Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 10

Following a meeting with Premier Valery Pustovoytenko at the western Ukrainian resort of Truskavets, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma began replacing members of his government. Among the new cabinet officials are the first deputy premier, the deputy premier for agriculture, the education minister and several deputy ministers. The reshuffle has been expected for some time. In October the Ukrainian parliament had failed, by a narrow margin, to dismiss Pustovoytenko’s cabinet for poor performance. Not long after, leftists in the government had said that they intended to submit and vote on the same issue again in February (see the Monitor, October 13, 14). On January 12, a day before his meeting with President Kuchma, Pustovoytenko had met in a closed cabinet session with the leaders of several pro-government factions–the United Social Democratic Party, the Rukh, and the Greens–apparently with new cabinet ministers in mind (Den, January 13).

A day after Kuchma’s and Pustovoytenko’s meeting, Kuchma appointed Volodymyr Kuratchenko–formerly chair of the Zaporizhya Region state administration–as first deputy premier, replacing Anatoly Holubchenko. Kuchma also named Mykhaylo Hlady–former head of the Lviv Region administration–as deputy premier for agriculture. That position had been vacant since early last year.

Ukraine’s agriculture sector is suffering. Earlier this week, speaking to cabinet officials and regional administration heads in Poltava, Pustovoytenko admitted that reforms in agriculture have so far completely failed. The privatization of Soviet-era collective farms has been a fiasco; the production of grain in Ukraine, once the Soviet Union’s breadbasket, dropped by a whopping 20 percent last year (Rabochaya gazeta, Trud-Ukraina, January 14). New appointments in the agricultural ministry, however, are not likely to improve the situation. They are nothing new: During Kuchma’s tenure as president, the faces have changed every six months or so. The problem that the various agriculture ministers have faced is the same. Leftists in parliament have so far successfully blocked agricultural reforms, and land in Ukraine still cannot be bought or sold in private transactions.

Commenting on the appointment of his first deputy, Premier Pustovoytenko said that incoming First Deputy Premier Kuratchenko’s main task will be to “introduce proper order” in the fuel and energy sector (Inter TV, UNIAN, January 14). This particular replacement, hardly by coincidence, comes amid the scandal over Ukraine’s alleged misappropriation of Russian gas from the international pipelines (see the Monitor, January 13). The outgoing Holubchenko had supervised the fuel and energy sector, but did not manage it well. In November and early December the Ukrainian power grid was on the verge of collapse, when almost half of the nuclear reactors, which normally generate around 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy, were simultaneously halted for repairs. –OV