The trial of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych continues to go on and on; it is now bleeding into the Ukrainian presidential election in 2019, where the incumbent, President Petro Poroshenko is losing to veteran politician Yulia Tymoshenko, who holds a double-digit lead.
The trial is also continuing as tensions mount between Ukraine and Russia over the recent military incident in the Sea of Azov, where Russian commandos boarded and seized Ukrainian naval vessels and crew, which are still being held.
Both sides are playing games.
We have written that we believe the Sea of Azov incident was orchestrated by Poroshenko to help him regain approval among the voters. We have also acknowledged Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in Crimea, Dobass, and now the Kerch Strait as they push to keep Ukraine unstable in the face of Western support for Kiev.
After multiple delays and a viewing of the theater of the absurd in the courtroom, as defense attorneys arriving at the trial devolved into shouting matches with the prosecution, Yanukovych remains in a hospital bed in Moscow, unable to finish his testimony by video link due to spinal injuries received in an alleged sporting accident.
The Ukrainian prosecution declares it has given Yanukovych every opportunity to state his case regarding the charges of treason against the state, i.e., coordinating with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the eventual Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. The prosecution says the evidence is obvious — that Putin used a letter from Yanukovych requesting the invasion to justify the action.
Meanwhile, Yanukovych’s lawyers claim that the letter to the Russian President simply an effort to get assistance to reestablish constitutional order in Ukraine, and that similar letters were sent earlier to Poland, Germany, and France, and were unanswered.
What’s more, it seems the Yanukovych defense team may take the trial itself to the European Court of Human Rights.
“This trial initially had nothing to do with fairness and legality. In fact we have witnessed a clumsy effort of political revenge of the government against its political opponent and millions of his supporters,” reads a statement from the association of attorneys representing the former president.
“Neither notice of suspicion or indictment were handed in to President Yanukovich, as required by the Ukrainian law…[he was] illegally and unfairly denied his right to participate and provide evidence of his defense not only throughout the whole trial, but also at the pre-trial stage – the stage of investigation…Main witnesses for defense were unfairly denied their right to provide their witness testimony…Expert opinions, provided by independent experts from the USA, UK, Switzerland and Ukraine were unfairly rejected by the court…It is apparent that this trial is a result and a vivid example of complete destruction of the principles of supremacy of law in Ukraine.”
In any event, it seems clear that the judicial proceeding is one that will be watched by all for its adherence to the Western judicial values that Ukraine declares it believes in. It also seems clear that a successful outcome is paramount for Ukraine to proceed along the path of removing the corrosive corruption that remains etched into society there, a legacy of decades of Soviet rule.
It is also obvious that Poroshenko wants to be re-elected. Politics is always obtuse in Ukraine. This election is no different. As March 2019 approaches, the use of a Gulf of Tonkin-syle incident remains a real concern to interfere with the upcoming poll.
As the trial winds on and we are reminded of the nefarious incidents of the Ukrainian past, it is a shame that Ukraine still faces the evil of corruption, especially after the massive amounts of Western aid and support that has been provided.
Russia wants Ukraine to fail and stoking the corruption is one way to do this. The West should consider carefully its next steps so good money and effort doesn’t follow the bad.
The presidential election of 2019 will be very important in that regard, and the Poroshenko government does not have a great track record to say the least.