Send out the clown
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.