Sunday, 13 December 2015

Ukrainians or Russians? (Dutch Painting Affair)

Mail with picture of stolen paintings sent from Russian email account?

The date appears to be in Russian (Июля) and not Ukrainian (липня). What could that mean for Mr Brand's story of "my men"? What kind of group would take a photo of a painting they have, put it in an email from a Russian-language account and forwarded it to Mr Humeniuk so he could go to the foreign embassy on its behalf? Would it be a Ukrainian one (with alleged but unproven links to the Ukrainian government) or (for example) one of the units of Russian-sponsored rebels in Donbass? The date of the newspaper is 10/11th July, so photo potentially taken four days earlier than it was sent by Mr Humeniuk. Where was it in the intervening days?

Mr Brand has to explain why he insists that the St Mary unit has this painting, in spite of the clear denial issued by the commander of the unit - pointing out that Mr Humeniuk was not a member of the unit in July or August of 2015 so (despite what Mr Brand and the Dutch Museum continue to insist), could not have used the phrase "my men" (if he used it at all) to refer to this unit.

UPDATE 13tth December 2015
Mr Brand's reply: "So what's your point[?]". My point is this puzzling discrepancy is also evidence in the "investigations" he claims he is doing into who has the paintings (which he says is the most important thing). Failing to note it and provide an explanation rather suggests that in this Dutch  "investigation", one pre-decided story is being followed to the exclusion of others. That story is that it is Ukrainian forces that have this painting and that corrupt Ukrainian politicians are involved in holding them and "when the Dutch read such raving comments, they think, and this country wants to join Europe?" [by the remark "raving comments in this context, Mr Brand reveals he totally underestimates the social engineering capabilities of at least one side in the current Ukraine conflict - a dangerous mistake for an "investigator"]. Anyway, he claims (again):
у нас есть все доказательства о причастности политиков и добровольцев националистического батальона, основанные на работе с несколькими независимыми источниками в Украине.
It may well be that the Dutch side ("пятеро сотрудников голландского посольства в Киеве") have put together a dossier intending to prove their case based on evidence fed to them by "several independent sources in Ukraine" about the "involvement of politicians and nationalist battalion of volunteers". One wonders about how critically they examined the information they were given if they miss something like the email with the picture apparently coming from a Russian language account.

Mr Brand later tweeted that his accusations have some more attention from the media (hooray) [a "good" interview is...?]:
"Good Interview in Ukranian newspaper: ".
Published in Ukraine, yes, but written .... in Russian. This is a newspaper for the Russian speaking minority - the circle from which come the Donbas rebels. Does Mr Brand see the significance of their interview and what is he is quoted as saying specifically here in the context of the current political conflict in the country?
Да, история приобрела политический окрас, но мы просто хотим вернуть картины. Обвинять нас в «работе на Путина» смешно. Когда голландцы читают такие бредовые комментарии, они думают: и эта страна собирается в Европу?
To whom is this newspaper speaking? My feeling is that it is something else that is ridiculous here, and it is the Dutch standpoint, coming out with major and highly damaging accusations based on the  "evidence" fed to them by "informants" and their wilful (it seems to me) overinterpretation or misinterpretation of what Boris Humeniuk did or did not say five months ago. This is especially the case when the Dutch side say quite openly that they think he was lying - except when what he said fits the story they want to propagate. Cultural property has an important role in identity politics, which have a major role in politics in general. Our work, our research on it, does not take place in a political vacuum and it seems to me that going public with damaging publicity-seeking mudslinging before any investigations have been concluded  is highly irresponsible. 

It seems to me that even if the Ukrainian police discover that there is no substance to any of the allegations made by Mr Brand, or the Dutch museum director (which, from what I have seen, I am willing to bet will be the case) the Dutch side will claim a "cover-up". They will do this because of course - despite being invited - the Dutch will NOT send their own Ukrainian-speaking police team to Kiev or Donbas  to take part in the investigations alongside the local police and verify that all leads were followed up. The mud slung by the Dutch however will continue to stick. 

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