A Step in the Wrong Direction
Zelensky loyalist appointed Ukraine's Prosecutor General
When he ran for president, Volodymyr Zelensky harshly criticized Ukraine’s nonexistent rule of law and blamed its failures on his predecessor. He won the presidency on promises to overhaul the flawed law enforcement system and imprison corrupt officials.
Almost a year has passed, and there has been almost no progress. Corrupt officials continue to run amok, courts show no improvement and the president has appointed friends and Servant of the People loyalists to lead the country's law-enforcement agencies.
Parliament's consent on March 17 to the president's appointment of Iryna Venedyktova as Ukraine's Prosecutor General is one more example of Ukraine taking a step in the wrong direction, according to Rebecca Harms, a former member of the European Parliament.
The new appointments after recent reshuffle of government are in conflict with major promises of Ukrainian President. His choice is not a signal for a new era of dignity, not for unity and also not for consequent fight against corruption, Harms said on Twitter.
Zelensky saw it differently.
…It seems to me that, for the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, the Prosecutor General may be a woman. (Applause) It seems to me that, for the first time in Ukraine’s history, the Prosecutor General will be a professional and productive person. Please support her," Zelensky told lawmakers.
It “seemed” different to MP Inna Sovsun (Holos faction), who minutes later delivered an blistering speech from the Rada rostrum.
"Venedyktova’s score on the test when she tried to become a Supreme Court judge was 118.5. Why is this score important? Because this score was a failing score. We are talking about appointing someone to be Prosecutor General who failed the test to become a Supreme Court judge.
I will tell you as a university teacher: a failing grade is a failing grade. Students are either held back or expelled for failing grades. They do not matriculate to the next course. That needs to be made clear…
…Is it okay for you now to vote for the person who said in a speech from this rostrum that amnesty (for Maidan proteters) should be rescinded? …Think carefully about how you will sleep this night when you appoint a person who categorically does not support Maidan, someone who appointed Oleksandr Babikov (former lawyer to disgraced President Viktor Yanukovych) to be her deputy (at the SBI).
Sovsun’s speech fell on deaf ears. Some 269 MPs supported Venedyktovna, who for the last two and a half months has worked as the acting head of Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations (SBI). Not a single deputy from the European Solidarity, Holos and Batkivshchyna factions voted in her favor.
Venedyktova graduated from Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs and specialized in commercial arbitration. She was number 3 in the Servant of the People Party list and headed parliament's legal policy committee. Zelensky tapped her in December to replace Roman Truba as acting SBI director.
The SBI under Zelensky, Roman Truba and Venedyktova has churned out a litany of absurd charges against former President Petro Poroshenko.
Serious concern over Zelensky’s intention to imprison Poroshenko has been expressed frequently by western leaders. Former President of the European Council said in Zagreb after being elected head of the European People’s Party that "something really dangerous" could happen as a result and that "there is no room for politically motivated persecution."
Tusk warned that "any attempt to intimidate opposition leaders will be a matter of concern in Europe … whenever the authorities or people in power use justice against political opponents. In any form, whether in the medium or long term, it will become a tragedy not only for victims of persecution, but for the whole country."
During the extraordinary plenary session of parliament convened on March 17, Venedyktova declined to respond to questions from opposition MPS about the SBI's investigations of Poroshenko.
Anti-corruption activists and experts for months have criticized the president for having put Venedyktova in charge of the SBI, saying it was absurd to put a person who never had taken part in any criminal investigation in charge of an agency responsible for handling Ukraine's most complicated cases.
Venedyktova was in charge of investigating the murders of some 100 anti-government protesters during the EuroMaidan Revolution in 2013-2014. No police officers or officials have been convicted of murdering or persecuting protesters.
In January, she appointed Oleksandr Babikov, a former defense lawyer of President Viktor Yanukovych, the disgraced former president who was ousted by the EuroMaidan Revolution, as the bureau’s deputy head, putting him in charge of investigating crimes committed by his former client. She also appointed the bureau’s former deputy head, Oleksandr Buryak, in charge of the EuroMaidan cases, a decision that also drew criticism.