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Yovanovitch criticizes recent events in Ukraine, proposes remedies

Yovanovitch criticizes recent events in Ukraine, proposes remedies

6 March 2019

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch offered a
series of criticisms of recent political events in Ukraine that hinder the
nations’ Western integration in a Mar. 6 speech in Kyiv. She also offered
remedies in order to correct these harmful decisions by Ukrainian government.
Most notably, she criticized the Constitutional Court’s decision, published
last week, to overturn the illegal enrichment statute of the criminal
code
as “a serious setback” that weakens Ukraine’s
“anti-corruption architecture,” including the soon-to-be established High
Anti-Corruption Court. To remedy this, she proposed “a new and better amendment
to the criminal code that not only restores illicit enrichment as an
anti-corruption tool but reinstates the dozens of cases that were undermined by
the court decision.”

 

Yovanovitch called for the government to immediately
finance a full audit of Ukroboronprom and declassify the State Defense Order
“to the maximum extent possible,” in response to the recently broadcast
journalistic investigations of the president’s entourage alleged to have made
illegal profits from the sale of Russian parts to Ukraine’s military.

 

As part of ensuring the integrity of the
anti-corruption architecture, Yovanovitch repeated the U.S. Embassy’s calls for
replacing the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytskiy. “Nobody
who has been recorded coaching suspects on how to avoid corruption charges can
be trusted to prosecute those very same cases,” she said, referring to the
scandalous prosecutor who was merely censured for his alleged corrupt
activities, the evidence for which were found on wiretap recordings. She also
expressed concern about the High Qualifications Commission of Judges being
poised to approve as many as 31 questionable candidates getting closer to
becoming Supreme Court justices, potentially 30% of the court, proposing that
the many candidates with adequate qualifications be considered instead.

 

Regarding the elections scheduled for March 31,
Yovanovitch called for the government to ensure that they are free and fair.
Specifically, “only the independent Central Election Commission should
administer the elections and count the vote,” she said. No armed groups or
groups of thugs should be employed to influence voting, she said, and all
instances of vote-buying should be punished.

 

Zenon Zawada:
Yovanovitch’s remarks were timed by the U.S. government to deliver several
messages to the Poroshenko administration, as well as the Ukrainian public.
U.S. officials are dissatisfied not only with the corruption scandals that have
been plaguing the Poroshenko administration for years, but the way it has been
handling them, particularly on the eve of elections. She is sending the message
that the U.S. won’t be blindly backing the re-election of Poroshenko, as had
been widely suspected and the president could be assuming, judging by his insolent behavior in recent
weeks amid the scandals. While Poroshenko presents the possibility for most
stability, the decision of Yovanovitch and special envoy Kurt Volker to meet
with Volodymyr Zelenskiy last week indicates they’ll be willing to work with
anyone who wins the elections fairly.

 

In particular, Yovanovitch is sending the message to
President Poroshenko that the U.S. won’t be endorsing his re-election if the
vote is not determined to have occurred freely and fairly, as determined with
the help of election observers. Yovanovitch delivered her remarks just as
political and social tensions in Ukraine are approaching a boiling point,
threatening not only the integrity of the approaching elections but the
peaceful atmosphere surrounding them. In her reference to avoiding using thugs
and armed groups, Yovanovitch’s remarks came just as the leader of an auxiliary
police-style group, widely believed to be linked to the Interior Ministry,
warning that it may have to resort to force to prevent election fraud (actions
that the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov rebuked soon afterwards).

 

So we expect the U.S. government won’t be closing
its eyes to the inevitable claims of elections violations, particularly if they
exceed the level of what election monitors consider to be acceptable in order
to deem the elections to have been free and fair. And the recent meetings of
key diplomats with Zelenskiy have sent Poroshenko the message that U.S.
officials will be willing to work with a Zelenskiy administration, particularly
in light of the president’s refusal to take seriously many of their
recommendations for reform and fighting corruption.

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