To scare corrupt officials straight, Ukraine arrested two politicians on live TV

Handcuffed: the new claim to fame.
Handcuffed: the new claim to fame.
Image: YouTube
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Giving new meaning to reality TV, Ukrainian police clad all in black barged in on a live-televised government cabinet meeting and arrested two senior officials on charges of corruption.

The country’s prime minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, tweeted images of the arrest, saying that “[t]his will happen to everyone who breaks the law and sneers at the Ukrainian state.”

The arrests of the head of the state emergency service, Serhiy Bochkovsky, and his deputy, Vasyl Stoyetsky, are part of a larger anti-corruption clampdown. Interior minister Arsen Avakov said the officials were being investigated for bribe extortion from fuel companies.

Though it sure seemed like one, Avakov said the detention was “not a show” and “not theater.” It was clearly a calculated decision though.

“We decided it was necessary to do it this way, during the cabinet meeting, as inoculation, as a preventative measure against corrupt officials, of whom we unfortunately have many,” said Avakov.

Bribery has plagued the Ukrainian political system for years, and is one of the factors stifling the country’s troubled economy. The country’s political establishment also has a penchant for dramatic flair, with its lawmakers notoriously starting brawls in parliament.

Earlier in the day, the country’s president, Petro Poroshenko, fired Ihor Kolomoisky, the oligarch governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region.

The reason for the dismissal was another illustration of power politics in play in Ukraine. On March 19, after his ally was replaced as head of the state-owned oil monopoly, masked men reportedly loyal to Kolomoisky briefly entered and occupied the company’s Kyiv offices.

The decision to remove the billionaire Kolomoisky was said to be difficult one for Poroshenko, because Kolomoisky has helped finance militia groups fighting the Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country.