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Key players in Ukraine's justice system

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March 26, 2010, 12:17 a.m. |

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Volodymyr Kolesnychenko, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Serhiy Kivalov, Oleksandr Medvedko, Andriy Portnov, Vasyl Onopenko, Valery Khoroshkovsky, Volodymyr Sivkovych






Volodymyr Kolesnychenko, High Council of Justice head

A lawyer and judge, Volodymyr Kolesnychenko was elected on March 22 as head of the High Council of Justice. Kolesnychenko headed the Uman local court in Cherkasy Oblast from 1990 to 2004. He is seen as a trusted ally of President Viktor Yanukovych. Former President Viktor Yushchenko named the Kirovohrad native to chair Kyiv’s Pechersk district court in June 2005, but sacked him days before calling snap parliamentary elections two years later. Accompanied by Party of Regions deputies, Kolesnychenko on April 5 barged into the Pechersk court and absconded with the seal. Days later, the High Council of Justice put him in charge of preparing dossiers for the initial appointment of judges and their dismissal for oath violations.


Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Justice Minister, ex-officio High Council of Justice member

A lawyer, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, on Feb. 25 left his job as deputy speaker of parliament to serve a third time as justice minister. After failing to advance the investigation into the 2000 murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze as head of the ad hoc parliamentary committee, former President Leonid Kuchma first appointed him to the post in 2002. Lavrynovych was reappointed after Viktor Yanukovych returned as prime minister in 2006. Lavrynovych was re-elected in 2006 and 2007 to parliament on the Party of Regions ticket. He is a top legal advisor and constitutional expert on Yanukovych’s team.


Serhiy Kivalov, chairman of the Judiciary Committee in parliament, High Council of Justice member
A lawyer, Serhiy Kivalov was the former Central Election Commission head who certified the rigged 2004 presidential election results in favor of Viktor Yanukovych, which triggered nationwide protests known as the Orange Revolution and the overturning of the election. Born in Tiraspol, capital of the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdnister, Kivalov worked as a police officer in Russia’s Sverdlovsk Oblast. He relocated to Ukraine’s Black Sea port town of Odesa in the 1980s to teach administrative law to police academy cadets. Kivalov took charge of the legal institute at the Odesa State University in 1997. A year later, he was elected to parliament, where he worked on the judiciary committee. Kivalov was reelected to parliament in 2002 and appointed Central Election Commission head in February 2004. Despite massive allegations of his role in election fraud, Kivalov was never found guilty by a General Prosecutor’s Office that is widely seen to be loyal and controlled by Yanukovych’s camp. He returned to parliament again in 2006 and 2007 as a member of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.


Oleksandr Medvedko, Prosecutor General, ex officio High Council of Justice member

Widely regarded as loyal to Viktor Yanukovych long before he became president early this year, Medvedko was first named prosecutor general in November 2005, and was renamed to the post in 2007. Like his predecessors, Medvedko failed to bring any top officials to justice despite massive evidence of wrongdoing – nor has he solved any of the long list of resonant crimes that have haunted the country since independence. His term ends Nov. 4, 2012. Medvedko served as Donetsk Region prosecutor from 1992 to 1999. Between 1999 and 2001 he headed the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office’s directorate for legal oversight of investigations. Medvedko worked in 2002 as first deputy prosecutor in Luhansk Oblast before being appointed deputy prosecutor general and moving to Kyiv.


Andriy Portnov, Deputy Chairman of the parliament’s judiciary committee, High Justice Council member

Andriy Portnov is a lawyer by profession and key legal advisor to opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Following military service, Portnov worked for several companies in the eastern Luhansk region before forming his own, the Ukrinformpravo legal office. He relocated to Kyiv in 1997, and worked as member of the State Securities and Stock Market Commission in charge of legal affairs. In 2002, Portnov opened his own legal office, Portnov & Parnters, in Kyiv. He was elected to parliament in 2006 and 2007 from Yulia Tymoshenko’s election bloc and was named High Council of Justice a member in May 2009. He has in recent years served as one of the most influential members of Tymoshenko’s team and has played a major role in her group’s strategy on constitutional reform and legal battles.


Vasyl Onopenko, chairman of the Supreme Court, ex officio High Justice Council member

Long viewed as a political ally of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the influetnial lawyer and judge has worked in various courts and for the Justice Ministry since 1976. His son-in-law, Yevhen Korniychuk, served as deputy Justice Minister in Tymoshenko’s recently ousted cabinet, and earlier served as a lawmaker in Tymoshenko’s bloc. Onopenko also served as a lawmaker in Tymoshenko's parliament faction before being appointed head of Ukraine’s Supreme Court in 2006. The father-and-son-in-law duo has competed with Portnov for influence within the Tymoshenko camp on legal affairs. But on March 25, it was announced that Korniychuk had been appointed deputy head of state gas company Naftogaz, a sign that he has switched political camps. Insiders said Korniychuk could be on his way to joining the governing coalition loyal to President Viktor Yanukovych. What political sides his father will take, as head of the powerful supreme court, remains unclear for now.


Valery Khoroshkovsky, State Security Service (SBU) head

Billionaire Valery Khoroshkovsky has been deputy head of the SBU state spy agency since March 2009, in charge of the agency’s anti-terror unit. Khoroshkovsky has been a partner with controversial billionaire Dmytro Firtash in the nation’s most watched television channel, Inter. As one of Yanukovych’s biggest backers, Firtash has managed to get confidants appointed to many key positions, including chief of staff of the presidential administration and energy minister. In a major conflict of interest, Khoroshkovsky temporarily headed an SBU investigation against the state natural gas company, Naftogaz, alleging it had illegally siphoned billions of dollars of gas away from Firtash. Khoroshkovsky says one of his primary responsibilities as SBU head is to protect state secrets.


Volodymyr Sivkovych, deputy prime minister (in charge of law enforcement and corruption)

A Yanu­kovych ally, the trained economist and lawyer started his career by serving in the Soviet military and KGB, the Soviet Union’s former state security service (until 1992). After the USSR fell apart, the Kyiv native headed a number of business ventures (Vita Airlines and STB TV). He worked as an advisor to former President Leonid Kuchma before his reelection in 1999. Sivkovych was first elected to parliament in 2002 from the pro-presidential block. He was reelected in 2006 and 2007 from the Party of Regions.
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