After briefly going forward, the selection of Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor is once again delayed, which has reform activists suspecting the authorities have plans to cancel the appointment of the leading candidate, who had previously led an investigation into the deputy Head of President Zelenskyy’s Office, through a court infamous for its scandalous decisions.
Following the Anti-Corruption Action Center’s announcement that it has proof that the President’s Office has plans to falsify the selection process for the Head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), the commission did convene on 7 December and announced the results of the practical exam of the candidates, which had taken place back on 28 October.
These results, according to Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, give a 21-point advantage to Oleksandr Klymenko, a detective of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) who had led an investigation into a case of possible corruption of Oleg Tatarov, the deputy Head of President Zelenskyy’s Office, in the case of theft of nearly UAH 80 mn ($2.9 mn) during the construction of housing for the National Guard.
UkrBud, a company belonging to MP Maksym Mykytas, led the construction, and Tatarov was suspected of involvement in the falsification of an expert conclusion regarding Mykytas. The case NABU opened against Tatarov in 2020 faced delays, protraction, and obstruction, including by Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova.
Shabunin says that the 21-point advantage means Klymenko wins over his competitor Andriy Syniuk, a prosecutor in the Prosecutor General’s Office, regardless of the results of the personal interview — the next stage of the competition.
That is why, Shabunin says, the Tatarov-affiliated members of the selection committee insisted on delaying the next stage of the competition until 21 December. This would buy time to disrupt the competition by a decision of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, a scandalous court accused of perennially serving the interests of the ruling elites, and investigated by NABU on suspicion of creating a criminal organization and aiming to seize state power.
Judicial reform activists have been advocating to liquidate this court, which they accuse of being a major source of corruption in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy submitted such a draft law to the Verkhovna Rada eight months ago, but it has not moved forward.
A possible way the Kyiv District Administrative Court could do this, judging from the post of Mykhailo Zhernakov, a judicial reform activist and head of the DEJURE Foundation, is by reviewing the lawsuits that the participants of the competition to the SAPO Head position who had been disqualified earlier lodged with the Court.
The position of the head of SAPO, an institution created in 2015 as part of Ukraine’s new anti-corruption architecture, has been vacant since August 2020, when its head Nazar Kholodnytskyi resigned. An independent selection process to select a new SAPO head has been a crucial issue for Ukraine’s reform agenda, as well as its western partners.
Particularly, finishing this appointment before the start of December 2021 is one of the key requirements of the IMF’s agreement with Ukraine. Ukraine also promised in September 2021 to elect the head of the SAPO, as revealed in the joint statement after a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.
However, the process was constantly delayed. The Anti-Corruption Prevention center claimed that on October 9, members of the commission “controlled by the President’s Office” had disrupted a key stage of the competition for SAP head. On the same day, President Zelenskyy stated he had not heard adequate explanations for this delay.