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What's Happening 16:17 15 Jul 2021

Avakov's resignation: will the ex-Interior Minister become another enemy of Zelenskyi?

The year 2021 is still far from over, but, likely, we've already witnessed the most headline political resignation: the statement of the "eternal" Interior Minister Arsen Avakov about his voluntary resignation can't be surpassed even by the Prime Minister.

What was the reason for such a decision, how did the Verkhovna Rada vote for his resignation, and what will be Avakov's further political future? Find out in the Rubryka article.

Аваков Арсен

Not a friend, and not an enemy

In August 2019, Zelenskyi and his entourage formed a "trendy" Cabinet, which was supposed to receive support from the Verkhovna Rada. The youngest Prime Minister in the history of Ukraine Oleksii Honcharuk, many promising "reformers" in the government, and Arsen Avakov, who didn't fit into this variegated composition, but was supposed to serve as a stabilizing factor in the early years of Zelenskyi's presidency. In addition, not long before this, the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs shrewdly didn't support Petro Poroshenko during the election race, remaining above the battle, which probably became an important factor in deciding on his further political future.

At that time, the mono-majority, which was still unified and not found feet "under the dome," easily agreed to approve the entire Cabinet of Ministers as a "package-deal." Otherwise, appointing ministers could drag on for a long time, and Avakov, as the most toxic representative of the new government, risked hanging in an uncertain status altogether.

Six months later, the situation in the Rada was no longer so cheerful. On March 4, 2020, the parliament accepted the resignation of Oleksii Honcharuk, and, with him, the entire government. At the same time, the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic was approaching Ukraine, so it was necessary to appoint a new Cabinet immediately. And this time, the idea of ​​voting as a "package-deal" for all ministers was to the taste of a much smaller number of parliamentarians. One of the main reasons was Arsen Avakov, whom they hoped to squeeze out of the chair.

It didn't work that time either. All this time, the Office of the President and Zelenskyi didn't particularly hide their hostility towards the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and he didn't successfully try to hide his skepticism towards the head of state and the new Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. But the balance was maintained.

However, by the summer of 2021, the tension between Avakov and Zelenskyi was clearly growing. One of the main reasons is the stalled investigation of Pavel Sheremet's murder. At a press conference in May, Zelenskyi made it very clear that the lack of results would cost the Head of the Interior Ministry his position. A few weeks later, journalists spotted one of the suspects, Yana Duhar, in the President's Office, who had a meeting with Andrii Yermak there. The content of the conversation remained unknown to the general public, but it's unlikely that Arsen Avakov could've liked it.

In July, the bubble burst: the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs resigned, which was happily accepted by the Verkhovna Rada. 291 votes in favor and thunderous applause after the result appeared on the board.

At the same time, it's significant to mention that the profile committee refused to recommend dismissing the minister to the parliament. A very clear hint that with the departure of Avakov, his influence on the system he created won't disappear anywhere.

Аваков Арсен

Why is it right now?

One gets the impression that Avakov's announcement of resignation came as a big surprise for most members of the "Servant of the People" faction. In any case, immediately after the statement appeared on the Internet, none of Rubryka's sources in the mono-majority could clearly explain the reasons for such a decision.

The Head of the "Servant of the People" faction, Davyd Arakhamia didn't give more details either. Leaving for a briefing with journalists, he honestly admitted that he didn't know the reasons for the departure of the Interior Minister.

"The prime minister didn't motivate Avakov's decision, because he wrote the resignation letter himself. The reasons are unknown," he said.

At the same time, according to insiders' information that appeared in the media, Zelenskyi decided about his leaving the position, even before leaving for Berlin to meet with Angela Merkel. And upon his return, the head of state announced it to the minister.

"We all understand that they tried to push Arsen Avakov away. He understood this very well since he knew the information excellently. I think he was thinking about beautiful 'leaving' options. And he did it without any political scandals and statements. If the President's Office decided to speed up his leaving, they would start protests and the like, so it would turn out that he left under the pressure of the streets and so on," political expert Maksym Stepanenko said in a commentary to Rybryka.

From the first days of the presidency, Zelenskyi didn't hide the fact that he considered Avakov's position in office rather a temporary measure. This process dragged on for almost two years, since replacing the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs wasn't so easy, but sometimes it was dangerous. It seems that now Zelenskyi has finally matured and quickly found a successor for Arsen Avakov, someone close enough to him.

Аваков Арсен

Avakov left, but apparently not far

For some time, rumors circulated in the media that the secretary of the National Defense and Security Council, Oleksii Danilov, could become the new Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, it soon became clear that the Office of the President had already decided on a new minister — this is the People's Deputy from the "Servant of the People" party, the chairperson of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Law Enforcement Activities, Denys Monastyrskyi.

Moreover, he came to politics from the Institute of the Future, which was co-founded by Avakov's deputy and one of his closest associates, Anton Herashchenko. However, Monastyrskyi absolutely denies any proximity to the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Although there are certain doubts about this, considering that it was Monastyrskyi who gave a positive review on the notorious dissertation of People's Deputy Illia Kyva, another Arsen Avakov's "chick."

"We all understand that his successor isn't the most distant person from him. To a certain extent, Avakov will retain his influence. It's difficult to imagine how he could leave more gracefully," political expert Maksym Stepanenko believes.

However, the "Servant of the People" party members are confident that Monastyrskyo will not be under the influence of the former minister.

"Denys is a literate, thinking, and a rather calm person. Any person with whom Avakov has no open conflict would at first be perceived in this position with suspicion. I think that he'll very quickly prove his independence and qualifications," a source in the Servant of the People faction told Rubryka.

We should also not forget about one more person who can now increase his influence on law enforcement agencies. We're talking about Andrii Yermak's deputy in the OPU, Oleh Tatarov, the curator of the "power" bloc.

Just a few days ago, ZelenskyI had to respond to a petition that received enough votes, in which activists demanded Tatarov's dismissal. The President's position on this issue is unchanged: they're not going to dismiss Tatarov, although a lot of questions have accumulated for him.

Will Zelenskyi have a new enemy?

It's one of the most intriguing questions and political stability in Ukraine may depend on the answer. Avakov left, but the people appointed by him remain in key positions in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other law enforcement agencies under his wing. Will the new Interior Minister be able to quickly seize control levers? And won't Avakov become one of Zelenskyi's major opponents next fall? After all, now the "fetters" in the form of a ministerial portfolio no longer restrain him.

There's little doubt that soon Avakov will receive offers of "friendship" from Zelenskyi's opponents. The question is whether he'll accept them.

"Avakov will remain an influential figure. He doesn't have a high personal rating, so I don't consider the option of claiming the presidency until it's relevant. But after some time, after studying the situation, I think Avakov will be determined with whom and how, and in what capacity he can participate in politics," political expert Volodymyr Fesenko believes.

"I think he'll retain influence without a formal position; not only in the Kharkiv region but also in the Cabinet. Authority representatives and those who'll oppose Zelenskyi will be able to play through him. We understand that the government's executive branch isn't the place where you can earn some laurels for yourself. I don't think that Avakov is interested in options for any kind of public representation. Rather, he'll retain influence as a shadow player," political expert Maksym Stepanenko said in an interview with Rubryka.

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