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17 December, 2012  ▪  Oleksandr Mykhelson

The US Bans Visa for Prosecutor General

The West begins to launch sanctions against some representatives of the Yanukovych regime, but the first “victim” appears to be a provocateur

Ukrainian officials are beginning to be persona non grata in the West. At least, this is the conclusion made by a good few observers of the scandal surrounding the First Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Renat Kuzmin, whose visa for entry into the USA was revoked. As is well-known, in early October, following the approval of the US Senate resolution regarding official Kyiv, which proposed banning representatives of the Ukrainian Government, involved in the Tymoshenko case from entering US territory, including the Deputy Prosecutor General, Kuzmin wrote a letter to the US Congress and Vice President Biden with a proposal to address the US Congress in order to tell them the “truth” about Tymoshenko and her complicity in the murder of four people. However, on 19 October, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, John Tefft, personally informed him of the cancellation of his multi-entry five-year visa.

An open letter to the US President Barack Obama dated 3 December, states that American officials are supposedly hampering investigations in the case of the 1996 assassination of Yevhen Shcherban. Kuzmin claims that the US Justice Department has documents and evidence provided by Petro Kyrychenko, a former aid of Lazarenko, Lazarenko himself and ex-Major Mykola Melnychenko, which confirm Tymoshemlo’s guilt. However, Kuzmin complains that the American side is not responding to the application for the transfer of this evidence, made by the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine. Moreover, the Deputy Prosecutor General asserts that “On the initiative of some American and Ukrainian politicians, the US Justice Department has developed a detailed plan to counteract and destroy the case on the assassination of Yevhen Shcherban”. Kuzmin then discloses highly controversial details. According to the letter, he was supposed to be arrested on the territory of the USA, for exerting pressure on Melnychenko. So  Kuzmin would have languished in an American jail, had the  ex-Major not warned him of the insidious plans of adversaries on the other side of the ocean.

Specialists in the field of diplomacy, questioned by The Ukrainian Week, see this story as a bad joke. According to all diplomatic standards, deputy prosecutor generals and even prosecutor generals do not write letters to the presidents of other countries. The situation regarding the revocation of Kuzmin’s visa also seems strange. It is known that it was not a diplomatic visa, which ensures immunity against criminal prosecution (in contrast to a “green” diplomatic passport, which he has, but which does not provide for such immunity). At the same time, well-informed sources of The Ukrainian Week stress that the Ukrainian official could only have been arrested in the USA for espionage or a felony offence. In a 2010 interview, Kuzmin remarked briefly that he was conducting “investigative procedures” with Petro Kyrychenko in the United States. If there was no official permission for this from competent US bodies, Kuzmin clearly violated American law. However, as those interviewed by The Ukrainian Week stated, he would only have been expelled from the country for doing this, not arrested.

The lack of reaction from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General and the Presidential Administration to the “diplomatic incident” can only be evidence of the attempt by the Ukrainian government to distance itself as much as possible from the incident with Kuzmin, saying in effect, that this is a personal issue, in order to avoid suddenly coming under the heavy hand of those “insidious Americans”.

Steven Pifer, US Ambassador to Ukraine in 1998-2000 and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution

Ukrainian-American relations have deteriorated due to the democratic regression that has taken place in Ukraine over the past two years. This includes - but by no means is limited to - the selective prosecution of former government officials such as Yulia Tymoshenko. Mr. Kuzmin's letter will not change that.

I found the letter odd for a couple of reasons.  First, it is odd for a foreign government official of Mr. Kuzmin's rank to send an open letter to the president of the United States.  I assume that he does not expect a reply.  Second, it is odd that Mr. Kuzmin believes the U.S. Department of Justice would elaborate a plan aimed at discrediting him and is worried that he might be arrested.  That is not the way the Department of Justice works.  Moreover, if Mr. Kuzmin wants to travel to the United States on official business connected with his duties as deputy prosecutor general, he would as a Ukrainian official normally apply for a diplomatic visa that would confer immunity protecting him from arrest.

Finally, it is hard to understand why the Ukrainian government continues to have Mr. Kuzmin out in public addressing Western audiences so often.  I do not think that helps to make the government's argument.  In September he appeared at a conference on a panel regarding the Tymoshenko case.  He sought to persuade the audience that the Ukrainian legal system was impartial, that the government did not selectively prosecute former officials, and that it had correctly handled Tymoshenko.  Judging by the reactions I heard from many Americans and other Europeans there, his presentation and comments had exactly the opposite impact.

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