In Ukraine

New Cold, March 1, 2016

Two news reports are enclosed.

Ukraine bans its officials from criticizing authorities, March 1, 2016

Ukrainian Rada (Parliament), (Valentyn Ogirenko, Reuters)

Ukrainian Rada (Parliament), (Valentyn Ogirenko, Reuters)

The Ukrainian government has banned all civil servants from publicly expressing criticism towards the work of state institutions or officials amid the ongoing political crisis and the cabinet’s failure to tackle corruption.

The public servants should “avoid any public criticisms of the work of state institutions and their officials,” says a new decree outlining “ethical standards” for Ukrainian officials, which was published on the Ukrainian cabinet’s official website.

According to the document, state service inevitably envisages “forming a positive image of the authorities.” It also demands that the officials avoid “actions that could harm the interests of the state service or negatively influence the image of a state official.”

Additionally, the new decree introduces a special rule on “loyalty” for all civil servants that envisages the ban on criticizing state officials. The act also demands that all the civil servants should be familiarized with the new rules and fully comply with them, otherwise facing disciplinary action.

According to the government website, “The government has decided to introduce standards of ethical conduct for civil servants to restore public faith in the work of the state bodies and officials.”

Apart from the “loyalty rule,” the new ethical standards for Ukrainian civil servants also include principles of “serving the state and the public,” political neutrality, transparency and accountability. The act generally follows a Polish model, the government website states.

The decree also provoked criticism among some civil servants that denounced it as a violation of the freedom of speech and a break with the officially proclaimed pro-western reform policy.

Olena Minitch, a department head in the economy ministry, said in a Facebook post that the new ethical rules were apparently “created hastily and adopted quickly” in the view of the former Ukrainian Economy Minister Aivarus Abromavicius’s allegations concerning corrupt state practices.

Abromavicius recently resigned in protest over the slow pace of reforms in the country accusing state officials of widespread corruption, which he did not want to “cover.”

At that time, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen called the scandal with Abromavicius a symptom of a government that has been unable to carry out promised measures to overhaul police, energy companies, and customs, in a country that has regularly been ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world.

Ukraine is facing an ongoing political crisis with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s approval ratings falling to less than 1 percent. He and his Cabinet recently survived a no-confidence vote after President Petro Poroshenko had called for his resignation, partially thanks to dozens of MPs in Poroshenko’s own faction voting for the PM to keep his job.

The current Ukrainian government came to power in 2014 after a coup that ousted the former President Viktor Yanukovich and plunged the country into a civil conflict.

Both Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the country’s PM Yatsenyuk promised to conduct reforms, improve the economic situation and bring Ukraine “closer to Europe.” However, little was done in this field so far with the crisis in country’s economy still deepening and the status of the Eastern Ukrainian regions remaining uncertain.

Ukraine bans officials from criticizing government

By Alessandra Prentice, Reuters, Tuesday, March 1, 2016

KYIV – Ukraine banned government officials on Tuesday from publicly criticizing the work of state institutions and their colleagues, after damaging disclosures last month that highlighted slow progress in fighting corruption.

The move immediately drew criticism from some civil servants who saw it as a blow to freedom of speech at odds with the embattled government’s Western-backed reform drive.

The rule on “loyalty” is one of several outlined in a new ethics code that civil servants must follow or face disciplinary action, according to a decree posted on the government website.

“The government has decided to introduce standards of ethical conduct for civil servants to restore public faith in the work of the state bodies and officials,” the decree said.

Government employees should “avoid any public criticisms of the work of state institutions and their officials,” the code stipulates, alongside rules on the need for transparency and integrity.

The shock resignations in February of Economy Minister Aivaras Abromavicius and a top prosecutor shone a spotlight on the failure of the Kiev leadership to follow through on promises to eliminate the influence of vested interests on policymaking.

In a Facebook post about the new ethics code, Olena Minitch, a department head in the economy ministry, said the new rules appeared to have been “created hastily and adopted quickly” in the wake of Abromavicius’s allegations about corrupt state practices.

“The little document … is in the best traditions of the Communist period, more precisely in the traditions of Stalin and Beria,” Minitch said, referring to repressive Soviet leader Josef Stalin and his security chief, Lavrenty Beria.

Others appeared to poke fun at the state’s call for officials to toe the party line.

“I’m a loyal public servant. I’m thrilled with the work of state bodies (and) their officials,” Ukraine’s Ambassador-at-Large Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, linking to an article about the ban.

The future of the government itself is in doubt unless Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk can shore up the coalition and avoid snap elections, having barely survived a no-confidence motion in parliament in February.

Yatseniuk’s approval ratings have plummeted to less than 1 percent since he came to office in 2014 after protests ousted the previous pro-Russian government. The economy has tanked and a conflict with separatist rebels has no end in sight.

The political turbulence has further delayed the disbursement of critical financial aid from the International Monetary Fund and raised doubts about Yatseniuk’s ability to win parliamentary support for promised reforms.

(Additional reporting by Margarita Chornokondratenko and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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