Ukraine's parliament sacks corruption-tainted prosecutor

29th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday sacked the former Soviet country's scandal-tainted chief prosecutor over his perceived refusal to investigate corruption and attempts to cover up state graft.

The decision should cheer Western allies who have expressed increasing concern about Ukraine reverting to its old bad habits since ousting the disdained Russian-backed president and choosing an alliance with Europe in an historic 2014 revolt.

Lawmakers voted by an overwhelming 289 votes to six to accept the resignation of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin from the post he has held since February 2015.

"Hallelujah! Finally!" Ukraine's acting Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius tweeted moments after the vote.

The frustrated but respected Lithuanian-born economy chief had himself in February submitted a letter of resignation in protest over corruption that parliament has not yet approved.

Shokin has been ensnared in a web of ugly allegations that also cast a cloud over Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's commitment to the transparent and democratic course he promised to champion when elected in May 2014.

His many critics accused Shokin of failing to probe the alleged theft of state funds by the deposed Russian-backed leadership and of stalling investigations into prosecutors who were fired after being discovered hoarding cash and diamonds in their homes.

Shokin has also purportedly covered up the corrupt dealings of people close to the ruling regime.

Poroshenko asked Shokin -- viewed as one of his closer allies -- to resign in the face of mounting pressure during a rowdy February 16 parliament session that saw Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk survive a no-confidence vote.

Shokin submitted his letter of resignation but did not go out without a fight.

One of his final acts in office on Tuesday was to fire his reformist deputy Davit Sakvarelidze -- a top Shokin critic who had called for his boss's dismissal.

Shokin said he was removing Sakvarelidze "for grave violations of prosecutors' ethic and interference in the work of another prosecutor in ways not stipulated by legislation."

- Stormy political future -

But Yatsenyuk's decision to cling on to his premiership post has created a new wave of uncertainty over the political stability of a nation that is already suffering from a nearly two-year conflict in the pro-Russian separatist east.

Poroshenko last week again called on Yatsenyuk to finally step down and for parliament to pick his successor during Tuesday's session.

The president's party has nominated parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman to head the future cabinet.

But parliament cannot vote twice on Yatsenyuk's future in the same session and must wait for the prime minister himself to step down before choosing his successor.

Parliament's largest factions were due to consult later on Tuesday about what they intended to do about Yatsenyuk and whether to keep the pro-Western ruling coalition intact.

The pro-EU majority's breakup would give the president the right to call snap elections within a month -- something Poroshenko has said he would prefer not to do.

But one member of the president's party sounded gloomy heading into the coalition talks.

"Whether we want them or not, snap parliamentary elections are moving ever closer," Sergiy Leshchenko wrote on Facebook.


© 2016 AFP

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