Wizeus > Religious Affairs
| Video Links
| Book Reviews
Files | Miscellaneous
Kyiv Post | 17Sep2016 | Brian Bonner,  17Sep2016
Lutsenko’s leaky glass
it at YES conference
The Yalta European Strategy (YES) conference organized by
Oligarch Viktor Pinchuk was held in Kyiv on 16/18Sep2016. As
editor/owner of the Kyiv Post English-language newspaper, he possesses
detailed knowledge of the situation in Ukraine and has recently become
very critical of President Petro Poroshenko and his administration.
Other articles by Mr. Bonner on this website page are at
bonner20160602KyivPost.html, bonner20160207KyivPost.html and
If anybody can look silly talking about the serious subject of
corruption, it’s General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. Unfortunately,
silly is what people want from a comedian or a clown, not the most
powerful law enforcement official in Ukraine.
Not for the first time in public, Lutsenko poured water into a plastic
cup that he had punched holes in. He held it up as the audience watched
the water leak out. His visual aid was meant to symbolize how he sees
his task -- stopping corrupt schemes (repairing the glass) so that
budget revenues don’t leak out like water, leaving Ukraine’s treasury
as empty as the leaky glass.
The prop show took place over the lunchtime discussion called “Changing
Elites in Ukraine” at the 13th annual Yalta European Strategy
conference on Sept. 17, 2016 in Kyiv.
The problem many have with his analogy is that Lutsenko has his
priorities wrong, assuming he is not entirely incompetent in his post,
an open question given his lack of legal or prosecutorial experience in
the job he has held since May 2016.
Lutsenko was talking more like a member of parliament, emphasizing the
need for new legislation, rather than a prosecutor, which involves
criminal investigations and filing formal charges against those who
stole $40 billion from the nation since 2010 and against those who
ordered many murders, including those of 100 EuroMaidan Revolution
demonstrators just before President Viktor Yanukovych fled power on
Feb. 22, 2014.
“I don't think the most important part of my job is to calculate the
number of imprisoned and arrested criminals,” Lutsenko said. “That’s
only one part of my job.”
Excuse me, but prosecuting people for crimes is the most important part
of your job, Lutsenko. Countries that don’t punish corruption, like
Ukraine, are poorer than those who do.
It’s no wonder, however, that Lutsenko doesn’t want to keep score
because prosecutors would have nothing to put up on the scoreboard
except zeroes – as in zero trials or convictions for major corruption
and capital crimes.
Lutsenko, incidentally, skipped a morning panel on “Fighting
Corruption." My guess is he made it only to the lunchtime meeting on
the calculation that he would not face tough questioning.
Fortunately, however, Mikheil Saakashvili, the Odesa Oblast governor
and former Georgian president, and Mustafa Nayyem, the member of
parliament and investigative journalist, raised clear-headed and
Saakashvili said that, despite Ukraine being at war with Russia, the
Ukrainian elite “shares the same values of Russia’s elite.” Those in
top political power positions are “children of Kuchma,” meaning
protégés of ex-President Leonid Kuchma, the autocratic president who
ruled for 10 years until 2004. Saakashvili said that Ukrainian and
Russian elites enjoy the same lifestyles, earn money the same way –
“rent from commodities” and create a “closed system” that is akin to a
closed joint-stock oligarch society.
He said that Ukraine’s oligarchs effectively choose the president,
prime minister, members of parliament and other proxies by backing them
with financial and media resources.
The way forward, Saakashvili said, is for Ukrainian voters to elect new
leaders in the next elections. “In the end, I’m optimistic,” he said.
Nayyem took Lutsenko to task for holding secret meetings with President
Petro Poroshenko, billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky -- who owns the
nation's largest bank and many other major assets -- and Interior
Minister Arsen Avakov.
Going back to the leaky glass metaphor, Nayyem also said that Lutsenko
and Ukraine’s elites have done nothing to break Ukrainian billionaire
Rinat Akhmetov’s monopoly control of the energy market. Such schemes,
he said, are robbing the state’s budget of revenues.
Nayyem said that the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko, of which he is a member,
and Narodny Front, led by ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, have
blocked legislation to create an independent energy regulator to
oversee the critical energy sector.
“This government does not have will to fight corruption. We are talking
about lack of will to fight monopolies,” Nayyem said. He also urged
Lutsenko “to serve the country and the people” and not insiders.
The elites keeping alive the old corrupt oligarch have media, money and
law enforcement on their side, while the reformers have transparency,
freedom of speech and accountability on their side, Nayyem said.
Right now, he said, the reformers are weaker, but as the two sides
battle for control, “the country loses.” Moreover, Nayyem said, “you
cannot criticize” the elites in or out of power. If you do, they are so
thin-skinned that they accuse their critics of working for Russia or
being an enemy of Ukraine’s state.
Tying the theme of unpunished corruption with economic development,
Kyiv lawyer Daniel Bilak said that the single biggest obstacle to
foreign investment is Ukraine’s corruption and lack of rule of law.
Let’s hope Lutsenko, the oligarchs and their representatives took this
lunchtime advice to heart. But I doubt it. Ukraine’s progress will
speed up, in my view, only when -- as Saaskashvili and Nayyem said --
leaders are elected who are not tied into the old oligarch ways of
doing business and truly serve the people.
Only then will Ukrainians get the country, government and economy they
Kyiv Post | 17Sep2016 | Brian Bonner
Prime ministers again
on failing corruption fight in Ukraine
A new year at the Yalta European Strategy and yet it’s the same old
story on the anti-corruption front in Ukraine: The same corrupt
prosecutors, the same corrupt judges and same lame excuses are coming
from Ukraine’s political leaders.
And that’s why Ukraine’s broken criminal justice system has not
prosecuted or brought to trial any big corruption suspects -- zero.
That means the $11.4 billion stolen from the banking system is not
coming back anytime soon, nor will anybody be held accountable for the
looting. That means the $40 billion pilfered by ex-President Viktor
Yanukovych and his cronies will not be coming back soon, nor will
anybody be brought to justice for the crimes.
Unfortunately, it means also that nobody committing crimes today --
stealing or murdering -- have anything to fear, especially if they have
the right political connections.
And that is why, 16 years after the murder of Ukrainska Pravda
journalist Georgiy Gongadze, nobody is able to get a conclusion for an
investigation that has fingered ex-President Leonid Kuchma, the
father-in-law of YES conference founder Victor Pinchuk as the prime
suspect. Kuchma denies the allegations. But the case foreshadows what
is likely to happen to the investigation into the July 20, 2016 car
that killed Ukrainska Pravda journalist Pavel Sheremet: It will likely
fail, because Ukraine’s criminal justice system is broken.
For some strange reason, Brian Bonner and other journalists in Ukraine
and abroad always highlight the Gongadze murder circa 17Sep2000, but
never mention the earlier murders of other journalists during the
Kuchma era and earlier. Amongst a multitude of other victims, of
particular interest is the torture/murder of
invalid-journalist Volodymyr Katelnytsky and
his mother on the night of 07/08Jul1997.]
Don’t take my word for it, believe the nation’s last two prime
ministers -- Volodymyr Groysman, the incumbent, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk,
the previous one.
Last year, BBC Hard Talk host Stephen Sackur, who moderates panels for
Pinchuk, asked Yatsenyuk to name a single “big fish” convicted of
corruption. He could not name a single one.
This year, in response to the same question, Groysman also could not
name a single case.
“You can’t catch a big fish with a small, thin rod,” Groysman said.
The prime minister since April went on to say that Ukraine had
squandered its chance in its first 25 years to create a strong and
independent state with well-functioning institutions.
“That chance has unfortunately has been lost,” Groysman said, admitting
that “we have a weak court, weak judiciary and other challenges that
Yatsenyuk last year simply begged off responsibility, saying he has no
control over judges or prosecutors.
But what is missing from both prime ministers is leadership. If the
current system is so broken and the “reforms” are so distant and weak,
why not do what other nations have done to combat corruption?
It’s time to do what Guatemala has done, which is to invest legal
powers into special courts, investigators and prosecutors overseen by
competent professionals, foreign and domestic.
It’s time to borrow a page from Romania and the Baltic nations, which
faced Soviet-style (or Eastern Bloc) corruption but managed to combat
It’s also time to borrow the transparency and effectiveness of the
Nordic countries in keeping crime low -- and those crimes that are
committed -- punished.
It’s also time to remove political control over prosecutors, judges and
police -- they are not independent -- and to invest ordinary citizens
with oversight powers, chiefly but not exclusively through the
establishment of a jury system.
But nobody was talking about any of these ideas at Pinchuk’s forum.
While at least the prime ministers have shown up the last two years,
neither general prosecutor -- Viktor Shokin or Yuriy Lutsenko --
Shokin, whose obstruction of justice was well-chronicled before
President Petro Poroshenko fired him in March 2016, would never be able
justify his actions in a public forum.
More was expected of Poroshenko appointee Lutsenko, who came to power
in May. But it appears that Lutsenko was simply too afraid on Sept. 17,
to be on the same panel as anti-corruption crusader and member of
parliament Sergii Leshchenko.
Lutsenko appeared at the conference at 1 p.m., as another panel was
holding an economic discussion.
Lutsenko also probably didn’t want to sit next to Swedish economist
Anders Aslund, who believes that all of Ukraine’s prosecutors and
judges should be fired and that the institutions be rebuilt from
Leshchenko holds Poroshenko responsible for the faltering
anti-corruption fight and obstruction of justice.
“I think the main problem is the lack of political will to fight
corruption among the Ukrainian leadership. The schemes surrounding
state entities and ministers are not possible to implement without
protection of the top level,” Leshchenko said, fingering state
enterprises as a big source of corrupt riches for insiders at the
expense of Ukrainains. “I believe that the president is personally
responsible for fight against corruption and 60 percent of society
believes president is the responsible for fight against corruption.”
A troika of forces gives Leshchenko his optimism. He said the combined
pressure of civil society, independent journalists and Ukraine’s
Western friends have been successful in pushing the corrupt oligarchy
to make some changes.
It was no wonder that, at the end of the forum entitled “Fighting
Corruption,” almost nobody in the room raised their hands when Sackur
asked them to do so if they believed that the government is waging a
credible and effective fight against corruption.
At this pace, it is more than likely that -- when the 14th annual YES
conference roles around next year -- Ukraine will still not have
punished any “big fish,” the Gongadze investigation will still go on,
the Sheremet murder will be unsolved and that the billions of dollars
stolen from Ukraine will not be returned.