Tiger at 6
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.