Send out the clown

Kyiv Post - - Opin­ion -

Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko is the con­sum­mate old-style Ukrainian politi­cian.

He has the full skill set: he can lie with a straight face, boast about things that would nor­mally count as fail­ures, and find a mil­lion rea­sons why there has been no progress in his area of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

He put these tal­ents on show dur­ing his speech at the Yalta Euro­pean Strat­egy con­fer­ence in Kyiv on Sept. 15. Any­one un­fa­mil­iar with his record could have easily been tricked by Lut­senko’s assertive de­liv­ery, and got the im­pres­sion that the prose­cu­tor gen­eral has been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful in his fight against cor­rup­tion.

Those who have ac­tu­ally been fol­low­ing Lut­senko’s ac­tiv­i­ties weren’t fooled, how­ever.

Not one top of­fi­cial, for­mer or in­cum­bent, has gone to jail for cor­rup­tion in the years that have passed since the 2013–2014 EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion.

Lut­senko’s de­fense at YES was this: his of­fice can only pros­e­cute of­fi­cials no higher than deputy gov­er­nor level. In­ves­ti­gat­ing top-level of­fi­cials is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau, or NABU. But that’s a clear dis­tor­tion of the truth. First of all, Lut­senko’s own deputy, Chief Anti-Cor­rup­tion Prose­cu­tor Nazar Kholod­nyt­sky has con­trol over NABU — his agency pros­e­cutes and over­sees the cases in­ves­ti­gated by the NABU de­tec­tives. It means he can easily block an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by not sign­ing a search or ar­rest war­rant. If NABU hasn’t suc­ceeded in putting any­one be­hind bars, it’s be­cause of Kholod­nyt­sky’s pros­e­cu­tors, who work side-by-side with Lut­senko.

Se­condly, there are plenty of big fish that Lut­senko can in­ves­ti­gate who aren’t of­fi­cials, but oli­garchs. Ihor Kolo­moisky al­legedly stole bil­lions of dol­lars from Pri­vatBank, with tax­pay­ers now foot­ing the bill at the na­tion­al­ized bank. But in­stead of prose­cut­ing Kolo­moisky, Lut­senko has pri­vate friendly meet­ings with him — one such meet­ing in Am­s­ter­dam in 2017 was pho­tographed by chance by a Ukrainian passerby.

Lut­senko ex­em­pli­fies the fail­ure of the en­tire Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal elite to en­act real change. New lead­er­ship is needed to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of the Ukrainian pub­lic, and a good place to start in­stalling that new lead­er­ship would be the Prose­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice of Ukraine.

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