Week’s milestones. Russian spy in PM team, pacified Saakashvili, and deferred reintegration
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman summed up the government’s work this year against the backdrop of an espionage scandal. The Verkhovna Rada showed no rush with considering the Donbas reintegration bill amid the latest escalation on the ground. Ex-Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili slowed down the pace of his current political efforts in Ukraine. New public opinion polls put Yulia Tymoshenko on the top of presidential rating lists.
The Ukrainian prime minister reported with restrained optimism on the Cabinet’s performance in 2017, noting that he does not plan personnel reshuffles in the government, except for those positions where ministers filed resignation reports. It should be reminded that the parliament has for the past six months failed to dismiss agrarian minister Taras Kutovy and information policy minister Yuriy Stets, while Ulyana Suprun has been “acting” minister for an even longer period. Groysman named the agrarian sector, mining and steelmaking, as well as modernization of infrastructure drivers of future economic growth. According to the head of government, the coalition in the Verkhovna Rada is still in place, remaining absolutely healthy.
Groysman assured that a Cabinet employee Stanislav Yezhov, whom the media called his personal interpreter, had no access to state secrets. The man was detained by the SBU, being accused of cooperation with Russian intelligence. The arrest was a demonstrative move, carried out on the day of the 100th anniversary of the creation of Russia’s ChK (predecessor of KGB and FSB). The premier was lucky that the negative effect of the spy scandal was massively overshadowed by a decision by the Stockholm Arbitration, allowing Ukraine to avoid the threat of default.
The unusually early adoption of next year’s state budget quite predictably played a bad joke on legislators: the Verkhovna Rada had a noticeable quorum issue in the last plenary week this year. This was one of the reasons for postponing for January 2018 the second reading of the Donbas reintegration bill. Another reason though was the much-anticipated prisoner swap under the "74 for 306" formula, which is expected to be carried out in the coming days even despite the White House’s announcement of its decision to supply to Ukraine the U.S-made Javelin ATGMs.
The unsuccessful storming by Saakashvili's supporters of the Zhovtnevy Palace concert hall downtown Kyivhas forced him to noticeably lower the pace of his political efforts. Saakashvili refrained from holding mass rallies during the New Year’s and Christmas holidays, while continuing to spit venom at Petro Poroshenko in his public statements. Meanwhile, as Saakashvili seems to keep fighting in the legal field to regain Ukrainian citizenship, he was reported to have obtained a Dutch visa. Saakashvili’s opponents, supporters of the head of state, arranged a “coffee break” at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square], designed to present an alternative point of view to what Saakashvili has been pushing in his agenda.
Sociologists from KIIS and Rating Group have published their latest presidential ratings, perhaps the last ones in 2017, showing that Yulia Tymoshenko now tops the presidential candidates’ list. Meanwhile, the leader of Batkivshchyna party surprised the public with her statement about "tens of thousands of little green men" in Kyiv ready to cause trouble. Speaking generally about the latest polls, a few points are worth noting: the candidates run in a dense group so it is too early to talk about the obvious favorite of the future presidential marathon. At the same time, a great number of polled Ukrainians who remain “undecided” assumes an intensive period of TV campaigning as early as in the first months of 2018.