Educating Zvarych

KIEV, Ukraine -- With tensions mounting (as per the Orange Revolution) among supporters and opponents of last year's so-called revolution, a high-ranking government official came under increasing pressure to resign over disclosures that he has lied about degrees he claims to have earned during the 1980s at two prestigious US universities.

Around the capital, journalists, politicians and anti-government demonstrators were talking about the future of Justice Minister Roman Zvarych, whose academic credentials were questioned in an investigative report which appeared on the nation’s most popular Internet site, Ukrainska Pravda, on April 14.

The article, titled “One More Fake Professor?,” indicated that Zvarych did not did graduate from Columbia University in 1981 with a degree in philosophy, as indicated on his official resume.

To date, no one has been unable to find any evidence that Zvarych has ever received any degree from Columbia University, NYU, or any other US university.

On April 15, the justice ministry refused comment by telephone requesting a written query to be addressed by e-mail. Justice ministry spokeswoman Elena Iskorostenkaya again refused comment on April 16 and April 17, as did Vitaly Chepynoga, spokesman for the cabinet of ministers.

While mainstream Ukrainian media have virtually ignored the story, thousands of Internet users have commented on the imbroglio. Most of the comments appearing on the nation’s largest civic portal, Maidan have been overwhelming critical of Zvarych.

The English version of the Justice Minister's resume on the government website says that he graduated in 1981 from Columbia University, where he studied philosophy. the Ukrainian version of his resume says he worked as a professor at New York University from 1983 to 1991.

In an interview appearing in the daily tabloid Fakty on March 25, Zvarych said he received a full scholarship to Columbia University, covering tuition, room and board.

“I received a master's degree in philosophy,” he said in the desultory 3,500-word interview.

“I never practiced law in the United States, only in Ukraine. By the way, I never finished university because I applied for a doctoral program. I didn’t finish that either, but began teaching at Columbia as a teacher’s assistant. I had my own courses, conducted seminars and the like. New York University offered to make me a professor. I didn’t have the title of professor, just the rank. These are different things. I taught different subjects at NYU for seven years: law, ethics and intellectual history,” he said.

Zvarych, who has lived in Ukraine since 1991, renounced his US. citizenship in 1993 and was granted Ukrainian citizenship two years later. His ideological opponents in Ukraine have branded him an “American spy,” whereas he is known among American residents in Kiev for his anti-American sentiments and support for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

His apparent reluctance to become the first minister to step down from the new government comes at a time when President Viktor Yushchenko is under fire for failing to act on promises made during last fall’s presidential campaign to ensure that the nation’s new authorities tell the truth.

In an interview appearing on April 16 in the weekly Zerkalo Nedeli, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Zvarych has attended few of the 15 cabinet meetings held so far.

“Yet it is not the government’s problem; it is the individual minister’s problem. We have very proficient deputy ministers in the justice ministry. They have made minister’s absence go unnoticed.”

In February, Zvarych threatened to resign from government after the cabinet decided to ban the re-export of oil. The threat was aired television channel 5, which is controlled by National Defense and Security Secretary Petro Poroshenko.

Oil transit - a company that re-sells Russian oil to Slovakia - was affected by the new ban. Zvarych's wife works for Oil Transit.

Source: Ukrayinska Pravda