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Personnel issues in the President's Office: fewer loyalists remain 06/24/2024 22:03:00. Total views 544. Views today — 1.


"The personnel policy of the President's Office is reaching a dead end. It is running out of loyal people, and not everyone is willing to take top positions, fearing intense scrutiny and potential criminal cases. There's no freedom; one must be loyal to the President's Office and its head. Salaries are minimal by top management standards, and reputational risks can cost a career or even freedom. Just look at how many ministers are currently "acting" ministers. When it's said that many want to leave but are not allowed to, it's more than true. This applies to both the government and parliament", - one of the MPs told OstroV on condition of anonymity.

In early May, the Verkhovna Rada dismissed Deputy Prime Minister for Restoration and Minister for Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov. A month later, Mustafa Nayyem, head of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, resigned.

OstroV sources in the Verkhovna Rada claim that these resignations should be seen as part of a unified strategy to subordinate the restoration processes to the President's Office.

"Large funds from Western allies have arrived, and while Kubrakov and Nayyem were strong managers, they were too independent. It is said that Western partners were shocked by Kubrakov's dismissal, as he had built trustful relationships with the US Embassy. The President's Office does not like or forgive such independence, so they kicked him out. Maybe they'll make him an ambassador somewhere if he behaves quietly, otherwise, they might hit him with a criminal case", - noted one of the MPs.

OstroV explored the reasons behind the recent dismissals in the Ministry of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine, which have caused irritation in the West, and why the president's team is in no hurry to make new appointments.

Kubrakov's dismissal

The decision to dismiss Kubrakov was described as "shocking" and "extremely unexpected" by a parliamentary source speaking to OstroV. Oleksandr Kubrakov was considered one of Volodymyr Zelensky's favorites, often cited as a potential candidate for the next prime minister, and one of the main contenders for the position of defense minister after Oleksii Reznikov's resignation.

"Outside the President's Office, Volodymyr Zelensky doesn't have many people he fully trusts. Among those few were always Mykhailo Fedorov and Oleksandr Kubrakov. Both have long been tipped for higher positions. It's no secret that Fedorov is strongly opposed to a political career, which is why he remains untouched. Kubrakov, a man with a spotless reputation and no scandals, had long been an insider in the President's Office. Hence, this decision came as a huge surprise to many", - a source in the President's Office told OstroV.

Kubrakov's relationship with Zelensky had, if not deteriorated, at least cooled several months ago, according to a source in the President's Office.

"Kubrakov was offered the role of defense minister to replace Oleksii Reznikov, a decision already agreed upon with the president. However, Kubrakov wanted to remain deputy prime minister and defense minister simultaneously, appointing his deputy in his stead. The president didn't like this, seeing it as Kubrakov overreaching. Since then, their relationship started to cool", - the source noted.

Another reason for the cooling of relations, as mentioned by OstroV sources, was Kubrakov's independent international activities, especially his cooperation with the American embassy.

"Too often he started going there without the President's Office's knowledge. This brought positive financial benefits, attracting significant grant funds, thanks to such close and trusting ties with the Americans. But it all boils down to the fact that he got bolder and did it on his own. In informal conversations with the President's Office, high-ranking U.S. officials often highlighted the Ministry of Infrastructure and Kubrakov specifically. And there's your second reason for his dismissal", - noted a source from the President's Office.

The decision to remove Kubrakov had been brewing for the last two to three months, but many did not believe the dismissal would happen until the very end. The final decision was announced to the MPs a day before the vote in the Verkhovna Rada session hall—during a closed meeting of the "Servant of the People" faction. There, it was explained to the deputies that the Ministry of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine would be dissolved and replaced by two new agencies (the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Regional Policy).

"In this regard, Kubrakov needs to be removed from his position and later reappointed solely as the Minister of Infrastructure—that's how one of the MPs close to the President's Office explained it to us. There was no negativity towards Kubrakov, it was purely a technical decision", - one of the MPs told OstroV on the condition of anonymity.

The explanatory note justifying Vice Prime Minister Kubrakov's dismissal cited "an urgent need to create a separate ministry to handle regional policy",

"The current policy of the ministry regarding regional policy is in a critical state. Considering the above, there is an urgent need to create a separate ministry to handle regional policy", - the document states.

Oleksandr Kubrakov explained that no one discussed the decision of his dismissal with him.

"I am always ready for an open dialogue and a detailed report on the work of the Ministry in all areas within my responsibility. The faction leadership and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal did not discuss this decision with me. I was not invited to the faction meeting or the relevant committee meeting", - he wrote on Facebook.

More than a month has passed since Kubrakov's dismissal, but new ministries have yet to be created, and the agency is currently headed by Acting Minister Vasyl Shkurakov.

Resignation of Mustafa Nayyem

On June 10, Mustafa Nayyem, head of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, resigned, citing "constant opposition, resistance, and the creation of artificial obstacles".

"I made this decision independently due to systemic obstacles that no longer allow me to effectively fulfill my duties", - he wrote on Facebook.

According to him, the problems began in November last year, and after the dismissal of Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov, the situation became untenable.

He noted that the Agency disagreed with the budget cuts for road restoration and maintenance projects. Additionally, he claimed they were subjected to bureaucratic harassment: documents for the payment of protective structures and fortifications were delayed or returned by the government for months. At the beginning of 2024, the Agency’s salaries were abruptly cut, leading to some staff resignations.

In his post, Mustafa Nayyem pointed out that after Oleksandr Kubrakov's dismissal, the Agency was not allowed to make independent decisions. He specifically mentioned the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin, from which he was barred by the Prime Minister.

"All of this was possible thanks to the support of the Ministry and the Minister (Minister of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development Oleksandr Kubrakov, – ed.), who allowed for independent decision-making and achieving results without waiting for backstabs. With the Minister's dismissal, this became impossible, and the Prime Minister's final decision to cancel my official participation in the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin confirmed this", - Nayyem stated.

The fact that Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal canceled the trip of the head of the Recovery Agency to Berlin is evidenced by a leaked document that appeared on social media a day before Mustafa Nayyem's resignation announcement.

Information that Nayyem would miss the Berlin conference appeared in foreign media as early as June 9.

"The top Ukrainian official in charge of the restoration will miss this year's flagship donor conference due to internal political disagreements, risking the impression that recovery is not a priority for Kyiv", - Bloomberg wrote.

The next day, Financial Times reported that "Western partners are losing trust in the Ukrainian government due to personnel decisions they do not understand", and once again, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "has placed his own power interests above the needs of the country at war".

Six Ukrainian and Western officials told FT that a series of dismissals, resignations, and reshuffles in the government led by Zelensky in recent months have caused tension between Kyiv and the Western partners funding Ukraine's defense and recovery.

They all emphasized to FT that they had warned Zelensky and his government about what they considered to be destructive and incomprehensible actions.

"The US and other Western partners want normal, predictable relationships with their Ukrainian colleagues", - said one concerned Ukrainian government official to Financial Times on condition of anonymity.

A source in the monomajority told OstroV that the resignation of Mustafa Nayyem, as a member of Oleksandr Kubrakov's team, was a matter of time.

"He held on for quite a while. All restoration issues will now be under the vigilant control of the President's Office, so all independent and disloyal players will leave. This is also a signal to all other officials considering any independence or flirtations with foreign embassies. The Cabinet of Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada have long lost any subjectivity; all key decisions go through the President's Office only. You either play by these rules or leave your post", - noted the MP.

Personnel shortage

According to OstroV, candidates for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Ministry of Regional Policy have already been identified and approved by the President's Office.

The current head of Naftogaz Ukraine, Oleksiy Chernyshov, is expected to lead the Ministry of Infrastructure. The Ministry of Regional Policy might be headed by Oleksiy Kuleba, the current Deputy Head of the President's Office for Regional Policy.

"It's very simple – this is about strengthening the role of the President's Office and personally Andriy Yermak, both in the government and in Ukraine's recovery. These are significant financial flows from international donors, so they need to be managed by trusted people. Kuleba and Chernyshov are Andriy Yermak's people who enjoy his full trust", - commented one MP to OstroV.

Some media sources, citing insiders, reported that these appointments were expected to take place between June 3-6. According to OstroV, MPs were indeed preparing to vote on several ministerial positions in early June, but the vote was postponed indefinitely at the last moment.

"Rumor has it that all efforts are currently focused on the peace conference in Switzerland, so other issues have been postponed. But I think the candidates for the Ministry of Regional Policy and the Ministry of Infrastructure are decided, and there shouldn't be any surprises. These are Kuleba and Chernyshov. At least, these are the names circulating among MPs. Who takes which position isn't crucial – they are all figures from the President's Office, without surprises. One of them will also become Deputy Prime Minister. However, there are significant questions regarding other ministers, with no even tentative candidates", - a source in the Verkhovna Rada told our publication.

Let's recall that currently, five ministers in Ukraine hold the status of "acting minister":

1. Taras Vysotsky (Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food),

2. Rostyslav Karandeyev (Ministry of Culture and Information Policy),

3. Oleksandr Porkhun (Ministry of Veterans Affairs),

4. Vasyl Shkurakov (Ministry for Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development),

5. Matviy Bidny (Ministry of Youth and Sports).

"There are two problems. On one hand, the number of people loyal to the President's Office is dwindling; there aren't many left. On the other hand, not everyone is eager to take on these responsible positions due to a lack of motivation. Even MPs are despondent; many would happily give up their posts because there is no independence or prospects. If an initiative isn't approved by the Office, it won't pass in either the government or the parliament. But when it comes to making unpopular decisions, such as raising electricity prices or passing a mobilization law, the Office remains silent, and the MPs or ministers have to announce the decisions. That's the current state of politics", - noted one MP from the majority faction.

By Andriy Andrieyev, OstroV