Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

UKRAINE’S ILL FAME

December 2, 2017

corruptionThese days, the internet media have been making a lot of noise about the internal war between the law-enforcing bodies in Ukraine. The Security Service of Ukraine is said to have supplied the General Procurator’s Office with corresponding information, and the latter searched the offices of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) confiscating lots of what has become known as “compromising” materials. As a result, the NABU was accused of using “wrong” methods in combating corruption in Ukraine. In short, they, unexpectedly, turned out to be bad guys.

The curious thing is that all the three bodies are sister agencies called to fight the same enemy – corruption. The difference between them is that while the Security Service and The Procurator’s Office are purely Ukrainian government’s creations, the NABU was created following the request of the IMF and the EU. Its funding is mandated under American and European Union aid programs and it has an evidence-sharing agreement with the FBI. In fact, a part of the NABU agents received training from the FBI. Until recently the NABU was criticized for slow progress with its main task of investigating high profile corruption cases. But as soon as the NABU attempted to catch really “big fish” they were made an object of attack on the part of the plutocrats, who are “in control.”

It’s funny that before the NABU was formed, there had existed (and there keep existing!) four more bodies invested with the power of fighting graft in this country. Besides the Security Service and the General Procurator’s Office already mentioned, there are the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, both of which are subordinated either to the Cabinet of Ministers (the Government), or to Parliament, or to the Cabinet and Parliament at the same time. The NABU is more independent and can perform its duties without fear or favor, which is why it has become more difficult for the Ukrainian political leaders to pretend that they are up in arms against corruption. Hence, the shakedown in the NABU offices accompanied by the anti-NABU campaign.

Corruption is a widespread and growing problem in Ukraine. In 2016’s Transparency International Corruption Perception Index  Ukraine was ranked 131st out of the 176 countries. It scored 29 points out of 100. To compare: the least corrupted country Denmark scored 90, the tenth least corrupted United Kingdom – 81, the 18th-ranked USA – 74, and the most corrupted Somalia has got 10 points. In a survey in 2010, up to 50 per cent of respondents admitted paying a bribe to a service provider during the previous year. A comparable figure for Great Britain for 2011 was 1.9 per cent. Politics, the court system, the police, the health service and the sphere of education are particularly corrupt in Ukraine. Doctors are not relied upon. It’s generally considered that a high school pupil will not be properly taught if he/she is not tutored privately. Politicians, judges and lawyers are not trusted. One example: a few days ago the father of a murdered young man killed himself and the murderer by exploding two grenades in a courtroom in a provincial town where the case of his son’s murderer was being heard.  The reason could be, as it is generally believed, that he didn’t think the court’s sentence would be just.

Being a retiree, I just receive my pension every month, visit a supermarket once a week and regularly pay my utility bills. I am not in touch with corruption in any way. As an individual, I’m a happy man. As a citizen, I am not.

Advertisements

IT IS NO SIN, UNLESS…

April 5, 2016

My FB friend – a talented businessman btw – re-posted a blog originally written in Russian on  https://site.ua/sergey.ivanov-malyavin/3382-prezident-ofshora/ I liked the observations made by the blogger and decided to translate some of them to keep my English-speaking friends in the picture about public sentiments in this country. This entry is actually the extension of my yesterday’s post.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-stranded-sea-image23874005

Some judicial experts in Ukraine are now trying to condescendingly explain to us, dummies, that there is “nothing illegal in setting up an offshore company.” Is it a sin, they ask? – It is definitely no sin to keep an empty lifeboat on a ship, unless the boat has been hidden by the Captain of a ship in distress.

Is it a sin to keep one’s own financial assets in a foreign country? – It is surely no sin, unless the assets are owned by a person whose duty is to raise added capital in one’s own country.

Is it a sin to put your own valuables in a safer place (“Better safe than sorry!”)? – It is no sin at all, unless you are responsible for the safety of the financial wealth owned by your compatriots.

Is it a sin to manage your own capital reasonably – especially in the time of war? — It is no sin, unless you identify with millions of people who freely donate their last kopeck to keep up the soldiers at war.

Is it a sin to commit a slight transgression not necessarily punishable by law? – It is no sin, unless the Attorney-General is your appointee.

BASIL AND UKRAINIAN POLITICS

April 4, 2016

Basil_brushThe winter of 1978 was called the Winter of Discontent in Britain. Industrial disputes and strikes made James Callaghan’s government very unpopular. At that time I had a temporary teaching job in Sheffield and I remember the atmosphere of resentment and derision that reigned in our staff room when the Cabinet’s actions were discussed. Everybody was politically-minded in those days. Even the red fox Basil in the BBC Basil Brush Show could state from the screen: “My stomach is as empty as Jim’s promise.” Later I discovered that similes relating to untruthfulness (even when they were one-off creations) were frequently based on political concepts. A person could be “dishonest as local elections,” or some information could be “as false as government’s truths.” Back home in the time of “perestroika”, I was indignant over Mikhail Gorbachev’s stepping down from his promises of renewing the country, and I wrote about it to my former colleague in the UK. My friend answered by quoting a sentence that dated back to the time of Jonathan Swift: “Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken” (a politician’s motto, he said).

I thought about all that when the news of the Ukrainian President’s financial offshore dealings grabbed the media headlines yesterday (https://www.occrp.org/en/panamapapers/ukraine-poroshenko-offshore/ ). Being a chocolate baron in Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko channeled money to the British Virginia Islands. His adherents insist that there’s no crime in this arrangement. But, as it looks, there are at least two violations: according to Ukrainian law a businessman must renounce his business when he is elected to a political job. Also, Mr. Poroshenko concealed the fact of his owning another company. Besides, the moral aspect is that a businessman (this time, of no lower caliber than President) diverted his money out of Ukraine not to pay taxes in the country which he had vowed (promised!) to make economically stronger. In my view, however, what made Poroshenko’s actions particularly disgusting was that he had been performing his underhand operations exactly at the time when Ukrainian soldiers were dying by the hundreds in eastern Ukraine in August 2014.

The Basil Brush Show, a BBC children’s sitcom, has been on until now. The modern spin-off is far away from the 1970s original, but each time when I watch “Basil” on YouTube, I’ve got an impression that in a moment or two this red puppet fox will stand again on his hind legs, straighten his back, raise his tail (his most prized possession which he calls “my brush”) and shout at the top of his voice: “Down with the sleazy politicians! Basil for President!”

THE TALE OF THE YEARS NOT GONE BY

February 8, 2016

Nestor-the-ChroniclerIn his Tale of Bygone Years, written in the 12th century and describing the events that took place a few hundred years earlier, Nestor the Chronicler told about how the Chuds, the Slavs, the Krivichs, and the Vesps had invited the Rus (another name for the Vikings, or the Varangians) to rule over them: “Our land is great, but there is no order in it. Come and reign as princes, rule over us. Three brothers with their kinfolk were selected. They brought with them all the Rus… Later they … created the Kyivan Rus.”

However, the Varangians didn’t manage to make the country orderly. They simply got diluted in the Slavonic sea leaving only a few Nordic proper names for the posterity not to forget their failed effort: Helgi, Helga, Ingvar, Sveinald, who were transformed respectively to Oleg, Olga, Igor and Sviatoslav. The Mongolian nomads from the East drove the final nail in the coffin of the Rus statehood.

Almost a millennium later a political troika from Kyiv (the President, the Premier and the Speaker) invited a reform task force from abroad to put their country in order: “Our land is great, but there is much corruption in it. Come and root it out for us.” The Varangians from the U.S.A., Georgia, Lithuania were selected. But the troika planted their appointees round the new Varangians, and the Varangians started being diluted among the local cadres, and the sea of the Slavonic corruption remained as endless as it always was.  Ironically, the mongolized hordes are again in the country’s east as they were several centuries before.

Who said that Time is linear? It is, in a modernistic way, cyclic. And with Ukraine, it goes round in circles. Round and round. Millennium after millennium.

VLADIMIR TOPTYGIN

January 26, 2016

Today I watched a documentary Putin’s Secret Riches (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgDCRegyo7Q )which was shown on the BBC’s Panorama yesterday evening. Besides his probable involvement in poisoning Mr. Litvinenko, the Russian president is accused of looting his own country on an extraordinary scale. With his official salary of $110,000 a year, Putin is said to be in possession of $40bn in secret shareholdings – the fact which he, naturally, denies. He denies it in his usual boorish style: “They picked that information out of their own noses and smeared it all over their little papers.” However, the correspondent Richard Bilton is rather convincing in his argumentation when he produces documents proving Mr. Putin’s riches, plays back wire-tapped phone conversations, and interviews people, some of whom themselves had helped Putin to accumulate that wealth but later fell out with their patron, fled their homeland and are now on the run in other countries.

Actually, the BBC didn’t tell anyone here, in Ukraine, what we hadn’t suspected about Putin before. The same, we knew, was the case with the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The tradition to profit from one’s job position, to use it as a personal enrichment machine by robbing one’s own country blind goes back to the Russian czars’ times.

I’m sure, the Russians won’t be surprised or indignant over the disclosed facts about their president either. “So what?” will they say, “the guy (the President) had a chance which anyone in his place would have used.” That’s why, when Brian Whitmore in his latest Daily Vertical says that the mask has come off the Putin regime for much of the world and now it remains to wonder how long it’ll be before it comes off for the Russians themselves, I smile at the naivety of these words and say to myself, “Never. Never will the mask come off for the Russians. They don’t want it to come off. They canonized czar Nicholas II into a saint, at the same time they line up in Red Square to pay homage to Lenin, the embalmed murderer of the czar; they brought Stalin (a murderer of millions upon millions of the people) back into existence, and they will be ready to idolize any nonentity just for being a “czar”…

There’s an interesting cross-cultural moment in Richard Bilton’s film which, I think, the correspondent has overlooked. While discussing Putin’s financial matters over the phone, not to reveal the true owner of the money his agents use the name “Mikhail Ivanovich” as an alias for their boss. That’s a traditional nickname for a “bear” in Russian fairy tales for children. With “Mikhail Ivanovich” being respectively the first name and the patronymic name, the surname “Toptygin” (“Trampler”) is often added to them. So, Vladimir Putin… Mihail Ivanovich Toptygin, the Russian bear… The name which, for Russians, evokes fear, respect and nostalgic love.

 

THE FATHER, THE MOTHER AND THE TEACHER…

January 15, 2016

An article about a plagiarized doctorate dissertation was published on a popular Ukrainian website Ukrayins’ka Pravda (The Ukrainian Truth). The author of the article was Tetiana Parkhomenko, Doktor of Philosophical Studies, and the “accused” party was Kateryna Kyrylenko, also a Doktor (of Pedagogy). Soon after Ms. Tetiana Parhomenko’s article appeared, Ms. Kateryna Kyrylenko, the alleged “plagiarizer, published her own article refuting the accusations. Incidentally, the Doctor’s degree in Ukraine (“Doktor Nauk”) stands for the highest rung of recognized scholarly achievement, so this time it was an online “battle of heavyweights.” Besides, as of today, this case is becoming a matter of principle in the context of the government’s anti-corruption campaign: everybody in this country remembers President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted in February 2014, who was also a “doktor nauk ” but who used to make two errors in one word writing his title “professor” by spelling it with two “f”s and one “s.”

Whatever Ms. Kyrylenko’s argumentation in her defence may be, one thing is for me crystal-clear: if she extensively used someone else’s texts word for word without referring either to the texts or to their authors (and that was exactly the case with her doctorate dissertation defended a few months ago), it’s called plagiarism. Period.

However, the name “Kyrylenko” rings a bell. Yes, that’s the name of the Minister of Culture of Ukraine. And (you are right) Ms. Kateryna Kyrylenko is his wife.

In Ukrainian, as it is used in everyday life (we say, “in the kitchen”), there exists an expression “telefonne pravo” (“rule by telephone”), which roughly means: informal influence or pressure exerted by the authorities on persons or organizations that are dependent on those authorities as regards the decisions taken.”  The most flagrant case of the “telefonne pravo” was last July when the All-Ukrainian Center for High School Graduates’ Evaluation was raided by the Pocurator’s Office. The Center was accused of disclosing the contents of academic tests to some school graduates and of bribe-taking. More than half a year has passed, but the matter is still “under investigation.” I think, it can hardly be completed the way the Procurator’s Office wants it, because there was no crime at all. Mr. Likarchuk, the head of the center (he doesn’t head it anymore) had been widely known as a person of integrity who would not yield to any pressure from above as far as test results were concerned. For me the case seems rather transparent: with his/her test scores received in June last year, an offspring of a high-placed bureaucrat hadn’t qualified to be admitted to any university, so, the offspring’s dad (mum) contacted the Chief Procurator and the raid was effected. As a result, the situation was“put right” and, also, it was a good lesson for those who might dare be “disobedient” in the future. Can you imagine that the ACT or SAT centers in the U.S.A could be raided like that?

You may ask why admission rules to Ukrainian universities change annually? Or why, until now, Ukraine has stayed away from PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment)? My answer is: the high-and-mighty bureaucrats want to rule. To rule without any interference from outside.

That is why Ukraine needs Europe. I understand that Ukraine’s European membership and/or participation are no panacea against the country’s ills until the country pulls up its sleeves and starts cleaning its own Augean stables. But I hope that at least an understanding of what is good and bad, normal and abnormal, acceptable and unacceptable will then come Ukrainian society. And that the feeling of shame will return. The feeling that makes us humans.

Speaking about his country, the former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (he died last year at the age of 83) once said: “If a country is to be free of corruption and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

The same can be said about Ukraine.

THE BATTLES WON AND LOST

July 23, 2015

Duke Wellington believed that the battle of Waterloo had been won on the playing fields of Eton. IMHO, the future of Ukraine will be won in classrooms and lecture rooms. However, the strength of character, daring and pluck, which were decisive for the joint Anglo-German victory in 1815, seem to be next in importance to the Ukrainians. In the bygone ages as well as in the recent past the Ukrainians proved that they possess the stamina needed. What they really lack is integrity and noble-mindedness. Having been eternal survivors and having their elite continuously vacuumed by dominant nations, the Ukrainians developed in themselves readiness for compromise, adaptability, contrivance, expediency, etc.

As a former educator, I know from my own experience how ruinous it was for a young person to be taught high ideals at high school (pls excuse the tautology), and then face hard reality of the adult world after the graduation party. As a former dean at an institution of higher learning I know how inventive Ukrainian parents could be while pushing their progeny into universities. The higher the parents’ position in the bureaucratic hierarchy was, the more impudent and pushy they were. As a rule, heads of universities who were responsible for the admission procedure, were rather pliable to the pressure. And not only to the intimidation of the stick, but to the lure of the carrot too. Incidentally, I say “were pliable”, but shouldn’t I use the Present Tense and say: “are pliable”? When I happen to drop in at university buildings nowadays and when I see their shining interior and state-of-the-art equipment, I can guess very well where all that comes from because I know the Ukrainian GDP and the budget share allotted for the Ukrainian education. I only think: if that much is channeled from the parents for universities’ needs, how much more is deposited in the pockets of the administrators who supervise the students’ admission! And then, how many of those who really deserve to be admitted, stayed overboard just because their places were taken over by the applicants from more “moneyed” and more influential families!

I heaved a sigh of relief when the written External Independent Evaluation (EIE) was introduced in Ukraine for all university entrants in 2008 instead of the universities arranging their own sets of mostly oral examinations. In those days (2008) it looked like it was impossible for the university admission boards to play the swindling shell-game of proving that a good answer was poor and a poor answer was good. But that didn’t last long. A much more corrupted regime came to power with the election of Viktor Yanukovych as President, and the new Minster of Education diluted the EIE by adding “diploma points” to the total evaluation score of each entrant. Also, quite a number of universities received the right to conclude whether an applicant fits to be their student … again by oral questioning. As a result, the impartiality of the EIE was eroded at both ends: at high school where bribed teachers were giving inflated marks to students, and at universities – by examiners who finally “regulated” the admission by assigning the applicants the “necessary” number of points.

This year’s EIE was expected to be really objective. And it was! The head of the EIE is known by his honest and uncompromising stand. In his interviews after the external evaluation he emphasized that the maximum of objectivity had been achieved – no matter how much pressure was exerted on him and his colleagues – even by high-positioned authorities. A bolt from the blue came two days ago when the General Prosecutor’s Office uncovered an “organized criminal organization” within the EIE Center. The members of the alleged criminal group allegedly infiltrated the electronic data base of the Center and are said to have been rigging the results of the EIE. Charges are laid against all those who occupy senior positions in the EIE Center including Ihor Likarchuk, the head of the Center.

I know our General Prosecutor’s Office, just as I know the Ukrainian courts, judges, the Ukrainian militia and other law-enforcing bodies. After the Maidan events in 2014 they never disappeared, they were never punished for their crimes. They keep sitting in their chairs and hating those who are trying to reform the country. It may seem surprising that the General Prosecutor’s Office undertakes the investigation of an educational body at this time (the first time after year 2002). But it’s no surprise at all, if you consider that an offspring of a very important bureaucrat may have failed his/her EIE this year because of the objectivity of the test. That is why, instead of looking for the murderers of the Heavenly Hundred in February 2014, or sorting out the smuggling at the Ukrainian border, or screening the old guard for their cooperation with the former regime, the General Prosecutor’s Office (supported by President Poroshenko’s meaningful silence) go at what was the HOPE.

I know one thing: if this battle on the educational field is won by the old guard, Ukraine will lose the battle in the East. Or, maybe, it should not even try to defend its independence then. I have no wish to live in a corrupted Little Russia — even if it is independent.

BUSINESS OF BLOOD

May 28, 2014

Donetsk todaySome statements that go with the key-word “war” cynically say that “war is peace because it makes some people rich and safe…” Others have it that “…War is brutal. The alternative is worse.” The Russian proverb claims that for some people “war is war, for others – “dear mother.”

Yesterday the funeral of 17 soldiers from the west of Ukraine was broadcast on TV. They had died in Donbas. The wives and mothers dressed in black were crying. The children – most of them of pre-school age – were not crying. The women were hysterically asking a military commander of their killed husbands and sons how it could have happened that so many lives had been lost in what seemed to be not a major battle. I thought about the anti-terrorist action (which is the common official term for the war in Donbas) and about how long it has been going on. In my understanding an “anti-terrorist” action should last just a few hours, not months. However, every day our soldiers risk their lives and die in the East of Ukraine, There are no tangible results. There appear more and more of the bandits, who have got more and more of arms and ammunition. The bandits and the weapons can be continuously and successfully supplied from Russia only through illegally existing corridors in the border.

Several days ago a pro-Ukrainian activist Mr.Tymchuk (a former military) reported in social networks about some 40 trucks with armed people who were ready to move into Ukraine from Russia. The trucks moved in yesterday morning. The Ukrainian border guards explain that they made an attempt to “stop” the infiltrators but the attempt “failed” and hundreds of the terrorists headed for Donetsk to help the anti-Ukrainian forces. Today the government officials began talking about strengthening the border (after almost three months of the undeclared war with Russia!).

Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union many Ukrainians started travelling to neighboring East European countries selling there goods they took from Ukraine. That way they got foreign currency which they brought back to Ukraine, thus providing for their families. Some goods were prohibited for taking out of the country – at least in the quantities the traders ‘exported’– and the people found illegal means of carrying the goods through check-points. As a rule, that was done through bribing custom officers and border guards. The state border became transparent, and for many officials responsible for keeping the border “locked” their position turned into a lucrative business. I know about it because my acquaintance told me in those days in detail how he was smuggling goods into Poland. The practice seems to keep until now. Only this time the corridors are bribed through not “out” but “into” Ukraine, and the neighboring country is not Poland but Russia, And the goods are less innocent than electric irons and cigarettes were.

The newly elected President of Ukraine said that his priority is fighting the corruption in the country. I think he put his finger on the problem.

“ON THE PAD” WITH THE RED PAD

January 21, 2012

In the 1960s Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book was the most printed book in the world. It was the size of a notepad. The book was mass-published and distributed among the citizens. In the photos of those days you could see crowds of hongweibings waiving their red-covered booklets with Mao’s quotations.  Fifty years later a “hongweibing” – a queer exotic word standing for a “red defence soldier, red guard” became archaic, many of the “citizens” are now known as “netizens” and the word “pad” acquired  a modern meaning: a “hand-held computer with a touch-screen, a tablet.” Of late, a device called the Red Pad was developed in China. The Red Pad features swipe control of apps, an A9 dual-core processor, 16GB of flash storage, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. But unlike more proletariat tablets the Red Pad comes loaded with pre-installed apps that tap into the latest in “party thought” – websites with information for party functionaries.
The distribution method will also undergo changes as compared to how Mao’s books were spread. The Chinese tablet won’t be sold in stores, it will be given to party cadres for free. Lesser mortals will hardly be able to own it – especially when you consider the price of the Red Pad: $1,584, twice as much as the most expensive Apple iPad. With the Chinese New Year in, there’s sure to be lots of the “red-pad gift-giving” on the upper ladders of the party hierarchy. Alluding to the steep price as well as the perception of widespread use of public funds for gift-giving within Chinese officialdom, one online comment quipped, “Red Pad No.1? Corruption No.1!”

Much has changed in the vocabulary and in the conceptual picture of the modern world since the beginning of the digital revolution.  What hasn’t changed, is the hypocrisy of communists. In the ex-USSR they were trumpeting for social “liberty, equality, fraternity” at the same time having their own cafeterias, dachas, rest-homes, reserved places for their kids at universities, even reserved places at cemeteries after their timely or untimely demise. In present-day China they reserve the Red Pads, leaving the paperback “red pads” for the “broad run.”


%d bloggers like this: