Member of parliament Serhiy Leshchenko, who is part of President Petro Poroshenko’s dominant faction, sounded the alarm over the case at the Yalta European Strategy forum in Kyiv on Sept. 12.

He asked why Mykola Martynenko, deputy head of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front faction, had not been ousted from his post as head of parliament’s energy committee or even investigated in Ukraine, despite Switzerland having launched a criminal investigation into him on suspected bribery.

Martynenko, widely believed to handle finances for Yatsenyuk’s faction, faces bribery accusations by Swiss prosecutors in a case that has been kept secret for nearly two years.

Through his spokesman, Andriy Lyashenko, Martynenko said there is “nothing to discuss” in response to allegations against him, which he described as “hysterical” and “ridiculous.” He said the accusations are part of a campaign to oust him as head of the energy committee.


In the written response, Martynenko did not comment on the investigation against him directly, but said that “not a single piece of documentary evidence about his involvement in any criminal case has ever been provided.” In mid-May, Martynenko’s press office released a statement implying that there was no case against the lawmaker at all, and that “pro-Kremlin” media had simply fabricated the story.

Ukrainian authorities may have good reason for playing down the investigation: Swiss journalists reported that Martynenko accepted bribes from Skoda JS, a nuclear engineering company that positions itself as Czech-owned but is actually part of Russia’s OMZ engineering group – which is controlled by Kremlin-run Gazprombank.

Martynenko is accused of accepting roughly $30 million in bribes, though it was not clear how much of that allegedly came from Skoda JS.

Swiss newspaper Sonntagszeitung cited Swiss prosecutors as saying in March that Martynenko is suspected of taking bribes from Skoda JS in 2013 in order to grant the company a contract for the maintenance of nuclear reactors in Ukraine.


Skoda JS and Ukraine’s Energoatom signed a memorandum of understanding on the deal last October, prompting some criticism from experts in nuclear energy.

“With this contract, the government in Kyiv wanted to create the impression among its people and the European Union that Ukraine had begun to depend on the West in the nuclear sector,” Yan Haverkamp, an expert on nuclear energy at Greenpeace, was cited as saying by Ukrainian media.

Days before the signing of the memorandum, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had urged Energoatom to engage “European partners” in the deal.

Requests for comment sent to the press services of both Skoda JS and Energoatom were not immediately answered.

Yet Swiss prosecutors confirmed to the Kyiv Post on Sept. 14 – as they previously did for Leshchenko – that a bribery case had been ongoing against Martynenko since 2013 – and that Swiss authorities had appealed to Ukraine for assistance.Daria Kaleniuk, the head of watchdog group Anti-Corruption Action Center, called for Martynenko to be suspended from parliament, given the seriousness of the allegations.


“In any normal, civilized country, a lawmaker facing such accusations, at the center of an international criminal investigation, would step down at least for the duration of the investigation,” Kaleniuk said.

“And…the suspect’s home country would conduct its own investigation. But Martynenko is a very influential person – informally he’s considered Yatsenyuk’s main banker – so I think with such political influence he is being protected by someone.”

Despite Ukraine’s vows to root out corruption at the highest levels, the authorities are not doing their jobs, Leshchenko said. “This demand (to prosecute corrupt officials), unfortunately, has still not been met in Ukraine, and that’s why the Swiss investigation against him is being hindered,” Leshchenko said at the YES forum in Kyiv on Sept. 12.

“He’s Yatsenyuk’s wallet, he’s close to Yatsenyuk. That’s why the authorities are trying to protect him,” Leshchenko told the Kyiv Post. “The public needs to put pressure on the authorities to confront this issue, otherwise nothing will change.”

Events that followed the call for Martynenko’s ouster provide a good indication of how sensitive the issue is for those at the top.

A news item about Leshchenko’s comments on the official website of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc was briefly censored, according to the lawmaker, with the name Martynenko removed. It was returned later.


Leshchenko also said previous efforts to get the Ukrainian authorities to investigate Martynenko and respond to the case against him in Switzerland had come to nothing. He said he had called for Martynenko’s removal from office in May, when it was first confirmed that Swiss prosecutors had opened a case against him.

Lawmaker Boryslav Bereza also accused prosecutors of attempting to “sabotage” an investigation involving Martynenko. Bereza was part of a group of lawmakers who singled out Martynenko as one of many lawmakers suspected of corruption.

“But it’s extremely difficult to give an assessment, since the General Prosecutor’s Office, which for years has been conducting investigations only to obstruct them, has sabotaged the work of our group, failing to appear at meetings and not providing any information,” Bereza said.

Ukraine’s General Prosecutor Viktor Shokin addressed the scandal over Martynenko in May, saying that the authorities would investigate the lawmaker if they received a request for assistance from Swiss prosecutors. At that time, Shokin said Swiss prosecutors had never sought Ukraine’s help.

But Anne Wegelin, a spokeswoman for Switzerland’s attorney general, told the Kyiv Post on Sept. 14 that Swiss prosecutors had earlier sent both Czech and the Ukrainian authorities “a request for legal assistance.”


She confirmed that a case against “a Ukrainian national” had been ongoing since 2013. However, she wouldn’t say when the request had been sent.

Andriy Demartino, a spokesman for the General Prosecutor’s Office, could not be reached for comment.

When the scandal surrounding Martynenko first broke last December, Yatsenyuk promised to provide any information necessary for an investigation. “Any allegation of corruption, no matter who it concerns, should be investigated,” he was cited as saying by Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.

Olga Lappo, press secretary for Yatsenyuk, called accusations that Yatsenyuk was covering for Martynenko “groundless accusations,” and said she does “not comment on rumors.” She declined to comment on whether Martynenko managed the prime minister’s finances.

Staff writer Allison Quinn can be reached at [email protected]

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