Kyiv’s Pechersk district court ruled that prosecutors can begin an investigation into the alleged crimes committed by former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who fled the nation shortly after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime on Feb. 22, 2104. The May 31 ruling was published in the registry of court decisions on July 13.
Azarov is suspected of misappropriation and embezzlement of state property. If found guilty, he could face up to 12 years in prison and confiscation of property.
Azarov lives in Russia, which has refused to extradite him and other former top governmental official to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s investigation of Azarov centers on the privatization of Ukrtelecom, Ukraine’ fixed-line telecoms monopoly, also active in internet and mobile communication services.
In October 2010, Azarov, as prime minister, allowed the government to sell its Ukrtelecom shares, first purchased by Austrian-owned ESU for Hr 10.5 billion (then $1.35 billion) and then resold to System Capital Management, a holding company owned by Ukraine’s richest oligarch, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.
The investigation established that in July 2012 Azarov illegally ordered allocating Hr 220 million ($27.5 million) from the budget to create a secure governmental communication system at the direct order of Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president at the time. According to the agreement with ESU, however, secure communication had to be created at the company’s expense. Prosecutors, therefore, suspect Azarov of embezzlement and diversion of this money.
Azarov was prime minister in 2010-2014 under Yanukovych, when the administration was forced to flee because of the EuroMaidan Revolution.
After escaping to Moscow, Azarov wrote a book titled “Lessons of the Maidan,” in which he expressed hopes that the Russian Federation in cooperation with U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s administration will remove the current Ukrainian government.
On his Facebook page, he regularly posts negative commentary on Ukraine’s current affairs. In most his recent post on July 13, Azarov wrote that Ukrainian President Poroshenko will come to an end soon and that he is thinking about returning.
“But the current situation does not allow me to do so because Ukraine is sinking into terror, brow-beating and violence against the opposition.”