The Resignation That Never Was: Who Outplayed Whom in Ukraine

In Kiev it is said that Goncharuk outplayed Zelensky – he resigned but did not leave. No, it was Soros who outplayed Kolomoisky, although a lot depended on Zelensky, because he made the final decision.

It is no secret that Kolomoisky, to put it mildly, does not like the current government of Ukraine. It (the government) refuses to return Privatbank to him, is inclined to adopt the law on the sale of agricultural land in the format required by the IMF, and in principle does not show proper respect for the master of President Zelensky.

In turn, Kolomoisky reported last October, through controlled media, that Goncharuk would be Prime Minister no longer than until April 2020, spread rumours about the Prime Minister’s unconventional sexual orientation, introduced the term “Sorosyata” [Soros adherent – ed], and started to gladden the country and the world with regular wiretaps of Cabinet of Ministers meetings and the personal conversations of the Prime Minister. In general, he launched a well-prepared information war, the waging of which is entrusted to the best professionals in Ukraine and the surrounding area. Kolomoisky is not stingy in such cases.

Last week, Kolomoisky’s PR workers received wonderful material – a wiretap of the Prime Minister’s meeting with the government’s economic bloc. Nothing that extraordinary was said at this meeting. The only thing that the people received was additional confirmation of an already known fact – neither the President, nor the Prime Minister, nor the Ministers of the Government, nor the leadership of the National Bank of Ukraine understand anything not just about economics, but also in the concrete processes that are destroying the remains of Ukrainian finance and industry. They don’t know how to get the country out of the systemic crisis, and their experiments only make things worse. All they say in their speeches is nothing more than PR that has nothing to do with reality.

However, due to some unfortunate language (the conversation was not public, no one followed the turns of speech, people interrupted each other, some statements were cut-off mid-sentence) there was an opportunity to present this conversation as the Prime Minister and other Ministers mocking in a concerted way the economic illiteracy of the president and an attempt to deceive him by publicly exposing him as a fool. Again, during the conversation, if you listen to it carefully, there was no hint of anything like that. But the conversation was easy to record, which is what Kolomoisky’s media did.

I don’t know if Zelensky is stupid enough to believe the proposed narrative of a governmental conspiracy against himself personally, but Kolomoisky’s PR workers are very creative and effective folks. In just a couple of days they worked so qualitatively on the topic of “humiliation of the president” that even quite reasonable people, who have never been bruised by Ukrainian politics and generally watch what is happening in Kiev, albeit with interest, but from afar, repeatedly tried to convince me that Goncharuk did have the intention to insult and humiliate Zelensky. At the same time, they realise that at the mass of meetings, both in Ukraine and in other countries, they could talk about the absent leader much more harshly and unflatteringly. It is natural: if you are faced with the task of explaining economic processes to a person who does not understand anything about them, it is necessary to initially state the fact that they do not understand these very processes.

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In general, the real and convoluted problem of the non-conformity of government officials (including the Prime Minister) with their posts was actually “not noticed”. But a contrived “insult to the president” is put in the heads of the masses.

The purpose is clear. Zelensky was hardly under any illusions about the professionalism of the officials he appointed. He still has nothing better, so publicly demonstrated (not for the first time) foolishness and inadequacy is not an excuse to replace the Cabinet of Ministers, thus exacerbating the political crisis in the country. But when the people are convinced that if the president refused to dismiss the Prime Minister, then it means he “swallowed” it, and the population enthusiastically watches to see if he “swallowed/not swallowed”, there is little room for manoeuvre. If he doesn’t dismiss the Prime Minister, he will undermine his own authority, which is already wobbling and looks like falling.

In general, Kolomoisky technically drove the president into a trap and persistently advised him to dismiss Goncharuk. Especially since resignation letters with an open date were signed by all the highest officials, including the Prime Minister, when they were appointed. Zelensky was not going to fight with Kolomoisky because of some Goncharuk, who his friends found in an unknown place and who he led to the premiership (and it could’ve been someone else, there were options). But there was a problem – in Parliament there were no votes for the resignation of the government (and the resignation of the Prime Minister under the Constitution leads to the resignation of the whole Cabinet of Ministers).

It was easy to circumvent the one-year moratorium on the forced resignation of the Government (after the approval of its programme by Parliament) – the resignation of the Prime Minister of his own volition is not subject to this moratorium. But Zelensky so ludicrously formed party lists in the Rada elections and did not delve into who is supported by his name in the majority districts that as a result he does not control personally a third of his own faction.

There was a lack of votes in “Servants of the People” for the government’s resignation. Poroshenko and Vakarchuk also refused to support the resignation. Tymoshenko agreed, but the number of votes in her faction were too few, and she wanted too much in exchange for support. Medvedchuk was ready for negotiations (although obviously he would also ask for a lot). But Kolomoisky did not want to cooperate with him, and Zelensky is frankly afraid that bloc-ing with Medvedchuk will lead to accusations of being pro-Russian and an uprising of radicals.

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However, Kolomoisky guaranteed that he would collect votes. And he did. After all, his natural charm in any negotiations is dramatically reinforced by his unnatural generosity. In this case, he also had a forceful trump card in his pocket. Of course, the Prosecutor General does not control the President, but Kolomoisky could count on “Avakov‘s Eagles” behaving correctly. The Minister of the Interior, who is only strengthened by the struggle between various factions in power, took a neutral position in this situation. A clear victory for one side would create significant (perhaps even insurmountable) difficulties for him. But in a critical situation he would support Zelensky/Kolomoisky, because the victory of the Soros clan would be complete and would lead to the cleansing of all independent centers of power (first and foremost Avakov himself). And the victory of Kolomoisky, because of his hand not being shakable concerning foreign policy, would always remain partial, the opposition would weaken, but not disappear completely, and the need for Avakov would continue to exist.

Thus, at some point it became clear that time works on Kolomoisky’s side. Zelensky in principle would agree to enact Goncharuk’s resignation statement. A week – plus/minus a couple of days – later Kolomoisky would get the missing votes and parliament would grant the Prime Minister’s “request”.

But Goncharuk made a move that he himself would never have thought of. He was clearly instructed what to do by Soros’ men, most likely from outside of Ukraine. He sharply exacerbated the situation by submitting to the President his resignation “with the right to refer it to the Verkhovna Rada”.

Goncharuk’s wording indicates that he did not write a new statement. Most likely, the people who developed this operation were afraid that if Goncharuk filed a second statement, and Zelensky would have a similar paper with an open date in his hands, Kolomoisky would replace the statements, putting a later date on Zelensky’s stored version in order to buy time or to cause confusion with statements to generally discredit the Prime Minister.

In any case, having initiated his own resignation, Goncharuk forced to submit the issue to Parliament even before Kolomoisky collected the right number of votes. I.e., Parliament should have refused to dismiss the government, after which the Prime Minister would have become dramatically stronger compared to the President.

Zelensky dragged his heels as much as he could. For two days he did not define his attitude towards Goncharuk’s statement, giving Kolomoisky the opportunity to collect votes for his resignation. But the situation has already changed critically. The fight came out from under the carpet, the open mobilisation of pro-PM forces began, and Soros has more money and can scare him more strongly than Avakov with Kolomoisky can combined. They are only strong in Ukraine, but Soros can shutdown movement for half the world. Under these conditions, it was refused to collect votes for resignation, and Zelensky had to pretend that no one was going to fire anyone.

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Media outlets controlled by Kolomoisky have already promised Goncharuk a “sweet life” and further revelations (even with video). But it is necessary to admit that Kolomoisky lost this round. And this defeat is serious. Ukraine has been shown that Kolomoisky is not only not all-powerful – he is unable to remove the Prime Minister, which, to tell the truth, is an empty place that no one needs, it’s just that now his retention in office is situationally important for Soros. Soros, on the other hand, has shown that he is able not only to push through the government the decisions he needs, but also to guard this government against attacks. It is obvious that next time Kolomoisky will have to do much more work (and be more generous) to form an anti-government majority in Parliament.

It is possible to congratulate Avakov. The struggling sides bit each other and became even more irreconcilable enemies. But their conflict is much further from resolution than it was before the attempt to dismiss Goncharuk. Avakov is once again needed by everyone and can strengthen his influence. It’s just that sooner or later Avakov will still have to act – either he will make his own claim to power, or he will be devoured by bolder and more ambitious colleagues.

The only one who remained with a net loss (without a chance to recoup) is Zelensky. In an attempt to remove Goncharuk, he confirmed his status as a Kolomoisky puppet. On the other hand, he did not complete the task. Kolomoisky insisted on raising the stakes and referring the statement to the Rada, hoping to get votes already in the process. Moreover, since Goncharuk’s statement was addressed (as it should) to the Speaker of the Rada Razumkov (and he gave it to Zelensky, like a postman, with a request to read and forward it), the President was obliged to submit the document to Parliament (he does not have the right to withdraw the official resignation statement of the Prime Minister). But Zelensky was also afraid to enter into an open conflict. Now Kolomoisky is angry with him, and the media of the oligarch reproach the president and speak about how he “swallowed”.

In general, Zelensky disappointed Kolomoisky, and the Soros clan did not fascinate. The people are unlikely to be happy that the President showed weakness in the conflict with representatives of the external manager of Ukraine.

Rostislav Ishchenko

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