Ukraine Live Day 623: Investigators Enter Rada While MPs Call For Prosecutor General’s Dismissal

November 2, 2015
The three Opposition Bloc MPs - Nataliya Korolevskaya, Viktor Novinsky and Aleksandr Vilkul, sought by Interior Ministry investigators today. Montage by Radio Svoboda

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Sniper Shoots Into Office of Controversial Prosecutor Shokin; No Injuries Reported

A sniper has shot into the office of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing a source close to Shokin.

The shots were made in an office located in the prosecutor’s building on Reznitskaya Street in Kiev at about 22:30 this evening, Kiev time.

There are no reports that the prosecutor has been injured.

Elena Gitlyanska, the press secretary of the prosecutor, said in a post on her Facebook that Shokhin and his subordinates were having a meeting in his office at the time of the shooting.

Shokin has been the target of demonstrators in recent days.

As we reported earlier, 120 members of parliament have signed a draft resolution calling for Shokhin’s resignation.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Bodies Of Two More Soldiers Found In Ruins Of Svatovo Ammunition Store
The Lugansk Regional Administration has announced that the bodies of two more soldiers have been found in the ruins of the Svatovo ammunition storage site which exploded on Thursday evening.

This brings the total number of reported fatalities to four, three of them soldiers, one a local resident. The State Emergency Service said today that 16 were wounded.

According to the Lugansk Administration, both the soldiers found dead today were sappers from the Military Engineering Department, from the Volyn and Cherkasy regions.

— Pierre Vaux

Reports Of Fighting North Of Donetsk

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, has announced that two Ukrainian soldiers have been wounded over the last 24 hours.

According to Lysenko, Russian-backed fighters attacked Ukrainian positions in the Peski area, north-west of Donetsk yesterday, using grenade launchers and machine guns.

As a result, the spokesman said, two soldiers were wounded.

Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports, citing Ivan Prikhodko, head of the Kuybyshevsky district of separatist-held Donetsk, that a civilian man, born in 1973, received shrapnel wounds after Ukrainian forces allegedly shelled the Oktyabrsky neighbourhood last night.

According to the ‘defence ministry’ of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), Ukrainian forces have attacked separatist-held territory 16 times over the last 24 hours.

The ‘ministry’ went on to claim that attacks on northern areas of Donetsk had been conducted with heavy weaponry, including 152 mm artillery, 120 mm mortars and 2S9 NONA self-propelled mortars.

This afternoon, there are reports of fighting in the north of the city:

Translation: Right now Spartak-Donetsk Airport uninterrupted shooting. Assault rifles, machine guns and occasional small blasts.

Translation: While running home, it sounded like I could make out the ‘ceasefire’ from the direction of Oktyabrsky.

Outside Donetsk, to the south of the city, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry announced today that a civilian woman, born in 1953, had been killed by a land mine near Volnovakha.

According to the Ministry, reports of the incident were first received by police at around 10 am today.

The road between Donetsk and Mariupol, on which Volnovakha lies, has seen numerous casualties from land mines and tripwires over the last year.

— Pierre Vaux

Investigators Enter Rada While MPs Call For Prosecutor General’s Dismissal

Interior Ministry (MVS) investigators have made the dramatic move of entering the Verkhovna during a parliamentary session and demanding to question three deputies.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Vasiliy Smikh, chief of the MVS main investigative directorate, and Yuriy Shimko, an investigator of special and important cases, arrived at the Rada with orders to question Opposition Bloc MP Viktor Novinsky.

According to the online paper, Rada speaker Volodymyr Groysman was handed handed a note during the session informing him of the investigators’ arrival. He allowed Smikh to address parliament. 

However Groysman interrupted the investigator when he told deputies that they were seeking Novinsky, telling Smikh that “there is no such deputy here.”

Groysman asked the investigators to leave the chamber and wait until MPs had left the session before continuing their questioning, adding:

“I thought that you had something noteworthy. Leave the hall. Are you out of your minds.”

A short while later, responding to questions on why the investigators had turned up at the Rada session, MP Yuriy Lutsenko, a member of President Petro Poroshenko’s party, wrote on his Facebook page that, in addition to Novinsky, investigators were seeking to question MPs Nataliya Korolevskaya and Aleksandr Vilkul. 

Both Korolevskaya and Vilkul, also members of the Opposition Bloc, served as ministers in the pre-Maidan Yanukovych government. Novinsky, a Russian born businessman with significant assets in key areas of the Ukrainian metallurgy industry, was a member, along with Vilkul, of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

According to Lutsenko, none of the MPs had responded to summons for questioning delivered to their places of residence. Therefore investigators decided to try and find them at their place of work.

However Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Batkivshchyna party, told reporters that she believes that Smikh’s public announcment to parliament was a warning to enable Novinsky to flee the country. 

The MVS intervention comes as relations between politicians and the Ukrainian justice system continues to sour.

This morning, Ukrainska Pravda reported that, as of 9:40 this morning, 120 members of parliament had already signed a draft resolution calling for the dismissal of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

Amongst those signing were two of the best-known reformist MPs in Poroshenko’s party – Mustafa Nayyem and Serhiy Leshchenko.

Yesterday the Prosecutor General’s office opened a criminal case against Gennady Korban, leader of the Ukrop party and former deputy governor of Dnipropetrovsk.

Despite protests from some of his own party’s MPs, President Poroshenko defended the action against the Ukrop leader last night, going further to say that “this won’t stop at Korban.”

UNIAN reports:

“My reaction is absolutely simple. The first point is that some weeks ago when parliament was stripping the lawmakers facing charges of their immunity, I firmly promised that it was just the beginning, as the fight against corruption and the resolute processes of restoring lawfulness will go on. The second position – I emphasize and insist on that – an investigation should be as transparent as possible and there should be all the reasons for winning the public’s trust, as the only ground for an investigation is a crime, the violation of laws against the state. This is inadmissible. The third point is that this won’t stop at Korban, and nether the team of the new officials against whom cases should also be opened nor the old authorities where all who are guilty should bear responsibility will enjoy immunity from investigation, from being made liable for corruption-related crimes,” he told Ukrainian TV channels in an interview broadcast on Sunday evening.

According to Poroshenko, “the country will hear soon new names of those who’ll be made liable.”

“In think the law-enforcement agencies know them [the names] better than I do. I don’t think the president should interfere in that,” he said.

Anti-corruption NGO Transparency International issued a statement today, accusing Shokin of being personally responsible for the country’s failure to tackle corruption.

The Interpreter translates:

In the opinion of the board of Transparency International Ukraine, Mr Shokin’s attempts to create a puppet anti-corruption body testify to his obstinate refusal to conduct any kind of reform whatsoever within the prosecutor’s office or with in the field of combating corruption. 

Furthermore, TI Ukraine notes that it is precisely with the knowledge of the Prosecutor General and the leading figures of the country that a targeted campaign is now under way to discredit the members of the pro-reform wing of the Prosecutor General’s office.

— Pierre Vaux