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19 September 2022

A Supreme Court judge stands exposed by journalists as having a Russian passport. During an interview, Bogdan Lvov, head of the Court’s commercial cassation division, was confronted with what was called evidence of his Russian citizenship.

The journalists presented copies of records from Russian official registers showing Mr Lvov’s supposed Russian passports and applications for them.

The judge, it is claimed, took out that country’s nationality as far back as 1999, some eight years after Ukraine’s independence and already being a Ukrainian judge. The passports reportedly were renewed in 2012 and even used by Mr Lvov to buy real estate in Moscow.

Some even worry that – given the Russian connection – Mr Lvov might have been partial to Russian interests when judging cases. Ukrainian law makes it illegal for judges to be foreign citizens, an especially grave sin in the case of Russia given the current climate of war. Reportedly, when joining the Supreme Court in 2017 Mr Lvov officially declared he had no foreign citizenship.

The allegations prompted the judge to turn to social media with impassioned pleas and denials. In a Facebook post he vehemently denied ever holding a Russian passport or favoring Russia, listing instances when he ruled against Russian parties. According to him, the accusations are part of a smear campaign to oust him from office and install a more pliable figure. Mr Lvov also said he had contacted law enforcement agencies about looking into the matter and getting to the bottom of things. 

The Supreme Court said in a statement that pending a probe Mr Lvov is being barred from access to classified materials. Some Supreme Court judges have launched a petition to collect signatures for Mr Lvov to be suspended from his position for the duration, – something, they say, he should have done by himself.
The controversy may indeed disrupt the Supreme Court’s business if Mr Lvov is suspended or removed and his position takes time to fill.

Given Ukraine’s problems with Russia dating back to at least 2014, links to that country is political death to any Ukrainian official. Some high-ranking Ukrainian judges used Russia before as a safe place to hide after being chased from Ukraine following periods of turmoil.

In what may be a coincidence, Ukraine has been readying legislation that would impose criminal liability on officials for holding Russian passports.

Ukraine also has laws that ban collaboration with Russia. 

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