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Ukraine prosecutor office calls whistleblower on Estonian NGO to testify

Oleksandr Chernov at a court hearing in Ukraine.
Oleksandr Chernov at a court hearing in Ukraine. Source: Suspilne

The Office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has called a whistleblower linked to embezzlement allegations involving an Estonian NGO to testify before a Kyiv court on Friday.

The whistleblower, Oleksandr Chernov, has been charged with the illegal handing of firearms and ammunition, and is due to appear in court on Friday.

Chernov says the firearm, an RPG-type weapon, authorities found in his car back in May, was planted as a pretext for keeping him under house arrest in Ukraine and preventing him from traveling to Estonia to testify in the Slava Ukraini case.

Ilmar Raag, who is a Slava Ukraini board member, told ERR: "Chernov was summoned to Kyiv by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine today, and relating to this, a regular court session was postponed (in his case - ed.)."

Raag conceded that the background to and details of the incident have not been made completely clear up to now. "What is certain is that there are some changes ongoing which relate to this whole business," Raag said.

"Whereas in the intervening time there had been a sense that the proceedings in the Slava Ukraini case were moving somewhat slowly on the Ukrainian side, now it can be seen again that something is happening," said Raag.

Chernov pledged to talk to ERR later on on Friday.

After acting as whistleblower in the Slava Ukraini case, Chernov had desired to come to Estonia before the procedural actions carried out with him in Ukraine had taken place, in order to testify

Tšernov, was placed under house arrest in May after the RPG-type weapon was reportedly found in his car; as noted he denies having placed it there and says the weapon was planted there.

He had been helping the Estonian Prosecutor's Office with the investigation into the alleged misuse of funds donated to Slava Ukraini, whose CEO, Johanna-Maria Lehtme, was suspended as a result.

Lehtme had been elected an Eesti 200 MP at the March Riigikogu elections, but stepped down after the Slava Ukraini allegations became public.

€1.5 million in donations collected from people in Estonia transferred to a firm called IC Construction, a firm related to Slava Ukraini's partner NGO, Vsje dlja Peremogi, were seen as suspicious; Tšernov also said activities had been going on such as the significantly inflation of invoices relating to packaged food, field ambulance conversions and other aid to Ukraine.

IC Construction's true owner, Hennadi Vaskiv, is in fact Chernov's former boss; both had worked in local government in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Chernov also says that Johanna-Maria Lehtme was aware of these misappropriations, and also alleges IC Construction had been involved in arms dealing.

Editor's note: In Estonian spelling conventions and thus in the Estonian-language media, Oleksandr Chernov's second name is rendered Tšernov.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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