Author Topic: Epidemic warning - Imintroubleitis strikes again!  (Read 1599 times)

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Offline Claus

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Images of former Social Party Minister of Transport Mykola Rudkovskiy appearing in court confined to a wheelchair dominated the evening news early last week as the formerly youthful and famously active socialite minister stood trial on embezzlement charges. Rudkovskiy was arrested in Kyiv on February 9 and held in custody until his court date two days later in Pechersk. He claimed to have received a series of injections to enable him to attend the sitting of the court despite high blood pressure. “I won’t be able to come to the court for the second time in the wheelchair either morally nor physically,” Rudkovskiy told reporters. According to the Socialist Party figure’s representatives, Rudkovskiy was taken into custody directly from hospital, where he had been convalescing following an operation on his back. However, Security Service of Ukraine officials claimed that Rudkovskiy was arrested in connection with charges relating to misuse of ministry funds while going about his business in Kyiv.

The February 11 court hearing ruled that Rudkovskiy should remain in custody, claiming that he had not co-operated with investigators and does not live at the Chernihiv address where he is registered. He remains in Kyiv’s Lukyanivka prison today, with supporters holding a vigil against the court’s decision close to the prison walls.

Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz has slammed Rudkovskiy’s incarceration as “legal torture” by the new government, while the victim himself was not short of comment, despite the alleged concerns of his doctors. “I was targeted by the Presidential Secretariat. The aim of my arrest is to show what will happen to anyone who says too much,” he told reporters following his court appearance. Rudkovskiy faces allegations that he misused ministry funds to pay for private foreign travel while in office. He also caused scandal during the 2007 election campaign by alleging that the Presidential Secretariat was planning to stage terrorist atrocities to discredit their political enemies.

Impending charges, sudden illnesses

The dramatic deterioration in Rukovskiy’s health has not been confirmed by independent experts, but it certainly fits into a broader pattern of sudden ill-health among Ukrainian politicians faced with career-threatening court cases and investigations. One of few consistencies in Ukrainian politics over the past decade and a half has been the direct relationship between parliamentary deputy immunity and the immune systems of under-fire officials themselves.

On countless occasions members of parliament and other government officials have claimed ill health as grounds to skip the country, avoid awkward questions or simply disappear from view. Sudden deteriorations in health have also been used to win the sympathy of the judiciary and general public while adding substance to the inevitable claims of political persecution. Political commentators have coined the term, “I’m-in-trouble-itis” to describe this debilitating disease, but given the wide range of differing symptoms witnessed over the years medical experts have not been able to pin down the condition. Past experiences however appear to confirm that “I’m-in-trouble-itis” is transmitted primarily via court summons and votes to strip deputies of their immunity. It is thought to be aggravated by changing governments and can lead to prolonged periods of treatment in countries which do not have extradition agreements with Ukraine.

Socialist Party’s ills

Rudkovskiy is not the first high-ranking Socialist Party member to claim ill-health when confronted with legal problems. Former Minister for Internal Affairs and fellow Socialist Party bigwig Vasyl Tsushko went famously AWOL in May 2007 after playing a key role in the stand-off at the Prosecutor General’s Office which saw rival troops ordered to march on the capital. As the country slowly moved away from the brink of bloodshed in the immediate aftermath of the confrontation President Viktor Yushchenko called the actions of the minister illegal and called for proceedings against Tsushko, only to find that he had been rushed to Germany for treatment on an acute health problem that was variously described as a mild heart attack or a political poisoning.

After several months out of the country Tsushko returned to Ukraine and made public allegations of his alleged poisoning, although little evidence was provided to back up these claims. However, it seems that the excitement and tension of the May showdown had indeed led to a long-term deterioration in the minister’s health, and he resigned from his post on September 30, the day of the parliamentary elections.

Panama Pavlo’s Greek cure

The most infamous case of apparent I’m-in-trouble-itis came in 1999 and involved former prime minister and then-opposition leader Pavlo Lazarenko. Things started to go badly for Lazarenko when he was arrested at the Swiss border in late 1998 while trying to enter the country on a fake Panamanian passport. After some clarification as to his true identity the former number two man of the Ukrainian state was incarcerated on charges of money-laundering. He was eventually allowed to return to Ukraine on bail where he faced further investigations into alleged financial irregularities. As parliamentary deputies prepared to vote on stripping Lazarenko of his deputy immunity, the Dnipropetrovsk native suddenly left the country for what he referred to as emergency treatment in Greece, a country not otherwise renowned for its medical excellence.

On February 17, 1999 Parliamentary Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko made public a letter from the sick official who requested the postponement of the immunity vote because of illness. Three days later the health-challenged former premier appeared in New York seeking political asylum. He has since been convicted of money laundering offences in the US and is currently serving a sentence in a San Francisco prison.

Post-Orange blues

The most serious outbreak of sudden ill-health among Ukrainian politicians came in the immediate aftermath of the Orange Revolution, a period which saw many members of the former regime coming in for increased scrutiny. Party of Regions officials, who had seen their candidate for the presidency beaten by Viktor Yushchenko in a revote following mass electoral fraud in their favour, proved particularly susceptible.

In April 2005 Borys Kolesnikov, one of the leaders of the Party of Regions was arrested following a ruling from a Pechersk court of Kyiv and accused of blackmail but was eventually released in August due to lack of evidence, with the judge citing health problems as an additional factor. Kolesnikov was asked to remain in the country pending further investigation. His poor health also prevented Kolesnikov from responding to a request for questioning at the Prosecutor General’s Office later in 2005.

Also in April 2005 the former head of Central Election Commission Serhiy Kivalov responded to interview requests from militia representatives in Odessa oblast with claims that his fragile health would not allow him to face any questioning. “We would like to put various questions to Kivalov concerning the property investigations and the ownership of the Odessa National Juridical Academy. Unfortunately, Kivalov hasn’t come in to talk to us. As far as we know he fell sick suddenly last Wednesday,” explained Mykhaylo Tkachenko, a representative of the Odessa Oblast militia.

Moscow medics and hunger strikes

Another victim of sudden ill health in the wake of the Orange Revolution was the normally energetic Nestor Shufrych, who had been a prominent supporter of Viktor Yanukovych’s failed bid for the presidency. At the end of the April 2005 Shufrych was invited in for questioning by the Poltava branch of the Interior Ministry in response to allegations over illegal operations at the region’s Semerenkivsk mine.

His press secretary Olha Buyanovska disappointed Poltava police chiefs, however, commenting: “Shufrych is very sick. He has a fever and he most likely won’t be able to appeare at the Interior Ministry in Poltava Oblast as requested on April 27.” Feverish Shufrych was again struck down within a matter of weeks, reporting on May 20, 2005 that he had suffered a concussion while defending former Zakarpattya administration head Ivan Rizak, who was being taken from his hospital bed into police custody.

The less bold tend to retreat from Ukraine altogether, with many favouring the expertise of Russian hospitals when called to face the music in Kyiv. While the new Orange authorities were searching for former Odessa mayor Ruslan Bodelan in early 2005 in connection with allegations of abuse of office, Bodelan himself was lying low in a Moscow Oblast hospital. His daughter made public in May 2005 claims that he had undergone a major operation which had been carried out by Russian doctors. Soon after his surgery Bodelan appeared to have been well enough to be moved, and later in 2005 journalists found him living and working in St. Petersburg without displaying any trace of a life-threatening medical condition.

August 2005 saw Kharkiv Oblast administration head Yevhen Kushnaryov claim illness when faced with charges relating to abuse of office and tied to statements he had made in apparent support for succession for east Ukrainian regions during the Orange Revolution. Despite his allegedly fragile health the Party of Regions official did not balk at beginning a hunger strike from the moment of his arrest. Within two days he theatrically lost consciousness during a court hearing and was eventually released on USD 1.5 million bail.

Oksana Bondarchuk
Business Ukraine

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Offline P-N

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Re: Epidemic warning - Imintroubleitis strikes again!
« Reply #1 on: 09:36 22-Feb-2008 »
I love satyre - It would be so funny  ;D if it was not based on truth  :'(
"When surrounded by the dark void of the willfully blind, it does not excuse those that are a spark of light their duty to shine" - Me