President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 6 said he would not fire his Deputy Chief of Staff Oleh Tatarov, who had been charged with bribery, in response to a petition for his dismissal.

On June 18, the petition to fire Tatarov collected the 25,000 signatures required for Zelensky to respond to it.

“Article 19 of the Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that Ukrainian law is based on the premise that nobody can be forced to do something that is not envisaged by legislation,” Zelensky said. “National and local government bodies and public officials are required to act only on the basis of the Constitution and Ukrainian laws, within the limits of their authority and in the way stipulated (by the Constitution and the laws).”

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Tatarov was charged in December with bribing a forensic expert when he was a lawyer at state construction firm Ukrbud. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) published WhatsApp correspondence with Tatarov agreeing to the bribe. Tatarov denied the accusations.

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In 2011-2014, Tatarov was a deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s main investigative department under then-President Viktor Yanukovych. He has been investigated and questioned about the unlawful persecution of protesters during the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, which ousted Yanukovych.

Values

“The discussion on the incumbent president’s values is over,” Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center’s executive board and the petition’s initiator, said on Facebook. “Volodymyr Zelensky shares Tatarov’s values. This means that Zelensky supports covering up for those who murdered EuroMaidan protesters and doesn’t see any problems in Tatarov’s corruption-related crimes.”

The President’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova blocked the charges against Tatarov in December 2020 by replacing the group of prosecutors in the Tatarov case twice. She then transferred the case from the NABU to the politically controllable Security Service of Ukraine.

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In February, a court refused to extend the Tatarov investigation, and prosecutors effectively killed it by missing the deadline for sending it to trial.

Shabunin argued that Zelensky’s refusal to fire Tatarov means that the president was behind the sabotage of the corruption case against Tatarov.

“Zelensky proved that his worldview has nothing to do with the values of the EuroMaidan Revolution and those of the civilized world,” he added.

Other controversies

According to Ukraine’s 2014 lustration law that forbids the appointment of top Yanukovych-era officials, Zelensky had no legal right to make Tatarov his deputy chief of staff. Under the law, heads and deputy heads of Interior Ministry units under Yanukovych for more than a year are banned from holding state jobs for 10 years.

Tatarov also handpicked pro-government members of the commission for choosing the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, according to a May 13 report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s investigative program Schemes. Commission members either know Tatarov personally or are connected to him, Schemes reported.

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Former Ukrbud CEO Maxim Mykytas, a suspect in a theft case, has also testified that Tatarov gave a $600,000 bribe to employees of the High Anti-Corruption Court in 2019 to release Mykytas on a minuscule bail, law enforcement sources told the Kyiv Post.

Additionally, Mykytas testified that he had allegedly given a bribe through Tatarov to judges of Kyiv’s Solomyansky District Court, the sources said.

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