Last Saturday an extraordinary session of Ukraine’s Communist Party took place in Kiev. Only one problem was on the agenda: a party list of candidates to people’s deputies from the Communist Party for the coming parliamentary elections was to be confirmed. The problem would have hardly drew so much attention, but the Communist Party nominated former Dinamo football player Oleg Blokhin a candidate number ten for the elections coming, and Public Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko – a candidate number twenty.
Despite the Christmas holidays, lots of comments have already appeared and made the event the sensation of the first week of the year in Ukraine.
When the unusual party list was published, TV channels broadcast another sensation. They said, the Public Prosecutor laid down the authorities. Public Prosecutor of Kiev Yury Gaysinsky was appointed acting public prosecutor of Ukraine, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Alexey Baganets, in his turn, will take Gaysinsky’s place. Alexey Baganets is famous for conducting Georgy Gongadze’s case.
Yesterday evening a state-run TV channel UT-1 had to broadcast an official announcement. The Ukrainian population was informed that Public Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko had not handed in any resignation paper and still kept the post.
The events arose more agitation in the society. The loudest voice is that Communists have finally taken off the disguise. Naming itself an opposition, the Communist Party has been co-operating with the power. There is no other understanding of the Communists’ fervent protection of Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko. A year ago the Communist faction gave its 112 votes to Mr.Potebenko to avoid resignation. Now they provide a seat in the party list for him and guarantee a deputy indulgence from attacks of the opposition. The opposition consists of the parties of Alexander Moroz, Yulia Timoshenko and other national democratic formations that make up a committee “For Ukraine without Kuchma!”
Mikhail Potebenko is a genuine Soviet member in the structure of the new power. His first appointment to the post of Prosecutor of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic was in 1990. Till the very end of the Soviet era the Prosecutor has been struggling against those who infringed upon fundamentals of the Soviet society.
Mikhail Potebenko was the only opponent to the decision of the Supreme Rada to prohibit the Communist Party after the coup d’etat in August’1991. It was quite natural for the Public Prosecutor to give a judgement to the political acts that had entered a legal sphere.
That very fact was quite enough for Mikhail Potebenko to become a so-called “holy cow” for the Communists for ages.
In fact, the reason for it is on the surface. The matter is, a “grey cardinal” Georgy Kryuchkov has been at head of Ukraine’s Communist Party for dozens of years already. He used to be a very mighty and influential person: his opinion was asked for every important problem in the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. The time has passed, but Georgy Kryuchkov still gradually rules the Communist Party of Ukraine: now he is one of the leaders of the Communist faction in the Supreme Rada. Georgy Kryuchkov is over seventy now, but his doctrine is the same as several years ago. It was he who recognized Mikhail Potebenko as a great person who objected to prohibition of the Communist Party in 1991. But the fact that Mikhail Potebenko aimed only at reservation of his post escaped Georgy Kryuchkov. The Public Prosecutor understood perfectly well that if the Communist Party of Ukraine breaks-up, he would never keep the post. And this was what really happened: the Prosecutor was given an obstruction. But it is interesting to mention: when Mikhail Potebenko lost the post, he never opposed to prohibition of the Communist Party in public. It means, the fact of violation of constitutional rights and freedoms of millions of people was of no interest for Mikhail Potebenko as for a lawyer. This very fact was ignoredeven when he was re-appointed to the post of Public Prosecutor.
A problem arises then: if Communists are such high-principled people, why not judge the Public Prosecutor by his actions? If this point of view is followed, Mikhail Potebenko was to become the first person to be blamed by the Communist Party, a party in opposition to the existing power. Because now Ukraine teems with anarchy. Money plays a significant role everywhere. And the General Office of the Public Prosecutor is always on the side of rich people.
The Communist Party knows perfectly well that Mikhail Potebenko has been holding back information that would be useful for institution of criminal proceedings against Leonid Kuchma’s private paymasters. The men could be accused of money transfer from Ukraine and subsequent use of the money in Leonid Kuchma’s pre-election campaign. Even the Supreme Rada supports institution of the legal proceedings. But Mikhail Potebenko understands perfectly well that the event concerns interests of the president.
And what about a famous case of journalist Georgy Gongadze? A great part of the world knows the story, that Ukraine’s General Office of the Public Prosecutor has held an investigation, so that it is still a secret, whose body was found in the forest then. It is still a mystery whether the journalist in opposition fell a victim of a political repression or died accidentally, or is alive, as the Prosecutor’s Office has recently reported.
Moreover, the Public Prosecutor even objected to investigation of the case by international organizations, the Council of Europe, particularly. He made absurd statements that no international expertise can be taken into account in Ukraine.
Together with Gongadze’s case several notorious assassinations of deputies, journalists, high-ranking officials and businessmen are to be mentioned: none of them was disclosed. But the Public Prosecutor even told at the press-conference at the end of 2001 that Ukraine’s results in investigation of criminal cases were better than in other CIS countries.
People’s deputy Vladimir Yatsenko says, if the Communist Party includes Mikhail Potebenko in the list of candidates, it may loose not less than one third of the votes.
Ambitious Leonid Grach, the head of the Supreme Rada of the Ukrainian city of Crimea, even promised to give his 11th seat in the party list to the Public Prosecutor and even quit the Communist Party if candidature of Mikhail Potebenko is not supported. He thinks, the Party is to be grateful to the person, who ventured to be in opposition with it.
The voting brought the following results: 217 Communists voted for inclusion of Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko in the party’s list, 38 – against and 34 Communists abstained from voting.
Other members of the opposition say that inclusion of Mikhail Potebenko in the Communist Party’s list is a logic and adequate conclusion of his career. Such is the opinion of Yulia Timoshenko.
As for Oleg Blokhin, his appearance on the party’s list and during the voting caused an applause. The football-player was elected to the parliament for the first time in 1998. But he is an infrequent member of the sessions, as he often flies to Greece to coach a football team there. The Communist Party decided to draw attention of nostalgic voters by this name.
Alexander Gorobets PRAVDA.Ru Kiev Ukraine
When the material was about publishing:
Several Ukrainian news agencies, despite yesterday’s official statement of UT-1 television, still say that resignation of Public Prosecutor Mikhail Potebenko is a decided fact. No comments have been obtained from the press-service of Ukraine’s president.
In the photo: Mikhail Potebenko
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/08/35374.html