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Protesters demand appointment of independent prosecutor general

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Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center's management board, gives a speach at a rally in favor of appointing an independent prosecutor general in front of the presidential administration on March 28.

About 200 protesters rallied on March 28 in front of the Presidential Administration to demand the appointment of an independent prosecutor general.

They called for the firing of discredited Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin and
his replacement with a person whom civil society trusts.

The protest took place ahead of a parliamentary vote on Shokin’s dismissal
scheduled for March 29. Shokin submitted his resignation in
mid-February, but it has yet to be approved by parliament.

“Tomorrow the Verkhovna Rada will face a test – whether they are with
the people or with the corrupt officials, and whether they will fight
corruption or spearhead it,” Sergii Leshchenko, a reformist lawmaker from the
Bloc of President Petro Poroshenko, said at the rally.

The speakers at the rally criticized Shokin’s deputies Yury Sevruk and Yury
Stolyarchuk, who are being considered as a replacement for Shokin. Both are
protégés of Shokin and are seen as loyal to Poroshenko.

“If Shokin is replaced with Stolyarchuk or Sevruk, there’s no point in
replacing him,” Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption
Action Center’s management board, said at the protest.

Leshchenko said that Sevruk and Stolyarchuk had been sabotaging corruption
cases against Verkhovna Rada member Yury Boiko and the Katsub brothers, ex-top
executives of state oil and gas company Naftogaz.

The Prosecutor General’s Office denies the accusations.

Leshchenko also lambasted Stolyarchuk for spearheading the recently created
anti-corruption department at the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“This department is intended to start criminal cases against people who
fight against corruption,” Leshchenko said.

Last week the department started an embezzlement investigation against the Anti-Corruption Action Center into the allocation of U.S. government funds for prosecutorial reform in what critics believe to be
revenge for the center’s criticism of the prosecutor’s office.

Stolyarchuk shocked the public when he said in a March 28 Ukrainska Pravda interview that Geoffrey
Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, could be questioned as part of the embezzlement case.

Reacting to the report, Roman Waschuk, the Canadian ambassador to
Ukraine, joked on Twitter that he was “reading the memoirs of Soviet convicts in
order not to break down during interrogations about attempts to help Ukrainian
reforms.”

Critics see the case as a vendetta against Deputy Prosecutor General Davit
Sakvarelidze, who oversees the reform. Sakvarelidze has accused Shokin, Sevruk
and Stolyarchuk of sabotaging reform and covering up for corrupt prosecutors.

Leshchenko also argued that the department is effectively overseen by
Poroshenko Bloc lawmakers Ihor Kononenko and Oleksandr Hranovsky. Both are
accused of large-scale corruption, but deny the accusations.

Pavlo Dikan, a lawyer for killed EuroMaidan protesters, said that Hranovsky
had been frequenting meetings of top officials at the Prosecutor General’s
Office.

Vladyslav Kutsenko, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, did not reply
to a request for comment on the accusations.

Yegor Sobolev, a lawmaker from the Samopomich party, said that Poroshenko
would have to be replaced with another president if he failed to appoint an
independent prosecutor general.

“They will not give this job to honest people,” Sobolev said. “And we’ll
have to fire all of them. To appoint an (independent) prosecutor general, we
have to replace the president, the Cabinet, the prime minister and the
cleptocratic majority in the Verkhovna Rada.”

Meanwhile, Dmytro Dobrodomov, an independent member of parliament, called
for the re-launch of prosecutorial reform from scratch.

The first stage of the reform, which envisaged selecting top local prosecutors
in a competitive hiring process, failed last year. Most top local prosecutors
chosen by Shokin turned out to be incumbent top prosecutors.

Dobrodomov said he had co-sponsored a bill to set up vetting commissions
including representatives of civil society and the West to carry out a genuine
competition for prosecutors’ jobs.

The rally comes amid Shokin’s conflict with Sakvarelidze and follows his clash with another reformer, Vitaly
Kasko.

Kasko resigned as a deputy prosecutor general last month, accusing Shokin
of corruption and sabotaging all high-profile cases.

The Ukrainian investigative television program Nashi Hroshi reported on
March 28 that a court had issued an order to seize Kasko’s apartment as part of
a fraud case opened by the Prosecutor General’s Office against him.

Critics saw the move as a political vendetta for Kasko’s criticism of
Shokin.

Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Sukhov can be
reached at
sukhov@kyivpost.com

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