Ukraine Recovery Official Abruptly Resigns Amid Infighting

(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine’s top official tasked with reconstruction abruptly resigned and accused the government of hindering his efforts after the nation’s premier blocked his request to attend a conference in Berlin.

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Mustafa Nayyem, who headed the State Infrastructure and Reconstruction Development Agency, complained of “systemic hindering” of his work in a statement posted on Facebook on Monday.

“Starting from November last year, the team of the agency faced constant opposition, resistance and the creation of artificial obstacles,” Nayyem said.

The infighting within President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration comes a month after parliament removed his infrastructure minister, who hasn’t been replaced. It took place at a delicate moment as the Ukrainian leader, who is expected to open the Berlin gathering this week, seeks to secure international support in fending off a renewed Russian offensive.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal rejected Nayyem’s request to make the Berlin trip and instead ordered him to prepare a report on the progress of defense construction around critical infrastructure and energy facilities, according to a copy of the June 7 letter seen by Bloomberg.

The deadline for the report was set for June 12, according to a cabinet official who declined to be identified because the talks were not public. Nayyem disputed that, saying he was only told of such a deadline after Bloomberg reported about the blocked trip on Sunday.

The June 11-12 Ukraine Recovery Conference in the German capital is aimed at pooling efforts from Ukraine’s allies for postwar reconstruction. Zelenskiy will lead a delegation of more than 20 Ukrainian officials, including five cabinet members, and meet with leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The World Bank in February estimated that the country needs at least $486 billion to rebuild — before Russia stepped up widespread attacks on energy infrastructure — while the the European Investment Bank puts the cost at more than $1 trillion.


In his statement, Nayyem complained that crucial budget financing for repairing infrastructure had been scrapped, work had been slowed by bureaucracy — and his efforts had become “impossible” since the removal of Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov last month.

Kubrakov, a once-powerful minister who had also served as deputy premier, was dismissed by lawmakers aligned with Zelenskiy, apparently after a fallout with the president. Kubrakov had brought in Nayyem to oversee reconstruction.

Hlib Vyshlinsky, the executive director at the Centre for Economic Strategy in Kyiv, called Shmyhal’s travel restriction on Nayyem “not normal” and said it may reflect reconstruction funding becoming less of a priority.

“There is no money for it and support for defense is more important, along with the summit on Ukraine’s peace formula and long-term budget financing,” Vyshlinsky said, referencing the June 15-16 Ukraine summit hosted by Switzerland.

Nayyem said he had planned to take part in panels as well as a meeting organized by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP with more than 100 German companies to discuss Ukraine’s reconstruction perspectives, challenges and transparency.

The infighting risks intensifying scrutiny over funding by Ukraine’s allies, who have demanded that the country tackle corruption as a condition for keeping financing channels open.

--With assistance from Reinie Booysen.

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