Probe needed

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July 21, 2011, 11:58 p.m. | Editorial — by Kyiv Post

Kyiv Post

When evidence emerges as the recent discovery that Ukraine's president rented a helicopter and purchased an airplane from a company owned by someone close to the Yanukovych family, it must be investigated. The authorities’ desperation to prove there is no selective justice in Ukraine reached new heights of absurdity this week.

Pro-presidential officials and lawmakers touted the arrest of a functionary with minor connections to the authorities as evidence that they are fighting a battle against corruption, not just the opposition.

But, at the same time, law enforcers have ignored evidence in a report on leading news website Ukrainska Pravda that appears to show that large payments for President Viktor Yanukovych’s use of a helicopter and airplane went to a company – without a tender – linked to the president’s family.

Vasyl Volha, former head of the State Committee on the Regulation of the Financial Services Market, was arrested on July 19 on accusations of taking a $500,000 bribe.

Pro-presidential figures claimed this showed that the probes into opposition members, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, are part of a wider attempt to wipe out corruption, rather than a political assault.

However, Volha was never close to the president, or in his Party of Regions.

He is a former Socialist Party member who recently took part in a new left-wing political movement.

Meanwhile, leading Ukrainian journalist Serhiy Leshchenko published an investigation into the leasing of a helicopter and airplane for use by Yanukovych.

His investigation, if true, reveals enough evidence of high-level conflicts of interest, murky dealings and possible corruption to warrant an immediate investigation.

In the article, Leshchenko wrote that a helicopter and airplane used by the president were rented without a tender from a firm called Centeravia.

The chopper, according to Leshchenko, was rented at above market price. He added that the company was founded and, until recently, managed by Pavlo Lytovchenko, a lawmaker on the Kyiv regional council from the Party of Regions who is reportedly close to Yanukovych’s son.

Previous investigations by Leshchenko revealed Lytovchenko’s role in companies that acquired and developed the lion’s share of land at
Mezhyhiria, a luxurious compound outside Kyiv where Yanukovych lives.

Everyone knows that corruption is Ukraine’s most severe affliction, allowing leeches to suck the life out of businesses and ordinary citizens in order to provide themselves with lavish lifestyles.

When evidence emerges that this could reach as far as the president himself, it must be investigated fully.

Otherwise, there can be no other conclusion than that opposition members and current officials with limited connections to the president and his team are selected, while alleged abuses by Yanukovych and his cronies are ignored.

If the president and his allies have done nothing wrong, then they would have nothing to fear from an investigation.

But we don’t expect such a probe will happen, as Ukraine under Yanukovych appears to be swiftly becoming a country where impunity is the rule for the president, his family and oligarch friends, while the law and politically motivated prosecutions apply to those who oppose them.
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