The writer is president of Ukraine
Ukraine is under attack. Not just at its borders, but also at the heart of its democratic institutions. I want to reassure our international partners that we will fight back and prevail.
Last week, Ukraine’s constitutional court issued a destructive ruling in an effort to dismantle our anti-corruption architecture. The judges declared that the National Agency on Corruption Prevention had no constitutional right to review and reveal the asset declarations made by public servants, and that filing false information would no longer be a criminal offence.
The 2016 introduction of compulsory electronic declarations and liability for illicit enrichment were the first, and most important, steps in building a framework to eliminate corruption in Ukraine. It was then that Ukrainians discovered the outrageous wealth of top officials’ exposed in the declarations.
Undermining this process is an attempt to destroy an essential part of the anti-corruption achievements of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, built by Ukrainian civil society with the active support of our western partners. It follows another recent ruling of the constitutional court which undermined the authority and leadership of the National Anticorruption Bureau, which was set up to investigate graft among top public servants.
These rulings are part of a systematic effort to undermine the rule of law, push back against the progress made in our fight against corruption, weaken our society and economy and, last but not least, stop Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
Of particular concern is the fact that there are a number of other petitions — from pro-Russian MPs and those supported by oligarchs — pending before the constitutional court, that are designed to cancel our most recent major reforms, in areas such as land, banking and the anti-corruption court. I am proud that we have succeeded in implementing these vital reforms for the country, but now the constitutional court threatens to cynically dismantle them.
The leaders of this campaign are well known: it is a coalition of Russian proxies and some prominent Ukrainian oligarchs who feel threatened by the activities of our anti-corruption institutions. They oppose EU and Nato integration, Ukraine’s co-operation with the IMF and a rule-based society that would benefit the 99 per cent, not just the 1 per cent.
As president of Ukraine, I will never allow these dark forces to succeed in their attempt at a counter-revolution. The priority of the Ukrainian people is clearer than ever: it is about ending corruption and reinforcing the rule of law.
To protect and reinforce our anti-corruption infrastructure, I have decided to take a series of extraordinary measures. The National Security and Defence Council, which I chair, has taken steps to restore the e-declarations.
I have also submitted a bill to parliament aimed at re-establishing our anti-corruption institutions and requested our civil servants to maintain their anti-graft activities, no matter what. Additionally, I asked parliament to restructure the composition of the constitutional court, which has lost credibility and authority.
This is a kangaroo court and its head is under investigation for having purchased in 2018 a property in Russian-occupied Crimea, in full violation of Ukrainian law, and not having reported it in his e-declaration.
Several judges of this court are also being probed by the NACP for not fully disclosing their assets under the very same legislation that they just ruled illegal — this is an extraordinary and unacceptable conflict of interest. It is not surprising that even before this crisis, just 2.2 per cent of the Ukrainian population fully trusted the constitutional court. These judges need to be replaced by independent, well-respected jurists.
We are also opening investigations against the people who acted illegally on behalf of vested interests of well-known influential financial groups and foreign powers to destroy our anti-corruption agencies. And, I have asked the government to start consultations and design a wide and ambitious judicial reform programme, which will include a clean-up of the courts.
In these challenging times, I call on all Ukrainian pro-reform political forces and civil society to unite and co-operate in this fight for the soul and the future of our nation. I also call on our international partners and allies to keep on supporting us, and prove wrong those who are trying to oppose and derail our co-operation.