Zelensky takes on the Constitutional Court as Ukraine slides into crisis

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has proposed to the Ukrainian Parliament to dismiss the current Ukrainian Constitutional Court judges. This comes after the court ruled to abolish criminal responsibility for falsifying property declaration by Ukrainian officials.

The court's decision not only aggravated the situation inside the country, but also received a negative reaction from the G7 ambassadors in Ukraine. Therefore, Zelensky held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, where it was decided to overturn the ruling made by the Constitutional Court. This decision, in turn, creates a new legal conflict in the country.

Exactly three years ago, on October 30, 2017, Ukraine dealt the first serious blow to corruption. It was then that the process of the first electronic declaration of property was established. Thousands of officials carried out an inventory of all their property, also including the property of their next of kin. Ukrainians were shocked with the findings: hundreds of millions of dollars, luxury real estate, land, expensive clothing, cars and watches, collections of paintings. Everyone, of course, knew that the most profitable business in the country is power. But hardly anyone realized its scale.

Requirement for electronic property declaration by Ukrainian officials, which, incidentally, the European Union insisted, was to become an effective mechanism in fight against corruption. Failure to file declarations or provide knowingly incorrect information led to criminal liability.

For all three years Ukrainian officials, politicians, judges, prosecutors, nervously had to declare their property. But it was clear that all this greatly irritated the political elite of the country, as well as those, thanks to whom they made their fortune - oligarchs, accustomed to puppet ministers, MPs and judges.

In July 2020, even President Zelensky received two administrative protocols from the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) after he failed to declare changes in the list of his property. Two judges of the Constitutional Court - Serhiy Goloviy and Irina Zavhorodna- were also caught providing inaccurate declarations.

In the last three months, according to Artem Sytnik, director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), ten court sentences related to violations of the electronic declaration law have been issued. Dozens more cases are now pending court hearings. Even if not many, it was enough to anger the top elite.

Three months ago, 47 MPs of the Ukrainian Parliament decided to challenge the rule on criminal responsibility for false property declaration. It is noteworthy that the plaintiffs in this case were those who declared hundreds of millions of hryvnias in cash, dozens of cars and so on. There are currently open cases against some of them in court. All of them are members of the "Opposition Platform for Life" faction led by Viktor Medvedchuk and the parliamentary group “For the Future”, which is controlled by oligarch Igor Kolomoisky.

The motive of the deputies who appealed to the Constitutional Court is quite clear - to escape responsibility for all that is "gained by hard work”. Kolomoisky, as well as Medvedchuk know exactly how much it costs in Ukraine to solve certain issues or how much a place in power is worth. Electronic declaration simply limits their possibilities to act as overseers of political processes in the country.

It seemed that after 2014 dirty money, shadow economy, buying of politicians, judges and prosecutors will forever be a thing of the past, especially after the adoption of a package of anti-corruption laws, which were actively supported by Ukraine's European partners. The attempt of the Constitutional Court to destroy the electronic declaration system not only brings the country back to the era of Leonid Kuchma, when, having just a meagre salary, government officials used to buy themselves luxury real estate and expensive cars, without being afraid to be put behind bars, but also jeopardizes the European future of Ukraine. It is very revealing that Vladimir Putin's friend, Viktor Medvedchuk, was involved in this. Are there any doubts that Russia plays a role in this?

International financial organizations have made it clear to President Zelensky: the decision of the Constitutional Court jeopardizes their further cooperation with Ukraine. The EU even talked about the possibility of suspending visa-free travel for Ukrainians. Therefore, the emergency meeting was convened, the National Security Council instructed the government to immediately open access to the register of electronic declarations, and the President proposed to the parliament to dismiss all the judges of the Constitutional Court (which is contrary to the law), recognizing its decision null and void. This is the same constitutional court, which in the summer of 2019 did not object to the questionable decision of the president on the early dissolution of the parliament.

Now Zelensky and his team are publicly ignoring the decision of the Constitutional Court, which, according to the Constitution, is final and cannot be appealed. If the judges issued a dubious ruling, does that mean that the president and the Supreme Court should do the same? Who in this situation can resolve the dispute between the Constitutional Court and the President? How to avoid the constitutional crisis into which Ukraine is sliding? And the main thing - how to avoid such conflicts in the future?

While lawyers and deputies are scratching their heads over Zelensky’s initiative, people on the streets express their dissatisfaction. On October 30, a rally was held near the Constitutional Court building, with people chanting "We will expel traitor judges to Rostov." Politically active Ukrainians have many questions for the judicial system, which former President Poroshenko tried to reform at one time. This system has long required a complete overhaul. Hopefully, the President’s team, who are capable of carrying out such a reform today, realize this. And hopefully, this will be done within the legal framework. The sooner it happens, the better it will be for everyone. people on the street will break the If this does not happen, the people will take matters into their own hands.

  Zelensky, Ukraine, Constitutional Court