As Ukraine votes on its future, one journalist investigates Ukraine's recent past


A man casts his vote in a presidential election at a polling station in the village of Kosmach in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine May 25, 2014.


Kacper Pempel/ Reuters

Ukrainians went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president six months after former president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted from office.

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Exit polls show the billionaire oligarch, Petro O. Poroshenko known as “The Chocolate King,” with a wide lead.

But while Ukraine looks forward, Ukrainian journalist Natalie Sedletska has spent the last few months, literally sorting through Ukraine's recent past.

Six months ago Sedletska was in the ousted Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukovych's residence days after the ex-president fled, salvaging and sorting through thousands of documents that Yanukovych had left behind.

She worked with a team of journalists to digitize these papers and post them online in an investigative project they call “Yanukovych Leaks.”

So far these papers have been a springboard for 12 investigations in the corrupt practices of the former leader including a recent investigation into Yanukovych’s hunting club.

“Ministers, ex-presidents, prosecutors, oligarchs, businessman they were all hunting together,” said Sedletska, “These people had to pay to be members of [Yanukovych’s] hunting club so imagine what a conflict of interest it is.”

While Sedletska has been investigating the past, Ukraine’s future is moving full steam ahead at the polls in Kiev. The atmosphere on Sunday, says Sedletska, felt like a national holiday.

Voters turned out with their entire family in toe. Many people even wore their traditional costumes - the clothing usually worn during national holidays. In the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, many people waited for hours in line for their chance to vote.

“But they didn’t really complain,” said Sedletska, “so many people died to change this country.”

As for the man who will most likely lead Ukraine into the future, Petro Poroshenko on the surface, seems like a man from the old guard. He’s a wealthy oligarch, but it’s actually his wealth that many Ukrainians are banking on says Sedletska.

“He is already rich, he doesn’t need to steal money from the budget,” said Sedletska. “The hope is that he is smart enough and knows how to organize big business from the beginning so he knows how to deal with organizations.”