Ukraine’s former president paid bribes worth at least $2 billion (£1.4 billion) during his four years in office – amounting to almost $1.4 million for every day he was in power – according to evidence handed to investigators, The Daily Telegraph reports:
Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled during Ukraine’s revolution in 2014, appears to have kept a detailed record of backhanders distributed while he was in government.
A logbook has emerged listing the bribes paid to former and serving Ukrainian officials. In particular, election commissioners were handsomely rewarded in return for guaranteeing victory for Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in the parliamentary election of 2012.
“We know that it’s real because of the minutiae of the detail – that so many of the small details corroborate with events or activities that took place under Yanukovych,” said Serhiy Leshchenko* (right), the Ukrainian investigative journalist turned MP who published the logbook.
But civil society groups are concerned that the current government is maintaining the same kleptocratic habits as the old regime.
A softening of the European Union‘s sanctions against Russia – due for renewal on July 31 – is on the cards in the near future, as a consequence of President Vladimir Putin’s intransigence, Bloomberg reports:
At a recent meeting of his economic advisory council, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, now charged with developing an economic plan for the government to pull Russia out of recession, told the president it was time to “defuse geopolitical tension.” The country, Kudrin said, was falling behind economically and technologically, and needed to be part of global value chains. Putin, according to eyewitness reports, vehemently disagreed, telling Kudrin that Russia would not sell out its sovereignty. Foreign business, he said, would keep investing in Russia if it felt it was profitable.
“Both the Kremlin and influential European figures are looking for ways to start defusing the stand-off without losing face,” Bloomberg adds. “While the sanctions will almost certainly be extended……a weakening of the restrictions appears set to begin in the coming months. “
The news coincides with reports that Ukraine fatigue is spreading in Europe.
“There are drivers of reforms in Ukraine’s government and parliament, but they are a minority,” argues Michael Meyer-Resende, the executive director of Democracy Reporting International, a Berlin-based NGO promoting democratic governance. In order to wrestle any piece of reform from a resilient political-cum-business class, they need allies, such as Ukraine’s vibrant civil society groups, the EU and the IMF.”
Ukrainian servicewoman Nadiya Savchenko, whose resistance to her imprisonment in Russia has made her a national hero and a potentially disruptive force in Ukrainian politics, received a standing ovation in her first address to parliament on Tuesday, Reuters reports:
A helicopter navigator captured while fighting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region, Savchenko’s bold defiance at Russian authority during her two-year captivity restored Ukraine’s national pride bruised by the conflict with Russia.
Her popularity became such that Savchenko (right), 35, was made a lawmaker by opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and upon her release last week, she announced she was willing to run for president, making her a possible thorn in the side of a weakened President Petro Poroshenko.
“I tell you that nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten. Nothing is forgiven. And the Ukrainian people will not let us sit in these seats if we betray them,” she said.
“One gets the impression that lawmakers are like lazy schoolchildren who shirk their work,” Savchenko told reporters after her speech.
Savchenko has an opportunity to become a great leader for Ukraine and the region—if the firebrand can transform herself, argues Jeffrey Gedmin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“Exactly those skills that made her a freedom fighter—including her ferocity and single-mindedness—need to be set aside now to emphasize other qualities,” says Veronika Kruglashova, a young Ukrainian scholar and democracy activist.
Kruglashova, herself an ardent admirer of Savchenko, is on to something, Gedmin writes for Newsweek:
Part of this has to do with the fractious nature of Ukrainian politics. A raucous nationalist right, an increasingly unpopular oligarch president and her own Fatherland party—led by Orange Revolution leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko—all pin hopes on Savchenko to save their respective political fortunes and push their agenda to the fore.
They all pull in different directions. In a wild, frenzied atmosphere, the 35-year-old Savchenko would be wise to take a breath. There’s something to be learned from history.
Tens of millions of dollars were invested in Ukrainian politics by the former regime, according to Ukrainska Pravda. The news outlet has published documents which reveal the inside facts of the clan oligarchic system built in the country within the last twenty years, including ‘spreadsheets’ of the Party of Regions (the party of former President Viktor Yanukovych), which came to the hands of journalist-turned-MP Leschenko [*a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy] as well as ex-deputy head of Ukraine’s Security Service Victor Trepak.
The expenses invested in the politics are itemized, with a total cost amounting to more than USD 66 million. The Party of Regions members spent the money on ‘the Party needs’ for less than six months in 2012 – everything ranging from buying the electoral votes to ordering custom-made interviews and reports on major Ukraine’s TV channels “INTER” and “ICTV”.