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A circling of the PGO wagons? – Ukraine

April 11, 2016

Following along from the closing paragraphs of yesterday’s entry that stated – “The appointment that this blog is looking at is that of the next Prosecutor General, for reform within the PGO in parallel to PM Groisman and a new Cabinet moving things along, may just prolong the lifespan of both and mitigate against early elections.

The question is whether President Poroshenko will nominate a Prosecutor General that will serve both the public and assist his prodigy as Prime Minister – rather than another chained, loyal, Presidential dog.” – it is no secret that President Poroshenko intends to nominate a new Prosecutor General within the next week (two weeks maximum).

It is a necessary move for a President that is often seen as sloth-like in his decision making, as it is increasingly perceived that the Prosecutor General’s Office is going rogue.  As the Prosecutor’s Office is perceived as an institution closest to the President (rather than Cabinet or Verkhovna Rada), this perception bodes poorly for an already under fire Petro Poroshenko.

Clearly it was necessary to dispose of Vikor Shokin as Prosecutor General before landing in Washington DC as an absolute minimum if the Ukrainian delegation wanted the remotest hope of any high powered one to ones during the recent Nuclear Summit.  Thus immediately prior to presidential departure from Kyiv, Mr Shokin was duly shown the door – but not without inflicting a few parting wounds of his own.

Having shown Mr Shokin the door, President Poroshenko and Ukrainian delegation secured enough political points for meeting Vice President Joe Biden – but not enough for a one to one with President Obama.  Such multinational gatherings bring together a lot of world leaders.  Many would very much like a one to one with the US President – time however simply does not allow for such things.  Ergo presidential meetings are granted very carefully.  The Ukrainian president was not scheduled to meet President Obama – initially.

Yet President Obama and President Poroshenko did meet.

A reader may then  ponder just what promises and guarantees were made by President Poroshenko to VP Biden for agenda space to be found, and ultimately what undertakings to President Obama were made.  Undoubtedly, most of the time POTUS takes a dim view of those communiques he sees arriving in Washington from Kyiv.  (It is perhaps a good thing for President Poroshenko that he doesn’t get to see most of those sent).

It will be no coincidence that one of the very first things President Poroshenko did upon returning to Kyiv was sign and publish the Decree completing the dismissal of Mr Shokin, and simultaneously announcing that a new nominee would soon appear to replace him.  The clear inference being drawn is that undertakings were made to appoint an acceptable Prosecutor General swiftly.

As previously stated in historical entries, the most obvious candidates are Zhebrivskyi, Lutsenko, Sevost’yanov, Gorbatyuka, Sevruk and Stolyarchuk.  Two of these candidates would be no different to the out-going Viktor Shokin as far as obstructing reforms is concerned.  Mr Zhebrivskyi would be very difficult to replace in his role in Dontesk, and Mr Lutsenko has no law degree as required to hold the position (though laws can be changed when politically expedient).

There are other candidates that perhaps should be considered too.

Those currently leading the PGO must still be unaware of what obligations President Poroshenko committed to in his tête-à-tête  with President Obama and/or VP Biden.  The US has at least since summer 2014 (when this blog initially discussed rule of law reforms from some from US Embassy Kyiv), seen the PGO as the central rule of law reform battleground – and quite rightly, for it is an unyielding bastion of obstructionism, corruption, cronyism and flag carrier of a continuing post-Soviet legacy.

Not knowing what undertakings were made, it is thus claimed that the following letter was sent to President Poroshenko and Speaker (soon to be Prime Minister) Groisman on 11th April:

Proc 1proc 2Proc 3

Whether that letter is authentic or not is beyond the competence of this blog – but not beyond that of some of the IPs that read it.

In a nutshell the letter states that the next Prosecutor General should not be appointed upon the back of popular demand or external expectations, but from within the PGO (or former PGO personnel) as it is necessary for any Prosecutor General to understand how the PGO system works.

By that logic, only a General should lead the Ministry of Defence?  A teacher the Ministry of Education?  A Doctor the Ministry of Health?

That the Prosecutor General (currently – political expediency aside to give Yuri Lutsenko a job he considers worthy of his ego and who would be perceived as yet another Presidential chained and loyal dog) requires a law degree is apparently not enough for those within the PGO.  The Prosecutor General should be an experienced prosecutor that knows the system they claim.

Perhaps a weak case can be made that at least some knowledge of the existing system is necessary – simply to disassemble and reform it – but clearly the Ukrainian constituency and external partners see the next Prosecutor General appointment as the “last chance saloon” for President Poroshenko with regard to the PGO.

In short the PGO according to the letter is stating it has to be one of their own – from within a system that is fighting tooth and nail against its own reform.  A system that fails to serve the public well.  A system that fails to serve The State well.  It is a system that serves only itself and a few vested interests well.  It is a system that if ever there was a need to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut – this is it.

Thus far the legislative tinkering has produced no tangible results – though to be entirely fair, some of those changes will take time to produce results – quality investigations take time and diligence.  Creating a new body and expecting results within weeks is perhaps more than a little naive – nevertheless results are expected certainly within 6-9 months.

Anti corruption institution Ukr 1Anti corruption institution Ukr 2

The insertion of perceived reformers into the PGO has led their their rejection, with apparent obstructionism and subversion at almost every turn – notwithstanding occasional errors of judgement (or worse) by the perceived reformers themselves.

None of President Poroshenko’s 3 previous appointments in the past 2 years have produced anything – a point undoubtedly made once again by both President Obama and VP Biden during President Poroshenko’s recent visit.

For those funding the reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office, frustration must be rampant.

A reader may ponder just what bang for the Buck/Euro is deemed acceptable.  What are the benchmarks?  How are they measured?  Over what time frame?  How strict the funding conditionality?  At what point is the policy reviewed?  Is there a Plan B other than legislative tinkering and attempting to intravenously introduce reformers into the PGO body in the hope it may eventually control the cancer within?

Would it be swifter and more effective to build a parallel structure to the PGO, and once constructed, then legislatively remove the PGO stain from the Ukrainian institutional cloth once and for all?  Kill rather than cure once an alternative structure is built?

Is it possible to build a parallel institution whilst not replacing those retiring, leaving, getting sacked (or otherwise no longer remaining in the PGO) thus reducing its size to one that can be moved across into a parallel structure?  If so, how much more stringent should the lustration process be, and how many sweeps should it make to avoid dangerously high levels of exposure to cross-contamination?

Should the above letter be genuine, what does it say between the lines for any new Prosecutor General?

A reader may, perhaps correctly, conclude that if the next Prosecutor General is not to the liking of those senior prosecutors that apparently signed the letter, that a real war of obstructionism and subterfuge awaits any other appointee far exceeding anything experienced under Viktor Shokin’s management.

The most important appointment in the coming week(s) is not that of Mr Groisman as Prime Minister, nor is it the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers.  The most important appointment will be that of the next Prosecutor General.

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