The U.S. urged Ukraine to dismiss its anti-corruption prosecutor and revive efforts to tackle graft, signaling displeasure at the government’s current course from its biggest international backer. The U.S. embassy in Kiev, the capital, said late Tuesday that Nazar Kholodnytskyi should be fired, legislation should be passed to replace the recent removal of punishments for illegal enrichment and 31 judges whose reputations are in question should be blocked from joining the Supreme Court.
“To ensure the integrity of anti-corruption institutions, the Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor must be replaced,” U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch said in a statement. “Those responsible for corruption should be investigated, prosecuted, and if guilty, go to jail. And in order for that to happen, all of the elements of the anti-corruption architecture must be in place and must be working effectively.”
Corruption is a major focus of campaigning for presidential elections next month, with voters angry at the only meager progress in fighting graft since a second pro-European revolution in a decade five years ago. President Petro Poroshenko, who’s seeking a second term, has submitted a new bill on ill-gotten wealth to parliament. But it’s been criticized by local activists and international organizations including the World Bank.
The incumbent himself has become embroiled in a corruption scandal after an investigative TV show implicated his ally, Oleh Hladkovskyi, of embezzlement. While both men deny wrongdoing, Poroshenko removed Hladkovskyi as deputy head of the National Security and Defense Council on Monday.
The office of the special anti-corruption prosecutor was established in 2015 to help bring crooked officials to justice but hasn’t made significant inroads, with Kholodnytskyi himself being accused of misconduct in July 2018.
“The credibility of anti-graft prosecutors has been damaged by recent missteps,” the International Monetary Fund said in January. Ukraine agreed on a $3.9 billion stand-by agreement with the lender last year. The first tranche of $1.4 billion was disbursed last year and the second is due to be transferred after a review in May.