Ukrainian President’s Ally Takes Top Prosecutor’s Job

  • Lawmakers earlier eased requirements for Lutsenko’s nomination
  • Position key to ensuring continued flow of foreign aid

Ukraine’s parliament approved an ally of President Petro Poroshenko as the nation’s new top prosecutor, a position international donors have said is key to ending years of corruption and ensuring the flow of billions of dollars in bailout cash.

Having eased requirements for nominees seeking the post earlier Thursday, lawmakers in Kiev backed the candidacy of Yuriy Lutsenko, who heads Poroshenko’s party in parliament. The president fired Viktor Shokin, the third prosecutor general in two years, in February after being criticized for failing to indict corrupt officials.

The prosecutor’s post has become a barometer of Ukraine’s commitment to reforms after the 2014 ouster of Russian-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych. Creditors of the ex-Soviet republic, including the European Union and the U.S., had urged Poroshenko to select an independent candidate who’ll fight graft and ensure continued disbursements from a $17.5 billion bailout. The personnel change is part of a government revamp last month in which Volodymyr Hroisman took over as prime minister to help revive overhauls of state institutions.

“Ukraine’s foreign backers would certainly prefer the appointment of an individual with no direct political association,” Otilia Dhand, senior vice president at Teneo Intelligence, said by e-mail. “Political links decrease the chance of effective prosecution of typically high-level political corruption.”

Bonds, Hryvnia

The Ukrainian government’s dollar debt due 2019 kept gains after the vote, with the yield down 20 basis points at 9.285 percent as of 7:27 p.m. in Kiev, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. The hryvnia, which has lost 5 percent against the dollar this year, was 0.4 percent stronger.

Parliament earlier removed the need for nominees to the prosecutor’s post to hold a law degree and reduced required legal experience. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had said Ukraine’s next top prosecutor should have a background as a lawyer. Lutsenko, a 51-year-old former interior minister, doesn’t meet that requirement, holding only an engineering degree.

Some lawmakers alleged procedural violations and others shouted “shame” as the bill passed. To ensure the new rules became law and to clear the path for a quick vote on Lutsenko, Poroshenko signed the legislation and a special edition of the official state newspaper containing a copy was printed.

‘Only Justice’

While Ukraine’s leaders have stabilized the budget and overcome a recession, their record on tackling graft is less impressive. The country ranks 130th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, almost exactly where it was in 2010. No one’s been convicted over the billions of dollars Ukraine’s post-revolution leaders say the old regime stole. The same applies to the 2014 killing of more than 100 demonstrators.

Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk backed Lutsenko’s candidacy, saying he’s capable of bringing real change to the prosecutor’s office. Speaking in London, he said Lutsenko is “a strong leader” who will be independent, and denied his ties to the president represent a conflict of interest.

“With quick effective steps, Lutsenko will renew trust in the prosecutor general’s office,” Poroshenko said Thursday. “He’ll use only justice.”

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