US, UK calls Ukraine to elect anti-corruption prosecutor, with no effect

30 December 2021

The U.S. embassy in Kyiv called on Dec. 29 for Ukraine to speed up with the selection of the Specialized Anti-corruption Prosecutor (SAP). It called via twitter for the SAP selection commission members “to return to work, respect their own procedures and do what’s right for the Ukrainian people by certifying their own SAP selection”. It also called to “not allow corrupt external forces to block the work” that the commission was entrusted to finish. The same day, U.K. ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons tweeted that the continued delay in appointing a SAP “is avoidable bad news for Ukraine”. She also called the selection committee members to “finally certify the winner and help strengthen this vital independent anticorruption institution.”


Recall, on Dec. 21, the selection commission failed to officially appoint Oleksandr Klymenko, who gained most points in the selection process, as the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor. At the meeting, the simple voting to approve the results of the selection process did not gain enough votes due to stubborn resistance on the part of the commission members to raise their hands. The commission’s next meeting on Dec. 24 yielded the same voting result. Klymenko, who is a detective of the Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), is not a comfortable candidate for the Ukrainian president and his entourage. Klymenko was a member of the NABU team that investigated the corruption of Oleh Tatarov, who is the deputy head of the office of President Zelensky.


The NGO Anticorruption Action Center (AntAC) wrote on Dec. 29 that the government is trying to undermine the results of the SAP selection. In particular, the General Prosecutor’s Office has re-launched a special vetting of Andriy Syniuk, the SAP candidate who ranked second by the selection commission and who is “controlled” by Zelensky's entourage, according to the AntAC. The Center stressed that the illegality of such re-vetting was confirmed by the National Agency for Prevention of Corruption, and that the selection process winner Klymenko refused to be re-vetted (all the SAP candidates underwent a standard vetting procedure in spring). If Klymenko gives permission for the re-vetting, he could fail to be re-vetted due to artificial barriers, the AntAC explained.


Alexander Paraschiy: The pressure from the U.S. and U.K. embassies is not working – Zelensky’s entourage is doing everything to appoint Syniuk as the specialized anticorruption prosecutor. Such stubborn attempts confirm that Syniuk is a comfortable prosecutor for Zelensky. If so, Ukraine’s entire anti-corruption infrastructure won’t work independently. Perhaps the only way to influence this process is direct talks by top Western officials with Zelensky on this issue.


Clearly, for Zelensky it is much more comfortable to execute his power (which goes beyond the constitution, which stipulates Ukraine is a parliamentary-presidential republic, meaning that the parliament is the first) with use of corrupt ties and means. An independent anti-corruption infrastructure will put this system at risk, meaning that the president’s power will be much weaker. In this sense, Zelensky, who presented himself as a new face in politics, does not differ from the “old politicians” like Poroshenko or Yanukovych. This is perhaps one of the biggest disappointments about Zelensky, and this is what will significantly undermine his chance to be re-elected in 2024.