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Shokin’s final reform sabotage, or Poroshenko’s plan? – Sakvarelidze sacked

March 29, 2016

A few weeks ago an entry appeared outlining the rapid and aggressive cohesion of the Odessa “Old Guard” around a plan to weaken and hopefully remove Governor Saakashvili before or upon his first anniversary as Governor on 15th May.  That entry underlined by a subsequent entry reaffirming its on-going execution by the plotters.

It forewarned that those around the Governor would be targeted by such forces, perceiving them to be far easier to depose off than the Governor himself in the immediate term.  “It is also clear that a slow burning scandal within the police in Iliychovsk/Chernamorsk may well be, or may be manipulated to be, a public death by 1000 cuts for Giorgi Lortkipanidze the Oblast Police Chief (who is beyond doubt the most transparent and public spirited Police Chief in the modern history of the Oblast).  Further there is likely to be an increased campaign against Davit Sakvarelidze the Odessa Prosecutor launched soon over the lack of successful prosecutions in the Oblast (despite no reform of the corrupt judiciary, and with “lustration” of the local judiciary simply not occurring – which puts any prosecutor at a disadvantage).

The plan to remove Governor Saakashvili by certain political forces/actors clearly includes trying to remove those around him and further frustrate any efforts at confronting vested interests before the “1 year and what has he achieved campaign?” reaches a crescendo.   The thinking is that if either Mr Lortkipanidze or Sakvarelidze be toppled, Misha will throw in the towel in an tantrum claiming “impossibility of progress” under such onerous and nefarious conditions.

How well such a plan will work against what are two of the most unsullied civil servants the Oblast has ever had remains to be seen – but such a plot there certainly is.

This notwithstanding the public trashing of the “Odessa Customs experiment” (and by extension Yulia Marushevska’s efforts) publicly in Kyiv.”

Since those entries were published, the “Old Guard” (infamous MPs from Odessa Messrs Pressman, Kivalov, Golubov and Bavinenko et al., together with some of the Kivalov educated and controlled prosecutors from Odessa), wrote to the reform obstructing Prosecutor General seeking the dismissal of Davit Sakvarelidze – as the above quote predicted.

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The writing on the wall therefore expectant of his imminent dismissal – particularly following several of Mr Sakvarelidze’s reformist prosecutor colleagues in Odessa being sacked by the Prosecutor General on 24th March.

Mr Shokin, due to have his resignation accepted by the Verkhovna Rada sometime in the afternoon of 29th March, promptly sacked Deputy Prosecutor General and Odessa Regional Prosecutor Davit Sakvarelidze in the morning – as a final act against the genuine reformers within the Prosecutor General’s Office.

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A reader may perhaps ponder how the newly “retired” Mr Shokin will receive thanks from these MPs from Odessa (and elsewhere), who will no doubt benefit from investigations into their alleged nefarious dealings and business interests (and those associated with them) mysteriously stopping, losing critical evidence from the file, or those investigations now generally suffering from lack of momentum.

A reader may also ponder just how any “guilty” verdict would ever have been handed down should any cases against such individuals and their interests ever reaching an Odessa court manifest, when for the past 15 years or so Mr Kivalov has run the establishments training prosecutors and judges.

(The last time anything associated with Mr Kivalov saw the inside of a court room, the case against him was dismissed by Judge Yaroslava Volodimirivna Balan – who happens to be an Associate Professor (since 2006) at the Odessa Law Academy that Mr Kivalov runs – a blatant conflict of interests for the Judge.)

Ergo the chances of a reformist Regional Prosecutor like Davit Sakvarelidze ever landing a successful prosecution against any of these MPs or their interests in Odessa were precisely zero.  He did however, make life uncomfortable for these entrenched interests nevertheless.  Whilst major successful prosecutions were absent, numerous cases were opened and evidence was gathered.  The ability to simply have cases closed, stalled or never opened, became somewhat more difficult to arrange for the nefarious.

In short the intangible effects of his presence far outweighed the tangible ones within the Odessa prosecutor establishment.  His prevention of skulduggery in the complete absence of the ability to cure, and deterrence rather than successful prosecutions should not be overlooked – albeit impossible to accurately measure those effects.

His presence also offered some degree of support and protection not only to Governor Saakashvili and his agenda, but also to Oblast Police Chief Lortkipanidze and Odessa Port Customs Head, Yulia Marushevska – notwithstanding the local constituency long accustomed to being ignored.

The question is who will next be targeted for a fall among the Governor’s team?

Ms Marushevska is already clearly being pressured by the old entrenched personalities, as well as the nefarious among the SBU and SFS that have always benefited from the very lucrative and nefarious scams that historically defined the Odessa ports – and thus looks favourite.  The slow burning scandal in Illichivsk/Chernomorsk policing seems more difficult to depose Mr Lortkipanidze swiftly enough to crescendo with the Governor’s 1 year anniversary in post.

Stepping back from the local picture, for it is important not to look at the minutia and miss the big picture and the clear messages being sent,  it is notable that Vitaly Kasko, another former reformist Deputy Prosecutor General who recently resigned due to Mr Shokin, has had his apartment in Kyiv arrested in another final act by Mr Shokin – the day prior to his sacking of Davit Sakvarelidze.  Revenge, Mr Kasko claims, for his public accusations against Mr Shokin when both worked at the very top of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

This not withstanding the opening of investigations into anti-corruption NGOs on 25th March by the PGO.

Further in a last act of “reform”,  Mr Shokin as Prosecutor General, has reformed the institutional reform he was so against, to complicate and perhaps permanently sabotage what will be a litmus test case known as the “Diamond Prosecutors”.

Though President Poroshenko claims that he had no knowledge, and had not agreed, any of the aforementioned actions by Mr Shokin (albeit officially he has no control over the hiring and firing by whomever is sitting Prosecutor General), it is a claim that is extremely difficult to believe considering the very obvious diplomatic repercussions these parting acts by Mr Shokin will undoubtedly have.

A reader may seriously ponder whether Mr Shokin’s final anti-reform functions are designed to deliberately stop, or seriously reduce, the flow of “western money” being spent on reforming the Prosecutor General’s Office.  No money equals no reform.  Limited finance equals limited reform.  An outcome the “old guard” vested interests will happily accept.

A reader may also look to the domestic political/institutional chess board from the President’s perspective (a man who has clearly reached his reformist limitations).  A “King” of the anti-reformist establishment has been toppled – but at the expense of two radical reformist “knights” within the same institution.  Thus two extremes have cancelled each other out within the Prosecutor General’s Office.  The slow moving (in fact glacial) middle ground remains allowing for dilatory, yet when pushed by “supporters of Ukraine”, not particularly uncomfortable reform to occur.

It is a set of domestic chess moves that will probably become something of a pattern in other institutions under this president.

Undoubtedly Governor Saakashvili will have no choice but to call publicly upon President Poroshenko to address the matter, having previously pretended not to acknowledge the complete absence of presidential support as he and those around him have been steadily undermined.

It seems highly unlikely that such presidential support will be forthcoming having engineered the removal of both the extremes of anti and radical reform within the PGO.  The outcome will entirely suit a President that has reached his limitations as his next appointment as Prosecutor General will probably confirm –  the most obvious candidates being Zhebrivskyi, Lutsenko, Sevost’yanov, Gorbatyuka, Sevruk and Stolyarchuk –  although Misha Saakashvili does meet the requirements to become the next Prosecutor General……and stranger and equally unforeseen things have happened.

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