"The president's office is doing everything possible to quietly and calmly remove the negative from Andriy Yermak. This is being done beautifully, for example, a lot of official photos appear on the website of the Presidential Office, where Yermak is present on the background with Zelensky, he also holds many meetings. This is no coincidence. Zelensky privately agreed with Andriy Yermak that if the scandal freezes on its own, the negative declines, there is no public outrage with demands for resignation, then he can calmly continue his functions. So Yermak went along the path of "not making sudden movements", but giving a scandal come to fade away. Besides, coronavirus, "anti-Kolomoyskyi" banking law and other more important issues are favorable right now", - a source in the Office of the President told OstroV.
Ukrainian information space was filled with negative messages addressed to the head of the Presidential Office a month ago. First of all, this was connected with the creation of the "advisory council" with representatives of CADLO and a corruption scandal with his brother, who allegedly helped to get a job in the state authorities for money. A number of people's deputies from the Servant of the People presidential party opposed Andriy Yermak. But there is practically no trace of this negativity today.
The number one task is to remove the negative from the corruption scandal
"Have you noticed how the scandal with the records and the creation of the advisory council with the militants disappeared from the information space? Especially from social networks and the rhetoric of Servant of the People's deputies. We were made clear that Andriy Yermak is irreplaceable, especially in the issue of negotiations with the Russian Federation. And if he leaves, the responsibility for the breakdown of negotiations, the exchange of prisoners and possible escalation in the Donbass will rest precisely with those who demanded his resignation and added fuel to the fire. Few people want to take on such a negative. Therefore, for the time being, it was decided to slow down at least until the results of investigations or news from Minsk", - one of the people's deputies from Servant of the People told our agency.
Let us recall that Andriy Yermak get caught up in a major corruption scandal in early April when people's deputy from Servant of the People Geo Leros unveiled several videos with Andriy Yermak's brother Denys, who allegedly discusses appointments to various posts, in particular, at the Kyiv customs, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ukrzaliznytsia. It is assumed separate appointments for large sums were allegedly agreed at the Presidential Office thanks to Denys Yermak.
Andriy Yermak reacted to this scandal and appealed to the SBU and the SBI with an application about the investigation into the circumstances of how Geo Leros received these records. The Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office opened criminal proceedings on the fact of a possible abuse of influence upon appointment to positions in the government bodies. The State Bureau of Investigation, in turn, carries out a pre-trial investigation into the distribution of this video by people's deputy Geo Leros. The people's deputy himself explained that he received a flash drive with video recordings by mail.
After some of the people's deputies from Servant of the People set themselves against Andriy Yermak, President Volodymyr Zelensky stood up for him. On April 2, he held a meeting with the leadership of the Servant of the People party (at their request) regarding the situation with video recordings. The head of state made it clear that he trusts Andriy Yermak, is not going to fire him, but will not cover him up.
"The president looked rather annoyed and tired at the meeting. He spoke little and said nothing new. He told that he would not cover anyone up, would not tolerate corruption, but there was no real evidence of Yermak's involvement in corruption. He asked to wait for the real results of the investigation and do conclusions and public statements only after that. He was dissatisfied that Servant of the People did not protect its own people, he asked not to attack. Zelensky left after a short speech, and Yermak told for some time that the attack on him was "ordered", provide the details about relationship with his brother and sort of convinced that he is not involved in these accusations", - interlocutor in Servant of the People told OstroV.
Later, head of the party Oleksandr Korniyenko confirmed the fact of such a meeting at which Andriy Yermak told some details of his personal story with his brother and thereby convinced the audience of his innocence.
"The president put quite a correct emphasis: he and our entire team are honest and we do not do anything like that, so the very question that we should justify ourselves is unfair. Obviously, there are no untouchables, let the security forces investigate: who is to blame for this situation - let them be imprisoned, if there is a reason. The position of the faction and the party completely coincides with this. Andriy Yermak gave reasons that he had no relation to the voiced in the records once again. He revealed some details of his personal story – I do not think that this should be publicly disclosed", - he reported in an interview.
As for the instigator of the scandal, people's deputy from Servant of the People Geo Leros, he recently stated that Volodymyr Zelensky took the side of Andriy Yermak because the latter restricts him from access to objective information.
"Regarding why now the president takes Yermak's side, it is possible that the latter simply tells him that "everything is fine, everything is under control", and limits him from access to objective information", - he reported.
The team of Volodymyr Zelensky assures that this is, to put it mildly, impossible.
"This is ridiculous. Zelensky is not Yanukovych, he reads social networks regularly. Yes, they are afraid to provide him with full information, because the president will not tolerate and will not forgive. As for the scandal with Yermak, Zelensky made it clear that he should not take any sides, and as soon as more information is available, decisions will be made", - one of the president's associates told OstroV.
Currently, Andriy Yermak continues to perform his functions, as evidenced by regular publications on the website of the Office of the President. Recently, he even flew over the fire areas in the Zhytomyr oblast, where he was seen in red and black маsk (colors of the flag of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which was used by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Perhaps, the head of the President's Office shows his patriotic position in this way… Unless, of course, he knows about the meaning of these colors, and not just decided to stand out.
Information began to appear in the media that President Volodymyr Zelensky had decided to replace head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak. There are even possible candidates for his place: two people's deputies from Servant of the People - chairman of the Verkhovna Rada budget committee Yuriy Aristov, deputy head of the transport and infrastructure committee Mykola Tyshchenko and first deputy head of the Presidential Office Serhiy Trofimov.
OstroV's sources in the president's team called this information "bogus stories", which has nothing to do with the truth.
"This is a fake, the usual spread of false stories. Well, can you imagine Mykola Tyshchenko as head of the President's Office? At least, I know nothing about it. I can only say that at the very height of the scandal, there were rumors that the president got ready and urgently made a short list of possible candidates for the post of head of the Presidential Office. But given that the "fire has died down", I really doubt that this issue is on the agenda now. It is normal to have several candidates for a quick replacement. This conditional list exists. All further decisions will be made according to the situation", - the source said.
As for the possible candidates for the place of Andriy Yermak, interlocutors of our agency in the president's team name current head of the SBU Ivan Bakanov, first assistant to Zelensky Serhiy Shefir and first deputy head of the President's Office Sergiy Trofimov.
Exchange of prisoners as the main factor in the effectiveness of Yermak
"Volodymyr Zelensky appreciates Andriy Yermak mainly for is his contacts with the Russian party and his progress in the Minsk process", - interlocutors in the president's entourage do not stop repeating to our agency.
As a result of such ties, the first exchange of the "L/DNR" prisoners this year took place on April 16. 20 people returned to Ukraine, 14 - to the occupied territory. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the returning Ukrainians went for a 2-week observation in the controlled territory near the contact line after the exchange.
By the way, this is the first exchange of prisoners when the Ukrainian party returned more people than it handed over. Despite the obvious positive signal, initially, the exchange was planned in a completely different format. Ukraine intended to return about 200 people, including those who were detained and arrested in the annexed Crimea. Corresponding agreements were reached during the last Normandy format meeting in Paris.
"We agreed on two large tracks of exchange. We practically agreed, and now we are really talking about the return of 200 Ukrainians", - Zelensky said.
But later it became clear that the "all for all" exchange format is not moving. This was especially acute after the next meeting in Minsk, when Andriy Yermak and deputy head of the presidential administration Dmitry Kozak agreed to create an "advisory council" on the Donbass, and people in Ukraine openly accepted this with hostility.
According to OstroV, during that meeting, the Russian party made it clear that a large-scale exchange is possible if an "advisory council" is formed. In addition, the adoption of law on the special status of Donbass on an ongoing basis was discussed. All this, supposedly, should have led to a full-scale exchange, which was agreed on in Paris.
"After that ill-fated meeting in Minsk and information fiasco with the advisory board, there were informal conversations between Yermak and Kozak, where the latter directly said: "At first - the "council", then - the exchange". Furthermore, a condition was set for the next stage of the disengagement of forces and means. But after the information scandal in Ukraine, they decided to slow down and show at least some positive results that could slightly bleach Andriy Yermak white", - interlocutor in the president's team told our agency.
Head of the state Volodymyr Zelensky reacted to the exchange, stating that Ukraine will continue to fight until all captured Ukrainians are released.
"We will return everyone within the framework of the Minsk agreements and within the framework of the Normandy Four agreements. We will free everyone", - he stated.
Minister for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories Oleksiy Reznikov reported that Ukraine had already transferred a list of about 200 people as part of the next stage of the exchange.
"Negotiations regarding further stages of the exchange will undoubtedly continue. Within the framework of the humanitarian subgroup of the TCG, Ukraine handed over a list of about 200 people whom we demand to return", - he reported.
As people in the president's team told OstroV, the next stage of the exchange may take place over the next one-two months. But what conditions will be put forward by the Russian party will remain a mystery.
"It can be anything: from the special status of Donbass and the Steinmeier formula to the advisory council and a new large-scale stage of the disengagement of forces and means. In any case, we will have to make concessions somewhere", - the source noted.
By the way, the regular meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group was held on April 22 in the format of a video conference, where no seminal agreements were reached in fact.
"In pursuance of the agreements reached at the December summit of the Normandy Four leaders in Paris, the Ukrainian party initiated the creation within the TCG of a working group with representatives of the border and customs services of Ukraine and Russia and the OSCE mediators to work out a mechanism to restore Ukraine's control over the state border section. The possibility of creating such groups is provided for in clause 13 of the Package of Measures to Implement the Minsk Agreements", - the President's Office said in a report.
The continuation of work to define the following areas of the disengagement of forces and means and the formation of lists for the next stage of the mutual release of detainees were also recorded.
OstroV's sources in the President's Office emphasize that no specific decisions were planned at this "meeting", and all further steps would be recorded in informal negotiations between the presidential administrations of Ukraine and Russia.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV