The Return of Pro-Russian Politicians in Ukraine?
3 July, 2019
Former head of ousted Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential administration Andriy Klyuyev (L), pro-Russian blogger Anatoliy Shariy (C) and former First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin (R) have all tried to enter Ukraine's new parliament (the first two unsuccessfully). The snap parliamentary elections will take place on July 21 across Ukraine apart from the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas. Courtesy

Update: Late on July 3, the Central Election Commission has unanimously voted in favor of canceling the registration as parliamentary candidates of Andriy Klyuyev and Anatoliy Shariy due to the fact that they have indeed not lived in Ukraine throughout the last five years.

In the midst of the recent polls predicting success for Ukraine's Opposition Platform-For Life party – viewed as a successor to Yanukovych's Party of Region – a self-exiled blogger, who was charged with hooliganism back in 2011, decided to have a go at politics, too.

READ MORE: The Old and the New: Who Will Form Ukraine's Next Parliament?

Inevitably, this fact led to protest from pro-Ukrainian opinion leaders, which resulted in a rally that took place late on July 2 in the usual place: Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv. Several hundred people gathered bringing posters and pyrotechnics. Former president Petro Poroshenko – who himself has been an object of stark criticism from several revanchists – expressed support for the rally through his official Telegram channel.

Who is Anatoliy Shariy?

Anatoliy Shariy, who started his career by writing for women’s magazines, has not been in Ukraine since 2012. He went on to write for online publications and around 2014 turned to blogging. Two criminal cases were initiated against him after he shot a patron of McDonald’s and later staged an assassination attempt both in Kyiv in 2011. He used a fake passport to leave Ukraine in January 2012 and was granted asylum in Lithuania in June 2012.

A protester holds a poster that reads "Shariy, eat an ass" during a demonstration against the registration as parliamentary candidates of pro-Russian blogger Anatoliy Shariy and former officials from ousted president Yanukovych's regime. Kyiv, Ukraine, July 2. Photo: Hromadske

However, in April 2019, Kyiv’s Shevchenkivskyi District Court ruled to cancel the warrant for Shariy’s arrest and arrest in absentia. The court refused to initiate extradition and submitted the case for additional investigation. Since then, Shariy has founded his own Party of Sharij and registered 29 members who are running for Ukrainian parliament in the upcoming legislative elections on July 21.

In many ways, the slogans appearing on the party’s official website are reminiscent of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s team. Shariy promotes “openness”, getting rid of the incumbent politicians and stresses how for the past five years the country was being carved up. Remarkably, the blogger also talks of “helping the president” Zelenskyy by “forming an effective coalition”. 

The top 10 revealed on the website similarly ring a bell. The list includes journalists, colleagues, a DJ, three people below 25, and even his spouse. Admittedly, Zelenskyy’s wife decided to focus on her work with Kvartal 95 film studio. 

Shariy's party list includes his wife, a fellow blogger Olga Shariy (L) as number 2. She and her husband Anatoliy (R), who have both been living in exile in Europe, both tried to make it to this year's new Ukrainian parliament. Photo: Olga Shariy / Facebook 

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Shariy, who is most known to Ukrainians by the controversial content on his YouTube channel where he had been ridiculing the actions of Ukrainian authorities – above all former president Petro Poroshenko – currently has over 2 million subscribers and over 5,450 videos with almost 2.8 billion views on YouTube. It contains Ukrainophobic content where Ukrainian language is mocked, people from Western Ukraine are labelled “not pureblood Ukrainians” and the Revolution of Dignity is denounced. On top of that, Russian opposition is called “crap”. Shariy’s main audience is from Russia, but he also attracts pro-Russian Ukrainians, according to stats.

Other Cases

The news that Shariy was registered as a candidate for the parliament came around the same time as Andriy Klyuyev, former head of ousted Viktor Yanukovych’s presidential administration, was also granted his wish to participate in the early legislative elections on July 21 through a constituency in Donetsk region. According to Prosecutor General’s Office, despite Klyuyev earlier informing Interpol that he lived near Moscow, his lawyer managed to convince Ukrainian court that his client had in fact been living in occupied Donetsk since 2014.

READ MORE: Cronies of Ukraine's Fugitive President Keep Making Money in Crimea

Hundreds attend a rally against pro-Russians registering as parliamentary candidates in Kyiv, Ukraine on July 2. Photo: Hromadske

Former First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin (who served in the position in 2010-2013, during Yanukovych's rule) is also trying to take a seat in Ukraine's new parliament under number 35 in the Opposition Platform-For Life political party list.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s old pal, Viktor Medvedchuk, is currently the face of the Ukrainian opposition, with his Opposition Platform-For Life being the only openly pro-Russian party set to enter the next parliament. Ukrainians remember Medvedchuk from the time when he was the public defender of one of the foremost Ukrainian dissident poets, Vasyl Stus in 1980. During the closing speech, Medvedchuk declared that all of Stus’ anti-Soviet “crimes” deserved punishment. From 2002 to 2005 Medvedchuk served as head of Leonid Kuchma’s presidential administration. 

What Does the Law Say?

According to the Ukrainian law, a person who wants to become a lawmaker in Ukraine needs to have lived in the country for the minimum of the past five years. 

Klyuyev himself admitted that he had been living in Russia when he informed Interpol of his whereabouts – that's what the Director of Special Investigations at the Prosecutor General's Office Serhiy Horbatiuk told Hromadske on July 2. 

READ MORE: SBU Warned Yanukovych of Russia Threat

Kuzmin has not been consistently living in Ukraine for the past five years, according to the Prosecutor General's Office who wrote a letter to the Central Election Commission of Ukraine. The PGO stated that in an attempt to evade arrest, not only Kuzmin had been living in Russia-occupied Crimea, but also potentially in Russia itself. 

A similar letter by the PGO expressed that Klyuyev traveled from Russia to occupied Crimea alongside Yanukovych, as well as was in a Moscow court testifying about the February 2014 shootings during the Euromaidan protest in Kyiv.

Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) said that they have started checking whether Kuzmin, Shariy and Klyuyev have been living permanently in Ukraine for the last five years.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s Ex-President Yanukovych Flees to Russia (CARTOON)