Kyiv Post: The not-so-revolutionary New Ukraine Government
By Katya Gorchinskaya – Chief Editor of Kyiv Post
The Cabinet of Ministers brought to the helm by the EuroMaidan revolution, for consideration by parliament today, is a motley crew indeed: A combination of old faces tainted by allegations of corruption, newly emerged revolutionary heroes and appointees who are able to make a difference.
The new government, if it wins confirmation in the Verkhovna Rada today, will be an interesting one to watch, but can hardly be called a technocratic one.
The proposed new Cabinet is heavy on members of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna Party.
Vitali Klitschko's Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform is not represented after turning down offers. Their exclusivion highlights the growing rift between UDAR and Batkivshchyna, whose leaders will most likely compete in the early presidential election on May 15.
Svoboda, the ultra-nationalist party, received several key positions in the government on top of the general prosecutor's office, which it already oversees.
The appointment of Arseniy Yatseniuk as prime minister was not a surprise. He was offered the job by overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych last month, but turned it down. The 39-year-old career politician and former businessman has held a number of top posts before: head of the National Bank of Ukraine, foreign minister and Verkhovna Rada speaker.
Yatseniuk is notoriously difficult to get along with. His leadership of the Batkivshchyna Party in recent years, while Tymoshenko was in prison, has earned him much criticism and has alienated many party members.
Oleksandr Sych, 49, was appointed deputy prime minister. This Svoboda Party member from Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast had a swift rise since his party made it to parliament. He has made some highly controversial moves in parliament since his election.
One of his legal initiatives was an attempt to ban all abortions, even for pregnancies that occurred during rape, an idea that caused a massive outcry among human rights groups. He also famously recommended women to "lead the kind of lifestyle to avoid the risk of rape, including one from drinking alcohol and being in controversial company." It's not clear what area of the economy he will supervise as deputy prime minister.
Olha Bohomolets, coordinator of the medical units on EuroMaidan, was appointed deputy prime minister for humanitarian issues at EuroMaidan on Feb. 26. but then turned down the job hours later. She is highly praised for her volunteer medical service during EuroMaidan protests.
Bohomolets comes from a dynasty of doctors and heads Kyiv's dermatology and cosmetology institute. She was President Viktor Yushchenko's personal doctor after his dioxin poisoning in 2004. A signer and collector of antique icons, she has shown herself as a personality with varied interests. She financed restoration of Radomysl, a small castle in Zhytomyr Oblast, but had been accused of illegally taking over it.
Volodymyr Groysman, who became deputy prime minister for regional policy, comes from the city of Vinnytsia where he has been mayor since 2006. Elected at the age of 28, he is credited for transforming the city's bureaucracy into one of the nation's friendliest – a deed that earned him a record-breaking number of votes during re-election in 2010, when 77.8 percent of the city residents supported him.
He was a member of Yushchenko's party, and is now believed to be close to millionaire businessman and member of parliament Petro Poroshenko, also a Vinnytsia native. Before starting a political career, he was involved in agrarian business and real estate.
The new Cabinet will have a deputy prime minister for European integration. The office was given to Borys Tarasiuk, a 65-year-old career diplomat. Despite having been foreign minister in four different governments in independent Ukraine, he is disliked by many local diplomats for his arrogance.
His candidacy was originally suggested for foreign minister, but instead the post was given to Andriy Deshchytsia, a 50-year-old career diplomat, who most lately served as Ukraine's representative to OSCE. He was the author of the diplomats' statement in support of EuroMaidan in early February.
Pavlo Petrenko, the 34-year-old new justice minister, is a Yatseniuk loyalist who used to head the legal department in his Front Zmin party, which merged with Batkivshchyna in 2012. He has worked in the state Oschadbank, and worked as deputy of Kyiv regional council and Verkhovna Rada.
One of the most controversial appointees took over the energy ministry, which supervises the sector where multi-billion fortunes have been made in Ukraine since independence, through highly corrupt schemes and at the expense of the people.
Russian-born Yuriy Prodan, 55, had already been in this job under President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2007-2010. He had previously worked in Kyivenergo, the capital's energy monopoly supplier, and played a central role in creation of the National Energy Market. Despite its name, it has become a poorly controlled state monopoly for sale of electricity. Prodan has been described by the Ukrainian media as a person close to Privat Group of controversial billionaire Igor Kolomoisky.
The Finance Ministry was taken over by Russian-born, Lviv-educated Oleksandr Shlapak. A former deputy head of PrivatBank, he is also a representative of the Kolomoisky group in the new Cabinet. In his previous government incarnations, he has served as President Leonid Kuchma's economy minister and deputy head of the President Yushchenko's secretariat, among other. Shlapak was one of the witnesses for prosecution during the Tymoshenko trial, which sent her to jail for seven years.
The new Economy Minister is 42-year-old Pavlo Sheremeta, the Lviv-born and western-educated founder of Kyiv-Mohyla Business School who has recently headed the Kyiv School of Economics. As a part of a Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, he advised the government of Malaysia in 2008-2011 on economic development.
New Education Minister Serhiy Kvit, 48, has worked as President of Kyiv-Mohyla University since 2007. The school is considered one of the best in Ukraine, but has not developed much in 2007. Kvit has been a member of right-wing organizations in Ukraine, and an ardent enemy of previous Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk.
He supported EuroMaidan from the early days and led his schools' students during the protests. Despite revolutionary zeal, he was not known for leading any major changed in his school, and was not the student community's first choice for minister.
New Minister for Social Issues Lyudmyla Denysova has been in governments before, and is no stranger to controversies. She served in the same job under Prime Minister Tymoshenko in 2007-2010, and has been a parliament deputy of three convocations. Chesno, a pro-transparency non-government campaign, said in 2012 that there is a "high probability" that Denysova was involved in nepotism and abused power. In particular, the State Security Service discovered Hr 60 million worth of embezzlement in her ministry, but no criminal case was ever started.
Two Svoboda party members took over the ecology ministry and the agriculture ministry. Andriy Mokhnyk, 42-year-old deputy head of Svoboda with three higher educations (none ecology-related), took over the ecology ministry. This may be bad news for international companies that have signed agreements with Ukraine to develop alternative energy sources because the party had organized fierce resistance campaigns across the nation.
Oleksandr Myrnyi, 53, the new Agriculture Minister, is the only government member with no higher education. Despite that, he features in top 5 Svoboda's higest earners, according to Forbes, after declaring an income of close to Hr 17 million in 2012. He business interests are concentrated in agriculture, which represents a conflict of interests in his current position.
Dr. Oleh Musiy
The new Health Minister is Dr. Oleh Musiy, the 48-year-old coordinator of medical services on EuroMaidan, and a highly praised candidate. Educated in Kyiv, he also received medical training in Poland, USA, Finland, Austria and Germany, and has been a member of various civic activist groups, including the public supervisory council of the Health Ministry.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, is one of the leaders of AutoMaidan protest groups, who was kidnapped and tortured in January. Educated in Kyiv Polytechnic University, he has run a number of small businesses, including an car service, a restaurant and a consulting company. His appointment is frowned upon as it's considered one of the "rewards" to Maidan activists.
Arsen Avakov, 50, was confirmed as Interior Minister. A former head of the Kharkiv regional council and former head of Yushchenko's presidential campaign in Kharkiv, he was accused of illegal privatization of land and abuse of power and was under criminal investigation by the previous government, which forced him to flee to Italy. His fellow party members said the case was politically motivated. Avakov has also founded and run a big business and a bank. He is one of the most authoritative members of Batkivshchyna at the moment, who emerged during the revolution.
Andriy Parubiy, 43, was appointed head of the National Security Council. A Lviv native, he has been an active member of various nationalist movements since his teens, and formed and led Maidan's Self-Defense during the EuroMaidan protests. He has been a deputy of several convocations, but has shined at revolution times.
The Culture Ministry will now be headed by Yevhen Nishchuk, who has been dubbed as "the voice of Maidan" for his heavy presence on stage during the three months of protests. A former actor, he has no culture management experience and his candidacy was vehemently opposed by the arts community, who released a statement against his appointment, which looks like a reward for revolutionary activities.
In his inaugural speech on Maidan on Feb. 26, he said his ministry will no longer service the president and the prime minister at wreath-laying ceremonies, and that national artifacts stolen previously will be returned to the state.
The new Cabinet will have a minister without portfolio, 42-year-old Ostap Semerak, a native of Lviv and graduate of Kyiv-Mohyla University. He was a parliament deputy until 2012, and investigator of the corruption sandal around the purchase of a drilling rig by Yuriy Boyko, the former Energy Minister. He has most recently been Yatseniuk's advisor on foreign policy.
Tetyana Chornovol, Yegor Sobolev
The current government will have two entirely new positions, whose role is yet to be clarified, the anti-corruption bureau and the lustration commission. Both will be headed by young EuroMaidan activists and former journalists, Tetyana Chornovol and Yegor Sobolev.
Despite being perceived as one of revolution's heroes, especially after her brutal beating on Christmas Day, Chornovol is a highly controversial figure in Ukrainian politics. Formerly an investigative journalist, she ran for parliament in 2012 and lost.
Because of her explosive personality, she is unlikely to be able to form a strong team that would work systematically towards setting up a strong anti-corruption bureau and push many investigations to the very end.
In her blog on pravda.com.ua on Feb. 27, she boasts that she "could not refuse herself the pleasure of being the first to enter" the president's mansion in Mezhyhirya after it was taken over by the protesters. What she forgets to mention is that she actually broke entry to the house she had written so much about as a journalist.
Sobolev, a former business reporter and then investigative journalist, became frustrated with lack of change from journalistic reporting and moved to become an activist. He was one of the leaders of civic groups on EuroMaidan. He will now head the lustration commission, whose role is yet to be determined.