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Why is Ukraine’s president afraid of anti-corruption court?

Petro Poroshenko. Photo: dr.dk

In an interview with The Financial Times, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that international donors could not legislate for Ukraine, as this violates its sovereignty. It is strange to hear this from a man who came to power thanks to a coup d’état supported by Western countries, and who still retains the presidential post thanks only to Washington's patronage. Former US Vice President Joe Biden said that he had been talking to Poroshenko on the phone more often than with his wife. So, what could make Poroshenko suddenly "remember" Ukraine's sovereignty?

It's all about establishing an Anti-Corruption Court (ACC). A very interesting situation arises when the West demands establishing this judicial institution, while Poroshenko and all political forces in Ukraine agree with this in words. Moreover, on March 1, the Supreme Rada approved in the first reading the Poroshenko draft law on establishing the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court (SACC). But the West did not approve it. Why? It's simple. Poroshenko and his Western patrons see the main role of the above mentioned judicial body differently. No, of course, in the public sphere, representatives of the United States, EU, IMF, Ukrainian politicians are using lofty rhetoric saying that the ACC should contribute to the eradication of corruption in Ukraine.

In reality, neither Petro Poroshenko nor other Ukrainian top politicians need ACC; on the contrary, it is dangerous for them. At the same time, for Kiev western patrons, the ACC is a tool to keep politicians and oligarchs under control, a "whip" in the hands of a "suzerain" for disobedient "vassals". The fact is that any Ukrainian politician or oligarch, or members of their families are involved corruption schemes. This has been the custom since the days of Leonid Kuchma's presidency. Therefore, any serious businessman or statesman can be pressed on corruption-related cases.

In Ukraine, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) already existed. In Kiev, it's no secret that these structures are controlled by the United States. So, the media wrote that the activities of the NABU are supervised by the deputy head of the US diplomatic mission in Ukraine George Kent. The bureau performs the functions of the police, conducts operational-investigative activities, seizure of suspects. SAPO is supposed to support the prosecution in court. For a full-fledged judicial "branch of power", completely dependent on the West, only a judicial body that will pass sentences and send defendants to places of detention is missing. That's what the ACC should become. But, of course, neither Poroshenko nor the political and economic elite of Ukraine need to have a judicial authority that will be subordinate not to the administration of the president of Ukraine, but to the American embassy in Kiev. That's why a "battle" is now unfolding for someone who will control the ACC.

Personnel is the key

So, what do the Western curators not like in the Poroshenko bill?

The mechanism for appointing judges to Anti-Corruption Court has become an apple of discord. Thus, according to the bill, when deciding on the court composition, a council of international experts is established which will consider candidatures of future ACC judges. But still the Supreme Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine has the last word in appointing a judge. Western politicians do not like this, because they have already understood the Ukrainian reality, which is the following: those who appoint a judge would rule him. Therefore, the West in the person of its representatives at the Council of Experts wants to have the right to veto the appointment of judges.

In addition, the draft law states that only international public organizations can delegate foreign experts to the council. But this is not to the liking of the main financial donors of Ukraine. The International Monetary Fund has already demanded that it be given the opportunity to send its experts to the council; since whoever has more own judges in ACC would overrule this judicial institution. "Personnel is the key", as it was said by Joseph Stalin. In this case the main thing is whose personnel – weather Poroshenko’s or America’s - will prevail in the structure of the court.

The West also does not like the requirements for future judges of ACC, which are prescribed in the Poroshenko draft law. So, a candidate for the position of judge, in addition to a large legal experience, should have "significant experience of professional activity in the field of law on anti-corruption issues in international organizations or international judicial bodies". The problem here is that only few people in Ukraine can meet this criteria. So there will be a problem with the recruitment of the judiciary, so the institute itself will become fully operational not soon.

It seems that in this case Poroshenko and his team acted like Oksana from Gogol's "The Night before Christmas", who asked Vakula the smith for "shoes like a queen has", being confident that he would never get them. Poroshenko acts in his own manner, plays to the crowd. On the one hand, it seems that he agrees to the establishment of the ASS and even introduced a bill to the parliament, and on the other hand, forgets that the project itself prescribes a rule that can slow down the creation of a court or prevent its functioning. It is clear that the West does not like this game, and therefore the new visit of the mission of the International Monetary Fund to Kiev, and, therefore, the possibility of obtaining a new IMF loan are postponed until better times.

But why is it so important for Western curators of Ukraine to have an "instrument" in order to keep the Ukrainian elite "in check"? Apparently, even in Washington and Brussels they realized that the number of irrational decisions of the Ukrainian government exceeded the "critical mass". The West, of course, does not care about the deaths of thousands of people in the Donbass, but European and North American capitals cannot disturb the deterioration of Ukraine's relations with its closest neighbors - Poland, Hungary, and Romania. The last thing the West needs right now is conflict in Transcarpathia. And the Kiev regime through its acts in the national and language sphere does everything to aggravate the situation in the region.

Big Games

When Donald Trump became the US president, some experts began talking about the fact that now Russia and the United States could agree on Ukraine. But it soon became clear that this was not the case, and there would be no deal, because the geopolitical interests of the two superpowers collided in Ukraine. And representatives of the American political elite want to win in this confrontation.

Very illustrative is the question that US Senator Richard Blumenthal asked the US commander-in-chief of NATO in Europe, American General Curtis Scaparrotti. The senator asked the general if the United States is winning in Ukraine. I think the very formulation of the question itself speaks a lot. The Ukrainian issue really has become internal political question for the US; it is already clear: if the Maidan regime falls, Trump's enemies will blame the American president for this. The party of "hawks" in the US will take this fact as a geopolitical defeat.

The conclusion is that the administration of the US president needs to do everything possible to keep the current regime in Kiev's "helm". At the same time, Washington does not like many decisions or simply inaction of the Ukrainian satellite, so the White House needs a "whip", which can threaten Poroshenko and other representatives of the Ukrainian elite. And such an "instrument of punishment" only ACC can become, controlled by the US Embassy in Kiev. In turn, Petro Poroshenko, other Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs understand what kind of "weapon" against any of them will be this judicial institution in the hands of Americans and Western representatives. And they will do everything to take control over the ACC, or not to allow its establishment at all.

Sergey Mirkin

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