Oleh Koretskyi, an investigator who has recently been sacked from Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), gave an interview to EURACTIV after stating publicly earlier this month that he was being pressured to continue investigations into former president Petro Poroshenko.
Koretskyi went public on 8 July, claiming he was under pressure from acting SBI director Oleksandr Sokolov and his first deputy, Oleksandr Babikov, to continue to work on cases involving Poroshenko despite lack of evidence.
The SBI responded in a statement that the allegations were “untrue and politically motivated.”
“There are permissible time limits and when all the possible actions have been done, one cannot investigate further,” Koretskyi told EURACTIV.
The investigator said he was pressured to investigate opposition-affiliated Pryamiy channel because of suspected tax fraud.
“As of now, there’s nothing absolutely nothing to investigate there at all. It’s all been fully investigated and there is no corpus delicti,” he told EURACTIV.
Last week, the channel issued a statement saying its staff “has not been able to work peacefully, as it is under total pressure from the authorities.”
Poroshenko is being investigated in 23 open cases, — with four others recently closed — a number of which were launched after a wave of criminal complaints submitted by Andriy Portnov, the former deputy head in the administration of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted during the Euromaidan revolution of 2014.
Portnov had spent five years in exile after the revolution and only returned to Ukraine last year.
The EPP – the European family to which Poroshenko belongs – has repeatedly denounced what it said was selective justice against him.
Koretskyi was fired last week following staff cuts, but he believes the real reason he was let go was that the new circles in charge “don’t need civil servants who tell the truth and don’t listen to them, just obedient people who will do what they say.”
Koretskyi had worked at the bureau since spring last year, and said that internal problems only started in January.
Koretskyi said he had told Babikov and Sokolov in March that he was “sorry the time limit is over. I don’t want me or my investigators to be accused of political persecution, in 90 percent of cases here, there is no crime”.
He said Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova — former adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky and lawmaker from his party – had told him that “we will hire a PR team, we will promote you, you will be in the spotlight, the most important thing for us is to get Petya [Poroshenko]”.
Venediktova was the acting head of the SBI from December 2019 to mid-March, replacing in her current position Ruslan Riaboshapka, whose dismissal raised concerns from civil society groups as well as lawmakers in the European Parliament.
Asked to react to allegations of ties to the former president, Koretskyi laughed, saying he had first been accused of being Portnov’s man, then of being an ally of Kolomoyskiy, one of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchs and Poroshenko’s enemy, and now of Granovsky, an ex-MP close to Poroshenko.
“I don’t work for anyone but my conscience,” he said, adding “the funniest thing is, I’ve never been in contact with any of these people.”
“Poroshenko doesn’t like me, this is purely my subjective opinion,” Koretskyi said, pointing out that he had only seen Poroshenko during the interrogations.
Speaking of Ukraine in general, Koretskyi said that “as a citizen, [I can say] there are no reforms. I can’t see them, I can’t feel them.”
“We want to live in Europe,” said the ex-investigator, who is now worried that Ukrainians will be disillusioned with the current administration.
“They were given just an unprecedented chance in Ukraine, [by] those 73% who voted clearly not for Zelensky, but against Poroshenko.”
Zelensky, a former comedian, was elected president in May 2019 with a landslide victory on an anti-corruption and reform platform but recent government reshuffles and accusations of political pressure of independent institutions have raised fears of backpedalling.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]