Monday, September 22, 2008

Speaking of closer ties with the EU and all that, I was pretty shocked when I read this in the Kyiv Post today (Visa Restrictions Thwart Trips Abroad, by Yuliya Popova):

[...] So far Spain is ahead of everyone else in the poll to get the Golden Muzzle award for causing the most resentment to its applicants. Apart from the usual hassle with paperwork, the Spanish consulate requires its visa seekers to report back to the consulate upon their return to Ukraine. Tetyana Kaminska, editor of the interior design magazine Ideas for Your Home, said she was shocked to learn of this “absurd” practice.

Kaminska said that she wasted two days to give the consulate a photocopy of her passport page with a customs’ stamp proving that she was back from Spain.

“When I came on the first day, a guard told me to come at 8am the next day… When I arrived the following morning, there was a queue of 50 people all standing on the other side of the road because apparently a pavement in front of the consulate is a taboo zone,” she described the beginning of her ordeal. By five o’clock in the evening she said that she was finally invited to come in. “At the door, however, they told me that I can’t proceed further with my female purse. So I was forced to leave it across the road in a luggage room for Hr 5.”

When Kaminskaya reached a clerk’s window after eight hours of waiting, a visa section official asked her if she liked Spain. “No, I didn’t,” she said thinking of the chaos with visas in Ukraine.
Only in Kyiv...

Sunday, Sept. 21:

The first ever celebration of Car-Free Day (link in RUS, photos) - and, a kilometer or so away, on Khreshchatyk, Renault Formula One Team testdriving their cars.

How ironic.

And, on top of that, it rained heavily all day long. It is raining still.

The F1 folks spent the whole night and then part of Sunday preparing for their event. At 3 AM, for example, they decided to test their sound equipment at our end of Khreshchatyk. Bastards.

As for the Car-Free Day, I really like what it says (in UKR) on this woman's t-shirt:


Friday, September 19, 2008

I've a question about Sarkozy's EU-Ukraine Summit quote.

Taras of Ukrainiana has translated Channel 1+1's voiceover translation here:

[...] French President Nicolas Sarkozy: This association agreement [to be signed in 2009] does not close any paths, nor does it open any paths. That’s all we could give. [...]

Kyiv Post has a similar translation:

[...] In a cautious statement at the EU summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating presidency, said: “The association agreement neither opens nor closes any route [for Ukraine].” [...]

And so does Deutsche Welle:

[...] The "association agreement" that emerged form the summit offers Kiev enhanced status in its dealings with the EU. But it does not say anything about whether Ukraine could possibly join the bloc some day. Indeed the agreement, as Sarkozy stressed to the press, "neither opens nor closes any route." [...]

Financial Times, however, provides a quote that carries a different meaning:

[...] “Be clear that this agreement shuts no door, and maybe it opens some doors. This is the most we could offer, but I believe it to be a substantial step,” Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s president, told reporters. [...]

The Times offers what seems like only part of the original sound bite:

[...] “This accord does not close any avenues,” Mr Sarkozy said. “It is the maximum that we could do and I believe that it is already an essential step.” [...]

And so does BBC:

[...] He underlined that the accord left the path for future membership of the 27-member state bloc open, saying: "This association accord does not close any avenues." [...]

The Wall Street Journal has cut the original quote even more:

[...] At a news conference with Mr. Yushchenko and EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Mr. Sarkozy summarized the EU's position toward Ukraine as "this is the maximum we can do." [...]

And so has

[...] "It was the maximum we could offer, but I think it was a substantial step," Sarkozy told a press conference after hosting an EU-Ukraine summit in Paris today. Yushchenko said the EU's "message is full of hope and holds much promise." [...]

The Irish Times provides more of the original - and, at the same time, less:

[...] Asked whether he favoured Ukrainian accession, Mr Sarkozy hid behind his role as acting president of the EU Council. "I am not speaking as president of France," he said. "I am speaking in the name of the EU. The name of this is an association agreement . . . The EU has not authorised me to make any other decision or any other announcements . . . Within the council there are varying positions. My concern is European unity. This is something we explained to our friend, the president of Ukraine. This was the most we could offer, but I believe this to be a substantial step." [...]

The French Embassy in the UK has posted a rather detailed transcript, but their translation echoes that of the Financial Times (or is it the other way around?):

Q. – You talked about Ukraine’s European orientation. I’d like to know if this European orientation goes as far as considering Ukrainian accession to the European Union in the short, medium or long term. Can you tell us what you yourself think?

THE PRESIDENT – Thank you for allowing me reply totally freely. I’m not talking as the French President, I’m not talking in my own name, I’m talking on behalf of the EU and so I’m saying what the EU’s position is. The EU’s position: to negotiate an association agreement, making it clear that this association agreement closes no avenue, and even opens some up. (…) The EU wanted, as President Barroso said, at this specific moment in the region’s situation, to reaffirm the community of values, community of history, Europeanness in the cultural sense of the word with Ukraine. The EU hasn’t authorized me to take other decisions or make other announcements. But the words mean something; it’s the first time such vocabulary has been used. That said, within the Council, there are different positions and President Barroso’s concern, like mine, is Europe’s unity, it’s in fact what we explained to our friend, the Ukrainian President, that it was as far as we could go. But I believe it’s already a substantial step.

So my question is: what did he actually say at that press conference? Does this agreement open some new doors or not?

Has anyone encountered the original recording of Sarkozi's remark? I did a quick search but couldn't find anything, and even if I did, I don't know French, so there is no way for me to figure that out. Please help!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Beemer with an apocalyptic image of Maidan on it belongs to some "famous" Ukrainian TV comedian - according to a Besarabka parking lot guy who saw us stare at the car and take pictures of it:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I was doing some re-tagging and ran into this post from three and a half years ago:

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Ukraine's billionaires are out of the closet, at last.

#258 - Rinat Akhmetov, 38 - $2.4 billion

#507 - Victor Pinchuk, 44 - $1.3 billion

#620 - Serhiy Taruta, 50 - $1 billion

According to, we've got three and Russia's got 27...

It's interesting that now there are 87 billionaires in Russia - and seven in Ukraine.

Akhmetov is now worth $7.3 billion, Pinchuk has $5 billion, Taruta's got $2.7 billion.

"Ukraine, aren't you ashamed?"

There was a memorial rally at Maidan today, marking eight years since Heorhiy Gongadze's disappearance, but I came an hour late, at the very end of it, missing the eight minutes of silence:


There seemed to be more journalists than ordinary people there by the time I showed up; later, I heard on the news that about 200 people attended the event:

Sadly, I was reminded of the opposition rallies at Pushkin Square in Moscow - very few protesters/activists and crowds hurrying by past them and their posters to the metro and nearby stores and restaurants. In Moscow, however, there are way too many cops standing around at such events - while here there were just a couple of them, involved in some kind of a brawl with a bunch of guys.

Mykola Melnychenko was there, talking to Channel 1+1:

As I was taking pictures of him, a middle-aged man standing next to me said: "He's a good man, isn't he?" I shrugged, but he nodded with grotesque passion and went on: "Yes, he is a very good man."

I haven't followed the tapes affair in a very long time, and I'm not even sure if Melnychenko's recordings are considered crucial part of the investigation of Gongadze's unsolved case anymore. In a TV interview today, he said that the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office didn't have the equipment necessary to confirm the authenticity of the recordings. I've made a little video of Melnychenko, too, and here's the part where he says that now that the FBI has withdrawn its support, it would take PACE a couple years to find qualified experts to evaluate the tapes:

Honestly, I've no idea what to make of it all. But I wonder if Melnychenko is seeking publicity again, to score some points in case yet another election does take place after all and he decides to run again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

At 8 PM, the traffic jam at Besarabka was still huge, and everyone was driving on Khreshchatyk sidewalk, too, and suddenly I got nostalgic for the time when Kyiv was different.

Here's a typical view of Khreshchatyk five years ago:

And here's what it looks like now, more or less:

In 2003, I was just beginning to take pictures, and this is what I wrote about Kyiv then:

I find it difficult to photograph Kyiv. When I don't have my camera with me, I can see everything partly as it is and partly as I imagine it. Everything has a memory - and often more than just one - attached to it. Every building, every backyard. But with my camera, I'm forced to see it all as it really is - and all of a sudden, I realize that way too many things would be missing from the photos... and quite a lot of what I'd normally ignore would show up... The tacky plastic windows or air conditioners, for example.

Plastic windows and air conditioners? My 2003 rant seems almost sacrilegious now - everything was perfect then, no? - and I try not to think of what this post will read like five years on.

Here's what I must have been complaining about in Nov. 2003:

And here's what we've got today:

Ukrainian politics was very different in 2003, too. The Klichko brothers, for example, were still our glorious boxers then, sharing the "True Ukrainian Quality" title with Chernihivske beer:

Then one of them decided to run for Kyiv's mayor, twice, and failed:

My mother has just accused me of having a very negative outlook on life, and she is right, unfortunately. I took trolleybus #8 today from Ploshcha Peremohy to Shevchenko Park, and I felt like burning my clothes after I got out of the old stinking thing and made it back home. I tried hard not to mention this here, but failed.

To end it on a somewhat positive note, though, here's another picture of Kyiv from 2003 - a picture of something that's still there, sort of:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A few days ago, my dear friend Sasha had to busy himself somehow for an hour, as he waited for his "business lunch" at a restaurant near Kontraktova Ploshcha. He ended up taking some really hilarious pictures of this restaurant's menu; below are four of my favorite ones, which Sasha sent me in an email titled "Mutations of cat-fish and other ditches (aka dishes)" :)))

© Alex Kleimenov

© Alex Kleimenov

© Alex Kleimenov

© Alex Kleimenov

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Looking through my Central & Eastern Europe blog feeds today, I saw this headline at La Russophobe: Georgia Fractures Russia’s “Party of Regions”.

I followed the link and read this intro to a reprint of Taras Kuzio's comment on Raisa Bohatyryova’s expulsion from the Party of Regions:

The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor reports the devastating internal consequences of Vladimir Putin’s failure in Georgia: [...]

My innocent attempt to point out the error resulted in this rather amusing exchange in the comments section of La Russophobe's post:

neeka // September 3, 2008 at 6:36 pm

You wrote:

Georgia Fractures Russia’s “Party of Regions”

The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor reports the devastating internal consequences of Vladimir Putin’s failure in Georgia: [...]

Please correct: Party of Regions is a Ukrainian party, and so the “consequences” aren’t really “internal” for Putin.

LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS: Thanks Veronica, that intro was definitely badly done. However, you seem to forget that Party of Regions is the supplicant of the demonic Russian stooge Viktor Yanukovich, and as such it is very much an internal Russian matter, especially since it’s obviously Russia’s goal to annex not only Georgia but also Ukraine.


neeka // September 3, 2008 at 7:02 pm

However, you seem to forget [...]

Do I? :)

LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS: You definitely seem to. If you didn’t actually, you might have mentioned it. Ukraine needs all the support it can get in its hour of need!


neeka // September 3, 2008 at 7:44 pm

It would’ve been great if you had actually bothered to read Taras Kuzio’s piece before writing that clueless intro to it. As for my seeming forgetfulness, I only wanted to point out an error, didn’t really expect you to publish the comment. :)

LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS: Actually, it would have been great if YOU had read it. See, nowhere in the text does it say that a Ukrainian party is being discussed, though it certainly does discuss Ukrainen and the implication can be drawn. We simply got a bit confused going to press, since we have many, many contributors and many people carrying out many different tasks, something you are apparently not familiar with (but at big newspapers, such mistakes happen every day of the week). Your assumption that we didn’t read the piece, as opposed to simply making a mistake anyone could make, is a pathetically childish (indeed, venemous) remark that could only be prompted by jealousy over the fact that your blog is so much ignored while ours is so much patronized. Undoubtedly, for that reason you almost never link to us, even though we are one of the most powerful Russia blogs on the planet. You’re obviously so consumed with jealousy and hatred that you are desperately searching to find a mistake on our blog, apparently in the childish notion that you never make errors and that if we ever do that means we are incompetent. That’s really rather sad. And why you would think we wouldn’t publish your comment, which pointed out something that needed correction, is beyond us. We’ve published more than 6,000 posts on this blog, and our corrections rate is stupendously low, something we are quite proud of. For you to suggest the contrary is simply defamatory.

And it would have been even better if you had taken the opportunity to speak up for Ukraine, and hadn’t tried to dodge the issue in such a silly manner later on.

But it’s good to know you read us, even though you ignore us and, fortunately, we don’t need your patronage (which is worth next to nothing anyway, in terms of being able to drive traffic to us).

Thanks for stopping by in such a spirit of good faith, so consistent with the norms you profess over at GV!

The not-so-amusing part of it is this: nearly four years since the Orange Revolution, there are still folks out there who read a text with 17 mentions of Yanukovych and then complain that "nowhere in the text does it say that a Ukrainian party is being discussed." That's an extreme case, of course, but La Russophobe isn't the only Russocentric observer for whom Ukraine is something of a blind spot. And an oversimplified view of Ukrainian politics is all too common, too: Yushchenko is good, Yulia is sexy, Yanukovych is bad, Russian-speaking Ukrainians are against the West, Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians are against Russia. Much of the blame for it is on our politicians, whose infighting and other exploits often defy logic and are too far removed from realities down on the ground. Some of the blame is on people like myself, who are watching the game from the sidelines, occasionally cheering for some players and booing others, not really capable of explaining what the hell is going on to extraneous observers, many of whom are too preoccupied with all things Russia anyway to pay any attention. Whatever.
Natalia Antonova wrote this today/yesterday:

Four Years Ago the Beslan Hostage Crisis Ended

And, for many of us, the world has not been the same since.

That’s all I can say about it, really. Although, even though I’ve linked to C.J. Chivers’ “The School” before, I’ll go ahead and link to it again.

I have nothing to add to this.