Interior Ministry accused of resisting changes
The Interior Ministry is currently undergoing top-to-bottom reform that envisages introducing a new Westernstyle police force, staffed with fresh recruits. Kyiv’s new patrol units are already on the streets and eight more cities have either started recruiting or training new officers, according to the Interior Ministry.
Resistance to change persists in the old law enforcement system, critics, including the Justice Ministry and lawmakers, say. Officials flout Ukraine’s lustration law, which is intended to cleanse the government of those linked to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
A prime example is Deputy Interior Minister Vasyl Paskal, who the Justice Ministry and Civic Lustration Committee say should be dismissed because he headed the ministry’s criminal police department and criminal investigation department in 20112014 during the fugitive ex-president’s rule.
Under the cleansing law, heads and deputy heads of “independent structural units” of the Interior Ministry who worked for at least a year under Yanukovych and during the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution must be fired.
Paskal maintains that the departments he headed were not “independent” units, thus he should keep his post.
But according to the ministry’s website, the criminal investigation department is subordinated directly to the ministry’s leadership, and there is no other department above it, which means it is indeed an “independent structural unit” – a conclusion also reached by Ukraine’s Justice Ministry.
All the same, in May Kyiv’s Administrative District Court rejected a motion from the Civic Lustration Committee to fire Paskal. An appellate court started considering the civic group’s appeal on the matter on July 29.
In April, Ihor Lutsenko, a lawmaker from the Batkivshchyna Party, published an Interior Ministry document instructing Paskal to conduct surveillance of EuroMaidan activists during anti-Yanukovych protests in 2013-2014.
Lutsenko, who was kidnapped and badly beaten during the popular uprising, said that he and murdered EuroMaidan activist Yury Verbytsky had been wiretapped by police at that time and then attacked by pro-government thugs. The police have detained the suspects accused of kidnapping Lutsenko and Verbytsky, as well as murdering the latter.
“Paskal was part of the Interior Ministry team that allowed the titushki (hired thugs) to scare and attack EuroMaidan activists, and kidnap and kill them,” Lutsenko said. “He was in charge of the system that helped to physically destroy us.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Artem Shevchenko told the Kyiv Post that Paskal had not been implicated in criminal investigations against EuroMaidan protesters.
Another Interior Ministry heavy- weight, Oleksandr Tereshchuk, was supposed to be fired because he headed the the Volyn Oblast police department in 2012-2014. He also headed the ministry’s anti-drug trafficking department in 2012.
He was appointed head of Kyiv’s police department in July 2014 and was fired in June 2015 under the lustration law. However, on July 3, President Petro Poroshenko exempted Tereshchuk from the measure, and he was re-instated as Kyiv’s police chief.
His decree has caused much controversy because, under Ukrainian law, officials can be exempted from lustration only if they are important for national security – for instance if they served in the war zone.
There is no evidence that Tereshchuk served in the war zone.
He served briefly in the National Guard’s department for maintaining public order before being re-instated. This has been used by the Interior Ministry as justification for his exemption. Some National Guard units are based near the frontline.
Both Dmytro Dymov, a deputy head of the Justice Ministry’s lustration department, and Karl Volokh, an activist of the Civic Lustration Committee, told the Kyiv Post this was a dubious appointment.
“He was given a pardon, but he’s not a military serviceman,” Dymov said.
Yegor Sobolev, head of the parliamentary anti-corruption committee, told Channel 112 earlier this month that Tereshchuk’s police units were used in a crackdown on EuroMaidan protesters in Volyn Oblast in 20132014 during his stint as chief of its police department.
“This proves that Petro Poroshenko wants to follow in Viktor Yanukovych’s footsteps,” Sobolev said. “… I believe it’s a kick in the teeth of EuroMaidan, lustration, and all of us.”
Tereshchuk’s property has also been a subject of controversy.
The Civic Lustration Committee said in June that Tereshchuk could be subject to property lustration – dismissal of officials who can’t account for their property holdings – because he had not explained where his family had gotten money to buy a 350-square-meter house in Kyiv worth Hr 1.5 million.
Tereshchuk told Channel 112 earlier this month that he would soon publish a report explaining the origin of his family’s property. He said later that most of the expenses on the luxury house had been made by his brother, but that he had also contributed.
Public expenditure watchdog Nashi Hroshi reported in May that Tereshchuk’s mother and wife, who own the residence, had not received legal permits for the land under the house. Moreover, the land on which the property is located was seized by the Security Service of Ukraine in 2010 as part of an investigation into the illegal allocation of land plots in the neighborhood, according to Nashi Hroshi. Shevchenko said he could not comment on the allegations about Tereshchuk’s property.