Court head dismissed amid rising claims of plots against Zelenskiy

15 May 2019

The judges of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court voted on May 14 to dismiss its head, Stanislav Shevchuk. That morning, they decided to review a report produced by the court’s rules and ethics commission that determined grounds exist to dismiss Shevchuk based on his “material disciplinary offense, and gross and systemic negligence of his responsibilities.” Shevchuk also violated the Constitution by issuing illegal orders, politicizing the court’s activity, ignoring the rights of judges and violating constitutional guarantees, the report said. NGO leaders blamed Shevchuk for overturning the law on punishing illegal enrichment, which drew the criticism of leading Western authorities and puts the IMF loan tranche at risk. 12 of the court’s 18 judges voted for his dismissal. Shevchuk was elected Constitutional Court head in February 2018 after joining the court in March 2014. He was replaced by Natalia Shaptala, who joined the court in 2010. She was nominated for dismissal by several MPs in 2014 for alleged violations during the Yanukovych presidency.


In response to his dismissal, Shevchuk alleged President Poroshenko of launching a coup to prevent President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy from taking office, echoing mounting speculation that the current administration is seeking to delay his inauguration indefinitely. “The judges of the state’s main constitutional body, which took an oath to the people of Ukraine, themselves committed a felony to overthrow the constitutional order,” Shevchuk wrote on his Facebook page. “The overthrow occurred quickly, with gross and egregious violations to Ukraine’s Constitution.” Poroshenko is “making every effort to retain power by maintaining control over the main state institutions,” he wrote, adding that he will appeal to the courts and law enforcement authorities.


The Zelenskiy team declined to support Shevchuk in his claims of a government overthrow, instead defending the Constitutional Court’s vote. The judges voted to dismiss him because they didn’t like his managerial style, such as frequent violations of procedures, said Ruslan Riaboshapka, a key adviser to Zelenskiy. With the quick selection of the new head, “the judges demonstrated maturity and consciousness, and in this way didn’t create any problems for the newly elected president Zelenskiy to take his oath,” he said, as reported by Interfax-Ukraine.


Opponents of President-elect Zelenskiy in Ukraine’s parliament have already prepared legislation to remove his remaining authority, Dmytro Razumkov, among his key advisers, told a political talk show on May 13. He claimed that on Apr. 22, the day after the runoff vote that Zelenskiy won, Parliamentary Deputy Head Oksana Syroyid recommended at an agenda meeting to put to vote a bill to restrict the president’s authority. “Many of the functions that they wanted to simplify with the likely law belong to the president’s constitutional authority,” Razumkov said. “In that way, a liquidation of the institution of the presidency occurred, almost transitioning to a parliamentary republic.” He did not mention what prompted the MPs to abandon their plans.


Zenon Zawada: Throughout the election campaign, we saw a likelihood of President Poroshenko of clinging to power. To wide relief, Poroshenko has not resorted to extreme measures. We expect Poroshenko will continue to act in good faith and uphold the law, which stipulates the inauguration should occur by June 2, or within 30 days of the official publication of the election results.


On the other hand, the president’s team is engaged in making many last-minute personnel decisions and political moves that can disrupt Zelenskiy’s potential plans for reform, to one degree or another. This post-election competition between pro-Western forces, driven by resentment, has the potential to further destabilize Ukraine. We are confident more serious attempts will be made in parliament by the year end to remove Zelenskiy’s remaining authority as president, which lie in the foreign policy, defense and national security spheres.

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