Ukrainian Nationalists Take to Streets in Protest against Graft

Опубликовано: 25 Март 2019

President Petro Poroshenko September 21 2014 copyPresident Petro Poroshenko (Photo: Podrobytsi News Programming, CC BY 3.0)

Thousands marched the streets of Kiev on Saturday demanding action on revelations made by journalists which implicate figures close to President Petro Poroshenko in a corruption scheme involving the state owned defense supplier Ukroboronprom.

The protests come ahead of the much awaited March 31 Ukrainian elections. Supporters of nationalist parties called for arrests in regards to the corruption scandal, according to the Associated Press there were 5000 protesters.

The scandal in the defense industry broke in February and alleged that the son of Oleh Hladkovskyi, the deputy head of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) said to be Poroshenko’s right hand man, was facilitating corrupt deals to supply Ukraine’s army. reported in February that it had obtained hacked text messages between Hladkovskyi’s son and other participants of the scheme in which they discuss how best to profit from selling military equipment to the Ukrainian army.

The way it worked was that, in 2015 the state-owned defense supplier Ukroboronprom purchased Russian equipment at several times the market rates, then laundered at least 250 million hryvnia (US$9 million) through various methods according to the outlet.

The texts explicitly discuss payments to Hladkovskyi, who was in charge of military procurement until Poroshenko suspended him from office on 26 February 2019 pending a criminal investigation, in the wake of the allegations. He has since been dismissed from the NSDC.

Poroshenko has not claimed as usual, that the scandal is Russian propaganda intended to discredit Ukraine’s sovereignty, but the scandal doesn’t seem to have affected his chances too much as he is in second place in the polls.

“Allegations of corruption at the highest level of the state have been quite prevalent for a long period of time. Especially, in the defense industry where we know something like 80% of the tenders have been kept secret for the past few years," according to French journalist Sébastien Gobert cited in Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske.

"This idea that there is corruption in the defense industry, that this is all happening in a country that's at war and that this is extremely detrimental to the soldiers and to the defense of the national integrity have been important for a long time," he said.

Ukraine’s National Anti-corruption Bureau has also launched an investigation, despite allegations that they have cooperated with the companies involved in the defense scandal.
In a statement, the bureau says that “the level of corruption in the defense sector, the influence of the participants involved in the schemes and eliminating of these schemes are a serious challenge for the anti-corruption body.”

Nevertheless they have been responsible for bringing corruption charges against the Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, the Head of Armored Command Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and others.

The bureau has criticized the Constitutional Court of Ukraine for having recently struck down Article 368-2 of the Criminal Code – the provision on illicit enrichment.

“The Court’s resolution basically provides state officials with a way to legalise their possibly ill-gained assets and have no fear of criminal prosecution,” said Andrii Borovyk, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine.

Despite Poroshenko’s strong place in the polls, another poll found that a very low number of Ukrainians trust the government.

“Just 9% of residents have confidence in the national government, the lowest confidence level in the world for the second straight year,” the poll said.