Ukraine appoints president's nominee as prosecutor general

·2-min read

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's parliament appointed a lawmaker from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's party as prosecutor general on Wednesday, a role in which he will oversee war crimes investigations following Russia's invasion.

Andriy Kostin, a lawyer who has been a member of parliament since 2019, was nominated by Zelenskiy following the president's abrupt dismissal of his ally Iryna Venediktova this month for failing to root out Russian spies.

Kostin, 49, won the backing of 299 members of the 450-seat chamber.

Some opponents of Zelenskiy's Servant of the People party expressed concern at what they saw as the political appointment of a Zelenskiy ally, but the president's team said Kostin's professionalism made him the best possible candidate.

"To be honest, Mr Kostin turned out to be an optimal candidate who, in a rather difficult situation, will really be able to optimise the work of the Prosecutor's Office," said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

Parliament dismissed Venediktova and domestic security agency chief Ivan Bakanov on July 19, two days after Zelenskiy suspended them for failing to rid their agencies of alleged Russian spies.

Venediktova has said more than 20,000 suspected war crimes cases are being investigated by Ukraine, and a Ukrainian court sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison in May for killing an unarmed civilian following Russia's Feb. 24 invasion.

Russia has denied involvement in war crimes in what it calls its "special military operation" to protect Russian speakers and root out dangerous nationalists. Ukraine says Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest.

OPPOSITION CRITICISM

Venediktova also had responsibilities for liaising with the International Criminal Court and with other countries that have pledged to coordinate investigations into suspected war crimes. Podolyak said Kostin was well suited to such a role.

The appointment of a new prosecutor general opens the way to Ukraine fulfilling a commitment to Western partners to appoint a head of its anti-corruption prosecutor's office.

After months of delay, experienced investigator Oleksandr Klymenko was chosen for that role earlier this month but his appointment needs to be signed by the prosecutor general.

Despite Podolyak's support for Kostin, opposition lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko questioned whether it was democratic to appointment a member of the president's party as prosecutor general.

Referring to the Greek goddess who personifies justice and fairness, he said: "We need Themis with her eyes closed, not with a party ticket in her pocket."

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Editing by Timothy Heritage)