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Shock therapy by Ukraine’s new prosecutor general

Shock therapy by Ukraine’s new prosecutor general
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Since Viktor Shokin was appointed Ukraine’s new prosecutor general, the agency has not been out of the news in the country. This activity by the General Prosecutor’s Office (GPO) is tied either to a foundation of work prepared by Shokin’s predecessor, Vitaliy Yarema, or to the new Prosecutor General himself. It is not yet clear.

However, within a week of assuming his new position, Shokin has already managed to carry out the most talked about arrest of the last few years, and he says that this is not yet the end. Additionally, the new prosecutor general promises to give new momentum to old cases, such as the murder of Gongadze.

Korrespondent has reviewed the most memorable cases that have come up during the brief tenure of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Vitaliy Shokin.

Arrest of Yefremov

Oleksandr Yefremov, the head of the Party of Regions faction in the previous parliament, was considered one of the most influential people in the country. Last spring Yefremov was already suspected of being one of the organizers of the unrest that was beginning in the Donbas. However, he continued to enjoy great authority in his native Luhansk  and no evidence was presented.

The Security Service of Ukraine has been investigating Yefremov’s involvement in undermining the territorial unity and integrity of Ukraine, but no information about progress in this criminal case has been made available.

On Saturday, February 14, on Shogin’s third day of work, law enforcement detained Yefremov in Kyiv under suspicion of committing criminal offenses under Article 364 Section 2 and Article 366 Section 2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ( aggravated abuse of office and forgery in office).

” A special operation was conducted; it was very interesting,” Shogin commented on the arrest of the former deputy.

The involvement of the former head of the Party of Regions in financing the separatists is only now being investigated. The PGO insisted that the court issue an arrest warrant for Yefremov. On February 16, the Pechersk Court ruled to arrest Yefremov, setting bail at UAH 3.6 million.

Pressure on the opposition?

Yefremov is claiming that his arrest equals political persecution.

“I consider my arrest political persecution by the new government using false accusations. They know who is really guilty in the deaths on Maidan, but they can’t get them. This is why they are arresting anyone they can,” Yefremov’s press service stated.

According to Yefremov, he is not planning to emigrate or to seek political asylum in other countries, saying that he is convinced he will succeed in proving his innocence in Ukrainian courts or the European Court of Human Rights.

However, barely a year ago, Yefremov argued that the arrest and trial of Yulia Tymoshenko were perfectly legal, while the opposition called these cases fabricated and politically motivated.

Shokin meanwhile has already announced new arrests: “You will find out very soon who they are,” he said.

Who is next?

According to the PGO, none of the current or former deputies will escape responsibility.

Speaking of the investigation by the PGO of cases against current deputies, in particular Nataliya Korolevska (for alleged funding of separatism — Ed.), Shokin explained that decisions will be made regarding all deputies — both former and current — if there is evidence that they have engaged in criminal activities.

He also promised to complete the case against Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes.

Many observers believe the PGO’s activity in recent days is tied to the anniversary of the Maidan shootings and the need to show at least some results. In the near future we will see if this is true or not.

Maidan events

The General Prosecutor’s office has referred charges against the former head of the Kyiv Municipal State Administration Oleksandr Popov, suspected of involvement in the dispersal of activists on Euromaidan during the night of November 30, 2013, to the Shevchenko District Court in Kyiv.

The pre-trial investigation has established that during the night of November 29-30, 2013, Popov, acting in accord with the former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Volodymyr Sivkovych and the former Chief of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Valeriy Koriak, gave instructions to dispatch service vehicles to Maidan (Independence square) to set up the New Year’s tree. Koriak, in turn, took advantage of this circumstance and ordered dispersal of the protest by units of the Berkut special forces, who attacked and severely beat the peaceful protesters.

Pre-trial investigation of Popov’s associates is taking place to determine the guilty and bring to justice all those responsible. Shokin has appointed a new head in the GPO who will be responsible for cases regarding the crimes on Maidan. He has also changed the composition of the investigative team.

Gongadze case

Shokin is convinced he will be able to determine who ordered the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze. He said he would personally oversee the investigation because he is familiar with the material and has announced that state prosecutors in this case may be replaced.

Cases against judges

Shokin has called on the Verkhovna Rada to grant consent  (by stripping immunity from prosecution — Ed.) for the detention and preventive detention under guard of three judges of the Pechersk District Court in Kyiv: Oksana Tsarevych, Viktor Kytsiuk and Serhiy Vovk.

The appeal was made in connection with a criminal investigation of the judges under Article 375, Section 2 (deliberately illegal court decisions, judgments, rulings or orders by judges) of the Criminal Code.

The PGO office has already informed Judge Vovk that he is under suspicion. Tsarevych, the judge in charge of the Yuriy Lutsenko and Yulia Tymoshenko  (notorious political) cases, has already accused the GPO of putting pressure on honest and fair justice.

Supplying electricity to Crimea

The GPO has opened criminal proceeding into the signing of contracts for importing electricity from the Russian Federation and for supplying it to Russian-annexed Crimea. “This is a criminal case and it is being investigated,” Shokin said without providing additional details.

Structural changes

Shokin has appointed David Sakvarelidze and Volodymyr Huzyr as his deputies.

Huzyr has been working in prosecution since 1983. Earlier, he served as first deputy of the chief of criminal surveillance of the GPO office. Sakvarelidze served as a prosecutor in Tbilisi, (2009 to 2010) and as first deputy prosecutor general of Georgia (2010-2012). In his new position the Georgian lawyer will head the GPO staff and deal with issues related to European integration and the reform of the prosecution agencies.

Additionally, the GPO has established a department to work with the deputies of Verkhovna Rada. The Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Tasko will supervise its operation.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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