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Yanukovych the Swindler

Published: December 6, 2013 (Issue # 1789)


When President Vladimir Putin came to power 13 years ago, we often heard the remark, "Once a spy, always a spy." But this might also apply to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych with a slight rephrasing: "Once a swindler, always a swindler."

Yanukovych earned the sordid reputation of a criminal after he was convicted twice in Soviet times. He received a three-year prison sentence, for which he served seven months, after committing robbery when he was 17. Three years later, he received a two-year sentence on assault charges.

Yanukovych is also believed to be an academic swindler. He has been accused of plagiarizing 23 publications, including a book that was published in 2011.

What's more, he is an electoral swindler. In the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election in November 2004, official results showed that Yanukovych defeated his rival Viktor Yushchenko. But international monitors and members of Yushchenko's camp claimed that Yanukovych had committed mass electoral fraud, including corruption, voter intimidation and vote falsification. Many indignant Ukrainians agreed, and hundreds of thousands of them protested during the Orange Revolution against Yanukovych's fraudulent victory. On these grounds, the Supreme Court annulled the second round of the election in December 2004, and Yanukovych went on to lose the vote in the third round.

The 2010 presidential election, in which Yanukovych defeated former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, was considered more free and fair than the 2004 vote. But Yanukovych has maintained his role as swindler during his first three years in office. In October 2011, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of abuse of power and embezzlement in a politically tainted case that was clearly driven by Yanukovych's desire to sideline his chief political opponent.

Then there is the financial swindling. Through murky transactions involving Vienna- and London-based shell companies, Yanukovych reportedly has been able to privatize a huge luxury estate called Mezhgorye, which was previously state property. As it turns out, Yanukovych, despite his public stance against European trade integration, appears to be quite integrated into Europe when it comes to his personal financial transactions and enrichment.

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