Vitaliy Shabunin, the head of Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), reported the attack after his family home was set on fire on Wednesday evening. While the investigation is ongoing, witnesses claimed they heard an explosion prior to the fire. The Anti-Corruption Center (AntAC) issued a statement, claiming that the attack was “an assassination attempt,” writes Tania Bulakh, the National Endowment for Democracy‘s Program Officer for Central & Eastern Europe.
One of the most prominent Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, Shabunin has received multiple threats related to AntAC’s investigations and his anti-corruption advocacy. The activist has been facing systematic persecution for the past few years. In 2018, Shabunin faced the prospect of five years in jail following a confrontation with a blogger. A media investigation exposed the blogger as a provocateur paid by the State Security Service (SBU). The same year he was attacked during a protest following a harsh critique of then President Petro Poroshenko.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on law enforcement to find and punish those responsible for the attack, Reuters reports.
Last year, President Zelensky removed Shabunin from the government’s anti-corruption council and replaced him by officials accused of corruption.
This attack adds to an overall escalation of violence against civic activists in Ukraine, especially in the anti-corruption sector. The Center for Civil Liberties, along with partner human rights organizations have documented over 95 attacks on activists in 2019. Since the beginning of this year, human rights defenders reported 48 incidents, 12 of which were related to anti-corruption efforts. While civil activists in Ukraine face a growing number of threats, many cases are not properly investigated, perpetrators and organizers remain unpunished. Activists have accused Ukrainian law enforcement agencies of failing to thoroughly investigate the attacks and implied possible collaboration.
As the Anti-Corruption Action Center noted in a Washington Post op-ed last year, Ukraine may be stuck with an oligarch-linked president. But the fight rages on. In 2019, Zelensky won presidency by promising a radical fight against corruption. Yet, his ambitious statement are yet to be supported with more decisive actions. A year after the presidential elections, Ukraine’s progress with anti-corruption measures remains one of the key requirements for international assistance, such as support from the International Monetary Fund. The role of civic activists in driving anticorruption efforts is critical.
Transparency and accountability of governance is one of NED’s strategic priorities in Ukraine, which is why NED has been supporting the Anti-Corruption Action Center since 2017 for a total amount of $225,000. Their current project is Promoting Government Accountability and Transparency.
As part of the project activities, AntAc monitors the progress of investigations, reports on violations, and advocates for improvements related to the fight against corruption. It also focuses on the progress of the new government’s anti-corruption reforms, particularly the re-launching of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention. The experts of the Center assess relevant changes in laws and regulations and undertake advocacy campaigns to inform the public and press for more effective reforms.