The Minister of internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov has withstood the confrontation with President Petro Poroshenko and convinced of his indispensability President Vladimir Zelensky. How does he do it?
After the Supreme Rada has sent in resignation of the Prime Minister Alexey Goncharuk and his government, to replace the “technocrats” came a new Cabinet. One of the few Ministers who retained his post, was the head of the interior Ministry Arsen Avakov. DW tried to understand how it is possible to avoid Avakov’s resignation for six years, remaining a political survivor, despite the change of the Ukrainian presidents and governments.
When in the late summer of 2019, it became known that the Minister of internal Affairs Avakov retained his post in the new government Goncharuk, the leader of the “servant of the people” in Parliament, David Arakhamiya was forced to make excuses that, say, Avakov was only for six months “under the personal responsibility” of President Vladimir Zelensky. Arakhamia assured that during this time the head of the Ministry was completely replaced by alternates who will begin to implement the promised reforms.
( Not ), the interim interior Minister of Ukraine
Avakov and in fact appeared six deputies, but three of them were in his old team of deputies, and one of them – Anton Gerashchenko – worked and adviser to the Minister of internal Affairs. Zelensky, in turn, tried to translate the National guard directly subordinate to the President, but then abandoned these plans. But in Parliament on the meeting of the relevant Committee registered and approved a bill providing for the vesting of the interior Ministry special powers – status of the subject of military intelligence with a closed budget and agents outside of Ukraine. And the reform of the interior Ministry, according to respondents DW experts, has failed.
In February 2020, the Ukrainian media discussed the possibility of creating Avakov positions of power Vice-the Prime Minister, and Zelensky in testimony before the parliamentary faction of the “public Servants” called the interior Minister “one of the most efficient officials.” To resign, eventually left Prime Minister Alexey Goncharuk and part of his Cabinet, and the “temporary” Avakov retained his post. He will continue to head the Ministry of internal Affairs, and Denis Shmyhal will be the fourth Prime Minister, whom Avakov will formally submit.
Arsen Avakov, who served as interior Minister since February 2014, was a record for the time of work at the head of this Department, breaking the record of one of his predecessors, Yuri Kravchenko, who was head of the interior Ministry under President Leonid Kuchma. Leading the Ministry is formally still under Viktor Yanukovych, Azarov remained in this position and acting President of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov, and during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko, and his successor, Vladimir Zelensky.
High antireyting Avakov
Despite this enviable career stability, the current head of the interior Ministry, according to the Ukrainian center for economic and political studies named after Olexander Razumkov, do not trust 74% of Ukrainians. The rating above is just the ex-President Petro Poroshenko and oligarchs Viktor Medvedchuk. Even now former Prime Minister Alexey Goncharuk sent to the Verkhovna Rada to resign, the level of distrust was lower than that of Avakov and 63 per cent at the end of February.
The Minister of internal Affairs was involved in several scandals: among them the story of the “backpacks Avakov” (case of embezzlement of public funds in the procurement of the Ministry of backpacks for national guard. – Ed.), and accusations of inactivity in the investigation of the assassination of Kherson activist Catherine Gandzyuk, and allegations of falsification of evidence during the arrest of suspects in the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet.
In addition, experts are quite skeptical about the work Avakov as the head of the interior Ministry and especially the conduct of police reform. “Instead, he fought for spheres of influence with the heads of national police, despite its mandate to engage in international politics (it is enough to remember at least history with a convicted Italian national guardsman Vitaly Arkivim or developing a “plan of de-occupation”) and was playing politics, spreading rumors about the threat of destabilization in the country and the “hand of the Kremlin”, supporting “National guards” and other public formations”, – said in an interview with DW, the expert of the Centre for political and legal reforms Eugene Krapivin.
About the high rating of the head of the interior Ministry against the background of related scandals says and head of the Center for applied political studies “Penta” Volodymyr Fesenko. “But his power is due to Ministerial status and informal influence, rather than personal popularity,” explains the expert.
Essential Ukrainian Minister?
Professor of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, scientific Director of Fund “Democratic initiatives” name Ilka Kucheriva Oleksiy Haran also notes that the basis of the political status Avakov is his position, whose role in the background, as the Guarani put it, the Russian aggression, which began in 2014, has significantly increased. “After the revolution of dignity (protests on Maidan in Kyiv in 2013-2014, the result of which was the removal from power of President Viktor Yanukovych. – Ed.) he made a good bet on MIA,” says the analyst.
However, adds Haran, if in the confrontation with the President, Arsen Avakov helped his party “people’s front” played an important role in maintaining the stability of the then ruling coalition, in the case of Zelensky himself the interior Minister became the President the guarantor of political stability in the country and was able to keep his position even without direct party support in Parliament.
Expert of the Centre for political and legal reforms Eugene Krapivin, in turn, believes that the interior Minister was able to convince the President Zelensky and his team in its efficacy in “combating the invisible threat: the riots, destabilization of the situation in the country. Or media significant in the sense of maintaining order in emergency situations, as recently in New Sanzhary”.
Volodymyr Fesenko adds that the positions Avakov strengthen ties with the Ukrainian oligarchs. With some of them – for example, Igor Kolomoisky – he has quite a close relationship, the author says: Kolomoyskiy used to be called the interior Minister “an old friend”, a relationship with him – “fighting Commonwealth”.
Undesirable strengthening of the position Avakov
Vladimir Fesenko calls the Union Zelensky Avakov and the result of necessity, not of mutual sympathy. The President, according to Fesenko, not very like the attempts of the Minister of internal Affairs to strengthen its influence – despite the fact that he Zelensky seeks to preserve the monocentric model of governance. At the same time, “short bench” the President has no candidates for the equivalent replacement of the interior Minister, says Fesenko.
I agree with this point of view and the political scientist Haran: “Perhaps Zelensky and tried to squeeze Avakov from the government, but so far he doesn’t know how to do this combination.”