Thursday

1st Sep 2016

Ukraine prosecutor: Bring me evidence of Yanukovych corruption

Ukraine's celebrity general prosecutor has offered to investigate President Viktor Yanukovych for alleged corruption in a bid to improve his country's image in the EU.

The jurist, Rinat Kuzmin, famous for putting former president Leonid Kuchma on trial for murder and, more recently, for jailing former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office, made the offer on Yanukovych at a press briefing in Brussels on Tuesday (22 November).

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  • Yanukovych (c) - is the pot calling the kettle black? (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Kuzmin was in the EU capital on a mission to demonstrate the "openness" of Ukraine's legal establishment after EU leaders accused Yanukovych of using selective justice to eliminate political rivals.

He noted as one clear sign that Tymoshenko is guilty of corruption that in the past she declared an income of less than $2,000 a year while buying "cars, furs, jewellery, restaurants."

When asked if it is equally suspicious that Yanukovych has a declared income of $115,000 a year but appears to be building himself a multi-million-dollar lakeside mansion north of Kiev, Kuzmin said his office would investigate the president if it receives a request on paper.

"To you as a journalist who is interested in this topic, I would recommend to present an official information request, with accompanying documents, and to transmit it to the prosecutor's office. We will examine your request and provide written answers," he said.

Asked if he is also concerned by evidence the Yanukovych government paid $150 million more than the market value for a gas-drilling platform this year, he again promised to make enquiries: "I would like to repeat, if the investigative department receives your information about [the rig] we are ready to examine it ... Don't be shy. Send a request."

The Yanukovych mansion case was exposed in recent weeks by investigative reports in the Kyiv Post, Korrespondent and Ukrainska Pravda publications. The gas rig case was covered by the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya journal.

For their part, Ukrainian journalists think Kuzmin's offer on Yanukovych is hollow talk designed to impress a Brussels audience.

Contacts said Kuzmin himself lives in a lavish house in the exclusive Pushcha Voditsa recreation complex. But officials have denied freedom of information requests about the property.

He also has a conflict of interest on the Tymoshenko case because he sits on Ukraine's Supreme Council of Justice, which has the power to sack the Tymoshenko judge.

The EU in October cancelled a meeting with Yanukovych in protest over Tymoshenko and has threatened to cancel a summit in December in Kiev as well.

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton has done little to persuade Ukrainian diplomats the hard line is really based on values, however.

The prevailing theory in Kiev is that France, Germany and the Netherlands - the main enemies of Ukraine enlargement - are using human rights as a pretext to block integration.

Ashton last week met with the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, but said little about human rights abuses by the regimes. Her deputies in Brussels also met with the foreign minister of Uzbekistan - rated as one of the most repressive countries in the world alongside North Korea and Zimbabwe.

For his part, Ukraine's EU ambassador, Kostyantyn Yeliseyev, has accused Brussels of double standards.

"Of course, if you ask EU officials, they say the climate is not conducive [for negotiations]. If you use the same criterion of conducive climate, under this pretext, you could cancel about 80 percent of EU talks," he told EUobserver in a previous interview.

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