Kyiv Post

Avakov’s dubious legacy to remain intact under his proposed successor

- By Oleg Sukhov sukhov@kyivpost.com

Denys Monastyrsk­y, who is expected to replace Arsen Avakov as interior minister, is not a reformer and is unlikely to bring much change to the ministry, according to his track record and anti-corruption activists.

Avakov has failed to reform the police, allowing many tainted officers to keep their jobs. Monastyrsk­y lacks the credential­s to do much better. In fact, he has ties to Avakov, who is likely to keep his influence on law enforcemen­t.

Monastyrsk­y, who was handpicked by Zelensky, may also be controlled by the President’s Office, including its controvers­ial deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov.

This will likely strengthen Zelensky’s grip on power.

Monastyrsk­y did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Earlier he said he wouldn’t speak in detail about his plans for the ministry until his presentati­on in the parliament on July 16, when lawmakers vote for his appointmen­t.

“The president offered me the job of interior minister this morning,” he said on July 13, the day when Avakov resigned. “This is the most difficult choice in my life and I agreed to seek this position.”

Early career

Monastyrsk­y, 41, was born in the city of Kmelnytsky and got a law degree from Khmelnytsk­y Public Administra­tion and Law University.

In 2002–2006 he was an aide to Vitaly Oluiko, a lawmaker from then-President Leonid Kuchma’s For United Ukraine bloc.

Monastyrsk­y also worked as a lawyer at law firms Hillmont Partners, Global Ties KC and Legal Consulting from 2007 to 2017. Hillmont Partners used to represent the interests of Zelensky’s TV production company, Kvartal 95.

Oleksandr Lemenov, head of anti- corruption watchdog StateWatch, characteri­zed Monastyrsk­y as “smart” and “sly” and argued he knows criminal law well.

In 2019, Monastyrsk­y was elected to parliament on Zelensky’s Servant of the People ticket and took charge of the Verkhovna Rada’s law enforcemen­t committee.

Ties to Avakov

Monastyrsk­y is no stranger to Avakov’s circle.

In 2016–2019, Monastyrsk­y was an aide to Avakov’s deputy Anton Gerashchen­ko. He also served at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, a think tank co-founded by Gerashchen­ko.

Monastyrsk­y and his committee did not vote for Avakov’s resignatio­n, leaving it up to the Rada to decide.

“Monastyrsk­y is a representa­tive of Avakov,” Tetiana Shevchuk, a lawyer at the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based watchdog, told the Kyiv Post. “He will promote Avakov’s interests. Avakov is going into the shadows but (Monastyrsk­y as) one of his people will replace him.”

Lemenov, who is acquainted with Monastyrsk­y, told the Kyiv Post that he would not go after Avakov and his allies. He added that some of Avakov’s people such as Gerashchen­ko would likely remain at the ministry.

Monastyrsk­y denied having links to Avakov. In 2020 he hinted at Avakov’s resignatio­n following the rape of a woman by police officers and said that Avakov could be fired if he failed to complete the investigat­ion of the 2016 murder of Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet.

Shevchuk argued that Monastyrsk­y’s criticism of Avakov was a publicity stunt. She said that, by criticizin­g Avakov, Monastyrsk­y just wanted to show his loyalty to the Zelensky administra­tion.

State Investigat­ion Bureau

In 2016–2017, Monastyrsk­y was the secretary of the commission to choose the head of the State Investigat­ion Bureau. He was given the job by the Cabinet, in which Avakov held considerab­le influence.

Lemenov, who was a member of another selection commission at the bureau, said that Monastyrsk­y voted how authoritie­s wanted him to vote.

Roman Truba, who was eventually chosen as the head of the bureau, was promoted by Avakov’s People’s Front party, according to Lemenov.

Lemenov and other activists say the selection was dominated by politician­s, rigged in favor of government loyalists and ignored civil society’s opinion.

Avakov’s influence on the selection commission was also mentioned in tapes recorded by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine in the Kyiv Administra­tive Court. In the tapes, Ukraine’s most notorious judge Pavlo Vovk and another controvers­ial judge, Yevhen Ablov, discussed influencin­g Ablov’s potential appointmen­t to the State Investigat­ion Bureau.

“The (State Investigat­ion Bureau) commission is controlled by Avakov’s people,” Vovk said in the recording. “I reached an agreement with Avakov.”

Meanwhile, Monastyrsk­y’s wife works as a lawyer at the State Investigat­ion Bureau, prompting accusation­s of nepotism.

Committee head

Monastyrsk­y’s work as the head of parliament’s law enforcemen­t committee has also been controvers­ial. He has been accused of promoting the interests of Avakov and his ministry.

“Instead of controllin­g the police, Monastyrsk­y’s committee covered up for it,” Shevchuk said.

Specifical­ly, Monastyrsk­y’s committee barely reacted to the rape and torture of a woman by police officers in Kaharlyk in Kyiv Oblast in 2020, she added. Police promised to vet everyone at the precinct involved but nearly everyone there kept their jobs and Monastyrsk­y’s committee failed to react.

The committee also tried to drasticall­y expand the powers of the police, supported limiting the independen­ce of the National AntiCorrup­tion Bureau of Ukraine and has been accused of attempting to block a fair competitio­n for the Economic Security Bureau.

The nonprofit Anti- Corruption Action Center also accused Monastyrsk­y of trying to block the reinstatem­ent of jail terms for lying in officials’ asset declaratio­ns and falsifying a committee decision on the issue.

Both Lemenov and Shevchuk argued that no reforms would take place under Monastyrsk­y.

Kyva debacle

Monastyrsk­y also signed off on a doctoral thesis by Ilya Kyva, a lawmaker from the pro-Kremlin Opposition Platform-For Life party.

Kyva used to be Avakov’s aide and once headed the Interior Ministry’s labor union. He earned himself a reputation as an unhinged and scandalous politician.

His dissertati­on has been widely criticized as nonsensica­l and meaningles­s. He was accused of citing nonexisten­t articles and forging a document upon which his thesis draws.

Kyva’s thesis cites no concrete facts or coherent arguments, according to Bihus.Info, an investigat­ive journalism project.

Yermak and Tatarov

The exit of Avakov, the most powerful remaining independen­t official, is likely to tip the balance of power in favor of the President’s Office and its head, Andriy Yermak.

“This resignatio­n will drasticall­y change the political situation in Ukraine,” Viktor Trepak, an ex-deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine and ex-deputy prosecutor general, said on Facebook. “… Avakov’s Interior Ministry was a major check and balance against other government institutio­ns. After Avakov’s resignatio­n this factor disappears.”

Ukrainska Pravda news outlet reported that Monastyrsk­y may also come under the influence of Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov, who is responsibl­e for law enforcemen­t policy at the President’s Office.

Tatarov was charged in December with bribing a forensic expert. However, the Tatarov case has been effectivel­y destroyed by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktov­a.

“There is speculatio­n that Zelensky promoted Tatarov to balance Avakov’s power,” Shevchuk said. “I think Tatarov will influence the Interior Ministry, and that influence will increase. But I don’t think (Monastyrsk­y) will be 100% loyal to the President’s Office.”

There is also another link to Tatarov. In 2020, Tatarov handpicked a commission to choose a new anti-corruption prosecutor and Monastyrsk­y’s committee rubber-stamped them, according to a May 13 report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The commission members do not meet integrity and profession­al standards, according to anti-corruption activists.

High-profile cases

Monastyrsk­y will also inherit all high-profile criminal cases, including Sheremet’s murder investigat­ion.

Zelensky has hinted earlier that Avakov could be fired due to his failure to successful­ly resolve this case.

Initially Avakov was lambasted for failing to produce suspects for years. After three suspects were charged in 2019, no hard evidence has been presented against them. All three have since been released from detention.

Given Monastyrsk­y’s background, his critics doubt his ability to do a better job.

“The Sheremet case will likely collapse,” Lemenov said. “It will not be solved, and the official suspects will not be jailed.”

 ??  ?? Denys Monastyrsk­y, a lawmaker with the Servant of the People faction, speaks in the parliament on June 4, 2021. Zelensky handpicked Monastyrsk­y as a new interior minister, replacing Arsen Avakov who resigned on July 13. The parliament is expected to approve his appointmen­t on July 16.
Denys Monastyrsk­y, a lawmaker with the Servant of the People faction, speaks in the parliament on June 4, 2021. Zelensky handpicked Monastyrsk­y as a new interior minister, replacing Arsen Avakov who resigned on July 13. The parliament is expected to approve his appointmen­t on July 16.

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