Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 177

On September 25, in a request carrying implications for parliament deputies purportedly engaged in questionable activities, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office asked the parliament to lift the deputy immunity from businessman and parliamentary deputy Mykola Ahafonov. Ahafonov, a former director of the Naukova agricultural company of Dnipropetrovsk region, is suspected of large-scale embezzlement, currency violations and forgery (Ukrainian television, September 25, Segodnya [Kyiv], Den, September 26). The opposition-dominated parliament–several of whose prominent members law enforcement would like to see behind the bars on similar charges–is unlikely to create a precedent by giving consent to an arrest of Ahafonov. However, this, after the arrest of Mykola Syvulskyy (see the Monitor, September 18), is another blow to the Dnipropetrovsk “clan” of Lazarenko-Tymoshenko, which fell out with Kuchma last year. It is in particular a clear warning to former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko, who was often mentioned in connection with Naukova.

On the eve of the parliamentary elections last March, the government-controlled media cited Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO)information about a transfer in 1993 by Naukova–a scientific-productive agricultural association–of over US$1 million to the account of a Swiss firm opened on the name of Lazarenko (see Fakty I Kommentarii, March 24). Naukova apparently enjoyed a favorable taxation regime and expanded at the expense of several state enterprises during Lazarenko’s prime-ministership.

Prosecutor General Mykhaylo Potebenko was outspoken on September 20, when, in a statement aired by the Ukrainian television, he lashed out at Tymoshenko and Lazarenko–saying that they will bear full responsibility for their misdeeds. A few days before the PGO’s statement on Ahafonov, Minister of Internal Affairs Yuriy Kravchenko complained that the work of law enforcement is impeded by the deputy immunity. He then said that investigators traced not only Syvulskyy, but also “high-placed godfathers” who will answer before the law (Ukrainian television, September 23). Incidentally, on September 25 Rukh Press reported that Lazarenko, who was on a visit to Strasbourg as a member of a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation, mysteriously disappeared. This was immediately refuted by Hromada.