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NABU Arrests, Political Posturing and Citizenship stripping

April 21, 2017

Quite rightly the headlines in Ukraine surround the NABU arrest of former People’s Front MP Mykola Martynenko, for embezzlement of just over US$17 million via various schemes and scams within the energy sector through his VostGOK and Austrian registered intermediary Steuermann.

Also arrested and long associated with VostGOK was Sergei Perelom (unsurprisingly also a former senior figure at Odessa Port Side where other Martynenko shenanigans have long been suspected/known).

Mr Martynenko at the time of writing is currently in the courtroom where a decision to remand him in custody ,or proscribe a significant bail figure (UAH 300 million is the prosecution request) is yet to be decided.

Several MPs and Government Ministers have attended the court stating they are willing to personally accept Mr Martynenko on bail – the optics of which can be viewed in many ways.

Firstly loyalty to a former colleague and more importantly political party funder.

The public however are far more likely to perceive government ministers of the People’s Front standing so overtly by Mr Martynenko as pure cronyism and solidarity with a partner in crime.

Yet others will see the presence of government ministers and their public statements supporting Mr Martynenko as little more than political pressure upon the judge.

It may well be any or a combination of all of the above depending upon the minister/parliamentarian.  (For the sake of interest those People’s Front Ministers and MPs  are Minister of Youth and Sport Igor Zhdanov, Lily Grinevich Education Minister, MPs Pavel Pynzenyk, Georgei Lohvynskyy and Infrastructure Minister Vladimir Omelian.)

Nevertheless it is unlikely that the image of these politicians will suffer at the voting both – for the voting both may well be avoided in the near future, and whether it is or it isn’t at the time of writing the People’s Front would be slaughtered, nay eviscerated at the alter of democracy via lack of public support.

Ergo public perception possibly doesn’t figure particularly strongly either way for these politicians in comparison to supporting the man that finances the internal working of their party (and other mutual interests).

Whether the NABU arrest of Mr Martynenko will unsettle the (slim) majority coalition with Block Poroshenko will perhaps hinge upon whether those within believe that President Poroshenko can influence the timing or actions of NABU.  That perception is perhaps questionable considering the NABU scalp of Roman Nasirov, a scalp prima facie, claimed without the apparent knowledge of President Poroshenko until after the fact.

Indeed NABU has been very busy, and publicly so these past two weeks, perhaps in the case of Mr Martynenko because foreign States appear to be concluding their investigations into him without Ukraine having opened one, but more generally to increase public support prior to the appointment of an external NABU auditor, the report of whom could provide grounds for the removal of the NABU Chief.

NABU is a body supposedly independent of political influence, but it does not lose its ability to influence politics via public opinion.

Whilst all of this is rightly grabbing the Ukrainian headlines, the Prosecutor General’s Office has made an official request to the Interior Ministry to strip the Ukrainian citizenship of MP Andrei Artemenko.

That would be the same Mr Artenenko who funds Right Sector and who was peddling dubious and certainly unsanctioned plans to the Trump White House via Felix Sater and Michael D Cohen that many in Ukraine regard as treasonous, and resulted in his ejection from The Radical Party.

It has to be said that stripping Mr Artenenko of Ukrainian citizenship is very unlikely to leave him stateless – for it is strongly believed he holds several other citizenships (including that of Qatar).

The question however, is why the Prosecutor General’s Office is requesting his citizenship be stripped rather than prosecuting him?  Are the votes not there within the Verkhovna Rada to strip an MP kicked out of his party for “treason”?  There must surely be when so framed.

Is it that in stripping the funder of Right Sector of his citizenship for “anti-Ukrainian activity” rather than prosecuting him is a deliberate framing that it is felt will prevent the Right Sector franchise reacting in his defence?

Is it that the Prosecutor General’s Office simply cannot make a case against him for his unsanctioned (and “treasonous”) interaction with the Trump Administration – and whatever other skeletons are in  Mr Arteneko’s cupboard are deemed better left due to wider ranging repercussions among other parliamentarians?

The Martynenko corruption case is rightly headline grabbing – but the Artenenko issue is far more interesting.

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