Parliament appointed lawmaker Andriy Kostin, a member of President Volodymyr Zelensky's party, as prosecutor general. 299 lawmakers supported the president's candidate on July 27.
Kostin, seen as a staunch Zelensky loyalist, has been accused of sabotaging judicial reform. He also used to be the Zelensky administration's preferred candidate for the chief anti-corruption prosecutor but failed to get the job.
He did not respond to requests for comment.
Kostin, 49, has a law degree from Odesa National University. After graduating he worked as a lawyer.
In 2010 Kostin ran for a seat on the Odesa city council on the Front Zmin party's ticket but did not become a member of the council. Front Zmin was headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who later became prime minister. In 2019, Kostin was voted into parliament on the ticket of Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, a year later taking charge of the parliament's legal policy committee.
Contest for anti-corruption prosecutor
In 2021, Kostin was seen as the Zelensky administration’s preferred candidate for the job of chief anti-corruption prosecutor. However, Western experts vetoed Kostin.
The Anti-Corruption Action Center, AutoMaidan, Dejure, and Transparency International concluded then that Kostin did not meet ethics and integrity standards and violated the principle of political neutrality.
After the veto on Kostin, pro-government members on the selection panel were accused of blocking and sabotaging panel meetings for months, with civil watchdogs accusing them of not being willing to select an independent prosecutor.
The pro-government panel members who promoted Kostin’s candidacy were handpicked by Zelensky’s deputy chief of staff Oleh Tatarov, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s investigative program Schemes.
Vitaly Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center's executive board, said in 2021 that “Tatarov personally made sure that Kostin should pass to the next stage” of the selection process. Tatarov became a symbol of impunity and lawlessness for anti-corruption activists.
He was charged with bribery in 2020 but prosecutors and courts effectively destroyed the case.
Role in judicial reform
Another accusation made by anti-corruption activists against Kostin is that he helped sabotage the judicial reform.
In 2021, as a lawmaker, Kostin was pushing for a judicial reform bill that nullified foreign experts’ role in the reform and violated Ukraine’s commitments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Anti-Corruption Action Center, and Dejure, a legal think-tank, said then.
The same year, Venice Commission proposed reforming the Constitutional Court by holding a transparent competition for court jobs with foreign experts’ participation. However, Kostin’s parliament committee blocked the reform by rejecting the proposal.
Kostin has also been accused of covering up for Ukraine’s most notorious judge Pavlo Vovk.
Civil society sees Vovk as the epitome of judicial corruption and impunity. He has been audiotaped discussing corrupt deals and charged with corruption and obstruction of justice.
In April 2021, Zelensky submitted an “urgent” parliamentary bill to liquidate the Kyiv Administrative District Court, which is headed by Vovk. However, Kostin’s legal policy committee effectively blocked the bill by failing to consider it for more than a year.
Halia Chyzhyk, a judicial expert at the Anti-Corruption Action Center, said in 2021 that Kostin was encouraging procrastination with the bill.
"Kostin has supervised attempts by the President's Office to take the judiciary under control," lawyer Vitaly Tytych, an ex-head of judicial watchdog Public Integrity Council, told the Kyiv Independent.
When Kostin ran for the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, anti-corruption activists and members of the selection panel raised questions about his asset declarations. In fact, the head of the parliament's legal policy committee failed to declare assets on multiple occasions.
Specifically, in 2019-2020 Kostin did not declare any housing in Kyiv despite getting budget funds worth Hr 20,000 to rent accommodation. In 2021, he explained his failure to declare it by appealing to “legal uncertainty.” He said he had lived in a hotel, but did not elaborate where he lived the rest of the time.
In 2019, Kostin also sold two apartments in Odesa for Hr 1.2 million but failed to declare the deal.
According to his asset declarations, he bought one of the apartments in Odesa in 2010 for a mere Hr 15,800 ($2,000). Anti-corruption activists suspect that the declared price is much lower than the real one, which might indicate an attempt to evade taxes.
Kostin has also been criticized for visiting Russian-occupied Crimea in 2015 and 2018. Kostin claimed that he had visited a doctor on the occupied peninsula.
Kostin has also faced accusations of nepotism.
Kostin's wife is an aide to Andriy Dyrdin, a lawmaker from Zelensky's party, while Dyrdin's wife Iryna is an aide to Kostin. At the same time, Kostin's daughter works as an aide to Andriy Zadorozhny, another member of parliament from the Servant of the People, while Zadorozhny's son is an aide to Kostin.
Commenting on the nepotism allegations, Kostin argued in 2021 that the appointments did not violate the law. He said that he had appointed Dyrdin’s wife and Zadorozhny’s son due to their professionalism.
Meanwhile, Kostin’s aide Iryna has also been investigated by the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine in an embezzlement case against allies of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych. She did not respond to a request for comment.
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