“Ins” and “outs” amongst the circles of the Russian “enlightened” - Odessa

Yesterday saw two occurrences in Odessa.

The first, a known unknown.  That being the declaration persona non grata of Valeriy Shibeko, acting Consul General of the Russian Federation in Odessa.


“In accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has given the Russian side a note demanding that the acting general consul of the Russian Federation in Odessa urgently leave the territory of our country.” was stated in the SBU announcement.

It is one of those known unknowns.  Mr Shibeko has been acting Consul General in Odessa since March 2014, and the fact the Russian Consulate in Odessa has been a hub of subterfuge, espionage and a stoker of social tensions is well known to those that live here.  It should come as no surprise to anybody that this Russian diplomatic outpost would be used to further such Kremlin policy.  Promoting and furthering Kremlin policy is one of its roles as a diplomatic mission after all.

That Mr Shibko arrived at the time of the illegal Crimean annexation in a strategic Ukrainian city when the “Novorossiya” fantasy was actively and aggressively being promoted by The Kremlin,  may cause some to suspect the legend of Mr Shibko.  Having previously served as Head of the Department of Internal Information Problems within the Russian MFA, to then arrive in a much coveted and strategic city for The Kremlin in terms of both “Novorossiya” and destabilising Ukraine in general, it would not seem the circumstances to appointment for a bona fida diplomat, but rather somebody with a far more nefarious history under diplomatic cover.

Thus the unknown in this known, was when Ukraine would get around to calling out Mr Shibko and  declaring him persona non grata.  That has now been answered, and Mr Shibko has already left Ukraine.

The Russian Consulate in Odessa, will needless to say remain tasked with continuing subterfuge, espionage, facilitating funding to certain groups, and stoking social unrest.  Kremlin policy will remain consistent under the next Consul General - whoever that may be.  In the meantime Ukraine may get around to declaring a few other Russian diplomats at the Odessa Consulate persona non grata too - for reasons no different to those given for the removal of Ms Shibko from Ukrainian soil.

Sticking with Russian citizens, that Governor Saakashvili has publicly cast his net for western educated people for his top table administrative team is no secret.  Thus far it is staffed by formally Georgian and native Ukrainian personnel.

Those that will eventually be part of the final top table administrative team remain unknown, although one of those unknowns is now a known.


The next appointment will be a Russian - or at least was (and possibly still is), but is now a holder of Ukrainian citizenship.  Her name of Maria Gaidar.  Her role will relate to social issues in the oblast.

Ms Gaidar is the daughter of the late Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, and she herself has served as Deputy Governor of Kirov Oblast in Russia, before resigning and heading to Harvard to complete a MA in Public Administration.

She is and has been nothing short of a very vocal critic of Mr Putin, even during her time as a politician in Russia.

As attractive as that anti-Putin streak undoubtedly is to Mr Saakashvili, the Harvard MA in Public Administration and previous experience as a Deputy Governor in Russia are certainly far more important when reform against the clock is the order of the day in Odessa Oblast.

Her appointment also brings a native Russian to the top of the Saakashvili administrative team to join the former Georgians and native Ukrainians, which will move further toward a cosmopolitan administrative elite with no (known or existing) ties to the established Odessa patriarchy.

All in all, quite an interesting Russian-flavoured Friday for Odessa - not that the Kremlin will take kindly to either occurrence.