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Nationwide sweeps and arrests across Ukraine

May 24, 2017

One thousand seven hundred SBU and police officers together with 500 prosecutors across Ukraine carried 454 searches on 24th May.

Millions in cash was seized.

A major operation relating to an on-going criminal investigation of Alexander Klimenko, (formerly in charge of revenue collection under disgraced ex-President Yanukovych) was the reason behind these events.

23 former regional heads of tax collection agencies were targeted – as of the time of writing at least 11 had been arrested and all immediately taken to Kyiv.

These arrests occurred from Luhansk to Odessa and everywhere in between.

The operation prima facie appears to be a success about which the Interior Ministry, PGO and SBU will rightly be proud.

There are however several “buts”.

Firstly it remains to be seen whether the courts will actually detain those arrested, or grant them bail and the opportunity to disappear leaving only the option of trial (and conviction) in absentia – thus denying the Ukrainian constituency their right to see those responsible for gargantuan theft physically jailed for a long time.

Perhaps much more importantly however, is that this well coordinated nationwide raid relates to events that are historical – and not contemporary.  In short it is action whilst unquestionably rightful that is taken against criminality past, and once again not contemporary and on-going criminality.

How many readers would expect the Interior Ministry, PGO, NABU and SBU to come away without large cash seizures and multiple arrests if the current leaders of State authorities (tax or otherwise) were subjected to a similarly well coordinated and executed raid across the entire nation?

There can be little doubt that the natural cynicism ingrained within Ukrainian society will soon begin to fill the social media space predicting approximate dates for similar raids 5 years hence to catch those currently in charge – perhaps with insufficient recognition of the success of these raids.

Congratulations are certainly due to Arsen Avakov and Anatolii Matios for a well coordinated and executed operation.  The more nationwide operations are carried out, the more seamless they become.  Without doubt the prosecution of those that formed an important and integral part of the “grand theft machinery” of the Yanukovych regime should be pursued and prosecuted.  Historical criminal wrongs should be subject to trial (and retribution).

However let us not pretend that investigating and perhaps righting historical wrongs (due process depending) equates to dealing with contemporary and on-going criminality within the same institutions.

Similar operations regarding contemporary criminality would send a rather different message throughout both institutions of State and also within the Ukrainian constituency.  Let us not pretend otherwise.

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