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Ukrainian President Dumps Police Chiefs, Traffic Cops

Will Yushchenko increase transparency? 19 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko told a meeting with the Interior Ministry leadership in Kyiv on 18 July of his decisions to replace regional police chiefs all over the country and to dissolve with immediate effect the ministry's traffic-patrol department, local media reported.

Yushchenko said it is necessary to change all Ukrainian regional police chiefs in order to counteract corruption and enhance efficiency of law enforcement, Interfax-Ukraine reported.

"With a new personnel we will have hope that the work in regions will improve," Yushchenko said. "If we begin fighting corruption from the beginning, we should fully replace people representing the discredited part of the police."

Yushchenko claimed that oblast police directorates employ investigators who use torture and take bribes.

Yushchenko criticized the police-directorate chiefs in Lviv and Volyn Oblasts and asked them to step down.

Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko announced after the meeting that he would sack the regional police chiefs in Lviv, Volyn, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Cherkasy oblasts, as well as the head of the transport police in Odesa and the chief of the Interior Ministry's Department for Fighting Narcotics.

Trafficking In Bribes?

Known in Ukraine under the acronym DAI (State Vehicle Inspection), the traffic police force remains an inefficient and corrupt service, Yushchenko said.

"I have warned the ministers three times -- if DAI [officers] continue hiding in bushes [to ambush cars in speed traps], there will be no DAI in this country," he said, according to Interfax-Ukraine. "You have discredited this service. That is why I have decided there will be no DAI in Ukraine as of today. I expect a draft directive to be prepared on this issue within the next 24 hours."

Interior Minister Lutsenko commented on Channel 5 later yesterday that Yushchenko's order came as no surprise to him, but Lutsenko added that he had not expected such "radical steps."

Lutsenko vowed to present within a week a project to convert DAI into new, "European-style" service.

Ukraine's DAI employed some 23,000 people in 2004.

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