Kyiv Post

True colors?

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President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 6 said he would not fire his Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov in response to a petition for his dismissal. Tatarov was charged in December with bribing a forensic expert.

Explaining his refusal, Zelensky argued that “nobody can be forced to do something that is not envisaged by legislatio­n.”

But what’s the point of petitions, an official tool managed by the administra­tion, if the president’s response to them is that no one will “force” him to do something?

This bureaucrat­ic, annoyed answer just shows that Zelensky doesn’t care about the feedback from the society.

It wasn’t exactly unexpected.

In December, Zelensky also dismissed the charges against Tatarov by saying that the alleged crime took place before his presidency. This excuse doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Appointing an official who had been involved in corruption before and thinking he will be clean this time is naïve at best.

Moreover, ex-lawmaker Maksym Mykytas, a suspect in a related theft case, has testified that Tatarov gave a $600,000 bribe to employees of the High Anti-Corruption Court in 2019, when Zelensky was already president.

Whether or not Tatarov is guilty is up to a court to decide. But in all civilized countries a public official charged with a crime must be suspended or fired until he or she is proven innocent.

In December, the President’s Office said that some of Tatarov’s powers related to law enforcemen­t had been allegedly suspended but he kept carrying out his other functions.

This was ridiculous: One can’t suspend an official partially. The nature of his job allows him to obstruct investigat­ions as long as he is affiliated with the president’s office.

Moreover, there is overwhelmi­ng evidence that the alleged “partial” suspension was a lie: Multiple sources have told the Kyiv Post and other media that Tatarov keeps influencin­g law enforcemen­t.

Tatarov’s interferen­ce with law enforcemen­t has already yielded results: His case has been destroyed by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktov­a, a Zelensky protégé.

By responding in this way, Zelensky showed that he ignores corruption in his inner circle and has no respect for society. He doesn’t even think that he owes the people an explanatio­n for why Tatarov is so important to the administra­tion that it is ready to fight for him.

Zelensky spurned not only the public opinion but also the law: The 2014 lustration law forbids Tatarov from holding state jobs because he was a top police official under ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.

Tatarov has been investigat­ed for persecutin­g protesters during the EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted Yanukovych. While Zelensky stages publicity stunts by shedding tears for protesters killed by Yanukovych’s regime, he shows his true ideals by covering up for an official who cracked down on them.

The lesson is clear: Corruption and disrespect for the law and the public opinion are exactly what brought down Zelensky’s predecesso­rs Yanukovych and Petro Poroshenko.

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