The conflict between the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) and the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine (GPU) has been increasingly smoldering for a longtime and exploded in the past few weeks. The two sides began to exchange scathing accusations, open criminal cases against each other, use special-purpose units, and conduct searches. What is more, some other institutions have joined the face-off – SAP (Special Anticorruption Prosecuting Office), SBU (Security Service of Ukraine), NAZK (National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption)… A juicy scandal, in a word.
It is difficult for society to make out all these abbreviations, let alone grasp the very essence. The essence is that Ukrainians have not yet learned to observe rules and are using state-run, in this case law-enforcement, bodies in political face-offs. Even if we take into account that Artur Herasymov and Makdym Burbak, Petro Poroshenko Bloc and People’s Front faction leaders, respectively, registered in a frantic rush a draft law that allows the Verkhovna Rada to express no confidence in the directors of the State Bureau of Investigations (DBR), the SAP, the NABU, and a NAZK member, which carries dismissal from office, we can conclude from this that the leadership is on one side of this confrontation because these largest factions form the parliamentary majority. This bill was to have been discussed in Thursday, but it was soon struck off the agenda.
“These are perhaps my last days in office,” NABU Director Artem SYTNYK said recently at the Global Real Assets Forum in Washington. “The parliament of Ukraine has registered a bill that makes it possible to dismiss the Anticorruption Bureau chief, in fact facilitates the procedure of a dismissal, and allows dismissing for political reasons. And the political reasons are very simple – not all in Ukraine like it that somebody thoroughly investigates into corruption schemes, really freezes assets, and really intends to bring them back to Ukraine.”
Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day
On the other side of the confrontation are the newly-established structures (albeit not all of them: the NAZK is perhaps off this list) and their heads, some MPs, the so-called anti-corruptionists and Euro-optimists, and public activists. This face-off would perhaps not be so eye-catching if the West did not support the latter. Both the US and the EU have already expressed their opinion about this.
“Recent events – including the disruption of a high-level corruption investigation, the arrest of officials from the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and the seizure of sensitive NABU files – raise concerns about Ukraine’s commitment to fighting corruption,” a US State Department statement says. “These actions appear to be part of an effort to undermine independent anticorruption institutions... They undermine public trust and risk eroding international support for Ukraine.”
“NABU, to which the UK has invested significant resources, is an extremely important link in the anti-corruption mechanism in Ukraine and has made significant progress in its development and investigation. Recent events, in particular, interference in the investigation of the NABU and the exposure of its agents under cover, is a worrying sign that threatens the future of independent anti-corruption investigations,” the UK Foreign Office spokesperson said.
A PASS FROM THE BOSS / Photo by Andrii NESTERENKO
As practice shows, Ukrainians never learned not to wash their dirty linen in public. They quarrel for everybody, for the whole civilized world, to hear. Indeed, Ukraine needs Western assistance, but is Western support for Ukraine always adequate? This requires an in-depth understanding of Ukrainian realities. So far we can see, for example, world politicians visit the Viktor Pinchuk-organized YES forum and shake hands with Ukraine’s ex-president Leonid Kuchma. They may be unaware of all nuances in the contemporary history of Ukraine, when, during the presidency of the latter, this country saw the formation of oligarchic clans and, accordingly, the corruption octopus against which the Europeans themselves are urging us to fight. Is Washington really capable of unraveling the tangle of the interests of certain forces in Ukraine?
“The US has enough information to make a general picture of Ukraine, public activist Oleksii TOLKACHOV comments to The Day. “Washington can see that Kyiv’s political establishment is inadequate and unable to carry out high-quality effective reforms. Therefore, to have Ukraine as a reliable partner, the US needs as many auxiliary entities as possible to encourage our inadequate establishment. The NABU and the demand to establish the Anticorruption Court are the instruments of influence by means of which the US and the international community are trying to put our topmost leadership, i.e., the president, parliament, state-run businesses, as well as budgetary flows, within some controlled and adequate framework. The current NABU-related and Saakashvili-related conflicts are tarnishing the remnants of the Ukrainian officials and politicians’ reputation. It is suicide of the Ukrainian politicians in power in the eyes of our international partners. The West may very soon show a ‘red card’ to Poroshenko, the BPP, and most of the parties in parliament for this and provoke if not the early elections then a very tough scenario of the scheduled presidential race.”
What is the essence of the face-off between the NABU and the GPU? “Obviously, we can say nothing about the effectiveness of anticorruption bodies in the current situation,” Oleksandr BANCHUK, an expert at the Center of Political and Legal Reforms, comments to The Day. “The president says it is necessary to establish the High Anticorruption Court which will exclusively handle the cases investigated by the NABU in coordination with the GPU. Nevertheless, we cannot say that the NABU’s performance was totally ineffective – this institution helped regain almost 750-million-hryvnia-worth public funds. So, I think the NABU has worked off the budgetary expenses spent on it. But it is, of course, interesting for society to know who has after all received a concrete punishment for these crimes. In other words, people need names and trials. I would like these cases to be heard in trial courts, but it is impossible in our conditions. So, the High Anticorruption Court is needed. Undoubtedly, certain forces in Ukraine are trying to use law-enforcement bodies as instruments for domestic political struggle. It is hardly a normal thing, but the problem is that there is a struggle but there are no names of the concrete people who have been punished for their crimes. Yet the situation, when internal struggle results in blocking certain institutions, is not unique for Ukraine.”
“I am a harsh critic of all the present-day anticorruption bodies – there are lots of them, but they have failed to achieve at least one striking result,” MP Vitalii KUPRII comments to The Day. “On the other hand, we can also see inactivity of the prosecutor general. I have also complaints about the SBU. I can arrive at only one conclusion in this situation: there is not a single honest top law-enforcement official in Ukraine. Both the NABU and the GPU are supposed to serve state interests. In my view, they should not have made their disputes public. Artem Sytnyk has done nothing in the past two years to submit bills that would legislatively streamline a number of corruption control methods. Lutsenko took advantage of this, and he is formally right. On the other hand, the GPU reform is also being blocked. Unfortunately, this chaos is of benefit to the president, but he just doesn’t understand that it will ‘eat him up’ at a certain moment.”
Kuprii also adds: “As for whether it is worthwhile to vote for dismissing Sytnyk, I will say bluntly: I will not vote because this can eliminate even the small and fragile effect, without which the president of Ukraine will finally usurp power. What we need is a sound competition for at least some system of checks and balances. If a certain side commits crimes during a pretrial investigation, they will be punished sooner or later. I think the leadership has obviously got carried away, playing with both sides.”