Alexander Efremov arrested – Prosecutor General Shokin strikesFebruary 15, 2015
Today, all western media attention will be concentrated upon the ceasefire -should it hold – in eastern Ukraine naturally enough.
However, just as important is the news of the arrest of Alexander Efremov – which won’t get the western headlines.
I know the ceasefire will get all the headlines but the arrest of Alexander Efremov for fraud & abuse of office by PGO Shokin is v important
— Nikolai Holmov (@OdessaBlogger) February 14, 2015
Mr Efremov is a particularly odious character truth be told. He was the former Head of the Party of Regions, a former Luhansk Governor, exceptionally wealthy and even more so, dubious businessman.
He is also suspected of funding those fighting the Ukrainian forces – although this is not the reason for his arrest. Mr Efremov was arrested for abuse of office and fraud. His arrest sanctioned under paragraph 2 of Article 364 and Part 2 article 366 of the Criminal Code.
In short, he is a big fish from a very elite pond.
Mr Efremov is also the sort of head that the new Prosecutor General is also known for hunting. The new Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Viktor Shokin, has a history of treading where other prosecutors fear – or have been bribed – not to tread. He was heavily involved in the arrest and prosecution of Police General Oleksandr Pukach for the murder of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze, for example.
Mr Shokin was voted into the office of Prosecutor General only a few days ago – with 318 MPs voting for him to assume the role. The most interesting occurrence during the vote was that the Opposition Block, which is the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Party of Regions, did not vote for the removal of the previously inadequate incumbent, nor did it vote for or against Mr Shokin. A political move to be on the right side of any result in an attempt to avoid the gaze of whomever was to be Prosecutor General.
However, within the few days Mr Shokin has held office, he has sacked two of his senior deputies from office, gone after 3 Kyiv court judges, and now Mr Efremov.
More to the point, impact that will be noticed across the entirety of the Ukrainian constituency. Undoubtedly, more arrests will follow too.
The message being sent should be of great concern to some – such as Sergei Kivalov and others, who until now have thought themselves untouchable. That MPs immunity has also gone, subject to the Constitutional Court nod, circumstances must surely now make a few nefarious characters rather uncomfortable.
That Mr Efremov is not a “Kyiv head” that has been hunted is also noteworthy. To be sure, those in the provinces of Odessa, Kharkiv, Kherson etc., have felt somewhat ignored and abandoned by Kyiv of late. The “lustration” that reached Odessa removed a few judges close to retirement and little more – low hanging fruit, with not effort required. Since then – nothing. The same criminal political and business elite continue to carry on with the same political and criminal enterprises.
Perhaps a big fish from Kharkiv, or Odessa, or Kherson will be next? It would be a wise course to take if the intention is to make Ukraine feel united. New police forces in Kyiv is all very nice – new police forces simultaneously across the nation sends the message of unity.
There is also the matter of poorly investigated incidents that need resolving – the deaths at Maidan, the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa. A review of what little investigation has been done is required – and the investigations completed.
Taking on 3 judges, sacking two senior people within the PGO hierarchy and now arresting the almost universally loathed Mr Efremov, if not providing a little faith, certainly provides a little hope – and the tank of hope in Ukraine is currently emptying rather swiftly. It is incidents like this that tend to supply that much needed refill.
For now, whether or not he can secure convictions within the corrupt Ukrainian courts remains to be seen – but for now that doesn’t really matter, it’s a problem for another day.
Thus the actions of the new Prosecutor General, and their impact, are probably worthy of the same prominence in the western headlines as those that will be directed toward the ceasefire.