Shmyhal set to replace Honcharuk as prime minister amid Ukrainian government reshuffle
KYIV – Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has, after six months of service, tendered his resignation as the government prepares for a major reshuffle, lawmakers from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s ruling party told RFE / RL.
Ukraine’s national legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, is likely to vote on March 4 to accept Honcharuk’s resignation and replace him with Denys Shmyhal, 44, currently deputy prime minister, lawmakers announced on March 3.
Zelenskiy plans to attend the special session of parliament, party members said.
There was no immediate comment from Zelenskiy or Honcharuk.
Shmyhal was appointed deputy prime minister in February. He was previously head of the regional administration of the western Ivano-Frankivsk region, where he made a name for himself as a pro-business governor.
In 2017-2019, Shmyhal worked as an executive at DTEK, an energy holding company owned by Ukraine’s richest billionaire Rinat Akhmetov. Originally from Lviv, Shmyhal ran several business ventures for most of the previous decade before entering the civil service of the Lviv regional administration. He studied abroad, mainly in Belgium, Canada, Georgia and Finland.
In previous interviews, Shmyhal said he had never met Akhmetov and was hired to work for DTEK as part of a competitive process.
Some Ukrainian observers have expressed concern that the oligarchs may increase their influence in politics.
“My advice is not to give the oligarchs a way to indirectly regain power in Ukraine. Because if you do, you’ll lose the support of the western community, ”said Michael Carpenter, executive director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
He added that there is “so much at stake here and, if we see the influence of people like Dmytryo Firtash, Rinat Akhmetov and other oligarchs through proxies, by people more committed to their interests than to the national interest, then the project begins to relax. “
Carpenter said he hoped wise consideration would be given to “who they put in what jobs.”
Ukrainian sources told RFE / RL that other cabinet members would likely lose their posts in the reshuffle as well.
According to lawmakers, the cabinet reshuffle could also see the departure of Finance Minister Oksana Makarova. It is well respected by the markets.
Seeing people like the finance minister leave “is a bit worrying,” Carpenter said.
The surprise upset comes amid Zelenskiy’s declining approval rates and days after Kiev held talks with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) visiting mission regarding the approval of a new loan program from $ 5.5 billion.
Support from the IMF and billions of dollars in tied aid from the EU and other Western donors are seen as key to helping the country bounce back economically amid a sixth year of war with the Israeli-backed separatists. Russia in its easternmost regions.
Speaking in Washington on March 3, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev said he hoped the new government would respect the existing agreement with the IMF and implement reforms that will allow Naftogaz to compete with middlemen like Firtash and deliver gas directly to homes.
Unbundling in the retail sector “is one of the many challenges for the regulator, for Zelenskiy, for the new government … It damages not only the economy, but also their political image because consumers and households are not satisfied, ”he said.
Kobolyev’s contract ends in March.
A 35-year-old former lawyer and political newcomer, Honcharuk was appointed prime minister in August.
He had previously submitted his resignation on January 17 in the middle of a scandal surrounding an audio recording in which he disparages the economic knowledge and skills of himself and Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy at the time refused to accept it.
Elected last spring, Zelenskiy, a former comedian turned politician, ran on a platform to “break the system” that has governed Ukraine since independence in 1991.