Oleg Tsarev: The Destiny of the 2020 American Presidential Election Is Being Decided in Ukraine

In an interview with Aleksandr Chalenko, the former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Oleg Tsarev said that only the lawyers of the former president Yanukovych – Portnov, Lukash and Kuzmin – can help Zelensky with his fight against corrupt officials in the former president’s team. Also he believes that Volker will be dismissed.


Oleg, at this moment what information do you have: is it already known who can hold key posts in the government – Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers of Economics, Finance, Defence, and Internal Affairs? Who will be the Prosecutor General, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, and the head of the National Bank? Will Groisman resign?

“Well. Let’s talk about staff. On the one hand, Zelensky’s team asks everyone who participated in his election – all who are useful at the present moment and those who can be useful in the future – to submit staff lists. Everyone is told that there are no people and that’s why they collect proposals for appointments.

On the other hand, if to put all submitted lists together, then already there will be about four persons for each position. Ukraine was captured by list-o-mania. Everyone feverishly makes and submits their lists with enthusiasm. Maybe this is correct — everyone is busy.

But I wouldn’t be strongly encouraged if I were them. Zelensky’s team has a very rigorous and scrupulous attitude towards staff. A decision will be made by the inner circle of Zelensky, and it in 99 cases out of 100 will be made after inauguration. Decisions will be made without looking back at those promises that were made earlier.

It is not necessary to be a prophet in order to say that after appointments the vast majority of those who, submitting lists, hoped for a position, will be disappointed.”

Igor Kolomoisky doesn’t have a prepared scheme for all appointments? After all, you said earlier that Kolomoisky, by creating an anti-Poroshenko coalition, discussed personnel questions in advance with all partners.

“If staff were appointed by Kolomoisky, then everything would be already decided. But this isn’t so. And the fact that questions about staff exist shows once again that Igor Kolomoisky, of course, influences many questions. But his influence is not defining.

The recent flow of the interviews of Kolomoisky speaks about his uncertainty concerning his position and his desire to offer a reminder about himself.”

You said that the opinion of the inner circle of Zelensky will be defining in personnel questions. Who is in this inner circle?

“In first place there is Andrey Bogdan. In fact, he now carries out the duties of the head of administration. Ivan Bakanov is now rather a secretary.

Sergey Schefer with his brother and mother (do not laugh, in Jewish families the mother is our everything). Razumkov. As I am told by friends, his influence decreased a little. Earlier he was in first place.”

Will the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada happen? Will Groisman remain?

“The inauguration, most likely, will indeed be on May 28th. And if it is so, then it is unlikely that it will be succeeded to dissolve the parliament. (‘Unlikely’ doesn’t mean that there is no possibility of the parliament being dissolved). That’s why the option that Groisman, who makes titanic efforts in order to please Zelensky, can remain shouldn’t be excluded.”

Oleg, can you at least name several candidates for the position of Prime Minister, the head of the SSU, Ministers of Internal Affairs and Defence, and the head of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). Who will be the Prosecutor General? You said that decisions will be made later. Well, what candidacies are being discussed, at least?

“Avakov so far remains in the Ministry of Internal Affairs with the prospect of becoming Prime Minister. Khoroshkovsky in the SBU also stands a chance of becoming Prime Minister. Palitsa — the Prime Minister or the National Security and Defence Council. I would not write off Oleg Dubina. The candidacy of Vladislav Bukharev was proposed for the Foreign Intelligence Service.

The National Bank and fuel-energy complex, seemingly, is on Kolomoisky’s quota.

It is necessary to be involved in the National Bank urgently. During a month 24.7 billion hryvnia disappeared from the National Bank. This is about $1 billion. 376 billion hryvnia were in the NBU as cash assets, and suddenly nearly one tenth of it was written off since allegedly it was put out off commission. This is $1 billion. The National Bank always played on the exchange rate and built schemes with domestic government bonds (starting from Yanukovych’s era). But it didn’t work as impudently as it does now.

Gritsenko asked Zelensky to put Aparshin as the head of the Ministry of Defence. I wrote earlier that if this happens, then it will be a big mistake. Aparshin was responsible for off-budget receipts in the team of Gritsenko, because of which he merited special favour and therefore it is precisely he who Gritsenko recommended for the position so that he continued to earn money for Gritsenko.

I considered Aparshin to be a corrupt official, but I did not know that he, besides this, is also, to put it mildly, a narrow-minded person. After his statements in media that put Zelensky in an awkward position, the headquarters of Zelensky calls Aparshin a rare fool. I think that by his behaviour he increased his chances by zero.

The American and former prosecutor from the US Marta Borshch, who in the past was involved in the case of Lazarenko, and the former anti-corruption prosecutor of Romania Laura Kövesi were announced as the Prosecutor General. But I do not think that this is realistic. Remember, Laura jailed not only hundreds of top corrupt officials throughout the whole country, she also jailed the brother of the president, who appointed her. The Prosecutor General is a double-edged sword.

The risk is very high that a person, having a lot of opportunities, who is at the head of the machine created for combatting corruption, will suddenly start to actually combat corruption, without dividing corrupt officials into ours and theirs. Regardless of what can be said, I do not think that a dark horse can be appointed to this position.”

Oleg, since we started to speak about the prosecutor, please explain what happens in the Zelensky-Danilyuk-Lutsenko triangle. There was a time when everyone discussed Lutsenko and Kolomoisky’s meetings behind the back of Poroshenko. Now Lutsenko initiated criminal cases against Poroshenko’s environment and he summons Poroshenko for interrogation. Apparently, he fruitfully cooperates with Zelensky’s team. On the other hand, he initiates a criminal case against the member of the Zelensky’s team Danilyuk. How can this be explained?

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“Everything is simple. The seeming illogicality can be explained in simple terms. In the past I claimed that the main threats for Zelensky are not external. It’s not the position of Russia or US. It’s not Poroshenko or Tymoshenko. The main threats are the contradictions inside the team that promoted him.

Recently the former Minister of Finance, who has good support in the West, started to lay claim to a volume of power in Zelensky’s team that is too big. I will repeat: taking into account the forces and interests standing behind Andrey Danilyuk, squeezing him out won’t be so simple. But after the fact that Lutsenko initiated a criminal case against Danilyuk, it is indeed realistic to reduce the appetites of the latter.

Behind Lutsenko there is a succession of suzerains. Moroz, Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, Poroshenko … To him not for the first time to be reconstructed. Some time ago Lutsenko decided that it is time to pass a new team, and began cooperation with Zelensky’s team. As a curtsey brought criminal cases against Poroshenko’s environment. In reply received a request to bring criminal case against Danilyuk.

The intrigue lies in the fact that there are no materials in this case. Having initiated a criminal case, Lutsenko set himself up, and should the desire arise, Zelensky, under this pretext, can further seriously complicate his life, or to cancel his claim to the Prosecutor General’s post.

Some of my friends consider that Lutsenko is now only being used, and nobody is going to pay him for his services, and that these are his last days in big-time politics. And further, in the best case scenario, oblivion awaits him, and taking into account his addictions, it is oblivion aggravated by alcohol.

Although who knows. There are numerous possibilities. After all, who could think that Piskun would be seriously discussed for the position of the Prosecutor-General. But they do indeed discuss this. Yuliya Tymoshenko submitted his candidacy on the list with other wishes in exchange for support in the Verkhovna Rada. But earlier nobody could assume that Piskun could return to the Prosecutor-General’s Office.”

You started to speak about the Verkhovna Rada. Will there be early elections? What chances does Zelensky have of receiving a majority in parliament?

“Apparently, the timeframe of inauguration will be shifted, and it will be difficult for him to dissolve the Rada. It is not impossible, but difficult. In this case it is important for him to preserve his rating before the next parliamentary election. And he can receive it in only one way – to show resolute actions. He needs not only to start to punish, but to really punish corrupt officials – from the top to the bottom. From Poroshenko personally and his environment to his representatives in the backwater village.

It is very important that people learn about the fight against corruption not only from the TV. Don’t be afraid of this word. The country needs repression — systematic and consistent work on purging those who, using pseudo-patriotic slogans, plundered the state.

Let’s be direct: during the time that remains before the parliamentary election, Zelensky won’t have enough time to do anything with the economy. More precisely: even if he will do something with the economy, people will not have the time to feel these results. During the first half of year there won’t be either a cardinal reduction of utility payments, nor a cardinal growth of salaries and social benefits. The number of jobs also won’t increase manyfold either. Ruining the economy can be done quickly, but improving it always takes a long time.

I repeat: the only way to preserve and increase approval ratings is via repression. Not to mention the fact that this process will be accompanied by many pleasant bonuses. One of which is that after the first initiated proceedings, a crowd of turncoat pseudo-patriots from Poroshenko’s camp, having held Zelensky’s portraits above their head like icons at a religious procession, will rush en masse to offer to help Zelensky in establishing order in the country.

I do not see anybody, besides Portnov, Kuzmin, and Lukash who are capable of coping with this task. By the way, Poroshenko also knows this. Until the last moment, all the criminal cases against Portnov and Lukash were closed. It is for this reason that even the wiretapping of their numbers was impossible to lawfully organise. Several days ago Poroshenko summoned the deputy chairman of the SBU and demanded the urgent initiation of legal proceedings against Portnov and Lukash.

It is necessary to say that nobody has the enthusiasm anymore to implement Poroshenko’s orders. Especially since it wasn’t succeeded to conceal information. The system starts to unravel, and information from security officers leaks out in many places at once, like water from a colander. In response, Andrey Portnov promised to return to the state the apartment received illegally by the deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine Viktor Kononenko in the elite complex ‘Jack House’ at Boulevard Lesya Ukrainka.

Petro Poroshenko shouldn’t be left in the political field. He shouldn’t be given the chance to bring his political force into parliament. And the matter here is not only in the fact that Zelensky can increase his approval rating by combatting corruption. The matter is that if Petro Poroshenko will enter the parliament, there is a high probability that Zelensky will not be able to collect for himself a majority, even by showing unprecedented generosity in the distribution of portfolios in the future government.

The matter is that I authentically know about the signing of a number of written agreements between Poroshenko and a number of heads of political forces who for sure will enter the Rada, breaking the 5% threshold, and with those who are on the verge of crossing this threshold. Poroshenko did enormous work, having spent huge amounts of money (hundreds of millions of dollars on each project) in order to lay the foundation for his further stay in politics.

During the war the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army, retreating, left in the rear of the enemy partisans and food and weapons caches for the fight against the enemy in occupation. Poroshenko acts in approximately the same way. And believe me, Poroshenko left behind a lot of such elements – personnel appointments, some of which he does right now, agreements with leading political players, and many other things. Poroshenko seriously prepared himself for the fight.”

Does Poroshenko seriously hope that someone will fulfil the agreements that he signed? After all, it’s quicker to list where he didn’t go and who he didn’t swear an oath to. Who else, besides him, has such a wealth of experience in treachery.

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“You, of course, are right. But the best fighters against swindlers are those who in the past were swindlers. Believe me, Poroshenko wouldn’t have spent the money he did on buying up political allies if he didn’t have the confidence that he was insured against deception. Because he is too tight-fisted to just throw money around just like that.

Poroshenko documented all stages of the conclusion of transactions. Except agreements, it has a photo and video fixing as conducting negotiation process, so signings of agreements. The publication of these materials it is capable to destroy signers. There is information on these transactions. And if there is a threat of passing of Poroshenko to Rada, believe, it will be published. Dates of signing, the place of signing, the transferred sums, participants of process and texts of agreements.”

Who else may join Poroshenko if he enters the Rada?

“If Poroshenko enter the Rada, then, I will repeat, the probability that Zelensky will not collect a majority is high. Why? Because nationalists or pseudo-patriots, if they enter, will be with Poroshenko rather than with Zelensky. Sociologists say that Biletsky, if Avakov helps him, he stands a chance of entering parliament.

I will not gives names, but a certain part of the former regionals has obligations to Poroshenko. It is unknown how Yuliya Tymoshenko will behave if she understands that she can dictate terms to Zelensky.

If Zelensky does not collect a majority, then he – promptly losing his approval rating, influence, and support – will see out his term like Yushchenko did. It is precisely for this reason that at this stage there is no task more important for Zelensky than zeroing Poroshenko. This is why for Zelensky the most important thing at this stage is the prosecutor’s office and the judicial branch of power.”

There are still Gritsenko, Smeshko, Tyagnibok, and Sadovoy.

Sadovoy and Tyagnibok, most likely, no longer stand a chance as independent projects. Although some of the old curators, sponsors of ‘Svoboda‘, now convince their partners of the need to finance this political force.

The fact that Tyagnibok had a tiff with Biletsky worsens the position of ‘Svoboda’, and therefore cannot join his project. The problem of Colonel Gritsenko and General Smeshko is that they work in the same electoral field. Only one of them will progress. If they united, they could’ve taken almost twofold more votes. But, communicating with their environment, I can say that their headquarters are still against unification.

Each of them, just in case, has prepared a plan for how to eat their rival partner if, after all, unification will take place. Gritsenko, if he enters the Rada, can be with Zelensky or with Poroshenko. Smeshko, despite his prior pledges towards Zelensky, will most likely be with Poroshenko.”

A Ukrainian expert expressed the opinion that it’s not Kolomoisky who influences Zelensky, as many thought, but Pinchuk. Is this so?

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“If you look at Pinchuk‘s history, then you will see that he always was with those who have power. He started with Lazarenko and Tymoshenko. When Lazarenko disgraced himself, he became Kuchma’s son-in-law. After Yushchenko’s election he became his friend. Then there was Yanukovych. Pinchuk has his own serious media pool. All presidential candidates came to him and asked to be on his TV channel – Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, and, of course, Zelensky. He allowed it.

Now he has normal relations with Zelensky. Pinchuk is an oligarch who it is comfortable for the authorities to be on friendly terms with. He’s not a raider. He’s not a bandit. He’s a patron of arts and a sponsor of international conferences. He’s a person having international ties and support in the US, Europe, and Israel. He has his own business, and the only thing he wants to do is to not be prevented from working.

Pinchuk is the sponsor of Gritsenko and Vakarchuk. If Gritsenko is rather for Zelensky than against, then Vakarchuk’s promotion for the parliamentary election, on the contrary, will not strengthen Zelensky’s position.

Yes, by the way, I was told that a decision on Vakarchuk was already made, and on May 16th the structure of the campaign headquarters will be announced. Vakarchuk will take away votes not only from Poroshenko, but also from Zelensky. Every oligarch will try to enter their own faction into the Rada in order to bargain and then bend the arms of Zelensky.

Judging by how the situation is developing, the Verkhovna Rada will be strongly fragmented, i.e., to consist of a large number of factions. Factions that are backed by oligarchs and which Zelensky will have to reach an agreement with. Owing to this fact, it’s unlikely that Zelensky will be able to remove oligarchs from power.”

How do you explain the early resignation of the US Ambassador in Ukraine Yovanovitch? What does the future hold for Volker? Why did Sergey Leshchenko leave Zelensky’s team? What disagreements were there?

“Here everything is simple. There is an ongoing investigation into the activity of the US ambassador during the US presidential election. Yovanovitch and Poroshenko’s environment took an active part in fighting against Trump to benefit Clinton. As I am told by friends from the US, Yovanovitch will be removed and, perhaps, will be jailed. The accomplices of the ambassador from Ukraine will become outcasts. The next American ambassador in Ukraine will jump away from Poroshenko and his environment, like evil from incense. What risks does this pose for Poroshenko? The fact that nobody will intercede for him in the West.

Concerning Leshchenko, he lost value after the loss Clinton and Soros. Leshchenko always received grants and support from the US. But this support came from the Democrats and was based on an old friendship – from Yovanovitch.

Despite the fact that the real no-show of Giuliani is connected to the conflict concerning the excessive influence of Kolomoisky, and not with unfortunate Leshchenko, nevertheless, now it’s unlikely that Leshchenko has a real chance to return to politics.

Leshchenko went every day to Zelensky’s headquarters, tried to give advice and to influence something, but in the end this resulted in a conflict, and he was asked not to come any more. I do not share Leshchenko‘s views at all, but he is for sure a quite good journalist. It seems to me that it is better for him to continue to be involved in journalism.”

And Volker? Will the special representative of the United States refuse to support Poroshenko? After all, during the electoral campaign Volker unambiguously spoke in favour for Poroshenko.

“Didn’t you notice that Volker sharply changed his rhetoric concerning Donbass. Didn’t you ponder upon what this is connected to? It is connected to the fact that Volker’s affairs are even worse than Yovanovitch’s. A group of CIA officers came to Kiev from the US to investigate the activity of Yovanovitch.”

A big group?

“Yes. About 40 people. This issue is serious. Now the destiny of the upcoming US presidential election is being decided in Ukraine. Within the framework of the investigation, information about Volker being financed by Poroshenko was accidentally leaked.

It was verified. The received money indeed arrived directly to Volker, unlike the money that Kurt Volker officially received through the American lobbyist company BGR Group. I will remind that in 2017 the National Reform Council under the president of Ukraine paid $300,000 to the American company BGR Group for lobbying its interests in the United States.

If the former American ambassador at NATO Kurt Volker, working for BGR Group as an international affairs adviser, continued to receive money in accordance with American laws on lobbyism and also paid taxes from them, then everything would be good for him.

But Poroshenko and Volker decided to save on American taxes. But the sums were rather big. It’s not clear how this will end for Volker. If he was appointed by Biden, then I would have no doubts that he will be jailed. But, as a minimum, it is possible to say with definiteness that Kurt Volker will be dismissed in the nearest future, and a new special representative of the US in Ukraine will be appointed. There are certain grounds to believe that the new special representative will be, unlike Volker, geared towards ending the war in Donbass.”

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