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Changes at the top imminent?

August 27, 2016

Rumour has it that there are to be changes at the top imminently (within 7 – 10 days).

There are several choices in guessing who is likely to move and/or move on when rumours of changes at the top circulate.  Such rumour has to include possibility of the eventual release of Boris Lozhkin.

It has been some months since the blog last mentioned Head of the Presidential Administration, Boris Lozhkin.  That entry highlighting the desire of Mr Lozhkin to leave his current role.

“…….the desire to get out of the Presidential Administration remains – back to business beckons.

Why he remains in post now is perhaps not due to his desire to remain, but due to a lack of desire to release him as Head of the Presidential Administration.  Candidates to replace him are few (to be charitable)…..”

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To be blunt there remains but few capable candidates to replace him that enjoy the trust of the President – and loyalty to the President seems to be an attribute far more important than that of ability to carry out the role effectively if past appointments are any indication.

The most obvious replacement is Mr Lozhkin’s current Deputy, Vitaliy Kovalchuk – but in appointing Mr Kovalchuk the President stands a significant risk of seriously irking both Prime Minister Groisman and Mayor of Kyiv, Vitaly Klitschko, neither of which are admirers of Mr Kovalchuk.  (To be frank he has very few admirers.)

Another option would be the current Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA, Valeriy Chaliy, formerly the Foreign Affairs Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration – however, Mr Chaliy was sent to Washington not only for his ability to represent Ukraine in a capital that Ukraine has to influence, but as stated when he was appointed there may have been other drivers for his appointment – “Another possibility is (and there will surely be an element of this, for it is the nature of the political animal) that Mr Chaly had thus far refused the position much preferring to have the eyes and ears of the President on a daily basis.  Simply put, it has taken this long to pressure/ease him into accepting the role.  Let’s be quite honest, few give up their seat at the top of the presidential domestic political table for a position abroad, for their daily influence dwindles over time whilst their replacement’s influence grows.

Mr Chaly is young (45) – capable and ambitious.  It may therefore be that he has been sent to Washington to “makes friends” and gain traction within “the beltway” with an eye upon future positions far greater than that held held until yesterday within the Presidential Administration.

Alternatively, because he is young, ambitious and intelligent, he may have been moved from the centre quite deliberately for more self-serving reasons within the centre of gravity, rather than for reasons of “growing” Mr Chaly’s “western” influence for future domestic political use.

A “horizontal promotion” away from decision/policy making, or a deliberate move to enhance the résumé of a prodigy?”

Another understudy of Mr Lozhkin within the Presidential Administration for a while, is the current Chairman of Kharkiv Regional State Administration Igor Rainin, certainly the least likely to make waves within or without the Presidential Administration if appointed – and possibly the easiest to replace if exiting his current role.  He is therefore the most sensible, if not inspirational, of choices.

The very private figure of Makar Pasenyuk remains a possibility should he want to enter the political fray.  He has the trust of the President.

Mr Lozhkin however, may not yet be fully allowed to leave the Presidential conclave despite his desire to do so.  The President is not surrounded by a large number of trusted and capable people (in that order) allowing for Mr Lozhkin to simply walk out of the door.

Mr Lozhkin’s desire to return to the business world and leave presidential politics behind may yet be tempered by an appointment designed to keep him somewhat close and at presidential beck and call.  An appointment as Head of the National Investment Council could very well await him, thus allowing his return to business and overt exit from daily politics, but remaining the head of an entity created by Presidential Decree, and thus at beck and call of the President.

Further, there is also (reliable) noise stating that Dmitry Shimkiv and Alexy Fildatov are seeking exit from the Presidential Administration too – undoubtedly their desire to leave will increase should Mr Lozhkin finally be released.

(To be fair to these men, none would have chosen the roles that befell them following the events of 2014, and none would have expected or wanted to remain in those roles for long.  In some cases, more than 2 years on, the desire to return to their previous careers is entirely understandable.)

There is also the declared intention to retire with effect from 1st September of Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoli Matios whom a loyal replacement will also have to be found.  (A reader may ponder why at 47 years of age retirement is chosen – perhaps the new e-declaration requirements for public officials have something to do with it?  Perhaps he wants some time off and will enter politics at the next elections – his sister, the gifted writer Maria Matios is a Poroshenko MP.)

Perhaps there are other possible moves at the very top being pondered and that will be actioned within the next 10 days, which thus far escape the watchful eye – thus the possibilities/probabilities listed above will prove false prophecy.  There may be a surprise ahead?  (Although unlikely under a predictable manager such as President Poroshenko.)

Whatever the case, rumour of imminent change at the very top is strong – and if change is to occur it seems likely to happen prior to the return of the Verkhovna Rada and the next parliamentary session.

All of that said, whatever the changes, it will be debatable whether anything will actually change as a result.  Ineffective policy implementation, complete lack of policy in some areas, incredibly poor domestic communication, and all the other usual ailments are likely to remain.

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