Week’s milestones. Quiet return, impending threat, and Lutsenko’s "fishing"
The return to Ukraine of Hennadiy Afanasyev and Yuriy Soloshenko hardly resembled the triumphal arrival of Nadia Savchenko. Petro Poroshenko and other top officials once again warned the world about the growing Russian threat. "A big fishing game" of Ukraine’s new prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko brings its first catch.
Fighting for the return of its citizens held captive in other countries is one of the signs of a civilized state. Ukraine quite successfully passed yet another exam on the subject, ensuring the return of political prisoners Hennadiy Afanasyev and Yuriy Soloshenko from the Russian Federation. The hostages, both seriously ill, were exchanged for other Ukrainian citizens, Olena Glishchinskaya and Vitaliy Didenko, who had been charged with separatism. Upon the return to Ukraine, Afanasyaev and Soloshenko made almost no political statements except for the calls to the western leaders not to lift sanctions against Russia and the stories about their surviving through prison torture. Unfortunately, there is no visible progress on the issue of the release of hostages in the Ukrainian Donbas where the pro-Russian militants keep trying to use the POWs as a lever to put more pressure on Ukraine.
The developments of the recent years have shown that the misuse of the hostage factor is one of the forms of hybrid warfare. The General Staff, for the first time since 2014, held a scientific conference on the hybrid war’s military aspects. Besides the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the event was attended by Ukraine’s top officials, including the president and the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. Petro Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine needed to learn the lessons of a hybrid war and to build an army according to NATO standards even before the country's accession to the Alliance. The president also reminded that Russia continues to create various threats for Ukraine in all directions. NSDC Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov elaborated on this matter reporting on Russia’s new offensive units being created in the immediate vicinity of the Russian-Ukrainian border. But it should not be forgotten that against the background of a certain de-escalation of hostilities the main battles of the hybrid war are unfolding far away from the contact line.
Whether it’s due to the overseas trip of the governmental delegation headed by the prime minister, or due to the Euro-2016, the Ukrainian parliament last week was particularly ineffective, as if the country enjoys a peaceful period. Rada Speaker Andriy Parubiy was forced two times in a row to close parliament sessions early due to a lack of MPs at the session hall. And then there was the People's Front, which decided to ignore the voting, outraged with their colleagues’ skeptical attitude to the bill on special confiscation. Therefore, no one dared to raise the issue of a 80% rotation of the Central Election Commission in this situation. It seems that the major political forces decided to save their resources and vocal cords until the Independence jubilee.
There was just one Member of Parliament who found himself in an unpleasant spotlight last week. Oleksandr Onyshchenko, one of Ukraine’s socialites, was targeted by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the General Prosecutor's Office for the abuse of a multi-billion gas production. According to the tradition of the Rada’s eighth convocation, which was only not the case regarding the Radical Party’s Ihor Mosiychuk, the MPs are in no rush to consider the prosecutor's request to deprive their colleague of parliamentary immunity. Onyshchenko took advantage of the situation and will over the next two weeks build up an image of a "victim of the regime." It’s interesting though whether he will mention that his accomplices without such immunity have been arrested?
However, Onyshchenko will hardly remain the only object of prosecutorial interest. Yuriy Lutsenko skillfully hinted at the fact that there are several other MPs who, at the moment, retain the status of witnesses. Very showing was the arrest of Oleksandr Katsuba, former deputy CEO of Naftogaz of Ukraine. The man has long been implied to have been complicit in the purchase of notorious “Boyko towers" [two jack-up rigs bought in, as many believe, money-laundering corruption schemes at higher purchase price at the times of ex-energy minister Yuriy Boyko]. The newly-appointed prosecutor general is showing a firmer stance compared to his predecessors, as he actually sanctioned the arrest of the yesterday’s untouchables.