Friday, February 28, 2014

Ukraine: Who's Who In Ukraine's 'Kamikaze' Cabinet

RFE/RL Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Who's Who In Ukraine's 'Kamikaze' Cabinet

by Daisy Sindelar

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. That was the message as Ukraine's parliament voted to approve a new cabinet that takes over a country still rocked by separatist clashes and spiraling into economic chaos.

The country's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, referred to the current government as a "doomed" body that would have only three-four months to implement radical and deeply unpopular reforms.

Despite vows to create a "unity" government, the current cabinet features primarily members of Yulia Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party and no members of Vitali Klitschko's UDAR party.

Prime Minister
Arseniy Yatsenyuk (39) -- Among leading members of Yulia Tymoshenko's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, formerly served as economy and foreign minister. Was one of the three main opposition figures during Euromaidan, but lost considerable public appeal after negotiating compromise deal with now-ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. Has warned of "extremely unpopular" financial steps ahead, and has grimly referred to new cabinet members as "kamikaze" posts.

First Deputy Prime Minister
​​Vitaliy Yarema (50) -- The former chief of the Kyiv police force, Yarema became a powerful critic of Interior Ministry forces during Euromaidan, and has spearheaded independent investigations into a number of attacks on protesters, including that on journalist Tetyana Chornovol (see below). Yarema, who joined the Verkhovna Rada as a Fatherland lawmaker in 2012, will now oversee the defense, interior, and foreign ministries, as well as the National Security and Defense Council. (The interim president, not parliament, must approve the defense and foreign posts.) Yatsenyuk has referred to Yarema as the No. 2 official in the new government.

National Security & Defense Council Secretary
​​Andriy Parubiy (43) -- A seasoned politician with the Maidan seal of approval, Parubiy has served as a lawmaker in the Verkhovna Rada since 2007, first for Our Ukraine, then for Fatherland. Served as coordinator of the Euromaidan's Samooborona self-defense forces, and helped negotiate a cease-fire with police following last week's bloodshed. Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the nationalist Right Sector, had been offered a deputy post on the council, but has not yet agreed to the terms. Unlike cabinet ministers, his post was approved by the interim president.

Foreign Minister
​​Andriy Deshchytsya (48) -- A career diplomat, Deshchytsya has served as ambassador to Finland and Iceland, and also has long-standing ties with neighboring Poland. A Lviv native, Deshchytsya received a Ph.D. in political science from Canada's University of Alberta, and is fluent in Polish, English, and Russian. Since 2012 has served as ambassador at large and the OSCE's special representative on protracted resolution, driving Ukraine's efforts to resolve Moldova's Transdniestrian conflict.

Defense Minister
​​Ihor Tenyukh (55) -- Rear admiral and former commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Tenyukh provoked Russian animosity in 2008 when he ordered vessels to block the entrance of the Russian Navy to the bay of Sevastopol during the Russia-Georgia War. Two years later, he was dismissed from his position by Yanukovych. Tenyukh played an active role during the Euromaidan protests, calling on members of the armed forces to defy "illegal" orders from the authorities. Lviv native and member of the nationalist Svoboda party.

Deputy Prime Minister
Oleksandr Sych
(49) -- A member of parliament from the nationalist Svoboda party, Sych has served as the party's longtime ideological chief and the head of its regional organizations in Ivano-Frankivsk. Has worked as a history professor and has authored numerous essays on the history of Ukraine's liberation movement. Co-authored a controversial bill proposing to ban abortion except in instances of medical need or documented rape. Has said women have the right to not get pregnant, but should do so by "leading an orderly life."

Deputy Prime Minister For European Integration
​​Borys Tarasyuk (65) -- A seasoned diplomatic official, Tarasyuk spent the early years of Ukraine's independence as ambassador to the Benelux countries and Kyiv's representative in NATO. He went on to work as foreign minister under Leonid Kuchma, before breaking with Kuchma to work as Viktor Yushchenko's foreign-relations adviser during his presidential election campaign. He was appointed foreign minister a second time after the Orange Revolution, and went on to serve as a Fatherland lawmaker. He is the founder of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation and strongly supports Ukraine's EU and NATO integration. Has already indicated the government will be ready to sign an EU Association Agreement "within a week or two." According to his Facebook page, he has rejected the post.

Health Minister
Oleh Musiy
(48) -- As head doctor for the Euromaidan medical staff, Musiy comes to the post with enormous public support. An anesthesiologist and emergency-care specialist, Musiy has also received degrees in health-care management and organization. He has served as the president of the Ukrainian Medical Association and led a Verkhovna Rada advisory board on public-health issues. One of the first doctors to initiate and sponsor a code of ethics for Ukrainian doctors.

Interior Minister
​​Arsen Avakov (50) -- Baku-born and of Armenian origin, Avakov rose through the political ranks in Kharkiv, serving as regional governor under Yushchenko and a high-ranking member of his Our Ukraine party. Since 2010 has served as head of the regional branch of Fatherland in Kharkiv, where he narrowly lost to Hennadiy Kernes in mayoral elections the same year. In 2012, he faced charges of abuse of office in a case some said was politically motivated. He was arrested in Italy on an Interpol warrant, but a court dropped the charges after he was elected to the Verkhovna Rada in October that year. Has served as acting interior minister since February 22, and has already signed an order disbanding the Berkut riot police.

Finance Minister
​​Oleksandr Shlapak (54) -- Born in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, raised and educated in Lviv. Long political career, having alternately served as economy minister, deputy National Bank chairman (where he worked alongside Yatsenyuk), treasury chairman, and presidential representative in the cabinet of ministers. Shlapak gained notoriety in 2011 when he was doused with water while testifying against Tymoshenko at the Pechersk court. Is considered a close associate of Ukrainian banking billionaire Serhiy Tihipko.

Minister Of Social Policy
​​Lyudmyla Denysova (53) -- Experienced politician who served as minister of labor and social policy under Tymoshenko from 2007 to 2010. Born in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk, she moved to Crimea in the early 1990s, where she rose through the ranks of regional government, holding a range of economic and treasury posts. Served as the region's legal adviser and pension-fund manager. Joined Fatherland in 2005, won several parliament seats, including in 2012. Was ranked one of Ukraine's most influential women in 2009.

Justice Minister
Pavlo Petrenko
(34) -- A lawyer and Fatherland deputy since 2012. Earlier served as a deputy in the Kyiv regional council, where he worked on the body's anticorruption committee. Has also served as general counsel for Ukraine's State Savings Bank.

Culture Minister
​​Yevhen Nyshchuk (41) -- Actor and singer who served as unofficial master of ceremonies at the Euromaidan protests, just as he had a decade earlier at Kyiv's Orange Revolution -- roles that have earned him the sobriquet "Voice of Maidan." Nyshchuk, who used his position to broadcast security instructions to protesters during outbreaks of violence, also drew numerous musicians to the Maidan stage, telling one interviewer that while the protests should not devolve into an open-air concert, "Ukrainians can't live without music, whether in moments of sadness or moments of joy." Has vowed to restore and preserve Ukrainian cultural heritage.

Economic Development & Trade Minister
​​Pavlo Sheremeta (42) -- The first dean of the Kyiv-Mohyla Business School and president of the Kyiv School of Economics, Sheremeta is considered an expert on developing economies and has the unusual distinction of having served as a special adviser to the government of Malaysia. He also holds a degree from Emory University in Atlanta and graduated from the management-development program at Harvard. Frequently ranked among Ukraine's top managers. Expressed surprise at being named economy minister, but acknowledged need for "new faces" in government. Will be key player as Ukraine races to push through urgent reforms needed to secure international loans.

Education & Science Minister
​​Serhiy Kvyt (48) -- The rector of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy national university, Kvyt is one of Ukraine's most respected literary critics and educators. A determined opponent of his predecessor, Dmytro Tabachnyk, whom he accused of attempting to limit university autonomy and limiting available seats for potential students. His appointment is certain to please Ukraine's politically active student class, which had spent years lobbying for Tabachnyk to be thrown out of office for pro-Russian, "Ukrainophobic" tendencies.

Youth & Sports Minister
​​Dmytro Bulatov (35) -- The Automaidan activist whose weeklong disappearance and brutal torture at the hands of unidentified captors became a pivotal chapter in the 90-day Euromaidan protests. Opposition supporters, including Channel 5 owner Petro Poroshenko, kept close watch over Bulatov after he survived the ordeal, returning badly beaten and near starvation. A Kyiv native with three small children, Bulatov returned to Ukraine this week after receiving medical treatment for injuries that included a partially severed ear.

Fuel & Energy Minister
​​Yuriy Prodan (55) -- Russian-born Prodan returns to the key energy post after serving a 2 1/2-year stint under Yulia Tymoshenko, during which Ukraine signed the controversial natural-gas deal with Russia that Yanukovych later used to jail Tymoshenko. He is not aligned with any political party. Prodan, whose career includes stints at the monopoly energy suppliers for Kyiv and Ukraine, also served as deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. His first tasks may include negotiating a manageable agreement on Russian gas supplies and pushing through energy-pricing reforms seen as key to the EU Association Agreement.

Anticorruption Bureau Chief
​​Tetyana Chornovol (34) -- Like Bulatov, an investigative reporter and activist. Chornovol survived a horrifying beating at the hands of unknown assailants hours after publishing an article accusing Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko of mass corruption. Her beating added to Euromaidan calls for Zakharchenko's ouster, as well as the need to create a specific government post dealing with corruption issues. She was the first journalist to report on Yanukovych's lavish Mezhyhirya estate, in 2006. This is her first government post, having unsuccessfully run for parliament in 2012.

Lustration Committee Chief
​​Yehor Sobolev (37) -- A career journalist and Euromaidan commandant credited with being one of the protests' most astute organizers and strategists. Sobolev, who had rare access to Yanukovych during the 2004 Orange Revolution, urged protesters early on to avoid violence at all costs, saying it took away their "moral high ground." His wife, Maria Padalka, is a popular TV broadcaster. Like the anticorruption bureau, the lustration committee is a new post, created at the insistence of Maidan organizers.