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Mixed Feelings In Odesa Over Saakashvili

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Old 18th December 2015, 18:44
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Five things that the latest fight between Ukrainian officials tells about Ukraine
EUROMAIDAN PRESS Viktoriia Zhuhan 2015/12/18

Ukraine hasn’t yet forgotten the brawl with roses in its Parliament, but already has a new scandal on the agenda. On Monday, a fight between the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Odesa region governor Mikheil Saakashvili happened. Ironically, the incident took place during the meeting of the National Council of Reforms, where the most sensitive issues were to be discussed and solved. Yet, it was the brutal fight with swearing and water spilling that made it to the news.
Avakov threw a glass with water at Saakashvili when the ex-Georgian president called him a “thief” after a discussion on a major state-owned chemical producer Odesa Portside Plant took place. Kyiv Post made a transcript of the video of the conflict that can tell a lot about todays Ukraine.

1. Poroshenko loses control
Petro Poroshenko made several attempts to take control over the conflict before it downgraded to personal level. His voice sounded soft and unconfident as two officials were getting more and more emotional. The National Council of Reforms was established by the President, so it was Poroshenko who had credentials of moderating the meeting. Yet, the head of the state didn’t manage to stop a minister and a regional governor from spilling the water.

After the incident Poroshenko can be seen covering his face with both palms. He was supposed to interrupt before the fight got serious, he was expected to comment as soon as the public learned about such an incident on 14 Dec. But he failed.

2. Incurable clan wars
Appointed by Poroshenko Micheil Saakashvili has blamed the government led by the prime minister Arsenii Yatseniuk and his colleague, an MP from the “People’s front” party Mykola Martynenko, as well as key businessmen Rinat Akhmetov, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, and Dmytro Firtash, in billion corruption schemes. Political commentators have blamed Saakashvili for selective character of his accusations. No oligarchs or alleged corrupt officials from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc were accused by Saakashvili.

“I was “lucky”… to deal with the representatives of the parliament, the government as well as the Presidential administration. With full responsibility I can say: there is no unity there”, – a former journalist, now a president’s party MP Mustafa Nayem wrote on Facebook on 15 December.

Together with the Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Groysman, Poroshenko and Yatseniuk presented on Tuesday a joint “Unity statement”. In the unusual document the three highest officials promised to put “Ukraine’s interests above all” and condemned the “histerical, anti-ruling, anti-government, and anti-state campaign organized by the corrupted oligarchs”. In the light of Avakov-Saakashvili “fist fight” such a statement looks more like wishful thinking.

3. Demonstrative fight against corruption
During the meeting, Avakov was protesting against Saakashvili “groundlessly” accusing him and the government in corruption. On 6 December Odesa region governor made series of loud corruption accusations during an Anticorruption forum in Odesa.

Almost 10 days later, no response from the Prosecutor General office was given. The media were filled with the news and articles dealing with Saakashvili’s statements, but no high official, including the president, has appealed to the Prosecutor General office about launching investigation. The PGO can also launch such an investigation by own initiative, referring to the media reports containing information about facts of corruption.

Yet, no procedural steps have been made which allowed Avakov to claim Saakashvili’s accusations groundless. The fight against corruption is the most expected one amongst Western partners of Ukraine, as well as this is one of the most painful issue for the society. That’s why it is being done mostly “for the media”. Yet, nothing gets done when it comes to real actions that can lead to serious consequences for the key players in the country.

4. Rulling elite reload inevitable
Reforms are so much expected by the West and the society, that the officials degraded to debating who is a bigger patriot and a better reformator. Even more, Avakov managed to ask Saakashvili to “leave my country” reminding that ex-president of Georgia has received Ukrainian citizenship just recently and bringing the zenophobic argument into the game.

Conflicts within the rulling elite on such a primitive level suggest that it needs reload. The disagreements between Poroshenko’s and Yatseniuk teams have been protracted so that the forthcoming snap parliamentary elections and therefore government reload seem to be inevitable. The analysts only debate on the terms: the earliest on spring 2016, the latest fall 2016.

“Lack of ideas, tiredness and going circles. All this makes reload of the parliament and the executive power inevitable. Not in the fall of 2016, but most likely in the spring”, – political analyst Taras Berezovets commented on his Facebook.

5. Elites fear publicity
The news about the incident appeared on Monday, the video was made public on Wednesday. İn between, activists and media were demanding to disclose the records to judge from the conflict itself and not the interpretations. After Avakov has uploaded a couple minute record to his profile, many commentators got outraged by “all the shame and dirt”. Yet, it was one of the way officials could be held accountable.

Ukrainians weren’t too sentimental about the fight and were keen enough to turn a shameful incident into memes and jokes. Hromadske.TV turned the record into a dubstep video that has received almost as much views as the original one.
Five things that the latest fight between Ukrainian officials tells about Ukraine -Euromaidan Press |

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Old 18th December 2015, 18:57
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Opinion: Shouting about a naked emperor
Transparency activists’ long game against the Kremlin
13:36, 18 December 2015 MEDUZA Vedomosti

On December 1, Alexey Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation released damning evidence that the relatives of Attorney General Yuri Chaika and other top officials do business with known mobsters. Despite attracting international attention, inviting conspiracy theories on state-controlled Russian television, and winning a documentary film festival award, Navalny's revelations have yet to prompt any action by the state. Does this mean the investigation was a failure? In a recent opinion piece for the newspaper Vedomosti, Inliberty chief editor Andrei Babitsky argues that Russia's embattled transparency activists are actually chipping away at an immoral social contract. Meduza translates that text here.
When a foreigner (especially one from a place where they speak German) hears about the recent developments involving Attorney General Chaika, he typically asks how many people were fired, as a result of the scandal. A Russian, if he's naive, asks what happened to the people who published the investigation. If he's wise enough, he wants to know what the point was of looking into the matter at all. None of it changes anything, and there won't be even a single protest.

Thanks to the heroic work of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), things in Russia could get even worse, the layman's intuition tells him. The ruling authorities defiantly ignore any investigation into state officials, instead granting those same corrupt individuals carte blanche to exact revenge. They'll close ranks and might even decide to terrorize the country openly, no longer fearing further discrediting leaks. Neither society nor civic avengers can win against this.

The lack of a response to high-profile investigations is, of course, no accident. The authorities work very carefully to make sure that this is always the case. Despite this, many people are willing to take great personal risks to expose government corruption. Russia's most famous inspirer and organization of high-profile investigations has been tried and convicted multiple times on absurd charges. But hundreds of people are still willing to help him, without the slightest hope that their work will bear fruit, at least within the foreseeable future. In a political system built on shamelessness, does it make any sense to shout that the emperor is wearing no clothes?

What drives the system itself to chase its accusers? After all, every one of the regime's important political victories has been tied to yet another act of open disdain for common decency. The country's leaders don't even bat an eye saying "we've never hid that," when talking about things they denied desperately just a day before. Officials publicly disavow their own children and wives, not when questions of war and peace are at stake, but when it concerns a few million rubles in a sloppily completed declaration of income. The best means of demoralizing any protest is to do something odious and then turn to the public with a mocking smile, instead of a justification.

But every new investigation reveals again and again that even the most foolproof scheme is weaker than human nature. You can shut your eyes as tight as you wish, cover your ears, and shout “lalalala,” but the allegations don't disappear. The silence with which FBK's accusations were met rings like a bell. And with every press conference, that bell rings louder. Even the president and the prime minister—two men who have proved their ability to ignore any crime—now find themselves to be uncomfortable participants in this silence.

For a mafia state to exist a long time, there needs to be a consensus between officials and the people not to call it a mafia state (at least not out loud). And as soon as this tacit agreement falls into question, even criminals can no longer pretend that everything is okay.

Perhaps no one will be sent to prison or forced to resign because of the scandal with the attorney general, but Russians should be grateful to the investigators at FBK for the mere fact that they are helping to destroy an immoral social contract.

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Old 18th December 2015, 19:07
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Tourist agency plans ‘Assad Tours,’ bringing Russians to the front lines of Syria’s civil war
11:02, 14 December 2015 Novaya Gazeta

The Russian tourist agency Megapolis is planning to sell tours to Syria, where travelers will have the opportunity to visit the front lines of the ongoing civil war, according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which spoke to Anatoly Aronov, the president of a patent company.

Aronov told Novaya Gazeta that Megapolis has applied to register the trademark "Assad Tours," which would arrange customized tours lasting 4-5 days for groups of 3-5 individuals. Aronov says the trips will cost roughly $1,500 per person, including the costs of airfare and accommodations.

According to Aronov, "Assad Tours" hopes to exploit three "advantages" Russians currently enjoy in Syria: the presence of Russian troops, the large number of Syrians who studied in Russian universities and gained some fluency in the Russian language, and the likelihood that many Syrians will be willing to host Russians to earn a little money.

Aronov, who acknowledges that tourist trips to the front lines of the Syrian civil war will be a "niche" industry, says the tourist company is already in talks with Syrian hotels and transportation services. It's also written official letters to the Syrian embassy and relevant ministries. Aronov says Megapolis doesn't expect any problems getting permission from officials to conduct its tours.

Asked what he expects demand to be forsuch touriam, Aronov responded, "You're asking how many crazies will show up? All tourists are crazy - they pay money to see things thay could watch for free on television."


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