US State Department gives award to ex-Ukrainian prosecutor general
The U.S. Department of State on Feb. 23 launched a new International Anti-Corruption Champions Award and gave it to a number of individuals including ex-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka.
“Around the world, corruption threatens security and stability, hinders economic growth, undermines democracy and human rights, destroys trust in public institutions, facilitates transnational crime, and siphons away public and private resources,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement. “The (Joseph Robinette) Biden Administration recognizes that we will only be successful in combating these issues by working in concert with committed partners, including courageous individuals who champion anti-corruption efforts and countries working to fulfill their commitments to international anticorruption standards.”
Blinken said that the award would be given to “individuals who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries.”
Riaboshapka was the prosecutor general of Ukraine from August 2019 through March 2020.
He launched a reform of Ukraine’s corrupt prosecution service with the stated aim of removing unprofessional and dishonest prosecutors. The effort was praised by part of Ukraine’s civil society and international partners.
As a result, 55.5% of the 1,339 prosecutors at the central branch of the prosecutor general’s office did not pass vetting and lost their jobs. Many of them were later reinstated by Ukraine’s corrupt courts.
Riaboshapka also gave some reformist officials like Viktor Chumak and Vitaly Kasko top jobs at the prosecution service.
Riaboshapka’s opponents said, however, that the procedure of firing prosecutors was arbitrary, lacked transparency and strict criteria and did not comply with the law.
Some controversial prosecutors lost their jobs, but other discredited ones remained. Moreover, some investigators and prosecutors praised by civil society were fired as a result of the reform.
Lawyers for EuroMaidan protesters have also accused Riaboshapka of sabotaging cases into murders of protesters during the EuroMaidan Revolution, which overthrew ex-President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. He denied the accusations.
The main EuroMaidan case collapsed in December 2019 as five ex-police officers on trial were released by the Kyiv Court of Appeal as part of a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia’s proxies in the Donbas. The deal with Russia was made possible when Riaboshapka replaced the old group of prosecutors with new prosecutors who helped the exchange deal.
In 2020 allies of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky spearheaded a campaign to fire Riaboshapka as his office investigated an embezzlement case into PrivatBank, which was formerly owned by Kolomoisky.
In March 2020, after just six months on the job, Riaboshapka was fired and replaced with Iryna Venediktova, who has held the post since.
Zelensky said that Riaboshapka failed to show quick results.
The Kyiv Post sources indicated at the time that the final straw that caused Riaboshapka’s dismissal could have been his refusal to authorize charges against ex-President Petro Poroshenko.