Ukraine’s long-awaited Supreme Anti-Corruption Court began its work on Thursday with a live-broadcast event attended by President Volodymyr Zelensky, underscoring the importance of the new institution to the country’s international reputation.
The fight against elite corruption was one of the major demands of participants in the pro-European Maidan uprising in 2013-2014 and remains one of the main demands of Ukraine’s Westerners donors.
In recent years, Kyiv has developed new anti-corruption structures such as a specialised investigative agency (NABU) and prosecution service (SAPU), but the creation of an independent tribunal represents the culmination of the process towards Western style institutions.
The Ukrainian legislature finally voted for the creation of the court in June 2018 after a tortuous process through parliament. The previous government led by Petro Porochenko was repeatedly accused of attempting to waterdown the provisions of the bill to protect corrupt officials from prosecution.
In a statement issued on June 5, the U.S. State Department said, “the establishment of a genuinely independent anticorruption court is the most important, immediate step the government can take to meet those demands and roll back corruption that continues to threaten Ukraine’s national security, prosperity, and democratic development.”
The court is chaired by Elena Tanasevich, a former judge of the Pechenezh district court of Kharkiv region. In a statement at the court’s commencement Tanazevich said it is expected to receive more than three thousand criminal proceedings, according to reporting in Radio Free Europe’s Ukrainian service.
President Zelensky said that the work of the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court would be assisted by parliament and vowed to change its jurisdiction so that it would consider only high-level cases of corruption.
“I understand that there are some problems. There are problems with the boundaries of jurisdiction. I know that you expect more than 200 high-profile cases against top officials. We will help so that these people are punished,” Zelensky said.
The president added that the society had high expectations of the court.