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19 June, 2019  ▪  Maksym Vikhrov

Anticipating revenge

What likelihood of the pro-Russian forces returning to power is and where to expect the first strike from

The change of the country's top leadership, which is taking place this year, for some is associated with high hopes and for others with great concerns. The greatest concern is the prospect of a rematch of the pro-Russian, anti-reformist forces that were removed from power after the Maidan. Today, at the end of the presidential election, the situation is still ambiguous. Under certain circumstances, Volodymyr Zelenskiy may well become a driver of revenge: given his rhetoric, as well as work in the format of “95 Kvartal”, he does not feel any moral debt to the Maidan, and the stunning election results give him (self)confidence. In addition, in the amorphous Zelenskiy team there are people associated with ex-regionals. Still, there are not enough grounds to consider him Yanukovych 2.0. If President Yanukovych consistently represented the interests of the Party of Regions that was rather monolithic at that time, then President Zelenskiy would be the product of the joint actions of several groups, the nature and goals of which differ significantly. But exactly what the alignment of forces in his coterie will be, how much he will be dependent on his team and whether he will listen to the public is still unclear.

Whether the Verkhovna Rada will become the revanchist core, the question is also open. Now the revanchist initiatives of ex-regionals are more like flirting with their own electorate. Let us recall, recently ex-regionals registered a number of draft decrees relating to the removal of Volodymyr Vyatrovich from the post of chairman of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, the removal of Andriy Parubiy from the post of speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, and the abolition of the new language law. However, given the current situation in the parliament, this “creativity” of Oleksandr Vilkul, Vadym Novinskiy and Valery Pisarenko is of no particular importance. The key question is what the situation will be after the elections. According to KIIS, as of April, five political forces could go to the VR, among which the “Servant of the People” party would get the most support - almost 26% Ukrainians were ready to vote for it (among those who decided and intended to come to the polling stations). It was intended that National Democratic forces collectively would get support of about 31% of voters (13.9% – Block Petra Poroshenka (BPP), 12.1% – Batkivshchyna (“Fatherland”), 5.1% – Hromadyanska Pozitsiya (“Civic platform”). On the other hand, the pro-Russian camp would be represented only by the party Opozytsiyna platforma – Za zhyttia (“Opposition platform – For Life”) with 15.7% of the votes. Thus, the prospects for revanchists will significantly depend on which line the presidential party will follow, which remains as “mysterious” as Zelenskiy himself. In short, what concerns the president, as well as the legislative and executive powers, is today an equation with many unknown variables. But the obvious threat comes from where it could be expected least of all, namely from the judicial power. And in this case revenge is no longer a likely prospect, but a fait accompli.

RELATED ARTICLE: The poisonous recipe from Kolomoiskiy

Revanchist technologies are now actively being worked out in the Kyiv District Administrative Court, which recently has been making scandalous decisions in a conveyor mode. It is not only about recognizing the nationalization of PrivatBank as unlawful. This decision is by far the loudest, but a long chain of extremely controversial decisions is following it. Firstly, the District Administrative Court seriously affects the personnel policy of government departments. In particular, in 2018, it reinstated in the position the former head of the SESU, Serhiy Bochkovsky, and his former deputy Vasyl Stoetsky, as well as the former head of the SFSU, Roman Nasirov. The former head of the State Aviation Service Denis Antonyuk was also reinstated, and thanks to the aforementioned court, Ekaterina Amosova remained the rector of the Bohomolets National Medical University. In general, through the District Administrative Court, 62% of the dismissed officials have been reinstated. This was announced in February 2019 by its chairman, Pavlo Vovk. In February 2019, through the same court, they tried to dismiss acting Minister of Health Uliana Suprun. A new technique of sabotage of reforms can be observed in this: if there is a lack of strength to backtrack on reforms in parliament, it is possible to fight through the court with the most reformers personally. Or, instead, to block personnel purges. In addition, the District Administrative Court has demonstrated that it can influence the work of many instrumentalities. So, in April, it banned the National Bureau of Investigation from holding a competition to form Council of Public Control, banned a competition for the position of a judge of the European Court of Human Rights from Ukraine, and also stopped the competition for the position of the head of the State Customs Service. In addition, it prohibited the appointment of members of the High Council of Justice under the presidential quota, and also initiated proceedings against five members of the High Qualifications Commission of Judges. No need to explain that in this way it is possible not only to influence the personnel of certain departments, but also to paralyze their work in general.

But the activity of the District Administrative Court is not limited to this. It has recently lifted the entry ban for Russian political consultant Igor Shuvalov, and has also lifted the ban for the TV series “In-laws”, one of actors of which, the Russian Fyodor Dobronravov, publicly supported the annexation of Crimea. Today, two more actors of “In-laws” are banned from entering Ukraine, but it is possible that they will be unblocked after Dobronravov. In the end, this may result in a massive admission of Russian artists to Ukraine, the restoration of tours and the return to the Ukrainian broadcast of Russian media content: films, TV shows, television programs, and the like. In addition to everything, the District Court has already managed to cancel the results of the verification of income declarations by the people's deputy Vadim Novinsky and suspended the renaming of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate. The judges do not conceal their readiness to actively intervene in the “big politics”. In particular, they publicly demanded the impeachment of Petro Poroshenko. And all this, let us remind, in just one month! It is possible that the interested forces will carry out revenge through the District Administrative Court, since it is it that has the authority to appeal against the decisions of all central authorities, with the exception of those of the President and the Verkhovna Rada. Still, it's not just about authority. By a strange coincidence, the personnel of the said aforementioned court are very specific.

Since 2010, the District Administrative Court has been headed by Pavlo Vovk, to whom the Public Integrity Council has a long list of suspicions, ranging from evading property declaration and ending with illegal enrichment. He is also accused of having links with politicians, namely Serhiy Kovalev and Oleksandr Hranovsky. In May 2017, NABU conducted a search on the estate belonging to Vovk’s ex-wife, and their divorce seems a fictitious one. His colleague Ihor Kachur, who, by the way, is also accused of fictitious divorce, has an equally interesting biography. He joined the District Administrative Court in 2008. Prior to that, he was Deputy Minister of Industrial Policy in the Government of Yanukovych, and before that he was a member of the odious Kivalov CEC responsible for fraud in the 2004 presidential election. Judge Volodymyr Keleberda has also been known for a long time. In particular, by the fact that in 2008 he blocked the decree of then-President Viktor Yushchenko to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada and forbade the CEC to prepare for pre-term elections. Truth to tell, this decision was later appealed to the Administrative Court of Appeal. But it was then that Keleberd got close to Andriy Portnov, then a BYuT deputy, and later a high-ranking functionary of the Yanukovych regime. In total, according to the calculations of journalists, out of 49 judges, 23 came to work in the District Administrative Court during the times of Yanukovich, so the list goes on. Experts are actively arguing about the extent to which this court is the fruit of the personnel work of Kivalov and Portnov. How it has happened is the open secret, because the judicial reform in Ukraine actually has not taken place.

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The unreformed judicial power itself was a brake on the development of Ukraine, but now it can become a powerful tool of revenge. If the pro-Russian and anti-reformist forces fail to create a majority in the Verkhovna Rada, the struggle can be transferred from the session hall to the courtroom. And a biased court can do no less harm than a revanchist government. Following the nationalization of PrivatBank, the court may not only declare lustration of a certain official unlawful, but also abolish language quotas, decommunization, blocking Russian social networks and further down the list. In addition, the District Administrative Court is unlikely to be left alone. For example, Shevchenko district court of Kyiv, which has recently canceled the arrest and search for the odious pro-Russian blogger Anatoly Shary, has already been putting out feelers. And the Constitutional Court has already put a mark by the abolition of the Criminal Code article on illegal enrichment. In public space, fears have repeatedly been expressed that the next step for CCU would be to abolish the lustration of Yanukovych officials and limit the electronic declaration. The extent to which these fears are real is a debatable question, but such a scenario is quite consistent with the logic of the events of recent weeks. Thus, the threat of revenge is very real. It is said that generals always prepare for wars that have long ended. It seems that the Ukrainian civil society, at least its opposition-minded part, is also preparing for a rematch according to the 2010 scenario. But this time the threat is looming from a completely different angle. And it is still not clear how to resist it.

Translated by Anna Korbut 

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