According to Center UA, the Kyiv economic
crimes unit of the Interior Ministry started the investigation on Dec. 11. Recently, however, investigators stepped up their efforts, questioning some 200 witnesses.

The investigation allegedly was
launched five days before parliament – in what legal experts said was in breach
of numerous procedures – passed a set of laws that would have compelled
non-profit organizations receiving outside funding to register as “foreign
agents,” and eliminate their tax exemption status. The laws pertaining to
foreign-funded groups were later repealed.

“They (the police) aren’t
investigating, they are inventing the case, which is why they haven’t spoken to
any of the organization’s key officers…they are looking for pretext,” said group
founder and head Rybachuk, a former chief of staff of ex-President Viktor


Kyiv police spokesperson Olha Bilyk was
unavailable for comment. Phone calls placed with the main Kyiv police public
relations department went unanswered.

Rybachuk furthermore called the money
laundering case “ridiculous,” adding that as a non-profit that receives Western
funding, the group complies with internationally accepted governance standards
and undergoes rigorous auditing.

Police, the group said, so far have
only questioned some of the organization’s current and former contractors and
service providers, but none of the three people who have authorized signatory
power: Rybachuk, executive director Svitlana Zalishchuk and chief accountant
Maryna Savina.

Given the group’s high-profile stature
as an initiator of several successful government monitoring and anti-corruption
campaigns, and as a recipient of Western funding, Rybachuk told the Kyiv Post
that police want to send a signal to other civil society organizations.

“Obviously this investigation is
related to our numerous movements…we are on the eve of the presidential
election year so they (the authorities) want to consolidate society,” said


Its signature projects include Chesno,
a comprehensive parliamentary monitoring project; New Citizen, which advocates
for public access to information, better public health, and the environment;
and Stop Censorship.

It also collaborated with journalists
from investigative bureaus of, Svidomo and Ukrainska Pravda that
looked into how Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko allegedly used front men
to gain control over the country’s
gold deposits

The group also took part in promoting a
series of documentaries, including one about how President Viktor Yanukovych
gained control over a former state residence in Mezhyhirya where his lavish
estate is located. Attempts to screen the film in cities across the nation were
often thwarted by authorities.

Center UA received more than $500,000
in 2012, according to its annual report for that year, 54 percent of which came
from Pact Inc., a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International
Development. Nearly 36 percent came from Omidyar Network, a foundation established
by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife. Other donors include the
International Renaissance Foundation, whose key funder is billionaire George
Soros, and National Endowment for Democracy, funded largely by the U.S.


Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at [email protected].

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