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Mitigating a PR fumble in the Saakashvili camp – Maria Gaidar

August 8, 2015

Some weeks ago an entry was published relating to the persona non grata of the then Russian Consular General in Odessa, and the appointment of then Russian citizen, Russian opposition politician Maria Gaidar within the Governor Saakashvili “top table” administration.

Within that entry the following paragraph was quite prophetic, and not to say problematic for Ms Gaidar:  “The next appointment will be a Russian – or at least was, and possibly still is, but is to apparently be a holder of Ukrainian citizenship. Her name of Maria Gaidar. Her role will relate to social issues in the oblast. (Would a young well known Russian politician give up her citizenship when she may return in the post-Putin epoch?)”

gaidar

To be entirely blunt, her PR debut was something of a fumble – the biggest of the Saakashvili administration thus far.

Asked pointed, and what should have been entirely expected, questions by the media of Odessa regarding the Kremlin war in eastern Ukraine, Ms Gaidar attempted to avoid calling a spade a spade, and decided to use what in the current circumstances is perceived as unwelcome “Kremlin-esque” terminology along the lines of “brotherly people’s/nations”.

She further went on to fumble the question of her citizenship – whether she would or would not take Ukrainian citizenship, and whether she would or would not renounce her Russian citizenship.

Indeed she went so far as to say that as Ukrainian law prevents dual citizenship and that such an appointment would require Ukrainian citizenship, she would happily work as an “advisor” to Governor Saakashvili – either paid or unpaid.

The announcement of her appointment was not received well in Russia either.  Within days, a Bill was drafted for Duma consideration to give the State the ability to strip (undesirable) Russian citizens of citizenship under certain circumstances.  Needless to say her circumstances would fit the draft Bill.

Clearly any thoughts Ms Gaidar had of riding dual horses that are undoubtedly galloping in entirely different directions was not going to work – and the draft Bill for Duma consideration may well have removed her Russian citizenship having made the political decision to join the Saakashvili administration in Odessa.  Indeed, the decision may have been made to remove her citizenship even if she had changed her mind and abandoned the Saakashvili administration entirely.

Over the past few weeks, Ms Gaidar has seemingly realised that any political future in Russia is dead for the foreseeable future – if not, in all probability, for good.  She gradually began to make statements far more definitive than her initial attempt at fudging events in the east of the nation and also her future citizenship.

Thus it came to pass last week, that she was granted and accepted Ukrainian citizenship making her free to officially take the position offered to her within the “top table” Saakashvili administration in Odessa – this of course if she had renounced her Russian citizenship in accordance with Ukrainian law.

The matter of her Russian citizenship has now been addressed, having watched an interview with her on First City TV channel (a local Odessa channel), during which she states she has officially (and in writing) renounced her Russian citizenship.

That, as they say, is that – or is it?

Her move has stolen any political capital from any Duma engineered stripping of citizenship.  There are no longer political or PR points to score for The Kremlin by way of citizenship manipulation surrounding her.

However. part of the Russian “political aristocracy” (or as close as it comes considering her heritage) has left the fold.  Some form of Kremlin retaliation seems certain.  Her actions cannot (and undoubtedly will not) be allowed to pass without repercussions.

She is now a foreign citizen, therefore any involvement or funding in her charity Sotsialny Zapros, directly, indirectly, inferred (or simply invented) will likely see it branded as a “foreign agent” in fairly short order.  Next perhaps, given the Kremlin penchant for manipulating history, perhaps her politically aristocratic heritage (in a Russian sense) will be next to be publicly deformed – and defamed.

What ramifications there will be, if any, amongst the beleaguered, battered and ineffectual Russian political opposition remains to be seen.

The question now perhaps, is what is her political future in Odessa and more broadly Ukraine?

She will have to be effective, and be seen to be effective, to mitigate the initial PR fumble some weeks ago.

What happens to her political future in a post-Saakashvili Odessa, and/or a post-Poroshenko Ukraine having chosen the horse (or perhaps having been forced upon a single horse) to ride?

Time, as it always does, will tell.

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