October 25, 2021

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Zelenskii accused of usurping power following a series of sanctions Euromaidan Press

sanctions Zelenskyy smugglers

The National Security and Defense Council, the coordinating body for national security and defense under the president of Ukraine, has imposed sanctions on the number of Ukrainian traffickers. Photo: president.gov.ua

2021/04/19 – 20:54 •


Article by: Olena Makarenko

Edited by: Morgan Foster

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently used sanctions to block activities deemed harmful to Ukraine. On April 15, the National Security and Defense Council, the coordinating body for national security and defense under the president of Ukraine, imposed sanctions on 12 Ukrainian traffickers. Previously, 10 Ukrainian citizens and also 79 legal entities had been sanctioned for smuggling migrants on 2 April. The president subsequently issued a decree implementing these sanctions. While such measures are generally perceived positively across the country, they set a dangerous long-term precedent. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group released a declaration warning that the recent sanctions are signs of a usurpation of power.

According to Ukrainian law, people involved in terrorism can be sanctioned. When the first list of smugglers was sanctioned, Zelenskyy explainsand the link between smuggling and terrorism:

“This is economic terrorism against Ukraine. According to experts, the losses due to smuggling reach 300 billion UAH [about $11 bn], which was not received from the state budget. ”

Among the 79 sanctioned legal entities, 11 are registered in Russia or occupied Crimea; the rest is registered in Ukraine.

Of them, the most famous sanctioned Ukrainian individuals are Vadym Alperin, known for his involvement in corruption at Odessa customs. With an estimated fortune of over a billion dollars, he is known for participating in various criminal cases related to smuggling, corruption and tax evasion.

News regarding sanctions in Ukraine is usually published on Fridays. This process receives extensive media coverage.

In Zelenskyy’s words, “You’ve probably heard the phrase” Black Friday “. Ukraine has its own version of” Black Friday. “On this day, people who were engaged in a large sale of strategic enterprises of Ukraine, natural resources, high positions, commercial security, stability and the future of our country, they get what they deserve. “

On April 9 Zelenskii published another decree by the National Security and Defense Council regarding sanctions to the exiled president Viktor Yanukovych and his co-conspirators.

This decision against the 12 traffickers was the seventh of its kind made by the National Security and Defense Council in the past two months.

After the first list of sanctioned traffickers was released on April 2, a group of experts in Ukraine observed dangerous trends.

The criminal proceedings against some of the sanctioned persons have already reached the trial stage. As with Yanukovych and his inner circle, former policemen who have betrayed the oath and serve in Russia or the occupied territories.

However, a declaration of the Kharkiv group for the protection of human rights stresses that sanctions have also been imposed on Ukrainian citizens and Ukrainian legal persons who work or are in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government. There are no court decisions or other decisions that affect them.

According to the statement, “The use of sanctions against Ukrainian citizens living on a territory not controlled by the Ukrainian government undermines fundamental principles of law, seriously violates the Constitution and international treaties ratified by Ukraine, entails serious threats to human rights and freedoms, and has indications of the usurpation of power by the state “.

In addition, the statement indicates that the imposition of sanctions against citizens of the state is possible only if they live abroad or in the “temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”. The statement indicates that the state has exhausted the means to bring its citizens to justice abroad. However, none of the above is relevant for cases involving sanctioned Ukrainian traffickers.

“In our opinion, the actions of the President of Ukraine are illegal and arbitrary because they have created a situation where the rights of Ukrainian citizens are significantly limited without any explanation or reasoning.”

Furthermore, the declaration indicates that “repressive measures aimed at limiting human rights can amount to” criminal prosecution “, according to the contents published by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”. When the state imposes such measures, it is required to provide various safeguards for the sanctioned person, including the right to a fair trial, protection from unlawful penalties and the presumption of innocence. In recent cases, however, none of these protections have been provided. This could contribute to future financial losses and reputation challenges for the state.

“The decree of the President of Ukraine No. 140/2021 based on the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of 2 April 2021 is not only an abuse of power but also has signs of usurpation of power, as the president, in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine, has appropriate of judicial powers “, concludes the statement.

Of all the possible ways to solve these problems, penalties are considered to be the easiest. To issue sanctions, it is neither necessary to have a court ruling nor to have parliament vote on it. In an interview with the Ukrainian service of the RFE / RL, political expert Yevhen Mahda explains the simplicity with which the president issued these sanctions:

“I understand that minister of internal affairs Arsen Avakov he does not lend “his” Ministry of Internal Affairs to Zelenskii so that he can use it. The Attorney General’s office did not live up to the president’s expectations. The decisions of the National Security and Defense Council are enacted only by a presidential decree. No more is needed “ says the expert.

Sanctions benefit Zelenskyy in the form of positive media coverage, provided the sanctions target criminals. However, they raise concern that sanctions can be easily applied to Ukrainian citizens, and it remains to be determined whether Zelenskii will choose to use such sanctions against political opponents.

Maksym Nefyodov, the former head of the State Customs Service, an investment banker and a deputy of the Kiev city council of the Voice party, clarifies that in the decision to sanction the traffickers, sanctions were imposed on both intermediaries and transporters.

“If the security services of Ukraine know they are criminals, then where are the criminal cases, arrests and seizures of contraband goods? If it turns out that he does not have such information, the question arises: how are these lists formed and whether anyone will be included in them tomorrow and whether someone (for a bribe) will disappear from the list? If we talk about the essence of the list, the cargo operators are listed: these are those who operate in the goods delivery market and deal with both ‘white’ (cleared) goods and ‘gray’ goods, which supply logistics as legal and by illegal means. “

Nefyodov sees the sanctions as a simplistic solution to the problems faced by customs, which Zelenskii and other officials do not fully understand:

“This is the search for a magic wand that allows it [Zelenskyy] to show improvements without making systematic changes “, Nefyodov says.

According to experts questioned by the RFE / RL, the following reforms are necessary to combat smuggling:

  • technical retooling of customs
  • personnel reform within the customs service and fair competition for open positions
  • attracting new staff from businesses and the public sector to join the customs department
  • reform of the courts, the prosecutor’s office and the security service of Ukraine
  • simplification of the procedure for customs clearance of goods for Ukrainian companies

Yuliya Marushevska, former Odessa customs chief, sees sanctions as a good starting point for solving these problems if they are followed by systematic transformations within the camp:

“The smugglers have started to whiten their reputation, and here they get a ‘black mark’, which they won’t get rid of.”

Ukrainian civil society has not yet demonstrated a clear positive or negative attitude towards these sanctions. Some to expect that such a policy can lead Ukraine on the path of dictatorship. Others criticize politics as a reductive solution that does not address systematic problems. Regardless of the criticisms, Zelenskyy indicated that he intends to continue pursuing this policy.

Edited by: Morgan Foster

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Tags: reforms, sanctions, Zelenskii