Rule of lawlessness
One of the great strengths of Ukraine is its vibrant civil society, teeming with engaged citizens who are calling attention to problems and proposing solutions. Too often, they are doing the dirty work that business, government and media are shying away from.
They should be rewarded. Instead, about 50 activists in the last year in Ukraine have faced violence — physical assaults and attempted murders. If this doesn't stop, Ukraine's integration with the civilized democratic societies of Europe will come to an unhappy end.
Organizers of the attacks have not been found and, sadly, not enough voices are being raised among business, government and other leaders to put pressure on law enforcement. Most likely, the investigations will face the same fate as the one into journalist Giorgiy Gongadze’s murder in 2000. Despite a wiretapped conversation in which then-President Leonid Kuchma ordered the silencing of Gongadze, and lots of other supporting evidence, the organizers of the murder have not been brought to justice nearly two decades later.
The current assault on civil society looks very planned, a reaction to the surge of civic activism since the EuroMaidan Revolution ousted President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Some of Ukraine's most powerful citizens fear being jailed and stripped of their stolen assets. So it appears they've taken aim at one of the few untamed sectors of society.
At least 14 of the 50 activists have been assaulted in Odesa, with Oleg Mikhailik becoming the latest target on Sept. 23. Most of them were critics of Odesa Mayor Hennady Trukhanov, who has stayed afloat despite facing charges of corruption, having Russian citizenship and links to organized crime.
For their inability or unwillingness to investigate these and most other high-profile cases, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Security Service of Ukraine Chief Vasyl Hrytsak must be fired. But the ultimate responsibility lies with President Petro Poroshenko. Lutsenko and Hrytsak are his appointed cronies, and Avakov is his ally.