Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) voted to dismiss Samopomich MP Yehor Soboliev from his post of head of the Committee on Prevention and Counteraction to Corruption, despite criticism by Ukraine’s Western partners.
The vote was held on December 7, one day after members of the Committee passed the decision within the Committee. They recognized his work as unsatisfactory. The explanatory note to the bill states that Soboliev violated Rada rules, as a result of which sessions of the Committee weren’t held on four days in November.
Soboliev will still remain a member of the Committee.
The decision was suggested by coalition MPs from Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc and Narodnyi Front, as well as the Opposition Bloc, Radical Party of Oleh Liashko, and the group Vidrodzhennia. It is noteworthy that officially the Opposition Bloc, which is a successor of the runaway president Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and the group Vidrodzhennia are considered the opposition. However, lately they are increasingly acting as allies to the coalition. Like during this vote.
256 MPs voted for Soboliev’s dismissal. Among them:
Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc – 108
Narodnyi Front – 65
Opposition Bloc – 32
Vidrodzhennia – 17
Radical Party of Oleh Liashko – 15
The group Volia Narodu – 13
MPs which do not belong to any factions – 6
Soboliev himself sees views his dismissal as a sign of his effective work, commenting to 5.ua that he contributed to creating the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which is considered to be the only independent anti-corruption investigative body, as well as the introduction of e-declarations for state officials. He said they are a “terrible reality for top-corrupts, which they want to stop, and for this they want to fire me, as a person which created these laws, which struggles for their implementation.”
Asked about the impact of his dismissal, Soboliev told Gordon.ua that those behind it aim to destroy the anticorruption legislation about the independence of NABU and e-declarations and to prevent the adoption of an effective anti-corruption court.
He added that the operation to remove him from his post had been ongoing for a year.
The day before the vote, the head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli expressed his concern regarding the incident and praised the work of the committee headed by Soboliev. In particular he also admitted the role of the Committee in establishing the anti-corruption bodies.
Mingarelli also noted its input for Ukraine in implementing the conditions of the action plan for receiving a visa-free regime with the EU.
The US also reacted. Michael Carpenter, an advisor to ex US vice-president Joe Biden:
If the Rada votes to dismiss the head of the Anticorruption Committee and the head of the NABU, I will recommend cutting all US government assistance to #Ukraine, including security assistance. This is a disgrace.
— Michael Carpenter (@mikercarpenter) December 6, 2017
The dismissal of Soboliev happened on the background of a greater conflict between the conflict between the Prosecutor General Office (GPU) on the one side and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) with Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP). The conflict culminated in a draft bill which should have empowered the Parliament to easily dismiss the heads of the anti-corruption bodies. Also, according to a NABU statement, the bill gives the parliamentary commission more powers to control NABU by giving its members access to state secrets and the right to verify not only cases which are completed and transferred to court, but also ongoing investigations.
The voting was planned just for the next day – December 7. Due to pressure of Ukraine’s international partners it didn’t happen. However, NABU representatives expect that it still might happen in the future.
The dismissal of Soboliev together with recent attacks on NABU look like elements of the same campaign aimed to eliminate the anti-corruption front in the country, which managed to show positive results during the last 3 years.
Moreover, together with the dismissal of Soboliev and conflict over NABU, the voting for the bill 7206 titled “Buy Ukrainian, pay Ukrainians” passed the first reading on December 7. Deputy Minister of Economic Development Max Nefyodov commented that the bill allows “mega-corruption schemes” be implemented through the system of tender purchases ProZorro under the guise of supporting national producers.
ProZorro is considered to be Ukraine’s major success in moving towards transparency. The system also received international awards.