KIEV (RFE/RL) — Armenia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Andranik Manukian, has vacated his rented house in Kiev after local media revealed that it belongs to the family of a former Ukrainian government official suspected of corruption.
“I have called the landlady and already severed my lease agreement with her,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I have moved to another house.”
“If the Ukrainian authorities have a problem with that house, let them do whatever they want,” he said. “It doesn’t have diplomatic immunity anymore.”
The official in question, Viktor Sivets, headed Ukraine’s state forestry agency until President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted from power in early 2014 in the “Euromaidan” popular revolt. Sivets, who was close to Yanukovich, fled to Russia along with other members of the deposed Ukrainian government.
Sivets reportedly owns businesses and expensive properties in Ukraine registered in his wife Marina Zhuravlyova’s name. One of those properties, a $2.4 million villa in Kiev, was rented by Manukian, serving as the Armenian ambassador’s official residence. The Ukrainian investigative publication CorruptUA.org said last week the diplomatic status prevents Ukrainian authorities from searching the house as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged corrupt practices in the agency formerly run by Sivets.
Manukian flatly denied helping Sivets secure the house or shielding his wife from prosecution when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service late last week. He claimed that he was unaware of Sivets’s connection with the property when he leased it in September 2013, two months before the onset of “Euromaidan” protests in the Ukrainian capital.
Manukian, who was a wealthy businessman before his diplomatic post, also dismissed CorruptUA claims that Zhuravloyva stays in the house when she periodically travels from Moscow to Kiev.
Alla Shershen, a Ukrainian investigative reporter, tried to enter the house two months ago. “One of the house workers was watering the trees,” Shershen told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian service. “I asked him whether Marina Vassilevna [Zhuravlyova] is at home. He said that she is at home.”