Whistleblower MP expelled from ruling party says Zelensky must go
By Bermet Talant.
In one year, Geo Leros, once an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky and lawmaker with his party, turned into an outspoken critic who called on the president to resign.
The president called him a bribe-taker and traitor.
On the first day of the new parliamentary session on Sept. 1, Leros was expelled from the ruling party Servant of the People after he delivered a scathing speech accusing Zelensky and his entourage of abuse of office.
It was a culmination of a months-long conflict between Ukraine’s presidential administration and Leros. Several days before his speech, Leros’ car was set on fire.
“Mister President, you didn’t fight the old system, you have become part of it,” Geros said from the tribune at the parliament on Sept. 1.
Geros accused Zelensky of breaking his election promises, namely, to carry out reforms, fight corruption, bring new faces to power, and defend Ukraine’s interests.
He said Zelensky received “envelopes” from billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, called chief of staff Andriy Yermak “an agent of Russian intelligence” and claimed that head of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov controlled smuggling, illegal trade with the Russian-occupied territories and covered up for attacks on businesses.
Leros didn’t provide the hard evidence to back up these claims, saying the administration’s corruption was “an open secret.”
Yermak dismissed all accusations by Leros. Zelensky defended his chief of staff, too.
Former art curator and film director Leros, 31, isn’t the first lawmaker expelled from 248-seat Servant of the People but the first one coming up with serious accusations of corruption against Zelensky and Yermak.
He told the Kyiv Post that in the beginning he believed Zelensky and was proud of the young government and absence of corruption. But soon he saw that lawmakers belonged to different groups of influence and took bribes, he said.
He claimed Zelensky was aware of Yermak’s corrupt dealings.
“Until the very end, I didn’t believe that Zelensky knew of corruption at the administration,” Leros said. “Zelensky had a chance to choose a different path but he covered up for corrupt officials and pulled the state deeper toward the bottom.”
Asked what, in his opinion, the president should do to salvage the situation, Leros replied: “He must resign.”
Leros was stripped of his affiliation with the president’s faction but not his lawmaker mandate.
He claimed that Zelensky ordered the party to collect signatures for his expulsion, to which the president responded: “I don’t have any reaction to bribe-takers and traitors of Ukraine regardless of which party they are with.”
Leros’ conflict began in March when he lambasted the president’s plan to negotiate directly with Russian-backed militants who control parts of the Donbas. After this, he was fired as Zelensky adviser.
Shortly after that, Leros released video recordings that appeared to show chief of staff Yermak’s brother selling high-level jobs in the government and state-owned companies. Yermak called the videos “an attack on the President’s Office.” He and his brother denied the allegations. Zelensky defended his right-hand man and called Leros a con artist.
The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office opened a probe into the footage released by Leros for alleged abuse of power but the case was requalified into fraud and sent to the National Police. Meanwhile, Leros became a subject of another investigation by the State Investigations Bureau into “revealing state secrets” and “interfering in the work of a state official.”