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Ukraine court orders arrest of MP Mykhaylo Dobkin

A Kyiv district court ordered on July 15 the arrest of Mykhaylo Dobkin, an MP with the Opposition Bloc who is among the most influential players in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The court set his detention for two months in the event he fails to make bail set at UAH 50 mln (USD 1.94 mln), which the court gave him five days to pay. After the announcement, Dobkin said he didn’t have the funds to make bail. He said he expected to be released on his own recognizance and found the bail to be demeaning. Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said Dobkin could decide to flee.

Two days earlier, Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove Dobkin’s political immunity, leaving him vulnerable to criminal prosecution. In late June, the Prosecutor General’s Office submitted to parliament a summons for Dobkin’s arrest for abuse of authority and conspiracy to commit fraud for two incidents involving illegal privatization of land in the city of Kharkiv.

Zenon Zawada: If Dobkin submits to detention, we see a similar future to that of Oleksandr Yefremov, a key player in the Luhansk region who has been under detention since February 2015. Like Yefremov, Dobkin has been officially charged with crimes that pale in comparison to what he is widely suspected of engaging in. Like Yefremov, Dobkin is an easy target for the government for arrest owing to his unpopularity in Kyiv and Russian-oriented positions.

The Prosecutor General’s Office dropped its ethnic incitement charges against Yefremov in March this year and arrested him three months later on new charges for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity. And we expect the Poroshenko administration to treat Dobkin in the same way, like a cat toying with a mouse trapped in its paws.

We see the government’s motivation in arresting these figures as a means of keeping them accessible for whenever compromising information is needed. In Dobkin’s case, we also see Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, his longtime rival in their native Kharkiv, as wanting to diminish Dobkin’s influence. Recently, Hennadiy Kernes – Dobkin’s righthand man – accused Avakov of organizing an assassination attempt against him.

What’s unfortunate about these events is they have little to do with a systemic establishment of rule of law. Instead, it reveals the intentions of Poroshenko and entourage to eliminate rivals and consolidate power, in similar fashion to their predecessor Viktor Yanukovych.

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