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Will Ukrainian corrupt officials be brought responsible?

Donald Trump. Photo: inosmi.ru

Ukraine’s political elites view the West as the key (if not the only) factor legitimizing their power in Ukraine and as the major arbiter in their domestic disputes. That is why it is natural that “isolationist” Donald Trump’s victory at the presidential election in U.S. was an extremely unpleasant surprise for Kiev and a reason not to expect as much support from Washington as before. At present, Kiev’s contacts with the new President’s Administration have been minimized comparing to 2014-2016. The meeting of Trump and Petro Poroshenko that was announced by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry for February did not take place. IMF’s US$1 billion tranche was postponed for unknown period. Curtailment of military aid to Ukraine by U.S. Department of State and USAID and cancellation of the “fresh” 10-year U.S. visa for Oleh Liashko gives Kiev no reasons for optimism for the time being. Anti-corruption measures are set aside in the relations of U.S. and Ukraine.

After his tour of U.S. at the end of 2016, the former head of Ukraine’s Security Service Valentin Nalivaychenko made the following statement: “Trump’s Administration cares for two things: zero tolerance to corruption in the world, including in Ukraine and creation of a new global space free from offshores. Jurisdictions of international courts, U.S. courts will undergo serious changes, even IMF’s role in searching and returning assets to the countries fighting corruption will change. I confirm that FBI has not only Onishenko’s tapes, but also materials on enormous scales of corruption in Ukraine. U.S. among others has received those materials. FBI specialists, Justice Department are verifying how reliable those materials are. After new Justice Secretary is appointed in U.S., we will see what legal steps they will undertake and who will be summoned for interrogation.”

Perhaps, as tensions grow inside Kiev’s “serpentarium of like-minders,” these ambitious political actors that were stripped of their “feeding trough” will try to draw attention of high-ranking officials in Washington by providing them materials on corrupt deals of their rivals. Yet, the U.S. government knows much, if not everything, about corruption in Ukraine. Suffice it to recall last year’s Panama Papers. The data base includes 643 Ukrainians, including Petro Poroshenko, Finance Minister Alexander Danylyuk, Odessa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov. Besides, let’s don’t forget that the West has always used corruption as a tool to influence the leaders on periphery states.

The West has already started building a system of managing “native elite” in Ukraine through newly created anti-corruption organizations, such as National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office with a total budget of more than US$100 million for three years. Yet, these offices have registered no significant results in fighting corruption. The only noteworthy episode in the activity of the key anti-corruption organization, NABU, is accusation against former head of Trump’s headquarters Paul Manafort of taking US$12.7 million from the so-called “black cash” of the Party of Regions of Ukraine. So far, ostracism is the strictest punishment for Ukrainian corrupt officials – they escape abroad and are stripped of their corrupt revenues in exchange for personal freedom. These runaway corrupt officials will try to return to the “feeder” in the next political cycles.

Along with non-professional activity of anti-corruption departments, Ukrainian establishment opposes changes using their mechanisms of control over judiciary (a range of corruption cases burst wide open) and sabotaging adoption of legislative amendments required by Western handlers (creation of anti-corruption courts, granting NABU a right to tapping, appointment of NABU auditor). NABU’s latest scandalous case – detention of Roman Nasirov, previously dismissed head of the State Fiscal Service (released on bail – 100 million UAH) may burst wide open soon. One of the option why such “big guy” as Nasirov was detained is the fight of the newly created anti-corruption organizations for the West’s grants. Meantime, the West is displeased with the continues imitation of anti-corruption measures in Ukraine.

At the end of 2016, European Court of Auditors called Ukraine as the most corrupt country in Europe. Auditors made such resolution after analysis of the gas sector, public finance management, purposeful use of EU’s loans and the anti-corruption measures in 2007-2015. According to Ukrainian experts, Ukraine lost at least 120 billion UAH due to corruption in 2014-2016. The Washington Post was right to write, “in today's Ukraine corruption is so bad, a Nigerian prince would be embarrassed.”

In mid-March, the PR NewsChannel reported that Congressperson Dana Rohrabacher, who chairs U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, has been the main voice on the subject of corruption in Ukraine. The Committee scheduled a hearing to review the clandestine business activities of numerous Ukrainian politicians and business influencers.

These business and political insiders, specifically Poroshenko’s clients who created their huge capitals sponging on government budget, have been accused of massive scale graft. They include Igor Kononenko, Poroshenko’s colleague, Alexander Hranovsky, Proshenko’s “right hand,” Sergey Berezenko, the Grey Cardinal of Petro Poroshenko Bloc – Solidarity, and his teammate Sergey Alexeev, as well as Vitaly Homutynnik, the head of Revival Party faction in Supreme Rada, Valeria Gontareva, the head of National Bank, and Anatoli Matios, chief military attorney, and many others.

The source reports that imposing sanctions and bringing responsible Ukrainian corrupt officials are the last efforts to prevent final disintegration of Ukraine. If Ukraine collapses as a country, it will turn into a polygon for illegal turnover of arms, drugs and extremist groups, which may affect U.S. interests in Europe. Danger is threatening Kiev’s regime. U.S. justice has digested a wide range of officials and politicians from “banana republics.” At least, recall former Ukrainian prime minister Pavel Lazarenko or Panama leader Manuel Noriega.

It appears that prosecution of Ukrainian corrupt officials under U.S. laws is a matter of time rather than principle. A bright example of this will be completion of Dmytro Firtash’ case. The latter has been fighting for personal freedom at Austrian courts for the fourth year already. To recall, U.S. demands the Ukrainian tycoon to be extradited to face 50 years in prison and confiscation of all assets (over bribery charges, specifically some $18.5 million in bribes paid for a permit to mine titanium in India).

In foreign policy, the West has always been guided by the principle – people who are part of the problem cannot be a solution of the given problem. The current regime in Ukraine has turned into a “toxic asset” for the West, and Poroshenko, as The Washington Time wrote, “is the problem, not the solution to it.” Perhaps, the time when leading representatives of Ukrainian regime will be presented with “black spots” is near the corner.

Igor Federovsky, Kiev

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