It’s a deja vu from ex-President Petro Poroshenko’s era.
Most major pro-Western reformers have now been expelled from government and replaced with shady loyalists and appointees with a corrupt background.
The latest round was the dismissal on April 24 of Serhiy Verlanov, head of the State Tax Service, and Maksym Nefyodov, head of the State Customs Service. Both have a clean record and are seen as honest, effective and pro-Western. But not by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration.
A Verkhovna Rada committee on April 28 also approved a bill that would enable the dismissal of Artem Sytnyk, head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine. Before that, ex-Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka and his deputies, top investigator Sergii Gorbatuk, as well as ex-Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk, ex-Economy Minister Timofy Milovanov and Oleksandr Danylyuk, ex-secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, were either fired or resigned.
On April 30, the Verkhovna Rada decided not to consider appointing ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a deputy prime minister.
There can be legitimate concerns about the performance of all of them but they have one thing in common: They are pro-Western, favored by civil society, and never gave any reason to think they are corrupt.
What is Zelensky offering instead? Shady protégés and figures mired in corruption.
Those who keep their jobs include Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, whose allies and son have been prosecuted for graft at the ministry, and Zelensky’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak, whose brother has been filmed discussing the sale of government jobs. Chief Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky, who has been recorded on audio obstructing corruption cases, is also feeling just fine. They deny the accusations of wrongdoing.
Verlanov was replaced without any competitive procedure with Oleksiy Lyubchenko, who has no right to hold state jobs under the 2014 lustration law. Meanwhile, ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s former lawyer Oleksandr Babikov is the second-in-command at the State Investigation Bureau.
It’s time to face the truth: Zelensky is comfortable with the status quo. He is either not interested in any meaningful reforms or has an astonishingly bad
judgment when it comes to choosing people for his government. Soon he and his party will feel the consequences at polling stations and will also lose the
trust of foreign lenders.