KIEV: Ukrainian activists on Wednesday held a protest in central Kiev accusing the country’s powerful prosecutors of obstructing a newly formed national agency that has exposed massive official corruption.
Some 100 protesters gathered outside the office of prosecutor-general Yuri Lutsenko holding posters saying: “Lutsenko, don’t stay silent! Your prosecutors are criminals!”
Some wore plastic bags on their heads and had their hands tied, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
The demonstrators were supporting the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, launched last year at the request of Kiev’s Western backers.
The anti-corruption agency has accused prosecutors of illegally detaining two of its officers last week and using physical violence against them as they carried out an undercover investigation.
Pro-Western lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem, who was at the protest, condemned what he called an “open unlawful confrontation” between the anti-corruption agency and prosecutors.
“The old schemes are returning,” Nayyem said, referring to the corruption that flourished during the rule of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanoukovych.
“The attack is on all fronts: accusations of illegal activities, character assassination and sabotage,” Nayyem wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
“This is a war, but not against corruption and lawlessness. This is a war by the departing elite to save its looted status quo.”
Kiev launched the National Anti-Corruption Bureau at the end of last year to meet the requirements of the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.
It has recently uncovered major corruption scandals with its investigators in August catching a highly placed judge in the act of accepting a bribe of $150,000 (133,000 euros).
‘No political will’
It is also responsible investigating financial malpractice by the pro-Russian party of former president Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled in street protests in 2014.
The bureau confirmed Monday that Yanukovych’s party earmarked $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments to Paul Manafort — now Donald Trump’s campaign chairman — between 2007 and 2012.
It is not clear if Manafort, who was working as a consultant to Yanukovych’s party, actually received any of the money, the bureau’s chief Artem Sytnyk said.
Ukraine’s lack of progress in fighting corruption has led the IMF to suspend its aid for a year.
At Wednesday’s protest, pro-Western MP Sergiy Leshchenko said that “the problem is with the President (Petro Poroshenko)’s office which has no political will to fight corruption”.
“Every day there is a confrontation between the reformers and the presidential administration,” Leshchenko said.