KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has appointed a mix of people to his core team, which includes a reformist former finance minister, men with ties to a controversial oligarch and people from his TV production company.
Zelenskiy was an actor and comedian who entered the presidential race as a political novice. He defeated then- incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a landslide in April but has faced scrutiny over his ties to businessman Ihor Kolomoisky.
Investors see how Zelenskiy handles his relationship with Kolomoisky as a test for his presidency and appetite for reform.
Kolomoisky has fought a running legal battle with the authorities to overturn the nationalisation of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s largest lender, which he owned until 2016.
Following are some of Zelenskiy’s appointments since his inauguration on May 20. Some are yet to be decided.
ANDRIY BOGDAN, CHIEF OF STAFF
Bogdan was an adviser to Kolomoisky when he was governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in 2014. He also served as one of Kolomoisky’s lawyers in the PrivatBank case.
During the rule of President Viktor Yanukovich prior to the 2014 Maidan protests, Bogdan worked as a deputy minister of justice and then as a deputy minister responsible for anti-corruption policy.
Dmytro Razumkov, a political adviser on Zelenskiy’s campaign team and now the head of his new party, has previously described Bogdan as an “old friend” of Zelenskiy, according to the Ukrainian media outlet Bihus.
A heavy social media user, Zelenskiy’s last two pictures on Instagram were of him and Bogdan, once working out at the gym inside the presidential building and once eating a kebab.
OLEKSANDR DANYLYUK, SECRETARY OF NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
A former manager at McKinsey, Danylyuk was finance minister between 2016-2018 and a prominent advocate for reform and tackling entrenched corruption. He was finance minister when PrivatBank was nationalised.
He was fired by Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in a row, after which Danylyuk accused the government of trying to co-opt him into corruption schemes.
He joined Zelenskiy’s campaign as an adviser and joined him for meetings with stakeholders including the IMF and international businesses. Days before the election, he also accompanied Zelenskiy to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on a whistle-stop trip to Paris.
Danylyuk’s presence in the campaign and his later inclusion in Zelenskiy’s core presidential team has sent a reassuring signal to investors, some of whom have been wary of the president’s inexperience and business connections.
He is the top official of the National Security and Defence Council, a powerful body responsible for coordinating national security that is chaired by Zelenskiy and comprises ministers, lawmakers, security officials and the central bank governor.
SERHIY SHEFIR, CHIEF ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
Serhiy Shefir and his brother Borys are long-time producers of Zelenskiy’s TV shows. They are also among several members of his comedy team, formed in his southern hometown of Kryvyi Rih.
The brothers are close friends of Zelenskiy and have been involved in around 10 companies together, while their wives co-own property. As a co-owner, Borys continues as a producer at Zelenskiy’s Studio Kvartal-95 entertainment company.
MAKSYM DONETS, CHIEF OF SECURITY
Donets was appointed as head of Zelenskiy’s bodyguard team and deputy head of Ukraine’s Department of State Protection, which protects senior officials, including the prime minister and the Speaker of parliament.
Reuters has previously documented ties between Donets and Kolomoisky, and found photographs from six different occasions when they were together.
IVAN BAKANOV, DEPUTY HEAD OF STATE SECURITY SERVICE
Bakanov is a trained lawyer and close childhood friend of Zelenskiy. The two used to live in the same apartment block. He became chief executive for Studio Kvartal-95. He was appointed as the deputy head of the powerful state security service (SBU), in charge of fighting corruption and organised crime.
After the resignation of the current SBU chief following Poroshenko’s defeat, Bakanov becomes the de facto head of the service. Zelenskiy’s team during the election campaign promised reform of law enforcement agencies so that they would no longer be used as a weapon to squeeze businesses.
SERHIY TROFIMOV, FIRST DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Trofimov was the executive producer at Kvartal-95 before being appointed Bogdan’s first deputy chief of staff.
YURIY KOSTYUK, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Kostyuk was a screenwriter at Kvartal-95.
DMYTRO RAZUMKOV, HEAD OF SERVANT OF THE PEOPLE PARTY
Razumkov was the political advisor to Zelenskiy’s campaign and a frequent spokesman for him. He is now the head of Zelenskiy’s Servant of the People party, named after a TV comedy series where Zelenskiy played a fictional president.
The party is on course to win a snap parliamentary election that Zelenskiy called for July 21 but fall short of a majority.
He was a member of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions between 2006-2010 and then worked with the tycoon Serhiy Tihipko. In defiance of a push under the previous president Poroshenko for promoting the use of the Ukrainian language, Razumkov insists on publicly speaking Russian.
RUSLAN RYABOSHAPKA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Ryaboshapka worked in the justice ministry, rising to deputy justice minister in 2014, and led an anti-corruption bureau under President Yanukovich.
He then had a brief stint at Transparency International before joining a newly created anti-corruption agency under President Poroshenko that was responsible for checking the wealth declarations of politicians and officials.
He quit the agency in 2017, accusing its chief of mismanagement.
TO BE DECIDED
Zelenskiy has yet to nominate appointments to be his new foreign minister and defence minister. He is also set to formally request parliament to sack General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko but has not nominated who would replace him.
In Ukraine’s mixed political system, it is the strongest party or coalition in parliament that determines the make-up of most of the government, including the prime minister and finance minister. Zelenskiy could therefore form a government with his nominees if he wins the July election.
Zelenskiy’s team has said it would not seek to remove Central Bank Governor Yakiv Smoliy.
Editing by Stephen Powell
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