OTTAWA — Ukraine’s newly appointed national police chief is asking Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for more help in establishing and training a professional security force.
Khatia Dekanoidze made the pitch to both RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion in separate meetings over the last two days.
The creation of a trusted, national policing agency in the war-torn former Soviet country, formally enacted on Nov. 7, has become a major priority for President Petro Poroshenko’s government, which is battling to clean up corruption within government and political institutions.
Dekanoidze, who also visited Washington with a request for further U.S. assistance, says Ukraine is at a critical juncture.
“It is important for the whole country because right now we’re on the edge, and right now we have to choose between the evil and the good,” Dekanoidze said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
The RCMP already has a limited presence advising the country’s Interior Ministry on security sector reform and training the reformed traffic police service, which was considered one of the most dubious agencies under the old regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Prior to its re-establishment last summer, ordinary people generally avoided traffic cops they had no confidence when they laid a complaint, and were sometimes hit up for bribes. The overhaul of the service saw the old officers fired, but given the chance to reapply for one of 10,000 higher-paying jobs, as long as they passed certain tests and screening.
The creation of the national police force is following a similar path with the long-criticized “militsiya” — the post-Soviet militarized police — being disbanded.
The intention is to hire 130,000 “clean” police officers. Each will be employed on a temporary basis, and will become permanent after they’ve passed a series of tests and been reviewed by a panel that includes representatives from the national police and civil society.
“Our task is to clean the system from the corrupted people to vet them and to create the No. 1 national police which will be oriented (towards) service of the citizens, the ordinary citizens of Ukraine,” she said.
Dekanoidze has asked for more Canadian police to mentor the new force, and also wants experienced officers to train criminal investigators.
Canada is also providing technical assistance. On Thursday in Kyiv, the Canadian ambassador, Roman Waschuk, was scheduled to deliver several thousand uniforms and cameras for the patrol police.
Since the Maidan uprising in the winter of 2014 and the election of a new government later in the year, Ukrainians have grown impatient for promised reforms.
Dekanoidze, who is originally from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, is considered by many in the international community as a serious reformer with a track record in her home country.
Separately on Thursday, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland announced increased trade and investment funding between Canada and Ukraine. The aim of the $13-million measure is to help small and medium-sized businesses in Ukraine access Canadian and global markets.