Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Awakening! A New Reality for Euro-2012

Clearly, the incumbent president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, works within his own set of rules and regulations. The denial of these rules start from where he will spend state monies on his own benefaction and aggrandizement in material property and wealth, to how he will deal with his political opposition. These rules and regulations have nothing to do with the countless international conventions on the dignity of humans that the “nation state” of Ukraine has become signatory to since its independence after the Soviet Union collapsed nearly twenty-one years ago.

Clearly there are other signatories to the various conventions who don't really like the games that the Yanukovych regime is playing and have vociferously stated that they will not be attending the Summit of Heads of Central and European States that was to be held in Yalta on May 11-12. Leaders of Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia and Latvia have refused to participate in the summit. These announced no-shows seem to have precipitated an announcement made on May 8, postponing this Yalta Summit indefinitely.

However, for now let's put those politicians aside because none of them will tell you the truth no matter how many questions they are asked. Some are a bit better at it than others while for any skilled political observer, one can tell that they are lying not only through their teeth, but if their mother's are alive, I'm certain they are not proud of them.

Let's turn to an organization that some like and some like to hate – particularly those who like to step beyond any type of rule of law and understanding of what is right and wrong. I'm glad that Amnesty International has finally awoken to the situation in Ukraine, alone with some of Europe's leaders. Amnesty seemed to ignore the copy of a letter I sent to Bryan Adams to boycott all Euro-2012 events... or maybe that letter gave them a little bit of a nudge to dig deeper. If my letter didn't, their own sources gave them a good kick in the backside with a pair of Doc Martins – because otherwise they would not have issued on April 30, 2012 the following press release which had as its header: Ukraine must stop police criminality or Euro 2012 fans risk abuse. However, statements from one of the world's leading human rights organizations should have been coming about along with my personal Travel Advisory which I issued on September 9, 2011; it read as follows:


Travel there with extreme caution – levels of barbarity and disrespect for human life by law enforcement officials is at intolerable levels by international standards. They claim that there will be law enforcement officials that speak your language by the time of EURO-2012, but there is no guarantee that you will understand one another.

So what did Amnesty International have on me? A bit of CCTV footage about how two were beaten by police, had their money stolen and not much more. Little has changed in Ukraine over the years, there has been a lot of hot air blowing around the country about reforms and the harmonization of Ukraine's legislation to be more in line with European and international standards, its all be a lot of talk and no action. I recall meeting with some NGO leaders in Ukraine to discuss the matter of reforms to the police force over a decade ago, and some of the partner organizations from Eastern European countries, which at the time were candidate countries for entering the European Union, mentioned that Ukraine's police force was by their reckoning about three times larger than is needed in a population the size of Ukraine’s.

Unfortunately, I have never been able to find figures that back that up, but Ukraine does a problem in its police force, and even the nation's president in mid-December of last year stated, “The strategic goal of reform is the gradual transformation of the Ministry of Interior Affairs into a law enforcement agency of European standard, which protects the rights, honor, dignity, and interests of citizens and the state.” He even went on to state that "Lawful and professional behavior should be encouraged.”

These statements were welcomed by Amnesty International, but they really wanted to see some action and not more of the same smoke and mirrors that the nation's leaders have been using for some time now, and some four days after Yanukovych's statement Amnesty International issued a statement calling him to act and not just talk. The penultimate and final paragraphs of that statement read as follows: “The Ukrainian Ombudsperson’s office stated that they received 5,000 complaints about police torture and other ill-treatment last year, but only 10 police officers were prosecuted.

“Reforms leading to independent investigations of police abuse are long overdue. They will benefit people living in Ukraine and visitors to the country. They will also raise the prestige of the police and help it fulfill its duty to defend the rights of the people,” said Heather McGill of Amnesty.

Unfortunately, I don't think there is a very large percentage of Ukraine's police force that seems to care about their prestige, and there are probably more bad cops than good cops and for them the status quo seems to be just fine. This is the same within all of Ukraine's different agencies, the Ukrainian Security Service, (SBU – Sluzhba Bespeky Ukrainy) is just as corrupt as any of them in my opinion, and they will provide information, even state information to the highest bidder, be it the FSB of Russian, MI5 of the UK, Mossad of Israel or the CIA of the United States. Its agents have no affinity to the country they serve as most senior officials within that agency are all former KGB agents and when the USSR collapsed, they created their one entity. This is also reflected by one who is chosen to head this agency, for nearly two years one of the most influential media moguls Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy and recently there was a return to one from the “old KGB school” since February 3, 2012 – one by the name of Ihor Kalinin. Maybe the appointment of Kalinin was some way of Yanukovych sending a signal which clearly states – back to the ways and methods of Felix Dzerzhinksky. His methods of torture are still being used and I am certain that they will be used against those that Ukraine's “highly professional and well trained” police force deems are breaking the law; either by being a little to loud after a football match, being inebriated (even though not causing and public disturbance), or simply a clear target to rip off. This is the way Ukraine's police works and will work during Euro-2012. Don't let any of the flashy statements made by the nation's top man fool anyone; he comes from the other side of the tracks where understandings between citizens working outside the law have become more important than compliance with the law.

What so few people who have not spent extended periods in Ukraine don't realize is that the all of Ukraine's law enforcement agencies have been long intertwined with the criminal element. You have those in sheep's clothing to look like the good guys, and the bad guys who you can never tell by the way they are dressed but most of them are driving cars worth $100,000 or more. The ones who don't are a just a bit more intelligent than the others and don't want to draw attention to themselves, but that does not mean that one should not be wary of both.

Vasyl Pawlowsky Independent Consultant

The commentary of this was first published on the Ukraine Business Online site.

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