Friday, March 28, 2014

Ukraine – Corruption

Ukrainian investigators are moving as fast as they can to track down all that was looted from the country in the past three years.  The amount is staggering, $40 to $70 billion dollars.  They are finding millions in loose change at the properties of several ex-ministers.  The following are clipped from three articles cited below.

On March 21, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office has conducted 32 searches at the firms connected with ex-energy and coal industry minister Eduard Stavytsky and ex-agrarian policy and food minister Mykola Prysiazhniuk.  

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, "We have seized $286,000 plus UAH 659,000 and several expensive watches of famous brands from Prysiazhniuk, and $1.717 million plus UAH 1.25 million from his deputy Symonov." He clarified that the searches were carried out as a part of a criminal investigation into embezzlement of budget funds at the Agrarian Policy Ministry.

Another search, conducted in the apartment of a former high-raking Agrarian Policy Ministry official close to Stavytsky, produced $1.7 million, 1.4 million hrivna and several thousand Euros in cash, he said.

"The former civil servants managed to transfer a larger share of their assets to foreign bank accounts. What was found in the searches was cashed-in assets. We think the cash had been taken out of the country in bags in several flights," the deputy prosecutor general said.

Just one police raid on March 21 on a property that belonged to former Energy Minister Eduard Stavitsky uncovered a fortune that cannot be explained by his $15,000 in earnings declared last year.

“One safe was completely stuffed with cash – about $5 million. Another safe was fully stuffed with gold and jewelry – 50 kilograms of gold bars, and jewelry made of various metals – gold, platinum and diamonds,” Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitskiy said on March 22.

The previous day, Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies searched 32 different premises that belonged to Stavitsky and another former top official, Agriculture Minister Mykola Prysyazhnyuk. In his flat, he kept $300,000 and Hr 800,000 in cash, among other things. Both ministers were a part of overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych’s close circle.

The raids also yielded many title deeds to land, ownership documents of offshore and other companies and details of various bank accounts that would be enough to keep law enforcers busy for months, untangling webs of business deals and chasing stolen assets.

But there has barely been a day when the law enforcers did not get back home with an impressive catch, which has been both satisfying and extremely depressing for the nation, which is discovering just how much it has been looted from over the past few years.

Moreover, the job has turned into a truly international project as teams from the United Kingdom and the U.S. stepped in earlier this month to help trace international operations of Ukraine’s corrupt elite, many of whom already face travel and economic sanctions and asset freezes by the European Union, the U.S. and a few other countries.

Bounty hunters, the lawyers who specialize in asset recovery, are digging into company documents in exotic destinations anywhere from North Africa to Central America.

In the meantime, journalists at home continue combing through files found in presidential real estate Mezhyhirya and gluing back together shredded documents from the offices of Serhiy Kurchenko, a young former billionaire whose companies served as a front for the business activities of the president and his family.  Investigators have uncovered Kurchenko’s gas trading schemes that robbed the state treasury of $1 billion.

This link has pictures of the loot:

Then there is Mr. 50%, Yanukovych, himself.  

This blog post in the Financial Times explains how Yanukovych rose from being a small time government gangster in the Donetsk region to establishing mafia-like control of the entire country.

Once Yanukovych became Prime Minister in 2002, he was in a position to provide cover for his “friends” for which he charged them a mere 50%.  Because Government officials are immune from prosecution under Ukrainian law, The Party of Regions became popular after the Orange Revolution for former Kuchma era officials and oligarchs who wanted protection, initially from the Yushchenko election campaign slogan of ‘Bandits to prison!’ and then from Yulia Tymoshenko’s anti-elite populism. Once they were elected as Deputies or had friends who were in a position to protect them, they were safe.

Documents found in Yanukovich’s ostentatious Mezhihirya palace, first-hand evidence from businessmen who had been corporate raided and interviews provided by business leaders all point to his long-established rule of a 50 per cent tribute in return for providing a krysha (roof). After Yanukovich fled Ukraine, Dmytro Oliynyk , the deputy head of the executive council of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine spoke about the 50 per cent rule having become the norm ‘in recent years’. (See link above for how it worked).

To see pictures of ONE of his homes, the famous (infamous) Mezhyhirya, just Google it under images.  There are scores of great picture and more added every day as investigators continue to go through his house.

Which brings us to Mr. Putin and his life as a galley slave for Russian people.

"As for my personal perception, I am not ashamed before the citizens who voted for me. All these eight years I worked like a galley slave, to spare no effort.  I am happy with the results"

An organization in Russia put together a booklet of Putin’s luxury items from estates and palaces to ships to watches called “Life of a Galley Slave”.  
Here are some examples with photographs of the 20 palaces, villas and residences at President Putin’s disposal including a $1 billion dollar palace at Sochi.

Here is the original Life of a Galley Slave site in Russian but you can use Google translate to get a half decent English version.  I have seen a copy and you can download it from the site below as a PDF.

A few other pictures of his Sochi palace here:

Medvedev can’t begin to touch him as he has only this little cottage at Sochi

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukraine - The next move may be up to Yanukovych

The EuroMaidan Revolution has spawned an entire cottage industry of pundits trying to second guess Putin's next move.  According to latest US intelligence troops are massed along the full length of Ukraine's eastern border and that it is only a matter of time.

1. We know Putin does not consider Ukraine a real country and has contempt for Ukrainian people.
2. We know he wants to rebuild the Russian Empire, having exchanged economic development (of which there is none) for nationalistic glory to keep the masses on his side, promoting himself as the savior of "Russian values" against "Western decadence" (read totalitarianism and Orthodox religion vs freedom and democracy).
3. We know he is really really choked at the West for ignoring him, at NATO for promising to protect former Russian colonies and at EU for offering economic development, political freedom and a future, which Russia does not.
4. We know that Russian military depends on imports of hardware from (mainly eastern) Ukraine.
5. We know that the mafia in (Crimea,) Odessa and Donetsk with strong connections to the Russian mob, cannot afford to allow any light to shine on their activities which are much better hidden under Russian overlord-ship than a democratic government in Ukraine and have been organizing and bankrolling much of the chaos in SE Ukraine which people had blamed on the FSB (the CIA are not the only organization to crawl in bed with the mob when it suits them).
6. We know that Russian speaking, though not ethnically Russian, Transdnistria has been agitating to join Russia.  It is another gangster run enclave, like Abkhazia, protected by Russian troops.

What is Putin waiting for? He doesn't have an excuse to invade, since no one seems to need his protection, no matter how hard folks try to stir up trouble.  Crimea was relatively easy.  So what will provide the "plausible" reason?

Ran into the best version on a Kazakhstan website the other day. It is most Machiavellian.  I loved it.

Putin is waiting for Yanukovych to recover from triple-bypass surgery.  He had a heart attack in Rostov-on-Don where he is hiding.  (There were rumours he had died but no such luck, I guess). When he is well, he will return to Ukraine, with the assistance of ex-Defense Minister Lebedev, to restore order with 30,000 people from "regional self-defense groups" armed with automatic weapons and equipped with the latest military technology, "financed by "oligarchs from the south-east" of the country.

(These "regional self-defense groups" will no doubt be similar to, if not containing many of the same people, as the ones that "liberated" Crimea).

The article notes that last weekend in a number of cities in Ukraine were rallies in support of Yanukovych with protesters in Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkov were carrying placards calling for the head of state to return.  Right, uh-huh.

Here is how I see it playing out.  Yanukovych shows up with his "self-defense" team of Russian troops in unmarked uniforms and "civil" war breaks out between the Ukrainian military and the invaders who are ostensibly "Ukrainians".  Some of them may well be.  Civil wars are rarely civil.  Putin suggested March 4th that invading Russian troops would use women and children as shields to make it difficult for the Ukrainian military to shoot. (The Germans tried that but it didn't bother Stalin; I expect that it would bother the Ukrainian military).

Regardless, civilians will die, atrocities will be committed.  Regardless of against whom, they will be presented on Russian TV as Russian civilians.  Putin will have "no choice" but to go in and stop the civil war to protect the Russian citizens.  He can roll the tanks to the Polish border, reinstate Yanukovych as president who will win the next presidential election likely be the same margins as the Crimean vote to reunite with Russia, complete with 123% turnouts as in Sevastopol. "Order" will be maintained by those same self-defense groups supported by Russian troops at the request of Yanukovych.

Welcome to the new Ukraine.  You can take articles like THIS and multiply it by 1000 to begin to have an idea what it will be like to live here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DEAR ABBY - take my mind off the news.

My thanks to my brother Stan at The English Cowpath for these.

You can’t make up this stuff .......................

Dear Abby,
A couple of women moved in across the hall from me. One is a middle-aged gym teacher and the other is a social worker in her mid-twenties. These two women go everywhere together, and I've never seen a man go into or leave their apartment. Do you think they could be Lebanese?

Dear Abby,
What can I do about all the Sex, Nudity, Fowl Language and Violence on my VCR?

Dear Abby,
I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It's getting expensive and I think my boyfriend should share half the cost, but I don't know him well enough to discuss money with him.

Dear Abby,
I've suspected that my husband has been fooling around, and when confronted with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again.

Dear Abby,
Our son writes that he is taking Judo. Why would a boy who was raised in a good Christian home turn against his own?

Dear Abby,
I joined the Navy to see the world. I've seen it. Now how do I get out?

Dear Abby,
My forty year old son has been paying a psychiatrist $50.00 an hour every week for two and a half years. He must be crazy.

Dear Abby,
I was married to Bill for three months and I didn't know he drank until one night he came home sober.

Dear Abby,
My mother is mean and short tempered I think she is going through mental pause.

Dear Abby,
You told some woman whose husband had lost all interest in sex to send him to a doctor. Well, my husband lost all interest in sex and he is a doctor. Now what do I do?

Dear Abby,
I have a man I can't trust. He cheats so much, I'm not even sure the baby I'm carrying is his. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ukraine - The Language Issue

The dominant language of every colony is that of the colonizer. One of the reasons English is the language of business around the world is that it was/is the dominant language of the British and now American empires.  When colonies break free of an empire they have a choice to make regarding language.  If they have a relatively homogeneous population with one native language, that is the one they will opt for, especially if it is different from the language of the colonizer and relations with the colonizer were less than friendly.

America, I read somewhere, almost chose German as their official language because it was the language of many of the colonists at the time and because it was NOT English.

The language of the Russian Empire was and is Russian.  Period.  It was imposed over time on the peoples of the Urals, Siberia, the Far East, the Caucuses, and the Central Asian 'Stans, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, the Baltics.  In many cases from time to time, other languages and cultures were rigorously surpressed. Post breakup of the USSR, many of these colonies declared independence and had to deal with ethnicity and language issues.

Kazakhstan, Stalin's favourite dumping ground for deported minorities, was 40% Russian, 40% Kazakh and 20% of about a dozen other ethnicities at independence in 1991.  (Currently it is about 64% Kazakh, 23% Russian and 13% other).  Nazarbayev had to walk a pretty fine line between the hothead Kazakhs who would like to run every Russian out of the country, given their historic treatment by Russia and the Russian population. who would like to see Russia take back about half the country arbitrarily included when Stalin drew up the borders.

Wikipedia says "Kazakhstan is officially a bilingual country: Kazakh, a Turkic language spoken natively by 64.4% of the population, has the status of the "state" language, while Russian, which is spoken by most Kazakhstanis, is declared the "official" language, and is used routinely in business, government, and inter-ethnic communication, although Kazakh is slowly replacing that. Education across Kazakhstan is conducted in either Kazakh or Russian or both".

Language in Ukraine is a huge and very complicated issue. The language of the empire is the language of privilege.  It is a constant reminder to the colony of the suffering it has endured at the hands of the colonizer.  Those remnants of the colonizers left behind view loss of their language not as a loss of privilege or a leveling of the field but as outright discrimination.  (Anyone who has tried to deal with White (Male) Privilege will understand).

There are two parts to this issue, language and ethnicity.  The 2001 census reported Ukrainian ethnicity at 77.5% and Russian ethnicity at 17.2%.  The map below shows the percentage of ethnic Ukrainians by Oblast on 2001.

Source: Wikipedia
This map shows the reverse of the above; percent of ethnic Russians by Oblast.


The picture takes on an even more Ukrainian appearance when one looks at ethnic Ukrainians at the Raion level in the map below. (Circles represent cities).
Source: Wikipedia

However Ukrainian ethnicity does not mean Ukrainian as first language. Only 67.5% of the population claim Ukrainian as their first language, while 29.6% claim Russian as their first language.  Voting tended to follow language lines, with the Russian speaking oblasts voting Party of Regions and Communist and Yanukovych and Ukrainian speaking oblasts voting Timoshenko and other Parties.

Source: Financial Post
Again, at the Raion level the picture is predominantly Ukrainian language, with Russian speakers concentrated in the cities and along the southeastern edge. Blue represents Ukrainian language with the dividing line between dark and light colours at the 80% level.

The article is HERE; another good article from the Washington Post is HERE

When Ukraine declared independence, Ukrainian was enshrined in the Constitution as the official language.  Because it had been repressed for so long, if both languages were made official, Russian would simply have overwhelmed it and Ukrainian would never have had a chance.  Virtually all Ukrainian speakers understand Russian (and vice versa, though Russian speakers sometimes pretend not to understand Ukrainian). Even today, the vast majority of publications on the news stands are in Russian, as are half the TV stations.  (Canadians will recall that Canadian content had to be legislated for Canadian TV and radio stations in order for Canada to develop any kind of cultural industry).

Russian speakers in Ukraine screamed discrimination.  Russian speakers listen to Russian TV and during elections, so it was easy to split the voters.  One of the reasons Yanukovych was elected president in 2010 was a promise to make Russia an official language. Another was that a great deal of money was put into scaring the Russian speakers about how they would be discriminated against etc etc by western Ukraine.  (He may be an SOB but he is our SOB).

The language law that Yanukovych passed entitled "any local language spoken by at least a 10% minority be declared official within that area" was based on the  European Charter of Regional Languages, originally written to protect minority languages in danger.  Obviously this was hardly the case but it allowed the bill to pass with a 50% plus one majority rather than the 75% needed to change the constitution. The bill was essentially a fraud.

One of the most serious mistakes of the new post-revolutionary Rada was to cancel Yanukovych's language law.  The president wisely refused to sign it but it played right into Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda which claimed that the fascist government would forbid people to even speak Russian.

Ukraine - now THAT's a boycott

Russia has begun to make life economically miserable for Ukraine; stopping trucks at the border; raiding, then closing a Roshen (Proroshenko's) chocolate factory in Russia; raising gas prices to $500 per 1000 cubic meters, $150 more than they charge Europe.

Ukrainians have begun to boycott Russian goods, assuming they can find any. But the best boycott of all takes its cue from a 2400 year old civil action in Athens.  Called "Don't give it to Russian men", Ukrainian women are banding together to withhold sex from Russian men.  Complete with website and T-shirt.
The poster girls are are prominent professionals (and not of the “oldest” variety). There is Katerina Venzhik (left), chief editor of the news website Delo.UA, and Irina Rubis (right), CEO of the business web portal Ekonomika Communication Hub

Canada better not do anything to annoy Ukraine.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Ukraine – Counting Crimea’s Cost

Tanya and I are pretty much in a brown funk.  We have crawled in a mental hole and pulled the hole in after us.  Our niece Sveta said she has stopped reading everything.  I would love to but am glued to the computer.  I have run out of freebies on The Economist, Foreign Affairs, Financial Post, New York Times, Washington Post and several others. So I send the story names to friends and get the articles back.  Also articles linked in the Kyiv Post don’t count, I guess and I can read them for free.

If Putin planned on scaring the crap out of people, he has succeeded. He says he has no more designs on Ukraine.  Right.  How far can you bounce an anvil in a swamp? Trust him that far.  The Russian military buildup along our border continues.  Hitler and Stalin are not just names from history books.  In this part of the world they were real people with real actions and real consequences.  When taxi-drivers in Dnipro start dropping those names, you know the whole country is worried.

No one knows what Putin will do next.  Every pundit on the planet has a different version.  He is just sitting waiting to see what the EU and USA will do.  They need to do enough to be noticed but not so much that they have nothing left for his next move.  At least America has done something.  The EU is another story, though they are certainly helping Ukraine.

Sanctions per se don’t hurt much but they kind of make the business world sit up and take notice.  So far that is hurting far worse, interest rates up, loan negotiations cancelled, ruble down, etc.  The oligarchs have a great deal to worry about but if they object to Putin’s policies, they will end up like others before them: dead, in jail or bankrupt.  Oligarchs do NOT run Russia; Putin and only Putin does.

At the same time, incorporating Crimea itself will not be cheap.  The narrow land bridge with the mainland happens to end in Ukraine (so far).  Electricity, water, gas, food and consumer goods all come from Ukraine.  A bridge across the 4.5 km Kerch Strait will run 4 or 5 billion; an electrical station another 1.5 to 2.5 billion; overhauling the port at Sevastopol 10+ billion; rebuilding the entire water canal from the Dnipro river along with all the irrigation system unknown.  Best estimate, (throwing in corruption, since Crimea is a hot bed of crime anyhow and the new “president” nicknamed “The Goblin” is associated with various criminal activities), is another Sochi or $50 billion, which Russia doesn’t have.

The value of Crimean offshore oil and gas has supposedly raised the value of Gazprom $50 billion, so maybe it is a break even.  Certainly if it weren’t for the oil and gas, Ukraine is better off without Crimea.  Seizure of Ukrainian national property might be used by Ukraine to write off several billion dollars of Russian debt as well.  Who the winners are is up for grabs but the losers are the Crimeans; and the Crimean Tatars most of all. 

There are already threats by Crimean Russians to take back their land and run them off.  As Putin uses Russian Nationalism as part of his bag of tricks at home, xenophobia is rising rabidly against new targets (migrants from Central Asia and the Caucuses, gays) and old targets (people with dark skin, Jews, ethnic Chinese, Gypsies). “Over the last year, the percentage of residents of the Russian Federation who support the slogan “Russia for the Russians” has risen from 56 percent to 66 percent, and the share of the population who favors expelling immigrants rather than helping them adapt has gone up from 64 percent to 73 percent,  according to the Levada Center”.

Why is Putin doing this?  According to his speech last Tuesday to the Russian Duma, he is mad as hell and not going to take it any more.  Apparently he feels miffed that the evil West ignores him, is plotting against him and so forth.  His speech contained enough lies, bullshit and disinformation, you would think it was written by Fox News. 

There are two good explanations; one or both may be right.  Russia tends to see things only from a Zero-Sum or Win-Lose perspective.  It is impossible for them to conceive that a country could trade with both the EU (and the rest of the world) and with Russia.  Russia is terrified of NATO.  In fact the Cold War was brought to you 50% by Stalin’s fear of NATO and 50% by American propaganda telling us how terrible and fearful the Communists were so they could expand their own empire while “protecting” us.

Now NATO was established to protect us from the USSR.  It really doesn’t need more countries to protect, however the countries which broke free from Moscow at the dissolution of the Soviet Union were/are desperate to get into NATO, to make sure they never again fall under Russian rule.

U.S. Ambassador George F. Kennan (the “Father of Containment” during the Cold War) described Russia’s mid-century foreign policy this way: “The jealous and intolerant eye of the Kremlin can distinguish, in the end, only vassals and enemies, and the neighbors of Russia, if they do not wish to be one, must reconcile themselves to being the other.”  Russia had been behaving that way long before Kennan figured it out, and it’s still behaving that way today.

Vladimir Putin isn’t a communist, but he is a product of the Soviet Union—he worked counter-intelligence in the KGB and spied on foreigners and diplomats in Saint Petersburg—and his view of Russia’s neighbors is no different now than it was then.

So when Ukraine could no longer tolerate being Putin’s vassal and overthrew his proxy Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine instantly moved into the “enemy” column and is being treated accordingly.  What he most fears is that Ukraine might join NATO, removing yet another buffer state between himself and the West and kiboshing his plans for the Eurasian Union, a euphemism for a 21st century Russian empire.

The second theory is that since the Russian economy is going/gone to Hell, Putin needed a diversion and someone to blame.  In his speech, he bluntly stated in so many words that those who disagree with him are traitors

The state of the Russian economy, especially in the regions, meaning 100 kilometers in any direction from Moscow with the exception of St. Petersburg, is horrid.  The corruption has eroded so much of the country’s infrastructure, health and education systems that much of the country is literally held together with duct tape. Hard currency received for gas and oil is the only thing propping the entire scheme up, and Putin knows better than anyone that this state of affairs is unsustainable. He could have invested in the country’s development, but didn’t, since a developed, democratic Russia would have no place for a president-for-life.  Instead, he built the largest kleptocratic apparatus in the world, with which abuses of the Viktor Yanukovych regime simply pale in comparison. By now, this kleptocratic machine has gained so much momentum that it cannot be stopped until it crashes. Being a pragmatist, Putin clearly understands this landscape.

So how can a leader, with an economy sliding off the skids and heading towards a cliff, preserve his power? No amount of propaganda would keep an impoverished population facing the prospect of no future, in check. Eventually, and inevitably, the level of discontent would grow beyond a manageable level, and Putin would have to deal with it. In his book that means cracking down, hard. Whether the crackdown succeeded or not, it would be a no-win situation for him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ukraine - More Good LInks

I just found this one today.  Don't know anything about the author Paul Goble but he is certainly well informed and writes with authority.  Warning - there are hours of reading on this blog site but well worth it.

Window on Eurasia

This one from The Moscow Times is a one pager of explanation for the names that Ukraine and Ukrainians are called by Russians and in the Russian media.  You can tell by the terms of endearment how Ukrainians are viewed and guess from that what is likely to be the fate of this country should it end up back under Moscow's heel.

How to Interpret Ukraine's Turmoil

This is a better version of the Bandera story I tried to explain in a previous post.  Understanding this is critical to understanding the whole load of Russian propaganda around Ukrainian "fascists" and so forth.  Since Putin's regime is fascist and since there are several extreme nationalist organizations in Russia, one would think they would see the humour in it but I guess not.

Getting To Know Stepan Bandera And What He Means For Ukraine’s Fight With Russia

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ukraine – In Search of an Honest Man

There is no good reason to assume we will survive this coming week; that Putin will not invade Ukraine and push his military to the pre-1939 borders of Ukraine and install his own puppet ruler in Kyiv (with two brain cells, one more than Yanukovych).  There is ample precedent over recent years, of other empires doing just that.  Who will stop him short of an outright war?  Ukraine is not (yet) a member of NATO and even that didn’t help Georgia?  What will happen to Russia?  Sanctions having already been threatened to the max over Crimea will be no worse, one way or another.  An outright trade embargo is possibly but not likely.  NO ONE is talking about it in the Western Press or even here in the English Ukrainian press.  If we don’t say the words…

Note: I lied, The Guardian has a story.

However, one might as well be an optimist.  Assuming Ukraine survives the next week, the Ukrainians who are left will continue dealing with an old problem.  Diogenes would have his work cut out for him in Ukraine as much as in Greece.  The Revolution may not be over.

The Euromaidan Revolution was not a large P political event in that it was not driven by politicians as was the Orange Revolution of 2004.  It was grassroots. Political parties participated it in but certainly did not control it, (though certainly people have now rallied to the inheritors of the UPA mantle in the midst of crises).  People were and are simply fed up with the corrupt politics that has held Ukraine back for the past 20 years while countries like Poland have surged ahead.

Ukraine has been run by oligarchs since independence.  Things were bad under Kuchma.  Yanukovych, his handpicked successor, “won” the 2004 presidential election by such blatant cheating that it brought the people onto the street in support of Yushchenko, supported by Timoshenko.  Yushchenko won in a new clean election.  But…nothing changed

The oligarchs continued to call the shots; reforms promised did not/were not allowed to happen; corruption flourished and the economy continued to shrink.  The rich got richer as politicians and bureaucrats fed at the trough.  By the time his term was over, people loathed Yushchenko and pretty much all politicians.  They were leery of Timoshenko too, so Yanukovych, aided by millions of Russian dollars, won the election in 2010.  People figured he couldn’t be any worse, I guess.

Euromaidan has not been disbanded, has not gone home, with the ouster of Yanukovych.  They are staying put until the government is seen as doing its job, which will certainly be after the May presidential election and perhaps longer.  If needs be, they say they will clean house again, until reforms are enacted, until corruption is cleaned up.  

The current government is acting only.  Those Deputies, who didn’t run for their lives, (and who still constitute a legal quorum) are all part of the old crowd, many from the Yushchenko/Timoshenko government.  There are some new faces in the Cabinet of Ministers but too many of the same old same old, up to the same old tricks.

This story from the Globe and Mail a few days back illustrates the situation I speak of.
Dr. Olga Bogomolets is no ordinary revolutionary. She comes from a long line of doctors, so renowned in Ukraine that one of the country’s leading medical schools is named after her great-grandfather. She’s also a popular singer, art collector and founder of a prestigious dermatology and cosmetology clinic.

The new government brought “in a few new faces, but our goal was not to change the faces,” she said. “We are just coming back to what was before, just a different picture, a little bit of a different picture.”

Her first experiences with the new leadership did not go well. Just after Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia last month, opposition party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk began forming a new government and his officials offered Dr. Bogomolets the position of minister of health. She said she would only accept if she could bring in her own team, conduct a thorough audit of the operations and adopt European Union standards of transparency to stamp out rampant corruption.
“The next day in [private] the politicians told each other that I refused,” she said. She also discovered that most of the senior positions in the department had already been filled with political allies, meaning she would have had no real control. A few days later when Mr. Yatsenyuk was about to climb on a giant stage at the square to announce his cabinet to the crowds, he turned to Dr. Bogomolets and offered her the post of vice-prime minister of humanitarian affairs. She declined, knowing that once again all of the department positions had been filled and she would have been merely a token.

On another subject, Dr. Olga Bogomolets says she did not tell the Estonian Foreign Minister that the protesters were in cahoots with the snipers, what she said was people were killed by snipers, not just ordinary gunfire.  She said she did not see any police officers who were killed so could not have made any comparison.  

The best explanation for the snipers firing on both sides was given in this article.

The new health minister Oleh Musiy also claims that the snipers were shooting protesters and police: The government's new health minister — a doctor who helped oversee medical treatment for casualties during the protests — told The Associated Press that the similarity of bullet wounds suffered by opposition victims and police indicates the shooters were trying to stoke tensions on both sides and spark even greater violence, with the goal of toppling Yanukovych.
"I think it wasn't just a part of the old regime that (plotted the provocation), but it was also the work of Russian special forces who served and maintained the ideology of the (old) regime," Musiy said. He also claimed that the temporary hospital at Maidan treated not only protesters but three wounded police so Dr. Bogomolets would have had access to wounded police if not dead ones.

For up-to-date links on Crimea and Ukraine in crisis:

The Crimean referendum’s neo-Nazi observers

Russia unleashes demons (Winnipeg Free Press)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ukraine – Stepan Bandera and the Nazis

Russian propaganda speaking points continue to be mouthed by western press which ought to know better but are influenced by the “America is the source of ALL evil on the planet” folks.  Yanukovych was legally elected in a clean election.  This did not give him Carte Blanche to commit crimes of the magnitude he did.  Impeaching him was impossible.  Voting him out of office would have been impossible as the laws passed in January which turned Ukraine into Putinesque police state would have been passed prior to the election anyhow, allowing him to “win” and putting the full weight of the “law” on anyone who so much as whimpered.

The negotiated compromise that Putin and Lavrov claim met all the demands of the protesters and failure to observe “proved that the West doesn’t keep agreements” did not meet with approval from Euromaidan, regardless of who signed it.  It moved the presidential election a couple of months forward but left Yanukovych in office.  Ukraine was to have returned to the 2004 Constitution from (illegally) reverting to the 1996 Constitution but Yanukovych did not sign that document.  Everyone knew that as long as he was in power, no one was safe.  He had to go…and he went in the middle of the night, after trying to dispose of evidence and failing to dispose of all of it.

Then there is the whole business of “neo-Nazi” extremists.  Western media are enjoying as much righteous indignity as the church ladies committee on hearing the town had just licenced a brothel.  The Russians just love the fact that several far right parties from Western Ukraine were involved in the revolution (it was NOT a coup) as it plays so well into old Soviet propaganda that all Russians are familiar with and they can use “The Nazi’s are coming to get you” to frighten old women and small children. 

Some understanding of history is necessary to appreciate this.  Western Ukraine, after WWI, became part of Poland BY FORCE.  The Polish Ukrainian war of 1918-1919 between Poland and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic (declared in 1918) resulted in a Polish win.  This was followed by the Polish –Soviet war of 1920.  Combined Polish and Ukrainian army pushed the Bolsheviks back to Kyiv, intent on creating an independent Ukraine under Polish suzerainty. The Soviets regrouped and pushed the Poles back almost to Warsaw and besieged L’viv.  The Poles were able to halt the Bolshevik advance and push them out of western Ukraine when the Bolsheviks sued for peace and Poland decided they had enough.

This series of events did nothing to endear Poles to Ukrainians or Ukrainians and Poles to the Soviet Union.  The Polish government instituted a number of severe measure to repress Ukrainian Nationalism and of course, the Holodomor was intended to destroy any vestiges of Ukrainian Nationalism in Soviet Ukraine

I have mentioned Stepan Bandera before but now a bit more detail.  He was a Ukrainian Nationalist from Western Ukraine, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), organizing in Western and Eastern Ukraine in the early 30’s. Involved in an assassination plot against the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs, he was caught and jailed for life by the Poles in 1934.  He was released (by whom is unknown) when the Soviets invaded and occupied eastern Poland, including western Ukraine in September 1939.  He went to Krakow, which was under the Nazis, seeking support from the German military to throw out the Soviets from Ukraine.

As soon as the Germans pushed the Soviets out of Ukraine in 1941, he declared an independent Ukraine.  This did not sit well with the Nazis who promptly threw him in jail.  While he was in jail, his organization set out to ethnically cleanse western Ukraine of Poles, murdering some 50 to 150,000, at the same time defending Ukrainians in Poland from the same fate. 

They were also involved in collaboration with the Nazis in rounding up Jews, claiming that they were the “supporters of the true enemy, Soviet Moscow”.  But the OUN also included Jews and issued fake passports to Jews.  They harmed or helped Jews depending on where they stood with Germany at the time. 

The UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) was the military wing of the OUN.  Its battle flag was red and black.  The UPA began as a resistance group and developed into a guerrilla army.  It fought against the Poles and the Soviets as their main enemies, then against the Nazis from 1943 to 1944, then with the Nazis against the Soviet army, continuing to fight after the Germans were driven out. 

As with any partisan warfare, atrocities were committed by both sides against civilians. Between 1944 and 1952 Soviets arrested and tortured possibly up to 600,000 people in western Ukraine, executing 1/3 of them and exiling or imprisoning the rest.  The UPA returned in kind.  The Soviets finally won by infiltrating the groups of fighters with NKVD informers and by the early 1950s the UPA was finished.

The Soviet union propaganda machine went into overdrive to vilify all Ukrainian Nationalists as Nazis who committed horrible atrocities to Soviet citizens etc.  Bandera was their poster boy villain, reviled only next to Hitler I think.  Western Ukraine (and many Ukrainians) regard him as a hero.  Russia and most Russians in Ukraine, regard him, shall we say, very negatively.  Yushchenko declared him a Hero of Ukraine and Russia went ballistic.  Yanukovych undeclared him.

To Russians and many eastern Ukrainians of Russian nationality, western Ukrainians are ALL neo-Nazis and they are only too happy to believe anything that they are told about them.  The fact that several Nationalist political parties are centered there, some of them quite extreme though with little popular support, makes it all that much easier to believe the Nazis have come again. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ukraine – No War Until Monday

If there is any shooting to be done, it is not likely to happen before Monday, after the Crimean “Referendum”.  The Baltic states having been through this kind of referendum under Stalin in 1940 are watching with increased nervousness as they know that eventually they too will be “next in line” for the re-expanded Russian empire.

In Crimea, journalists are beaten, their equipment confiscated and at least one reported as disappeared. Leaders of pro-Ukraine groups are also reported as disappeared.  One phoned his secretary to say “Goodbye.  They have come for me”.  He has not since answered his mobile.

This from the NY Times:
In Chornomorskoye, the situation was tenser. A mix of about 20 local pro-Russian police officials and unidentified men in camouflage and ski masks abruptly intervened in an interview between two reporters and a local man.
The men demanded to know if the reporters were pro-Russian, then confiscated their notebooks and tore out any pages with writing on them. “We will translate these,” one of them said, pocketing the pages and handing back the now-blank notebooks.  They also examined the photographs in digital cards in a photographer’s cameras.
They clustered menacingly around the local man and said, “You keep giving interviews and you will end up in prison in Sevastopol,” the city on the peninsula’s southern shore that part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet uses as a home port.
The only messages allowed are those which are pro reunification with Russia.  I saw an example of this in Moscow during a “Pro-Crimean Unification” march which was being covered by Ukrainian television.  Someone on the edge of the march unfurled a “No War In Ukraine” sign and was immediately jumped by police officers.

When I was at Andrei’s the other day I watched a video of the Ukrainian military moving into position in Kherson Oblast which is the only land connection to Crimea via a narrow isthmus. We also watched a video of a long train of Russian tanks headed through Rostov on Don for the Ukrainian border.  Remember that practice troop maneuver a few weeks ago followed by Putin declaring that it was over and they could go home?  Well, they didn’t.

Parubiy estimates that more than 80,000 Russian troops have amassed along the Ukrainian border, along with as many as 270 tanks, 180 armored combat vehicles, 380 pieces of artillery, 18 rocket launchers, 140 combat aircraft, 90 military helicopters and 19 combat boats and ships. (Kyiv Post)

Ukraine has only 6,000 combat ready troops and no plans to deal with a Russian invasion.  A New 20,000 National Guard is being formed to patrol the border in the SE.

Russia likes to claim the country is in anarchy and chaos, though the truth is that there is no anarchy or chaos except in the SE cause by Russian “tourists” bussed in to create havoc.  Yesterday Ukrainian border guards refused entry to 3700 Russians they deemed were part of this.  Security agents have arrested Russian saboteurs preparing to plant explosives in Donetsk region.  Odessa and Kherson are also vulnerable, sharing borders with Moldovia’s Transnistria which is “protected by the Russian army”.

This commenter on a story from the Kyiv Post was interesting

So why has Putin Invaded Ukraine if he is lying to the Russians and Crimeans about doing so? Newly Discovered Oil Deposits under the Black sea! Newly discovered natural gas along the Easter Rivers of Ukraine! Yes we must fight his propaganda, but, we must also show his greedy underbelly, and the truth of why he is violently invading Ukraine. To liberate Russian speakers from an unstable Government?! HA!! He strikes for Oil. Crimea is surrounded by a HUGE Oil reserve under the black sea, which was Ukraine Sovereign Waters, now Russia controls that Area if Crimea goes Russian. Billions of cubic meters of Oil, waiting to be extracted. Development had only just started, when Ukraine Granted a consortium of Oil companies the go ahead to start Developing the Region. Romania already has their oil rig working, and its pulling Thousands of Metric meters of Oil per day. Experts say that Ukraine would be independent in oil from Russia in 3 years. Debt gone by 5. This not only threatens Putin and Russia with their monopoly on Ukraine Oil, as Ukraine gets most of their oil from Russia, but it would mean and end to them needing Russia’s oil, and Ukraine would be selling in competition. The move to take Crimea and make it Russian, not only ends the potential competition, but gives Russia the Oil reserves under the Black Sea, and the 50 years or more of billions of meters of Oil. Danger is, that they may want the Natural Gas being discovered in Eastern Ukraine now, along the Dnepr river systems. That’s 1/2 of Ukraine gone.

From Kyiv Post.  The truth is somewhat different, of course.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking my mind off the news

Thanks to my friend Ken for this brilliant piece of mathematical wizardry.

What  Makes 100%?
What does it mean to give MORE  than 100%?
Ever wonder about those people  who say they are giving more than 100%? We have  all been to those meetings where someone wants you  to give over 100%.
How about achieving  103%?
But what makes up 100% in life?
Here's a little mathematical formula that  might help you answer these questions: 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W  X Y Z 
are represented as: 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25  26. 

8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11  = 98%  

11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5  = 96%  

But  ,
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5  = 100%  

2+21+12+12+19+8+9+20  = 103%  

AND,  look how far ass kissing will take you.
1+19+19+11+9+19+19+9+14+7  =118%  

So,  one can conclude with mathematical certainty, that  whileHard work and Knowledge will get you  close, and Attitude  will  get you there, its  the  Bullshit  and Ass  Kissing  that will put you over the  top.  
 Now  you know why some people are where they  are!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ukraine - Russia’s War on Ukraine

This is lifted directly from Accuracy in Media.  It is as near as I can figure a right wing site.  My apologies. As a rule I never read them, operating on the knowledge that they are usually full of lies and propaganda.  However I have learned to my disappointment and disgust that the left wing sites are also full of lies and propaganda.  Truth is where you find it.

If this reads very strange to you, remember it is likely the first time you have read Ukrainian History written by Ukrainians from a Ukrainian point of view.  Mostly we have been inundated with the Russian version of Ukrainian history.  I have read enough history to know that most of this is true.  There are parts I am not sure of simply because I have gaps in my knowledge.

Which of the following are statements by Vladimir Putin, his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov or other Kremlin spokesmen, and which are by Western media, academics, politicians and commentators: “Ukraine and Russia share deep historical and cultural roots,” “Russia traces its 1,000 year history to its beginnings in Kiev,” “Ukraine is really ‘Little Russia,’” “the Russian Orthodox Church originated in Kiev,” “thousand years of Russian Christianity,” “Ukraine is a part of Russia,” “Russia and Ukraine are not separate countries,” “Russia is a thousand-year-old state,” “Kievan Russia was the beginning of the modern Russia,” and “Ukrainians and Russians are brotherly nations?”
There is no distinction between who said any of the above. Each statement has been repeated, for a century in the United States and longer by the Kremlin. Such remarkable unanimity reflects either recognition of the same historical record, or the recognition of the same historical mythology. If the latter, how and why in American academe and politics is that mythology declared with such certitude by those who should know better, thereby facilitating a historical hologram?
The question, and answer, are central to conceptualizing not just an informed American “response,” but a policy, addressing Russia’s drive to completely suborn—and possibly annex—Ukraine, thereby directly and materially affecting American security and foreign policy interests.
What is Ukraine?
On the periphery of most peoples’ awareness, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe by territory, located in the geographic center of the European subcontinent. It is the land, wrote English historian Norman Davies, through which most peoples passed on their way to settle the rest of Europe, and to become the nations and countries that we know today.
In the Middle Ages, the Kyivan Rus’ (not Kyivan “Russia”—more below) Imperial Dynasty was the largest political entity in Europe. Following Kyiv’s adoption of Christianity from Byzantium, the precursor of modern Ukraine became a powerhouse of intellectual discourse, religion, and cultural life.  In its size, grandeur and advancement of education (mandatory for women), in its equal rights for women, in the arts and the sciences, Kyiv eclipsed other European cities such as Paris and London. European kings and the English monarchy married into the Kyivan Dynasty. Among them, King Henry I of France married Princess Anna of Kyiv; she signed her name to the marriage document, he used an “X.” The Gospel she brought from Kyiv was used in the coronation of French kings for centuries. The French historian Levesques wrote about the marriage, quoting Bishop Gautier Saveraux who was King Henry’s envoy to Kyiv: “This land is more unified, happier, stronger and more civilized than France itself.” The trident was the official state insignia of Kyivan Rus,’ stamped on its coins, and continued as the national symbol of modern Ukraine through the intervening 1,000 years (the significance of this appears below).
“Russia” at that time did not exist, and had as its antecedents Finno-Ugric tribes that separately evolved into scattered principalities in the north that rejected Kyiv’s dominion. Most telling was their sacking and rejection of Kyiv in 1169 that was not matched until the city’s destruction by the Mongol Horde a hundred years later. The Kyivan Rus’ Empire collapsed with the latter onslaught, but in the process shielded the rest of Europe from the same fate.
The Kyivan center of power refused Mongol domination and relocated to the western part of the realm. However, the territories on its northern periphery, now Russia, reconciled themselves to Mongol rule and collaborated intimately with it. For almost half a millennium thereafter, the two existed in separate religious, cultural and political worlds. The imperial core and its northerly possessions went their separate, entirely opposite ways.
For 400 years, “Moscovy” (and then a newly constituted “Russia”) expanded its own burgeoning empire at the rate of 50 square miles per day. Ukraine was eventually conquered and occupied. Its religious and cultural treasures were pillaged and ensconced in Russian museums, to be marketed to a breathless, star-dazed world as Russia’s own. The parallel would have been England, France, Germany, Spain, or Israel (all territories of the Roman Empire) later building their own empire, conquering Italy, carting off to their museums Italian (and, previously, ancient Roman) treasures and cultural works, and then simply producing them as examples of English, French, Germany, Spanish or Israeli (take your pick) cultural achievements. In exchange, Italians would be anointed as “Little Englishmen,” “Little Frenchmen,” and the like. Under such a contorted construct, this would then serve as the kind of “common history” between England, France, Germany, Spain, Israel, etc., on the one hand, and today’s Italy on the other, that today is affirmed with such sophomoric abandon vis a vis Ukraine and Russia.
In 1608, a Ukrainian, Ivan Bohdan, helped John Smith found Jamestown, the first English settlement in the New World. A few years earlier, Smith was fighting the Turks, was captured but then escaped and was given refuge in Ukraine. Later in the 17th century, Ukrainian Kozaks were pivotal to breaking the Turkish siege of Vienna, thereby halting the Ottoman Empire’s advance into Europe. In 1710, Ukraine offered the world a constitution that established a democratically ordered system of checks and balances among three branches of government, drawing on principles of natural law. This was 77 years before the adoption of the U.S. Constitution incorporating the same principles.
Ukraine’s Struggle
After WWI, Ukraine declared independence from the Russian Empire, and warned the West about Moscow’s threat to all it held dear, to no avail. No humanitarian aid, no surplus blankets or medicines from what for the rest of Europe and the U.S. was a recently completed war. Ukraine fought, alone, against four invaders, as Europe and the U.S. looked on. Kyiv changed hands 14 times in two years.
There was no room for Ukraine in Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points.’’ (Point Six, dealing with “Russia,” was prepared in consultation with Russia’s U.S. Ambassador Bakhmetieff.)  Instead Ukraine was quartered, with the lion’s share reserved for Moscow. Reconquered by now a Communist Russia, Ukraine was pivotal to the formation of the reconstituted Russian Empire, now the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” Ukraine served as the economic and industrial locomotive, the agricultural cornucopia, and the geopolitical linchpin of that “union.”
In the process, Ukraine was savaged by mass murder, war crimes, recreational torture, atrocities, arson, rapacious plunder, kidnapping, massacres, homicidal russification, experimental assassinations, ethnocide, pillage, rape, ethnic cleansing, mass executions, death ships, murder quotas, stupefying terror, thought crime, and man-made starvation killing countless millions of innocents in 1932-33, in what Ukrainians call the “Holodomor.” On May 31, 1933, Gradenigo, the Italian consul in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv during the height of the man-made famine, reported to the Royal Italian Embassy in Moscow his discussion with a senior OGPU secret police officer who advised that 10-15 million starvation murders were required to tame, in the OGPU’s words, Ukraine’s “ethnographic material.” Not a nation. Not people. Not human beings. Just “ethnographic material.” Hitler’s term was untermenchen.
Reporting further, Gradenigo said the government strived to ensure that “Russians would constitute the majority of the population” in certain regions of Ukraine, and thus assure that potential political difficulties would be removed. The Italian consul concluded: “However monstrous and incredible such a plan might appear, it should nevertheless be regarded as authentic and well underway…The current disaster will bring about a predominantly Russian colonization of Ukraine. It will transform its ethnographic character. In a future time, perhaps very soon, one will no longer be able to speak of a Ukraine, or a Ukrainian people, and thus not even of a Ukrainian problem, because Ukraine will become a de facto Russian region.” It is the offal of that tectonic ethnic cleansing that underlies the “split” in Ukraine, mouthed with such obliviousness as to its cause.
The murder rate was 25,000 civilians a day, or some 20% of Ukraine’s population. By comparison, the U.S. suffered 297 military deaths per day during WWII, accounting for 0.3% of its population.
Moscow was ecstatic: “We have annihilated the nationalist counter-revolution during the past year we have exposed and destroyed nationalist deviationalism…1933 was the year of the overthrow of the Ukrainian nationalist counterrevolution.” More: “Acknowledging the great amount of work put…into the fight against Ukrainian nationalist and other counter-revolutionary elements, work which has not ceased and which shall not cease, we must say that of course we gave the nationalists a beating, a good one, as the saying goes, we hit the spot.” Is this the “common history” between the Kremlin and Kyiv that today the media and others put forth as underpinning Russia’s claims to Ukraine?
Shockingly, as the Holodomor was interring its millions, on November 16, 1933, the United States extended diplomatic recognition to Stalin, granting him his most coveted prize, and in the eyes of the world legitimizing and abetting his tyranny. Speaking in New York on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Holodomor, Rafael Lemkin, author and father of the UN Genocide Convention, condemned Russia’s ongoing genocide in Ukraine as reaching beyond the “mere” extermination of beings, and targeting the erasure of the nation’s very ethos, its culture and core sense of identity and very existence. Nine years after the Holodomor, Nazi Germany turned on its joint-venture partner, Stalin, as 3,200,000 German, Hungarian, Rumanian, Italian, Finnish, Spanish and Slovakian troops invaded the USSR, with Ukraine as simultaneously the prize and the crucible. (By comparison, on D Day, the Allies’ invasion of Normandy involved 132,000 troops.)
Russia itself was barely touched by the invasion. However, the entirety of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic nations were overrun. Ukrainians defied Hitler to his face, declaring independence upon its invasion by the Nazis. The consequences were predictable. Ukraine was one of the few countries in all of Nazi occupied Europe to be ruled directly from Berlin, as it had no puppet government as did Quisling’s Norway or Petain’s Vichy France, nor did it have a fascist party like those not only in Norway and Hungary, but also the tiny countries of Holland, Belgium and Denmark.
The Saturday Evening Post’s Edgar Snow wrote: “The whole titanic struggle, which some are so apt to dismiss as ‘the Russian glory,’ was first of all a Ukrainian war. No single European country suffered deeper wounds to its cities, its industry and its humanity.” Ukraine lost more than nine million of its population, the greatest human loss of any country in WWII, wrote English historian Norman Davies; more losses than the combined military losses of the United States, the British Commonwealth, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy. This was even more horrific than the comparison suggests, since more than half of Ukraine’s losses were civilians. An additional more than two million Ukrainians were deported as slave laborers to Germany.
Toward the end and after WWII, U.S. and British troops, in an unholy alliance with Stalin’s NKVD, hunted down Holodomor survivors in Europe, forcibly returning them to Stalin. “Without regard to their personal wishes and by force if necessary” was the repatriation order of January 4, 1946, of the Headquarters, U.S. Armed Forces, European Theatre. Having survived two tyrants, the Ukrainians found themselves the prey of a country they had worshipped. Preceded by countless suicides among the refugees, untold numbers that were captured and returned, then murdered outright or in the GULAG by Moscow. In the meantime, in reoccupied Ukraine, after battling first the Nazis the Ukrainian underground fought reinvading Soviet interior security forces numbering more troops than the U.S. fielded in Vietnam, many armed and equipped by the U.S.
The hopeless struggle continued into the 1950s, with the sabotage by the Ukrainian resistance of Soviet troop transports carrying Soviet troops to crush the Hungarian uprising in 1956. In 1986, without a say about the placement of nuclear energy facilities or any control over their design, construction or operation, Ukraine suffered the Chernobyl explosion—one hundred times the radiation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined—that has deformed the genetic makeup of its victims. Forever.
In the face of U.S. opposition, in 1991, Ukraine declared its independence from Moscow, with over 90% public ratification. Predictably, but weeks later the USSR disintegrated, and the U.S. ironically declared victory. The Cold War was “over,” we were told. Upon gaining its independence, Ukraine became the third largest nuclear power in the world but, induced by assurances from Great Britain, the U.S.—and Russia!—concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity, surrendered its arsenal. This was a phenomenon never to be repeated. Nor are those assurances today honored.
“…and Why Didn’t I Know That?”
The origin of perceptions about Ukraine and Russia that are repeated like a litany in equal measure by Russia and the U.S., and the question and answer above, are pivotal to assessing the situation in Ukraine today and Russia’s relentless dezinformatsia. Whether articulated or not, these concepts have become so embedded in Western thinking that they lead to the notion that Ukraine is not a nation separate from Russia, that somehow the two are the same (that they share a “common history”), that Ukraine simply splintered off from the larger Russia and is off on a frolic of its own, that it is not a “regular” country such as Poland, France or Italy, and therefore that it is not a full-fledged subject of international law, discourse or relations.
Has anyone thought to ask how it is that Kyiv, hyped with such vigor as the “beginning of the Russian state,” is and always was the capital of Ukraine, whereas the capital of Russia was, at different times, either St. Petersburg or Moscow? If Kyivan Rus’ was the beginning of “Russia,” where and when was the beginning of Ukraine? The trident, for example, was never appropriated by Russia as its own (a rare oversight), but has continued uninterrupted for a thousand years as the national symbol of Ukraine. Anyone who mentioned or displayed it during the Soviet era was sentenced to death.
Worse than being embedded in any actual thought process, the distortions embedded in the suggestions of a “common history” between the two nations—or worse, the larcenous history of Kyivan Rus’ that Moscow shrills over—have also embedded themselves into the general consciousness. That makes them infinitely more pernicious. The unavoidable consequence is that the distortions necessarily subsume any Moscow assertion that it has “some” claim, any claim, to Ukraine, that it has “legitimate interests” in it. Absorb that imagery, and what otherwise would be judged as the bald Russian aggression that it is, flows more palatably—indeed, inexorably—in its wake.
In 1935, English journalist Lancelot Lawton clarified the matter in the House of Commons, saying:
“The deliberate policy of Russia was to avoid and discourage mention of Ukraine abroad. From the Middle Ages down to the eighteenth century Ukraine figured largely in European literature. But after the first half of the nineteenth century the West was made to forget that there was or had been such a nation…That so little has been heard of it is not surprising, for suppression of the Ukrainian nationality has been persistently accompanied by obliteration of the very word Ukraine, and concealment of the very existence of Ukrainians.”
Why this would be so can be gathered from the accounts of Europeans and other travelers and scholars at the time and earlier, who drew a sharp distinction between Ukraine and the lands to the north, which only in the 18th century coalesced as “Russia,” but also then known as “Moscovy”
The famous Arab scholar, Paul of Aleppo, visited the two countries and wrote:
“Although a stranger I felt myself at home in Ukraine. But in Muscovy my heart felt heavy, for wherever I went no one was even a little free…Those who want to shorten their life by fifteen years must go to the land of Muscovy. In Ukraine I found joy in life, freedom and civilization.  The Ukrainians are learned. They like science and study the law. They know rhetoric, logic and philosophy. Practically all the inhabitants can read and write. Their wives and daughters know the liturgy and religious singing. And their children, even orphans, learn to read and write.”
Charles Louis Lesure, another Frenchman, wrote: “The Ukrainians are more magnanimous, more sincere, more polite and hospitable, more industrious than the Russians. They offer a living proof of the superiority which civil liberty gives to men over people born in slavery.”
Tasked with creating a respectable pedigree for the Tsarist Empire, Russian historians such as Nikolai Karamzin Sergei Solov’ev leapfrogged more than half a millennium to the Kyivan Rus’ Empire to rewrite Russia’s own origins as a nation and a state. For the Russian Tsars, it offered a convenient link between the prior “Two Romes” and their hallucinations of Russia now as the “Third Rome.” Never mind that this required a 180-degree reversal of historical chronology and logical sequencing that has no parallel anywhere in world history. This coincided with the pronouncement in 1870 by Russian Interior Minister Dmitriy Tolstoy (the writer’s brother): “The ultimate goal in the education of the non-Russians must be their Russification and assimilation within the Russian nation.” Shortly afterward, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “All people should become Russian and Russian above all else, because the Russian national idea is universal.” The idea of “Ukraine” as “Little Russia” was birthed. And “brotherhood” was achieved—but only where the first-born became the younger sibling.
Russian Disinformation
Moscow invented a time machine that not only went back in time, but actually reversed the chronology and course of history. First became last, last became first. It’s the most massive, longest-lasting example of Russian dezinformatsia. Thus, we are assured by Dmitry Shlapentokh, writing for the, that Ukrainians simply seek “to minimize Ukraine’s debt to Russian history and culture.”
Nowhere in world history has such revisionism been attempted, much less become “fact” without question or inquiry. Virtual reality was exported to the United States where it became the bedrock of Russian studies, established largely by √©migr√© Russian scholars in such pivotal universities as Harvard, Yale and Columbia. From there, the mythology of the apostles of Russian imperialism enveloped the entirety of American thinking and commentary about “Russia.”
In fact, a miniscule part of present day Russia was embraced by the Kyivan Rus’ Empire, as were territories elsewhere, such as present day Belarus and the Baltic. For today’s Russia, however, a thousand years later, to claim dominion and seniority over the imperial center, Kyiv, and the nation that it remains the capital of, is bizarre. Applying the same logic, because Ukraine drew heavily on present day Greece for its religion and even its alphabet, then today’s Greeks are simply unaware Ukrainians, and Athens is “really” a Ukrainian city. And today’s Romanians, as part of the ancient Roman Empire, have a claim to present day Rome, and today’s Italians are really “Little Romanians.” As discussed earlier, the same could be said of any of the countries—Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Israel—that were part of the Roman Empire.
Extending the example, the United States should, with a straight face, claim its origins to be London, and that Englishmen are Americans’ younger brothers. Mexico, Peru and Cuba can lay claim to Madrid, and Indonesia and Aruba can justify laying claim to Holland, adopting tulips and windmills as their own. Yet even that is less a perversion of logic and history than a Ukraine=Russia equation, since, unlike English or Spanish migration to the New World, there was no migration from the fertile lands of Ukraine to Russia in the north.
As if reversing the flow of history was not enough, Russia played the word game. If credibility is to be given to a seeming “Rus’”/“Russia” parallel and the seduction of nomenclature, what conclusions are then to be drawn from “Brittany” the northwest province of France, and Great Britain? Are Englishmen now really French? Or is it the opposite? The Franks were the largest Germanic tribe, but today’s German term for France is “Frankreich.” Does that entitle Germany to invade France and liberate Paris? Or maybe the opposite would be justified, with the French claiming their origins lie in Berlin?
The French province of Normandy was settled by the Normans (“Vikings”), and two generations later William the Conquerer invaded England, and English history officially began. Are Englishmen therefore French, or the other way around? Or perhaps that transforms today’s Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes into Englishmen? Or is that also the other way around? For that matter, the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty was significantly forged by Vikings traveling south from Scandinavia. Are Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes, consequently and necessarily, really “younger brothers” to the Ukrainians? Furthermore, if “Rus’” really means “Russia,” then are Anglo-Saxons “really” half African and half German—since the term “Anglo” is derived from Angola in Africa (NOTE this is sarcasm), and “Saxon” from the German state of Saxony? That is the irreducible conclusion if you accept the historical revisionism of Putin or Sergei Lavrov, or of generations of other Russian imperialists.
Each of these examples leads to an utterly and irredeemably inane result. Yet the predicate model institutionalized by the Kremlin has been accepted with myopic, monosynaptic conviction by all. The theft of another country’s history and its essential disappearance has ensconced a larcenous litany. It has been fully absorbed, nurtured and then repeated with breathless conviction by all Western institutions, from elementary schools and Ivy universities, to CNN and FOX News, and to Congress and the White House.
Fortunately, at least one American scholar has recently stopped spinning the phantasmagoria. Harvard’s Edward Keenan wrote that for centuries in what was known as Moscovy “in sacred and secular buildings, in the naming and dedication of the churches, in the inscriptions and the chronicle account of the construction—there [was] not so much as a hint or allusion to the Kievan legacy…a total absence of any reference to Kievan symbolism or nomenclatures…the absence of reminiscences of Kiev. These people were not even thinking of Kiev. Another striking and unnoticed manifestation of this discontinuity or historical amnesia is to be found in the naming practices of Moscovite courtiers…what is astonishing against the background of received wisdom about this culture, is the absence of specifically Kievan names.” Tatar names adopted by Russians were more popular than those of the Kyivan era.
Yet former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, and acknowledged “Russian expert,” Condoleezza Rice persists, writing in her memoirs: “[F]or Russia, losing Ukraine was like the United States losing Texas or California. But that doesn’t begin to capture it; it would be like losing the original thirteen colonies.” (With Rice as his expert, what response could President Bush possibly have given to Putin who solemnly and assuredly intoned that Ukrainians are not even a nation?) Rice’s analogy powers a life support system for the perverted catechism of the Russian Tsar’s alchemists qua historians Karamzin et al: a respectable genealogy for Russian despotism by simple diktat as the legatee of the ancient Kyivan Rus’ Imperial Dynasty, in the process usurping Ukraine’s own etiology. And simultaneously vaporizing it as a nation.
“It constitutes one of the major political deceptions of history,” declared Lancelot Lawton. Moscow was able “to create the illusion that a nation still vigorously living had never been born or alternatively that if born it had centuries ago perished.” In his Travels to Russia, French writer Marquis de Custine quotes a Russian civil servant proclaiming proudly: “Russia lies, denies the facts, makes war on the evidence, and wins!”

Victor Rud
Victor Rud served as the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Ukrainian American Bar Association and Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs & Foreign Policy. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, and received his law degree from Duke Law School.