With still 5 months to go before the Presidential elections in Ukraine pro-Russian elements are openly at work to disrupt the democratic process with blatant corruption, illegal practice and dirty tricks, writes James Wilson.
Europe cannot afford to sit idly by and watch its values and principles trampled upon in this friendly neighbouring country by an aggressive expansionist Russia. The behaviour to manipulate political process is just as blatant as the military naval aggression by Russia in the Azov Sea, and it should not go unpunished.
The latest to fall victim to attack is the Agrarian Party of Ukraine. They organised their party Congress last Sunday, 21 October, at which members decided to nominate their party Chairman Vitaliy Skotsyk to run as a Presidential candidate in March 2019.
The Congress also approved changes to the structure of the party, and to the party’s constitution. The events were televised, and widely reported in the Ukrainian media; there can be absolutely no doubt about what were the genuine official communiqués issued by the Congress.
For several months now the party has been under pressure to become subservient to pro-Russian forces directed by the political consultant Vladimir Granovsky. This has been consistently refused and resisted by the Agrarian party in order to preserve its identity as an independent, grass roots, democratic political force.
But this week the attacks from the pro-Russian forces were ratcheted up severely with a brutal attempt to seize control of the party by registering fraudulent documents with the Ukrainian Justice Ministry purporting to change the party leadership with the National Register. This is nothing less than a clumsy “raider attack” on the Agrarian party, a business strategy commonly adopted in the former soviet space to seize control of company assets, but which is the first instance that I know of where the tactic is employed in an attempt to steal control of a political party. These illegal actions must be condemned and the integrity of the political party protected.
A crowd of several thousand of the Agrarian Party faithful demonstrated yesterday (25 October) outside the Ministry of Justice in Kyiv to register their protest against this scandalous behaviour. They have already delivered complaints to the anti-Corruption office (NABU), the Prosecutor General, the Secret Service (SBU) and the National Police, alleging criminal fraud and corrupt behaviour on the part of the Ministry of Justice. But even in the face of an investigation into these allegations, Deputy Minister Olena Sukmanova has approved the changes requested in the false documents in the national state register, in a move which must call into question her integrity.
Agrarian Party Growing Strongly
The Agrarian party clearly is perceived as a potential threat by the Kremlin and its sympathisers. It is the only independent party that has developed in Ukraine since 2014. It has been performing extremely well in local elections during the last four years. It has high ambitions for presidential and parliamentary elections and is struggling to wean the Ukrainian political system away from Russian influence.
From a European perspective it is absolutely unacceptable to tolerate corrupt administration of the political party system, and we cannot turn a blind eye to the hijacking of the electoral process in Ukraine. We have a clear interest and a responsibility to demand transparency from Minister Pavlenko, and to insist that Russia desists from such meddling and acts of skulduggery. Ukraine is at a crossroads in its progress towards building a true democracy that reflects the will of its people, and Ukrainian voters should be allowed to make their own choices next year in free and fair elections without interference or manipulation.
The author, James Wilson, is a Founding Director of the EU Ukraine Business Council