Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Another Murder

KIEV, Ukraine -- We’ve long been partisans of the idea that Ukraine isn’t going to get very far as an open society if the legacy of its independence-era institutional criminality isn’t in some way addressed.

How can a state move forward into enlightenment and decency if it’s dragging behind itself a couple dozen corpses, murdered in crimes in which some of the nation’s top politicians and businesspeople are implicated?

There needs to be an accounting, and a purging. Ukraine can claim to be “European” all it wants, but as long as members of its elite keep killing each other and paying no price for it, this won’t be Ireland.

The latest gangland-style murder to hit Ukraine’s elite occurred on Nov. 29. That’s when two men in a VAZ vehicle opened fire on the car of former Lviv oblast governor Stepan Senchuk, killing him and leaving bullet holes all over his Lexus.

Senchuk was a big player. Currently involved in a major agriculture concern, he was also the founder of the Dniester bank and had been involved in several sugar plants as well as in other concerns.

An Our Ukraine member, he financed President Viktor Yushchenko’s 2004 presidential campaign in Lviv oblast, and there have been rumors that he was an adept in the game of kompromat that is a constant feature of life in the Ukrainian power elite.

Now he’s dead, and Ukraine has another skeleton in the closet. We’re obliged to call for his murderers to be brought to justice, but the problem is far vaster than that. What has to happen in Ukraine is a comprehensive coming to terms with the country’s criminal past.

Not only Senchuk’s murder, but the many political murders that have desecrated Ukraine over the years have to be solved – or else the authorities have to exert themselves trying to solve them in a way that indicates their good faith.

But here’s how Yushchenko can exert himself: He can make a priority of reforming the justice system. Ukraine has a lot of priorities, of course, but few of them mean anything as long as it is impossible to trust the justice system, and as long as that system conspires not to solve murders.

It’s too late not to have kept on Svyatoslav Pyskun as prosecutor general, but it’s not too late to dismiss a whole row of judges, and clean house in the law enforcement agencies. Really, what does Yushchenko have to do that’s more important than that?

Source: Kyiv Post

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