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22 January, 2013  ▪  Andriy Skumin

Old Comrades in the New Government

The latest reshuffles in the top offices of key government institutions have reinforced the Family – to no one’s surprise – and highlighted an interesting trend: people with Russian background are being appointed to the government en masse.
Gallery: A Smell of Russian Spirit (photos: 8)

The Party of Regions finally pushed former NBU Chairman Serhiy Arbuzov's strongly-opposed replacement with Ihor Sorkin (his former deputy) through parliament and Arbuzov himself ended up in the Cabinet of Ministers. Earlier, Yanukovych replaced SBU Chief Ihor Kalinin with Oleksandr Yakymenko, SBU First Deputy Chief and, according to the media, head of security at entities once linked to the Family.

Yet another wave of reshuffles showcased the Family's growing power through the concentration of leverage in the executive branch while its positions in parliament weaken, forcing it to turn to compromises with representatives of various interest groups. Meanwhile, Yanukovych continues to sponsor bills that would help him gain direct control over the government and push the nominal premier out of the scene.

The process reveals another interesting trend: in addition to the perfectly expected domination of Donetsk-born players in the government, the number of top officials closely linked to Russia at some stage of their careers is also increasing. The current independent Ukrainian government involves an unprecedented number of people who were born, educated, shaped professionally, served or worked in Russia or for Russia, and stay in close family, business or professional contact with Russian entities. Will these people, who barely think of themselves as separate from the Russian World, act for the benefit of a self-sufficient or Europe-oriented Ukraine? Doubtfully so, as any official – or any person – is affected by the environment that shapes his or her worldview and values. It is now premature to qualify them as the Kremlin’s agents and moreover, they may prove surprisingly persistent in resisting its influence in some issues. Yet, they seem to view Ukraine only as “yet another Russia” which makes the country vulnerable and takes away its prospects.

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