Voice of Truth? Fact-Checking Svyatoslav Vakarchuk

How Truthfully the “Voice” Party Leader Comments on Oligarch Control over Ukrainian Economy, His Party’s Ratings and Trust for Parliament

depositphotos / rospoint.ukr.net

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Ever since Sviatoslav Vakarchuk’s announcement that he would be taking part in the upcoming parliamentary elections, he has been a regular guest of Ukrainian TV programs. Since May 19, he has been on 1+1, ICTV and Ukraine 14 times; he has also been interviewed by LIGA.net, Radio NV and Yanina Sokolova.

That is why VoxCheck decided to check whether the new — to use his phrasing — politician has been untruthful.  

On control over the Ukrainian economy

True

“…For instance, if somebody controls a significant share of the Ukrainian economy, if their business does. For example, above 1% of the GDP; we have such companies in this country.”

20 May 2019 (38:43-38:52)

For this quote, we will be verifying whether there are people in Ukraine whose companies have profits commensurable with 1% of the GDP or above.

According to the calculations by Censor.NET, in 2017, 30 out of 200 biggest Ukrainian companies belonged to Rinat Akhmetov. These companies made UAH 46.8 billion in profit. That is, the oligarch’s enterprises had profits that constituted at least 1.57% of the 2017 GDP

On members of the Parliament of the VIII convocation missing work

True

“On average, 20% of missed sessions during this term of office (of MPs – ed. note). That means one in five sessions missed.”

24 June 2019 (1:44:57 – 1:45:04)

On average, the total figure of absences of MPs of the VIII convocation, including those who were dismissed, constitutes 23% (according to the open data portal of the Verkhovna Rada). This figure includes absences for valid reasons, and if we discount those — the figure goes down to 20.4%. So, we rule that it is a truthful statement.

*-Calculated based on the written registration of MPs.

On mortality rate from myocardial infarction

No verdict

“He (Yurii Sokolov, a member of Vakarchuk’s team – ed. note) developed one of the best reforms in this country: both he personally and his team created a system of centers where everyone who needs stenting, which is an urgent operation, can get one for free, from public funding. And within several years, the mortality rate from myocardial infarction in Ukraine went down from 24% to what I would call a European level of 4%.”

20 May 2019 (25:49-26:24)

In 2017, the government started funding the extension of the chain of cardiology centers that Sviatoslav is talking about. That same year, according to the Association of Interventional Cardiologists of Ukraine, where Yurii Sokolov works, the mortality rate in new Ukrainian reperfusion (cardiological) centers went down to 4.6%, compared to the average Ukrainian figure of 12.5%. The 2015 data on mortality rate* from myocardial infarction in many European countries were between 3.7% and 7.9%. However, there are countries where this figure was above 10%, such as Estonia – 10.6% – and Latvia – 13.5%. We did not manage to find newer data either on Ukraine or on other European countries. Since the figures could change in 2018-2019 with a further extension of the cardiological centers network, we are leaving this statement without a verdict.

* for patients aged 45 and above who died in the same hospital where they were initially hospitalized

On the support of the European direction by Ukrainians

True

“We made our choice. It is irrevocable, it is towards Europe. Most people want this.”

20 May 2019 (42:30-42:34)

In this statement, VoxCheck will be checking whether most people are really in favor of the course towards Europe.

According to the latest, as of the moment when it was said, opinion poll by “Rating” group, held between April 30 and May 10, 57% of citizens would vote in favor of joining the EU at a referendum, and among those who are certain of their choice and would vote – 74.7%.

On NATO standards

True

“NATO standards are not only about how the army is developing, they are also about how politics works.”

30 May 2019 (1:10:28-1:10:37) 

The principles of democracy, personal liberty and the rule of law are fundamental for NATO. While the means of implementing these principles are really political and military (Articles 2 and 3 of the original Treaty), the organization sets peaceful political mechanisms as its priority. 

On sanctions against Russia

True

“Sanctions against Russia are tied to the Normandy and Minsk formats.”

03 June 2019 (11:50-11:54)

Prolongation of sanctions imposed by the EU is indeed connected with the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Now, the sanctions are supposed to continue until 31 July 2019 and can be extended after that.

On the rating of the “Voice” party

Manipulation

“Our rating has grown times ten in two weeks.”

31 May 2019 (11:02-11:06)

This interview was recorded on May 31. 15 days before that, on May 16, “Rating” group survey results came out. In this survey, Vakarchuk’s party scored 0.9% among those who made their decision and was going to vote. The latest survey before the interview came out on May 22, six days after the first one – also by the “Rating” group. In that later survey, the score of Vakarchuk’s party was 4.6%, which means that the rating had grown times 5.1. However, we should also consider the margin of error: it constituted a maximum of 1.8% in the first survey and 2.2% in the second one. This means that the tenfold growth that Vakarchuk is speaking about is possible if we take the lower margin in the first survey and the upper margin in the second one. But the margin of error works both ways, so the growth may actually be lower than times 5.1. Therefore, we consider this statement manipulation.

On Vakarchuk’s attendance as an MP 

True

“So, on September 11, 2008, I officially filed a letter of resignation as an MP and from that moment on, I considered it unnecessary to go to the Parliament. Yatseniuk, who headed the Parliament back then, signed it. <…> For three months, they wouldn’t let me go. [They did] only after one scandal, which basically happened when they were trying to force me to vote. I would say, ‘I quit three months ago.’ Finally, the coalition got sick of it and voted for this. And all these three months I was officially registered as an MP and they would record my absences because I did not attend the sessions. When we calculated my absences for the time when I was actually an MP, I skipped – or, to be more specific, did not attend, because I did not ‘skip’ at all – turned out it was 10% of the time.”

31 May 2019 (14:50-15:53)

Vakarchuk filed a letter of resignation in September, 2008. Afterward, he was present at the voting on October 2, 21, 23, 24 and 29, 2008, and before that, he had indeed been absent only at 9% of sessions.

For an MP to resign, the Parliament needs to vote for this. This means that after an MP files a letter of resignation, he or she is supposed to continue working in the Parliament until the vote on this issue takes place. Vakarchuk’s resignation was approved on December 16. If this period is taken into account, he was absent at 37% of sessions.

On Trust in the Parliament

Exaggeration

“…More than 90% of people don’t trust the Ukrainian Parliament.”

24 June 2019 (1:45:38 – 1:45:41)

VoxCheck has already once checked a similar quote by Vakarchuk. Back then, he said that there were 3% of people who trusted the Parliament, and this statement was considered “manipulation,” because it did not account for people who “mostly trust” the Parliament.

This quote is considered “exaggeration”: according to the survey by Razumkov Center held on March 20-26, 2019, 81.6% of respondents did not trust the Verkhovna Rada at all or mostly. The difference between this number and the one referred to by the speaker is 10.3%, which qualifies for “exaggeration” under the VoxCheck methodology.

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