Today Svyatoslav Piskun, Ukrainian political activist, three times General Prosecutor of Ukraine; general lieutenant of the tax police; first State Class Counselor of Justice, Head of the Union of Lawyers of Ukraine, Vice-President of the International Fund of Lawyers Ukraine, member of the High Council of Justice of Ukraine, is the guest of our “Big Interview” show.
Recently, Ukraine has witnessed a unique historical event. First, we have never judged the president, and, second, the ex-parte court ruling was applied.
I agree it was an unusual case. In order to convict Viktor Yanukovych and his close associates, his criminal group, as the Attorney General said, some special legislation was created. It was decided to introduce an absentee pre-trial investigation, an extramural judicial special examination of the case, an absentee special confiscation. That is, the general rules of law, which today we have in Ukraine, did not work. And the norms of general international law did not work. Our law enforcement agencies hoped that the international investigative mandate provided by the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office would be carried out. They hoped Yanukovych would be interrogated, and the documents concerning his case would be transferred to the Ukrainian side, to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. But this did not happen.
It was expected that Yanukovych would get a life sentence.
The fact is that there would be a chance for an appeal, cassation. It is difficult to comment on the court decision if you are not familiar with all the case details. But if the court had reason to give 13 years, then what's the difference – 15 or 13 years, if the corpus delicti is proven? And indeed, there was no confiscation of property. And this is an additional measure of punishment. Do they think there is nothing to take from Yanukovych?
So what does this sentence really mean to Yanukovych? His fate is completely in the hands of Putin.
Nothing. Yanukovych must now go to church, more often than he usually does, pray for Putin’s health, and ask God to preserve Putin’s presidency for many years. If there is no Putin, then another Russian president can simply extradite Yanukovych back to Ukraine, following the court decision and the international law. But our politicians believe that Yanukovych’s trial is only the beginning; a reason for launching an investigation into the criminal group headed by Yanukovych.
After voicing the verdict, Yanukovych’s lawyers suggested that absentia conviction would now be abolished, because, as they believe, "the current government will be afraid to keep such a prospect for themselves – no one knows what happens to them later."
I don’t know whether it is really canceled or not, but as a prosecutor, I don’t like the system of absentee investigation. I believe that even if a person is a criminal, he should get the right to defend himself in court publicly. And he should be present at the trial. At least via online services. The only time we saw Yanukovych was when Lutsenko announced his suspicion. And what happened after? Maybe he is dead already – no one knows for sure.
It looks like we are creating some myths now. Yanukovych is like a myth, like a ghost, because, as you say, he might be dead now.
Who knows. The main thing here is that we have sentenced him in absentia. We had the right to do it, and we did it. And then let his lawyers do whatever they want – write appeals, cassations, go to the ECHR.
Why didn’t we do it like the foreign intelligence services usually do: a special operation, kidnapping, deportation to Ukraine, putting behind the bars?
It is impossible. Any investigative actions in the territory of another country are prohibited. And it is punishable by criminal law. Only Wiesenthal and Mossad allowed themselves doing this. But they kidnapped the perpetrators of the Second World War and brought them to Israel in court. There were relevant units that issued a court decision in absentia on the death penalty on the spot. This is a special operation of the special services, and it is not legal, because it is the territory of another country. But, given the situation in which the world occurred after the war, they Israel and the Mossad were allowed to do it.
Yanukovych’s sentence was a unique precedent, but on March 21, 2011, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case against President Leonid Kuchma for abuse of power. The investigation had evidence that Kuchma gave illegal instructions to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which led to the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze (Georgian politician and Ukrainian journalist and film director who was kidnapped and murdered in 2000).
I have been engaged in the Gongadze case, and not like all those young prosecutors — I have been engaged for a long time. We worked and detained, arrested Pukach (Three former officials of Ukrainian Interior Ministry's foreign surveillance department and criminal intelligence unit were accused of his murder; and a fourth one Oleksiy Pukach, the former chief of the unit, was arrested in July 2009, -ed.). As for the charges against Kuchma, we studied all the records, I flew to America, met with the director of the FBI, with the US Attorney General, we all studied and concluded that there is no causal connection between what happened to Gongadze and President Kuchma’s actions. Perhaps Kuchma wanted to save his life? It is impossible to build accusations on the recordings (fragments of the Melnychenko recordings were used during in the case, - ed.). Because this is a digital recording. Moreover, Kuchma did not directly say: "kill him."
And what do you think about the criminal lobby of the Savchenko’s law (which provides for the admission of one day of pre-trial detention for two days of imprisonment)? Some people believe that Savchenko’s law was used in order to lobby this law, taking advantage of the rush around her stay in a Russian prison.
I do not exclude anything, because anything might happen in our country. If they are told to go vote for this law, they will do it.
Voter turnout in the elections is usually very low. What should be done to increase it?
In 2004, and in 2005, when I served as the General Prosecutor of Ukraine as part of the “Orange team” (Orange revolution took place in 2004 – ed.), I filed about 1,000 criminal cases concerning the violation of laws during the election of the President of Ukraine. This was about the forgery of documents, and falsification of the number, and the loss of ballots. About 150 of the 1000 cases that we filed were investigated, sent to court; only five people were sentenced to imprisonment in the Kirovograd district for falsifying documents during elections. It was a case of penetration into the central computer of the CEC. So no one bothered to examine these violations and show us who it depended on, who could get in there and change the results. Ukraine’s election system is blatant, corrupt, unverifiable, non-transparent, and the whole world says: you are the only world country that abides by XIX century elections rules. Both parliamentary and presidential elections. The whole world has long been doing it online, people vote at home.