Posts Tagged ‘Ukraine’

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.

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THE CENTENARY OF THE EXPERIMENT

November 12, 2017

Russian-Rev-853x326

This year’s November 7th passed in Ukraine almost unnoticed. Just another day in late autumn – short, dark and dull. That’s not what the Communist party leaders hoped for when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “Great October Socialist Revolution” (that was the official name) fifty years ago. I remember 1967 very well. General euphoria flooded the three existing television channels and all the paper media were crammed with “reports” about the achievements of the working people and working intelligentsia on the “labor fronts.” There was no end to all sorts of functions and meetings, to congratulatory telegrams sent by leaders of “brotherly” parties from all over the world. My fellow student said to me then, “Can you imagine what it will be like when the centenary of the Revolution is celebrated?” However, there was nothing on November 7, 2017… Just another November day, dark and boring…

Political experts and analysts have written volumes about the collapse of the Soviet Union, emphasizing various reasons why the implementation of the communist ideology failed. All of them may be right. I am just going to present a layman’s arguments why I am strongly against this ideological experiment to be repeated now or any time in the future.

At first sight, I don’t have much to complain about. I grew in a family in which there were three more children. When our father died, two of the children were still in high school (my brother, who was three years younger, and I were already university students). Our mother, being the only bread-winner in the family with a rather small salary – just enough only to make both ends meet,  managed to raise the younger ones and they also graduated from universities.  I received what I consider to be good education and I felt (and continue to feel 🙂 ) quite comfortable in such areas as pedagogy and foreign languages. Later, when I met American and British educationalist, and then when I taught at schools of Sheffield and Chicago, I saw for myself that my level was not lower than that of my colleagues in Britain or the U.S.A. At the start of my career, I was “given” an apartment to live in. In those days apartments were not bought – they were “given” for free by the administration at your place of work if they thought that you were an efficient and perspective employee, i.e. if you “deserved” this benefit. Apartments became immediately the property of those to whom they were given, and no one could take them away from you, even if you changed your place of work and started working for another enterprise, or even if you went to another city to work.

When I began working after the university, I could afford to buy good books. I collected an excellent home library which contained the best works of world classical literature. My own children were basking in the atmosphere of books and music. When they were little kids, my wife and I used to take them to the seaside either in the Crimea or the Caucasus practically every summer.

No unemployment, residence given for free (and used in perpetuity), free education, free medicine, the motto “A man is a brother (not a wolf) to another man…” Why, then, am I AGAINST that communist experiment?

In the first place, it’s because not everything was free… You could openly say only what the Big Brother expected you to say. I had to be cautious when I was teaching classes. In one of her lectures, in the 1970s, one of my colleagues mentioned (in passing) that millions of people had been murdered on Josef Stalin’s orders. She was reported by an anonymous informer and kicked out from the university within a couple of days.

Earlier I mentioned my home library: John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, William Golding, Dylan Thomas, Muriel Spark… Their works were (and are now) on my shelves at arm’s length. But to possess such books as The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn meant much trouble if the possession was discovered. And should the owner give The Gulag Archipelago to a friend to read, that could lead to an arrest and imprisonment of the giver because such an action came under the provision of the law about anti-Soviet propaganda. Myself, I was able to read Solzhenitsyn’s work only in the United States. Earlier, in Britain, I read George Orwell’s 1984 and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, which were also banned in the Soviet Union.

All schools, factories, farms (there were only “collective” farms), all enterprises, offices – no matter how small they could be – each had their “party bureaus” which kept a watchful eye on the behavior of their employees. If anyone (even not a Communist party member) stepped back from the “party line,” repercussions followed right away. In my time there were no mass arrests, as they were in the 1930s,  but dismissal from work was common. There were expulsions of students from universities too. One of our students who knew English best was sent to Alma-Ata (the then capital of the Kazakh Republic in Central Asia)  to participate in an all-U.S.S.R. English competition. There he told (in private, with only a few people present) a “political joke.”  A week or two after his return from Alma-Ata, the local KGB informed the university rector about the “disloyalty” of the student. He was saved from expulsion only because he was in his last year of the university and was already assigned to a certain place to work after graduation.

Incidentally, placements after graduation were another headache for most of the students. The graduates had to work where the educational authorities sent them to – even if the students had found better places of work which were more to their liking and where they were welcomed. Places for students in the first 2-3 years of graduation were in remote (“God-forsaken”) villages, hardly accessible in late fall or winter time, and with very limited number of conveniences.

Travelling abroad was a privilege of the few who were chosen. Again, such trips had to be approved beforehand by a party bureau or a party committee, which supervised subordinated party bureaus. If any stepping back or away “from the line” was revealed before the trip, the candidate was barred from travelling. The same took place when a person returned from a trip abroad with “tarnished reputation” (usually it became known also from anonymous reports). Then, violators were blacklisted and banned from future trips. Another colleague of mine bought a crucifix (a small, next-to-skin baptismal cross) while being on a tour in Bulgaria. A few days after his return, there was a phone call from the regional party committee, followed by a staff meeting where the colleague’s behavior was discussed, and only because he was not a communist party member, the punishment was mild – just a reprimand registered in his work record book.

As regards religion, officially it was not banned, but by default (a popular word in our computer age), it was frowned upon. Scientific Atheism was a required course at all departments in all universities. My mother was a Baptist believer, and I was reticent about it knowing that I would hardly be allowed to work were I was working if the administration found it out.

As a child, I listened to what my parents told me about their childhood. In the 1930s, my grandparents (both on the paternal and maternal lines) had been dispossessed of their land and evicted from their homes just because they were a bit more successful than most other villagers, i.e. they had a few more horses or oxen, their houses were more spacious, etc. After the eviction and their property – even their kitchen utensils – taken from them, they had to go and live at other people’s homes – as a rule, with their distant relatives. And since the relatives could not physically accept the whole family in their houses, the parents lived at one place and the children at another, sometimes in another village. My father’s father was arrested for being “rich” but managed to escape, and lived secretly in another part of the country.

And then, there was so much of deception and lying behind pompous phrases and speeches from TV screens and rostrums. The party bureaucrats, unable to work the command economy, which they called “planned economy”, generated continuous shortages of food, clothes, services, etc. They tried to calm the people by their “skoro budet” (“it’s coming soon”) slogans. However, they did not tighten their own belts. They had special shops (including food shops) which had all sorts of goods inaccessible to “lesser mortals”, special  clinics and hospitals for themselves, right connections… Only one telephone call from a local party boss was enough to solve any issue — even if “to solve” meant to break the law. That was called the “telephone right.” In case with higher education, the telephone right was used, for example, to secure the admission of their sons, daughters and other relatives, or just those from their own clan, to universities, though in most cases young people who were admitted this way didn’t match the admission standards.

I have cast a glance at the latest stage of communism in my country, as I experienced it myself. I could write hundreds of more pages with thousands of examples about why I cannot accept that ideology. It looks human only on the surface – free education, free medicine, “homo homini frater est,” etc., etc. It is inhuman — basically and fundamentally.

THE TREE

August 28, 2017

2017-08-27Central Square-Kropyvnytskyi-2I didn’t know its name. Nowadays there are special ID apps to identify trees by their bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit. I just asked people I knew if they could tell me something about the handsome plants that grew in the main square of this city. The people only shrugged their shoulders. But I liked the trees even without knowing what they were called: the very fact they had no name added to their charm. They spread their branches wide and low over the ground, their leaves were big and heart-like, and the shade from them was dark and cool. You could sit under the trees for hours listening to the rippling of the fountain nearby.

2017-08-27Central Square-KropyvnytskyiLater I knew that the trees were called catalpas. They were native to a few southern states of the U.S.A.: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, and also to more northerly states (the species known as the Northern Catalpa) and they came to the Ukrainian steppes only recently. Now there are about 700 kinds of catalpa scattered across Japan, China, India. The trees became almost cosmopolitan.

2017-08-27blgCatalpaCatalpa takes its name from Catawaba, the name of a Native American tribe, for whom the catalpa tree is a tribal totem. And a totem it became for good reason: its wood is soft and dry, and it does not rot easily. In earlier years it was used for fence posts and as a material for railroad ties. More modern uses include furniture, interior trim and cabinetry. Catalpa has one of the lowest shrinkage/expansion rates of any U.S. hardwood. Only northern white cedar and redwood have lower shrinkage/expansion rates, and not by much. The tree’s tendency to grow crooked does not make it a source of usable lumber, but it is excellent for carving and boat-building.

The tree is fairly free from fungal diseases and has few insect enemies. The most widely know insect is the catalpa moth caterpillar, but it is widely regarded by fishing enthusiasts as one of the best live baits, and the tree may be planted strictly for this purpose, which is why it has earned the tree common names of worm tree, or bait tree. Interestingly, Catalpa regulates the number of undesirable invaders. Its leaves have a curious adaptation: nectar is secreted from their tiny glands when larvae of the moths attack them. Within 36 hours of the attack, nectar production increases massively and that attracts ants. The ants eat moth larvae and serve as the tree’s natural bodyguards.

DSC06751Catalpa prefers much sun and fertile soil – the things the Ukrainian steppe is abundant in. A huge catalpa tree grows right into my window on the fourth floor. A tribal totem of the Catawaba people and also my amulet connecting me with this place and with the world.

Tomorrow I’m leaving. I’ll be missing catalpas.

THE PLACE WHERE MY HEART IS

August 25, 2017

1 – 2 The roads that are always dear

3 – Erst die Arbeit, dann das Spiel, or: having mastered an electric saw

4 – 10 An oasis in the Ukrainian steppe

11—My brother and me

12 – RECIPE: potatoes are washed, each potato is halved; a piece of bacon is put in between; the potatoes are wrapped in aluminum paper as shown in the picture and buried in hot ashes. After a quarter of an hour the potatoes are taken out, unwrapped and enjoyed 🙂

13 – Thinking about the past and future

 

THE SPEECH OF TRUTH

July 31, 2017

2017-07-31TruthTaras Shevchenko, the Ukrainian poet, once predicted that his country would be lullabied into sleep by ‘evil people’ and then woken up to discover that it had been robbed and was on fire. The ‘evil people’, for Shevchenko, were Russians. Two hundred years after the poet’s prediction, another enemy, alongside Russia, is rising in Ukraine’s way: this time, Ukraine catches fire again and the arsonist is radical liberalism. Liberal ideology, with its values, language and censorship is becoming more and more tangible here in Ukraine. Liberal concepts are being implemented on the level of government, through well-financed organizations and with an active support of the media. They also impinge on the Ukrainian law.

Of late, the notion of ‘hate speech’ encroaches on the Ukrainian press. Demurely, the word combination is translated from English into Ukrainian as ‘speech of hostility’ (‘мова ворожнечі’), and is mostly a means to silence the truth. Since the times of classical liberalism, its advocates had insisted that they opposed censorship and upheld freedom of expression, of thought and of conscience. Not admitting that their censorship is a censorship, they cry wolf and lay all faults at the door of those who call things by their true names. With the ‘hate-speech’ label, liberals denounce any idea that contradicts their dogmas. If I, as a Christian, say that homosexuality is a sin, they say I use ‘hate speech.’ If I say that immigrants from Asia and Africa must respect the people and the laws of a country which welcomes them, but not go brazen, the liberals call it ‘hate speech.’

In the Ukrainian context, the liberal-minded journalists say we can’t call our soldiers fighting the Russian troops in Donbas ‘our heroes’, just as we can’t call the Russians or their allies in Donbas “aggressors’, ‘invaders’ or ‘terrorists.’

Should the doctrine of liberalism be implemented (which is actively done in a number of industrialized countries!), people may get disarmed in the face of Evil and lose their ability of adequately evaluating events. On the other hand, being the backbone of the modern civilization, Christianity teaches that it’s wrong to be ‘overcorrect’ where you should be categorical. In Matthew 23, Jesus does not mince words when he addresses the Pharisees:

“…you hypocrites…you, blind guides… You blind fools! …inside they (the Pharisees) are full of greed and self-indulgence… You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness… “ And further: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Please, notice: not ‘alternatively devout’, but ‘brood of vipers.’

 My feeling is that these words are spoken today and about what is happening now.

THE NATIONALISTS

June 7, 2017

They didn’t know each other personally, but at some point, their biographies were strikingly similar. Both of them were born into families with strong religious traditions and both were Polish citizens at the beginning of WWII. Each of them had an all-consuming passion: for one it was Ukraine, for the other Israel. Each of them served in a foreign army with an idea to be trained as a military, so that later, with the experience gained, they would serve their own countries – the countries that so far hadn’t existed by that time. In 1944, when Menachem Begin understood that the British, who had a League of Nations mandate for Palestine, were not planning on establishing a Jewish state in the Middle East, he proclaimed a revolt of a Zionist militant group he headed, against the British. In 1943, when Roman Shukhevych lost all hope that the Germans would agree to an independent Ukraine, he joined the Ukrainian guerillas who were fighting both the Germans and the Soviets, and later he ranked foremost in the Ukrainian Resistance Movement – the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The enemies were targeted, attacked, killed, blown off, bombings were authorized… Both Roman Shukhevych and Menachem Begin were on top of the list of the most “WANTED” – the former was wanted by the Germans/Soviets and the latter – by the British (M15 placed “dead-or-alive” bounty of 10,000 pounds on the head of Menachem Begin).

In the long run, the destinies of Begin and Shukhevych turned out to be different. In 1947, the British cabinet voted to leave Palestine, and the UN approved a resolution to partition the country between Arabs and Jews. In 1948, Israel declared its independence. In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, Monachem Begin served as Prime-Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel.

Roman Shukhevych and his army were active fighting communists in Ukraine for almost 10 years after the end of WWII. Shukhevych shot himself when his residence near Lviv was surrounded by some 700 soldiers, and when he was about to be arrested by the agents of the MGB (Ministry of State Security).

How are these two remembered by their compatriots? You ask anybody in Israel about Menachem Begin and they will know the person and his role in building the Jewish state. In 2013, The Jerusalem Post published an article “Menachem Begin: A Model for Leadership.” The article begins with the following words: “Of those who fought for the Jewish state, and then went on to lead it, the two outstanding figures are David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin.” After concluding the peace treaty with Egypt in 1978, Menachem Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Anwar Sadat. A slightly fictionalized Begin appears in films, plays and novels. The 10-mile Menachem Begin Expressway, popularly known as Begin Highway, passes from north to south in western Jerusalem.

Roman Shukhevych was awarded the title of the Hero of Ukraine by President Yushchenko in 2007. The award was annulled by the pro-Russian President Yanukovych in 2010. Several appeals followed and, from what I understand, the matter is still in suspension. On June 1, 2017 the Kyiv City Council unanimously voted to rename Vatutin Prospekt on the left bank of the city by giving it the name of Roman Shukhevych. (Nikolai Vatutin was a Soviet general and Stalin’s favorite who, in 1943, was liberating Kyiv from the Germans, at the same time occupying it for the communists, and against whom the Shukhevych-led Insurgent Army fought). Incidentally, a two-month public opinion survey was previously arranged on the site of the Kyiv City Council before the final decision was made, with the majority of voters having supported the renaming. However, the media controlled by money-bags, who need independent Ukraine only as a guarantee that they get a free hand in robbing Ukraine of its riches and that those riches are not further robbed away from them by Putin, set up a howl, their main argument being that Roman Shukhevych was a “nationalist.” Well, guys, nationalism is the armor used by a nation to defend its identity, to preserve its culture, history and memory – not to be dissolved or simply destroyed in the world torn apart by mutual distrust, hatred, and readiness to murder. The Jewish people, to which most of the Ukrainian oligarchs ethnically belong, could survive and live successfully on because of their nationalism. The roots of the Jewish nationalism are in the Old Testament. Just read the Bible before accusing Shukhevych of nationalism.

I esteem it an honor to write about them, the nationalists, who fought not so much because they hated what was in front of them, but because they loved what was behind them.

UKRAINE’S “SPLIT PERSONALITY”

May 13, 2017

2017-05-13Victory Day

Having seen quite a few Ukrainian presidents and governments for the last twenty-two years, I cannot but arrive at the conclusion that all of them may be diagnosed with what the psychiatrists call a “multiple personality disorder.” Within the last quarter of a century our leaders and ruling bodies were positioning themselves both as socialists and capitalists, internationalists and nationalists, Euro-Asians and Europeans, conservatives and liberals, Soviets and anti-Soviets, etc. The holidays and events which are marked in this country and which conflict with each other are a consistent pattern of this attitude. There was a time when we celebrated the Day of (Ukrainian) Independence along with the Day of October (Russian) Revolution – the latter actually did away with the Ukrainian independence in 1917. Until recently the Ukrainians celebrated the Day of their own Armed Forces and the Defender of (Russian) Fatherland Day, the International Women’s Day (in March) and Mother’s Day (in May). It must be admitted, however, that this practice has its tradition: we have always had two Christmases, two New Years and, very often, two Easters.

It was crystal clear from the very beginning that Day of Memory/Reconciliation that is observed on May 8th, and Victory Day celebrated on May 9th are poles apart. One day, we are supposed to grieve over the victims and reconcile with our former adversaries, and the next day, we should be jubilant over the victory and, shaking our fists at the enemy, say: “We may repeat it, if need be.” Besides, those who were laying wreaths at memorials on May 9th, remembered not so much the World War as they were filled with malice, if not hatred, towards Ukraine. They were chanting anti-Ukrainian slogans, they identified with St. George’s ribbon in the lapel of Putin’s coat and with his “immortal battalions.”

There was at least one good point in what happened on May 9th: it helped draw a more distinct demarcation line between Russia and Ukraine and see more clearly who Ukraine’s enemy inside Ukraine is. Should we, then, observe Day of Reconciliation?

P.S. The cartoon introducing this blog was posted in the Int’l Herald Tribune 12 years ago. However, it looks quite modern. Alas!

BANDERA’S SPIRIT

January 1, 2017

torch-paradeToday is Stepan Bandera’s birthday. A Ukrainian nationalist, he is both much-loved and much-hated. Loved by those who want to see the resurrection of Ukraine as a nation, and hated by those who deny the right of Ukraine to exist.

Bandera was born 108 years ago Western Ukraine and assassinated by a KGB agent 58 years ago in West Germany. At different times the Ukrainians struggling for their independence (and, consequently, for the rights to know their history, to develop their culture, to speak their language, to have their own church) were named after their national leaders: “vyhovtsi” (after Ivan Vyhovskyi, in the 17th century), “mazepyntsi” (after Ivan Mazepa in the 18th century), “makhnovtsi” and “petliurivtsi” (after Nestor Makhno and Symon Petliura, in the 1920s). Since the 1940s the name has been “banderivtsi.” Interestingly, though the name, as it was coined in KGB offices, was meant to be pejorative, it is now used by ardent adherents of the Ukrainian cause with much pride, which reminds me of how the term “Christian” was used: originally the name was negative in ancient Rome, but later, with the spread of Christianity, the meaning turned to be positive, or, as linguists say, “elevated.”

However, in the popular Russian usage the word “banderovets” (it may be roughly translated into English as “Banderavite”) has extended its meaning and is generally referred to everyone who advocates their Ukrainian identity. A Ukrainian who is nothing but an immigrant worker in Moscow, goes as “khokhol” among Muscovites, but the one who emphasizes his Ukrainian background, and is principled, say, in using the Ukrainian language in the Russian surroundings will sooner be called “banderovets.”

It has become a recent tradition that annually, on January 1, young nationalists arrange torchlit processions in Kyiv and other major cities of Ukraine to honor Stepan Bandera. The Russian media do their utmost to demonize such manifestations. The same is done by some of the Western media which view the events in Ukraine through Russian eyes. “The man in the street” and the pro-Russian sympathizers are scared. I’m not. In their majority, the Ukrainians are fairly tolerant, and there’s absolutely no danger that they may fall into political or any other kind of zealotry. Sooner, the opposite may take place: Ukraine gained its independence rather late, and it may be swallowed and digested by such monsters as globalization, liberal thinking, political correctness, etc. The torchlit demonstrations are an antidote against this threat. Without the “Bandera spirit,” Ukraine would have long ago dissolved in the swamp of incurable Russian ills –servility, lawlessness, isolationism, xenophobia, chauvinism, laziness and aggressiveness.

THE STEPPE AND THE SPIRIT

December 23, 2016

leonid-kutsenkoA country can be best known by its province, not by the capital city. Those who live in Yorkshire villages represent England in a way which is more in sync with English traditional culture and history than, say, the population of London can represent it. The same is true about my Ukraine. I thought about it yesterday when I was attending a function at a pedagogical university in the city of Kropyvnytskyi. That social gathering was honoring the memory of the university’s professor Leonid Kutsenko who had tragically died ten years ago. I knew Leonid from the time when he was a second-year student in the 1970s at the same university. He was a very charismatic person – he was, what may be called “a man of passion.” His charisma combined with his sharp intellect, vehement quest for knowledge and (as it was sometimes said behind his back) his “abnormal” integrity. Leonid didn’t hesitate to voice what he really thought about a person or an event. Surprisingly, this “non-diplomatic” stand was an asset that attracted many people to him.

However, the chief feature of Leonid Kutsenko’s character was the love of his “small motherland.” He was born in the Ukrainian steppe, he knew the steppe and he could speak about it for hours. Once, both of us were going in a car along an endless road in southern Ukraine. I was driving the car and Leonid was in the passenger seat. Tirelessly, he was telling me a history of every village we were going through, and about outstanding personalities who were born here and later made these parts famous. Incidentally, our steppe (meaning the people) has always been independently minded. It had its own rebellious mentality which neither the Russian czars not the communist leaders could root out. The names of the cossack Ivan Sirko (17th century), or of the rebels Taras Triasylo (17th century), Maksym Zaliznyak and Ivan Honta (18th century), Nestor Makhno (20th century) are known practically to every Ukrainian. As I was listening to Leonid in the car, we missed a point where we had to turn off from the main road and we went on ahead for another hour and then had to make a U-turn and ride back. But I wasn’t in the least sorry for the time lost or petrol wasted because there was no loss or waste – I had heard a wonderfully passionate lecture of a scholar who knew his country and who was proud of it.

Much later, during Gorbachev’s “perestroika”, Leonid Kutsenko was able to travel to the Czech Republic, France and the U.S.A. where he worked in the archives and gathered much valuable material about the Ukrainian refugee writers who had fled the communist regime in the 1920s and in the 1940s. Actually, it was he who discovered for the present-day generations of Ukrainians the name of Yevhen Malaniuk whom the Russian propaganda had labeled “nationalist” and had always tried to hush up his name.

Incidentally, the other day I watched a video with a Russian military expert talking about the next stage of the war in Ukraine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CY5c6xZVvo ). Mikhail Aleksandrov spoke about, as he put it, a Syrian variant for my country: a large-scale offensive must start, he said, supported by the Russian aviation and long-range systems (rockets, cruise missiles, Iskander missiles). They will destroy the main Ukrainian infrastructure, communication centers, command centers, air-defense systems, heavy weaponry. And on the destroyed positions, where mostly the infantry is left with light weapons, the Donbas forces will advance. They basically will clean the territory from the remnants of the Ukrainian army, the expert concluded.

At the function, the university professors took the floor, reminisced about their former colleague, and at one point I thought that it won’t be so easy for Putin or Aleksandrov to crush Ukraine, even with the fifth column referred to in Aleksandrov’s video interview. The matter is that each of Kutsenko’s colleagues had very much the same spine as Leonid Kutsenko or Yevhen Malaniuk once had. And very much the same passion that has been growing throughout centuries in this rebellious Ukrainian steppe.

MANAFORT’S UKRAINE CONNECTION SCRUTINISED

August 20, 2016

My repost of a Financial Times article published today, August 20

 

Konstantin Kilimnik’s suspected background in Russian intelligence raises concerns over former Trump manager

ROMAN OLEARCHYK — KIEV

NEIL BUCKLEY — LONDON

When Paul Manafort, now Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, arrived in Ukraine a decade ago to advise future president Viktor Yanukovich, he relied on one man to be his ears and voice as an interpreter.

That figure was a Russian citizen, Konstantin Kilimnik. But, say several people who used to work with him, it was an open secret among the Manafort team and at a previous employer that Mr Kilimnik — as an army-trained linguist — had a background in Russian military intelligence.

At the time, the connection was deemed unimportant — Mr Kilimnik was valued for his “excellent English”, these people say.

Today, with Mr Kilimnik still close to Mr Manafort, according to people who know both men, the links have taken on new significance. As Vladimir Putin, Russian president, likes to joke, there is no such thing as a former intelligence officer.

Revelations about Mr Kilimnik threaten to deepen the controversy over Mr Trump’s sympathetic comments towards Moscow and Mr Putin on the campaign trail — giving him a reputation as the US’s first pro-Russian ticket — and over Mr Manafort’s work for Mr Yanukovich, who was toppled by Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan revolution.

People close to Mr Manafort insisted his resignation from Mr Trump’s campaign had nothing to do with adverse publicity over his Ukrainian activities. Mr Trump’s campaign directed all questions about Mr Manafort’s relationship with Mr Kilimnik to Mr Manafort.

But one person with intimate knowledge of Mr Manafort’s operations said the relationship was grounds for concern.

“It is a very real issue if you have a known Russian intelligence officer one degree of separation from Donald Trump, presidential candidate,” he said. “Konstantin Kilimnik knows Paul very well, and Paul is at Trump’s right hand.”

Although Mr Manafort has said his work in Ukraine finished in 2014, one senior parliamentarian from Opposition Bloc, the rebranded Regions party once led by Mr Yanukovich, said Mr Kilimnik continued to advise the party, but that the role might not be “formal”.

Mr Kilimnik did not answer emailed questions from the Financial Times about whether he had worked in Russian military intelligence. But, responding to a report about the alleged links on the Politico website yesterday, he blamed an orchestrated “campaign” for seeking to “push Manafort away from Trump and annihilate his chances of winning”.

“I am just a minor casualty in the US political game, which honestly has nothing to do with Ukraine or its future,” he said.

Yet Mr Kilimnik’s role as a Manafort assistant gave him rare access to some of the region’s most senior figures, from Mr Yanukovich to billionaire oligarchs and senior western diplomats.

Born in Ukraine in 1970,Mr Kilimnik served in the Russian army. His first long-term job after leaving the military was as a translator in Moscow with the International Republican Institute, the US non- governmental organisation that promotes democracy, in the early

1990s.One former IRI employee said he was hired because of his proficiency in English. But another former IRI staffer said Mr Kilimnik’s background was a cause of concern for some staff, and it was assumed he continued to inform Russian intelligence.

A decade later, his language skills led to his recruitment as an interpreter for the Manafort team advising Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, on an image makeover r.He remained with the team when it switched to advising Mr Yanukovich’s Regions party.

The interpreter was entrusted with more duties as the team helped Mr Yanukovich win the presidential electionin2010. “It was well known, I think, that he had some sort of intelligence background but that was never an issue for us because the embassy did not have much contact with Manafort’s operation,” a US official with experience in Ukraine recalled.

The Russian kept such a low profile:  there are no known photographs of him on the internet. Acquaintances describe him as highly intelligent, and a skilled political analyst.

Ukrainian politicians are now raising concerns about Mr Kilimnik’s proximity to Mr Manafort and through him, a potentiall  next US president .Volodymyr  Ariev, a pro-presidential MP, yesterday submitted a formal request for an investigation into Mr Kilimnik’s past. It came hours after Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau published copies of entries totalling $12.7mtoMrManafort in an alleged ledger of off-the-books payments from the Regions party to political advisers, pundits and campaigners.

The bureau stressed, however, that it had not established if Mr Manafort received the payments. Mr Manafort this week denied ever receiving cash payments from the party.


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