Former US ambassador lists issues clogging US-Ukraine relations

25 March 2021

The election of Joe Biden as U.S. president “raised the welcome prospect of a return to normalcy in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship,” John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, wrote in a March 23 alert published by Atlantic Council. He listed U.S. and Ukraine moves towards the fight against corruption and Russian influence in Ukraine since Biden’s inauguration, including sanctioning MPs Oleksandr Dubinsky and Victor Medvedchuk, as well as the activated investigation against the former top managers of Privatbank, which was bailed out by the government in 2016.


At the same time, Herbst listed two “counter-steps” by Ukrainian authorities in the way of improved relationships with Washington. The first is a case that had been opened against Kateryna Rozhkova, deputy governor of Ukraine’s central bank, “who played an important and laudatory role in the nationalization of Privatbank.” Last week, local newspaper Kyiv Post wrote an article that Rozhkova faces treason and embezzlement charges for hiring Kroll, the agency that did the forensic audit of Privatbank. The second issue is the court case where the Surkis brothers demand compensation of USD 350 mln from the Ukrainian government that they lost in Privatbank after it was declared insolvent. “Issues like the Rozhkova prosecution and the disposition of Privatbank assets can slow down Zelensky’s charm offensive,” Herbst commented.


Alexander Paraschiy: Ironically, the issues listed by Herbst are a legacy from the times when Poroshenko was president, and Herbst should know it well. For instance, the Surkis family already received compensation for their lost deposits in Privatbank in 2018, and it seems like the political will of the new Ukrainian administration was a key factor that impeded the compensation of another USD 350 mln. Rozhkova was brave enough to fight against the former shareholders of Privatbank, but at her position in the top management of Platinum bank in 2014-2015, she did exactly the same thing as top-managers of Privatbank (almost all the corporate loans of the banks were provided to related parties – an action that, according to Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, is a basis for prosecuting Privatbank former managers). Moreover, against Rozhkova, not only treason cases have been opened, but also cases investigating her possible corruption, led by the National Anticorruption Bureau - the body which is widely considered as independent from the Zelensky administration.


All in all, we disagree with Herbst’ position that these two cases could impede the U.S. – Ukraine relationships.

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