Tymoshenko’s prosecutor gets another job. What’s behind the scenes?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Renat Kuzmin, the prosecutor investigating Yulia Tymoshenko, has suddenly got another job. Maybe it’s too early to see an opening vis-à-vis the EU, but the issue is worth following, writes Vadym Omelchenko.

“Today (4 October), the Ukrainian media have broken the news that at the decree of President Viktor Yanukovych, the first deputy prosecutor general, Renat Kuzmin, has been appoined to the Council for National Security and Defence of Ukraine.

Undoubtedly, this is not an “appointment”, but a demotion, since among the Ukrainian political classes the CNSD is considered a dusty room for disgraced functionaries.

It should be noted that Kuzmin has been one of the main actors in political processes in Ukraine over recent years. His name was directly linked to the criminal prosecution of the former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, and other former officials and opposition representatives.

It would be wise to stop short of interpreting Kuzmin’s resignation as deputy prosecutor general as a positive sign that Tymoshenko might be freed and that there may be improvements in the rule of law on the eve of the Vilnius Summit. That conclusion should not be fully excluded either, however. The resignation was preceded by another decision to change the structure of the Prosecutor General’s Office. This change deprived Kuzmin of control over the Department for Investigation of Major Cases, which is handling the cases against Tymoshenko and others.

At the same time, over the past week Kuzmin gave several high-profile interviews in which his key message was that he was only carrying out instructions received from above in the cases of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. This was a veiled comment about the lack of the independence of the prosecutor’s office in Ukraine. Kuzmin also stated that there was a legal possibility to pardon Tymoshenko through a presidential decree.

Some observers indicated that the interviews contained some hints at blackmail and an attempt to improve his own image in a case of successful solution of the Tymoshenko case.

Probably, these PR activities and difficulties in the communication with the prosecutor general also could be the reasons for Kuzmin’s resignation. But the most important were the obvious failures in the investigation led by Kuzmin in the cases against Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. Weak evidence on which the courts’ decisions where consequently based gave rise to strong criticism of these processes inside Ukraine and abroad, and considerably worsened the image of Ukraine.

Kuzmin’s resignation occurred after he was called to appear before the President and had a personal conversation with him on 2 October.

It is worth mentioning that this is a somewhat 'soft' dismissal , since Kuzmin remains well-connected politically. Indeed it is feasible he may seek appointment as the chief of the State Investigation Bureau, work for creation of which is underway now in Ukraine.

It is also significant that Oleksandr Kalifitsky, who will now return to the office of the chief of the Central Investigation Department, was also involved in the investigation on the cases of Tymoshenko and Lutsenko, and is often considered one of Kuzmin’s closest partners.

The next steps of the Ukrainian leadership will show whether Kuzmin’s resignation is related to a change in legal policy and a softening towards the fates of Tymoshenko and her associates before the Vilnius Summit. A single resignation of one significant official is not, of itself, proof that the situation is changing.”

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