Ex-Transport and Communication Minister of Ukraine Mykola Rudkovskiy has been released from custody today. He had been accused of misappropriation of state funds and flying abroad on private visits [including a flight with a former Miss Ukraine to Paris], allegedly at the expense of state budget.
An excellent piece of investigative journalism from Tetyana Chornovil in 'Obozrevatel' reveals just how frequently the 'offence' of which Rudkovskiy was charged is committed, particularly by members of the current presidential entourage.
In the last year of former president Kuchma's term of office, the total cost of "providing air transportation for higher state officials" was 25 million hryven. For 2008, the huge sum of 96 million hryven has being budgeted, for analagous costs.
E.g. on 8th December, according to 'Oboz', Mrs. Yushchenko flew to Rotterdam, together with a large group of representatives of the "Ukraine 3000" charity, on what was supposed to be a two-day 'working visit', at a cost of $15k or more to the Ukrainian taxpayer.
In other countries such 'perks' are strictly controlled. Wives of state officials have to pay for their personal transport themselves, whatever the purpose.
Several years ago, the wife of the-then British prime minister Tony Blair travelled to work by train [not chauffeur-driven limo, please note] to a neigbouring city to hear a criminal case. She's a judge by profession. She was in a hurry, and failed to purchase a ticket. As the result of being stopped by a ticket collector, she had to pay a fine and suffer the indignity of having the story 'all over the papers'.
Katya Yushchenko, it seems, picked up the habit of getting others to pay for airplane flights very early. There were many alleged reports that our old friend Dmytro Firtash chartered a plane for the first lady's American-Ukrainian family so that they could attend her 'hubby's' 23rd January 2005 inauguration. It was all arranged by a Yushchenko's chum, Oleksandr Tretyakov, and the $270,000 bill paid for by Firtash.
The only reason why Rudkovskiy finished up in prison was that as a Socialist, he lacks political 'krysha'. He may have even been exposed to punitive action for failing to 'accommodate' some of Yushchenko's new-found oligarch friends when he was minister of transport and communications..
p.s. The second part of BBC Radio's "Dancing With The Russian Bear - Pipeline Power" can be heard soon here. It contains some fascinating 'insider' details of what happened when Ukraine's gas was cut-off two winters ago in interviews with Naftohaz's Oleksiy Ivchenko and Gazprom's Alexandr Medvedev.
p.p.s. BYuT's popularity rating in Donetsk has increased to an all-time high of 13% - mainly at the expense of PoR. Sustained attacks on Tymoshenko from the president and his secretariat, and the blocking of parliament by PoR are counterproductive, boys.