Category Archives: Ukraine

Does Saakashvili’s resignation mark the end of reform in Ukraine?

Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation this week does not mark the failure of reform efforts in Ukraine. It opens a new chapter.

“Odesa can only develop once Kyiv will be freed from these bribe takers, who directly patronize organized crime and lawlessness,” he bluntly told journalists when he announced he was quitting on November 7.

This opinion was hardly “news.” Ukraine is vice-ridden and he was recruited to deal with criminality.

What is new, however, is that he is pivoting into politics. Working inside the system cannot transform the country. Only the ballot box can, along with hefty pressure from both the street and the West. Saakashvili underscored this strategy when he added: “We will definitely unite and finish this fight, bringing victory to Ukraine. The fight continues.”

The “fight” is necessary and must pivot away from divisions among reformers to the creation of a cohesive reform political coalition capable of defeating Ukraine’s ruling elite.

It won’t be easy; only two percent of Ukrainians said they’d vote for the party Saakashvili has been associated with if elections were held now.

But last week’s e-declaration revelations will be enormously useful by quantifying, for the first, the scale of looting in Ukraine.

Disclosures by 50,000 officials were jaw dropping, particularly the fact that 413 members of parliament hold $480 million in cash and deposits not including other assets. Another 50,000 declarations will be published in January.

Worse, this was only the tip of the iceberg because of gaps and loopholes in the disclosure requirements. Now conditions exist to try and take over the government itself, even before the next parliamentary elections in 2.5 years. Populists would like nothing more.

Now is the time to unify reformers of every persuasion and party from Saakashvili to Savchenko, activists, civil society, and the hundreds more in office in common cause.

Arguably the creation of such a coalition is prerequisite to win but also to govern.

Now is not the time to throw in the towel. Ukraine doesn’t need another firebrand or another political party. It needs many firebrands and parties willing to subordinate their egos to overthrow the oligarchy.

They also must join forces to push through better reforms and prevent more slippage or sabotage. Even though the disclosure laws are transformational they are badly flawed and must be improved.

For instance, Ukrainian lawmaker with President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc, Sergii Leshchenko claimed that Poroshenko had entered incomplete data in his declaration by not itemizing the eighty-four valuable paintings he owns as stipulated in the law.

Some of these works of art are masterpieces, according to Leshchenko, such as paintings by Sandro Botticelli or Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens. To omit these dramatically reduces the magnitude of his wealth.

The law also lets culprits off the hook. Disclosures are based on the honor system and there are suspiciously few declarations about offshore assets. Even worse, reports are that roughly one thousand judges from the corrupt regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych resigned rather than declare their assets. (Obviously, any disclosure law should stipulate that any public official since the 2014 elections declare their assets even if they quit.)

Ukraine’s war against corruption is ongoing because it also a war of attrition. The regime entertains reforms, then erodes or replaces them with laws that neutralize their benefits. Reformers are appointed, then cast adrift in a sea of lawlessness, or quit in frustration.

Two attacks have been mounted against the newly-minted National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the High Council of Justice which monitors and disciplines the judiciary.

The Prosecutor General is attempting to have his agency overtake the Bureau’s jurisdiction. Then there is another law, passed by parliament and signed by Poroshenko recently, that defangs the Council by exempting Yanukovych-era judges from discipline by guaranteeing them seven-year terms.

“Nobody’s punished,” said parliamentarian Hanna Hopko. “There is still no justice because the judges have not been reformed. We are disappointed with progress, but this is a marathon not a 100-meter foot race.”

Rooting out systemic corruption is a daunting challenge but Ukraine’s regime has pretended it’s in favor of reform and is running out of excuses.

Compare its foot dragging to the fact that Estonia, East Germany, and Georgia dismissed all their judges after the Soviets disappeared. Ukraine may have a bigger system but a good start would be to give the Public Integrity Council the power to ban the appointment of untrustworthy judges.

Besides time is running out, suggested Presidential Advisor Leszek Balcerowicz of Poland. He emphasized, to a Toronto audience this week, that this year is critically important. “You have 2.5 years before the next election so this year is critical,” he said. “The diaspora must play a role.”

Western governments must increase pressure, according to Leshchenko and others, and extend sanctions in Ukraine to include those who were part of Yanukovych’s inner circle and are still pulling the strings.

To be fair, reformers should be proud that more reforms have taken place since the Revolution of Dignity than ever before in Ukraine’s history.

But the next step is all-out political mobilization and a reconstitution of reform efforts by individuals who will put country ahead of their ambitions, party or ideology.

The people of Ukraine deserve no less and the scoundrels in high office deserve to be driven out and prosecuted.

From – https://www.kyivpost.com/article/opinion/op-ed/diane-francis-saakashvilis-resignation-mark-end-reform-ukraine.html

Savchenko writes open letter to Trump, asks him to maintain anti-Russian sanctions

Ukrainian lawmaker and former military pilot Nadia Savchenko has written an open letter to U.S President-elect Donald Trump asking that he continue and even increase sanctions against Russia for its aggression against Ukraine.

“I appeal to you with the kind request to maintain and even to strengthen sanctions against the Russian Federation, because this country understands only force. I also ask for international diplomatic, technical, and military support for Ukraine,” wrote Savchenko.

The lawmaker also asked Trump to monitor and support the release of imprisoned Ukrainians in Russia and hostages in the country’s war-torn Donbas region. Savchenko herself was released from a Russian prison under a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, after more than two years of imprisonment there and being subjected to a sham trial by a Russian court.

“As the world called for my release, now I would like to help (Ukrainian prisoners) by raising awareness about their plight, too. I’d be very thankful for your possible future answer, in which you might explain to Ukrainians and to all the nations of the world the main points of your future administration’s steps regarding these questions,” Savchenko went on.

“I want to add that you have every possibility to prevent World War III,” added the lawmaker.

From – https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/savchenko-writes-open-letter-trump-asks-maintain-anti-russian-sanctions.html

Microsoft’s HoloLens Could Go to War

Virtual reality isn’t just for video games or making Skype calls in space. There’s a good chance the tech could help soldiers in real wars too. Last month, at the Arms and Security trade show in Kiev, Ukraine, defense companies gathered to peddle their wares. Amid the new guns and drones, one company caused a minor stir by finding a new use for Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Ukraine has been fighting a bloody war against Russian backed separatists since 2014. Its military is looking for anything that might give it the advantage on the battlefield. Enter LimpidArmor, a Ukrainian defense company with a fancy new helmet for tank drivers it thinks could help

LimpidArmor calls its helmet the Circular Review System (CRS). It’s a helmet outfitted with a Microsoft HoloLens and hooked to cameras on the tank’s body. The cameras come with the system so the crew can put them wherever they need.

It’s a great idea because driving a tank sucks. The metal beasts are stuffy, crowded, and loud. It’s hard to maintain battlefield awareness. Worse, tanks crews rely on slits in the armor or rudimentary black and white cameras to watch the road and hit their targets. CRS would change that.

The system comes with a HoloLens equipped helmet, a box of cameras, and some proprietary software. The crew places the thermal and optic cameras on the body of the tank as they see fit and the software feeds the images to the HoloLens.

Even better, LimpidArmor’s software allows the viewer to mark targets, highlight enemies, and track targets. They also claim the software allows users to pull in outside video feeds from drones and other sources.

The helmet could be a game changer on the battlefield. Forget the cameras on the outside, tank drivers could use drones or the helmet cameras of forward scouts to navigate conflict zones.

America’s new F-35 jet uses a similar system to give pilots a virtual view of the battlefield through their helmets, but the cost difference is insane. Each F-35 helmet costs around $400,000 while anyone can buy a HoloLens from Microsoft for $3,000.

From – http://motherboard.vice.com/read/microsofts-hololens-could-go-to-war

Klimkin: If Russia does not remove heavy weapons, they could potentially have their own bases in the Donbas

Heavy weapons of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbas should be returned to the Russian Federation, and should not be stored on site during the local elections. If not, Russia could potentially then have their own military bases in the area as per the OSCE mandate. This was stated by the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin, in an interview with Levyi Bereg.

“One of the OSCE’s proposals is to establish a warehouse in Donbas where military equipment and weapons could be stored during the elections. This means that Russia will actually have military bases on Ukrainian territory where weapons could be deployed from, and we will be unable to do anything about it. This is all possible under the mandate of the OSCE mission”, Klimkin

Klimkin said that there are currently hundreds of units of heavy weapons in the Donbas.

“These include tanks and armored vehicles. All of those units won’t be left there once the OSCE takes control of the border”, he said.

According to Klimkin, if all of these weapons stay in the Donbas, there is no hope for any kind of safety.

Recently, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that during the Berlin talks, the Normandy Four agreed on the deployment of an armed OSCE mission, the road map for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the withdrawal of forces.

Russia has refuted statements made by Poroshenko with regard to the OSCE mission, by claiming that only a potential agreement on the deployment was given in Berlin.

From – http://www.uawire.org/news/klimkin-russia-might-get-base-in-donbas-under-the-osce-mandate#

Saakashvili resigns, accuses Poroshenko allies of corruption

Mikheil Saakashvili, the governor of Odesa Oblast and ex-president of Georgia, submitted his resignation on Nov. 7.

Saakashvili, who became governor in May 2015, attributed his resignation to what he described as the sabotage of his reforms in the region by the central government, including President Petro Poroshenko. He also accused the president’s inner circle of being corrupt.

Saakashvili’s resignation was preceded by that of his protege, Odesa Oblast police chief Giorgi Lortkipanidze, on the same day. Another Saakashvili ally, Davit Sakvarelidze, was fired as chief prosecutor of the region and deputy prosecutor general in March.

Two other appointees of Saakashvili, Maria Gaidar and Sasha Borovik, resigned as deputy governors of Odesa Oblast in May, though they stayed on as advisors.

Poroshenko’s press office said the president would approve Saakashvili’s resignation if the Cabinet authorized it, and that it would analyze the reasons for his intention to resign. However, Poroshenko’s representatives declined to comment on the governor’s accusations of corruption among officials and sabotage of reform.

“I’ve decided to resign and start a new stage of my struggle,” Saakashvili said. “… I’ll do whatever is necessary to get rid of this corrupt scum that profiteers on the blood of our soldiers and the victims of EuroMaidan – the scum that betrayed the idea of the Ukrainian Revolution.”

Borovik told the Kyiv Post that the governor’s move was “politically smart” and a “sign of despair.”

“It has been impossible to get anything done, and he started to engage more and more in the struggle with local elites and the Mafia without any real power on his own,” Borovik said. “Now he should lead the opposition of the pro-reformists to the president and his camp, as well as to the People’s Front and the oligarchs.”

Sakvarelidze said on Nov. 7 that Saakashvili would not leave Ukraine and would continue political activities in the country. Saakashvili started a reformist political project called the Movement for Cleansing last year, while his supporters launched the reformist Hvylia (Wave) party in July.

Sergii Leshchenko, a lawmaker from the Poroshenko Bloc, said on Nov. 7 that Saakashvili would try to unite Hvylia with another reform-oriented party, the Democratic Alliance. He also said that Saakashvili’s efforts had been blocked because he rejected Poroshenko’s offer to head the presidential bloc.

“Saakashvili’s resignation is the logical completion of the exodus of reformers,” Leshchenko said. “… It resulted from the expulsion of everyone who refused to be part of the corrupt consensus.”

Poroshenko’s allies

In his resignation statement, Saakashvili lashed out at Poroshenko and his allies. Those named by Saakashvili deny the accusations.

“I’m sick and tired,” Saakashvili said. “Is there any difference for Ukrainians whether it’s Poroshenko or (ex-President Viktor) Yanukovych spitting on them? Is there any difference if they are robbed by (Yanukovych ally) Yury Ivanyushchenko or (Poroshenko ally Ihor) Kononenko? Is there any difference whether (Poroshenko’s deputy chief of staff Vitaly) Kovalchuk or (Yanukovych’s chief of staff Andriy) Klyuyev embezzles everything?”

Saakashvili argued that ex-Prime Minister Arseniy “Yatsenyuk’s people were edged out by Poroshenko’s people, but they keep running the same corruption schemes.” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and State Fiscal Service head Roman Nasirov, whom he believes to be “strongholds of corruption,” have remained in their jobs, he added.

He said that Poroshenko supported two clans in Odesa Oblast: “the criminal clan of (Odesa Mayor Gennady) Trukhanov and the corrupt Izmail clan of (politician) Igor Urbansky.”

According to an Italian police dossier obtained by the Slidstvo.info investigative journalism project, Trukhanov was a member of a criminal gang in Odesa in the 1990s. He denies the accusations.

Saakashvili also accused lawmakers Oleksiy Goncharenko from the Poroshenko Bloc, Serhiy Kivalov from the Opposition Bloc and Oleksandr Presman from the Vidrodzhennya party of robbing Odesa, under both Yanukovych and Poroshenko.

Sabotage of reforms

Saakashvili said the central authorities were blocking all of his reform efforts in Odesa.

“The regressive forces are attacking everything progressive. All new initiatives are being nipped in the bud,” he said. “… I’ve never been deceived so much in such a cynical way in my life.”

One of the reasons for his resignation cited by Saakashvili was that his team’s efforts to create a graft-free customs terminal in Odesa, called the “open customs area,” had been blocked by the central government. Initially the terminal was scheduled to be launched in May, but it has still not opened yet.

“The money for the repairs (necessary for the terminal’s launch) was stolen,” he said. “As usual, we were deceived. The president promised to support us, but didn’t lift a finger to launch this project. For how long will they keep lying and deceiving?”

Yulia Marushevska, a Saakashvili ally and head of Odesa Oblast’s customs, told the Kyiv Post that her team had held a transparent competition for jobs at the new terminal and drafted legislation to launch it. However, Nasirov and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman have failed to pass a necessary Cabinet decree, authorize changes to customs software and build the terminal’s building, she said.

Nasirov has denied the accusations of sabotage, while Groysman’s press office could not comment immediately.

Marushevska said she had not resigned yet. “My further actions depend on whether they will let me reform the customs office or not,” she added.

Another reason for Saakashvili’s move is that the facility to provide administrative services in Odesa, which was opened by him last year, has been closed.

Saakashvili said on Nov. 2 that the center had been shut down because legislation backed by the Poroshenko Bloc of lawmakers in parliament and other parties made it impossible to use the facility’s revenues to fund its employees’ wages.

The facility, which is modeled on similar Georgian ones, was intended to drastically speed up the provision of government services and make them customer-friendly and corruption-free. The services included the issuing of passports, as well as the registration of businesses, non-governmental organizations, real estate, ownership rights, land plots and place of residence.

The central government has also been dragging its feet on appointing three out of Saakashvili’s four deputies, who were selected in a transparent competition, Saakashvili said.

He also claimed that instead of allowing his team to hold open and transparent competitions for the jobs of district heads in several of the oblast’s districts, the central government had allegedly chosen loyalists in rigged competitions.

“They have resurrected old schemes and started selling the jobs of district administration heads,” Saakashvili said.

Last year Saakashvili’s team held transparent competitions in other districts of the region, choosing Western-educated professionals to replace local bureaucrats.

Saakashvili has also complained that the authorities were under-financing one of his landmark projects, a highway linking Odesa with the city of Reni on the border with Romania. In June he moved into a tent on the highway to oversee the construction work.

From – https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/saakashvili-resigns-accuses-poroshenko-allies-corruption.html

Mass arrests of militants in Donetsk and Horlivka (Gorlovka)

Militant ‘police’ chiefs arrested under the pretext of Motorola’s murder investigation

Numerous sources report mass arrests of militant chiefs and regular members of so-called ‘DPR’ force structures in Donetsk region. Today such detaining of ‘DPR police’ chiefs noted in militant-held town of Horlivka.

Ukrainian journalist from the town of Horlivka in Donetsk region Oleksandr Bilinsky revealed the details.

“In Horlivka today again those who got too wealthy in these past two years were cleansed. The search revealed a lot of weapons, money and fake documents possessed by the chief of ‘traffic police’ Dmitry Tuva. He is responsible for trafficking to Rostov stolen cargo trucks, left by businessmen who fled to other cities of Ukraine. Chief of driving licenses office Denis Nemytkin is in intensive care, after a ‘conversation’ with “DPR MGB” (‘state security ministry’ of ‘DPR’ – UT) his lungs failed. I remember before the war you could ‘solve’ any question with him, he was ‘a purse’ of this office,” journalist wrote on Facebook.

Ukrainian MP and coordinator of ‘Information Resistance’ volunteer group Dmytro Tymchuk gave a wider picture of situation.

“‘DPR MGB’ carries out large-scale detention of ‘DPR police’ staff. It has been said these are suspects involved in the liquidation of the commander of ‘Sparta’ gang, ‘Motorola’. There are rumours spreading among the employees of ‘DPR interior ministry’ that the detentions were carried out on the direct orders of the ‘DPR’ leader Zakharchenko, who uses the elimination of ‘Motorola’ to eliminate undesirable elements from the ministry like Plotnitsky did in ‘LPR’ (the last one under the pretext of ‘combating the consequences of the coup attempt’ conducts mass purges in the ‘state institutions of LPR'”), Tymchuk explained. 

“This is what happens to traitors. They become expendable for their own henchmen,” Oleksandr Bilinsky summarized. 

Ukrainians shocked as politicians declare vast wealth

An anti-corruption reform requiring senior Ukrainian officials to declare their wealth online has exposed a vast difference between the fortunes of politicians and those they represent.

Some declared millions of dollars in cash. Others said they owned fleets of luxury cars, expensive Swiss watches, diamond jewelry and large tracts of land – revelations that could further hit public confidence in the authorities in Ukraine, where the average salary is just over $200 per month.

Officials had until Sunday to upload details of their assets and income in 2015 to a publicly searchable database, part of an International Monetary Fund-backed drive to boost transparency and modernize Ukraine’s recession-hit economy.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who last week likened the declarations process to jumping out of an airplane, revealed that he and his wife had a total of $1.2 million and 460,000 euros in cash and a collection of luxury watches.

The database also shows that Groysman, a former businessman and provincial mayor, is not alone in preferring to keep much of his money out of Ukraine’s banking system.

Reuters calculations based on the declarations show that the 24 members of the Ukrainian cabinet together have nearly $7 million, just in cash.

The declarations of two brothers in President Petro Poroshenko’s faction, Bohdan and Yaroslav Dubnevych, show holdings of over $26 million, also in cash only.

“When the Economy Ministry says that in some areas around 60 percent of the economy is in the shadows, then this is accounted for by the volume of cash registered by civil servants, officials and lawmakers,” said Taras Kachka, deputy executive director at George Soros’s International Renaissance Foundation.

“This is a reflection on the state of our society.”

Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko, who declared $1 million in a bank account and a further $500,000 in cash, said officials’ decision to hold cash pointed to a mistrust in the banks that many Ukrainians could relate to.

“Of course to EU countries it seems uncivilized that people hold cash,” he said. “But it is linked to the fact that the banking system could, let’s say, be doing better. This is a problem for many Ukrainians who lost their savings in the bank.”

A $10,000 BOTTLE OF WINE

The online declaration system is intended to represent a show of good faith that officials are willing to open their finances up to public scrutiny, to be held accountable, and to move away from a culture that tacitly allowed bureaucrats to amass wealth through cronyism and graft.

However, the public reaction has been one of shocked dismay at the extravagant lifestyles conjured up by many of the disclosures.

“We did not expect that this would be such a widespread phenomenon among state officials. I can’t imagine there is a European politician who invests money in a wine collection where one bottle costs over $10,000,” said Vitaliy Shabunin, the head of the non-governmental Anti-Corruption Action Center.

Opposition bloc lawmaker Mikhail Dobkin’s declaration included 1,780 bottles of wine and an antique copy of Russian novel Anna Karenina worth at least $5,500.

Roman Nasirov, the head of the State Fiscal Service, disclosed that he and his wife owned Swiss watches, diamond jewelry, fur coats, fine porcelain and crystal glassware, an assault rifle and cash in euros and dollars worth $2.2 million.

The declaration of Oleh Lyashko, the head of the populist Radical party who has styled himself as a representative of the common man, showed he rented a house and land in Kiev’s most exclusive district and his household had cash worth the equivalent of over $1 million.

Other forms give an insight into particular hobbies and interests of Ukraine’s elite.

Ihor Hryniv, the head of Poroshenko’s faction, has a collection of icons dating from the 14th century and several works by Ukrainian impressionist masters. Lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk declared an array of antique weapons, including a 16th century Turkish scimitar, an English broadsword and a Nazi SS dagger.

Many senior politicians filed their forms in the last two days before the deadline, resulting in a crescendo of surprise and anger on social media over the weekend.

“I personally feel unwell. Or rather, like someone who has been beaten and is therefore unwell. I had no illusions about our political and official elite. But all the same, what’s come out is beyond the pale,” Roman Donik, a volunteer to Ukraine’s frontline troops, said on Facebook.

The average Ukrainian citizen has been hit hard by the economic crisis that unfolded in the wake of the 2014 pro-European ‘Maidan’ uprising and subsequent pro-Russian separatist conflict.

The national hryvnia currency has plummeted to 25 to the dollar from 8 in 2013 and energy tariffs have soared under the IMF-backed economic reform program.

The latest revelations will likely add to public dissatisfaction with the current leadership’s progress on reforms. A September poll showed that only 12.6 percent would now vote for Poroshenko’s faction, down from 21.8 in the last election. Meanwhile support for populist and opposition parties has risen.

The anti-corruption agency says it will now start verifying the declarations, but with over 100,000 forms submitted, it is unclear how thorough the process can be.

From – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-corruption-idUSKBN12V1EN

Ukraine stunned as vast cash reserves of political elite are made public

New wealth declaration system shows officials owning Fabergé eggs, weapons collections and huge stashes of currency

Two years after angry Ukrainians deposed Viktor Yanukovych and broke into his vast, opulent residential compound outside Kiev, revelations thrown up by a new system that requires government officials to declare their wealth and property online have led many to suspect the new elite are no better.

The declarations, which all officials were required to file by Sunday evening, have made public many curiosities, including politicians who own multiple luxury watches, Fabergé eggs and large collections of weapons. One politician declared that he owned a personal church.

By far the biggest shock, however, has been just how much money Ukraine’s politicians seem to stash away in hard cash.

The prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, declared $1.2m (£980,000) and €460,000 (£410,000) in cash, as well as a collection of luxury watches. Many other officials declared hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash.

“Everyone is amazed that there is so much cash in our country,” said Kristina Berdynskykh, an investigative journalist who has written extensively on corruption among the elite.

Mikhail Dobkin, an opposition MP, declared 1,780 bottles of wine, while Roman Nasirov, the head of the state fiscal service, declared that together, he and his wife owned Swiss watches, diamonds, fur coats and held more than $2m in cash.

Observers have pointed out that when the head of the national bank keeps his savings in dollars, it can hardly fill the population with confidence about the prospects for the hryvnia, Ukraine’s national currency.

Other curiosities found among the declarations included a Nazi SS dagger and medieval religious icons. Anatoly Matviyenko, the deputy leader of the presidential faction in parliament, declared ownership of a church.

“The other thing that is amazing is the excess. Even if someone is well-off, it’s not clear why a state official requires 10 luxury watches, 30 plots of land or his own personal chapel,” Berdynskykh said.

One of the key demands of the Maidan revolution of 2014 was an end to the rampant corruption that plagued the country. When protesters stormed Yanukovych’s compound they found gold-plated golf clubs, a petting zoo and a replica of a Spanish galleon moored in a manmade lake.

The current president, Petro Poroshenko, is a billionaire tycoon, but promised a new, more transparent kind of politics. Critics say reform efforts have stalled and that despite impressive rhetoric, the government has done little to transform the fundamental nature of Ukrainian business and politics.

Setting up the electronic declaration system was one of a number of conditions laid down by the EU as requirements to ensure a visa liberalisation deal for Ukrainians. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary general of Nato, who is an adviser to Poroshenko, said: “Ukraine has taken a crucial step to break with corruption and ensure a clean and efficient public administration. The e-declaration is of paramount importance and all of Europe should take notice and applaud this important step.”

Poroshenko called the declarations “a truly historic event of openness and transparency”.

However, inside the country, the response was far from enthusiastic. One columnist referred to Ukrainian officials as “moral degenerates”. In a society where the average wage is under £200 per month, the lavish wealth on the declarations only underscored the vast gulf between the political elite and average Ukrainians who are largely impoverished.

There was also anger at such vast displays of wealth while thousands of Ukrainians in the army receive low salaries to risk their lives on the frontline of a war with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country.

The key indicator of whether the declarations serve their purpose in the fight against corruption will be what action is taken by the country’s authorities to investigate them.

Berdynskykh said: “It’s amazing how much information we have now, as a journalist I couldn’t have dreamed of this before. Some MPs have released the names of offshore companies they are linked to, and it will be interesting if the anti-corruption bureau will actually follow up with real questions now.

“Also, some MPs have said nothing, claiming they have no bank accounts, no cash, and live only on their official salary. And we all know this isn’t true. Will they be checked as well?”

From – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/31/ukraine-stunned-vast-cash-reserves-political-elite-made-public

Former Foreign Minister of Poland: Putin could cease support for Assad if given Ukraine

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, Radosław Sikorski, suggested that the crisis in the Russian economy could force the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to offer a substantial agreement to the new President of the United States. Vladimir Putin could refuse to support the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, if the United States let him have Ukraine.

Sikorski believes that such an exchange would be possible because the Middle East has always been a priority for the United States.

“That what Putin dreams of, sort of a Yalta-2. The chances for the implementation of such a scenario are minimal, but Russian leadership may have such plans,” Sikorski believes. The former Minister also added that the ascendance of Donald Trump to the White House would be necessary for this. The U.S Presidential elections will take place on the 8th of November.

From – http://www.uawire.org/news/former-foreign-minister-of-poland-putin-can-offer-the-united-states-the-exchange-of-syria-for-ukraine

No visa-free travel for Ukraine on EP’s November agenda

Visa waiver suspension mechanism has not been incorporated on the agenda as well

The European Union visa-free travel for Ukrainians is not on the agenda of the European Parliament’s session in Strasbourg on November 21- 24.

Neither visa liberalization for Ukraine, nor visa waiver suspension mechanism has been incorporated on the EP agenda, according to its official website.

As earlier reported, the European Council and the European Parliament planned to agree on the mechanism, which is considered to be a major obstacle to the EU visa liberalization, in early November.

The suspension mechanism enables EU members to temporarily reintroduce visa requirements for third-country nationals in the event of sudden surges in irregular immigration.

Some EU member states, including heavyweight Germany and France, oppose granting more visa-free movement before the bloc has beefed up the emergency mechanism.

The discussions between the European Parliament and the Council on the suspension mechanism are still ongoing.

Earlier President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine will get visa-free regime no later than on November 24 when the Ukraine-EU summit is scheduled to take place in Brussels.

Writing on his Facebook page, Poroshenko underlined that Ukraine has fulfilled all the 144 requirements of the European Union for securing visa-free travel.

From – http://uatoday.tv/politics/no-visa-free-travel-for-ukraine-on-ep-s-november-agenda-796539.html