Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 230

Ukrainian Premier Valery Pustovoytenko has publicly reacted to the statement of former Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Lytvak, who, following the Swiss arrest of former Premier Lazarenko, said that there are corrupt ministers in the current cabinet (see the Monitor, December 8). At the cabinet meeting on December 11, Pustovoytenko called on government officials involved in illegal activities to confess their guilt and step down. He requested the head of the cabinet’s personnel department, Hennady Lelikov, to run an internal investigation into the corruption allegations. Pustovoytenko said that, in a telephone conversation with him, Lytvak had refused to name the corrupt officials (Ukrainian agencies, STV, December 11; Segodnya, Fakty i kommentarii, Zerkalo nedeli, December 12).

In the developing scandal, some ministers may actually lose their posts. Rumors about a looming cabinet shuffle have been circulating in Ukraine since early fall. The deputy premier for the economy, Serhy Tyhypko, hardly by coincidence, mentioned in a newspaper interview “a dirty trade for cabinet portfolios,” in which certain members of parliament are involved (Den, December 12). The Socialist Party leader and a strong presidential contestant, Oleksandr Moroz, as a member of parliament, officially requested President Kuchma to explain what Lytvak had in fact meant. Lytvak himself apparently tried to cool the scandal down, saying that he had not meant that ministers of the current cabinet were involved in illegal activities, “let alone have any relation to crime.” Lytvak asked Moroz to abstain from using his name for political purposes (Segodnya, December 12).

The Pandora’s box of corruption allegations and other “kompromat,” opened by Lazarenko’s arrest and Lytvak’s statement, however, seems to be opening wider. The former chair of the parliament’s Anti-Organized Crime Committee, Hryhory Omelchenko, is accusing Kuchma’s long-time aide, Oleksandr Volkov, now a member of parliament, of laundering money obtained from illegal business activities in thirty-two bank accounts in Belgium. Omelchenko said that Volkov had acted in “the same [fashion] as Lazarenko” (Kyiv Post, December 11). Volkov, a successful businessman and president of Hravis television company, backed Kuchma in the presidential campaign of 1994, and since then has been Kuchma’s most loyal ally.

Meanwhile, Moroz, interviewed by Zerkalo Nedeli, announced that he had gotten hold of documents showing that Kuchma’s staff has launched a secret campaign to discredit Moroz as a presidential candidate by connecting him to Lazarenko’s corruption case. Moroz alleged both that his telephone is tapped and that he is tailed by agents of law enforcement agencies (Zerkalo nedeli, December 12). The socialists of Moroz and Lazarenko’s Hromada party are tactical allies in parliament, opposing Kuchma’s economic policy. Many local analysts have been talking about a potentially very strong union of Lazarenko’s financial resources and Moroz’ political clout for the presidential race of 1999.–OV