Irina Venediktova, Ukraine’s newly-appointed Prosecutor General to replace the ousted Rouslan Riaboshapka, is already facing harsh criticism in her new role. Some of the loudest criticism is about her independence – or rather, lack of it.
Eugene Krapyvin, a lawyer for the Center of Policy and Liberal Reform, said, during a recent airing of the Weekly Wrap-up, that Venediktova’s appointment represents someone who is “two hundred percent the president’s person.”
He went on to say that Venediktova lacks experience in criminal justice, and that she may find it difficult to “be independent from such [high-ranking officials] like the president...I think the chances that she’ll be independent are very low.”
Developing an independent prosecutorial service has long been a demand of reformers both inside the country and outside observers, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first choice for the post, Rouslan Riaboshapka, was seen as an independent anti-corruption reformer aimed at delivering that demand.
But now, says Krapyvin, Venediktova’s appointment runs the risk of bringing back the prosecutor general’s office to its traditional Ukrainian role of political persecution.
“She will sign all the [notices of] suspicion, for [former Ukrainian president] Petro Poroshenko...but it will be very weak suspicions with a lack of evidence, they will agree to settle and close all these cases. It will be a big strike against the reputation of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ukrainian government as a whole,” Krapyvin believes.
And it’s unknown whether Venediktova will continue the reforms started under her predecessor. “He started attestation [of prosecutors], he started to draft a criminal justice sector reform policy...and now the first and main demand of the prosecutor general’s office is to investigate the previous politicians, like Poroshenko and his team, and it’s a question for all of Zelenskyy’s team – is [the goal] the rule of law? Or political prosecutions? What’s their main aim?” said the lawyer.