Democracy Watch: Political persecution spreads in Ukraine.


In coming to power the new President has given rise to political persecution in Ukraine.  According to the Prosecutor General, 8 ministers and vice-ministers from the government of Yulia Tymoshenko have been arrested on suspicion of damaging the national interest to the tune of US$2.5 billion.  The former prime-minister herself is subject to repeated questionings at the Prosecutor-General's office.  However, representatives of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Presidential Administration claim that the government has begun a serious battle against corruption involving both former and current government officials and it should not be perceived as political repression. As yet they have failed to provide evidence of their impartiality. 

In response, both the USA and the EU have demonstrated increasing concern over political pressure and persecution in Ukraine. In particular, Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, recently said that the selective administration of justice should be recognised as unacceptable by any democratic society. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America deplored the actions of the Ukrainian government directly. The members of the Committee illustrated concerns that the authorities arrest political opponents and suppress journalists through fear thereby restricting civil liberties and the right of assembly, further blemishing the national identity of the Ukrainian people. 

Not long ago the Czech Republic granted political asylum to Bordan Danilishyn – former minister of economy in Ukraine. This should constitute a major wake-up call for Kyiv as Brussels obviously holds a strong negative attitude towards political pressure of the current regime on the opposition.

In Ukraine, Danilishyn was accused of causing a national loss totalling 2 million Hryvna. President Yanukovych has received a clear political signal from USA and the EU, stating that further practice of political persecution is unacceptable.

People First Comment: The government may claim that the current clamp down is a bid to combat corruption but in reality it is nothing more than selective pressure on political opponents.  Corruption is endemic to the whole governmental and financial system of the nation but the scale is now truly frightening. 

According to the international financial watchdog ‘Global Financial Integrity’, between 2000 and 2008 US$86 billion was illegally transferred out of Ukraine through the Ukrainian banking system to offshore tax havens.  Ukraine ranks as the 3rd worst in Europe (17th in the world) behind Russia and Poland with an annual drain of $10.75 billion a year or $41.35 million a working day, costing the national budget, in lost VAT alone, some $2.15 billion. This annual loss is almost equal to the stand-by credit recently negotiated by the government as a loan from the IMF which the Ukrainian tax payer will be paying off for decades. When you add in lost profit and salary taxes the national loss is truly staggering.

If the government of Ukraine is serious about combating corruption then they should start with the banking system… unfortunately most of the banks in Ukraine are owned by members of parliament so there is little likelihood of any action that will damage ‘the club’.  If the government had a list of real priorities they would set up a banking regulator with real powers, they would work with the international banking system to identify the primary culprits and bring them to justice and they would establish legislation to ensure such blatant criminality could not flourish again. Only then would the world take their claims of fighting corruption seriously.

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