Saakashvili announces latest removal of corrupt official
The head of the Illichivsk port, Yuriy Kruk, has been placed on leave for his alleged role in corruption, Odesa Regional Administration Head Mikheil Saakashvili announced at a July 23 press conference. Several days earlier, the port signed an agreement on renting the first and second berths with an offshore company, removing it from state control and contributing to the budget, he said. The Infrastructure Ministry helped remove Kruk to hire a temporary replacement, he said. The ministry will perform a review of the port’s work and financial audit, the pravda.com.ua news site reported.
Zenon Zawada: Saakashvili’s battle against corruption keeps impressing. Every few weeks, he targets a new structure, whether public or private, and finds the legal levers to remove its head, which is the source of corruption in most structures. As we expected, Saakashvili is targeting the smaller players first, in a tactic of acquiring experience and building his arsenal as he moves towards bigger targets. Unlike the top officials in Kyiv — some of whom use the anti-corruption battle as a pretext to eliminate political opponents or build their own corrupt networks – we believe Saakashvili is motivated by the desire to renew his standing among Western leaders and solidify his reputation as among the most effective politicians in the post-Soviet sphere.
The big question is just how far Saakashvili will take his anti-corruption campaign. We continue to believe that he will refrain from targeting the big players, especially not having acquired the necessary political capital. Moreover, his political maneuvers have demonstrated that he is loyal to President Petro Poroshenko and is playing by the unwritten rules of his team. Therefore, Saakashvili won’t make any moves that will get the president in trouble with the key players of Odesa, a region where the president has built up quite a strong support base. Saakashvili also doesn’t see the need for overshadowing the president. In short, he has demonstrated himself to be a tactical, clever and effective political player in the wild Ukrainian steppe. So far.
Zakarpattia magnate alleges conspiracy in July 11 Mukacheve shootout
Viktor Baloha, widely recognized as the kingpin of the Zakarpattia region, told a July 23 press conference that Praviy Sektor became an instrument in the July 11 armed conflict in Mukacheve, which was an operation planned among top Kyiv officials to pursue business, political and criminal interests. He outlined a conspiracy to simultaneously take over the contraband trade and ruin the public standing of Praviy Sektor, also alleging that among those involved was Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, reported the pravda.com.ua news site.
At the same time, Baloha said he had no interest in the July 11 armed conflict, as had been alleged. He acknowledged that he has financed the Praviy Sektor paramilitary group in his region, as well as in Kyiv, though this financing was small compared to funds provided for a Ukrainian Armed Forces brigade based in Mukacheve. He also said he financed the EuroMaidan protest in the winter of 2013.
Zenon Zawada: Setting aside Baloha’s conspiracy claims, what’s valuable here is the first public acknowledgment of an influential businessman or oligarch financing Praviy Sektor, Ukraine’s largest paramilitary group. This has troubling implications, given that Praviy Sektor has challenged the government’s monopoly of power and is currently engaged in an open political conflict with both the Presidential Administration, and the Cabinet of Ministers. Baloha’s statement seems to have been aimed at demonstrating his loyalty to the president and discrediting Praviy Sektor’s Robin Hood image.
As the war drags on, the domestic political and business configuration is growing more precarious, with an entire series of rivalries threatening the stability of the state. If Baloha financed Praviy Sektor in Zakarpattia, who can doubt that the organization is being financed in another region, to fulfill some narrow interests other than the state’s well-being? The government is trying to restrict the activity of Praviy Sektor, but as we’ve mentioned, it will have to do so in a way that doesn’t boost its public support. Pursuing reforms and anti-corruption is the best method in dealing with the threats posed by Praviy Sektor.