A former investigative journalist and Maidan activist turned politician, he has been at the forefront of reforms such as electronic asset declarations for state officials, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and has singlehandedly impeded the passage of three hundred draft bills containing hidden corrupt practices.
“Soboliev proved to be one of the most effective and sincere drivers of anti-corruption reform in the parliament, he protects the independence of NABU, opposes the appointment of a loyal auditor, and advocates for the establishment of the anti-corruption court,” said the Anti-Corruption Action Center after his dismissal.
Polish security today depends on its membership in NATO and the EU, and those organizations’ support for it. In NATO, the United States is the leading power, and Poland’s relationship with Washington is the foundation of its security; the relationship involves billions of dollars allocated to Polish defense infrastructure, armed forces, and weapons for its defense against Russia. In the EU, Germany plays a similar role. But the Polish government seems intent on alienating precisely those states upon whose goodwill its security depends.
There’s an effort underway to put one in place. While the government has adopted legislation to create the first-ever public broadcaster, it has encountered numerous problems, namely funding and independence.
He is right. Recent months have seen the escalation of a fight that pits anticorruption institutions and activists against segments of the state and ruling elite.
But this is understandable and predictable.
Since the thirty-nine-year-old soft-spoken CEO took over in 2014, Naftogaz has turned a profit for the first time in five years. It has also become the biggest user of the ProZorro e-procurement system that has saved taxpayers more than $1 billion, and it beat Russia in the Gazprom vs. Naftogaz case at the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal earlier this year. In other words, Kobolyev has had an incredible run.
But gas reforms have stalled. Kobolyev said that he hasn’t seen much progress since May 2016.
“Without [further] changes, nothing is possible,” he said during our interview in Washington.
And luckily, there are distinct steps the government can take now to make real changes. On October 19, Ulana Suprun, the American-born doctor who is the acting Minister of Health in Ukraine, finally convinced parliament to pass far-reaching reform. There’s a big snag, however: President Petro Poroshenko hasn’t signed the bill yet, so implementation is delayed.
“There’s something going on within the presidential administration,” Suprun said in a December 11 interview; she was in Washington to meet with the World Bank and spoke with UkraineAlert for the first time since the bill passed.
Both Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman and Poroshenko publicly supported the bill, but she suspects there’s political infighting between the two factions who opposed the bill.
Health care committee chair Dr. Olga Bogomolets was and is the problem, said Suprun.
In fact, the Ukrainian authorities seem to be pursuing a policy of double standards, demanding that Russia liberate Ukrainian political hostages and journalists while simultaneously arresting dissenting activists, journalists, and political opponents.
The case of former Georgian President and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili captured the world’s attention on December 5, as special forces attempted to detain him. The law requires a court order for such an arrest to take place, which law enforcement bodies did not have. His supporters eventually freed him, but Saakashvili was later arrested on December 8 for allegedly "aiding and abetting a criminal organization." On December 11, a judge released him. Numerous observers and rights organizations view the ordeal as politically motivated.
Saakashvili soaks up international attention, but there are numerous other cases that have escaped notice and are also worrisome.
But a successful Pakistani-born businessman, Mohammad Zahoor, isn’t giving up on Ukraine. He owns The Kyiv Post, a twenty-year-old English language newspaper that crusades for democracy, the rule of law, free markets, and western integration.
The Kyiv Post has a relatively small circulation, but punches above its weight as the source of news on Ukraine for embassies in Kyiv, chanceries around the world, and expats living and doing business there. Zahoor bought the newspaper in 2009 from its American founder and has lost money ever since. But that is okay.
“I believe that everyone has a responsibility to do community service. This is corporate social responsibility,” he said. “My wife and I love this country despite whatever is being done by the so-called establishment here. People need to have some independent views on the things happening from people who are truly non-partisan and have no fear to express their views.”
Zahoor is a self-made man.
On December 6, pro-government faction leaders Artur Gerasimov and Maxim Burbak registered a bill to remove the head of NABU, Artem Sytnyk. Wow, consider this: the bill’s architects are the leaders of the two major political factions in parliament.
In the last three years, the power struggle against anticorruption crusaders has never been so open.