Is She Next?
7 September | Svitlana TuchynskaPresident Viktor Yanukovych’s administration says law enforcers are finally cracking down on corruption. But the main targets are people close to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who claims political persecution. She will lead an opposition rally on Sept. 7 outside of parliament.
Several former high-ranking officials under ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, this year’s losing presidential candidate, are either behind bars or on the run.
And now many in the embattled opposition are wondering who will be next.
President Viktor Yanukovych and top officials say the sudden legal troubles of Tymoshenko associates are not politically motivated.
On a trip to Berlin this week, Yanukovych – who beat Tymoshenko by 3.5 percentage points in the Feb. 7 election – said he is fighting corruption and restoring order in the country.
Presidential administration head Serhiy Lyovochkin on Sept. 1 said the government is “ensuring justice in the nation. The president has given us a clear instruction that we have to build a fair society.”
But others smell a witch hunt.
Yulia Tymoshenko ally Oleksandr Turchynov says sources tell him he will soon be arrested.
“The State Security Service and the police are executing political orders from the government.”
- Oleksandr Turchynov, the first deputy prime minister under Tymoshenko.
“The State Security Service and the police are executing political orders from the government,” said Oleksandr Turchynov, the first deputy prime minister under Tymoshenko.
Turchynov, considered Tymoshenko’s right-hand man and a former head of the powerful State Security Service law enforcement agency, is widely rumored by Ukrainian media to be next in the line for the ongoing dragnet.
Turchynov is allegedly being investigated for selling natural gas at below-market prices to private companies in 2009.
According to Turchynov, it was Yanukovych who signed the illegal gas deal while serving as prime minister back in 2007.
“They were trying to sell the gas to companies close to Yanukovych,” Turchynov said.
In a press conference the next day, Turchynov said that he has been told by his sources that he might be arrested in coming days.
The Prosecutor General’s Office would neither confirm nor deny whether Turchynov is under investigation.
“We have hundreds of cases open on natural gas,” said Yuriy Boychenko, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office.
Maryna Ostapenko, a spokeswoman for the State Security Service that Turchynov used to head, said she was unaware of any such investigation.
But Turchynov is not the only top official from Tymoshenko’s team to feel the heat.
Former Labor Minister Lyudmyla Denysova
“I am aware that a special group arrived to Crimea to dig up dirt about me.”
- Lyudmyla Denysova, Former Labor Minister.
Former Labor Minister Lyudmyla Denysova said that she is being targeted.
“I am aware that a special group arrived to Crimea to dig up dirt about me,” Denysova said.
Denysova was prosecuted before, in 2000, when she was finance minister of the Crimean Autonomous Republic. She spent 24 hours in detention after being charged with abuse of power. She said she was persecuted for refusing to sign a budget document. The charges were dropped later.
Others, meanwhile, are already behind bars or fugitives.
Fugitive former Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn is wanted on corruption charges.
Former Minister of Economy Bohdan Danylyshyn is the latest former official to attract attention from law-enforcement agencies.
Shortly after prosecutors opened a criminal case against him, Danylyshyn was reported to have fled to Germany. After a requeste by Ukrainian law enforcement, Interpol posted his photo on their website on Aug. 31 as a wanted fugitive.
Danylyshyn is sought on suspicion of fraud for misuse of public money, causing damage to the state worth Hr 4.5 million in approvals of state purchases. He was the economy minister from December 2007 to March 2010.
His allies assume he will seek political asylum, either in Germany or another European country.
Former deputy head of state-owned Naftogaz Ihor Didenko has been jailed since July 12 on suspicion of corruption.
Ihor Didenko, the former deputy head of the state-owned Naftogaz oil and gas monopoly, is imprisoned.
So is former customs chief Anatoliy Makarenko, ex-deputy head of energy customs Taras Shepitko, and former deputy defense minister Valeriy Ivashchenko.
Former customs chief Anatoly Makarenko has been jailed since June 24.
“Turchynov is their main target.”
- Yuriy Lutsenko, former Interior Minister.
Police are searching for Maria Kushnir, an accountant with Naftogaz. Former head of the state aviation administration, Oleksandr Davydov, is also a target is prosecuted for corruption as well.
Turchynov said the cases amount to political persecution. "Why were there no allegations when those people were in power? Nobody opposed their decisions then," Turchynov told a news conference on Sept. 2.
Former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, once the nation’s top cop, said that Didenko and Makarenko are continuously asked to testify against Turchynov.
“Turchynov is their main target,” Lutsenko said.
Maria Kushnir (C), former deputy accountant at the state gas and oil monopoly Naftogaz, was detained for questioning last year. (PHL)
Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko parliamentarian Andriy Senchenko said the “persecutions” will intensify as the Oct. 31 local elections draw near. “They will have to show off with their ‘crusade against corruption’ to gain votes,” Senchenko said.
“Arresting officials is one thing, but arresting leaders of the opposition is another. It can boost not only the opposition’s support in Ukraine, but draw unwanted international attention.”
- Volodymyr Fesenko, political analyst.
According to political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko, the current government is looking to blame the previous administration for the government’s big budget deficit and other financial troubles.
“At the same time I assume it is not hard to find abuse by any Ukrainian official. However, it is done selectively and only opponents are investigated,” Fesenko said.
Fesenko does not believe Turchynov or Tymoshenko are under threat.
“Arresting officials is one thing, but arresting leaders of the opposition is another. It can boost not only the opposition’s support in Ukraine, but draw unwanted international attention,” Fesenko said.
Kyiv Post staff writer Svitlana Tuchynska can be reached at tuchynska@ kyivpost.com.
Read also 'Fugitive former minister: ‘I’m not afraid of anything’.
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