Ukraine’s Poroshenko Meets NGO Representatives, but Questions Remain
8 April, 2019

Just a few weeks ahead of the second round of Ukrainian presidential elections current president Petro Poroshenko decided to make a power move and remind the population of his past achievements in the field of anti-corruption measures, at the same time admitting to his past mistakes.

There have long been accusations that Poroshenko is not open to debate and advice from society. Quite unexpectedly, on April 6, president Petro Poroshenko invited NGO representatives for a meeting. The dialogue lasted over two hours. Such candid communication with public organizations is not very typical of the current president or, in fact, all previous Ukrainian presidents. Thus, it is likely Poroshenko’s second place and the hammering he took from the supposedly more open candidate in the first round of the presidential elections probably played a role.    

At the meeting, Poroshenko spoke in favor of rebooting the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAPO) and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC). Yet he expressed support for the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and their work. This statement was shared by Darya Kalenyuk, Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC), who was present at the meeting. According to Kalenyuk, the president also advocated depriving Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) of the function of economic investigations.

 "The president supports the director of NABU Artem Sytnyk, although he has some comments on the work of the body. Poroshenko stressed that he never interfered with the work of the NABU. Anti-corruption judges will be appointed by the president in the next few days, " said the activist. As a reminder, the law “On the Establishment of the High Anti-Corruption Court” was signed by the president in June 2018.

READ MORE: Ukraine Takes Aim At Its Anti-Corruption Agencies

Poroshenko acknowledged that such meetings and frank communication should have taken place earlier. He also proceeded to admit he had made two major mistakes in recent years: personnel and communications. Whilst the president seems to be making progress on the latter, the former remains an issue.

What raised eyebrows most recently was the appointment of Major General Vladyslav Kosinsky to the position of Deputy Head of SBU. Serhiy Baziuk fell victim to the move with no reasons given for the dismissal.

According to Novoe Vremya publication, Kosinsky is involved in several scandals and is being investigated by anti-corruption bodies. As early as February 2018, MP Vitaliy Kupriy spoke of the then-head of Sumy region SBU department Kosinsky using a private helicopter to move around the country. Kupriy also claimed Kosinsky became a dollar millionaire and even made an appeal to the NAPC, which, however, refused to start an investigation. The NABU did initiate an investigation later and considered the owner of the helicopter, Gennadiy Butkevych - the co-founder of Ukraine’s largest retail chain of discount stores ATB - as a possible initiator of the bribe to Kosinsky, in the form of giving a helicopter for personal use.

However, this is not the only scandal with Kosinsky - another criminal proceeding was registered against him by NABU in August 2018. Kosinsky headed the investigation team, which took part in the search of the apartment of businessman Serhiy Rybalka. The search report contained notes that suggest Kosinsky attempted to plant drugs in Rybalka’s apartment.

READ MORE: Scandal Casts Light On Corruption In Ukrainian Corruption Prevention Agency

It is good to see Poroshenko is learning from his past mistakes by increasing the number of communication channels with the people and by endeavoring to hear them. Such appointments as Kosinsky, however, undermine the authority of independent bodies like NABU.