Sunday, July 27, 2014

27/7/2014: TrueEconomics' Scariest Chart Covered by ZeroHedge

Nice to see my 'New Scariest Chart in America' making its way to ZeroHedge:

Honoured, as always.

27/7/2014: "Kragle!"... Lord Business' Prescription for the Irish Economy

There is an interesting and mildly entertaining article in the Sindo (, penned by the Governor of the Central Bank, Professor Honohan.

Now, before I make few comments on the article, a disclosure: I like reforms and changes Professor Honohan brought to the Central Bank. And I think Professor Honohan has done an excellent job in the past to subtly highlight major bottlenecks in the Irish economic policies.

With that in mind, here are few quotes and some of my comments:

"Managing domestic demand, ensuring the banks are healthy, and offering advice to Government: these are the tasks of the Central Bank, and our measured approach to all three over the past few years has, I believe, borne fruit. Recovery remains slow and partial," said Professor Honohan.

So where are we on these tasks?

Per Professor Honohan, on the banks health: " is still not possible to describe them as being fully restored to health and delivering the services needed by the economy." In other words, ensuring the banks are healthy is still unfinished business. Central Bank either walks away from the test on this, or gets a poor grade - you choose.

On domestic demand: "…the total number at work and average living standards are both still well below the peak reached at the top of the bubble. And the elevated debt levels remain a lasting legacy." Now, wait, this also doesn't look like the Central Bank's finer moment, is it?

That was just Professor Honohan's own admissions. Now, here's a chart plotting evolution of domestic demand, 'managed' by the Central Bank:

You wouldn't be calling this 'managing' unless your management job is in demolition business...

Professor Honohan credits the ECB for providing 'some insulation' to mortgagees "who can currently just afford to pay" in the form of "exceptionally low interest rates". But there is a problem with this from the Central Bank's point of view. ECB rates did drop. Significantly. From 3.1% pre-crisis average to 0.15% today - a swing down of 2.95 percentage points. Yet, with all the trackers in, current retail interest rates for outstanding loans have declined (compared to pre-crisis average) by only 0.86 percentage points for mortgages with original maturity between 1 and 5 years, and by only 1.14 percentage points for mortgages with maturity over 5 years. Short term consumer loans rates and overdrafts rates have actually risen. Things are even worse if we are to measure the average rates to peak property lending around 2006, omitting 2007. So 'insulation' might have been provided by the ECB, but as far as Irish Central Bank actions go, these have ensured that the banks can extract more blood out of the economy, not that the banking system supports households in trouble.

There is a bigger problem for Professor Honohan here: if these borrowers 'can currently just afford to pay', what happens to their ability to pay when rates do rise? Or is Central Bank's 'managing banks and domestic demand health' not including looking into the near-term future?

Finally, on something from the Central Bank's own frontline: the mortgages arrears. "At the same time, far too many cases persist where no adequate cooperation between bank and borrower has been achieved. It is mainly for these cases that the banks have gone down the legal path towards repossession. ...I would urge borrowers who have not been cooperating to recognise that that is a hazardous course of action: bear in mind that banks can get court approval for repossession if borrowers are not cooperating."

Professor Honohan is correct - there are many cases in which borrowers in arrears fail to cooperate with the banks. But Professor Honohan neatly omits thousands of cases where certain banks - two of which are Irish Government-rescued and form the 'Pillars' of the 'new banking system' here - are not cooperating with the borrowers. Presumably, criticising the borrowers is Central Bank's job, but criticising the lenders is not…

To sum up, the Central Bank has done quite a bit of a good heavy-lifting job on all fronts. But this is hardly the right time to start talking up its achievements to-date. As Governor Honohan points out himself: "our measured approach to all [policies areas] over the past few years has, I believe, borne fruit." That fruit is: "Recovery remains slow and partial". Not exactly commemorative medals time, yet, eh?..

Saturday, July 26, 2014

26/7/2014: This Week in Corporate 'Not Tax Haven' News

Earlier today I wrote about the round of 'assert-deny' salvos fired across Ireland's deck by German economic policy adviser and the Department of Finance ( This was hardly the only defensive that Ireland Inc had to run this week. A much larger one came on foot of the US President Barak Obama singling Ireland out as the key global player in the dirty game of corporate tax inversions.

Newsflow was not too generous to Ireland on this front (corporate tax evasion and optimisation) this week.

It started with a report by Reuters ( on how Irish legal eagles are leading the way in advertising this land of human capital and regulation arbitrage riches as a [not a] tax haven. Singled out in the report are: Arthur Cox, A&L Goodbody, and Matheson. But other firms are into this game too. And not just in the US. In fact, there are plenty 'country specialists' employed in the legal offices in Ireland and around the world, tasked with 'selling' Ireland's 'unique competitiveness points' to potential clients interested in optimising their tax exposures.

Obama weighted in later in the week and, of course, the Government had to weigh in with a hefty doses of 'we deny we do it': and

The problem is that denying direct Government involvement is hardly a defence. Facts are: Ireland is being promoted as a tax optimisations destination and not solely on foot of our headline 12.5% tax rate. This promotion is known, brazen and visible, and it comes via law firms with direct links - contractual and advisory - the the Government and the State.

And the stakes, relating to the above promotion, are high: on policy side and on business side:

In short, things are ugly and are going to get even more ugly as OECD is preparing road maps for addressing more egregious abuses, while the US, UK, EU, European member states and even Australia and Japan are now firmly in the need to 'do something' about losses of Government revenues arising from sharp tax optimisation practices. Irish Government can put as many junior ministers as it wants onto RTE to talk about Ireland being 'unfairly singled-out' or 'misunderstood' or whatever else, but

  1. Fact remains fact: tax arbitrage policies of this state are starting to cost us dearly in reputation and actual economic costs ( and and and
  2. We are but a small open economy caught (due to our own fault) in between the irate giants who not only set global policies, but also control our access to markets and investment

Time for us to stop playing ostriches with our ministers, but to get into the game of leading the reforms at home and internationally.

26/7/2014: Of Germans Bearing the Ugly Truth?..

German experts and analysts have an un-Irish capability of speaking their own mind... and when they do (and they do it anywhere, including when visiting this country of ours), they don't mince words. Behold the latest 'visitor' from the land of 'Nein!': Dr. Joachim Pfeiffer, the economic policy spokesman for the parliamentary group of the ruling Christian Democrats. Dr. Pfeiffer was in Dublin this week. Somewhere between a nice dinners and customary ritual of witnessing the Irish 'craic' in a pub, the learned Doktor sneaked a few minutes to tell us that "Ireland has “no chance” of securing a deal on its legacy bank debt" and that "the euro zone’s new bailout fund had not been established for nor would be it used for retroactive bank recapitalisation."

Quoted in the Irish Times: “There is no chance Ireland’s legacy assets will be paid by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). This instrument is only an instrument for emergency.”

R. Pfeiffer was in Dublin to speak at the German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the same Chamber that recently sponsored a cheerful book on Ireland & Germany being the best pals in economic and policy terms. The best pals, alas, do not help each other all too much, and one of them has no problem telling the other that 'your mess is your mess': "Dr Pfeiffer said the financial meltdown in Ireland “did not fall from heaven . . . there were bubbles in the real estate sector, there were bubbles in the banking sector and all of this was home-made”."

As to the reasons why ESM cannot be used for retroactive assistance to the Irish state, Dr Pfeiffer evoked the same logic that I advanced for some years now: "If the ESM was to be used retroactively to compensate Ireland, he said other countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and potentially Italy would want similar compensation."

Needless to say, Department of Finance immediately chipped in with a denial of denial that denial is possible as a denial. I am certain Dr. Merkel in Berlin was all ears...

26/7/2014: An Ethno-Linguistic Map of Ukraine

A neat summary of ethno-linguistic mess that is Ukraine:


The problem is not multiplicity of languages and their concentrations in specific, defined and often contiguous areas. The problem is not even the fact that many such areas are defined by different and distinct historical and cultural identities that variably place the dominant groups within each region either with Russia, or Ukraine, or Poland, or Romania, or Moldova...

The problem is that the only way to address such divisions is via a federal structure of governance - something that Kiev and Western Ukraine fear and loath.

Friday, July 25, 2014

25/7/2014: WLASze: Weekend Links on Arts, Sciences and zero economics

The is WLASze: Weekend Links on Arts, Sciences and zero economics

Admittedly, the WLASze has become a rather irregular feature on this blog. Still, occasionally, I come across some interesting reading on a variety of arts and sciences subjects worth sharing… lighter and heavier alike.

On a heavy side of thing, Rupert Read and Nassim Nicholas Taleb essay "Religion, Heuristics, and Intergenerational Risk Management" (ECON JOURNAL WATCH 11(2) May 2014: 219-226:

As anything Taleb puts his mind to, this is worth a read. It is short, fundamentally cohesive and, although not new as far as thinking is concerned, certainly novel in exposition of the argument.

"… we believe that religion has traditionally performed a powerful risk-management function at the level of the individual and the collectivity, particularly in preventing the accumulation of debt in systems and in preventing some kinds of experimentation with natural systems, ones that produce errors with irreversible effects. We argue that religion transmits heuristics of risk control across generations, and that religion does so in modes that only it can."

Big enough? Not for Taleb. He takes the argument beyond simple 'demand-supply' relationship: "It is not just that religion is a helpful source of sound heuristics for resisting gambler’s ruin and similar hazards. More strongly, we should say that we humans actually don’t know whether human beings can live sustainably without something like religion."

If so, then society's devolution from religious belief systems can be a risk. Not to hold back Read and Taleb oblige: "Modernity is in this sense a dangerous uncontrolled experiment. The amount of historical time that any significant number of humans have lived without religion is infinitesimal compared to the sweep of history. Given that, the amount of time that we have sought as societies, as a species, to live without religion is almost nil. It is a symptom of chronic short-termism and over-optimism that people now assume that living in such a way is sustainable."

Over-optimism? Why not - we had Age of Determinism before, Age of Engineering, Machine Age and so on - all were based on solid assumptions that world can be made deterministic and thus manageable. All blew up in the face of history, under the impact of 'Black Swans' that were un-programmable, un-manageable ex ante.

"Just as nature is ‘wiser’ than us (in a statistical, risk-management sense) with regard to a vast swathe of threats, illnesses, etc., just as our knowledge only surpasses nature’s in unusual and rare circumstances, so religious man is wiser than irreligious and non-religious man with regard to a vast swathe of threats, moral and spiritual illnesses and problems, etc. The knowledge of irreligious and non-religious man surpasses that of religious man only in rare and unusual circumstances."

Exciting stuff… And to add to it, here's another example of Read's thinking: "Why There Cannot be Any Such Thing as “Time Travel”"

Read contributes to a fantastic blog that is worth a read… ok, not a read, a follow.

On a more visual side of things (you would not call it 'lighter' by any means), Tate is showing Malevich's retrospective:

On the opposite side of the spectrum to philosophy and art, rests technology. Except on some occasions when new tech enters old art - the figurative art - without first becoming established in new art - the conceptual fields. Thus, the question of this decade for tech v art geeks: 3-D Printing Wait till the boffins of high art learn about 4D-Printing and other toys Pentagon is funding… (see link on 4D printing here:

Update: an absolutely amazing and fascinating discovery just 'printed': the creation of the first ever synthetic leaf with all core properties of a living photosynthetic cellular structure - a major breakthrough that is now reaching beyond 4D printing.

And figurative artist Jeff Koons is probably one of those who can use 4D printing in his works. I am not a fan, but he is worth studying, if only as a counterpoint to one's biases.

"Critical opinion is divided, to say the least, over Koons’s work. He is castigated for the slickness of his product, and the pretentious claims he makes for it; but he is also lauded for his cleverness in combining the monumental effect of high art with the cheap pleasures of the banal. He has, according to veteran critic Robert Hughes, “the slimy assurance … of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida”. But even this denigrator-in-chief admits: “The result is that you can’t imagine America’s singularly depraved culture without him.”" Here is an LAesque in its size and comprehensiveness collection of material on him:

“the slimy assurance … of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida” I love it!...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

24/7/2014: DB's Worst Case Scenario for Ukrainian Crisis

Earlier this week, Deutsche Bank Research published its 'worst case' scenario for acceleration in the Ukrainian conflict. Here's the slide:

Some of the points are in overlap with concerns I expressed here. Investment interlinks between Europe and Russia covered here. My roadmap for solutions is here. And you can read my note on changes in Russian geopolitical strategy here.

24/7/2014: Residential Property Prices: June 2014 Detailed Breakdown

In the previous post I covered Residential Property Prices Index data from the point of view of the 'bubble' dynamics. Monthly data is covered in the CSO report here. So to avoid doing what every one else in media is doing (regurgitating the press release), here is the analysis of data based on quarterly aggregates and longer-term changes. This strips-out some of the monthly-level volatility and is probably better suited to comparatives across time.

Starting with the RPPI nationwide:

  • Q2 2014 average is at 76.9 which is well ahead of 69.4 average for Q1 2014 - a rise of +3.55%. 
  • Cumulated 24 months growth is now at 13.9% or 6.72% annualised. This is robust, but very much in line with what can be expected in a recovery phase, given the rates of market collapse during the crisis.
  • Compared to Nama valuations, we are still down 24.8%
  • Compared to pre-crisis peak we are down 43.5% and compared to crisis trough we are up 15.1%.
Here are the annual growth rates in the series:

  • National Houses series are driving the overall National Index. Houses series are up 3.55% - same as National - in Q2 2014 compared to Q1 2014. 24 months cumulated gain is 13.6%, slightly below National gains. Compared to crisis peak, National Houses index is 41.8% lower, while compared to crisis trough it is 15% up.
  • Apartments up 3.62% q/q in Q2 2014 and cumulated gains are 19.8% over the last 24 months. Relative to peak these are down 54% and relative to crisis period trough they are up 24.7%. There is a lot more volatility in Apartments Index than in the Houses Index.


  • Ex-Dublin Properties Index is up only 0.1% q/q in Q2 2014. There is basically no growth in the series. Over the last 24 months, series rose just 2.35% cumulatively. Compared to peak, ex-Dublin national prices are 45.8 down and compared to crisis-period trough they are up only 5.6%. This is very anaemic. 


  • Dublin All-Properties Index is up 7% in Q2 2014 compared to Q1 2014. This is fast. Cumulated gains over last 24 months are 29.1% (annualised rate of 13.6%) which is also very fast. Compared to peak, prices in Dublin are down 44.5%, which is worse than National (-43.5%) and relative to crisis period trough prices are up 30.2% (which is better than National at 15.1%).
  • Nama valuations are off 17.2% in Dublin, which is much better than outside Dublin.
  • Dublin Houses Index is up 7.2% q/q in Q2 2014 - very fast rise. Cumulated gains over 24 months are 28.9% (annualised rate of 13.5% - also very fast increases). Compared to peak, Dublin Houses prices are off 42.7% and compared to trough they are up 30%.
  • The above dynamics are starting to concern me - we are witnessing very fast increases from very low levels, so while we are not yet in over-pricing territory, we are converging toward long-term equilibrium prices at a break-neck speed. The next 3 months data will be probably non-representative due to two late-Summer months, but September-December data will be crucial. 
  • If we witness gradual de-acceleration in growth rates, things are out of excessive exuberance zone - for that we need rates of growth y/y to decline to 7.5-14% range.
  • If we witness stabilisation in rates of growth in excess of 14% we are likely to see serious risk of over-pricing emerging in the medium term.
  • So watch this space... especially the last chart below...

24/7/2014: Looking for that Property Price Bubble: Dublin, June 2014

Irish Residential Property Price Index for June is out today. Headlines are burning hot with

  • 12.5 hike in prices nationwide (y/y);
  • June m/m rise of 2.9% - faster than 2.3% in May
  • Dublin property prices up 3.3% m/m and 23.9% y/y
  • Dublin House prices up 3.1% m/m and 24.4% y/y
There is no avoiding the talk about a 'new bubble'.

In the past, I clearly said that in my view:
  1. Current levels of prices are not signalling bubble emergence in Dublin
  2. Rates of increases in Dublin prices are concerning, but levels are yet to break away from the national historical averages
  3. Trend-wise, we are way below the levels of Dublin prices consistent with normal long-term behaviour in the series.
Here are updated charts on long-term trends.

First, looking at annual series and applying two trend assumptions: actual inflation and ECB target (long-run inflation). By both metrics, we are still below (using 3mo MA through June 2014 as 2014 figure) equilibrium, but rate of convergence is accelerating:

On monthly basis, here are historical series, linking ESRI and CSO data sets:

As above clearly shows, Q2 2014 levels of prices in Dublin are barely above 2000-2002 average.

So the dynamics can signal a bit of an exuberance on the market demand side, but levels are still very much conservative compared to longer-term trends.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

22/7/2014: Shaping a Road Map for Resolving the Ukraine Impasse

With the conflict in Ukraine is tumbling toward a breaking point (, it is heartening to see the Guardian wading into Ukrainian crisis dimension with a proposed solution that actually attempts to bridge the gap between Eastern Ukrainian separatists, Kiev, Moscow and the West:

As readers of this blog know, I have called for a staggered reforms approach based on "elections + Aid & Development Programme + referendum" formula since February this year: and

The dynamics have changed a bit since the original suggestions, but the nature of the required compromise did not. To move on from the civil war situation toward peaceful resolution of the political and economic crises Ukraine faces, the nation needs:

  1. Immediate bi-lateral ceasefire agreement backed solidly and enforced by EU and Russia; both acting as guarantors and enforcers of the agreement on the sides of, respectively, Kiev and Donetsk;
  2. Following the ceasefire, Ukraine needs structured and facilitated peace talks;
  3. Peace talks must start with the opining positions of both sides recognising ex-ante: secured national integrity of Ukrainian state, full recognition of the legitimacy of the current Government in Kiev, recognition of the need for regional-level direct democratic decision making in shaping the future political configuration of Ukraine;
  4. Kiev must, up front, recognise the need for local referenda in determining the future outlook of political institutions in Ukraine, while separatists must recognise that the future referenda cannot be held on the basis of secession, but must be grounded within the confines of the united Ukraine. Kiev also must recognise the need for full recognition of the rights of Russian and other ethnic minorities and there has to be external monitoring group set up to oversee such recognition is implemented. Much of this already enshrined in law in Ukraine, but Ukrainian laws are held in low regard in the East;
  5. The talks must produce a road map - including timings - for: A) local referenda on the structure of regional relations with Kiev; and B) constitutional - nationwide referendum - aiming to reform and confirm constitutional institutions of the state; 6) Before any referenda can be held, there is a need for a normalisation period, during which reconstruction and development of the regions can take place. Funding for this should be supplied by the guarantors of the peace process (EU and Russia) on the basis of the World Bank-administered loans with referential conditions (Marshall Plan);
  6. EU and Russia must engage in a multilateral (EU, Ukraine, Eurasian Union) coordination of trade and investment policies aiming to prevent disintegration of Ukraine's trade and investment capabilities in either market.

The above are not the only conditions for launching a successful institutions-building exercise in Ukraine, but they are the central ones.

The key point is that, as the Guardian puts it: "we cannot afford a decade of cold war. It’s time to swallow hard, and bring the region’s dominant powerbroker inside the tent, to help ensure the integrity of Ukraine – and peace in Europe."

22/7/2014: Remember that Fiscal Compact? Well, Don't Remind Europe...

Remember the Fiscal Compact? Yes, the one where debt/GDP ratio should be at 60% and the countries with ratios in excess of 60% must take 1/20th of the excess in adjustment down in debt per annum? So a country with 130% debt/GDP ratio is committed to an annual reduction of (130-60)/20=3.5% of GDP in year 1 and so on...

Oh, yes, the Fiscal Compact underpins the macroeconomic stability in the Euro area, making the euro as a currency 'sustainable'…

Oh yes, and the latest figures from the Eurostat on Government debt show that…

  1. 18 out of EU28 countries have seen increases in Government debt/GDP ratios in Q1 2014 compared to Q1 2013.
  2. 9 countries have posted increases in excess of 5% of GDP.
  3. Year on year: the highest increases in the ratio were recorded in Cyprus (+24.6 pp), Slovenia (+23.9 pp), Greece (+13.5 pp) and Croatia (+9.9 pp), while the largest decreases were recorded in Poland (-7.7 pp), Germany (-3.2 pp), the Czech Republic (-2.2 pp), Latvia (-1.4 pp) and Belgium (-0.9 pp).
  4. 15 EU28 countries had Government debt/GDP ratio in excess of 60%
  5. EA18 Government debt in Q1 2013 stood at EUR8.793 trillion or 92.5% of GDP. In Q1 2014 this was EUR9.056 trillion or 93.9% of GDP. That is excluding intergovernmental debt. Adding this, Q1 2013 debt/GDP ratio was 94.6% and this rose to 96.3% in Q1 2014.

Good to see the Fiscal Compact holding so much better than the Maastricht Criteria.

So in the Age of European Austerity, savage cuts to public spending are resulting in rising debt at a rate of 1.7 percentage points of GDP per annum. One might wonder, were it not for the savage Austerity, where the debt levels might have been?

Full Eurostat release here:

Monday, July 21, 2014

21/7/2014: Conflict Over Ukraine is Now Heading for a Breaking Point

So far in the Ukrainian civil war, my view of the Russian economy has been that
  1. We are witnessing a structural slowdown in economic growth that has little to do with Ukraine;
  2. Sanctions imposed on Russia have been largely indifferent to the Russian economy;
  3. Reputational damage from the Ukraine conflict was manageable; and
  4. Despite the above, Russian economy is starting to show stress arising from the country increasing isolation in the advanced economies' markets (finance and trade).
Events of last week - the downing of MH17, most likely by the Eastern Ukrainian separatists, and prior to that a new set of escalating U.S. sanctions, based on what may or may not be reasonable demands for more Kremlin pressure on separatists - are changing the overall risk outlook.

Specifically, the economic and geopolitical risks are now mutually reinforcing and this pushes us into the final spiral of conflict before we either see a major active de-escalation or a massive spiralling of the conflict out of control.

Here are some links worth reading on the topic of changing risks:

The key takeaways from the above two links are the following:

  1. The entire conflict between Russia and the West at this stage is pure PR-war, with reports and information from all sides coming with heavy doses of assertions, conjectures and accusations, factual evidence un-collaborated and unverified by any third parties and even 'watchdog' organisations (usually self-appointed media and new media organisations) now trenchantly partisan or employing trenchantly partisan analysts and reporters;
  2. Russia is in a poor strategic [and moral] position to defend itself even in cases where it might be right; and
  3. The demands from the U.S. (and to a lesser extent, Europe) relating to future actions by Russia are rapidly becoming detached from reality (see below).
The reasons why the U.S. demands are starting to reach the realm of absurd are two-fold. 

Firstly, prior to MH17 downing, U.S. demanded that Russia compels the Eastern Ukrainian separatists to surrender to the Ukrainian forces. This, with no conditions, no prospect of peace talks and no constraints onto what Ukrainian forces might do to those surrendering. Ukrainian forces are currently carrying out strong military actions against the separatists and there is no peace talks on offer. In these conditions, no authority can compel them to voluntarily and unilaterally surrender. [Note: just to prevent a torrent of abuse from trolls, my view is they should surrender.] 

Secondly, we do not know if President Putin has any control over the Eastern Ukrainian separatists, irrespective of whether or not Russia served as a power base for them in the past. The separatists are fragmented, poorly organised and coordinated. It is doubtful if there is a central authority that can simply issue an order to stand down. Even if Russia had power of compulsion over the separatists at the times when peace talks were on the table (which is questionable as separatists did not seem to change their course when Russia recognised the Ukrainian Presidential election and when Russian Duma rescinded its authorisation of the President to use force to protect Russian-ethnic populations), today, cornered separatists are unlikely to listen to Kremlin unless Moscow can act as a credible guarantor of their safety at the peace talks.

The above implies that we are at a breaking point in the crisis:
  • The U.S. demands may be no longer feasible, and the U.S. is escalating these demands. 
  • Russia's opposition to these demands is becoming highly rhetorical and politically unacceptable to the U.S. 
  • Russian leadership costs of compliance with the U.S. demands is now rising and might, at some point, exceed the costs of non-compliance. 
  • In the mean time, there is absolutely no pressure from the European or U.S. side onto Kiev to offer any conditions to separatists that can guarantee their lives and a peace process. we have no reliable information what acts toward 'collaborating civilians' and separatists Ukrainian forces are carrying out. We have no reliable information as to the casualties on the ground in Eastern Ukraine. We have no reliable information how prisoners taken by the Ukrainian army are treated. We do know that Kiev counts on 'volunteer' units to participate in combat. And we were told before that these units have been at least rhetorically conditioned to kill 'Russians'. We have no idea is Kiev controls these units and what actions toward civilians and enemy combatants they take.
In simple terms, Russia is being forced into a corner by the U.S., separatists are forced into their own corner by all the parties involved; and everyone somehow expects the crisis to be resolved, while Kiev is left to carry out whatever it wants or can or both.

Someone needs to step back from the brink. My preference would be if de-escalation happened simultaneously from the U.S. and Russian sides, with both applying pressure on both Kiev and separatists to bring them to the peace talks. Guarantors of these talks should be EU, U.S. and Russia.