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The saga of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin may finally be at an end. TASS reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has told the media that he has officially signed the decree from the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, which will remove Shokin from office.
“On Friday, I received documents from the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) and a decree was signed on Viktor Shokin’s resignation,” he said in an interview with Ukrainian television channels. “I begin consultations with the parliamentary factions on candidates for prosecutor general.”
As we have been reporting, Shokin resigned under controversy, but then returned to work, and was finally dismissed by the Rada last week:
And Ukraine’s economy minister, Aivaras Abromavicius, who was widely respected by the international community and his peers in Ukraine alike. Abromavicius’s resignation also triggered the resignation of deputy head of the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade Yulia Klimenko, who joined in protest against Shokin,
Shokin’s continued presence, and his final acts as Prosecutor General, drew him, and the Ukrainian government international condemnation, including in an opinion written by the editorial staff of The New York Times which was published on April 1:
In a speech in Odessa last September, the United States ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, said corruption was as dangerous for Ukraine as was the Russian support for a military insurgency in eastern Ukraine. And on a visit last December, Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine “like a cancer.” Among the examples Mr. Pyatt cited was the seizure in Britain of $23 million in illicit assets from the former Ukrainian ecology minister, Mykola Zlochevsky; Mr. Shokin’s office, however, declared that there was no case against the minister, and the money was released.
In his last hours in office, Mr. Shokin dismissed the deputy prosecutor general, David Sakvarelidze, a former prosecutor in Georgia brought in by President Poroshenko to fight corruption. And before that, Mr. Shokin had systematically cleansed his office of reform-minded prosecutors. The acting prosecutor general now is Yuriy Sevruk, a crony who can be trusted to continue Mr. Shokin’s practices.
In these circumstances, Mr. Poroshenko seems to have accepted continuing corruption as the price to pay for a modicum of maneuvering room. But the president, the prime minister and the Parliament must be made to understand that the International Monetary Fund and donor nations, including the United States, cannot continue to shovel money into a corrupt swamp unless the government starts shaping the democratic rule that Ukrainians demanded in their protests.
Ukraine's Unyielding Corruption
The Ukrainian Parliament finally voted to oust Ukraine's odious prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, on Tuesday. The United States and European countries that have provided aid to Ukraine had long pressed for his dismissal; in his year in office, Mr. Shokin became a symbol of Ukraine's deeply ingrained culture of corruption, failing to prosecute a single member of the deposed Yanukovych regime or of the current government while blocking the efforts of reform-minded deputies.
In an incident which is unlikely to improve his image, Kyiv Post reports that Poroshenko responded poorly to the editorial:
In response to a New York Times editorial criticizing Ukraine’s “unyielding corruption,” President Petro Poroshenko said that spreading such damaging information was part of the hybrid war against Ukraine.
Poroshenko issued a statement late on April 3 claiming that he was misinterpreted.
“Too bad that my words on the publication in the honorable New York Times were misinterpreted. I read this publishing house myself, and I do respect the stances by its editorial,” Poroshenko posted on Facebook. “I agree that in Ukraine we still have much to deliver, including on eroding corruption. And our first deliverables are already there. However I would emphasize that I have defended, and I will keep defending Ukraine at every possible stand.”
Today’s action may finally close the book on Shokin, but as The New York Times points out, trust in the Ukrainian government has been fading. That confidence has been fading for months, in fact, which The Interpreter pointed out at the start of February: