Ukraine's 'Martin Bell' saddened by fellow MPs

Poacher turned gamekeeper, Mr Leschenko admitted he was still uncomfortable with the idea of being a politician

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The Independent Online

As Ukraine continues to muddle through conflict and reform, the country’s new parliament began work this week.

MPs lined up to register for what will be the eighth Verkhovna Rada session, which is materially different to those of previous years, being marked by a pro-European constitutional majority and a new intake of war leaders and young reformers.

In Kiev, there was also a distinct sense of chaos as usual, as deputies piled in around the registration tables – a scene more reminiscent of a football crowd than a national parliament. Standing out in the melee, however, was one of the new intake, Sergii Leschenko. As a famous investigative journalist and scourge of the previous regime, he is one of the parliament’s most prominent reforming hopes. He was elected as an MP from the party lists of President Petro Poroshenko.


Poacher turned gamekeeper, Mr Leschenko admitted he was still uncomfortable with the idea of being a politician. He prefers that people consider him a “watchdog,” working on the inside to uncover and uproot corruption. He hopes to secure a place on the anti-corruption committee – and given that only 10 MPs applied last time, he has every chance of being included. “It’s practically the only committee that doesn’t offer the chance of personal enrichment,” he said.

Business of the first day saw several important coalition matters resolved. As expected, the Parliamentary Speaker was confirmed as Volodymyr Groysman, a former mayor of Vinnitsya and key Poroshenko ally. Mr Poroshenko made an unscheduled speech, which he used to emphasise the “European choice” of the Ukrainian electorate. He then moved to propose his colleague Arseniy Yatsenyuk to continue as Prime Minister. Political rumour mills have, for months, been full of tales about how the leaders struggle to work together. The remarkable shortness of Mr Yatsenyuk’s proposal speech – two minutes – may be a hint to the differences.

Mr Leschenko admitted he was not confident that parliament would be able to plot a more democratic course. “I thought politicians would be more scared of the public’s reaction after Maidan, but unfortunately I see that they are mostly the same,” he said. “What I see are people running for positions, for influence and for cash: it makes me sad.”