Complex government reshuffle discussed by Zelenskyy administration

18 October 2022, 06:32 PM
In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyi appointed Oleksiy Chernyshov (to the left) as the head of the Kyiv Regional State Administration, and later as a minister (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)

In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyi appointed Oleksiy Chernyshov (to the left) as the head of the Kyiv Regional State Administration, and later as a minister (Photo:Office of the President of Ukraine)

The New Voice of Ukraine has looked into whether recent rumors about Oleksiy Chernyshov joining the state oil company Naftogaz and MP Olena Shulyak going to the Ministry of Regional Development have any truth to them.

On Oct. 14, a political analyst close to the Zelenskyy administration, Volodymyr Fesenko, citing his own sources, announced on Facebook: a personnel reshuffle in the highest echelons of power were about to take place. The key shake-up, according to him, will be the current head of NJSC Naftogaz of Ukraine Yuriy Vitrenko, who will be replaced by Oleksiy Chernyshov, who is now at the helm of the Ministry of Regional Development. In turn, the vacant ministerial seat is likely to be occupied by Olena Shulyak, MP and head of the presidential party Servant of the People.

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"Various sources claim that the number 1 favorite in this competition is Olena Shulyak, who has been heading the Servant of the People party since last year,” Fesenko wrote.

“And, paradoxically, this may prevent her appointment. It is a responsible position. And it is not a given that she herself is ready for such a change. Her current status appears safer.”

If what the political scientist said is true, then the biggest change in the Cabinet during the full-scale invasion is on the cards. Before that, the president made more drastic personnel decisions only once during the war, when in the summer he replaced the head of the Security Service, the Prosecutor General, and the Minister of Social Policy.

NV reached out to all three officials mentioned by the political analyst for comment. Shulyak and Chernyshov did not respond at the time of publication of this text. But Vitrenko did. And he made it clear that he was not ready to comment on the rumors, so as not to contribute to the discussion of the topic around his resignation. He only clarified: "We have a war now, and I perceive my work in this context".

The current head of Naftogaz has already faced attempts by various ex-perts to dismiss him – even before the war, when he had a conflict with foreign representatives in the supervisory board of the enterprise.

One of Zelenskyy's associates explained to NV that some time ago, Chernyshov was indeed seen by Bankova Street, where the presidential administration is located in Kyiv, as a state manager who could be trusted to work in the oil and gas industry. But the final decision allegedly has not yet been made by the Zelenskyy administration.

According to a representative of the presidential team who wished to re-main anonymous, Chernyshov is indeed fond of the careers of the two previous heads of Naftogaz: international meetings, cash flows, and law-suits with Gazprom. In addition, he has a strong PR team, which skillfully disseminates favorable information through Telegram channels.

Chernyshov joined the government in 2020, moving up from the post of the head of the Kyiv Oblast State Administration. Prior to that, he worked in investments with investment firm VI2 Partners and the KyivVision Foundation. In addition to a Ukrainian degree in law from Kharkiv University, heal so studied at the U.S-based Project Management Institute.

However, Chernyshov is unlikely to get to Naftogaz in the near future, several sources in the government assured NV.

First, the issue of his replacement in the ministry is not really resolved, as the Servant of the People party needs Shulyak in her current post.

Secondly, within the Office, Chernyshov's candidacy is promoted by the so-called group of Andriy Yermak, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief-of-staff. But they are opposed in this matter by the team of Deputy chief-of-staff, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, and Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov.

According to Fesenko, Chernyshov's first deputy Vasyl Lozinskyi expects to be promoted. NV believes that it is on this official, and not on Shulyak, that his current boss banks on.

But Kubrakov-Tymoshenko, according to a source in Zelenskyy's team, do not want to "yield" the Ministry of Regional Development to Yermak and Chernyshov. Allegedly, Kubrakov altogether believes that within the framework of the consolidation of ministries, Chernyshov's department can be attached to the Ministry of Infrastructure.

In such a scenario, Kubrakov will be at the head of the super-ministry and will gain influence on par with that of the prime minister. And this, in turn, is resisted by the current head of the Cabinet of Ministers - Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The PM, despite everything, insists that his position is strong and that he is valued by the President.

Therefore, at least until November, the current status quo both in the Cabinet and in Naftogaz will remain.

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