This week, Ukrainian law enforcement arrested former Georgian president and Odesa region governor Mikheil Saakashvili, a major opponent of President Petro Poroshenko. As the authorities attempted to get their hands on the Georgian-Ukrainian politician, the Ukrainian Parliament was simultaneously taking aim at the independence of the country’s anti-corruption agencies.
Separately, both stories are important. But they are also closely related. Saakashvili positions himself as an anti-corruption crusader and his supporters cite his arrest when alleging that the government is turning to repression against its opponents. Meanwhile, the the moves against anti-corruption agencies were widely perceived as the Poroshenko government’s attempts to cut its reformist critics down to size.
Hromadske breaks down both stories.
On December 8, after two unsuccessful attempts, the Ukrainian security forces detained Saakasvhili at the apartment of a friend. The authorities accuse Saakashvili of taking money from Serhiy Kurchenko, a fugitive oligarch close to ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. The arrest comes as the latest event in a showdown between President Petro Poroshenko and Saakashvili, and many believe the criminal charges are political.
Over the course of the week, Saakashvili’s supporters have taken to the streets, demanding his release and the impeachment of President Petro Poroshenko. Hromadske put together a report explaining how the authorities arrested the Saakashvili.
Hromadske brought an expert from each side of the debate — Transparency International’s Olena Trygub, the Secretary General of the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee, and media analyst Oleksiy Panych — into the studio to discuss the significance of Saakashvili’s arrest and the ongoing protests.
Parliament vs. Anti-Corruption
The second major story of the week was an attempt by the Ukrainian Parliament to pass a bill many believed would undermine the independence of the country’s anti-corruption agencies. Working through the night, reformists were able to get the bill shelved. But the next day, the parliament voted to remove the independent head of the parliament’s anti-corruption committee, Yegor Sobolev, from his post. International organizations and Ukraine’s Western partners have harshly criticized the parliament’s actions, and some are calling for the West to get tough on Kyiv.
Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute Hannah Thoburn told Hromadske about how the West is responding to the parliament’s actions.