Black PR against activists of anti-corruption initiatives is created and spread by people who are close to the government and those who served to the previous government.
On May 23 Member of Parliament from “Narodny front” (Peoples Front party) Pavlo Pynzenyk showed to his colleagues-parlamentarins a movie called “How AnTAC works out the money of the Grantor”. The movie allegedly debunks the activity of the non-governmental organization “Anti-corruption Action Centre”, headed by Vitaliy Shabunin. It is a vivid but not the only one and hardly the last example of the targeted campaign on discrediting people who are perceived by the society as a corruption fighters.
First of all, it is about members of Parliament Serhiy Leschenko, Svitlana Zalischuk, Mustafa Nayyem and Egor Sobolev and also about activist Vitaliy Shabunin. For the last two months, he is a main hero of articles, videos, TV program of “anti-corruption fighters” – here he is.
Shabunin and his colleagues claim that the Security Service of Ukraine is involved in the information campaign against AnTAC and this is – the revenge for the fact that on March 6 AnTAC appealed to the court with the requirement to oblige the management and investigators of the Service to publish their declarations.
After appealing to the court AnTAC organized a press-conference. Several journalists who were present there were asking an off-topic questions. They were interested in financial condition, declarations, and real estate of Shabunin. Subsequently some of the journalists reported that representatives of law enforcement authorities appealed to them and their colleagues with a request to ask these questions on the press-conference for a consideration.
In March Shabunin repeatedly appeared on the talk-shows, namely on 1+1 and ZIK channels with the requirement to oblige SSU employees to declare their property. And on April 9 there was a demonstration in front of his house. Its participants held posters “Sell the house – buy wiretapping for NABU”, “Be a man – file a declaration” and so on. They also demanded strange things like “Shabunin, transfer the money you are collecting to the pension fund” and could not explain why they came to his house. As well as what money Shabuin “collects”.
Journalists of a TV program “Schemes” carried out their own investigation and discovered that demonstration was organized by the SSU. And at least one employee of the Security Service, Roman Matkivskyi was near Shabunin’s house that day. He is not just an ordinary employee, Matkivskyi is the Head of the Department of National Security of the SSU.
Despite the fact that Press secretary of the SSU, Olena Hitlyanska reported that “SSU has no time” for “organizing of such demonstrations” Matkivskyi confirmed that he was near Shabunin’s house. According to his version he was just “tracking the paid action” but unfortunately, he does not know it’s customers and organizers.
Besides on the same day demonstration took place there was a message on the official page of Automaidan stating that the SSU employees asked them to organize a drone filming of an unknown person’s house. Activists agreed because they are helping security officials pretty often but stopped filming when they found out that it is about Shabunin’s house.
The events received wide publicity in the media. But this is not the end of the story.
The next day a video was released on youtube channel ”Holos naroda” (Voice of the people) which we were mentioning earlier. On this video journalist, member of Henadiy Balashov’s party “5.10” Vsevolod Filimonenko was talking about Shabunin.
Employees of “Holos naroda” Oleksiy Lypovetskyi and Anton Hrynev came to Shabunin’s house and were trying to talk with his mother and Filimonenko was trying to find out from the activist where did he get the money for the 200-square meters house. A statement was made at the end of the video: “Most likely that millions are stored on the accounts of anti-corruption activists.”
The authors estimated the price of Shabunin’s house on the level of 250 thousand USD. This figure repeatedly appeared in similar materials later. Shabunin himself stated that his house area is a bit more than 122 square meters ant it’s price is 83 thousand USD. He gained part of the money from selling of an apartment and part was taken as a loan – which corresponds with his declaration published in the end of May.
On April 19 “Holos naroda” published another material with the same statements. And on April 29 TV channel “Ukraine” released a special report, called “In the wake of grant eaters” – about “how corruption fighters earn millions”. There are no authors of special report in the credits and after the question about whether it is channel’s own or a third-party production the Press service of the channel replied: “A team of authors consists of who have great experience in news and want to fulfil themselves in a new projects beyond the news broadcasting.”
The special report almost entirely consists of repeatedly discussed facts and conjectures which were already used by Filimonenko, except the story about the 200 square metrers house. There is also a video filmed by Filimonenko and his colleagues near Shabunin’s house. And Filimonenko himself – he is looking for an apartment of Svitlana Zalischuk.
Leschenko, Zalischuk, Sobolev and Nayyem are also in the report apart from Shabunin. Egor Sobolev even invited filming crew to his house and showed it to the journalists. This time everything went right – and, for example, before that Filimonenko missed and was filming the house of Egor and Marichka Padalko’s neighbours as she wrote on Facebook. There is a statement about Sobolev and other heroes that they “suddenly began to live in luxury.”
While also comments of Maksym Goldarb, head of the NGO “Publichnyi audit” (Public audit) are also used in the film. The sources of financing of this NGO are not indicated on their website. As well as comments of journalist, friend of and MP from “Narodnyi Front” (Peoples Front party) Tetiana Chornovol Andrii Dzyndzia who is constantly writing about real estate of Leschenko, Nayyem, Sobolev, Zalischuk and Shabunin. It bears reminding that In the end of March it was Chornovol who filed an amendments to the law on electronic declaration, which obliged the members of anti-corruption non-governmental organization and their counterparties to publicly declare their income.
Once again, well-known stories about Leschenko and Anastasia Topolskaya’s apartments, apartments of Svitlana Zalischuk, houses of Egor Sobolev and Shabunin are rehearsed in the film. “Japanese car” of the latter is also mentioned (Shabunin declared “Mitsubishi” of 2008 manufacture year) and apartments of Mustafa Nayyem brother about which the latter says that he even does not now where it is and has never been there but the voice-over says that “in fact apartment belongs to Nayyem but he does not declare it.”
The next material about AnTAC was released on Mey 20 – this time “Holos naroda” came to the airport to meet Oleksandra Ustinova, Member of the Board of AnTAC, who just came back from vacation.
The methods of conducting “interviews” of the creators of such materials are the same. For example, they asked Shabunin how he could buy a house in 2016 if four years ago he collected money for the treatment of his wife – So that the viewer got the impression that the activist bought the house, including those donations, or suddenly became rich. When Fiflimonenko reported on Facebook about apartments of Zalischuk (in 2016) he wrote: “It is notable that the date of the sale-purchase transaction (August 27, 2014) coincided with a tragic day for all Ukrainians, when Russian mercenaries closed our soldiers in the Ilovaysk.“
At the beginning of the story, the audience was shown how Ustinova talks about her participation in the events of the Maidan. And after that she was asked questions like “While our guys are dying in the war, are not you ashamed to rest in Sri Lanka?”. And after that it was informed that when “our army was fighting for the liberation of Sloviansk, Ustinova was preparing to buy a luxury real estate”. The creators of the story state that Ustinova “who was never doing any business” could not earn for 120 square meters apartment in a new building. In fact, Ustinova came to AnTAC from managerial position of E-bay company where she worked for almost six years. And the level of salaries in the commercial sector is not so low.
At the end of the video Filimonenko promised to check why Shabunin did not serve in the military. So, apparently, there is more to come.
And for now, the baton is picked up by a famous PR and provocation specialist Volodymyr Petrov.
On May 22 part of the video program” School of corruption” was dedicated to Shabunin. The hosts of this program apart from Petrov are Tetiana Honcharova, chief editor of “Raguli” (Ukrainian website) Tatiana Mykytenko which is co-owned by Petrov and Vasyl Krutchak who was so poorly supported by the MP Havryliuk. Krutchak also cooperates with Petrov in the project “LumpenShow”, which is aired on the UFO tv channel.
Firstly, Mykytenko for a long time and in detail was analyzing the declarations of employees of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. For example, there was an information that PR manager of NABU earns 80 thousand UAH per month although all information including salaries could be found on the website of NABU in the section of vacancies and the Head of the communications department receives a salary of 38 thousand. Shabunin, for example, was mentioned while discussing his interview to Tetiana Danylenko. Krutchak who is known for his provocative speeches at press conferences asked Shabunin a question about whether there are any dishonest people in his organization and received a negative answer. After that everyone were discussing scandals about NABU but no one clarified about which organization Krutchak asked Shabunin – NABU or AnTAC? After that Pertov expressed discontent to the interview of Shabunin to Tetiana Danylenko – and this was the end.
And finally, on May 23 a film “How AnTAC works off the money of grantmakers” was released. The film is fascinating and amazing in its own way.
The name of the author of the “film-investigation” is Vasyl Apasov, he is the head of s non-governmental organization “National interest of Ukraine”. His main claim to AnTAC is that organization spends money of the grantmakers inefficiently and “siphons off the money to individual entrepreneurs under organizations control.”
For example, the “inefficiency” is illustrated by the fact that members of organization “are not mentioned in any law as authors” (which is natural because Members of Parliament are mentioned as authors of the draft laws which they are submitting but not necessarily writing) and in addition “not mentioned as the authors of journalist materials” (which is also logical because AnTAC is not a media). As for the “journalist investigations” AnTAC does not do them – as noted by Denys Bihus in the comment to “Detector media” firstly AnTAC provides experts and secondly, they appeal to the court based on the results of journalist investigations – since the state itself does not react for these investigations.
Also, there is a statement about the register of public persons (PEPs) that “it is not something original or new” and all its data is publicly available.
It is also interesting thing about “cashing out money of international assistance” using “controlled individual entrepreneurs”. “Each of the AnTAC’s managers is registered as an induvial entrepreneur” and “in fact they transfer the money to themselves” which is – according to the authors – violation of the law as it is profit. In fact, our legislation does not prohibit the cooperation of civil society with individuals, including individual entrepreneurs who are receiving money for their services from organization as experts, for example. The main thing here is that these funds should be used to achieve NGO’s goals and objectives. And it is absolutely not clear why authors think that money transferred to five individual entrepreneurs of managerial personnel is profit but not payment for services.
As member of the board of AnTAC Tetiana Peklun informed “Detector media”, figures mentioned in the film are at times not corresponding with reality. Sometimes they take accruals for one quarter, sometimes – for all four years of organization’s work. Where the figures are correct it is easy to make sure that they are taken from the website of organization and “not something original or new”. But it is presented as a dark secret revealed by Apasov and his friends.
A scheme of money transfer by “controlled individual entrepreneurs” is constructed in the film (it is not a secret that a lot of civil activists as well as journalists are registered as individual entrepreneurs). Allegedly, five entrepreneurs – members of AnTAC – transferred money to thirty-two other private entrepreneurs, who were divided into three groups. First group is called “coursmates and friends of AnTAC management”, second – “jointly recieved more than a million UAH for 2016-2017”, third – “in 2016 received money in the amount of 500 thousand UAH which were withdrawn the next day from an ATM”. In this case, the names in the groups are mostly the same – members of the board, employees of AnTAC and experts with whom organization cooperates.
It would be interesting to find out how the members of organization “Natsionalny interes Ukrainy” (National interest of Ukraine) got the information about the fact that someone out of five entrepreneurs withdrawn money from ATM at the same day when they were received. Banks do not provide such information to journalists and civil activists. It should be a point of interest for law enforcement authorities. However, it was the creators of the film who appealed to law enforcers – with a call to deprive AnTAC of the code of non-profitability and to investigate the organization’s activities. And they also called on embassies of foreign countries to look at AnTAC more closely.
AnTAC in turn found out that Vasyl Apasov earns a lot himself. More than a month ago he resigned voluntarily from NewsOne TV channel where he was working as a host. He previously expressed a desire to engage in social activities: he tried to become a member of the public council under the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. From his declaration, which Apasov filled like all the candidates, it turned out that on NewsOne and on other place of work – the UNN news agency – he received a tiny income. But as a private entrepreneur he earned 1.8 million UAH. And together with her wife Anastasia Daynod, employee of UNN and NewsOne (as a freelancer) – 5.28 million UAH.
Non-governmental organization “Natsionalny interes Ukrainy” (National interest of Ukraine) was registered in the beginning of May and their website appeared in the end of the month without any indication of the NGO’s source of financing on it. So far film about AnTAC is the only known result of organization’s work. By the way, it was immediately translated into English – apparently, so that the embassies of the G-7 countries could understand.
And this is also not the end of the story. On May 24, an investigation about connection of Shabunin and management of the company which developed system of electronic declarations was released on “Obozrevatel” website. Surprisingly, the investigation was published under the heading “blogs”, with the note “Website editorial office is not responsible for the content of blogs. Editorial opinion may differ from the author’s opinion.” At the same time, the text was signed by the Deputy chief editor of the website Anna Molchanova.
The conclusion that system of electronic declaration is a corruption scheme could be made from the investigation. All the material – detailed, with names and dates is a paraphrase of Yuriy Lutsenko’s statement in the Parliament that LLC “Miranda” which developed the system are just some students and lecturers of Kyiv Polytechnic Institute who were paid little. And the money from the grant were allegedly siphoned off to the fictitious company in Estonia.
It is interesting that the Statement was made by Lutsenko in the afternoon of May 24 and detailed material with dates and sums which were transferred to the accounts of the company in the state-owned “Ukreximbank” was released on the same day on “Obozrevatel” but at eight in the morning. Naturally, without any reference to the Prosecutor General – by the time of his speech in the Parliament, the investigation was published on a dozen of different resources. Shabunin is mentioned in the investigation as the one who supported Miranda and expressed confidence in the company along with AnTAC. “Where are “anti-corruption activists”? Are they still ready to protect this corruption scheme even now? “Obozrevatel” is ready to hear the point of view of Shabunin and Co” – writes Anna Molchanova.
It could not be more cynical: how the money for “counteracting corruption” being laundered May 24, 2017, 07:56.
An investigation of “Obozrevatel” allowed to make a shocking conclusion: the development of e-declaration system by the company “Miranda” is in fact a cynical corruption scheme. Actually, the developers were “dumped“ and all financial resources were illegally transferred to the accounts of foreign company, with all the signs of fictitious entrepreneurship. There are some questions to the “anti-corruption activists”: what was the reason of such vivid protection of the company, product of which had and still has a set of claims?
By the way, Lutsenko, back in the day, сlosed the case against AnTAC in the course of which a lot of documents were seized – in March last year. Information which was in Apasov’s film could come to him from the documents seized by the authorities as suggested by Peklun. Now, according to her suggestion considering the situation with “Miranda” there could be visits to AnTAC with audits once again.
We do not have enough evidence to confirm that organizers of media-killer campaign against Anti-Corruption Action Centre, Vitaliy Shabunin personally and several Members of Parliament are connected with government and law enforcers. But the connection is too obvious and the main thing is that pattern is familiar: using anonymous letter, pseudo-investigations of marginalized journalists and provocations government before Maidan was trying to discredit public figures, journalists. And opposition which is now – the government but it seems like they never made any conclusions.
P.S. This article was corrected. It was stated, with reference to the site of the “Road Control” that Andrii Dzyndzia is an assistant of the Member of Parliament Tetiana Chornovol. But Dzyndzia stated to “Detector media” that he never was an MP’s assistant. While he specified that he is an old friend of Tetiana Chornovol and helping her with “anticorruption investigations.”
Galyna Sklyarevskaya, Detector.media, first published on May 31, 2017.