Ukrainian Supreme Court Judge Fired Over Russian Citizenship Following Journalistic Investigation

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

KYIV -- The Ukrainian Supreme Court has dismissed one of its judges following a recent finding by Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, that he has Russian citizenship.

In a directive published on October 5, Supreme Court Chairman Vsevolod Knyazyev ordered that Bohdan Lvov be stripped of his powers as a judge and dismissed from the court, effective immediately.

A Supreme Court statement said the decision was based on confirmation from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) that official Russian registries indicate he possesses Russian citizenship.

The SBU's finding echoed the results of the investigation by Schemes, which reported on September 15 that Lvov had Russian citizenship in addition to his Ukrainian citizenship.

Using multiple sources, Schemes journalists found that Russian government databases contain Lvov's past applications for Russian passports and the use of a Russian passport that bears his name to register his co-ownership of a Moscow apartment and to transfer that ownership share to his wife in 2012.

Under Ukrainian law, judges may not have dual citizenship. Sensitivity about Ukrainians in positions of power with ties to Russia has intensified since Moscow launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February.

In a Facebook post on October 3, the Supreme Court said that the SBU's "verification" of information related to Lvov's case continued.

Meanwhile, Schemes learned from multiple sources that the SBU had suspended the 55-year-old judge's access to state secrets and reported his Russian citizenship to several state bodies, including the State Migration Service and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office.

Lvov, who was also dismissed from his position as chairman of the Supreme Court's Commercial Court of Cassation, Ukraine's top court for economic and property disputes, denies that he has ever had Russian citizenship, despite the evidence.

He alleges that documents have been falsified in a bid to discredit him and undermine Ukraine's judicial system. He asserts that the results of a polygraph examination show that he does not have Russian citizenship, but he has not provided substantial evidence to support his claim.

In his 2017 application for a Supreme Court judgeship, he did not acknowledge any foreign citizenship.

Lvov made no immediate comment following the announcement of his dismissal.

Online Petition

Since the initial Schemes report was published, Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) has launched a criminal investigation into the judge's failure to declare the Moscow real estate in past annual financial declarations. NABU has summoned Schemes journalists as witnesses in this investigation.

On September 30, an online petition appeared on the president's website urging Zelenskiy to start an investigation into the Schemes' findings and, if confirmed, to strip Lvov of his Ukrainian citizenship -- an act permitted under Ukrainian law for the voluntary acquisition of foreign citizenship.

By the evening of October 6, the initiative had received more than 22,000 signatures out of the 25,000 required for Zelenskiy to consider this proposal.

Lvov has requested the State Bureau of Investigation and the SBU open investigations into the Schemes report, but neither body has commented publicly about their responses to his appeal.

A representative of the SBU, however, earlier told Schemes that the position of the Security Service "remains unchanged -- representatives of the judicial branch of government must possess Ukrainian citizenship only."

The SBU itself underwent a change of leadership earlier this year for allegedly failing to stamp out collaboration with Russia in its own ranks.

Elizabeth Owen contributed to this report