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Five things that the latest fight between Ukrainian officials tells about Ukraine

Five things that the latest fight between Ukrainian officials tells about Ukraine
Ukraine hasn’t yet forgotten the brawl with roses in its Parliament, but already has a new scandal on the agenda. On Monday, a fight between the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and Odesa Regional Governor Mikheil Saakashvili happened on December 14. Ironically, the incident took place during the meeting of the National Council of Reforms, where the most sensitive issues were to be discussed and solved. Yet, it was the brutal fight with swearing and water spilling that made it to the news.

Avakov threw a glass with water at Saakashvili when the ex-Georgian president called him a “thief” after a discussion on a major state-owned chemical producer Odesa Portside Plant took place. Kyiv Post made a transcript of the video of the conflict that can tell a lot about todays Ukraine. [youtube]

1. Poroshenko loses control

Petro Poroshenko made several attempts to take control over the conflict before it downgraded to personal level. His voice sounded soft and unconfident as two officials were getting more and more emotional.  The National Council of Reforms was established by the President, so it was Poroshenko who had the authority to moderate the meeting. Yet, the head of the state didn’t manage to stop a minister and a regional governor from spilling the water.

After the incident Poroshenko can be seen covering his face with both palms. He was supposed to interrupt before the fight got serious, he was expected to comment as soon as the public learned about such an incident on 14 December. But he failed.

2. Incurable clan wars

Appointed by Poroshenko Micheil Saakashvili has blamed the government led by the prime minister Arsenii Yatseniuk and his colleague, an MP from the People’s Front Party Mykola Martynenko, as well as key businessmen Rinat Akhmetov, Ihor Kolomoyski, and Dmytro Firtash, in billion corruption schemes. Political commentators have blamed Saakashvili for selective character of his accusations. No oligarchs or alleged corrupt officials from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc were accused by Saakashvili.

“I was “lucky”… to deal with the representatives of the parliament, the government as well as the Presidential administration. With full responsibility I can say: there is no unity there”, – a former journalist, now a president’s party MP Mustafa Nayem wrote on Facebook on 15 December.

Together with the Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Groysman, Poroshenko and Yatseniuk presented on Tuesday a joint “Unity Statement“. In the unusual document the three highest officials promised to put “Ukraine’s interests above all” and condemned the “histerical, anti-ruling, anti-government, and anti-state campaign organized by the corrupted oligarchs”. In the light of Avakov-Saakashvili “fist fight” such a statement looks more like wishful thinking.

3. Demonstrative fight against corruption

During the meeting, Avakov was protesting against Saakashvili “groundlessly” accusing him and the government in corruption. On 6 December, the Odesa regional governor made series of loud corruption accusations during an Anticorruption Forum in Odesa.

Almost 10 days later, no response from the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) was given. The media were filled with the news and articles dealing with Saakashvili’s statements, but no high official, including the president, has appealed to the Prosecutor General office about launching investigation. The PGO can also launch such an investigation by its own initiative, referring to the media reports containing information about facts of corruption.

Yet, no procedural steps have been made which allowed Avakov to claim Saakashvili’s accusations groundless. The fight against corruption is the most expected one among Western partners of Ukraine, as well as this is one of the most painful issue for the society. That’s why it is being done mostly “for the media”. Yet, nothing gets done when it comes to real actions that can lead to serious consequences for the key players in the country.

4. Ruling elite reload inevitable

Reforms are so much expected by the West and the society, that the officials degraded to debating who is a bigger patriot and a better reformer. Even more, Avakov managed to ask Saakashvili to “leave my country” reminding that ex-president of Georgia has received Ukrainian citizenship just recently and bringing the xenophobic argument into the game.

Conflicts within the ruling elite on such a basic level suggest that it needs a reload. The disagreements between Poroshenko’s and Yatseniuk’s teams have been protracted so that the forthcoming snap parliamentary elections and therefore government reload seem to be inevitable. The analysts only debate on the terms: the earliest – in the spring of 2016, the latest – in the fall.

“Lack of ideas, tiredness and going in circles. All this makes a reload of the parliament and the executive power inevitable. Not in the fall of 2016, but most likely in the spring”, – political analyst Taras Berezovets commented on his Facebook.

5. Elites fear transparency

The news about the incident appeared on Monday, the video was made public on Wednesday. In between, activists and media were demanding to disclose the records to judge from the conflict itself and not the interpretations. After Avakov has uploaded a two-minute video clip to his profile, many commentators got outraged by “all the shame and dirt.” Yet, it was one of the ways officials could be held accountable.

Ukrainians weren’t too sentimental about the fight and were keen enough to turn a shameful incident into memes and jokes. Hromadske TV turned the record into a dubstep video that has received almost as many views as the original one.

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