Barely a few weeks ago, President Viktor Yanukovych’s authoritarian government fell to a popular revolution and hundreds of ordinary Ukrainians swarmed into the 140-hectare grounds of the luxurious Presidential estate. Here they caught a glimpse of the stunningly luxurious lifestyle that their former President had been enjoying at their expense. Shocked Ukrainians found evidence of an extraordinary self indulgent (if somewhat tacky) opulence came with gold bathroom fittings, marble floors, a private zoo and a full size galleon (for parties) in the grounds.
In the chaos that followed the revolution a small but dedicated group of journalists have been chasing down thousands of hastily dumped documents that were found in the presidential estates lake. The recovered documents contained proof (of the former Presidents extravagant tastes) and also documented the systematic bribery, corruption, nepotism and state sponsored violence that have scared the Ukraine in recent years.
The paper trail continues to grow, stretching across Kyiv, the Ukraine and elsewhere (including perhaps to the doors of many large European banks) as other incriminating papers keep turning up. These waterlogged documents may provide crucial evidence for potential future criminal proceedings. Investigative reporters have been working around the clock to dry and sort out the mountains of damp paperwork.
The relatively rapid collapse of the corrupt oligarchic regime in Kyiv no doubt set alarm bells ringing in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the other corrupt self serving oligarchies. Not so much for the loss of President Yanukovych and his ruling clique, but, because it provides an example of what is possible to people in Belarus, Russia and elsewhere when it comes to overthrowing their own oppressive and corrupt governments.
The revolution has triggered a no doubt long planned (but hastily enacted) series of events in the Crimea and delivered President Putin a convenient military and strategic success for Russia. The Kremlin sponsored events in Crimea (and now eastern Ukraine) have been augmented by a Russian media frenzy. This serves to distract the Russian people from making any potentially awkward comparisons between elite corruption in Ukraine and the systematic corruption that lies at the heart of President Putin’s Russia.