Personnel changes happened in the presidential political team on April 3. At a meeting, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB)’s faction elected Artur Herasymov as its new chairman, while Poroshenko appointed to his previous position (the president’s representative in the parliament) Iryna Lutsenko, who is a PPB MP and the wife of Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yurii Lutsenko. The strong reliance on family connections is evident, as it is growing stronger amid the president’s appointees. Media and social networks have lately run a story alleging that Yurii Lutsenko was being primed for the post of prime minister, which is currently held by Volodymyr Hroisman. Many cast doubt on this prospect, however.
To some extent, Iryna Lutsenko has to become the final link in the president’s line of access to the parliament and to relay his position. However, People’s Front MP Leonid Yemets said: “One should rely not on family connections, but on the person’s demonstrated effectiveness at work. The president’s representative in the parliament is less a relay tower for the views of the head of state and more a communicator between the parliament and the presidential administration. MPs who had spent several years sharing the room and the college desk with the prosecutor general or the current presidential representative in the parliament will display much less reverence towards them.”
Regarding the person of the current chairman of the pro-presidential PPB faction, Yemets commented: “My personal attitude to Herasymov is defined by the fact that he was fully committed in his office as the president’s representative in the parliament. He thoroughly understands every bill and listens to people’s arguments. So I can only welcome the decision of the PPB faction to entrust Herasymov with general organization and management of the faction.” Meanwhile, the media have been running various stories that cast doubt on the latter’s past. For example, it is said that Herasymov was linked once to the future pro-Russian militant Ihor Biezlier, who is now suspected of committing a number of the gravest crimes in wartime.
“I know Herasymov as someone who does a lot for the development of the PPB in the Donbas, and not that of Our Land [journalists stress precisely Herasymov’s connections to Our Land. – Author] as well as a very active and hard-hitting head of our delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE,” Iryna Herashchenko wrote on Facebook. “He had a business in Donetsk before the war, it was a large and successful consulting firm. They had several dozen drivers, it turned out that one of them (he worked for the consulting firm just for a few months) was this character [the infamous pro-Russian thug Biezlier. – Author]. I do not think that people from Donetsk should be held responsible for all of their former employees, since it would take us just too far... For example, I knew a certain Miroshnyk [Rodion Miroshnyk. – Author] who was press secretary for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych before he hired Hanna Herman. This wonderful man is now a prominent ‘party leader’ in LNR.” Let us recall that Miroshnyk also takes part in the negotiations in Minsk as a representative of the LNR leader Ihor Plotnytsky.
IN THE FRIENDLY CIRCLE... CHAIRMAN OF THE PPB FACTION ARTUR HERASYMOV, THE PRESIDENT’S REPRESENTATIVE IN THE PARLIAMENT IRYNA LUTSENKO (WIFE OF PROSECUTOR GENERAL YURII LUTSENKO), DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE PPB FACTION SERHII BEREZENKO / Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day
One gets the strong feeling that leadership positions are reserved to some persons and access is strictly filtered. Den has repeatedly held roundtables and even created a “virtual government” of the people who could provide a quality alternative to existing realities. Without such an alternative, there can be no development a priori. However, it looks like the current government sticks to its very own approach, which recalls the unfortunate experience of its predecessors.
The Day discussed the reasons behind the parliamentary reshuffle with the leader of the Ridna Kraina civic movement Mykola TOMENKO.
“THE PRESIDENT NEEDS RELIABLE SOLDIERS IN THE PARLIAMENT”
What is your attitude to the recent appointments of Artur Herasymov and Iryna Lutsenko?
“The president appoints people along army lines, I mean those of the Soviet army. He needs reliable soldiers who would neither discuss nor debate his proposals nor express their own points of view, but only present the position of the head of state. Sometimes he also needs representatives of the political families of Ukraine, because if you are a family representative in the government, you have no way to dissent, since nobody will criticize one’s godfather, or brother-in-law. It seems that the president follows the worst traditions of previous presidents. Some of them relied on regional, family or business affinity in their appointments, while Petro Poroshenko has synthesized all these principles. He appoints his business partners, or members of fraternal families, or those who dutifully respond to all his whims.”
The media have recently published controversial facts from Herasymov’s Donbas past. How can it affect his work in the parliament?
“It is difficult to say whether the published account of Herasymov’s Donetsk period is true. In my opinion, however, such positions, especially when it comes to parliamentary work, should not be filled by people who lack a biography or have a questionable biography. If a person finds it hard to clearly say what they did previously, then it is better for them to work on self-improvement and make a blameless career first rather than take some position in the parliament. These latest appointments significantly undermine the status of parliament and such positions alike.
“It was unimaginable under the previous criminal regime to have members of the same family, for example, leading Prosecutor General’s Office and representing the president in the parliament. Andrii Kliuiev’s brother was an ordinary MP, while he was a kind of ‘boss’ in the parliament, so we had some separation of powers at least.”
Maybe it is about the lack of efficient personnel?
“Such people are there. In my year in the parliament, I clearly saw that the president had no use for professional, patriotic, but relatively independent people. He needs them to be dependent on his favors, for example, because of problems with the law, or business dependency, or being dependent on some family sentiments. The whole country is discussing the stories of Valeria Hontareva and Roman Nasirov. The president did everything to lobby for them getting these positions. Both were directly or indirectly related to the business activities of Poroshenko. Moreover, the PPB faction itself includes people who are much more professional and better prepared, but they have no such weakness as to be ‘soldiers of the president.’”
“I BELIEVE THAT THE APPOINTMENT OF LUTSENKO AS PRIME MINISTER IS AN UNLIKELY SCENARIO”
When Lutsenko was being appointed prosecutor general, the parliament changed the law to make it possible. Is it a dangerous precedent, and will this situation repeat, when the law is amended to promote people who are useful to the president?
“When it comes to parliamentary votes in general, it will be extremely difficult now to approve any personnel decision only because, as Hontareva said, ‘You do not vote for me, but rather for the president.’ Now this argument is not sufficient. The only working option for the president is to engage in complex negotiations, when, say, three factions (the PPB, People’s Front, and Liashko’s Radical Party) come to an agreement, vacant positions are filled in a chessboard pattern, and each party votes for a position of its own in the hope of milking the public funds. Trust in the president has dried up, even among relatively pro-presidential people in the parliament, so no one would vote for his candidates just because he said so.”
It is rumored that Yurii Lutsenko is projected to become prime minister. Is it a real possibility?
“This option is being discussed. A key argument allowing us to make this conclusion are informal conversations of Lutsenko, who has been telling his political allies that his historical mission in the prosecutor’s office will be completed when Viktor Yanukovych will be sentenced in absentia, and then he will enter the cabinet. Thus, this subjective basis suggests the likelihood of such a scenario. Objectively, this is confirmed by Viktor Shokin’s lawsuit, since he is the president’s man. He would never have filed a lawsuit against Poroshenko without the latter’s consent. For example, I filed a lawsuit against the president and Hroisman, for which I lost my seat. I do not think that anyone else would dare take such public steps, much less Shokin. However, I believe that appointment of Lutsenko as prime minister is an unlikely scenario. It is easier to dismiss than to appoint in Ukraine now. To announce a new prime minister, they should announce a majority coalition supporting that individual first. I am convinced that it does not actually exist now, and assembling such a coalition for Yurii Lutsenko will be very difficult.”
“IF THE CABINET IS DISMISSED, THE RISK OF AN EARLY ELECTION IS VERY HIGH”
So where do these rumors come from, then?
“I think that this scenario is being played out to put pressure on Hroisman and several players from the People’s Front (Arsen Avakov being the key one) by showing that it is possible to replace the cabinet. If they do not agree, say, to certain appointments aimed at the division of spheres of influence in the country, the parliament will see a new coalition created and Lutsenko appointed prime minister. Again, this is unlikely to happen. When the cabinet’s yearly report will be considered, it will be possible to replace some ministers or heads of state committees, get ‘right’ people there and enhance the influence of some financial and political groups. Therefore, this talk is tactical, not strategic in nature. If the cabinet is dismissed, the risk of an early election is very high.”
Hroisman is positioned as the president’s man. Do you feel that the prime minister has been playing a game of his own lately?
“They still are part of the same family political class, as I call it. The key difference between them now is that Poroshenko and his entourage, to put it mildly, are surprised that Hroisman wants to milk the public funds just as brazenly as they have been doing themselves. Hroisman fights for every position with tooth and nail. They have no true political differences, because they all serve Mammon. That is, they ascribe to a shared ideology. Please note that we have a pile of ‘profitable’ positions still not distributed. Where big money and contraband flows are involved, we have people serving as acting officials only. This means that different financial and political groups, particularly those around the president, prime minister, and the People’s Front, have not resolved which candidates to support. They are engaged in a tactical confrontation as they fight for resources, that is, for our money.”