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Ukraine’s problem with selective justice — expert interview

Ihor Mazepa (seated on the right) in court during the election of a preventive measure, January 19, 2024
Ihor Mazepa (seated on the right) in court during the election of a preventive measure, January 19, 2024

The Ukrainian business community has condemned the arrest of Ihor Mazepa, founder and CEO of Concorde Capital investment company, which further highlighted the problems with Ukraine’s law enforcement and judicial system, political scientist Mykola Davydiuk said in an interview with NV Radio on Jan. 21.

NV: How would you comment on the general notion that the state is now hostile to business?

Davydiuk: It’s a big problem and not so much about Mazepa.

Are there some questions for his company? Yes, any company may face questions. This is also a question regarding the investment climate, the business climate, which, mind you, was supposed to have changed after the [2019] elections, but hasn’t. And the second question: is it only the private sector that is to blame? The businessmen are almost as much to blame as the officials who took these bribes.

Read also: Court detains Concorde Capital founder Ihor Mazepa with $9.3 million bail

But most importantly, is it now the right time to deal with this ten-year-old [corruption] case? Has [Russian oligarch Arkady] Rotenberg suffered a lot in Ukraine? Yesterday they already came up with the news that [Kyiv’s shopping mall] Ocean Plaza allegedly has a loan from Rotenberg. I think you understand that we are taken for fools so that we don’t take away an asset, because if we take away the asset, we’ll have to pay its loan. Where did this loan appear? When did it appear? Why isn’t Rotenberg under pressure?

And the feeling people now have is that there is no justice. People who help the Ukrainian army shouldn’t be prosecuted now in ten-year-old cases. It’s definitely not the time to bring up the stories of 1991, 2016, or 2000. Everyone understands there is a certain selectivity of justice.

Again, why is the president [Volodymyr Zelenskyy] silent? It’s not even a question to his entourage. [U.S. Secretary of State Antony] Blinken came and talked about the questions to the president’s entourage, as well as other Western ambassadors and the general public.

It’s just that the country is now being hit by our own. Business should help Ukraine, and it does. Yes, not all companies do. If there is a pro-Russian business, show it. Let them suffer. But there are also clearly Russian businesses, which perfectly fine, apparently.

NV: Why and where does this selectivity come from? Who chooses the cases to prosecute?

Davydiuk: I think the question of who chooses is now the biggest question both for Western diplomats and Ukrainians in general. That is, the style of this person, who gives advice, is too similar to the style of former members of the outlawed pro-Russian Party of Regions. I think some time will pass and we’ll definitely know their name.

But the story is about why this person has such influence and why their advice is heeded.

NV: Does this person sit in the President’s Office or somewhere else?

Davydiuk: Somewhere far away.

NV: Somewhere far abroad?

Davydiuk: The [President’s] Office knows better where he sits.

NV: Would it be right for the president to chime in on this issue?

Davydiuk: What does he have to do? He should give a command to stop tormenting Ukrainian business. And that will be the end of it.

Read also: Ihor Mazepa addresses SBI accusations and alleged attempt to flee Ukraine

Because when we just say: “Oh, here is a question, there is a question” ... We remember [the fifth president, Petro] Poroshenko also had such stories. When Nova Poshta [logistics company] was targeted, some other businesses were also targeted, and people stood up for them later.

But the problem is that we’re now in a full-blown war and the whole country is under attack.

Almost all presidents are always in agony after the third or fourth year of the presidency, closer to the elections. This is a very negative story as it drives the country into a corner with limited opportunities.

If we prosecute businesses and journalists, we will lose democratic legitimacy, abandon freedom of speech and therefore can kiss goodbye to further Western aid. Because they’ll say that we’re a small Soviet army, and Russia is a large Soviet army. That will be the end of it. [U.S. politicians Donald] Trump, [Vivek] Ramaswamy will come out and say: “Who are we helping? We helped them because they’re a democracy, but now they’re no longer a democracy.”

This is actually a very big problem. Because these people who give such advice and those in government who do these things—prosecute journalists, [NV’s sister publication] Ukrainska Pravda, [journalist Yuriy] Nikolov, Bihus.Info [investigative project], they’re doing Russia a favor. Because the Russians say: “Look, what kind of democracy it is, we have the same in our country.”

Read also: “I personally spoke with the head of the SBU.” Zelenskyy demands to investigation of secret filming of journalists

We get aid thanks to one feature of ours—democracy. We’re the biggest fighting democracy. And that’s why such countries as the United States, the UK, France, and Germany cannot but help. Do you understand? But if we become a small autocracy, they’ll say: “What’s the difference?” No one stands up for dictatorships, terrorists, or autocracy. No one ever stands for them. Only other dictatorships support them. Dictatorships are not an option for us. We don’t want to be them, and that’s why the recent events have shaken the country.

This is an issue of Ukraine’s relations with the West. They don’t understand it at all. Why is this happening? And most importantly, is this the right time for it?

I don’t want to be a defender of Mr. Mazepa as I’ve never seen him in my life. But this is a fundamental question about relations between the state and private sector.

Ukrainian investment banker Serhiy Fursa was right to say that this is the signal we sent to international investors following the results of [the World Economic Forum in] Davos. We understand there are advisors who say that all this should be done when the president is on a business trip, then he won’t be involved. But they undermine themselves. He seems to be on a business trip, but turning business life into a nightmare overshadowed any results we hoped to get from Davos. They put the country in a tough spot. Those who did it. These are very unpleasant things.

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Is this a point of no return in our relations with the West? No. But we shouldn’t be surprised if the United States takes months to vote for $60 billion [military aid to Ukraine], or if we are pressured to sack the current government.

This is a matter of the proverbial social contract between the people and their government, and the latter doesn’t fulfill its part.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine