Ukraine’s key anticorruption body finally gets a chief; key watchdog is unhappy

Semen Kryvonos, new director of National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. Source: censor 

Ukrainian reforms

Ukraine finally appointed a director for the Natonal Anti-Corruption Bureau. However, he’s a man with ties to the President’s Office and “zero experience” in anti-corruption work, says a key watchdog.

On 6 March 2023, Ukraine’s government appointed Semen Kryvonos as director of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the country’s key body fighting corruption. The government chose Kryvonos from three candidates proposed by an independent commission evaluating applicants.

The appointment was the last step needed to complete new Ukraine’s anti-corruption institutions, which have already shown promising results by the first 100 verdicts of the High Anti-Corruption Court. The appointment was also among the EU conditions for beginning negotiations with Ukraine on EU membership.

At the same time, Ukraine’s anti-corruption watchdogs expressed caution regarding the new appointment of Semen Kryvonos, including his possible links to the presidential office. In particular, Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center stated that they will be “carefully monitoring the work of NABU,” adding that they are sure “that the new director is perfectly aware of this.”

Why the NABU director is important

NABU was created in 2015 as part of Ukraine’s anti-corruption reform. The reform brought its first results after 2019, when new Ukraine’s High Anti-Corruption Court started working. The court has recently passed its 100th verdict against corrupt officials, largely based on NABU investigations.
A NABU director is appointed for seven years. The appointment was scheduled for 2022 but was postponed due to the war.
Three main candidates for the NABU director are chosen by the independent commission. Three commissioners are nominated from international organizations, while the other three candidates are nominated by the government. At least four votes of the commission, including two votes of the international commissioners, are needed to approve three candidates for NABU director. The government then chooses among three candidates.

Cabinet decided to appoint Semen Kryvonos, fulfilling EU recommendation

On 6 March, the Cabinet decided to appoint Semen Kryvonos as the director of NABU. At the same time, the other candidates proposed by the commission, Serhiy Hupiak and Roman Osypchuk, were recommended for the positions of deputy directors.
The appointment of the director of the special anti-corruption prosecutor’s office on 19 July 2022 and the latest appointment of the NABU director on 6 March 2023 completes the creation of Ukraine’s anti-corruption infrastructure, which finally becomes fully operational.

Cautions regarding the new appointment

At the same time, some of Ukraine’s anti-corruption watchdogs voiced cautions about possible links of the new NABU director with Ukraine’s presidential office and his lack of experience in anti-corruption work.
In particular, the Anti-Corruption Action Center noted that Kryvonos’ wife Halyna Polsynska was the head of the provision department of the former deputy head of the Kyiv Oblast administration Oleksiy Kuleba. In January 2023, Kuleba was appointed deputy head of the Presidential Office. Kryvonos was also closely linked to Kuleba’s former business partner Tymur Tkachenko.
Moreover, new NABU director Kryvonos has “zero experience” in anti-corruption work, the Anti-Corruption Action Center further notes. Kryvonos was the head of Ukraine’s State Inspection of Architecture and Urban Planning before the new appointment. In comparison, the other of the three final candidates, Roman Osypchuk, was the head of the Department of Internal Control of NABU.
The Anti-Corruption Action Center also noted that the decision on the final candidates was supported by only the minimal necessary number of commissioners: four members out of six, including two out of three international members.
Kryvonos denied that any officials in the Presidential Office have any influence on him, including Oleksiy Kuleba whom he knows. He said he is fully dedicated to his new position.

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