Tiger at 6

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

The 6th Kyiv Post Tiger Con­fer­ence took place on Dec. 5 in Ukraine at a time when the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion, in league with oli­garchs and also with law en­force­ment agen­cies that he con­trols, are wag­ing a fierce war against anti-cor­rup­tion agen­cies and ac­tivists.

One of the topics at the con­fer­ence was how Ukraine can do a bet­ter job brand­ing it­self as a na­tion — in other words, high­light­ing its best as­pects so that when peo­ple hear the word Ukraine abroad, they con­jure up pos­i­tive im­ages and as­so­ci­a­tions.

As the con­fer­ence was tak­ing place, the botched ar­rest of ex-Pres­i­dent Mikheil Saakashvil­i was a case study in how not to brand a na­tion. The sor­did af­fair, re­gard­less of one's opin­ion of the fire­brand Saakashvil­i, is part of a pat­tern of of­fi­cial ob­struc­tion of jus­tice led by Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. The other el­e­ments in­clude the govern­ment's at­tacks on the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine, the block­ing of the cre­ation of an anti-cor­rup­tion court and the re­fusal to pros­e­cute any­body of con­se­quence for cor­rup­tion. Poroshenko's three-and-a-half years in power show that es­tab­lish­ing jus­tice and rule of law are far from his mind.

His ar­ro­gant ac­tions — which in­clude his con­de­scend­ing treat­ment of the busi­ness com­mu­nity dur­ing a Dec. 1 meet­ing and of any­one who crit­i­cizes or dis­agrees with him — have shown that he is hell-bent on pre­serv­ing the klep­to­cratic oli­garchy in place and ap­pears to be on the verge of openly break­ing with the Ukrainian pub­lic, civic so­ci­ety and its West­ern back­ers in this pur­suit.

Poroshenko's au­thor­i­ties are both re­pres­sive and in­com­pe­tent. The tar­get­ing of Saakashvil­i is also highly sus­pi­cious and looks like a vendetta against a for­mer po­lit­i­cal ally turned en­emy. At the very least, even if the charges that Saakashvil­i col­luded with ex-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych's cronies are cred­i­ble, Ukraine's govern­ment has the wrong pri­or­i­ties.

Poroshenko is pro­tect­ing and en­rich­ing fel­low oli­garchs, rather than sup­port­ing in­de­pen­dent law en­force­ment agen­cies whose jobs are to pros­e­cute the big­gest crimes against the state. He has also ob­structed the cre­ation of an anti-cor­rup­tion court and traded one in­com­pe­tent po­lit­i­cal hack, Vik­tor Shokin, for another one, Yuriy Lut­senko, as pros­e­cu­tor.

This na­tion lost $20 bil­lion to bank fraud alone and $40 bil­lion dur­ing Yanukovych's four years of plunder that ended on Feb. 22, 2014 with the 100-day EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion. There are no con­vic­tions to show for any of this theft, let alone any jus­tice for the more than 100 de­mon­stra­tors killed by Yanukovych's se­cu­rity forces. And mem­bers of par­lia­ment re­main im­mune from prose­cu­tion for crimes.

In­stead, as law­maker Sergii Leshchenko points out, Poroshenko — who paid taxes to the Rus­sian regime wag­ing war against Ukraine un­til April of this year — is al­low­ing fi­nan­cial priv­i­leges in dif­fer­ent sec­tors to such oli­garchs as Ri­nat Akhme­tov (Rot­ter­dam+ coal pric­ing), Ihor Kolo­moisky (es­cape from jus­tice), Dmytro Fir­tash (fer­til­izer) and Igor Kononenko (re­gional elec­tric­ity gen­er­at­ing com­pa­nies).

Poroshenko has ap­pointed his cronies to key po­si­tions in the de­fense sec­tor, then shrouded the record spend­ing of $5 bil­lion each year, or 5 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, in se­crecy. It's no won­der that the sec­tor is seen as hope­lessly cor­rupt and such scan­dals in­volv­ing peo­ple close to Poroshenko or In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov are break­ing out reg­u­larly.

Cor­rup­tion is the big­gest threat to the se­cu­rity of this na­tion, be­cause it weak­ens Ukraine's abil­ity to pre­vail against Rus­sia's war, as the Tiger Con­fer­ence's Trans­form­ing Se­cu­rity & De­fense pan­elists showed.

The other pan­els of the day also high­lighted other ob­sta­cles. These chal­lenges will have to be over­come if the na­tion will reach its am­bi­tious goals set by 2020.

Bu­reau­cratic in­trigues are block­ing in­vest­ments in re­new­able en­ergy, as the Re­new­ables En­ergy pan­elists showed. And, when it comes to Break­through In­no­va­tions for Ukraine's Fu­ture, the na­tion still re­mains hes­is­tant and hob­bled by re­sis­tance and cor­rupt old ways.

The head­lines com­ing out of Ukraine this week are hor­ri­ble. The Poroshenko ad­min­is­tra­tion and its in­com­pen­tent lack­eys, such as Lut­senko, are to blame. By turn­ing his back on the promises of the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion that lifted him to power in 2014, Poroshenko is be­tray­ing Ukraini­ans. Vot­ers will take their re­venge in the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, if not ear­lier.

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