Recently a meeting took place in Washington among a group of U.S. politicians including former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker and representatives of several Ukrainian civic organizations. According to our source who wishes to not to be named, the key issue discussed during this meeting was the issue of national reconciliation as a solution for Ukraine, our economically troubled ally in Eastern Europe. Journalists were not invited to the meeting because the Ukrainian representatives explained that they were not interested in media coverage due to growing radical movements and buildup of aggression in Ukrainian society. Alternative points of view are summarily rejected in Ukraine, the civic leaders explained.
It is well known that international financial institutions are undertaking serious efforts in order to stabilize the Ukraine economy and are pouring U.S. dollars into it. However, dizzying corruption and unproductive expenditures for the war in Donbass make the efforts of the international community seem wasteful. Instead of the expected growth of internal GDP, the recent years have seen its steady decline, as educated Ukrainians are fleeing their own country.
There is growing animosity between Ukraine and Russia, which could lead to an escalation of armed conflict between the two. If this were to happen, Europe will be forced to take an active role in the growing feud. In this regard, the Trump administration and the State Department appreciate the need to resort to new measures in order to counteract Ukraine’s economic and political death spiral. The first step to halt Ukraine’s plummet into chaos should be the process of reconciliation.
It is unfortunate that Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, had taken the course towards legal persecution of his political opponents. This persecution is carried out using utilitarian means counter to the rule of law. As a former Soviet regime, Ukraine has a history of using its law enforcement institutions to do its political bidding, relying on unsavory methods to reach political objectives. In this regard, Ukraine and President Poroshenko may not be alone, but given current geopolitical dynamics, the stakes are particularly high for Ukraine and the United States.
The courts, which are controlled by these politicians and oligarchs, and, are not truly independent, often render verdicts that advance the agenda that is motivated by efforts to eliminate political opponents rather than advance interests of justice or welfare of the Ukrainian people. The current trial of the former president, Victor Yanukovych, is an example of such extra-legal execution. In Ukraine and now elsewhere it is often referred to as a “parody of trial.” The prosecution failed to produce any substantive proof of guilt to the serious charges of treason. Yanukovych’s American and Ukrainian attorneys have documented the myriad of material irregularities and flagrant disregard for process and the law. The Ukrainian court has repeatedly violated the law and the rights of the defendant, rejecting the pleas of his defense attorneys to carry out the expert analysis of handwriting and to bring forth key witnesses for the defense.
The trial was concluded with disregard for Ukraine’s rule of law and universal principles of legal equity and human rights. The defendant was even deprived of his right to deliver closing remarks. The judges would not postpone the closing arguments at the request of Yanukovych’s lawyers due to his recent serious injury. Justice is often tested at the outskirts during the toughest cases – when it really matters. The Yanukovych trial is an indication that Ukraine’s political reforms are failing. A guilty verdict will be seen as contrived, and regardless of Yanukovych’s guilt or innocence, the failures at the trial level will surely empower the former president to appeal to Ukraine’s Supreme Court, and subsequently to the European Court of Human Rights, which may very well exonerate Yanukovych.
The U.S. politicians promised that materials related to this case will be requested from the Obolon court of the city of Kyiv, and alleged violations of human rights and rule of law will be vetted by Western experts. According to open source and our contacts in the Republican Party, the Trump administration is concerned about growing political persecutions in Ukraine in light of upcoming presidential elections there. Trials cannot be usurped to cater to personal political agenda of any official, and this is a concern for a country that seeks to become a full-fledged member of the European Union.
Again, instead of political vendettas, Ukraine ought to focus on national reconciliation, stopping the war in Donbass, restoring the economy and getting the country out of its economic crisis. Today, Ukraine is an ally of both the U.S. and the EU, but it is also a failed state at war with Russia and with itself. As part of the reconciliation, it may be worthwhile to involve Yanukovych into the process of the reconciliation in war-torn Donbass. Ukraine needs to bring Donbass home. The World Bank and the IMF also stress the importance of the Donbass for economic growth of Ukraine. The Ukrainian representatives stressed that the “experience of Victor Yanukovych and the influence that he still wields possesses among the residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions could play a positive role ending the war there.”
Last month, the Trump administration made private requests that Ukraine considers getting the former president involved in the peace process and that Ukraine adheres to human rights principles in its administration of justice, referencing the Yanukovych trial as one that is being watched.
In late 2018, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III sent a letter to President Poroshenko with the message of reconciliation, calling upon President Poroshenko to terminate political persecution of Yanukovych. He also asked that the former president be involved in the process of peaceful settlement in the Donbass. Taking into account that the Minsk Agreement has reached a deadlock, and the level of negativity in the Russia-Ukraine relations has been overwhelming, getting Yanukovych involved can be an effective option in reaching a peaceful settlement salvaging Ukraine’s national identity.
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