Easter is one of the biggest holidays for every Ukrainian. And for thousands of employees of this company too. This year we’ve lost many of our colleagues with 13 thousand jobs gone. Another piece of bad news is that the cost of the Easter basket has risen considerably for all Ukrainians this year. And the person personally to blame for that is none other than the corrupt director of NABU Artem Sytnyk. Fuelled by personal revenge against the owner of this company, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, this improper pressure has already forced 29 cattle farms and 8 egg farms to close down. Thirteen thousand Ukrainians have lost their jobs, the government has collected UAH 1.5 billion less in taxes, while egg prices have grown substantially as a result of considerably reduced production.
Only a year ago, this group employed some 30 thousand Ukrainians. Over the past 10 years, it has invested over USD 3 billion in Ukraine’s economy including by raising debt and equity from foreign investors and international financial institutions. In the past three years, we have contributed some UAH 7.7 billion in taxes while generating 1.1% of Ukraine’s GDP.
For the past 5 years, we have been suffering unprecedented pressure on the part of certain public officials. NABU has a strict mandate to investigate corrupt acts committed by top government officials. NABU is not fighting corrupt civil servants though. It is fighting us instead.This war, being waged by NABU against Ukrainian farmers, is the product of a personal conflict between Artem Sytnyk and the owner of this company.
Five years ago, NABU launched a case against the agricultural holding company Avangard, which is part of this group, alleging fraud in obtaining VAT refunds when building two factory farms, Avis and Chornobayivske. For some weird reason, NABU failed to notice the existence of those farms, largest in Europe, which have been operating for several years now, producing high quality products, the best Ukrainian eggs.
Then NABU began torturing us over a case investigating alleged fraud in refinancing VAB bank as a pretext. This is a case against the former acting governor of the NBU, Oleksandr Pysaruk, and the owner of this company, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, pursued for one reason - NABU Director Artem Sytnyk has a direct conflict of interest. He has been found guilty of corruption by courts of all levels, a key witness for the prosecution being an advisor to the sister of this company’s owner, Oleg Bakhmatyuk. This is a case against the former acting governor of the NBU and the owner of this company. NABU detectives who at one point attempted to interrogate 10 thousand employees of this company as an intimidation tactic also have a conflict of interest vis-à-vis this case. They are being investigated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in a case against a certain Irena Ross for blackmailing employees of the bank.
The VAB Bank refinancing case, which has been used to terrorise this company, was closed by court for lack of evidence of criminal activity. It was following the blackmailer’s complaint that the case was reopened and remitted to NABU. She is wanted on charges of blackmailing employees of VAB Bank. The investigation has found that NABU detectives acted as her accomplices. Those same detectives are now investigating a case against this company’s owner while in fact terrorising this company. The case has been investigated 5 times and closed five times by the investigating authorities and courts, only to be reinstated again in 2019. The case appears to have lost its prime suspect, Oleksandr Pysaruk whom Sytnyk is now afraid of naming in his interviews because he’s a former IMF employee and is being defended by the international community. We are simple farmworkers, we only have ourselves to rely on, no one is going to come to our rescue, no public officials or members of parliament.
Finally, on 21 January 2021, the Pechersk District Court of Kiev compelled Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to review a petition by the counsel to the owner of this company, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, seeking a change of jurisdiction in the NABU case. The court determined that Artem Sytnyk had a conflict of interest and found the charges to be baseless. On 28 January 2021, the Court of Appeal of Kiev that has appellate jurisdiction in respect of any rulings of the Pechersk District Court of Kiev dismissed an appeal thereby upholding the Pechersk ruling of 21.01.2021. The court has compelled Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova to transfer the case to an impartial investigative authority, a ruling she has yet to comply with. What is more, NABU detectives are artificially delaying the investigation of the case, as determined by the High Anticorruption Court of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the case is collapsing, it is impossible to bring it to trial.
That is not NABU’s objective at all. Artem Sytnyk’s only goal is to exact personal revenge against this company’s owner and destroy this company, not to conduct an investigation or establish the truth. Despite the fact that the case against Pysaruk and VAB Ban has completely stalled, this company continues suffering direct reputational and financial losses, and funding constraints. Most recently, NABU has also implicated this company’s owner in a case against the former public official Nasyrov, which is a complete and utter absurdity. This is being done with one goal in mind – to destroy us, to let Sytnyk have his revenge against this company’s owner. We would not be surprised therefore if we ended up being investigated in all imaginable cases NABU could think of.
We have repeatedly petitioned the president, the prosecutor general and the Cabinet of Ministers urging them to take action to end this outrage. We have staged protests bringing together thousands, we have delivered petitions signed by 27 thousand employees of this company. At long last, we succeeded in securing the support of over 150 members of parliament representing various parties.
Unfortunately, certain destructive processes have run their course already, for which no NABU officers have been held liable: the agricultural holding company Ukrlandfarming that has created 30 thousand jobs and once supported 706 Ukrainian communities while leasing farmland from 298 thousand landowners, a group that has built thousands of production facilities in almost each region of the country, contributing billions in taxes, has sustained devastating losses. Huge losses have also been inflicted on the government budget and the entire Ukrainian economy. Cattle farms are being closed down including unique breeding facilities. Egg farms are being shut down. This list of victims of Sytnyk’s personal vendetta could increase again soon enough unless the law protects our rights from the arbitrariness of corrupt officials.
...And as Ukrainians celebrate or prepare to celebrate Easter, Artem Sytnyk is having a grand celebration of his 6 years in office as NABU director. We as employees of an agricultural company whom the NABU Director has not yet put out of a job want to congratulate him to the best of our ability on an anniversary of torturing Ukrainians. A billion eggs bearing the inscription Down with Sytnyk! are hitting the shelves of Ukrainian supermarkets as we speak. We have begun to produce them. At those two factory farms, largest in Europe, whose very existence has been contested by NABU. May each egg remind Ukrainians who’s to blame for the hike in the cost of their Easter baskets, and for putting thousands out of a job while causing huge losses to the nation.