Europe should stop feeding the dragon of Ukrainian corruption

EPA-EFE/STEPAN FRANKO

Alexander Avakov, son of Ukraine's controversial Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, at the Solomensky district court in Kiev, Ukraine on November 1, 2017. The younger Avakov and Former Deputy Interior Minister Sergey Chebotar were under investigation for by the National Anti-corruption Bureau (NABU) for an embezzlement case involving a scheme to buy military equipment for Ukraine's Armed Forces at inflated prices. The case focused on a government contract that was awarded to a company controlled by Volodymyr Lytvyn, a friend of Avakov's. The court, however, released Avakov on his own recognisance only a day after his arrest.

Europe should stop feeding the dragon of Ukrainian corruption


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A scene in an old Soviet film called To Kill a Dragon sees a knight errant rescue a city from the tyranny of a dragon. The city’s mayor claims victory over the dragon and becomes the next dragon while portraying himself as true to the ideals of the anti-dragon revolution.

Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko is one of the dragons who has taken over Ukraine after ousting the previous serpent, ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014.

He seems to have completely forgotten that he was a firebrand revolutionary who harangued about government corruption and oppression under Yanukovych.

Now he has become a puppet of President Petro Poroshenko’s corrupt kleptocratic regime and is lashing out at everyone who dares criticize its corruption, incompetence and lawlessness.

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, on November 6 invited Lutsenko to report on the investigations into the terrible murder of whistleblower Kateryna Gandziuk as a result of an acid attack and dozens of other recent attacks on activists all over Ukraine.

Instead of doing his job, Lutsenko smeared and insulted civil society and all those who criticize his poor performance. He urged one of the lawmakers to publically perform a lewd sexual act on him and called other lawmakers and activists “scoundrels.”

Lutsenko also staged a fake resignation show, saying that he would resign but knowing that the Rada would not accept his resignation.

He has become a complete lookalike of one of his predecessors, Yanukovych’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka: like Pshonka, Lutsenko is focusing on persecuting political opponents and spearheading corruption rather than fighting it.

Lawless police

Another revolutionary-turned-kleptocrat is Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

A corruption case against Avakov’s son Alexander and Avakov’s ex-deputy Sergey Chebotar was closed by Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky’s office in July thanks to Avakov’s political leverage. The case was terminated despite immense evidence against them, including video footage of them discussing a corrupt deal and implicating Avakov in the scheme.

Avakov’s Interior Ministry and police have been accused of sabotaging the Gandziuk case and of involvement in the murder. They deny the accusations.

The suspected organiser of the attack, Sergey Torbin, is a former police official.

Before the attack, Gandziuk had also criticized top police official Artem Antonshchuk and Kirill Stremousov, a pro-Russian official from Ilya Kiva’s Socialist Party. Kiva is the current head of the Interior Ministry’s labour union and a former police official and aide to Avakov.

Corrupt anti-corruption court?

The utter failure of the Ukrainian authorities to move towards the rule of law was also demonstrated on November 6 when the Public Integrity Council, the judiciary’s civil society watchdog, stated the obvious.

The watchdog said that judicial reform in Ukraine had utterly collapsed, and the cleansing of the judiciary had failed. They said the High Qualification Commission had completely blocked their work and left them no scope for cooperation.

This triggered criticism by officials of USAID, who have consistently insisted that the Public Integrity Council continue to cooperate with the discredited High Qualification Commission.

This exposes the perennial problem of US and European officials who have cooperated with Ukrainian kleptocrats for three decades. They collaborated with the corrupt dictatorship of Yanukovych in the same way as they do with the incumbent kleptocrats.

Look at the results: have they achieved justice in Ukraine by shaking hands with cronies of Yanukovych and Poroshenko?

European and U.S. officials are now bracing for the next failure instead of resolving the problems that led to previous failures and thus preventing fiascos in the future.

The High Qualification Commission of Judges on Nov. 6 appointed a foreign expert panel intended to help in the selection of the High Anti-Corruption Court.

But the panel will be a powerless façade unless the following problems are resolved:

First, the High Qualification Commission of Judges has not yet solved the problem of giving the foreign expert panel known as the Public Council of International Experts (PCIE) access to the candidates’ personal data.

If the PCIE doesn’t get access to personal data, its work will be blocked.

Second, the PCIE might be blocked by the High Qualification Commission from assessing the results of candidates’ practical examinations. The High Qualification Commission has previously refused to publish such results, thus casting doubt on whether they were assessed objectively.

Third, the High Qualification Commission still intends to use highly dubious psychological tests that encouraged politically dependent loyalists. The validity of the tests has been questioned, and the commission had the effective authority to assign scores reserved for psychological tests randomly.

Fourth, the High Qualification Commission has utterly refused to change the arbitrary and subjective assessment methodology that enables it to assign most points to candidates without any stated reasons and thus rig the selection of judges and promote corrupt, incompetent and loyal candidates.

These problems can only be resolved if Ukraine’s European and American partners finally help the Ukrainian people by standing firm against Ukraine’s kleptocracy instead of condoning their shenanigans.

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