So (I know this because of my learnings) Western journos apparently disregard the whole scandal with Serhiy Leshchenko and his hard-earned (not) posh apartment smack dab in the centre of Kyiv. I wasn’t here to cover it in painstaking detail, but the down and dirty is this: Leshchenko bought the apartment with funds of questionable origin, rumored to be a loan from Russian-owned Sberbank Rossiyi, then tried to lamely excuse them as a loan from his former employer (Alyona Prytyla, of the Ukrainska Pravda news site), then tried to lamely excuse them as a gift from his mother, and then the National Anti-Corruption Bureau declined to investigate this case, despite Leshchenko being an MP and thus falling smack dab under NABU jurisdiction. Leshchenko evaded attempts at investigation from the National Corruption Prevention Bureau ever since, publicly decrying them as politically motivated by Kononenko, Granovsky, the Bankova et al, all the while keeping the apartment, which is actually the last of the three he owns.
Western journalists so far have decidedly ignored the matter, even though I’m not in the habit of reading the likes of Oliver Carroll or Shaun Walker anymore. I could say that they’re ignoring Leshchenko’s apartment troubles out of journalistic solidarity (they do seem intent on sharing Leshchenko’s denials re: Manafort blackmail, which may or may not have been a thing, I’m not saying anything), but my working theory is thus: Western journos chalk any grassroots criticism of Leshchenko’s real estate to jealousy, plain and simple.
They’re not far off the mark. Jealousy of this kind is quite widespread in Ukraine, reaching its maximum intensity in direct proximity to posh neighborhoods and apartment blocks. The average Ukrainian on the street (or, in my case, on the 118 bus) has little flattering to say about these posh neighborhoods – or their inhabitants, come to think of it. This is what 25 years of corruption and income inequality do to you, even if both are somewhat blown out of proportion. Corruption is a symptom, not a cause: income inequality somehow doesn’t stop Ukrainians from buying cars and apartments, taking loans in foreign currency (which since jumped several times) and casually evading taxes.
However, I have just discovered one critical flaw in my reasoning. Western journalists aren’t ever shy of showing off other people’s real estate – other high-standing officials, judges and MPs, in this case. In fact, this is usually considered an effective way of bringing attention to a corrupt official’s misdemeanors, doubly so for Ukraine. Self-proclaimed anti-corruption crusaders spend quite a lot of time discussing these ill-gotten properties in exquisite detail, which then gets aired in the West by respected publications ranging from KyivPost and Moscow Times to The Guardian and Mashable, destroying Ukraine’s reputation and support in the West. For maximum effect, this should be done right before an important decision is about to be made, in Brussels or Washington, concerning Ukraine, as demonstrated by the last year’s Dutch referendum.
Yet now, when one of their own is under fire, Western journalists resolutely keep mum.
A double standard if I’ve ever seen one.