Infamous Kyiv district court discovered to have issued thousands of questionable decisions
Pavlo Vovk, Chairman of the Kyiv District Administrative Court (OASK) (Photo:Павло Вовк via Facebook)
Since the imposition of martial law in Ukraine, the Kyiv District Administrative Court (OASK) has made tens of thousands of legally dubious rulings, including the lifting of sanctions against a company with a Russian beneficiary, the reinstatement of dismissed and lustrated officials, and the payment to a "Maidan judge", according to a new investigation published on Dec. 13 by Ukrainian investigative journalism outlet Bihus.info.
In August 2022, OASK judge Volodymyr Keleberda overturned the sacking of, and reinstated, former Deputy Prosecutor General Serhiy Kiz, who served under PG Yuriy Lutsenko, and ordered him to be paid UAH 3.5 million ($95,253) for “forced absence”, explaining that the original firing lacked justification and violated “labour guidelines.”
At the same time, in September, the same judge did not cancel an identical order regarding another former prosecutor, Yaroslav Fales, who, like Kiz, did not apply for certification in 2019, and was fired by the then-Prosecutor General Rouslan Riaboshapka. Kiz and Fales had waited for OASK’S decision for over two years.
The investigation also found that OASK ruled a few months later to pay an additional UAH 3.6 million ($97,975) in severance pay to Constitutional Court judge Oleksandr Lytvynov, who was dismissed in April 2022 due to the expiration of his term of office. By September, Judge Ihor Kachur satisfied his claim.
Bihus.info notes that on the so-called “Vovk tapes”, leaked audio recordings involving the head of OASK, Pavlo Vovk – widely seen as one of Ukraine’s most corrupt judges – allegedly record Vovk saying that he and his colleagues “own" the Constitutional Court.
During martial law, OASK judge Keleberda also decided to pay over UAH 900,000 ($24,494) to former "Maidan judge" Lyudmyla Koziatnyk. The High Council of Justice dismissed her in 2017 for unreasonably depriving protesters of their rights. Koziatnyk appealed the dismissal to the Supreme Court and in 2020 became a judge again, but she was fired almost immediately. After that, the former judge demanded she be receive salary for the period she was not in office – 2017-2020.
On Feb. 24, OASK judges Yevhen Ablov, Oleksiy Ohurtsov, Kachur, and Ihor Pohribnichenko reinstated a number of lustrated officials – officials removed due to ties to the Yanukovych administration or suspicion of corruption – and awarded them payments for “forced absence.” A former employee of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers, Oleksiy Mazhan, was to receive UAH 1.18 million ($32,114) (decision of judge Ablov), and former KGB and Ukrainian intelligence official Oleh Bilyavskyi – UAH 1.67 million ($45,449) (decision of judge Ohurtsov).
They filed lawsuits in 2014-2016 and waited for OASK’s decision for six to eight years. In total, according to journalists, OASK judges involved in the "Vovk tapes" have ruled to pay more than UAH 7 million ($190,500) to lustrated officials since the beginning of the full-scale war.
In August, OASK judge Ablov overturned the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission's April 2022 decision to deprive the PV Solar Station of its electricity generation license and the right to a feed-in tariff. The NEURC argued that the beneficiary of the company is a citizen of Russia – Vasily Reshetov. Judge Ablov decided that the Commission had no right to apply such sanctions, because Reshetov has long lived in Ukraine and has a family here, and therefore is a resident of Ukraine.
Almost all OASK decisions mentioned in the investigation were appealed in the Sixth Administrative Court of Appeals.
On Dec. 9, 2022, International Anti-Corruption Day, the United States imposed sanctions against Vovk and two of his closest family members.
On Dec. 13, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, liquidated the District Administrative Court of Kyiv and established the Kyiv City District Administrative Court. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy submitted the bill on the liquidation of OASK to Parliament in April 2021. It was defined as "urgent", but it took the Rada one and a half years to vote for it.
According to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, Vovk and the judges under his control made biased decisions in their own interests and in the interests of political elites and business circles.
The investigation believes that the OASK chief headed a "criminal organization" whose goal was "to seize state power, establish control over the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, the High Council of Justice and create artificial obstacles in their work." In June 2022, this indictment was submitted to court.
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