Newspaper article International New York Times

Ukraine Ousts Top Prosecutor over Graft ; Political Observers Say, Though, That Move Could Imperil Political Stability

Newspaper article International New York Times

Ukraine Ousts Top Prosecutor over Graft ; Political Observers Say, Though, That Move Could Imperil Political Stability

Article excerpt

Viktor Shokin had been widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices, but observers of Ukrainian politics said he had played an important role in balancing competing interests.

Bowing to pressure from international donors, the Ukrainian Parliament has voted to remove a prosecutor general who had clung to power for months despite visible signs of corruption.

But in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for moment, veteran observers of Ukrainian politics said that the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, had played an important role in balancing competing political interests, helping maintain stability during a treacherous era in the divided country's history.

The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ouster of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite. He was one of several political figures in Kiev whom reformers and Western diplomats saw as a worrying indicator of a return to past corrupt practices, two years after a revolution that was supposed to put a stop to self-dealing by those in power.

As the problems festered, Kiev drew increasingly sharp criticism from Western diplomats and leaders. In a visit in December, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said corruption was eating Ukraine "like a cancer." Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which props up Ukraine financially, said last month that progress was so slow in fighting corruption that "it's hard to see how the I.M.F.-supported program can continue."

With this pressure mounting, Parliament on Tuesday voted by a comfortable margin to remove Mr. Shokin.

In the final hours before Parliament voted him out, Mr. Shokin had fired his reform-minded deputy prosecutor, David Sakvarelidze, with whom he had been feuding. It was not immediately clear whether that firing would remain in force.

With the prosecutor's office in turmoil throughout Ukraine on Tuesday, one of Mr. Sakvarelidze's appointees in the Odessa regional office was arrested by military prosecutors, assumed to be loyal to Mr. Shokin. …

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