Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 87

The March 31 Verkhovna Rada (parliament) elections have been followed by a major reshuffle in Ukraine’s governing elite. Those who left President Leonid Kuchma’s camp obviously had to go; several local officials were punished for the poor performance of pro-government forces in the election; those government officials elected to the Rada have had to either renounce their newly gained mandates or leave their posts (the Ukrainian constitution rules out combining legislative work with other occupations).

On April 19, Kuchma dismissed his permanent representative in parliament, Roman Bezsmertny. Bezsmertny had held this key post, forging pro-government alliances and pushing government-drafted laws through the legislature, from December 1999. Last year, however, he left Kuchma’s camp to join Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine bloc, an opposition force. Kuchma replaced him with Oleksandr Zadorozhny, 41, a lawyer elected in Kyiv on the pro-presidential Unity party ticket.

On April 26, Kuchma replaced the governors in two western regions–Lviv and Ternopil. There his bloc, For a United Ukraine (FUU), performed dismally in the election (scoring 3.3 percent of the popular vote in Lviv and 1.9 percent in Ternopil). Yushchenko’s center-right coalition and Yulia Tymoshenko’s radical anti-Kuchma bloc, however, performed brilliantly (63 percent of ballots cast for Yushchenko and 17 percent for Tymoshenko in Lviv, 69 percent for Yushchenko and 18.8 percent for Tymoshenko in Ternopil). In Ternopil, an apparatchik from Kuchma’s administration, Ivan Kurnytsky, replaced a disgraced Vasyl Kolomychuk. In Lviv, the Agrarian Party leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Mykhaylo Hlady was replaced by Myron Yankiv, Ukraine’s former trade commissioner in Poland. Along with Hlady and Kolomychuk, Kuchma replaced the chairmen of seventeen district state administrations in seven regions where the FUU did not do as well as the government had expected.

Several members of Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh’s Cabinet won seats in parliament. Not all of them will work there, however. Kinakh himself, Education Minister Vasyl Kremin and Deputy Premier for Humanitarian Issues Volodymyr Semynozhenko have decided to stay in the government. But Agricultural Policy Minister Ivan Kyrylenko and Industrial Policy Minister Vasyl Hureyev will join the FUU faction in parliament. On April 19, Kuchma replaced Kyrylenko with Ivan Ryzhuk, the former state secretary to the Agricultural Policy Ministry. Hureyev was relieved of his post on April 24, but no replacement has yet been named.

On April 30, the Central Electoral Commission secretary, Yaroslav Davydovych, announced that Volodymyr Lytvyn was dismissed as chief of Kuchma’s staff and registered as a people’s deputy. Lytvyn headed the FUU in the elections. He is now expected to chair the FUU faction in the Rada. It is not clear who will replace Lytvyn as Kuchma’s top aide. But it will definitely not be Valery Pustovoytenko, the People’s Democratic Party leader and Transport Minister, who had reportedly eyed this position.

Pustovoytenko took the longest time to make his choice–parliament over Transport Ministry–and made the announcement on April 30, saying that he decided so only “after a meeting with the prime minister and the president.” He denied that he has ever been asked to replace Lytvyn.

Last, also on April 30, Kuchma accepted the resignation of Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko. On April 22, Potebenko, who gained that post in July 1998, had announced that he preferred to work in parliament, to which he was elected from the Communist Party list (see the Monitor, April 25). Kuchma appointed First Deputy Prosecutor-General Mykola Harnyk as the caretaker prosecutor. Harnyk, 44, has served in the Prosecutor-General’s Office since 2000. Before that, he had worked as Kyiv prosecutor. Unlike Potebenko’s other deputies–Oleksy Bahanets, Mykola Obykhod and Yury Vynokurov–Harnyk has reportedly neither directly dealt with the abortive investigation into journalist Georgy Gongadze’s murder in late 2000 nor was he involved in the subsequent tape scandal (Studio 1+1 TV, April 19; Interfax-Ukraine, April 24; STB TV, April 26; Forum, Ukrainska Pravda, April 30).