies then those who could pass as such, as many as possible of them.

[...]

[2.] The second reason is directly related to the first. The president's goal wasn't just to draw representatives of certain political forces to his orbit - he was doing all he could to prevent them from ending up on the ex-premier's orbit.

[...]

[3.] The president needed at least relative support from the leading factions on the eve of the vote for the premier. The bargaining isn't over yet, but the declaration has allowed to begin them - to see what the prices are, to evaluate potential losses and potential dividends, to compare what's needed and what's possible, and, finally, to understand who needs who and who would suffocate without who.

[4.] The next reason has to do with technologies. The declaration and all around it are part of an absolutely obvious and quite justified PR move. The president was obliged to distract the society at least to some extent. Thus he hoped that the voters would see him as a peacekeeper, not a party in the war, and the refereee judging a conflict, not one of the conflict's sides.

To what extent has [he] succeeded? Opinions on this differ. The author of this article thinks that the attempt was clumsy. Maybe, he was a bit in a hurry. Definitely, the result wasn't as good as planned because of the scandal with Boris Berezovsky's money.

[...]

"Tell me who your friend is and I'll tell you what time it is."

If this proverb is any good, then the time now is the time of crisis. Otherwise, the president wouldn't have to look for sympathy of his yesterday's enemies. Victor Andreevich has dug up as many as 186 allies. And he was forced to look for the hidden reserves in the camp that calls itself opposition.

[...]

The revolution isn't a year old yet. The wounds haven't healed yet. And yesterday's leaders of Maidan seem to be already actively competing for their former enemies.

Can this be called betrayal of ideals? If you believe in ideals, then yes. If you don't, you're ready to be a politician. And then you'd call it a political necessity. Because the ideal of any politician in this country is power and nothing else. Tell me what time is on the political watch and I'll tell you who's gonna be my friend.

In any case, voter are the politicians' friends only during the election.

[...]


I wanted to translate some more, but I'll stop here. What's the use?

Yushchenko has had a meeting with Yanukovych today - at the latter's request, of course... (Yanukovych also met with Lytvyn and Tymoshenko.)

Following this country's politics too closely is as useless as being an expert on all the comings and goings at some obscure little company.

***

Zerkalo Nedeli has posted a translation of Rakhmanin's piece - here - but I think you need to register for free in order to be able to read it.

Yulia Mostovaya's translation is here.

And if you think that Mostovaya is walking around in circles, being too abstract and relying on figures of speech too much, read this interview with Oleksandr Zinchenko (in Russian), the man who started it all, in the Ukrainian edition of Expert.

Again, here're some selections:

Your resignation has significantly altered the agenda for the upcoming parliamentary election in Ukraine...

Of course the country's political space will very soon be reformated quite seriously. Forces that for various reasons have not yet played a decisive role will come forward.

What forces? Where do you see them?

They are now diluted among the people and are hidden inside various structures. The configuration will change, the structure will be new. Migration from one camp to another will take place, an active mixing, and as a result, we'll have different structures participating in the election, in a different order. Besides, the constitutional reform makes the stakes greater. No one will be happy with a 12-15-percent victory. One can win big only as part of a big coalition now, no matter how complex and how incredible it may seem.

Today's challenge is the "second event." The first one was the democratic nature of the Nov.-Dec. election last year, the second is the upcoming election. These two events in a row are supposed to show whether the democratic process is winning in the country. Meanwhile, the situation is getting worse, the public expectations are not being fulfilled. A can with the contents that began to ferment will eventually blow up - it can't happen any other way. That's why it is necessary to create ways of letting this energy out. Letting out and structuring it. And people who are doing it systematically continue to hold leadning positions.

I wasn't really interested in the reaction of the official establishment to my resignation and the press conference. What really matters is the reaction of the internet forum communities, which the government cannot control. And that reaction was largely positive.

Maybe the people are expecting you to satisfy the public demand for coherent opposition?

I would like to re-profile this question: we are talking about a request for coherent oppostion. It is no longer a democratic protest, it is a democratic process: what's needed is the faithfullness to ideals plus professionalism. This issue of professionalism, of competent management hasn't been the focus of the Orange Revolution - the real issue then were the moral values.

[...]

I think a transformation of the active players will occur and they'll be refreshed by the forces that haven't been present in politics up until now. I expect the conglomerate of the People's Union "Our Ukraine" - which the administration tried to reformat - to either break up or start looking for a completely different role for itself. There isn't much to choose from: either radical changes in a very short period of time, or a totally doomed administrative model, yet another misstep. Also, doomed are those forces that try to appeal to the marginalized or lumpenized strata of society [...]. It's very dangerous in the long term because there'll be a shift in the economic accents. I think that parties like Yulia Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna will be changing ideologically and renewing themselves. I hope that the Pora movement will have an interesting project to offer. All of them will be looking for a new quality for themselves. Because it is very difficult to get results if you continue to work in the old ways, playing old politics - and everyone wants the result to be quite weighty. Interesting activities can be expected from the socialists and their leader Oleksandr Moroz. [...] Socialists had to take much effort to remain on their feet despite the government's offensive. And now they understand that it's time to move on and that a new idea is needed.

[...]


Blah-blah-blah. So much crap.

These people, they are so good at talking, no wonder the country is in ruins.

Also, this thing about "public demand for coherent opposition" - these folks have been so good at fucking everything up in the absense of the "coherent opposition" and without any external help, with just the "incoherent" clowns like Yanukovych, Vitrenko and Chornovil posing as opposition... So yeah, they probably do need a force a lot more serious than that, in order to be able to somehow justify the mistakes they keep making... I'm not sure what the public's got to do with it - but I may be wrong, of course...

Wow. For the first time in years, I guess, I've read a Zerkalo Nedeli text by Yulia Mostovaya (in Russian) from the beginning to the very end - and even enjoyed it. Usually, I give up well before I'm halfway through.

Here're a few selections:

[...]

Not many will be strong enough now to try to figure out the situation, instead of just turning around and leaving, disappointed. No one said it'd be easy, democracy in a developing country. The thing is, in Ukraine, democracy is only partially visible, covered by sovok, and it resembles not the new skin but erosive spots. We've obtained the right to know but haven't yet found the ability to understand what to do with this knowledge; except the elections, we haven't yet discovered other legitimate ways in which society can influence the government; we haven't found people with moral authority in our ranks, people capable of finishing the unfinished business; we still do not believe that the judicial and law enforcement systems [...] can be trusted. In other words, the society now has the right to receive information that can make it boil - but it does not have a chance to take the lid off and let the steam out.

[...]

Today, a larger segment of society is on Tymoshenko's side; however, neither Yulia Vladimirovna, nor her team should rely on this too much, because mutual accusations, truthful and not, that are likely to dominate the next seven months of the election campaign, will erase the difference between those who are right and those who are wrong.

[...]

The continuation of the war may lead to this: for Maidan's anniversary, which Victor Andreevich has decided to declare a state holiday, only a few dozen people would come to the Independence Square, drink silently, without toasting, and then leave. If nothing changes, those who voted for a Victor Yushchenko-Yulia Tymoshenko tandem, would secure an extremely low turnout at the upcoming parliamentary election. At the same time, supporters of Victor Yanukovych and the communists would show up in an organized, monolith, way. And the neo-Kuchmist Lytvyn's People's bloc would attract many. As a result, the forces that discredited themselves yesterday would overcome those that have discredited themselves today. If in the remaining time of the campaign nothing but the intensity changes, if the essence of the struggle and of the priorities remains the same - such a result is inevitable.

[...]

It's necessary to start looking for a way out right away. And there are only the existing political forces to choose from. The thing is, the Ukrainian voter is facing this strategic - not tactical - obstacle: he (the voter) has to deal with the already very familiar political forces, and there's neither the basis nor the time for emergence of the radically different ones. The future parliament can only differ from the current one in its configurations, but, in its human material, it'll be a twin of today's parliament.

[...]

In case of the early presidential election - an option that is already being discussed - the country would have to choose from the same familiar faces, whose pluses and, what's more important, minuses, are very well known to us. And this means that, regardless of the outcome of this political crisis, in the next year or two, Ukraine is not going to have a government of a different quality, since the material it will be made of is the same as that used for the current government, and for the previous one. It's just that in the process of a long-term sewing and crafting and under the pressure of internal and external factors, Ukraine may if not lose its sovereignty, then definitely find itself far below the level set by the society during the Orange Revolution. And it's important to look for a way out of the crisis relying on the existing political elites and not hoping for the arrival of some new, uncorrupt political force.

[...]

...the first step now should be a ceasefire and the beginning of talks, because the self-destructive war we are witnessing is capable of destroying not just the politicians taking part in it, but also the belief of the majority of the population that democracy is worth it, as well as the world community's faith in the potential of a democratic Ukraine.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A month and a half ago I was missing Lithuania - and now it's Latvia's turn!..

On Friday, Stefan at Dykun posted a short entry on Riga, the way it is now and the way it must've been in the past, and it brought all kinds of childhood memories, and I shared some of them in the comments section to that post...

Today, Stefan has begun posting pictures of Riga - thanks!!!

I'm slowly getting through the transcript (in Ukrainian; haven't seen a complete English translation anywhere yet) of the Sept. 15 press conference of the ex-SBU chief Oleksandr Turchynov.

I never liked Turchynov, and I'm not inclined in general to trust any one of the politicians now - Ukrainian, Russian, or those exiled in Britain. I'm not inclined to be too gullible - but it doesn't mean I've lost all my curiosity. So here's one interesting passage - it'd be such a shame if this turns out to be true:

[...]

Another threat to national security is that of the possibility of elimination of the independent judicial system. The Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General's office have statements from judges reporting that the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine (RNBOU) has been exerting unprecedented pressure on courts - first of all, on those working on serious commercial cases.

As part of the RNBOU apparatus, there has been created a special department that dealt with court issues. [...] One Valery Naumovych Ivchenko was appointed its head. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) had to check his background to clear him.

This person has so many criminal cases on his record that not every repeat offender would be able to compete with him.

Here're just some examples. There's an ongoing investigation into Ivchenko's involvement in large-scale stealing of funds. A case against Ivchenko was opened in 1993 - he was involved in currency operations without having a proper permission for that. In 1998, another criminal case was opened - he was accused of providing false information, which had led a court to pass a wrong judgment in a property registration case. Another case that same year - misusing budget funds. Next case - opened not by the prosecutor's office but by the internal affairs department in Cherkasy region - he was accused of large-scale stealing of a company's funds.

And on, and on, and on. If I start recounting everything, it'll take up all of the press conference.

During our check-up on this person we found out that he had also provided false information about his education. It turned out that he didn't have a law degree.

And this very person was in charge of the judicial reform at the RNBOU apparatus. And this very person was pressuring the courts to pass certain judgments, following Poroshenko's instructions. And very often he cited this country's very serious elected officials, including the president.

Judges lost patience. They just issued a statement that they could not stand it any longer.

The SBU, having checked this person, refused to clear him, because he had concealed his criminal record, information on his education, etc.

We informed the president about what kind of people worked in the RNBOU apparatus. Moreover, these very people were interviewing judges prior to appointing them to the administrative posts. They were basically recruiting judges for criminal activity. Unfortunately, I do not have information as to whether this person [Ivchenko] still works at the RNBOU or not.

[...]


As if crooks like Roman Zvarych, Pavlo Lazarenko and Victor Yanukovych weren't enough for this country, they had to drag this Ivchenko person in...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A piece in the New York Times about Yuri Kuklachev's Moscow Cats Theater - Roll Over, 'Cats.' The Real Thing Is Here.

Part of me thinks that Kuklachev is a cat torturer, another part sort of knows that his cats are better off than those doomed to starve or freeze in the street - but the really big issue here is whether I should stop listening to all the wonderful Arabic, Armenian, Pakistani and Turkish music and switch to something else, in order to prevent my (yet unborn) child from growing allergic to what I love most...

You see, Kuklachev's son is allergic to cats. Isn't it incredible...

Mr. Kuklachev's son Dmitri, 30, who is a member of the troupe, interjected: "A cat cannot live in a cage. If it lives in a cage it becomes wild, aggressive." Although Dmitri performs with the cats, he is allergic to them, he said; he controls his asthma through breathing exercises.

According to Ukraina Moloda (in Ukrainian), the Kyiv City Council is planning to rename a very obscure and very gloomy Mashynobudivna/Mashynostroitelnaya (Machine-Building) Street - located somewhere near the Bolshevik Factory - into Georgy Gongadze Street.

Before it occurs, though, they have to decide "who would be responsible for producing and hanging new street signs, who and how fast would be re-registering people living on that street and transportation registered there, as well as how much money would be allotted from the city budget."

As Tatyana Korobova writes in Obozrevatel (in Russian), "if you find [this street] without breaking your neck, you'll understand how much our officials value their own honor and the memory of Gongadze."

Putin's Sept. 2 meeting with a group of Beslan victims' relatives - as remembered by the relatives themselves - at PravdaBeslana.ru (in Russian):

Azamat Sabanov: "About responsibility of Patrushev, Nurgaliyev and all security structures. They should be punished in some way, shouldn't they? They at least should submit resignation letters, as humans, because they haven't fulfilled their duties."

Putin: "Yes, as humans, they should have done so. If I were them, this is what I'd have done."

An annotated AP story on the 5th anniversary of Georgy Gongadze's disappearance, at Abdymok:

[...]

on the 14th anniversary of ukraine's independence last month, yushchenko honored gongadze posthumously with the national award hero of ukraine.

marking the anniversary in lviv, gongadze’s mother lesya said that the authorities can stick the honor up their ass.

Friday, September 16, 2005



I've just posted all 21 pictures from our wedding two months ago, and some of you here will soon receive a mass mailing announcing this. I'm sorry for repeating myself all the time.

I wish there were more pictures from that wonderful day, but Mishah and I aren't too organized when it comes to celebrations... (Mishah's twin brother Max does have a few more on his camera, I guess, but he hasn't sent us any yet...)

It is five years today since journalist Georgiy Gongadze disappeared.

According to Korrespondent.net (in Russian), there'll be a memorial meeting today near Tarashcha, where the headless body was found Nov. 2, 2000.

In the afternoon, a "live chain" will be formed from the Journalists' Union at the Bessarabka end of Khreshchatyk to the Presidential Secretariat, via Maidan. This memorial action will include handing in a petition to the representatives of the Secretariat and the General Prosecutor's office.

***

In London, representatives of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are holding a rally today by the Ukrainian Embassy in Holland Park.

The Union, together with the International Federation of Journalists, the Gongadze Foundation and the Institute of Mass Information, has recently issued a report on the lack of progress in the investigation of the Gongadze case.

A copy of the report (.pdf, 172 KB) can be downloaded here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Here's a little Photoshop thingy one of my dear Kyiv friends sent me last week:


Tymoshenko, Zinchenko, Tomenko, Poroshenko: Looking for a job; if possible, in the city center (near a subway stop)

Today, this same dear friend wrote me:

Are you following these stupid events taking place here? I think we're making the whole Europe laugh!


Basically, we Ukrainians are having fun making fun of ourselves and then we worry about being Europe's laughing stock...

(This entry has been partially inspired by Dan McMinn's The Men-on-the-Street View.)

Via Orange Ukraine, a Kyiv Post editorial - It's War.

[Tymoshenko]’s all but guaranteed that she’ll win big in the parliamentary elections and return to a meanwhile vastly more powerful premiership, and only an idiot would count her out.


I read this sentence and felt like screaming: "Yeah, okay, but so what?! Is it gonna change the country in any fucking way?"

And then I read the next paragraph:

As journalists, we’ll enjoy the political circus that’s gearing up, but we have to wonder where all this will lead. Lots of Ukrainian voters must be tired of what political warfare entails: the dirt, the backstabbing, the lies, the demagoguery, the conniving, the endless nonsense. Whether they’ll enjoy the upcoming power-struggle or be turned off by it (or both) is an open question, but disgust with the political process would be a terrible thing in a country that only recently started to believe in the effectiveness of politics to steer the country toward a better future. Political warfare is only justifiable if it yields good political results. Otherwise it’s just bread and circuses, a shadow-game played by egomaniacs that wastes everybody’s time. That’s bad enough in a rich Western country, but it’s worse here, where there exist such extreme problems that need to be solved.


Beautifully said.

A funny way to be reminded that, in this context, I'm not a journalist, but one of those somewhat disillusioned Ukrainian voters.

Mishah's in Helsinki, attending a conference on typography. We communicate through text messaging, and here's his first impression of Finland:

Must be so painful for the Finns to travel to St. Pete: nature is the same, only sodden with the sovok [Soviet] shit.


And of Helsinki:

A big Vyborg without Russians.


***

My May 2004 text about Vyborg is here, on The Morning News site. More photos from that trip are here - for some reason, they've been stuck all this time on this other photo site of mine that I never use...

Just found out that Mustafa Cemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars, visited London, Cambridge and New York this past August, together with Celal Icten, head of Istanbul's Crimean Tatar community.

In London, they met with Cengiz Dagci, a Crimean Tatar writer living in Great Britain since the end of WWII, and with Akhmed Zakayev. The press service of the Crimean Tatar Meclis reports (in Ukrainian) that, sitting at the London Hilton, Zakayev "spoke optimistically enough about the future of his people."

In Cambridge, Cemilev and Icten met with the former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky.

After exchanging winks with my mama in Kyiv and spending some time in Moscow, Malik Abdul Aziz - also known as Mike Tyson - arrived in the Chechen city of Gudermes today. He's there for the opening of a boxing tournament commemorating Akhmad Kadyrov - which is a good thing, I guess, but watching the footage of him hugging and kissing Ramzan Kadyrov was disgusting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We don't know what it is, and it's totally silly, but I almost went into premature labor from laughing as I listened to it: Brekher (mp3, 4.2MB)

Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first president and head of the SDPU(o) parliament faction, claims that Yushchenko received at least $15 million for his 2004 campaign from Boris Berezovsky, and that if this is proved to be true, there'll be grounds to begin the impeachment procedure. Assholes, every single one of them.

Update: My head isn't working properly now, not in the direction of Ukrainian politics anyway, but Mishah says Berezovsky (read: Tymoshenko) is blackmailing Yushchenko. In his Ukrainska Pravda interview (in Ukrainian), Berezovsky said this:

I did indeed speak with Leonid Makarovych [Kravchuk] and I told him that yes, our companies had made the payments, but I did not say the money was contributed to Yushchenko (election) campaign, to his people, say, Zhvania, Tretyakov, etc. [...]

I confirmed the fact of the payments having been made, but I said I wouldn't comment on this until he (Yushchenko) comments first, if he feels like it, or until his people provide their comment."


Mishah says that without Berezovsky's confirmation, it'd be impossible to prove that the money was meant for the campaign; it also means that if Berezovsky decided to admit his involvement, Yushchenko might get impeached. (Or imoranged, remember?..)

I asked where the blackmail was here and what kind of answer Berezovsky wanted to hear, and Mishah said that perhaps Berezovsky knew something about Tymoshenko that Yushchenko also knew - something that could potentially drown her, and this was Berezovsky's warning to Yushchenko not to reveal this info or whatever it was.

Some conspiracy theory.

Meanwhile, Yushchenko's man David Zhvania said Berezovsky had given money to Tymoshenko, not Yushchenko.

Berezovsky denies it.

I can't focus on Ukrainian politics now, no matter how hard I try. I haven't finished reading Tymoshenko's press conference transcript, for example. And it's taken me three days to get halfway through what seems like a rather informative text on recent resignations and appointments (in Russian) in the Russian Newsweek.

Here're a few Newsweek bits:

- Pora has moved to a new office at Andreyevskiy Spusk, Kyiv's main tourist street;

- Poroshenko says Zinchenko is planning to head Pora: the party's got plenty of good strategists but no real politicians;

- Oleksandr Tretyakov, Yushchenko's adviser and family friend, stayed next to Yushchenko throughout his illness but shunned publicity during the Orange Revolution; he is now one of the key figures in the corruption scandal (Abdymok has a lot more about it here);

- Poroshenko is perceived as a "pro-Russian" politician in Russia, partly because he's got a business there;

- In order to get into the parliament, a party needs at least 3 percent of the votes; Yushchenko wants to raise this barrier to 7 percent, the same as in Russia. There are 127 political parties in Ukraine, which is three times as many as in Russia, and 51 of them have now gathered in Kyiv to protest the president's plan to keep them from getting into the parliament next spring.

So I'm trying to take all this seriously, but then my mind wanders off to the two hour-long phone conversations I had with my mama yesterday and today: her stories about the neverending remont in our apartment somehow seem a lot more relevant.

For example, Sasha, one of our workers, has recently departed for Moscow, to earn $700 or so working illegally here. He and his fellow slaves will spend a month or two never leaving the construction site, to avoid getting deported or having to deal with the Moscow police, and then, at the end of their term, they'll be placed on a train back to Ukraine, and only then they'll get their money. Hopefully, they won't be cheated.

Sasha is from a village in Chernihiv region, not far from Kyiv. He is 20, already done with his army service, has an older sister and two younger brothers. His sister finished high school with all A's and now attends the Kyiv Polytechnical University on scholarship. Their father drowned a few years ago; their mother now has a boyfriend who works in Kyiv and who is helping Sasha with all kinds of construction-related employment. His family needs money badly.

Sasha plastered the walls in our apartment - he's really good at it, and good is extremely rare when it comes to finding people to help you with a remont. He's very diligent, a man with golden hands, as we say here, very kind and good-looking - and he doesn't drink. There are said to be plenty of Ukrainian men like this here in Moscow, and in Portugal.

If there is a connection between the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko conflict, 127 political parties and Sasha having to sign up for slave labor in Russia - I do not see it. Or maybe I see it all too well, I don't know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Earlier this month, my mama was buying groceries at the Mandarin Plaza supermarket. She was considering which section of the store to head to next when she noticed some commotion by the entrance. She heard the name 'Tyson' repeated over and over everywhere she turned. She asked people next to her, and they told her that Mike Tyson, the boxer, was in the store. She's no boxing fan, but she knows about Tyson and the ear bite, so she quickly moved toward the cluster to have a look.

Turned out Mike Tyson was on collision course with my mama - he was smiling to everyone around him as he walked right at her (and she right at him), and when their eyes met, mama did something that almost gave my papa a heart attack when she retold the scene to him: she smiled, then lifted her hand to her ear, pulled it very gently a few times, and winked at Tyson.

Believe it or not, but Tyson winked back at her!

My photos from the two rallies are here. There're way too many of them, as usual, and they're too repetitive - but I'm so sleepy now, I can't edit myself at all...

***

I've just read here (in Russian) that for the organizers of the pro-Khodorkovsky rally the silly "alternative" honking feast just three meters away was a complete surprise.

***









Mishah is wondering how come the idiotic rioters of Northern Ireland are good enough to be in the EU - and Ukrainians and Turks aren't.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I could hear them from almost the other end of Bolshaya Bronnaya - the sound of a stadium. A tiny stadium.

The opposition must've learned how to be noisily unignorable, I thought. I had no idea, of course, that there were two different rallies over there at once - one for Khodorkovsky's freedom and the other for his imprisonment, two small crowds facing each other, separated by metal fences and the OMON giants.

The pro-Khodorkovsky folks were, as always, obscured by the journalists and their equipment. Their banners and posters were pointed at their opponents, not toward the passer-by, so the only way ordinary citizens could learn it was the opposition was by looking at the flags: the ubiquitous SPS (The Union of the Right Forces) and the orange ones with the dark-blue words 'Our Choice' (or something like that) on them. Only at the very end did a group of the opposition protesters moved over (or was allowed to by the police) to address the public.

The anti-Khodorkovsky crowd was the one that really stood out: teenage boys resembling soccer fans, dressed in identical white t-shirts with prison bars and the words "MBKh - to prison!" on them ("MBKh" is Khodorkovsky's initials: Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky). "MBKh - to prison!" was also printed on their banners. And boy, were they having fun, honking their asses off...

They didn't get bored or tired of all this soccerless honking until an hour and a half later - but then, when they were visibly bored and tired, no one would let them go, even when there was no opposition left on the other side, just the OMON guys, like some weird nannies, huge and intimidating, and no doubt familiar from encounters in a totally different setting, in the sometimes bloody chaos following soccer games...



When the fake anti-Khodorkovsky protesters were finally allowed to leave, they first of all took off their t-shirts - and became indistinguishable from the rest of the Muscovites right away, so quickly it was a little scary.

The most interesting thing about the rally was this: if it hadn't been for all the police, and OMON, and the mad honking of the soccer fans, the pro-Khodorkovsky rally would've gone virtually unnoticed. Why Putin is giving all the publicity to the people everyone considers his enemies is beyond me.

That's very nice of him, I think, though somewhat silly.

***

I did go to the McDonald's at some point - well, there seemed to be as many people in there as there were on the square, or even more...

***

Neither Channel 1 (ORT), nor NTV covered the rally on their evening news, which isn't surprising. I spoke with one of the Khodorkovsky sympathizers, a nice woman, and she said she really hoped EuroNews would have it - but isn't EuroNews somehow affiliated with RTR, another state-funded Russian channel?

***

More photos - later.

The McDonald's segment of Bolshaya Bronnaya was already blocked off by the police around 2:30 pm; metal detectors were being installed at Novopushkinskiy Square, across Tverskaya from the Pushkin monument.

At 5 pm, as I was walking back home, a narrow corridor has been fenced off and a few dozen police and OMON fighters were standing along the perimeter and crowding near the metal detectors.

I came closer, planning to take some pictures, but was destracted by a flower vendor selling absolutely terrific Georgines, my weakness, right next to the metal fence and the cops. I asked her what was going on but she didn't know. Her spot, though, would give her the best view of whatever was about to happen there, I thought. I bought five gorgeous flowers from her, learned that their company was one of the two in Moscow growing these lovely things, and Moscow's mayor Luzhkov worshipped them.

Now that my hands were full and I couldn't take pictures of the cops, I decided to at least ask them why they were there. A young uniformed woman by the metal detector said there'd be a rally - but she didn't specify. A very young and very pretty uniformed guy next to her was smiling way too happily at me, and when I asked him what kind of a rally, he didn't stop smiling and replied: "In support of Khodorkovsky!" Maybe I misread it, but I think he also found it very amusing that so many of them were there, prepared to guard God knows who from, well, God knows who.

A dissidentish-looking woman in thick, ugly glasses ran up to me after I thanked the cute cop and asked the same question I asked him. I told her about Khodorkovsky and she smirked in a way I couldn't decipher.

The McDonald's segment of Bolshaya Bronnaya was still blocked for traffic, but now there were six OMON buses parked by the sidewalk: the type of buses they use to cart guys like Ilya Yashin to police department, with huge uniformed guys smoking nearby or sitting inside behind the neat curtains.

I really wanted to take a picture, despite the flowers in my left hand and the bag in my right, but suddenly I felt just too pregnant for that...

***

Back home, I went to Khodorkovsky's Press Center site (Russian and English) and read there (in Russian) that 150 people had been allowed to hold a rally today, to draw attention to the ongoing injustice and give publicity to the upcoming appeal hearing, scheduled for Sept. 14.

***

I've had this rare craving for McDonald's food for months now, so I guess I'll rush back there now, buy myself a strawberry milkshake and sit outside, watching the OMON fighters watch another tiny, harmless opposition event.

So we're making coffee today and chatting about Israel: if nothing else, what a waste it is to be destroying the buildings in which the Jewish settlers lived, and their synagogues.

"They could've made something like our kommunalki out of those houses, and shops out of the emptied synangogues," I say.

"Imagine what this country would've looked like if the White Army had destroyed all their buildings upon retreat," Mishah replies after a pause. "How many generations would've been doomed to live in holes dug in the earth..."

Imagining life without kommunalki is just too overwhelming.

If nothing else, tourists would have no magnificent St. Pete facades to admire...

***

There's an online St. Pete kommunalka museum - in Russian. Keep clicking on the yellowish arrow pointing to the right at the bottom of each page to look at the photos - they are vivid enough to survive without the text.

Whenever I see these pictures, I keep being amazed at what a treasure this little collection is - but I also thank God profusely for not having to live in one of the shitholes.

Mishah says it didn't and doesn't matter all that much to him who the president of Ukraine is: Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, Rybachuk, or even Moroz (I sort of agree, except for the last one), as long as it's not Yanukovych, Vitrenko, Kuchma, or Poroshenko. He also says that with Tymoshenko in the opposition, it now looks like the more or less good guys are against the equally more or less good guys, and even though they are good only relatively and comparatively, only juxtaposed against the pseudo-opposition guys like Yanukovych, Shufrych and Chornovil, it still means that, hopefully, in ten years or so, Ukraine will look incomparably better than its post-Soviet neighbors and will be much closer to what's considered a normal country.

Very belatedly, I've just noticed two translations of Yulia Tymoshenko's press conference transcript: one posted at Maidan, and another at ForUm.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I'm trying to read the transcript (in Ukrainian) of Yulia Tymoshenko's press conference on Inter Channel earlier tonight - but I doubt I'll make it to the end. Take her greeting, for example:

I've come to you, to the people who want to hear me, just me and not some texts, I've come here as if to my own family, to my mama, my daughter, just to tell you what's happened.


Isn't it enough that the conflict between Tymoshenko and Poroshenko has few real issues behind it and seems way too personal? It would've been as useless for the country if the two of them didn't hate each other but were madly in love. And now this family-mama-daughter crap...

More Yulia Tymoshenko searches (yesterday's are here)...

www.google.com/search?q=Yulia Tymoshenko ass

www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=timoshenko's golden braid

www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=where does evgenia tymoshenko get married

www.google.de/search?hl=de&q=timoshenko hair braid

ca.search.yahoo.com/search?p=yulia tymoshenko smoker

www.google.com/search?=yulia tymoshenko hairdo

search.yahoo.com/search?p=yulia tymoshenko heels dress

www.google.com/search?q=Yulia Tymoshenko nipple

www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=Tymoshenko hairpiece

search.msn.com/spresults=grigyan

search.yahoo.com/search?p=yulia tymoshenko in pantyhose

search.yahoo.com/search?p=pictures of Yulia Tymoshenko legs

www.google.com/search?hl=yulia Tymoshenko childhood


No one comes to this blog looking for Yushchenko, Poroshenko, Yanukovych, Putin or Fradkov. I wonder why.

***

Update:

I'll keep updating this post, instead of creating new ones, as I stumble into more.

Another update:

Cool, the other side, Poroshenko, is finally getting some attention. Here's a recent search that landed someone on this blog - though the original search was for 'neeka's backlog' and I suspect this someone is just playing along:

www.google.co.uk/search?q=poroshenko fat bastard

According to Gazeta.ru (in Russian), some 55,000 people commit suicide in Russia every year.

Yesterday alone, ten people succeeded in killing themselves in Moscow. Sergei Yenikolopov, head of the clinical psychology department of the Russian Medical Sciences Academy's Center for Mental Health, doesn't see it as a trend, though:

The figure is accidental. [...] These people didn't kill themselves to protest the sacking of the Ukrainian government, did they? Of course, ten people a day isn't a norm for Moscow [...]. But I think that if you look at the monthly data, there's unlikely to be anything extraordinary.


They should've titled the piece something like this: "Doctor: Moscow Suicide Wave Not Caused by Ukrainian Political Crisis."

Sometime in 2002, I began reading forum posts at Yulia Tymoshenko's site, and it was there that I learned the term nashysty, which resembles the word 'Nazi' in Russian and Ukrainian, natsysty, and was used to describe not the pro-Putin youth movement "Nashi" but Victor Yushchenko's bloc "Nasha Ukraina" ("Our Ukraine"). Another word that I learned there was yushchenyata, a derivative from the Ukrainian word shchenyata ('puppies') and used to describe Yushchenko's supporters.

There was no love lost between the fans of Tymoshenko and Yushchenko.

I remember trying to get the other side of the story by visiting Victor Yushchenko's site, but it wasn't working well at the time, and I gave up.

From that time on, I sort of worried about the lack of unity in Ukrainian opposition, especially when, in late 2003, the Georgians managed to put their differences behind and won, while the Russians kept fighting and lost so badly that they barely exist anymore.

Tymoshenko and Yushchenko did join forces eventually and won, and now they've drifted apart again, and it feels so weird and so familiar... (Though this time, for some reason, it's Tymoshenko's site, not Yushchenko's, that's impossibly slow.)

Ten years ago, in spring 1995, my first journalistic mentor was working on a privatization story for the San Francisco Chronicle, and we spent what still seems like a month trying to arrange an interview at the State Property Fund, then headed by the acting prime minister Yuri Yekhanurov.

This is the only reason I know who Yekhanurov is.

I don't remember, of course, any of the story's details; all I remember are the extremely shabby offices and the Soviet atmosphere inside the State Property Fund building at Lesya Ukrainka Square, across the street from the Central Election Committee.

***

Here's what Dan McMinn of Orange Ukraine writes:

I know nothing about [Yekhanurov] as an individual, as yet, but his time in the SPF was categories by woefully poor economic performance. If the government hadn't committed itself to reprivatizing only recent bad deals, a number of Mr. Yekhanurov's privatizations might be under scrutiny. (and will be now, you can be sure) Yushchenko was in charge of the National Bank while Yekhanurov was at the SPF, so we can hope Yushchenko knows him well enough from those days to judge his character accurately.

Even worse than what might be dug up about him is more general fact that he was yet another politician who spent years working for Kuchma. I can't think of a worse advertisement to Ukrainian voters, especially when more and more people have been saying "nothing's changed" in the polls.


I thought about that, too, in a slightly different context.

They all keep going back and forth, since 1991, and in addition to having been Kuchma's allies, many also used to be part of the Communist "élite." Tymoshenko was with Pavlo Lazarenko at some point; Khodorkovsky here in Russia was a deputy chief of a Young Communist League (Komsomol) Moscow district committee; Putin was a KGB spy; Yushchenko was Kuchma's prime minister - et cetera. There's no use pretending about anything here. Maybe one day the untainted Ukrainian Diaspora folks storm their historical motherland and take all the leading positions in the country, but this hasn't happened yet.

To be able to continue to take them more or less seriously, it's better to focus on what they've achieved recently - and that's why it's so sickening to suddenly hear Yushchenko's admission that they did little but bicker for the past eight months.

***

Here's what Tatyana Korobova says about Yekhanurov in Ukrainska Pravda (in Ukrainian):

[...]

The acting prime minister thinks that people should not be afraid of the word 'crisis' - after crisis, there's "catharsis and healing." Right, but only when they know what has to be cured and how. Otherwise, what follows is agony and death.

At Orange Ukraine, Dan McMinn has an entry on Zinchenko's resignation and another one on what followed, as well as a complete translation of Yushchenko's yesterday's address.

At Abdymok, a complete translation of Yushchenko's yesterday's address, and a slightly mock translation of a few paragraphs from an Ukrainska Pravda piece on Yulia Tymoshenko's last day and night as prime minister.

Via Abdymok, an editorial in the New York Times:

Ukraine's Orange Flame, Dimmed
Published: September 9, 2005

So ends the Orange Revolution, at least Act I. After months of increasingly nasty disputes, Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, fired his charismatic prime minister and nominated a caretaker to replace her. The fired prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, has said nothing - yet. But she will. Her fiery speeches and powerful presence were a major factor in the popular uprising that brought Mr. Yushchenko to power last fall, and she is certain to turn these weapons on the president and his new government, especially with elections for Parliament scheduled for March. All that is a serious blow to the hopes and expectations that had been raised for the future of Ukraine, and for reformers in Belarus and other former Soviet republics.

Perhaps the expectations were always unrealistic. People who unite to oust one government, as the Ukrainians did with huge demonstrations, do not necessarily agree on what the next one should be, and the alliance was always shaky between Mr. Yushchenko, a former prime minister and central banker, and Ms. Tymoshenko, who made a fortune in the gas business. Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko squandered the momentum generated on Kiev's streets, struggling over control of lucrative industries, over relations with Russia and over how to cope with soaring energy prices. The impression was of a government with no focus.

On dismissing the government, Mr. Yushchenko declared that his one goal was to ensure stability. But the Ukrainian protesters wanted change. If Mr. Yushchenko hopes to salvage anything of their spirit, he needs to convince his country, and a very wary West, that he not only believes in democracy, free markets and the rule of law, but is also capable of leading Ukraine in that direction.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Here's how some people find this blog:

www.google.com/search?q=tymoshenko pictures

search.yahoo.com/search?p=Yulia Tymoshenko sexy

search.yahoo.com/search?p=yulia tymoshenko heels dress

www.google.com/search?num=20&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&q=Tymoshenko whore


Today, there've been more searches like these than before.

What a day.

(More here.)

I've heard and read about this scenario more than once lately, but Andrei Chernikov, formerly the Kommersant's Ukraine correspondent, seems to have seen it coming a long time ago. Here's a quote from his May 23, 2005, Kommersant story on Yulia Tymoshenko's reasons to get sacked (via Andrei's LiveJournal, in Russian):

The premier's calculations are simple and understandable: prime ministers don't get to keep their chairs for a long time, while in the parliament one is guaranteed five years of political life. That's why Ms. Tymoshenko's goal isn't just to get herself into the parliament but to secure as many seats as possible for her bloc. This can be accomplished by leaving the post of the head of the government as a victim - humiliated and misunderstood (exactly how Mr. Yushchenko left his premier's post in the past), but loved by the people. And if the president does not sack the premier himself, then the current parliament - in which the opposition's strategy is based on criticising the government - will do it for him in February next year. In other words, Ms. Tymoshenko should leave either now or closer to the fall, so that she has enough time to carry out a full-fledged election campaign, without the distraction of having to overcome various crises.

No, we do care about what Poroshenko thinks of Tymoshenko, etc., even though it has little or nothing to do with our immediate realities.

I quoted P. J. O'Rourke a year or so ago, and here's this 1991 quote again:

Nina took me to talk with the leaders of the TV-station protest. This was one of five or six political interviews that I did while I was in the Soviet Union - with Ukrainian Nationalists, Ukrainian non-Nationalists, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, anti-Gamsakhurdian Georgians, pro-Gamsakhurdian Georgians and some people I don't know who they were.

I can tell you what they all had to say, if you like, I mean if you're having trouble getting to sleep or something. I would ask them what their group advocated, and they would say, "Democracy must be defended." I would ask, "How do you propose to do this?" They would say, "There must be a structure of democracy in our society." I would ask, "What are your specific proposals?" They would say, "We must build democratic institutions." I would ask, "By what means?" They would say, "Building democratic institutions is necessary so that there is a structure of democracy in our society at all levels." And by this time I'd be yelling, "BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??!! And they would say, "Democracy must be defended."

The Soviets were firmly rooted in the abstract, had both their feet planted on the air. It was impossible to get them to understand that government isn't a philosophical concept, it's a utility, a service industry - a way to get roads built and have Iraqis killed. [...]


After New Orleans, this thing about the Iraqis AND the roads sounds somewhat unrealistic, but he wrote it such a long time ago...

Here's my translation of parts of Yushchenko's today's address:

[...]

I knew there were certain misunderstandings between these people. I was sure, though, that these were just episodes typical of anyone and especially such interesting and extraordinary people. I was sure the every great person had problems.

I thought these problems were temporary. I hoped that if everyone started doing his/her job, they wouldn't have time left for conspiring against one another, for PR or anti-PR between certain political forces of the united coalition. Those were my hopes.

[...]

But as time went by, I was witnessing more and more how these institutions were getting involved first in confrontations and then in serious conflicts. There were mutual backstage intrigues, which were beginning to spread onto the foundations of the state policy.

[...]

I was sure that my friends, who were enjoying the unique trust of the people and the unseen authority, could use the resources in their work in a unique way. I was also positive that people holding such high positions were aware of their responsibility to the state, and I thought that they were obliged to hear one another and be able to compromise - that was their responsibility.

The president isn't supposed to be a nanny for them, someone to help them make up after a fight. But I'll be honest and admit that I was doing it eagerly, because I understood that this was the issue of great importance. I felt bad about wasting my time on things that weren't constructive. But that was the reality.

[...]

For eight months the president of Ukraine was a peacekeeper between these institutions. I rarely spoke about it in public. I thought of it as the karma I had to carry on my shoulders. Meanwhile, Ukraine was falling behind, economically and otherwise. I think that members of my team listened to the president but didn't hear him.

[...]

I'm sure this has to stop. I see how some government officials have become so preoccupied with this PR that they don't have enough time anymore for a productive conversation. They do not imagine life without TV cameras anymore. I've always been and will always remain a supporter of the government's openness to the public, [...] but this has to occur after the work has been completed. We should not drag the country into dangerous promises and dangerous populism.

[...]


***

On the one hand, it seems like such a justified thing to do, to fire them all in order to stop the in-fighting. And it seems so noble of Yushchenko to talk about it openly. This isn't too relevant, but I can't help comparing our situation to that in Russia: Yeltsin's frequent changes of prime ministers in the 1990s seemed nothing but senile, and Putin is only now beginning to deal with those who deserve it - the Navy guy Kuroyedov, fired five years after the Kursk submarine disaster, and now Patrushev, head of the FSB, may finally be questioned, a year after Beslan and three years after Nord-Ost... So yeah, in a way, we seem to be doing much better than Russia.

But on the other hand, why would anyone outside Lipki be interested in what Poroshenko thinks of Tymoshenko and vice versa? Yushchenko does admit that he had to babysit them from the very start, forgetting about the economy and other important matters - but why would anyone believe that everything is going to straighten out now, after he's been forced to say it all out loud?

It's very disappointing, all of it.

Just got back home and don't really know what to say. I'm not good at commenting shit like this, pure politics.

Everyone's either fired or has resigned.

Zinchenko, Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, Tomenko - so many Ukrainian names, it's making even me dizzy.

Unlike the traffic police whim a while ago, this is supposed to be big deal.

Scott at Foreign Notes has been posting some updates.

More later, after I've done some reading on the bedlam.

Pictures from St. Pete are up at my photo page.

- Day One - Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005 (51 photos):


("the orthodox cross is everywhere!!")






- Day Two - Monday, Sept. 5, 2005 (18 photos):




- Day Three - Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005 (21 photos):


("GIBDD [traffic police] - my love")

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Being in St. Pete felt like running into an ex-boyfriend and spending a day walking around innocently with him.

An ex-boyfriend that I spent years with and then dumped because I'd just had enough to bear it any longer. A beautiful boyfriend - but totally fucked-up, irrepairably fucked-up.

After a few years apart, it feels nice, even wonderful, to hang out with him - he's a sweet guy or else why would I have wasted all that time on him. Some of that time was way cool, by the way, and it's awesome to recall things now. But it's as wonderful to realize that it's over and I don't have to return to this guy.

This is what St. Pete felt like to me - after living there for two years and being away for seven months. Couldn't find a better comparison than this...

I'll post some photos later - I don't have many, but St. Pete loves being photographed, so I do have enough that I like a lot.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Mishah and I are leaving for St. Pete in two hours, for a few days. I don't think I'll have enough internet access there to write - but maybe I will.

It'll be the first time in St. Pete for me since we moved back to Moscow in February, so I'm kind of nervous.

All the very best to everyone,
Veronica

We are absolutely shocked by what's going on in New Orleans and other areas affected by the hurricane, and we feel so sorry for the people there, and we hope the suffering ends as quickly as possible, and I don't have anything more to say about it - except that Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, seems like a totally amazing guy...

Different Ends, Same Violent Means is the title of Masha Gessen's Sept.1 column in the Moscow Times, in which she writes about the recent attacks on the National Bolshevik Party activists and Polish citizens here in Moscow:

[...]

What, besides repetitiveness, ties these stories together? There are credible claims, made both by eyewitnesses and by analysts, that at least some of the attacks on the NBP and the Polish citizens were inspired by the Kremlin, and possibly carried out by members of the Nashi youth movement. That may or may not be true, but at this point it does not strike me as the most important common denominator. The most important one is this: it is violence as a way of doing business, violence as a way of settling scores, violence even as a way of conducting international relations.

The next time I scroll through the news wires and see a headline about NBP activists getting attacked, or about a Polish citizen or another non-Russian getting beaten up in broad daylight, or even about a huge gang fight in the middle of the city, I will not be very likely to click on the items: I feel like I already know these stories. And I think this is how I will remember summer 2005 in Moscow. It was when stories of violence blurred into each other and became old hat. It was the summer when violence stopped really being news.


I went to the NBP site right after I finished reading Masha's column: what if they've changed their image since I last looked through their materials; what if I've missed their wondrous metamorphosis from reckless, tough bigots to peaceful, non-violent sweethearts? I mean, I almost felt sorry for one or two of them right after the beating - they were in a hospital room, showing their injuries to reporters, looking so innocent and so hurt...

***

Well, first of all, I checked if their posters were still on the site. Yes, they're still there, and here's a tiny selection:

***

Next, I scrolled down to the very bottom of the page and took an NBP survey:



In Daghestan, state officials are being murdered:

- Good
- Bad
- Not enough
- The sooner it starts happening here, the better!
- We wish there were some stability...


Bad, I responded, very bad: it is very bad to kill anyone, even if it's someone who's kissing Putin's ass. Then I looked at other people's replies:



Good - 65 (6.14%)
Bad - 112 (10.58%)
Not enough - 61 (5.76%)
The sooner it starts happening here, the better! - 567 (53.54%)
We wish there were some stability... - 254 (23.98%)


***

This is so annoying.

With posters like these, you'd expect them to be able to stand up to any offenders, regardless of who they are - Nashi or not. Instead, the NBP kids act like sissies.

You'd also expect Masha to mention NBP's views on violence - but then it'd be obvious that they don't belong with the Polish journalists and diplomats.

***

Here's part of their program:

ESSENCE OF NATIONAL-BOLSHEVISM
1. Essence of National-bolshevism is the incinerating hatred to antihuman SYSTEM of the trinity: liberalism / democracy / capitalism. The man of uprising, national-bolshevik sees his mission in destruction of SYSTEM up to the basis. On ideals spiritual courage, social and national justice the traditionalistic, hierarchical community will be constructed.

ENEMIES
2. Foreign enemies of National-bolshevism: the large Satan - USA and mondialists of Europe, incorporated in NATO and UN. Internal enemies: a class of "jackets" - boyars - bureaucrats, marauders - "new Russian", cosmopolitan intelligentsia.

[...]


"Cosmopolitan intelligentsia" sounds like something out of the late Stalin years - and out of Masha's book about her Jewish grandmothers... Ah well.

***

Among NBP's "friendly sites," I've found one dedicated to Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Would I be surprised if I found a "friendly" link to the FSB there? No - because here's what I wrote a year ago:

The FSB has a website (in Russian); closer to the bottom of their front page I found a note from 2003, which tells us that on Sept. 11, Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of what later became known as the KGB, the predecessor of the FSB, turned 126 years old. How nice.


They have more in common with Putin than they want everyone to believe.

***

Here's how they're recruiting new members - they pretend to be the Ukrainian Pora...





***

Finally, something nice.

There seems to be one useful thing that the NBP is capable of doing: Russian lessons!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Looks like the state is very scared of Marina Litvinovich and is using its heavy artillery against her: the 9 pm news on Channel 1 (ORT).

In a story about those for whom the Beslan tragedy is just a means to further their political careers, Litvinovich was portrayed as some kind of a monster woman: she is not only promoting her version of the truth as the only one out there by having created a site called PravdaBeslana.ru, the Truth of Beslan, but she is also Garry Kasparov's advisor!..

A tiny, hour-long opposition rally at Lubyanka Square. Nothing to write about, really.

Some toys, water and flowers laid by the Solovki Stone.

They were hoping to hold the rally tomorrow, but the city authorities refused to give permission.

Most flags had SPS (the Union of the Right Forces) logos on them, but there were also a few orange ones, though I couldn't read what was written on them.

At least one guy was wearing a Khodorkovsky Go Home t-shirt.





To show that Ria Novosti and some others were lying yesterday, Marina Litvinovich has posted a scanned copy of the appeal for political asylum on PravdaBeslana.ru - with 87 signatures so far.

The scans are too huge (over 1 MB each), but here're the links anyway: page one, page two, page three, page four, page five.

Of the weekly news magazines, I normally buy Kommersant Vlast, but yesterday I bought this week's Russian Newsweek as well, because of its cover:



"Beslan, a year after" - and a Reuters photo that I posted on this blog exactly a year ago, of Elbrus Gogichaev carrying the 6-month-old Alyona Tskaeva, one of the 26 kids released with their mothers that day. Alyona's mother, however, stayed with her two other children inside the school and died there the next day. Alyona is being raised by her grandmother, and Elbrus, the special forces guy, is now a friend of what remains of that family.

There's a bunch of other photos of survivors - a year ago and now - and a text (in Russian), which I can't bring myself to read - here.

***

But before you reach that "now and then" section in the print issue of the Newsweek, there are four and a half pages of small portraits of everyone who died in Beslan a year ago.

The photos have been gathered by the Mothers of Beslan committee.

Faces and names, nothing graphic whatsoever.

Smiling faces, most of them.

Arranged alphabetically, but I only realized that at the end.

Made me weep for I don't know how long.

You can download a .pdf file with these portraits here (33 MB), though they have not been scanned in too carefully...

Via Marina Litvinovich and PravdaBeslana.ru (in Russian) - according to the findings of Stanislav Kesaev's investigative commission, these two men are responsible for spreading false information on the number of Beslan hostages: Dmitry Peskov, first deputy of Vladimir Putin's press secretary, and Pyotr Vasilyev, deputy director of the "Vesti" Informational Programs Directorship (RTR, a state-funded TV channel).

[...]

A. Torshin's parliamentry commission's report confirms this information: when journalists began reporting the unofficial number of the hostages on Sept. 1, 2004, those responsible for contact with the press were Ossetian interior minister Dzantiyev, head of the department of the federal security service Andreyev and Dzasokhov's press secretary Lev Dzugayev. The regular supply of information to the mass media was carried out via D. S. Peskov, a representative of the president of the Russian Federation.

It was these lies about the number of the hostages supplied by these people that led to the rebels' aggressive behavior and their shooting of the people. After the rebels learned that the media were reporting a total of 354 people being held, they stopped giving water to the hostages.

[...]


***

According to his official bio (in Russian), Pyotr Vasilyev earned a Ph.D. in Communication from School of Journalism and Mass Communication of the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1998. From 1996 to 2000, he was an executive producer at ABC News and frequently worked on assignments from ABC's Primetime Live and Nightline.

Hard to believe this is true, hard to believe the world is so small, too fucking ironic that a man with access to some really important and disgusting state secrets and lies had spent four years working for a TV company that is now not allowed to work in Russia...

***

David McDuff at A Step at a Time has translated part of an interview with Stanislav Kesaev, conducted by Marina Litvinovich.

I needed to check something, so I went to my Sept. 2004 archive - and got stuck there, re-reading the Sept. 1, 2 and 3 entries...

It does not feel like a year ago, it feels like I've just finished watching the storming of the school live on TV...

Here's one thing I never wrote about then but which I'll never forget:

After it was over, I went outside, to buy cigarettes or something. I was walking toward Sennaya Ploshchad (we still lived in St. Pete then), people around me seemed unreal, but I did pay attention to two teenage girls walking ahead of me. They were dressed up in that careless, teenage, way, one had blue nails and the other had purplish hair, and they were talking about school and boys. One thing I caught was about their classes having been cancelled that day. Which didn't surprise me at all. Then the mother of one of the girls called her on her cell phone - she wanted to know when her daughter would be back home, and she wanted her back home soon. The girl sounded annoyed and whiny, she said she wouldn't be too late, but it didn't look like she meant it. And her mother probably insisted, and finally I heard the girl say, reluctantly, Okay, mama, I'm on my way home. And I felt something of a relief - because if she'd continued pissing her mama off on a day like that, I would've caught up with her and explained what kind of things her mama had just spent an afternoon watching and how that was more than enough reason for her to want her daughter back home early...