It has just lately develop into clear that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky loves kleptocracy as a lot as his predecessor Petro Poroshenko.
Zelensky has persistently protected corrupt officers from prosecution and killed anti-corruption reforms. Now he and his inside circle have destroyed two of Ukraine’s most high-profile graft instances – towards Zelensky’s deputy chief of employees Oleg Tatarov and Ukraine’s most corrupt decide Pavlo Vovk.
Now it has additionally develop into apparent that Zelensky is as a lot of an authoritarian ruler as Poroshenko and is utilizing extrajudicial instruments to crack down on critics and redistribute belongings.
As the West is making an attempt to assist Ukraine amid a brand new escalation of Russia’s aggression, Zelensky is making the nation sink even decrease by defending the corrupt and lawless establishment.
Specifically, Zelensky and his allies have destroyed the corruption case towards the president’s deputy chief of employees Tatarov.
Zelensky blatantly violated the regulation by appointing Tatarov within the first place. Tatarov, who was a prime police official underneath ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, has no authorized proper to carry any state jobs underneath the 2014 lustration regulation on the dismissal of Yanukovych-era officers.
Tatarov has additionally been investigated for unlawfully persecuting protesters through the EuroMaidan Revolution, which overthrew Yanukovych in 2014. He has defended Yanukovych’s ex-deputy chief of employees Andrey Portnov and pro-Russian lawmaker Vadim Novinsky as a lawyer.
This implies that, whereas Zelensky is paying lip service to the EuroMaidan and imitates combating Russian aggression, he’s appointing Yanukovych cronies and pro-Russian officers to key state jobs.
In December, Tatarov was charged with bribing a forensic skilled when he was a lawyer at state agency Ukrbud. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) revealed WhatsApp correspondence that confirmed the actual fact of the bribe.
Ex-Ukrbud CEO Maxim Mykytas, a suspect in a theft case, has additionally testified that Tatarov gave a $600,000 bribe to staff of the High Anti-Corruption Court in 2019 for releasing Mykytas on a miniscule bail, in response to regulation enforcement sources. Additionally, Mykytas has testified that he had allegedly given a bribe by Tatarov to judges of Kyiv’s Solomyansky Court, the sources mentioned.
Zelensky’s puppet prosecutor common, Irina Venediktova, has completed all the things to destroy the case.
She and her deputies blocked the fees in December 2020 by changing the group of prosecutors within the Tatarov case twice after which transferred the case from the NABU to the politically subservient Security Service of Ukraine. Later in the identical month, Venediktova’s prosecutors refused to arrest Tatarov and forged doubt on the fees.
In February, a corrupt courtroom refused to increase the Tatarov investigation, and Zelensky’s loyal prosecutors killed it by lacking the deadline for sending it to trial.
Zelensky has additionally fully destroyed the corruption case towards decide Vovk. The purpose is that Vovk has pledged allegiance to Zelensky and has been at his beck and name.
Online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported in March that in the summertime of 2019 Vovk met Zelensky’s ex-chief of employees Andrei Bohdan and Ruslan Riaboshapka, who later grew to become prosecutor common.
A regulation enforcement supply instructed Ukrainska Pravda that Vovk had met Zelensky in 2019 and persuaded him that he would work as a part of the president’s staff. In audio recordings revealed by the NABU, Vovk discusses quite a few corrupt offers, provides unlawful orders and quips that nobody ought to doubt the courtroom’s “political prostitution.”
Vovk was charged in 2019 in an obstruction of justice case. But a corrupt courtroom protected Vovk by refusing to increase the investigation, and prosecutors loyal to Zelensky missed the deadline for sending it to trial. As a consequence, the case died. Exactly the identical factor occurred with the second Vovk case.
In July 2020, Vovk was charged in a brand new corruption and arranged crime case. For months, Vovk has ignored the summonses that NABU despatched him and hid from the bureau when it tried to carry him to courtroom. The bureau requested Zelensky’s prosecutor common Venediktova to authorize an arrest warrant for Vovk for months however she refused. Prosecutors have been additionally pressured by Venediktova for going after Vovk, and considered one of them was fired for that.
In March, a decide of the High Anti-Corruption Court refused to increase the investigation after being pressured and reprimanded by the corrupt High Council of Justice. As a consequence, Zelensky’s prosecutors didn’t ship it to trial by the deadline, and this case was additionally buried.
On April 6, the NABU additionally arrested Vovk’s brother and charged him with receiving a $100,000 bribe as an middleman for Vovk. The bureau additionally discovered a $5 million treasure vault belonging to Vovk.
After years of public and Western stress, Zelensky on April 13 submitted a invoice to liquidate Vovk’s courtroom. But Zelensky’s consultant Fedir Venislavsky mentioned that Vovk and different judges of his courtroom could be transferred to a different courtroom.
One factor is obvious: Vovk will stay unpunished for his corruption as a result of he’s a member of Zelensky’s staff.
Another outstanding decide, Mykola Chaus, was caught receiving a $150,000 bribe in 2016. Allies of ex-President Petro Poroshenko, who managed Chaus as a puppet decide, helped him flee to Moldova, in response to the NABU. But earlier than his anticipated extradition to Ukraine, Chaus was kidnapped in Moldova on April three and disappeared.
Chaus’ alleged kidnappers are linked to Ukraine’s navy intelligence, in response to Moldovan investigation supplies cited by Ukraine’s Slidstvo.data journalism venture and Moldova’s RISE Moldova web site.
Moldova’s NewsMaker web site reported on April 13 that Moldovan authorities had utilized for lifting immunity from a Ukrainian diplomat allegedly implicated within the kidnapping.
Why would Ukrainian authorities kidnap Chaus? It may very well be an effort to assist Zelensky’s deputy chief of employees Andrey Smirnov, who’s implicated within the Chaus case, escape justice. Smirnov, who was then a lawyer, additionally helped Chaus flee to Moldova in 2016, in response to the NABU.
He denies the accusations.
Vovk’s impunity is a direct results of Zelensky’s cussed refusal for 2 years to ship on his election promise to hold out judicial reform.
The judiciary’s predominant governing physique, the High Council of Justice, is a corrupt gang whose members are implicated in Vovk’s graft schemes, in response to audiotapes launched by the NABU. The council has protected Vovk and refused to droop him twice. Ukraine’s civil society and Western companions have known as on the authorities to oust corrupt members of the council and change them with individuals of integrity. Zelensky refused.
In February, Zelensky submitted a invoice to mimic pseudo-reform of the High Council of Justice. The invoice adjustments nothing because it fails to present overseas specialists a decisive function within the reform and provides a carte blanche to Ukraine’s kleptocrats.
Zelensky’s loyal Cabinet additionally tried in February to assist Vovk and Tatarov by submitting a invoice to fireplace NABU chief Artem Sytnyk earlier than his time period expires in 2022. The invoice goals to destroy the NABU’s independence and defend Zelensky’s corrupt cronies.
The effort to take away Sytnyk was Zelensky’s response to the NABU’s Tatarov case and its investigation into embezzlement throughout the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine purchases, in response to sources conversant in the state of affairs.
Due to Zelensky’s efforts to kill each the NABU and judicial reform, in February the International Monetary Fund suspended talks on a $700 million tranche for Ukraine.
Zelensky’s allies made it even worse by profanely telling off the IMF.
Timofey Mylovanov, a prime aide to Zelensky’s chief of employees, hurled expletives on the International Monetary Fund, accusing it of obstructing negotiations with Ukraine.
Mylovanov overtly admitted that the Ukrainian authorities had didn’t reach a deal as a result of they didn’t need to give foreigners a serious function in judicial reform. This implies that the Ukrainian authorities is obstinately making an attempt to guard its bloated kleptocracy and forestall any significant reform.
As Zelensky is defending Ukraine’s corrupt establishment, he’s additionally remodeling the National Defense and Security Council into an authoritarian device. Instead of lawful prosecution with due course of, he’s imposing extrajudicial sanctions on Ukrainian residents by the council.
Even although a few of these residents could also be criminals, that is utter lawlessness. Their guilt ought to be confirmed by courts, not by Zelensky’s decrees. But he makes use of the sanctions to close down essential media and redistribute belongings from opponents to his inside circle.
Despite Zelensky’s empty bravado, the primary sanctioned particular person – pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk – has not been charged in a single legal case. Zelensky’s regulation enforcers are additionally more and more cracking down on civil society and activists who problem the president’s lawless reign. These embrace battle veterans Semen Semenchenko, Anatoly Vynagrodsky and Yevhen Shevchenko and civic activists Sergei Sternenko, Roman Ratushny and Sergei Filimonov.
There can also be intensive proof of vote-rigging in a March by-election for parliament through which a member of Zelensky’s get together received. The proof, which has been acknowledged by courts and a regional legislature, could also be a precursor of voting fraud in future common elections.
All of this quantities to a real authoritarian development. Brussels and Washington now must rein in each Ukrainian corruption and Zelensky’s dictatorial tendencies.