Incumbent president’s advisor Ruslan Demchenko represented Ukraine at the last meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) in the talks on the settlement of the situation in Donbas. He replaced Ukraine’s ex-President Leonid Kuchma, who has been involved in the Minsk peace negotiations since 2014.
Ukraine’s second president Leonid Kuchma has been heading Ukrainian side in TCG in Minsk for more than four years; as promised in early October, he resigned and left the negotiation process.
According to the politician, he has reached his "critical age" (in August, Kuchma turned 80) and can no longer fulfill the mission of the key Ukrainian "peacemaker."
However, the issue of further representation of Ukraine’s interests in the Minsk peace talks is still a very difficult issue, because the head of the Ukrainian delegation was not officially appointed by the president.
On the eve, this honorable and responsible position was unexpectedly assigned to president’s advisor and former first deputy foreign minister of Yanukovych’s times Ruslan Demchenko.
What do we know about Ruslan Demchenko
Ruslan Demchenko was born in Kyiv, on July 15, 1965. He is 53 years old now.
In 1989, he graduated from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, receiving the specialist degree in international relations, researcher-translator of English. Accordingly, his Russian and English are fluent.
Demchenko began his career in 1989 as a lower-level (2nd) economist at the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Construction of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.
In 1990 - 1992, he served as the third, second secretary of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1992 - 1996, he served as the second secretary at the Embassy of Ukraine to the United States.
In 1996 – 2000, he was the head of the department, deputy head of the service, deputy head of the Presidential Administration (under Leonid Kuchma).
In 2000 – 2003, he served as Consul General of Ukraine in Istanbul (Republic of Turkey).
In 2003 – 2005, he was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to Serbia and Montenegro.
In 2005, he worked as the first deputy head of the Main Foreign Policy Service of the Presidential Secretariat of Ukraine and then headed the State Protocol and Ceremony Service of the Presidential Secretariat (under Viktor Yushchenko).
In 2006 – 2010, he was the head of the Office of President Yushchenko.
In 2010 – 2014, he acted as deputy, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine.
It is rumored that at that time he was in charge of the Russian direction of that department, and also personally coordinated the work of Ukrainian diplomats to justify the repression against Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko in the eyes of the Western public.
Because of these rumors, many people called him the “gray cardinal” of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry or “the diplomat of Anti-Maidan.”
After the Revolution of Dignity, Demchenko has temporarily served as minister of foreign affairs (for four days).
Then he became an adviser to president Poroshenko, in particular, he is a curator of Russian-Ukrainian relations. He has been holding this position till now.
Rating of the politician
In January 2010, Demchenko was awarded the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (V degree).
In August 2001, he has got the diplomatic rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the 1st class, in November 2004 he has received the diplomatic rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, in July 2005 he became a civil servant of the 2nd rank.
Since January 2011, he has headed the National Commission of Ukraine for UNESCO.
Family and property
Demchenko is married, he has a son. According to the latest declaration, he is the owner of five apartments in Kyiv, a residential building in Koncha Zaspa, luxury district of Kyiv, and two land plots in Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.
His wife Olena also owns four apartments in Kyiv, as well as a group of non-residential premises and one land plot.
In addition, the presidential adviser has a tourist float, his wife has a 2006 Suzuki Jimny car.
His income for 2017 amounted to more than 36 thousand USD (most of this amount is wages and income from property rental), the income of his wife also amount to about 36 thousand USD.
Also, Demchenko keeps more than 10 thousand USD in Unex Bank, 660 USD in Ukragazbank, and 55 thousand USD in cash. At the same time, his wife’s in cash stored 20 thousand euros.
In addition, Demchenko lent to third parties nearly 282 thousand USD.
Demchenko’s chances to the Ukrainian delegation in the TCG?
Despite the fact that at the last meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, which took place on October 16, the Ukrainian delegation was headed by presidential adviser Ruslan Demchenko, this does not mean that he will carry out this mission in the future.
As the First Deputy Chairman of Parliament Iryna Gerashchenko hinted, the representative of Ukraine in the humanitarian subgroup in Minsk, President Petro Poroshenko should appoint and announce the official representative in the contact group.
At the same time, she added that the head of the Ukrainian delegation in Minsk should be a "highly professional and patriotic Ukrainian, who would represent Ukraine’s position with dignity and toughness."
This gives reason to believe that Demchenko took the post of head of the delegation temporarily until the president has decided on the candidate for this position. And it is quite clear why he became the temporary representative of Ukraine in the group.
It is no secret that from the very beginning of the TCG work in Minsk Demchenko was president’s actual representative in the group. He accompanied Leonid Kuchma at all the meetings. And this means that Demchenko is fully ready for the negotiation process and does not need time to get accustomed to the work of the group.
But, according to experts, he lacks some rigidity to be approved on an ongoing basis. “Ruslan Demchenko is a career diplomat. Diplomats have a special language to hide their thoughts. Negotiations process requires involving a person, who would not pick [polite, diplomatic] words when a tough stance is needed,” Ukraine’s former representative in Minsk political subgroup Roman Bessmertny noted.
Yes, and the work in MFA during Yanukovych’s days plays against him. “Of course, there will be criticism that Demchenko can play up to Russia, this can harm negotiations and undermine the position of Ukraine,” political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko believes. According to him, even if such criticism is unfounded, it will still weaken Demchenko’s positions in the TCG.
Therefore, experts agree that the diplomat is likely to preserve his shadow role in the negotiations.
Here are the names of other persons, who might replace Kuchma in Minsk talks – third president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, ex-Minister of Defense Yevgen Marchuk, diplomat Olexandr Motsyk, etc.
Does a change in negotiator affect the Minsk peace negotiations?
When the Minsk talks just started, second president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, was considered an ideal candidate to head of the Ukrainian delegation in the Tripartite Contact Group, because he could talk on an equal footing with almost all representatives of Russia whom he had known since his presidency.
Many believe that his exit from the negotiation process is not connected with his age. Kuchma decided to leave because the negotiations have entered a deadlock. Accordingly, the change of the negotiator on the Ukrainian side is unlikely to seriously affect the implementation of the agreements.
Moreover, one cannot even expect the negotiation process in Minsk to be unblocked. “Supposedly, one should not expect any reinforcement in the Minsk negotiations… Everything depends on Putin’s desire to aggravate the conflict or to solve it. But for now, we do not see the desire to curtail Donbas conflict, so the situation would not change," expert on foreign policy and security Bohdan Yaremenko adds.
Read the original text at 112.ua.