Ukraine’s new Cabinet: new faces, merged ministries, and the immortal Avakov

The New Cabinet. Kyiv, 29 August 2019. Photo: Ukrinformi 

Politics

On 29 August at the very first sitting of the first session of the newly elected parliament of the ninth convocation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the parliamentary faction of his party Servant of the People (SoP) nominated members of the new Cabinet of Ministers. SoP’s one-party “mono coalition” together with single-constituency MPs voted for all of the proposed appointments.

What do we know about the new Ukrainian government?

Instead of 20 ministries in the previous Cabinet headed by Groysman, the government headed by new Prime Minister Honcharuk’s has now 16. Several ministries were merged and one new ministry appeared – the Ministry of Digital Transformation.

For example, three agencies – the ministries of Culture, of Information Policies, and of Youth and Sports – have now become one ministry. As well, the Ecology Ministry and the Ministry of Energy and Coal have been merged.

As well, four posts in the government were abolished. In total, the government now consists of 18 members – eight down from the former 25.

The comparative table shows all structural changes to the Ukrainian government introduced with the new Cabinet:

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Formally, the ruling party Servant of the People nominated most of the Cabinet members, including five MP elected with its party list. President Zelenskyy officially nominated only two ministers and chiefs for two law-enforcement agencies under the so-called presidential quote, however, Zelenskyy advocated all other nominations as well.

Of course, the ruling “mono coalition” approved all four presidential nominations:

  • Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk;
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko;
  • Head of Ukraine’s Security Service Ivan Bakanov;
  • Prosecutor General Riaboshapka.

New faces

Youngest-ever PM Honcharuk

PM Honcharuk addressing school students on 1 September, the beginning of the academic year. Screenshot: Facebook/Oleksiy Honcharuk

New 35-year-old Prime Minister, lawyer Oleksiy Honcharuk, has no political experience. In 2014 he tried to get a seat in the Rada with the Force of People party but failed. Later he worked as an adviser for various ministers and headed the NGO Better Regulation Delivery Office dealing with simplifying relations between the state and business.

President Zelenskyy appointed Honcharuk as one of the multiple deputy heads of the Presidential Office this May.

Now 290 parliamentarians have voted for his appointment to the post of the Prime Minister, 247 of whom are members of the presidential party SoP, 22 are single-constituency deputies united in the deputy group For the Future (FTF), and 21 – non-affiliated MPs.

Other factions voted against, abstained, or didn’t vote (128 votes).

Oleksiy Honcharuk is the youngest PM, the previous youngest prime minister was his predecessor, Volodymyr Groysman, who was 38 when he took office in 2016. The first post-Maidan head of the Cabinet, Arseniy Yatseniuk, was 39.

(click the image for full size)

At the very first meeting of his Cabinet on 2 September, PM Honcharuk said that the meetings of his government will be closed for journalists, which is not typical for Ukraine. Honcharuk’s decision doesn’t break the law since, according to the Cabinet regulations, the Prime Minister decides whether journalists may be present at a meeting of the government. However, the press was allowed to attend the Cabinet meetings for many years in Ukraine. Even in the government of Azarov during Yanukovych’s times, journalists could be present during the PM’s introductory word and later watch the live stream of the event in the Cabinet’s press center.

Honcharuk’s motivation for such a step was that “Meetings of the government shouldn’t be turned into a show. After a meeting we’ll come out to the press and communicate with you, inform you of what decisions we made and why, reply to your questions.”

After that, he asked journalists to leave the Cabinet meeting hall and wait in the press center for an hour to hear from the ministers what they would decide.

Digital Transformation Minister Fedorov

Mykhaylo Fedorov. Photo: president.gov.ua

28-year-old Mykhailo Fedorov holds two posts in the Government, as Vice Prime Minister and as Minister of Digital Transformation. Fedorov headed an SMM company called the “Internet Traffic Agency SMMSTUDIO.” In Zelenskyy’s presidential campaign headquarters, he was the “head of the digital sphere.” Fedorov is believed to be the man behind the success of Zelenskyy’s Internet advertisement campaign at the presidential elections which included massive online advertisement campaign and using troll farms on various internet platforms.

The official appointment of Fedorov to the post of the presidential advisor was among the first Zelenskyy made just after he took office.

Later Fedorov got elected to parliament from Servant of the People. Though, he worked as an MP for only one day and resigned because of his appointment to the Government.

Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers Dmytro Dubilet

Dmytro Dubilet, former IT director of PrivatBank, co-founder of Monobank. Photo: Facebook/Дмитрий Дубилет

Another freshman in politics is financier Dmytro Dubilet, 34, who now heads the Secretariat of Cabinet of Ministers – the body that ensures the activities of the Government.

Before his employment with the Government, Dubilet worked in the banking and IT sectors. In particular, in 2012-2016 he occupied the post of deputy chairman of the management board of PrivatBank, which belonged to oligarch Kolomoyskyi in that period. In 2017, Dubilet co-founded Fintech Band, which run the internet bank Monobank.

This July, Dmytro Dubilet became an adviser of then acting Head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) Ivan Bakanov, stating that he was invited as an IT expert to participate in several “cool projects for combating corruption” run by the Presidential Office, SBU, and other state bodies.

“This doesn’t mean that I have entered politics,” argued Mr. Dubilet then.

However, less than two months later he became a minister.

Economy-Trade-Agriculture Minister Mylovanov

Tymofii Mylovanov. Photo: kse.ua

Economist Tymofiy Mylovanov, 44, is the new minister heading the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade which has absorbed the Ministry of Agriculture.

Mylovanov is a Deputy Chairman of the National Bank’s Council, honorary president of Kyiv School of Economics, and Associate Professor of the University of Pittsburgh.

As an economist, Mylovanov researched game theory, contract theory, and institutional design.

Defense Minister Zahorodniuk

Andrii Zahorodniuk. Photo: discoveryde.com

The new Minister of Defense, 42-year-old Andriy Zahorodniuk, has been the managing director of Discovery Drilling Equipment for 11 years, a UK-registered producer and maintainer of drilling rigs, which also has two facilities in Ukraine.

As the company’s website states, Zahorodniuk is “an entrepreneur with a number of successful previous ventures in mining, petroleum technology, and manufacturing.” The website also mentions that “Andrew holds Diploma with distinction from University of Oxford (finance) and diploma of law from University of Kiev as well as number of industrial qualifications.”

Earlier this year, Zelenskyy appointed Zahorodniuk his off-staff adviser. Then Zahorodniuk became a member of the supervisory board of Ukrainian state weapons producer Ukroboronprom.

Justice Minister Maliuska

Denys Maliuska. Photo: kmu.gov.ua

Minister of Justice of Ukraine Denys Maliuska, the 37-year-old lawyer who had graduated from the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (2004), and from the University of London (2016).

Previously, he served as a private-sector consultant for the World Bank Group. He has also been Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Better Regulation Delivery Office.

Maliuska was #25 on the list of the Servant of the People party at the recent parliamentary elections. As his four other fellow MPs from his faction, Maliuska has surrendered his deputy mandate upon the appointment to the ministry.

Energy and Ecology Minister Orzhel

Oleksii Orzhel. Photo: interfax.ua

Energy expert Oleksiy Orzhel, 35, the new Minister of Energy and Environment Protection, worked at the (BRDO) alongside PM Honcharuk and Justice Minister Maliuska.

Before the Revolution of Dignity, he held various positions in the National Commission for the State Regulation of Energy and Utilities in Ukraine. Orzhel heads the Ukrainian Association of Renewable Energy.

He was another MP elected from the list of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party.

Infrastructure Minister Krykliy

Vladyslav Kryklii. Photo: chesno.org

Economist Vladyslav Krykliy, 32, now leads the Ministry of Infrastructure. Earlier he worked at Interbank, at the investment company Astrum Investment Management, and was a director of Cinema Theater LLC.

In 2014-2015, Krykliy was an adviser to Interior Minister Avakov. As well as in 2015, he was the deputy head of the Ministry’s State Automobile Inspection within the ministry, as well as the head of the service center of the Ministry of Interior.

Mr. Krykliy is another Servant of the People MP appointed to the Cabinet.

Communities Development Minister Babak

Aliona Babak. Source: samopomich.ua

The new Minister of Development of Communities and Territories of Ukraine is philologist Aliona Babak, 49, who was elected in 2014 as #8 Samopomich deputy to the previous parliament of the 8th convocation.

However, in 2017 Babak resigned claiming, “I’m not a politician, I’m more of an expert. Political activity is difficult for me as a person.”

She was among the 47 MPs who called on the Constitutional Court to cancel the Rada’s appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Ms. Babak was born in Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Zelenskyy. Since the late 1990s until her service in the Parliament, Babak worked as an expert in the financial management of housing and local development. As well, she managed a charity focusing on the issues from the same field.

Education and Science Minister Novosad

Hanna Novosad. Source: glavcom.ua

The youngest minister in the new government is 29-year-old Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Hanna Novosad, who received bachelor degrees from the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy (2011, political science), and from the Maastricht University (2013, European studies).

Since 2014, Ms. Novosad worked as an adviser to Education Minister Serhiy Kvit, and later, under his successor Lilia Hrynevych, as the director-general of the Ministry’s Directorate for Strategic Planning and European Integration.

Healthcare Minister Skaletska

Zoriana Skaletska. Photo: prostir.ua

Minister of Health of Ukraine Zoriana Skaletska (Chernenko), 39, had received her Ph.D. degree in Law from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (Poland) specializing in medical law. She has been an associate professor in the Kyiv Mohyla Academy since 2016.

Zoriana Skaletska worked as an expert in the Council of Entrepreneurs of Cabinet of Ministers in 2010-2011, later in 2011-2014 Ms. Skaletska headed the Commission of Reform of Health Care System in the Public Council of Ministry of Health.

Since 2014, Zoriana Skaletska is a leading expert on health reform of the “The Reanimation Package of Reforms,” the coalition of NGOs. As well as she is a member of several NGOs that specialize in medical law issues.

Nevertheless, chairman of the Servant of the People parliamentary faction David Arakhamia says that his fellow party member, MP Mykhailo Radutskyi may replace Skaletska on her post in a few months. Skaletska is going to become the deputy minister, according to Arakhamia. Radutskyi is a founder of Boris, a network of private clinics.

Culture-Youth-Sports Minister Borodianskyi

Volodymyr Borodianskyi. Source: 112.ua

Former CEO of Ukraine’s largest media holding Volodymyr Borodianskyi, 45, has become the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports.

A financier by education, Borodianskyi worked as a financial director of the Russian newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets in Ukraine since 1998. In 2000, he dealt with media assets management in Alfa-bank.

Since 2004, Borodianskyi was the head of the executive board of the STB TV channel, owned by oligarch Viktor Pinchuk. In 2012-2018, he also was CEO of Pinchuk’s StarLightMedia.

In July 2019, President Zelenskyy appointed Borodianskyi as his off-staff adviser.

Social Policy Minister Sokolovska

Yuliia Sokolovska. Photo: depo.ua

The new Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine is Yuliya Sokolovska, 34.

In 2014-2017 she first headed a department in the Ministry of Economic Development, then a department in the Finance Ministry, finally she was chief of another department in the Secretariate of the Cabinet of Ministers. Sokolovska managed the USAID/Deloitte eHealth project “Support for Healthcare Reform.”

Not-so-new-faces

Interior Minister Avakov

Arsen Avakov (C) at the first meeting of the Cabinet. Kyiv, 2 September 2019. Photo: depo.ua

The most highly criticized appointment in the new government is keeping Arsen Avakov, 55, on the post of the Minister of Internal Affairs.

In 2002-2012, Avakov held various posts in local authorities of the city of Kharkiv and Kharkiv Oblast. In 2012, he was elected to the Parliament on the list of Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party. Avakov was the 118th richest person in Ukraine worth $100 million as of 2013.

He entered the first post-Maidan government in February 2014 and keeps his post of the Interior Minister since then.

Prior to the re-appointment, 24 Ukrainian NGOs urged President Zelenskyy not to re-appoint Avakov. Those included the Anti-Corruption Action Center, StateWatch, Transparency International Ukraine. The joint statement claimed,

“Avakov is responsible for failing to reform the police, sabotaging the vetting of police officers, keeping tainted police officials and suspects in EuroMaidan cases in key jobs, failing to investigate attacks on civic activists and numerous corruption scandals linked to him and his inner circle.”

However, this plea was ignored by the authorities just as all other appeals from NGOs and citizens regarding the appointments. For example, several petitions on the presidential website that exceeded the 25,000-vote threshold to be considered by the President were either ignored of received inadequate replies. The petition demanding to re-appoint healthcare reformer Ulana Suprun as the Health Minister was ignored. And the demand to dismiss Avakov received a run-around reply saying that such dismissal is beyond presidential powers, however now we can see that the presidential majority in the new Rada fully supports Mr. Avakov.

Arsen Avakov is believed to be behind the far-right organizations, “National Corps” and “National militia,” however, he himself denies direct connections to both projects.

Two days before the voting for the new government, oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi told Censor.net,

“I don’t have any doubts that Avakov will be Minister. Firstly, there is no other candidate for this post, and, secondly, some stable things should be in the country,” Kolomoyskyi said and added that he was sure that Finance Minister Oksana Markarova will remain on her post.

Both “fulfilled predictions” once again show the connection of President Zelenskyy and Kolomoyskyi. Another interesting fact is that Kolomoyskyi’s meeting with Avakov was among oligarch’s first encounters after his return to Ukraine from his self-imposed exile in May 2019 when it became clear that then-President Poroshenko was losing the elections.

The newly-elected PM Honcharuk called the decision to keep Avakov “one of the most complex and assured that, yet for the Interior Minister certain red lines were drawn which he cannot cross.

Finance Minister Markarova

Oksana Markaroa. Photo: kmu.gov.ua

The second holdover from the previous administration is 42-year-old Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova. In the previous Cabinet, she was a Minister of Finance since 2018 after the dismissal of Oleksandr Danyliuk from the post. Before the presidential elections earlier this year, Danyliuk joined the team of Zelenskyy, and he is now the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

Markarova received Master’s Degrees at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy (ecology, 1999) and at Indiana University (public finance and trade, 2001).

Starting from March 2015 until her appointment as minister, Markarova was Deputy Minister of Finance under Natalie Jaresko and Oleksandr Danyliuk.

She lobbied for the implementation of the three-year budgeting model in Ukraine which was supported by the Cabinet and the Rada.

Foreign Minister Prystaiko

Vadym Prystaiko. Source: president.gov.ua

The new Minister of Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko, 49, is not a novice to the state service. He works for his ministry since 1994. In his diplomatic career, Mr. Prystaiko was a consul to Sydney, Australia (2000-2002), a political counselor then the acting chargé d’affaires in the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada (2004-2007), Mission deputy chief at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C (2009-2012), the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada (2012-2014).

Since July 2017 until his recent appointment as Foreign Minister, Vadym Prystaiko was the head of the Mission of Ukraine to NATO.

Vice PM for EU-NATO integration Kuleba

Dmytro Kuleba. Photo: UNN

Vice Prime Minister on matters of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, 38, is another diplomat in the new government. He has been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2003.

In 2014, then Prime Minister Pavlo Klimkin posted Kuleba as an ambassador for special tasks on matters of strategic communications.

Prior to the recent appointment as Vice PM, Mr. Kuleba had been the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe (2016-2019).

Minister for Veterans and IDPs Koliada

Oksana Koliada. Photo: liga.net

Retired Colonel of the Armed Forces, 39-year-old Oksana Koliada has become the chief of the merged Ministry for Veterans, Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons.

Since March 2019, Ms. Koliada worked as Deputy Miniter for Veteran Affairs in Groysman’s government.

Earlier Oksana Koliada worked in the law enforcement agencies in 2003-2015. From 2015 to 2017 she served in the Armed Forces, where she headed the Communication Department of the Defense Ministry. For three months in 2017, Ms. Koliada held the post of Deputy Commander of the Anti-Terrorist Operation. She retired in the rank of Colonel.

Oksana Koliada is also known as a founder of several civil volunteer forums, conferences, and round table discussion.

The government comprises 12 men and 6 women “who are some of the president’s friends, former business partners or associates, and technocrats, civil society activists, and two holdovers from the previous administration,” RFE/RL points out.

The average age of the ministers is 39. Most of the appointees are new to politics and have no experience in state management. Thus, no reliable predictions are possible now regarding their activities on the governmental posts in the upcoming years.

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