U.S. awards Ukrainian anti-corruption figure The editor-in-chief of a Kyrgyz investigative website and a former Ukrainian prosecutor general are among 12 people who have been recognized by the U.S. State Department as anti-corruption champions. The winners of the new International Anti-Corruption Champions Award were announced on February 23 by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in a statement that the award recognizes people who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to combat corruption in their own countries.
Crimean Tatar activists detained Russian authorities have detained several Crimean Tatar activists after their homes were searched in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Crimea region. The Crimean Solidarity group told RFE/RL on February 17 that the searches were conducted at the homes of Abdulbori Makhamadaminov, Azamat Eyupov, Timur Yalkabov, Ernest Ibragimov, Oleh Fyodorov, Lenur Seydametov and Yashar Shikhametov in different towns and cities across Crimea. The official reason for the searches remains unclear.
Yanukovych’s son likely off sanctions list European Union diplomats are considering removing several of the 10 remaining Ukrainians – including Oleksandr Yanukovych, the son of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – from a list of sanctioned people the bloc believes are responsible for the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds. The EU imposed asset freezes on Viktor Yanukovych, part of his family, and his inner political circle shortly after the collapse of his government in late February 2014, but the list has slowly been whittled down over the years after some of them challenged, and sometimes won, court cases against the EU sanctions. The bloc’s losses in court have led to growing demands that the list should be pared down further or even annulled. Several EU diplomats who are familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak on the record told RFE/RL that there were “a number of ‘weak cases’ on the list that are bound to be challenged in the EU court” and that a lack of compelling evidence from Ukraine has forced the EU to consider the de-listings. Apart from Oleksandr Yanukovych, a businessman who became one of Ukraine’s richest men during his father’s reign, former Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, ex-Minister for Duties and Revenues Oleksandr Klymenko, and Dmytro Tabachnyk, who worked as minister of education from 2010 to 2014, are the most likely candidates to be removed from the list.
U.S. pledges economic, military support Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged continued U.S. economic and military support to Ukraine under President Joe Biden’s new administration. In a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba on February 1, Mr. Blinken “emphasized strong bipartisan support for Ukraine and the priority the United States places on Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the State Department said in a readout of the call.
A Ukrainian court has rejected a request by a jailed suspect in the high-profile 2016 killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet to be transferred to house arrest. Kyiv’s Shevchenko district court on January 19 ordered Andriy Antonenko to be remanded in pretrial detention. Mr. Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving his apartment to head to the studio where he hosted a morning radio show when an improvised explosive device planted under his vehicle exploded on July 20, 2016, killing him. Mr. Antonenko and two other suspects, Yulia Kuzmenko and Yana Duhar, were arrested in December 2019. Ms. Duhar and Ms. Kuzmenko were later transferred to house arrest.
Court will hear case on rights violations in Crimea
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will hear part of a case brought by Ukraine alleging Russian human rights violations in the Crimea peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, the court said on January 14. Abuses alleged by Ukraine – including enforced disappearances, unlawful detention and suppression of non-Russian media – had been deemed admissible and would be followed by a judgment at a later date, an ECHR statement said. The court said there was not enough evidence for Ukrainian allegations of a pattern of killings and shootings and detentions of foreign journalists or the alleged confiscation of Ukrainian soldiers’ property. Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the Donbass conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
Optima Ventures, the U.S. real-estate holding company owned by two Ukrainian tycoons under FBI investigation for money laundering, has filed a motion in a court in the U.S. state of Delaware to sell two more buildings in the city of Cleveland amid foreclosure proceedings. Optima Ventures, once the largest commercial real-estate operator in the Midwestern city, is seeking to sell 55 Public Square, a 22-story skyscraper, as well as its stake in the Westin Cleveland Downtown hotel, according to court documents filed on December 24, 2020. The holding company, which is controlled by Ukrainian billionaires Ihor Kolomoyskiy and Hennadiy Boholyubov, owes about $50 million on the two properties and has failed to make payments in recent months, according to separate lawsuits filed in Cleveland. The United States has accused Mr. Kolomoyskiy and Mr. Boholyubov of buying U.S. assets, including real estate and metals plants, with hundreds of millions of dollars laundered from their Kyiv-based lender PrivatBank.
Chinese investors have brought a $3.5 billion arbitration case against Ukraine for blocking the sale of a strategic aircraft engine maker whose fate Washington is closely following. The Chinese investors behind Skyrizon filed the arbitration case earlier this month, accusing Kyiv of expropriating its investment in Motor Sich after the government froze its shares in the company, the Kyiv Post reported December 17. Motor Sich owner Vyacheslav Bohuslayev agreed in 2017 to sell a majority stake in the company to Skyrizon, triggering concerns in Kyiv and Washington over the transfer of its advanced technology to Beijing. Former national-security adviser John Bolton told Ukrainian officials last year during a trip to Ukraine in 2019 that the U.S. opposes the sale of the company to China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that message this year.
The Ukrainian Parliament has voted to restore the powers of the National Anti-Corruption Agency (NAZK) as Kyiv is seeking to secure new loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight a sharp economic slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. NAZK’s chief Oleksandr Novikov hailed the December 15 vote at the Verkhovna Rada, saying it would allow the agency to “tackle corruption.” Mr. Novikov said that “NAZK resumes all its operations in all major directions now.” In October, Ukraine’s Constitutional Court struck down some anti-corruption legislation and curbed the powers of the NAZK, sparking tensions between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the opposition, and members of the court.