Ukraine’s parliament today sacked the country’s chief prosecutor over his alleged attempts to stall high-profile corruption investigations and cover up state graft.
The decision should cheer Western allies who have expressed increasing concern about the ex-Soviet country reverting to a culture of sleaze since it ousted the disdained Russian-backed president and chose an alliance with Europe in a historic 2014 revolt.
Lawmakers voted by an overwhelming 289 votes to six to accept the resignation of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin from the post he has held since February 2015. “Hallelujah! Finally!” Ukraine’s acting Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius tweeted moments after the vote.
The respected economy chief submitted a letter of resignation last month due to the government’s perceived refusal to fight graft. Parliament has yet to decide whether to approve his departure.
Shokin has been ensnared in a web of ugly charges that also cast a cloud over Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s commitment to the policy of clean hands that he promised to champion when elected in May 2014.
His many critics accused Shokin of failing to look into the reported theft of state funds by the deposed Russian-backed leadership and of blocking probes into prosecutors who were fired after being discovered hoarding cash and diamonds in their homes.
Shokin has also purportedly covered up the corrupt dealings of people close to the ruling regime. Poroshenko asked Shokin—viewed as one of his closer allies—to quit in the face of mounting pressure during a rowdy February 16 parliament session that saw Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk survive a no-confidence vote.
Shokin submitted his letter of resignation but did not go out without a fight. One of his final acts in office today was to fire his reformist deputy Davit Sakvarelidze—a top Shokin critic who had called for his boss’s dismissal.
Shokin said he was removing Sakvarelidze “for grave violations of prosecutors’ ethics and interference in the work of another prosecutor in ways not stipulated by legislation.”
Yatsenyuk’s decision to cling on to his premiership post has created a new wave of uncertainty over the political stability of a nation that is already suffering from a nearly two-year conflict in the pro-Russian separatist east.
Poroshenko last week again called on Yatsenyuk—a fierce Russian critics whose rumoured ties to powerful tycoons have seen his approval plummet—to finally step down and for parliament to pick his successor during today’s session.