Has Zelensky's office settled on candidate for Ukrainian PM?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

We have analyzed four candidates for Ukraine's PM office, voiced by Zelensky's team representative
10:06, 9 August 2019

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"We have a shortlist, which includes Andriy Kobolev, chairman of the board of Naftogaz, national oil and gas company of Ukraine; Yuriy Vitrenko, executive director of Naftogaz; Oleksiy Goncharuk, deputy head of the Presidential Office for Economic Affairs; Vladyslav Rashkovan, executive director of the IMF," Secretary of the National Investment Council David Arahamia listed potential candidates for the post of head of government.

The list has provoked more or less heated discussions. We also involved experts in his analysis, who were divided into two groups. Some of them believe that it is too early to talk about the candidacy of the prime minister. And that these four surnames are "not real." This is just probing the situation to see how these names would be met by different interested circles. The second group of commentators does not consider information about applicants as fake and gives an assessment of their chances.

Related: Former executive director of Naftogaz exempted from criminal liability, court rules

Who is who

Andriy Kobolev is the first on the list. Almost a protégé of the oligarch Igor Kolomoysky, who at one time spoke approvingly of him and, in fact, expressed hope (or even wishes) that Kobolev would head the Ukrainian government. Kobolev is a millionaire (at least, hryvnia millionaire).

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The mainline of his track record, of course, is connected with Naftogaz, where he has been working since 2002 to 2010. And then after several years of pause, already in 2014, he returned to the company as chairman of the board.

Kobolev is also a defendant in a number of criminal cases, about which the target of persecution speaks carelessly: “Now a huge number of cases are opened. I have a thick folder with these cases, I periodically look at them. There are related to National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) and the Prosecutor General’s office. These investigations are a normal process, I take this calmly. But none of these cases was closed, all of them are in limbo. And that poses a significant risk.”

Yuriy Vitrenko, this applicant is the son of the famous Ukrainian politician, "progressive socialist" Natalia Vitrenko. At one time, President Zelensky noted the main criterion for selecting the head of government: a candidate should not be associated with any political movement.

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Suppose that consanguinity with the party chairman does not yet make a person biased in the affairs of this party. But no less important is that Vitrenko is also associated with Naftogaz (and Naftogaz, in turn, is associated with Kolomoysky).

In 2006, he became first an adviser and then chief adviser to the chairman of the board of Naftogaz. Later, namely in 2010, he founded his own investment company AYA Capital.

But in 2014, he returned to work at Naftogaz to the position of executive director. His career path resembles Kobolev’s promotion.

The third applicant is 35-year-old Oleksiy Goncharuk, the youngest among the candidates. He worked in a number of investment campaigns, and as for political preferences, in 2014 during the parliamentary elections he was the first number on the list of the Strength of People party.

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Despite the name, the party turned out to be weak and did not get into the Rada with a result of 0.11%. But the social elevator still grabbed Goncharuk and drove him up.

The candidate worked as a freelance adviser to the former Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, and then as an adviser to Stepan Kubiv, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. And after the presidential election, he became part of the Zelensky team and took the post of deputy head of the Presidential Office.

On June 21, he was appointed a member of the National Investment Council of Ukraine and the National Council for Anti-Corruption Policy. The first body was headed by Borys Lozhkin, but, judging by the investment climate in Ukraine, it was not very successful.

Related: NABU intends to call Bohdan and Klitschko for questioning, - media

As for the fourth option - Vladyslav Rashkovan - quite anecdotal glory stretches behind him. Actually, his calling card should be work in the National Bank (NBU). In 2014, Rashkovan became a member of the NBU board as director of the department of strategy and reforming the banking system. In the same year, Rashkovan was appointed acting deputy chairman of the NBU and has been holding this position until August 2016.

But he became famous by a radical reduction in the NBU personnel, including cleaners. As a result, the National Bank was unwashed and unclean, but a real collapse arose in the body’s toilets.

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MP from the Servant of the People, journalist, and blogger Oleksanr Dubinsky described the crisis this way: "Due to large-scale cuts, the National Bank decided to plunder 2,175 million USD for cleaning. Rashkovan fired all the cleaners and offered to outsource the cleaning of the NBU premises. However, the vigilance of journalists thwarted this colossal “outhouse tender.” After that, the employees of the National Bank for almost a year and a half had no toilet paper and soap.

These are four contenders for the PM. At least according to Arahamia.

I do not believe!

Professor and Doctor of Political Sciences Valentyn Yakushyk notes: “Firstly, about the source of information. David Arahamia is not a leader who should be fully trusted. This is a second and even third-level figure in the team of President Zelensky.

He, as full of ambitions and self-conceit of a young MP, can simply be used as a channel to "canalize" misinformation, or rather, to absolutize one of the possible options for the leadership of the Zelensky team - an approach to which the structures of world financial capital are pushing Ukraine’s President. Secondly, the list of “applicants” for the post of PM is by no means a new list. To determine the most likely choice on the part of President Zelensky within the framework of this approach, which is clearly limited by the ideological and corporate frameworks, priorities should be identified in making this interim decision.

I would like to outline one of them. If we proceed from the priority of the ease of the subsequent (if necessary) dismissal of the prime minister, then Kobolev and Vitrenko look preferable. It will not take much effort to remove them from the post of the prime minister, not only because there is always a majority of votes in the Verkhovna Rada, but also because they are easily delegitimized by referring to their transfers to relatives abroad of fabulous, multi-million dollar fees, so far completely undeserved. Global financial institutions will not be able to oppose anything serious to the "insistent demands of the indignant masses."

Related: Petition on Bohdan's resignation: Zelensky says he dismissed him

“Goncharuk and Rashkovan are more stable in this regard. Rashkovan can generally be regarded as a relative “heavyweight,” desirable for international financial capital as a conductor of his will in Ukraine. Therefore, I think that he has fewer chances.

Apparently, Goncharuk might be the one with whom Zelensky would have an informal agreement that he would not yet create “his political image” and at the first request of the president, he, without a written and signed letter of resignation would immediately resign. Most likely, at the initial stage of his post-electoral general democratic “anti-corruption revolution,” Zelensky would have to agree to give the post of PM to the direct representative of the interests of the world financial capital. However, revolutions have fairly clear stages, and they are usually accompanied by a change in many key political figures,” Yakushyk says.

And Bogdan Petrenko, the deputy director of the Ukrainian Institute for the Study of Extremism, believes that the list was made public for a reason. He agrees with Valentyn Yakushyk: the author of the informational stuffing is not a source that can be unconditionally trusted. "These surnames surfaced because one of four applicants wanted it. And then this information was spread. It is too early to say that these are precisely the people who are really considered  for the prime minister’s post."

Zelensky says that he does not want the prime minister to be a politician, but a person who will technically exercise his powers, and a person unknown to the general public. But all of these persons are known, at least to a wide circle of experts. Therefore, it seems to me that, in fact, a completely different applicant would be nominated. Moreover, there is no 100% certainty that it would be a one-party coalition,” Petrenko adds.

Related: Ukraine accumulated 16 billion cubic meters of gas, - Naftogaz

Anything is possible, but...

Head of the Third Sector Center Andriy Zolotariov considers Goncharuk the most likely prime minister.

When asked whether Goncharuk would be the real head of the Cabinet of Ministers or Bogdan would lead instead, the expert answers: “It would be better if Bogdan (head of the Presidential Office, - ed.) does because he is better familiarized with the inner situation.”

Speaking about Kobolev, Zolotariov is convinced: his “image is too negative, and not because he is associated with Kolomoysky, but because of ‘tariff genocide.’ During his reign, tariffs increased eight times.” Our interlocutor is even more laconic about Rashkovan: "His reform created a tangible amber," so this candidacy is "rather, no than yes."

However, no matter who heads the government, this person will be interesting by the measure of his remoteness from the presidential vertical.

Related: I have no conflict with Bohdan, I merely protect rights of Kyiv citizens, - Klitschko

Naturally, the prime minister actually brought to power by the Servant of the People, should obey instructions from the President’s Office. Nevertheless, a 100% puppet in this chair will look rather pathetic.

Bogdan Petrenko summed up all doubts about it: “The prime minister will be as independent as Zelensky himself is independent.

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