On the old Internet boots of the new regime
The heroes of the classic film “Irony of fate” every New Year visited a sauna. With the same regularity, the Ukrainian State represented by the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the State Committee on Communications before each round of elections tries to “steer the Internet”. After the “cassette scandal” in the year 2000 , attempts were made to introduce “tapping” on Internet providers, to impose “registration” of websites and to “nationalize” the Ukrainian Internet domain.UA. Since then, every new lot of elections has brought with it renewed attempts at “steering”
The last escalation of pressure took place in 2003 – 2004 with plans again for total “monitoring”, “registration of websites” and «pulling the domain in their direction». Nevertheless, the Ukrainian Internet somehow held out. Openly “police-state” draft laws were not able to get through the voting stage in the Verkhovna Rada before the elections. Plans for “registration” of websites also somehow fizzled out. Yes, and they didnt succeed in appropriating the domain.UA before the elections despite a special directive from Kuchma and the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 447-r signed by the then Prime-Minister Yanukovych. At the same time, the scandal continued to rumble on quietly about the inefficient use of budgetary funds allocated for “automation of information systems”.
Behind the various events connected with the “communications” sphere the faces of the same circle of SSU generals and trusted State authorities could easily be seen. These included Stanislav Dovhy, Mykola Honchar, Oleh Yatsenko, Oleh Prozhivalsky – the heads of the State Committee on Communications, and their ever-present subordinate – the head of one of the departments, A, Nesterenko; SSU generals – Lazarev, V. Barlabanov, A. Gerasimov; the Deputy Head of the Anti-Monopoly Committee Y. Kravchenko. At various times petitions to the USA with the words “give us our domain!” were signed by the State Secretary Viktor Lisitsky, the Deputy Prime Minister V. Haiduk, Viktor Yanukovych in person and other now former “stars” of the Ukrainian State official horizon.
The year 2005 began, with a “new regime” taking power. Take a guess as to how the year has made its mark in history. You would think by reviewing discredited approaches and strategies, staff shake-ups, the reassessment of court rulings “to order”, the withdrawal of anti-Constitutional draft and other ways in which justice emerges victorious?
Do not delude yourself. Like a person living on the street who, after rummaging in waste containers, has found a pair of boots, worn, stained, but fitting just right, so the “new” regime has grabbed hold of, held and is using “still ticking mechanisms” and “strategies” from President Kuchmas time.
They said that it was under “bad old Kuchma” that the National program for automation of information systems (and virtually all such “information automation” activity of the State) was basically a cover for abuses? Well then, take a look at the document of the Cabinet of Ministers from 20 August 2005, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada with Yulya Timoshenkos signature. These 48 pages of material are for the parliamentary hearings scheduled for 21 September “on issues relating to the development of the information society in Ukraine”. The presenter is supposed to be Yevhen Chervonenko, and the text itself of the material has obviously been prepared in the offices of the present Ministry of Transport and Communications.
One should not weary the honourable Yevhen Alfredovych with silly questions – like what exactly is “the information society”? Does Ukraine need to build it? Why is the government carrying out its experiment on us in inculcating specifically this controversial philosophical theory, somehow reminiscent of yet another form of Marxism? The Minister has more important matters to deal with. He has to present to an audience of State Deputies the traditional fare from the activities of the former State Committee on Communications – a “potluck offering” from the annual reports of various departments.
Traditionally such reports of the former State Committee on Communications (now renamed the Ministry of Transport and Communications and passed over to the Ministry of Transport) have been designed to create the impression that not one real achievement of Ukraine in the sphere of “high technology” would supposedly have been impossible without the guidance and leading role of state officials. It is immaterial whether we are talking about distance learning, computer-aided medical operations, or the computerization of libraries using US embassy funding – the Kreshchatyk officials are right there, all without fail is added to their reports, on the lines of: “see, we ploughed the soil, the tractor and I”.
There are, however, in this dull text some amusing “pearls” dotted here and there. For example, the State officials are full of sincere expressions of willingness to go on a business trip to Tunisia, to the World Summit on issues relating to the information society. In 2003 they attended the same Summit, that time in Geneva. Just imagine, they liked it! And then just think how they provided entertainment for a serious forum with their pompous speech, in the style of a ceremonious report of the collective farm “Krasny svyazist” [“Red communications worker”] to the XXVI Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Having sat out the revolution and reorganization, the old hacks are now energetically getting ready for Tunisia. They are all set to amuse the world with a new masterpiece on the theme “How under the careful guidance of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the SSU, Ukraine has problems with building an information society” (pp. 3, 10).
There is, however, on p. 34 some self-criticism, stating that “we do not yet have a State policy on the formation of an information society”. This piece of text was obviously copied “without looking” from some other different report, and such an offensive blot wont stop anyone getting to Tunisia.
The next topic in terms of importance after foreign business trips – is of course that of budget funds. The The thoroughly offensive “program for automation of information” with its appetite for budgetary revenue has not disappeared. For example, the former State Committee on Communications was fond of creating “registers” of something or other. Obviously, on State money and through “their own trusted” contractors. It is not a job gathering dust – somebody works, creates something useful, and you sit, “register and monitor” it all.
It does touch on the absurd: at the top of page 41 they write about “the unordered work on creating land-surveys, logs and registers”, then on the very same page at the bottom they talk of the latest registers having been created – “a national register of information resources”, while on page 19 – about the creation of yet another, this time sector-based register of information resources, with financing … to the sum of 21,8 million UH. Yevhen Alfredovych, note well: it is time to urgently create “A Main central single national register of single national registers, logs and land-surveys”. It would be simply embarrassing to ask for any less than 50 million from the budget for such an undertaking.
The third thread running through the document is that of the “administration of the use of the Internet” (page 7), “the protection of information in the Internet” (page 6) and “electronic digital signature” (page 7). And you still think that there is no national policy for the formation of an information society in Ukraine. The policy there was has remained intact and will continue intact.
The traditional flag-officer in the creation of an information society is the independent sub-division of the SSU with a name impossible to pronounce: DSTSZI which, for the 2002 Elections in accordance with Decree №582/2000, was given the status of a body of State administration. Those in the picture claim that the main, unspoken, task of DSTSZI is not even so much to exert control over the Internet, as to create a structure of subsidiary enterprises in order to milk businessmen, channelling money into a non-State budget Service fund – “for technological protection of information”, “for certification of networks”, “for «for projects of protected hubs». And this fund is under the virtually uncontrolled power of the generals.
This model of «suction pump for money» is traditional for Ukrainian “business” from the time of Danilych:
First laws, decrees, resolutions and other such “normative stuff” are pushed through, this officially legalizing on a specific market a monopoly for “their own people”. Then these “own people” begin to rake in the goodies without any mercy: as the folk wisdom of surgeons puts it “a patient firmly tied down doesnt need to be sedated”.
From the summer of 2000, hackers from an invisible frontline developed a comprehensive plan of action, working at the same time in four main directions:
the development and legalization of systems of total tapping of the Internet channels of providers (the draft law “On monitoring of telecommunications”, Order of the State Committee on Communications №122 etc). This, moreover, is all at the expense of the providers themselves.;
the creation of a system whereby it becomes impossible to carry out certain types of economic activity without obtaining from DSTSZI certain “certificates” and “licences”. In particular, it is now legitimate to demand the presence of a so-called “complex system of protection of information” from financial institutions: they themselves have to create and introduce such systems, but now DSTSZI through its certified subsidiary companies can legally take their dues for recognizing such systems as “in compliance”. Specialists able to judge the competence of these “hackers in epaulets” laugh up their sleeve, but bankers can only weep – and carry out the demands and pay up, since the fleecing is all in accordance with the law. And the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers №253 from 4 March 2004 imposes some kind of “State expert analysis on issues of technical and cryptographic protection of information”: you surely dont imagine that this expert analysis comes for free?
the establishment and legalization of censorship of information resources on the Internet - for example, the draft law № 2663, the preparation for the pre-election "information war";
and, of course, the seizure of the control of the first level Ukrainian domain.UA and to boot, the control over the distribution of digital addresses of the Internet protocol.
The scope of the draft law on seizing control over the Internet, inherited from Kuchma, is truly staggering. In the report of the State Committee on Communications under the column "achievements two enterprises are mentioned: UANIC (UA network information centre) и «Consortium NNTE (National network of traffic exchange)». Both are run by the same people - Y. Honcharuk (the limited company "D Media", Kyiv) and K. Sinyavsky from Odessa, businessmen close to DSTSZI. Both firms can be found at one and the same address - 10, Vladymyrska Street, Kyiv. On every new change of power, the next contingent of State officials and generals join the watchdog councils. For example the council giving its blessing to the activities of UANIC now includes:
Leonid Netudykhata - the Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications. Before him, the role of “wedding generals of the UANIC was carried out in turn by Stanislav Dovhy and Oleh Yatsenko – Netudykhatas predecessors in the post of leader of the communications sphere;
Viktor Bondar – the head of the department of strategy for the development of information resources of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers;
Vladimir Burlakov – the head of one of the units of the Presidents Administration;
Anatoly Gerasimov – general, unfailing Deputy Head of the SSU. It was specifically him who, back in 1999, was made responsible by the Presidents Administration “for telecommunications”. Other generals have already had time to lose their posts, such as the former head of the DSTSZI – General Lazarev, now working for a commercial bank, or General V. Barlabanov, now director of the State enterprise “Ukrainian special systems” – the commercial ‘sister of the SSU, co-founder of UANIC. Yet General Gerasimov as before retains his post and influence;
Yury Kravchenko, Deputy President of the Anti-Monopoly Committee;
Yury Korzh, son of the State Deputy, Vitaly Korzh from Yulya Timoshenkos bloc, director and owner of the company “Global Ukraine”, now occupying a top position in “Ukrtelekom”;
Vasyl Polyshchuk – director of the joint enterprise «Infokom»;
the Odessa businessman already mentioned above, Konstantin Sinyavsky, president of one of the many associations related to the Internet;
Mykola Palady, for many years the head of the State Department of intellectual property;
Oleksandr Bernatovych, the head of the All-Ukrainian association of computer clubs, who became widely known during the mass crackdowns on illegal copies of Microsoft Windows;
Ivan Petukov – former officer of the security services, authoritative businessman, president of the company “Adamant”, member of the Management of the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Businesspeople.
If one examines how the makeup of the council protecting “protection” for UANIC has changed with time, it becomes apparent that all is determined by the unchanging “backbone” comprising A. Gerasimov, K. Sinyavsky, Y. Korzh, V. Polyshchuk and the director of UANIC Y. Honcharuk. All other players are the “changing contingent” of wedding generals which changes at the move of an invisible hand depending on the nuances of the current situation.
On the eve of the elections of 2004 the Cabinet of Ministers on their suggestion pushed into the Law of Ukraine “On telecommunications” crafty wording about “the addressed realm of the Internet” in Article 56 according to which some mysterious “empowered organization” will control not only the domain.UA, but also the “digital” addresses of the IP-protocol. Moreover they have succeeded (through their connections to the Administration of the President) in gaining “blessing” from the very-very top, after which the steady hand of the “single candidate” signed the well-known decree of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 447. What kind of obvious fake the SSU had had no qualms about putting forward as justification for their decision to the government has been discussed many times in the Internet mass media.
It seems that it is entirely unimportant that the system of domain names is controlled by the government of USA through ICANN, and IP-addresses by the European organization RIPE, and any attempts by a national government to encroach on their competence would risk an international scandal. Acting according to their accustomed model of legislative biting off of a “wee monopoly”, these players have pushed the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine into an unlawful attempt to “steer” someone elses property, and to give the grabbed morsel to UANIC – a commercial structure whose founders include two subsidiaries of the SSU, run by former generals.
And in order to create the appearance that Article 56 of the Law is being observed, UANIC disguised itself as a “new” form of legal entity not envisaged by any legislation, supposedly “an association of associations of businesses”, this being “a non-profit-making non-governmental organization”. No problem, this exotic legal entity was calmly registered on 23 October 2003. Code EDRPOU 32735063, welcome!
Yevhen Alfredovych also inherited the «Консорциум NNTE» created by the same K. Sinyavsky and Y. Honcharuk. His aim was ultimately simply: using the SSU and the State Committee on Communications to extract from the joint stock company “Ukrtelekom” for a pittance internal Ukrainian channels for transmitting information, and then to cash in on their resale to regional and provincial Internet-providers. The founders of this NNTE named with such pathos are all of two – again the same two tiny firmlets, which can scarcely be detected within the scale of the Ukrainian market.
As a whole not a bad “wee monopoly” emerges – “their own people” will any day now give them internal Ukrainian channels. They dont need to pay for technology and staff (the burden of serving the network, according to their “documents” must be borne by “Ukrtelekom” for absolute peanuts). They didnt have time to seize the domain.UA by the hands of the “single candidate”, but now any time … Yes, and the IP-addresses have also been put up for lease by the same players (see Article 56 of the Law). The scope for becoming active in extracting money are rich and untouched pickings. In effect, two small-scale businessman have successful carved up between them virtually the entire Internet of Ukraine!
So here while the honourable Yevhen Alfredovych learns the multi-page text of his speech by heart, behind his back the same old people are calmly continuing the task begun on Kuchmas instructions. The American corporation ICANN on whom the fate of the Internet in Ukraine depends have already, in the post-revolutionary chaos, received two official letters from Ukraine from them.
At the beginning, back on 26 October 2004, a letter signed by L. Netudykhata, No. №7/23.19-16-3544 on a form from the Ministry of Transport and Communications arrived at ICANN. Its clear why it was sent specifically there – the outcome of the elections was not obvious, the owners of UANIC were in a hurry to use their “clout” at the top level in case the leadership in the field should change after the elections. For the same reason Netudykhata didnt care what he ultimately signed.
The letter was written in a rather hysterical tone, full of traditional complaints about supposedly present in the Ukrainian Internet mythical problems, and boils down to the same ritual incantation – “give us the domain!”
Summer came and the situation stabilized. It became clear that no one was planning to investigate the commercial “artistry” of the Kuchma-linked State Committee on Communications, SSU and АМКУ and the old people who had held on to their positions again raised their heads.
UANIC found itself new “protection” in the figure of the Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh and the USPP close to him (pay attention to the makeup of the council)
Here finally began the last, decisive апофигей in the history of the Ukrainian Internet: two letters, identical in content, signed by A, Kinakh himself, with the numbers № 6008/0/2-05 и № 6009/0/2-05 were sent from the office of the Cabinet of Ministers to ICANN via diplomatic post.
In these letters our first Deputy Prime Minister sings the praises of UANIC, and is already not asking, but openly demanding that ICANN give up the domain.UA to the same old UANIC as represented by Honcharuk, Sinyavsky, Korzh, Polishchuk and Petukhov. As usual in “the domain story”, not all is smooth sailing as regards the content of Kinakhs letter. For example, he refers to open public debate taking place in February and March which supposedly took as a result some kinds of decisions, and approved some kind of “concept”, the author of which being the very same director of UANIC Y. Honcharuk. In actual fact no decisions at public debates were taken by anyone – they talked a bit and parted, whos counting.
Yet again, the next in line Ukrainian government “tripped over the domain” and found itself in an awkward situation. Most probably, ICANN will once again ignore this latest attempt to repossess the domain.UA, this being the property of the government of the USA – in favour of an unknown, SSU-linked commercial firm which has still not in any shape or form demonstrated its ability to provide anybody any kind of services.
The fact is that writing hysterical official letters to ICANN with demands (!) “to take away and hand over” testifies to the inability of the Ukrainian government to come to an agreement with its own citizens – the present administrators of the domain.UA in a peaceful, civilized manner. The present system of administration of the domain works marvellously, tens of thousands of economic agreements have been signed. Yet, just as under Kuchma, the new-old regime has enough imagination only to take away and re- privatize somebody elses property through yet another incomprehensible decree. And the “models” and the players have remained exactly the same worn and dirtiesh boots of the previous regime.