The President’s Staffing Criteria
. Oleh Salo
The president’s latest appointment as Lviv regional governor has elicited outrage in the region and warrants attention beyond. Police General Oleh Salo will be the fifth to hold this post since Yanukovych became president. The choice is at very least provocative especially given the inclusion of electoral and law enforcement reforms among the requirements for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Salo was for some time on the wanted list over alleged involvement in election fraud during the 2004 elections which prompted the Orange Revolution. That knock to his career was never especially serious and ended when Yanukovych was elected President.
The 45-year-old police general began his career in the traffic police [DAI] becoming head of the Lviv regional DAI in 2000. He is reported to have links with Viktor Medvedchuk who was the head of Kuchma’s Administration in 2004. In 2003, aged 35, Salo was appointed head of the Lviv regional police.
Various scandals appear to have begun during his time in the traffic police, and in 2003 the parliamentary committee on fighting organized crime and corruption asked Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, to dismiss Oleh Salo for abuse of official position. This is Ukraine and that can mean a lot or nothing at all depending on who’s in power.
On the other hand, the news of his latest appointment was met with shouts of “shame!” from journalists who associate his period as head of police with pressure on the media. Radio Svoboda reports large-scale protests in 2003-2004 by Lviv small business owners against politically motivated pressure by the tax police and law enforcement bodies generally.
Yanukovych clearly ignored the parliamentary committee’s request and Salo remained in his post as head of the Lviv regional police until just after the Orange Revolution. He was dismissed by the new Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, and in February 2005 the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated two criminal investigations against him over alleged infringements of electoral legislation and abuse of his power and official position. He was declared on the international wanted list.
There are a number of terms which tend to have a rather different meaning in the Ukrainian context. According to one report on Zakhid.net, while Interpol was vigilantly watching for Salo abroad, the man was not overly trying to conceal his presence in his home region. In February 2007 the criminal investigations were terminated, officially for want of elements of a crime. Unofficially, the political context does not seem irrelevant: Viktor Yanukovych was now back as Prime Minister after Moroz and the socialists had dramatically changed sides, creating a majority with the Party of the Regions and communists.
The good days for Salo returned with a vengeance after Yanukovych;s election as president in 2010. Salo was first appointed head of police in the Rivne oblast, then in the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast.
Not all comments about the appointment have been negative: Hanna Herman, former Presidential adviser, now MP, waxed lyrical about a supposedly excellent appointment, saying that „a firm hand” is needed. The term can also be interpreted in various ways. The Interior Ministry’s management over the last three years has demonstrated anything but firmness in combating torture, ill-treatment, extortion and other abuses by police officers. The police, however, have become extremely proactive, and often gratuitously rough, in their treatment of peaceful protesters. The traffic, tax and other police are also increasingly used for purposes that have no place in a democratic society, such as preventing protesters reaching planned demonstrations in Kyiv, using tax police checks to persuade opposition activists to give up their activities, etc.
Since Salo’s appointment is viewed by many commentators as preparation for the 2015 presidential elections, the message could not be clearer.