Zelenskyy’s administrative reshuffle and its risks – expert interview

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Andriy Yermak
Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Andriy Yermak

In recent days, a major personnel reshuffle took place in the President’s Office. In addition to removing his longtime friend and business partner Serhiy Shefir, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also dismissed Oleksii Dniprov and Andriy Smirnov, who served as deputies to Zelenskyy’s Chief-of-Staff Andriy Yermak.

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Political scientist Ihor Reiterovych spoke to NV Radio on March 31 about the risks this shakeup holds.

Reiterovych’s direct speech is as follows:

“Some [of these] advisors were working since before Yermak became the head of the President’s Office. There are also people brought by his predecessor. I think many people have already forgotten about him, but [Zelenskyy’s first Chief-of-Staff Andriy] Bohdan laid the foundations of this system that is functioning today, and it was he who brought these people. Therefore, I believe not all of these [dismissed] people were 100% people of Yermak’s team.

And once we saw who replaced them, we can now say that the final institutionalization of Yermak’s team in the President’s Office has taken place. That is, he has monopolized influence on Zelenskyy’s administration.

Accordingly, the President’s Office is now staffed with people working entirely within Yermak’s orbit.

How effective will they be? This remains an open question. Because not so much is known about some of the new deputies, and it’s unclear what exactly they’ll do.

But no drastic changes will probably take place. Even before, in one way or another, most decisions were made only with Yermak’s approval. I think this system will continue.

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The only thing is that the president may have fewer alternative sources of information and opportunities to get a different perspective on various processes in the country. This is, in fact, probably the most important point, the consequences of which are still very difficult to predict, but they will not be positive.

This will firmly place Zelenskyy in a curated bubble of information, creating a certain risk of mismanagement.

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I would like to believe that the president, as a modern and innovative person, in terms of using gadgets and the possibility of finding information, won’t turn into [former President Leonid] Kuchma who in the last years of his term relied solely on carefully controlled reports brought to him in neat folders.

By the way, he later had the courage to admit that much: after leaving office he said he was severely limited in hearing alternative points of view, which led to many problems.

The president clearly reads stuff on his own using his phone. Do you remember that funny story when he left his phone in a car? In Germany, I think, when he was on a visit. He went back for it.

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But I think the problem will persist on major matters. And this problem is quite serious. Even if you look for some additional information, you’ll still rely on all those meetings, on all those analytics prepared for you by the people who work for you. And if all this is centrally prepared, I think the options that will be offered to the head of state can be written out in such a way that there will be an ‘alternative without an alternative.’ That is, it would be possible to steer him to one preferred option.

But this is, of course, the worst possible scenario. I think the head of state should speak to journalists more often. Perhaps this would break him from the bubble that differs from the reality in which the vast majority of Ukrainians live.”

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine