Ukraine nationalists to launch “no confidence” referendum in government

(Concorde Capital Political Report July 22)

Up to 4,000 members and supporters of Praviy Sektor, Ukraine’s leading paramilitary organization, rallied at Kyiv’s central square, the Maidan, to declare their disapproval for the politics of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his handling of the war in Donbas with the Russian government. Speakers complained about ongoing government corruption and political persecution of volunteer battalions. Some battalion leaders threatened a revolt against the current government though Praviy Sektor leader Dmytro Yarosh said he opposed any government overthrow, which he said would play into the hands of Moscow.

Praviy Sektor, which has a nationalist ideology skeptical of the West, will launch a nationwide referendum today to declare “no confidence” in the President, Prime Minister and the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, said Yarosh, who is himself an MP. The referendum will also pose questions supporting or rejecting the organization’s key demands, which are renouncing the Minsk accords, redefining the anti-terrorist operation as a war and allowing for military offensives and imposing an economic blockade on the occupied territories of Donbas.

Recently, Poroshenko said he would consider new rules that would prosecute all those not legally authorized to carry arms as terrorists. Hennadiy Moskal, the recently appointed regional administration head of the Zakarpattia region, accused Praviy Sektor of engaging in organizing crime, and carrying out kidnappings and extortion of local business.

Zenon Zawada: Instead of holding a rally to merely criticize the government and its alleged persecution campaign of paramilitaries and volunteer battalions, Praviy Sektor turned the tables in the current infowar by declaring the “no confidence” referendum. It’s intended to turn public support in its favor against the government and it was quite a wise political maneuver.

Until the Ukrainian government gets its act together and earns the public trust through reforms and fighting corruption, it will have to deal with the Praviy Sektor as a legitimate organization and reach compromises with its leaders. Praviy Sektor’s popularity is directly correlated with the public’s lack of trust in the government, which means it will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. While it remains on the margins of Ukrainian politics, barely qualifying for parliament according to polls, its potential to muster more support is significant as fatigue with the war grows.

Yanukovych dropped from INTERPOL search, lawyers allege

A law firm representing former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced on July 21 that it succeeded in removing him from INTERPOL’s list of suspects under international search and wanted for arrest, a category called “red notice.” The law firm, Joseph Hage Aaronson, claimed INTERPOL took into account its argument that the Ukrainian government’s request for his arrest was part of a campaign of political persecution.

The Ukrainian government’s request to INTERPOL for Yanukovych’s arrest was based on a fraud conspiracy involving the anonymous purchase of the Ukrtelecom state telecom monopoly, reported MP Serhiy Leshchenko on July 21. He was declared a suspect in October 2014 and placed under INTERPOL search in January.

INTERPOL has temporarily restricted access to information about the search for Yanukovych, MP Anton Gerashchenko reported on his Facebook page on July 21. He didn’t confirm that INTERPOL dropped the Yanukovych search altogether. Instead, he claimed that INTERPOL merely restricted public access to the Yanukovych case pending appeal, which he claimed was standard procedure following a complaint filed by the former president and his lawyers.

Yanuokvych’s case will be reviewed in September by an INTERPOL commission, the news site reported, citing a July 21 statement by the Interior Ministry. The statement also claimed that access was merely restricted and his search was not dropped.

Zenon Zawada: Based on these conflicting statements, it’s not clear whether INTERPOL has dropped its search for Yanukovych altogether. Yet at minimum, it seems as though he has avoided being the target of a search until September, when this commission hearing will apparently be held.

It’s a flawed policy for INTERPOL to be avoiding the pursuit of such high-profile alleged criminals based on the desire to avert politics, which is a pervasive factor in many parts of the world. The organization, which is financed by its member-states, has to adapt its criteria to address the peculiarities of the post-Soviet world, in which business, politics and crime are one and of the same.

Yanukovych is the ultimate symbol of Ukrainian corruption. His ability to evade arrest – as well as almost everyone in his entourage – remains among the largest embarrassments of the current government, regardless of the apparent hurdles on the international arena. This failure chips away at the public’s trust in the current government, as well as in Western institutions.