Judge of the liquidated Kyiv District Administrative Court (OASK) Pavlo Vovk traveled abroad six times after the outbreak of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. In total, the judge was abroad for 78 days. According to the Public Integrity Council, Vovk could have used a fictitious doctoral student status to leave Ukraine, reports Slidstvo.info, citing the conclusion of the Public Integrity Council.

Pavlo Vovk left Ukraine for the first time on June 3, 2022, and returned 26 days later. The next time the judge left for a week in September, later for 10 days in October, and for six days in December. In 2023, Vovk left Ukraine twice: in May for nine days and in August for 20 days.

In total, during the full-scale invasion, the judge was abroad for 78 days.

Screenshot from the PIC report

According to the Public Integrity Council, Vovk traveled abroad five times as a doctoral student. The Slidstvo.info journalists contacted the State Border Guard Service to confirm or deny the information about Pavlo Vovk’s travels. The agency said they could not disclose information about anyone’s crossing of the state border.

The PIC’s conclusion states that the council doubts that the judge obtained his academic degree in good faith and assumes that Vovk was assisted by Serhiy Kivalov. Such assumptions are based on the fact that Vovk was a doctoral student at the Department of Administrative and Financial Law of the National University “Odesa Law Academy”, which is headed by Kivalov. He could have obtained this degree during 2018-2022. The PIC emphasizes that the judge was supposed to study full-time and not work in parallel, but Vovk received a salary as an OASK judge during this time.

“The PIC negatively views the fact of the use by the head of the court of a fictitious status of a doctoral student to travel abroad during the effect of the legal regime of martial law,” the PIC wrote in its conclusion.

On February 12, 2023, the High Qualification Commission of Judges ruled that Judge Pavlo Vovk could not administer justice in the Supreme Court. Pavlo Vovk did not appear at a hearing

Pavlo Vovk headed the OASK for more than 10 years. During Vovk’s tenure, his judges made several high-profile decisions, including the unblocking of Independence Square in 2013, when the court allowed the dismantling of Euromaidan activists’ barricades, and two days later, the Berkut riot police tried to disperse the Maidan.

Vovk is also known for being a subject of the so-called “Vovk tapes”. These recordings from Pavlo Vovk’s office surfaced in the summer of 2019. At that time, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), together with the Office of Special Investigations of the Prosecutor General’s Office, conducted searches in the premises of the now-liquidated Kyiv District Administrative Court. Law enforcement officials reported an investigation into the head of the administrative court, Pavlo Vovk, and his colleagues, OASK judges Yevheniy Ablov and Ihor Pohribnichenko, as well as Judge Ivan Shepitko of the Suvorovskyi District Court of Odesa.

According to the investigation data, allegedly due to unwillingness to pass an evaluation in the High Qualification Commission of Judges (HQCJ), Pavlo Vovk created obstacles in the activities of some of its members. Subsequently, all persons involved in the proceedings for facts of interference in the activities of the HQCJ and adoption of unlawful decisions were indicted.

The NABU also published recordings of Judge Vovk’s conversations. Among other things, the recordings revealed that the judge had arranged to buy valuable antiques and ancient coins. In November 2019, the Shevchenkivskyi District Court of Kyiv refused to extend the pre-trial investigation in the “NABU tapes” case. As a result, the Prosecutor General’s Office took the case to court.

A year later, in July 2020, the NABU published another part of the “tapes” from the office of the OASK head. On these recordings, voices similar to those of Vovk, Ablov, Pohribnichenko, and other interlocutors decide how to influence the staff of the High Council of Justice and the High Qualification Commission of Judges. The men also advise on how to make decisions in the interests of the right people in exchange for “sponsorship” and what cases to initiate on their own to influence the state. For more details, please see the Slidstvo.info article “Vovk’s rules. What NABU told about Kyiv District Administrative Court“.

Slidstvo.info received new recordings from the court head’s office, from which it learned about Pavlo Vovk’s connections with Minister Arsen Avakov and Deputy Prosecutor General Roman Hovda

Also, according to Slidstvo.info, the head of the Kyiv District Administrative Court, Pavlo Vovk, may have communicated with the people close to Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the time, including Andriy Bohdan, during the 2019 presidential election. After Zelenskyy’s inauguration in May 2019, Vovk probably visited the Presidential Office.

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