Prosecutor General Venediktova names controversial official as second-in-command
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has named Roman Hovda as her first deputy, sparking outrage among judicial watchdogs who say that he was involved in the legal crackdown on protesters in Ukraine’s 2014 revolution.
After Hovda’s appointment on July 29, activists pointed to multiple instances of controversial rulings by the prosecutor and people directly subordinate to him in the past.
Specifically, during the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, which drove pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from power, Hovda worked at the prosecution unit that supervised the police.
According to activists, instead of investigating widespread brutality by the Berkut riot police, who viciously attacked protesters in downtown Kyiv, Hovda instead prosecuted the protesters.
In a comment to the Kyiv Post, Hovda denied those accusations.
Those weren’t the only accusations brought forward against Hovda.
In 2015, Hovda became the chief prosecutor of Odesa Oblast and clashed with the region’s then-governor Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, who accused Hovda of racketeering.
Those accusations came after Hovda’s office closed a corruption case involving the transformation of former military barracks into a kindergarten, which cost the state budget over $4 million.
The kindergarten became the most expensive preschool facility in Ukraine.
Hovda denied the accusations.
Soon, Hovda was moved back to Kyiv, becoming deputy to then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
Shokin held his post from February 2015 to April 2016 and was fired after the international community, judicial watchdogs and civil activists demanded his resignation.
Under Shokin’s leadership, Hovda signed charges against ex-Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko in what anti-corruption activists deemed to be a political reprisal by Shokin. Kasko was subsequently acquitted.
Shokin later became well-known to foreign journalists and American political observers when he began accusing former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden of ordering his removal for corrupt purposes.
Biden had indeed called for Shokin’s ouster, but was echoing a consensus among Ukrainian reformers and the country’s Western partners.
“He was an absolutely corrupt prosecutor who had to go. When Joe Biden was calling on Ukraine to dismiss Shokin, we had been doing so for half a year already,” Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, told the Kyiv Post back in October.
After the prosecutor general’s removal, Hovda wasn’t fired. Under Shokin’s successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, Hovda was appointed chief prosecutor of Kyiv.
When Ruslan Riaboshapka was appointed prosecutor general in August 2019, Hovda was removed from his post. However, parliament soon fired Riaboshapka, and his successor, Venediktova, rehired Hovda.