The Constitutional Court declared illegal a 2015 presidential decree appointing Artem Sytnyk as the first (and so far, only) director of the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), the Court announced on August 28 (Interfax Ukraine).
Sytnyk has been the target of constant pressure pretty much since his appointment, owing his longevity at the helm of the Bureau in great part to the support of Western countries as well as the IMF. During the Poroshenko presidency, prosecutors raided the NABU offices in 2016 and opened a case targeting Sytnyk the following year (Reuters). Many also expected the director to be fired when Volodymyr Zelenskiy reshuffled the government in early March, and there are unconfirmed claims that the president’s office pushed for the Constitutional Court to take this decision.
The gist of the legal argument is that Sytnyk was appointed thanks to a presidential decree, though the president’s prerogative to appoint the NABU director is not specified in the Constitution (though it is mentioned in the law on NABU). Previous attempts to amend the Constitution were rebuked on the grounds that this would jeopardise the NABU's independence.
The current status of the NABU head is unclear: the Court’s decision is, in theory, final, though Transparency International Ukraine argues in a legal analysis that “it would be wrong to consider that it should be followed by [his] dismissal.” It's important to note that while Sytnyk was officially appointed by Poroshenko, he was chosen as head of NABU following an open and transparent competition. Zelenskiy also declared on Monday that Sytnyk remained the acting director (NV).
What happens next? Western countries are most likely trying to prevent the removal of Sytnyk, the director of what is sometimes considered the only successful anti-corruption agency set up after the 2014 revolution, but those efforts haven’t been very overt so far: a statement released by the G7 group of ambassadors expressed support for “Ukraine’s anti-corruption institutions,” but mentioned neither the NABU nor Sytnyk by name.
This article originally appeared in FPRI's BMB Ukraine newsletter. Click here to learn more about BMB Ukraine and subscribe to the newsletter.