One 12 months after Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine, one factor is crystal clear: nothing in any respect has modified because the corrupt and lawless reign of his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.
This week Geo Leros, a lawmaker from Zelensky’s Servant of the People social gathering, revealed movies implicating Denis Yermak, the brother of Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andrei Yermak, in promoting authorities jobs and attempting to damage the enterprise of a European firm.
Denis Yermak has confirmed the authenticity of the movies however claimed they have been taken out of context, whereas Andrei Yermak dismissed the accusations and attacked Leros.
In a really Kafkaesque and Soviet method, Ukraine’s State Investigation Bureau has began an investigation in opposition to Leros as a substitute of going after the Yermak brothers.
Yermak has made headlines within the West when he was implicated within the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. He negotiated with Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani on opening a case in opposition to Trump’s Democratic Party rival Joe Biden, which led to Trump’s impeachment in December.
In any nation that pretends to be a democracy, Andrei Yermak would have resigned instantly. But Ukraine stays a kleptocracy with a democratic fig leaf the place the president is on high of the corruption pyramid.
Zelensky has stayed ominously silent on the matter – an indication that he continues the corrupt traditions of his predecessor.
On March 30, Leros revealed movies during which Denis Yermak, his aide Sergei Shumsky and different individuals talk about promoting authorities jobs.
“I’m taking three (an apparent reference to $3 million), Denis gets five (apparently $5 million),” Shumsky mentioned in one of many recordings.
Specifically, they talk about promoting the job of state nuclear monopoly Energoatom’s CEO to former lawmaker Vladimir Kupchak for $5 million.
“There are different tasks: for example, building a corruption system,” Kupchak mentioned. “I can do that, based on my field of activities.”
Eventually, Kupchak didn’t get the job, nevertheless.
In movies leaked to the Bihus.information investigative journalism venture, Yermak additionally discusses cracking down on the enterprise of Danish logistics firm MAERSK and Ukrainian logistics agency TIS, which is owned by the Stavnitser brothers.
In February, TIS, which cooperates with MAERSK in container shipments, additionally struck a landmark deal to promote a container terminal in Odesa Region to Dubai-based port operator DP World.
“TIS, MAERSK, and the Stavnitser brothers will give birth to a monster that will deal a blow to everyone,” Yermak mentioned. “We don’t need a monopoly here. We gotta kick them out in every way – lawfully.”
He mentioned that he wants to do this to advertise the pursuits of a neighborhood subsidiary of Turkish logistics firm Kinay in alternate for bribes.
“There is an interest that is being expressed by a Turkish company,” Yermak mentioned. “They’re very interested in cracking down on this monster that’s being born… The faster we start taking action, the faster we’ll get very good financial support.”
In the movies, Yermak additionally says that “the Turks hate” MAERSK and TIS and that “every action we take will lead to a certain sum (of money).”
“The Turks are ready to pay us 300,000 dollars or euros every month,” he mentioned.
Russia and organised crime
Zelensky’s chief of workers, Andrei Yermak, additionally has a controversial background. He was an aide to Elbrus Tedeyev, a former lawmaker from ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, in 2006 to 2014.
Tedeyev was a member of Boris Savlokhov’s prison gang in Kyiv within the 1990s to early 2000s, based on former Interior Minister and Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko. Savlokhov had been convicted for smuggling, hooliganism and extortion.
In December, Tedeyev and Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes travelled to Russia, ostensibly with the goal of visiting a dentist, based on a Feb. 13 investigation by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemes present.
Schemes reported that Kernes and Tedeyev met Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, citing their sources. The present additionally reported that the jet Zelensky used to fly from Oman to Kyiv on January eight had been utilized by Patrushev on the identical day to fly to Oman. Zelensky and Yermak denied assembly Patrushev in Oman.
Tedeyev, an ethnic Ossetian, has robust hyperlinks to Russia. He is a cousin of Ibragim Tedeyev, who was alleged to be a extremely influential prison boss in Russia earlier than he was killed in 2006.
The Tedeyev household is predicated in Russia’s republic of North Ossetia and South Ossetia, a Kremlin proxy in Georgia’s Russian-occupied areas.
Dzhambolat Tedeyev, additionally a cousin of Elbrus Tedeyev, is the top coach of Russia’s freestyle wrestling nationwide group and was once an advisor to Sergei Kiriyenko when he headed Russia’s nuclear monopoly Rosatom. Kiriyenko is now Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s first deputy chief of workers in command of the nation’s complete home coverage.
Yermak himself additionally has ties to Russia. He has an excellent working relationship with Putin’s deputy chief of workers Dmitry Kozak.
In March, Yermak additionally triggered an issue by asserting plans to incorporate representatives of the Kremlin’s proxies in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Donbass in a negotiation group. His statements and background have prompted hypothesis that Yermak favours getting Ukraine again into the Kremlin’s orbit.
Amid Yermakgate, Zelensky has additionally deserted a lot of the reforms he introduced in 2019, successfully snubbing Ukraine’s European and American lenders who’ve demanded them.
Zelensky’s group had particularly sabotaged and blocked the judicial reform till the Constitutional Court, a puppet of the president, cancelled most of it altogether on March 12. The purpose is that Ukraine’s corrupt institution is afraid of European and American specialists, who have been supposed to assist Ukraine cleanse the judiciary underneath the reform.
Additionally, Zelensky has successfully delayed and blocked prosecution and healthcare reforms, in addition to the privatization of state companies and the liberalization of the economic system. According to some estimates, Ukraine stays Europe’s most corrupt, poorest and least economically free nation.
At the identical time, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a disastrous monetary state of affairs in Ukraine, and Zelensky needed to beg for assist from the International Monetary Fund.
To safe IMF assist, Ukraine’s parliament on March 30 abolished Ukraine’s Soviet-style ban on farmland gross sales and handed a invoice that may ban the return of Ukraine’s nationalised PrivatBank, to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Both have been IMF calls for.
However, the IMF ought to keep in mind that, till Ukraine reforms its judiciary and begins genuinely combating corruption, such measures will likely be futile. Any corrupt kangaroo courtroom in Ukraine will have the ability to block any legislation, and IMF cash will likely be stolen by Ukrainian kleptocrats.
It’s apparent that the IMF shouldn’t cooperate with Ukraine till Yermak and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who has been mired in quite a few corruption scandals, are fired and correctly investigated.