Viktoriia Azarian makes sure government officials know that they will be punished if they involve themselves in corrupt activities. It’s all part of her job.
Azarian is an investigator with Ukraine’s newly created National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU. She was inspired to join Ukraine’s fight against corruption when she began to see the positive changes taking place after the Revolution of Dignity — protests from November 2013 to February 2014 that called for closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union.
It was “the first large-scale event that allowed Ukrainians to declare their ability to build a new country — democratic, European and forward-looking,” Azarian said.
In May 2015, NABU’s Director Artem Sytnyk announced that his agency would be hiring 700 qualified, motivated and fully vetted investigators committed to building a prosperous Ukraine that rejects corruption. Having recently earned a master’s degree in law from Mariupol State University, Azarian felt inspired to apply for a position. She was selected through an open and competitive process from among more than 2,700 applicants.
Once accepted, Azarian and her fellow NABU recruits underwent rigorous training by experts from several government entities — including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, the National Academy of Internal Affairs and the National Prosecution Academy. Experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Finland and Georgia helped to train the new detectives.
Additionally, Azarian joined a three-week program in the U.S. to explore American approaches to combating public corruption. During her visit, she and her colleagues learned new techniques for researching and exposing corruption, delved into the professional ethics of law enforcement bodies and discussed ways to improve international legal assistance.
“Fighting corruption is a key area in reforming our state,” Azarian said. She collaborates closely with her colleagues to prevent it — it starts by making sure senior officials disclose all their relevant transactions and activities — and if that fails, to detect and interrupt it.
Optimism for Ukraine’s future
Azarian is optimistic about the reforms her country has already implemented, such as the creation of a specialized anti-corruption prosecutor’s office and the launch of an honest and more responsive patrol police force. “I hope that the trust among Ukrainian citizens toward these newly created law enforcement bodies will only grow with time,” she said.
There is still work ahead, and she points to the judicial system as the area ripe for additional reforms right now. A strong judicial system will stimulate greater foreign investment and build the kind of prosperous European future Ukrainians are working toward, she believes. “We are confidently marching toward a new Ukrainian society, in which law and justice preside.”
Azarian advises potential recruits to NABU to “be open to changes, continuously strive for self-improvement and feel confident.”
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