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Kiev baits hook with guest ministers to lure aid givers

December 03, 2014, 17:15 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko

Joe Biden and Petro Poroshenko

© EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

MOSCOW, December 3. /TASS/. In Ukraine’s new government, which the national parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) voted for on Tuesday, three ministerial seats, including the offices of the economics and finance ministers, went to foreign nationals. To make that possible, President Petro Poroshenko hurried to adopt a special decree to fast-track the procedures granting his candidates Ukrainian citizenship. Russian experts have interpreted the appointments as a telltale sign: The authorities in Kiev have in fact agreed to external administration in hopes for financial aid guarantees from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

For more than a month following Ukraine’s October 26 parliamentary elections, conflicting teams of the president and the prime minister - the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front - have conducted backstage bargaining over redistribution of ministerial portfolios. Yatsenyuk was demanding control of finance, the economy and internal affairs. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc found it possible to discuss Yatsenyuk’s nominees for ministerial posts only in talk shows.

A compromise was achieved only after US Vice-President Joe Biden visited Kiev on November 20. As a result, Yatsenyuk’s man Arsen Avakov retained his post as Interior Minister. The president secured the appointment of his candidates, Stepan Poltorak and Pavlo Klimkin as defense minister and foreign minister. The finance and economics ministries went respectively to US citizen Natalia Yaresko and Lithuanian Aivars Abromavicius. Georgian citizen Aleksandr Kvitashvili is the health minister.

The five parliamentary factions kept negotiating the ministerial candidates up to the last moment. The Petro Poroshenko Bloc has more posts than any other - 11. Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front will control around half that number. Two ministers will represent Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna. The Self-Help Party and Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party will take one seat each.

“The approved composition of the Ukrainian government is the starting point where two political rivals - Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk - will begin a new round of confrontation. The current Ukrainian parliament will not last,” Aleksey Miller, a lecturer at the European University in St. Petersburg, told TASS.

“The ruling coalition has held some dramatic bargaining for the Interior Ministry because the one who controls the police has a firm grip on the internal political situation," Miller said. "Yatsenyuk gained the upper hand. Poroshenko has established control of the financial and economic segment of the government. The current line-up of forces as it is, the West prefers to put a stake on both dependent personalities - the president and the prime minister, not either of the two.”

“The appointment of foreign nationals as key ministers in the Ukrainian Cabinet by no means agrees with the expectations Ukrainian society was pinning on the politicians in Kiev. It is impossible to transplant ‘correct’ reforms from the United States, Lithuania, or Georgia to Ukrainian soil without understanding the local realities, says CIS Studies Institute director Konstantin Zatulin

“The ‘guest players’ who have been invited into the Ukrainian government are nothing but a personal promise to the West from President Petro Poroshenko that his country has made a choice in favour of integration with the European Union and the wish to demonstrate his loyalty,” Zatulin says. “As far as the appointment of three foreigners to ministerial posts in Ukraine is concerned, one cannot but remark that there was no line of Nobel laureates eager to apply for the job. None of the financiers or economists of world acclaim was eager to peg one’s future on Ukraine out of fear for reputational losses.”

Zatulin also pointed to a circumstance he finds rather odd: “The authorities in Kiev have been pressing for the exclusive status of Ukrainian as the sole state language, while of the three foreigners appointed government ministers only Natalya Yaresko, a citizen of the United States, can address her fellow citizens and subordinates fluently in the mother tongue.”

Globalization Problems Institute director Mikhail Delyagin says: “At the moment of the Soviet Union’s breakup Ukraine had a strong economy and educated people. But the West does not need either the Ukrainian economy or educated people. The task of the foreign guests now taking ministerial posts will be to convert Ukrainians into an obedient and undemanding population.

“Ukraine’s president and prime minister distrust each other. Ukrainian society keeps accusing its oligarchs-turned-politicians of corruption. In a situation like this, the simplest decision was to put the country’s finances, the economy and the health service in the hands of people nobody knows.”

For political scientist Vadim Karasyov the appointment of foreigners to key economic positions is some sort of guarantee of international financial aid to the Kiev authorities. "The West wants spending to be transparent. Only on that condition may it agree to extend assistance and it will be the task of foreign nationals in the ministerial seats to ensure that transparency," he says.

"Ukrainian society’s reaction to their appointment is mixed - nobody knows these people. Whatever respect one may feel for Georgia and Lithuania, both are tiny states and the scale of their problems is close to nought when placed next to the problems of modern Ukraine.”

 

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