1. Hectares in the closet: seven years in the waiting
  2. Who got the land?
  3. Interesting times

The High Anti-Corruption Court has postponed its decision on pre-trial restriction for Minister of Agrarian Policy Mykola Solskyi until Thursday, April 25. The judge was not inspired by the list of events and interpretation of the facts that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office had been reading out for three hours. The law enforcement officers did not object to the judge's proposal to postpone the hearing. On the contrary, they suggested moving the meeting from 10 a.m. to an hour later.

This is the first time the NABU has taken action against a sitting minister. On the morning of April 23, the agency's detectives indicted Minister of Agrarian Policy Mykola Solskyi at his home. Law enforcement officers suspect him of participating in a scheme that resulted in two state-owned enterprises from the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences losing 2,500 hectares of land in 2017-2021 and another 3,300 hectares being at risk of loss. The NABU calculated the total amount of the case at UAH 481 million ($12.2 million). The indictment falls under Art. 191 of the Criminal Code, which provides for up to 12 years in prison.

Hectares in the closet: seven years in the waiting

Two important details. First, Mykola Solskyi was not detained when he was charged, although the experience of similar cases (the case of businessman Ihor Mazepa) proves that the suspect usually moves towards the Polish border or goes into hiding (the case of the Hrynkevychs).

It seems that law enforcement officers expected further moves from the minister, leaving a window open for him. At the same time, information about the minister's business past appeared in the information space, with an emphasis on his connection with the former head of the Presidential Office, Andriy Bohdan.

The second detail is the timeframe of the actions underlying the case. The NABU noted that the charges concern Mykola Solskyi's actions in the period from 2017 to 2021. These years are important because law enforcement officers need to activate the option of Article 191, "by abuse of office."

Mykola Solskyi gained an "official position" in 2019, when he was elected to the Verkhovna Rada and headed the Committee on Agrarian Policy and Land Affairs. On the same day, at 11:40 a.m., the minister made a statement in which he noted that the case concerned the events of 2017-2018. At the time, he was a lawyer and did not hold public office.

Who got the land?

According to, the essence of Solskyi's case consists of two stages. At the first stage, the land of two state-owned enterprises – Iskra and Nadiya from the Romny district of Sumy Oblast – was transferred to the ownership of ATO participants. These Donbas war veterans gained the right to the land due to their participation in combat operations. In total, about 800 such people were gathered in the Romny district. At this stage, there are the following key points that have been clarified by the courts for several years:

- the legality and legal purity of the land transfer. The SOEs argue that the land documents were lost, and that the employees of the regional State GeoCadastre are involved;

- whether the land was transferred to someone other than ATO veterans.

The second stage was when the veterans leased the land to a private agricultural enterprise. Here, the key point is what are the terms of the lease, whether they are a veiled sale of land? Namely, does the lease agreement contain an obligation to sell the land to the lessee?

Interesting times

The NABU got the Solskyi case moving at a time when the Cabinet of Ministers is being reformatted. The purpose of this purge is to demonstrate to Western partners that the government is fighting to improve efficiency and eradicate corruption even at the embryonic level. Several deputy prime ministers and ministers are expected to lose their positions. Until April 23, the media most often named Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, and Oleksandr Kubrakov, Deputy Prime Minister for Community Development, Territories and Infrastructure, as candidates for dismissal from the Cabinet. It is interesting that the media characterized Oleksandr Kubrakov as "essentially an informant for the NABU". Against this background, the surge in NABU activity in the Solskyi case looks like an attempt to divert the attention of government cleaners from "their" man.

The best way to prove the groundlessness of such coincidences is to prove in court the validity of NABU's charges.