Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Ukrainian Opposition Leader Jailed on Trumped Up Charges

By Taras Kuzio

Yuriy Lutsenko, former Interior Minister in two governments led by Yulia Tymoshenko in 2005 and 2007-2010, was sentenced on February 27 to four years imprisonment and a three year ban from public office (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/123206/). The EU, European governments, US, Canada and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) immediately condemned the sentence. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Lutsenko and Tymoshenko cases raise, “serious concerns about the government of Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law” (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/123246/).

The sentence prevents Lutsenko from participating in the 2015 presidential elections where President Viktor Yanukovych will seek a second term. In October 2011, Yulia Tymoshenko received a seven year sentence and a three year ban from public office that removed her from the next two presidential and three parliamentary elections. Thus, with these two imprisonments the Ukrainian authorities have removed two of the main opposition threats to Yanukovych in the 2015 elections.

Lutsenko, the scourge of the nexus of Yanukovych, the Party of Regions and organised crime, was jailed by what Luke Harding, former Guardian correspondent in Moscow, describes as the Mafia State (London: Guardian books, 2011), which Lutsenko sought to dismantle as Interior Minister. Eurasia Daily Monitor (February 17) has written and US diplomatic cables have reported on the Mafia State (http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39024).

Marieluise Beck of Germany, a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said, “As a reformist interior minister who – among other things – dismantled the criminal hit squad within the ministry responsible for such high-profile crimes as the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, he angered some persons who are now back in power” (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/123221/).

Beck pointed out that, “The trial against him was unfair, as shown in detail by the observers of the Danish Helsinki Committee. Furthermore, the ‘crimes’ for which he was convicted could not possibly justify a term of imprisonment even if the prosecution had been able to prove all the allegations against him” (see
Mikael Lyngbo, Legal Monitoring in Ukraine I. Preliminary Report on the trials against former Minister of Interior Yurij Lutsenko and former First Minister of Justice Yevhen Korniychuk [Copenhagen: The Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, 2011] http://helsinki-komiteen.dk/Helsinki-gammel/downloads/LM-Ukraine.pdf).

Lutsenko was charged with illegally granting an apartment to his lawyer, increasing the pension of his driver and financial irregularities relating to celebrations marking National Police Day. The amount paid for the celebrations ($35,000) was miniscule compared to the size of corruption in Ukraine and did not go into Lutsenko’s pocket but to the state-owned Palac Ukrayiny where the National Police Day held its celebration.

In comparison, on the same day as the sentencing of Lutsenko, Ukrayinska Pravda reported that table lamps in Yanukovych’s new office in his palatial Mezhyhirya are handmade and each cost $10,000 (http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2012/02/27/6959508/). Last year, news reports revealed that fittings for a bathroom in the Mezhyhirya palace cost 300,000 Euros and a chandelier was purchased for $45,000. In 2010, two companies working on the estate imported luxury goods worth $20 million (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/99514/).

Obviously, these figures are far larger than the official salary of the President, who has been a state employee since 1997.

The Lutsenko, and earlier Tymoshenko case, are blatant cases of selective application of justice by the Yanukovych administration. Lutsenko’s sentence shows he has totally ignored Western criticism of the Tymoshenko trial and that his administration does not listen to the West. Incredibly, many Western policymakers and seasoned ex-Ambassadors believed otherwise until last summer.

It is time to acknowledge that it is impossible to reset relations with politicians such as Yanukovych who speak a different language, are a product of a completely alien political culture to European and American values, and who never fulfill promises made to European and American leaders.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Political Corruption and Preparations for Election Fraud in Ukraine

Ihor Rybakov

By Taras Kuzio

There have long been rumors and some evidence that Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yanukovych (this practice was not used by President Viktor Yushchenko) have bought opposition deputies to encourage them to defect to pro-presidential parliamentary coalitions (see EDM, February 17). Bribes are allegedly in the form of down payments of $1 million or more, as well as $20-25,000 per month ‘salaries.’ The ‘salaries’ are paid when defectors vote for pro-presidential laws and resolutions.

In the Kuchma era, the number of defectors was far smaller than under Yanukovych because presidential pressure was far less and as a consequence, parliament never became Kuchma’s rubber stamp institution. Under Yanukovych, the scale of political corruption has exponentially grown, the numbers of deputies who have been bribed to defect has tripled and parliament has become a de factor rubber stamp institution.

In December 2011, Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko [BYuT] parliamentary deputy Roman Zabzaliuk pretended to defect to the pro-presidential Reforms and Stability parliamentary coalition and taped the ensuing conversations with head of the pro-presidential Reforms for the Future parliamentary faction Ihor Rybakov. The Reforms for the Future faction mainly consists of 19 former opposition deputies.

The tape recordings provide evidence of political corruption, cynicism in the ruling authorities and preparations for falsification of the October 2012 parliamentary elections. The prosecutor’s office has, not surprisingly, refused to investigate the corruption. Following is a translation of one part of the conversations.

Roman Zabzaliuk: Can you tell me if the starting negotiating figure is around $500,000? Is this indeed the case?

Ihor Rybakov: Yes! Yes! Yes! The starting negotiating figure is $500,000, …and it is important that this is clearly understood…This is the first point. And the second point is that we should reach agreement with them as we need candidates in western Ukraine like we need (fresh) air. This is what the President of Ukraine himself…

RZ: In District Election Commissions (OVK) or as deputies?

IR: Yes, f**k, candidates for (parliamentary) deputies!... They will put pressure on BYuT and (Arseniy) Yatseniuk.

RZ: Yanukov or do you mean Yatseniuk?

IR: Yes, Yatseniuk. We need them today…the President said to me to my face at our meeting “F**k, give me as many as you can, the maximum!”

IR: We need any kind of candidates. F**k, any kind! What is most important is that they are allied to us. The (candidates) …who have popularity in western Ukraine. It does not f**king matter where they are from. The most important point is that I control some of these slaves…We will include them in majoritarian districts… All of the power of the authorities will be used toward getting them elected, which includes oblast (councils), governors, head of the (presidential) administration, SBU (Security Service), and prosecutors office. The entire set of administrative resources. This will be so brutally undertaken that they will be f**ked over.


Ukrayinsky Tyzhden, 23 Feb 2012, p.14.

The tapes made by Roman Zabzaliuk can be listened to here at http://tyzhden.ua/Politics/41780.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Russian Opposition Leader Accuses Chechen and Russian Authorities of Corrupt Practices

By Valery Dzutsev

On February 8, arguably the most illustrious leader of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny, attacked Ramzan Kadyrov in his blog entry in response to Kadyrov’s earlier derogatory statements (http://navalny.livejournal.com/, February 8). Kadyrov, known for his close relationship to Vladimir Putin, called Navalny a “real chatterbox” that “acts against the people of Russia.” Referring to Navalny’s crusade against corruption in the Russian government, Kadyrov alleged that in his revelations Navalny does not provide any names “because he is afraid.” Kadyrov concluded that “Navalny is a coward” (http://www.baltinfo.ru/2012/01/24/Kadyrov-nazval-mitinguyuschikh-vragami-Rossii-a-Navalnogo---boltunom-255025, January 24).

Seizing on this opportunity, Navalny published the results of his investigation of the Chechen police’s car inventory acquisitions, naming and shaming several people in Kadyrov’s entourage, such as minister interior of Chechnya, Ruslan Alkhanov, and his deputy, Roman Edilov. It transpired that the ministry interior of Chechnya planned to acquire 15 Mercedes-Benzes and one Porsche Cayenne for the total price of over $3 million. Apart from the striking luxury of the police cars for the Chechen republic, another dubious feature of the government agency’s acquisition process came to light. No organization bid to supply the cars and the previous auctions of the Chechen ministry interior also did not have any bidders. Russian antitrust government agency confirmed that the Chechen government had not requested permission to buy the needed equipment without an auction. So Navalny concluded that either the Chechen ministry did not buy anything in the past few years or did it in violation of existing legislation (http://navalny.livejournal.com/, February 8).

Ramzan Kadyrov’s attempts to curry favor with Vladimir Putin may backfire against both men as the general Russian public is increasingly against lavish spending on the North Caucasus and the North Caucasians as such. The situation poses a suitable opportunity for the Russian opposition to expose corruption in Putin’s government. Putin and Kadyrov are so closely related to each other that the opposition may expect its attack against Kadyrov will inevitably inflict considerable harm on Putin.