People’s Servant MP Yurchenko arrested for taking alleged bribe

23 September 2020

MP Oleksandr Yurchenko, who was exposed for alleged bribery by an anti-corruption investigation, was placed under arrest on Sept. 21 by the High Anti-Corruption Court, which set bail at UAH 3.2 mln. Yurchenko, who did not attend the Sept. 18 hearing, denies the bribery charges against him, his lawyers said, as reported by the news site. “There is all the basis to believe and assert that the criminal violations – for which cases have been opened – would not have occurred without the interference of law enforcement bodies, directly a National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) detective,” a lawyer said reportedly.


The investigation of The People’s Servant MP – who was appointed to head the waste subcommittee of the parliamentary energy, housing and maintenance committee – was conducted by NABU, which published on Sept. 15 its evidence that consisted of text messages and video recordings. The investigator paid a bribe to Ivan Fishchenko, a close associate to Yurchenko from their previous involvement in the Ukrop party, in exchange for amending legislation on waste recycling, NABU said. Yurchenko allegedly demanded USD 13,000 for the favor, received a second tranche of USD 50,000 in late August, and requested an additional USD 200,000 to bribe other members of the committee.


The same day NABU published its evidence, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told parliament sufficient evidence was lacking in order for her office to issue him a notice of suspicion for bribery. NABU had the authority to issue Fishchenko a notice of suspicion on Sept. 10, which was followed by his arrest on Sept. 15. Yet the tide quickly turned against Yurchenko when The People’s Servant parliamentary faction voted on Sept. 17 to exclude him from its ranks. By then, NABU had gained its notice of suspicion from Venediktova to issue to Yurchenko. President Zelensky made the bold statement that day, exceeding his authority, that Yurchenko would sit in prison.


Zenon Zawada: The knee-jerk reaction of the Zelensky administration last week was typical in Ukrainian politics, which was to “circle the wagons” and defend one of their own against political attack. Yet we are confident that after some contemplation, presidential officials decided that the 32-year-old Yurchenko was expendable and not worth the political liability he presents. That’s especially the case when the administration is drawing warnings from the West for its plans to take control of the IMF-sponsored anti-corruption institutions (NABU and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.)


In this sense, it’s positive to see the Zelensky administration being sensitive to public opinion, both from the Ukrainian electorate and the country’s Western partners. But it’s negative to see that Yurchenko would be enjoying the defense of the President’s Office if it determined that he wielded enough political weight and capital. Evidence of that is the lack of criminal charges against Putin-aligned MP Andriy Derkach (who was recently placed under U.S. sanctions), and the lack of any criminal case against Denys Yermak, who was allegedly video-recorded offering key government posts in exchange for bribes. (Denys Yermak is the brother of Andriy Yermak, the President’s Office head.) The Yurchenko episode is evidence that Zelensky is building a “rule of influence” state, rather than pursuing a “rule of law” state.