“Appropriation, embezzlement and assets acquisition by abuse of office” – Yuriy Lutsneko knows well this Article of the Criminal Code – not only because he is the incumbent Prosecutor General of Ukraine. It was the reason for his arrest in 2010, and he spent two years and three months in jail. He was charged with state budget funds embezzlement for the Police Day celebration (of which he was a chief under President Yuschenko), and unlawful payment of state pension and allocation of a flat to his driver.
To tell the truth, the arrest happened when Lutsenko was in opposition to then-President Yanukovych, so political motive of the case was speculated a lot.
Since then Yuriy Lutsenko came back to power after the Revolution of Dignity – but has he learnt to appreciate carefully state benefits, boons and perks, holding the post of the Prosecutor General?
Celebration of Yuriy Lutsenko’s son wedding in a Kyiv suburb restaurant complex turned into the gathering of the influential statesmen.
Meanwhile, attempts of the “Schemes” (joint project of Radio Liberty and UA:Pershyi TV-Channel) production crew to film it to give publicity to the socially significant information ended in assault by officers of the Administration of the State Guard that were securing the event.
September 15, Kyiv Region. Obukhiv road. September 15 at 5:40 pm the “Schemes” production crew notices numerous cars and guards near the suburban restaurant complex. A governmental motorcade’s mobile intensive care ambulance is parked nearby. There are ambulance cars on the roadside. Journalists get interested in such a gathering, so the production crew parks on the opposite roadside to look closely at what is going on; they come out to the street with a camera and a microphone.
Meanwhile the officer with a badge of the Administration of State Guard moves traffic cones for cars to enter the private complex. Another State Guard officer holds a list of guests at the entrance decorated with flowers.
A guard approaches the production crew in no time. First, the state guard says a governmental event takes place in this country club. Then the event appears to be private.
Meanwhile ex-Prime-Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko come to the complex.
The moment the production crew ends talking to the guard, a van blocks the entrance and conceals the identity of those entering the premises. A temporary fence hides the view of the restaurant’s façade from the road. More guards are coming to the parking lot.
At 6:50 pm Arsen Avakov, Minister of Internal Affairs, leaves the celebration.
Later another guard with a badge of the Administration of State Guard appears at the entrance holding a list of guests.
Top Government Official Arrive to the Celebration
At 7:00 pm, another guard comes to the roadside. Meanwhile, motorcade’s flashing beacons appear on the Obukhiv road’s horizon. A Mercedes arrives to the parking lot, another one follows.
The camera records Petro Poroshenko and his wife entering the premises. Guards carry presents.
The State Guard officer prevents the production crew from coming closer without any explanation – despite the premises being public and the journalists presenting their press IDs.
First Vice Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv arrives to the party just after the President.
At 7:30 pm, Prime Minister Voloymyr Groysman and his wife arrive in a car with the headlights off for some reason.
The officers of the Administration of the State Guard interfere with filming the closed party. First, they try to block a camera. Two vans are parked in front of its operator. Meanwhile, the second cameraman attempts to film another entrance but there is also a van; soon one more van arrives.
Finally, the third van cancels out any chance to film the parking lot.
Iryna Heraschenko, Vice Speaker of the Parliament, arrives later than the other guests.
So, President, Prime Minister and many other politicians gathered for a closed party in Koncha-Zaspa, Kyiv suburb. Officers of the Administration of the State Guard do everything they can to prevent journalists from filming the event – not to disclose the identities of visitors.
The guards do not allow the production crew to the parking lot. The “Schemes” present their press IDs and ask to explain why access to the public place is blocked. However, the guards do not even agree to show their service ID cards. Eventually, the production crew crosses the road and attempts to continue filming from a higher point. But a bus arrives promptly and parks not far from the production crew. The security officer enters a bus – the same agent that prevented journalists from entering the parking lot. He instructs the bus driver where to park to block the view completely. Only two lanes out of four remained for the traffic on Obukhiv road.
At the same time, the President’s motorcade prepares to leave. Remembering guards’ instruction to step aside to the roadside, the production crew walks to the back of the facility, several metres away from the road, which is a public place. Then happens what happens.
The production crew calls 102 police phone line. But right the same moment, the Mercedes cars used by the President leave the party, and the same guards hindered the cameraman. Another operator manages to record President Poroshenko leaving the premises.
Yuriy Lutsenko accompanies President and his wife to the cars.
The journalists learn from their own sources that the closed party, attended by almost everybody from the top political elite, is celebration of the wedding of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko’s elder son Oleksandr. By the way, a week ago Yuriy Lutsenko published the couple’s pictures on Facebook. Several photos near the wedding palace also leaked to the media.
Departmental Service Cars at the Private Event
Several episodes attract our attention while watching the celebration. For example, there was a “Toyota Camry”, state registration plate AA0001CK, owned by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
A woman stands beside a van that brought the holiday cake. Then a guard escorts her to the car.
This is the same Toyota, registration plate AA0001CK, owned by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. Journalists record her leaving the party in this car. Does that woman hold a post at the Prosecutor’s Office; on what grounds was she driven in a service car? The “Schemes” made a public inquiry to the Prosecutor General on Facebook. There was no answer.
This is not the only case evidencing the office abuse by the Prosecutor General. A van, registration plate AA0013MO, which enters the parking lot, is also owned by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine. The car parks just beside the restaurant’s exit.
Why is a service car present at the private celebration of the Prosecutor General? It serves as a storage for presents! And the officers of the Administration of the State Guard are its loaders.
In this case, for instance, the guards bring out a canvas that looks like a couple’s portrait. The guard drives a service van of the Prosecutor General’s Office to take out the presents.
Later both the service “Toyota” and service van come back to the party.
The “Schemes” made an inquiry to the Prosecutor General’s Office asking on what grounds the service cars of the Prosecutor General’s Office were used for the wedding party of his elder son.
“Presence of cars of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in the temporary whereabouts of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine cannot be treated as the evidence of their use for private purposes, but is determined by the need to provide state security of the Prosecutor General and his family” – was the answer of the Department of Public Relations of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine.
The Guests Start Leaving the Party
After 10 pm, the gusts start leaving the party. Vice Prime Minister Stepan Kubiv is the first to leave; he is followed by ex-Party of Regions MP Andrii Derkach who voted for the “dictatorship laws”.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk leaves at 11 pm.
Then a man comes that prohibits his filming while presenting himself as a private individual – when the production crew attempted to enter the parking lot of the restaurant complex.
Previously the same guard accompanied President Poroshenko. Then he uses portable radio transmitter before Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman’s coming out.
The next to leave is “Nardonyi Front” MP Andrii Ivanchuk.
The vans that blocked the parking lot entry leave; the familiar bus, led by a guard, takes their place.
Wedding or Informal Meeting of Politicians?
At 00:15 am the ambulances are still on duty near the restaurant. The officer of the Administration of the State Guard keeps moving traffic cones for the cars used by the brothers-businessmen Hryhorii and Ihor Surkis, according to the programme’s sources. Then Vice Prime Minister Hennadii Zubko comes out from the complex.
Minister of Information Policy Yurii Stets follows him.
Hlib Zahorii, MP of “Blok Petra Poroshenka” also attended the celebration of the Prosecutor General’s son.
MP Zahorii is connected to the Prosecutor General through the scandal story. According to the information of “Nashi Groshi” site, in October 2016, MP Zahorii purchased elite real estate from a 67 y.o. woman who was an accountant in a company owned by the Prosecutor General Lutsenko’s family.
Deputy Head of “Blok Petra Poroshenka” parliamentary fraction, MP Ihor Kononenko, ex-Head of the Presidential Administration, incumbent Secretary of the National Investments Council Borys Lozhkin, and Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov.
Meanwhile a guard again brings presents to the service van of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Serhii Trehubenko, MP of “Blok Petra Poroshenka” also visited the celebration.
At about 2 am, Oleksandr Tretiakov, MP of “Blok Petra Poroshenka”, Pavlo Petrenko, Minister of Justice, accompanied by Iryna Lutsenko, wife of the Prosecutor General, are among the last ones to leave the party.
Finally, Yuriy Lutsenko himself is the last one to leave the restaurant complex.
Only after the Prosecutor General’s departure, numerous state guards start leaving too. It seems that even snipers were securing the wedding of Oleksandr, Yuriy Lutsenko’s son.
Mobile intensive care ambulance, conventional ambulances and a fire-fighting vehicle are still there. Meanwhile a departmental service van of the Prosecutor General’s Office stops at the restaurants exit. Oleksandr Lutsenko, a fiancé, comes out and talks to a guard.
At 3 am, when the celebration ended, the parking lot was again accessible for anyone.
“Schemes” vs the Administration of the State Guard
After the assault of the officers of the Administration of the State Guard, the “Schemes” programme production crew called the police, the statement on obstructing the professional activities of journalists was submitted at the incident scene.
Three days after the assault, the “Schemes” came at the invitation of Valeriy Heletey, Chief of the Administration of the State Guard, to his office for a meeting where he informed them that the internal review found no offence in his subordinates conduct: “There is no offence. The police denied starting investigation according to clause 6.1, as far as I remember”. On the contrary, there were infringements by the the production crew. “You have been working there since 5 pm. It was not that you came and nobody saw you. To put it mildly, you were violating the [secured] zone regime. Officers were actually supposed to send for the police and make a report, but again, we are simply tired of calling the police in any such case” – Heletey says.
This is how the Chief of the Administration of the State Guard explains the assault on the production crew that caused the brain concussion and arm injury of operator Borys Trotsenko: “There’s quite a hill there! A military fell – you won’t deny that? A huge hill! In the darkness, the sand, he stumbled, fell and grasped the cameraman”.
Heletey underlines our production crew was lucky in that situation: “If they [guards] used guns, there still would be a question about their response to the danger. Nobody could see in the darkness. Later, when they run up to you and saw you again, the same people that were filming for 6 hours. Keep filming (no problem), but do not violate the [security] regime. Those are the requirements.”
The “Schemes” showed full video of interacting with the officers of the Administration of the State Guard to Liudmyla Pankratova, media legal expert of the Regional Press Development Institute.
“If one evaluates actions of journalist and the security in search of the right and wrong doing, I believe, the journalists provided better grounds for their right of being present there, – she thinks. – Secondly, they presented their press IDs. They repeatedly stated it was a public place. It seems to me they did everything they could to be identified as journalists, and they wanted an explanation why there some security measures. There was no answer. They did not see any IDs of representatives of the Administration of the State Guard.”
Just before the programme was to be aired, the production crew and Mr. Heletey, Chief of the Administration of the State Guard, were invited to the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the freedom of speech.
Who Paid for the Party?
How much did the celebration of the Prosecutor General’s son cost to the state? Overall, the ambulances and the mobile intensive care ambulance were on duty for 9 hours, and left the premises only after the Prosecutor General left the party. The Chief of the Administration of the State Guard convinces of the need to provide medical convoy to the party. Besides, a firefighting vehicle was recorded twice near the complex.
“If there grounds to believe a person under protection has some issues. Life is life. Our presidents are in their 80s. Sometimes presence of people of that age… Again, for everybody to feel comfort and security. It’s not my task to discuss the health issues, but we foresee everything”, – Heletey says.
The production crew recorded twice a fire-fighting vehicle near the complex. The Chief of the Administration of the State Guard explains that: “It was refueled there”.
Talking about the state guard officers, they were still on duty even after the President and other top officials left. People in the uniform with apparently sniper equipment left their positions after the Prosecutor General left.
“We are not helpers of the state-aggressor. If there is a need… If you look closer, you will see what you did not pay attention to before”, – Heletey explains.
The Chief of the Administration of the State Guard refuses to talk about any Prosecutor General’s son wedding security details: “If I have any information or issues about him being endangered, I will make as many people [to guard him] as needed. For how long? The whole Administration might be engaged.”
Valeriy Heletey rejects the fact that such escort of the private party at the expense of the state budget can be treated as the office abuse by Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. “The Chief of the Administration of the State Guard and his subordinates are responsible for the security. I always say (sometimes even unpleasant things), I insist on this way, because we are dealing with the security measures. Believe me, not every guarded person likes being followed by the guards. Do not think it is pleasant when other keep their eyes on your private life”.
Prosecutor General and Impartiality
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko did not comment upon the assault with use of power by officers of the Administration of the State Guard against the production crew of the “Schemes” programme that occurred the moment he was leaving the wedding of Prosecutor General’s son. He ignored a request to state his position on the events.
There is a separate question, more of a rhetoric character. Can Prosecutor General be independent and impartial towards all the guests he called for his son’s wedding?
Whose side he takes when any of those people happens to be under investigation of the Prosecutor General’s Office?
Wedding of the Prosecutor General’s son is an evident display of overwhelming nepotism piercing the ruling elites.
by Mykhailo Tkach, Schemes – joint project of Radio Liberty and UA:Pershyi TV-Channel