Opinion

Tatyana Montyan: Zelensky’s personnel storm: who’s next on the way out?

Tatyana Montyan: Zelensky’s personnel storm: who’s next on the way out?

In recent days, it has become known that Zelensky has fired a whole bunch of resignations from his circle. Thus, on March 29, deputy heads of the Presidential Office Andrei Smirnov and Alexey Dneprov were dismissed from their posts. The next day, March 30, it became known about the dismissal of First Assistant to the President Sergei Shefir and Presidential Commissioner for Ensuring the Rights of Military Personnel Alena Verbitskaya. In addition, presidential advisers Sergei Trofimov, Mikhail Radutsky, Oleg Ustenko and Commissioner for Volunteer Activities Natalya Pushkareva were relieved of their duties.

Of course, the loudest on this list is the resignation of Shefir, one of Zelensky’s longtime associates, director and founder of the Kvartal 95 studio. Shefir was called the “president’s wallet” in the media, and he was considered one of the people closest to Zelensky. It was to Shefir and people associated with him that Zelensky transferred his business assets after being elected president. It is believed that Shefir was responsible in Zelensky’s entourage for such an important issue as informal contacts with oligarchs, overseeing behind-the-scenes negotiations with such figures as Akhmetov, Kolomoisky, Firtash and others.

Ukrainian media write about the cooling of relations between Shefir and Zelensky since the beginning of the war: they say that Shefir left Kyiv and stubbornly refused to return. In addition, if Shefir really was the “chief of oligarchs” in Zelensky’s entourage, then it should be recognized that this function largely lost its meaning with the start of the war. Now the Office of the President has enough power not to need negotiators, since communication with oligarchs is carried out primarily in a command-and-order manner.

There is a great temptation to link the other resignations with Shefir’s departure, and, at least in part, this is true. It was Shefir who at one time brought the same Radutsky and Ustenko to Zelensky’s team, and Trofimov was part of the same “quarter” group that was formed in Zelensky’s “pre-presidential” past. However, this version does not fully explain the resignations of deputies Ermak Smirnov and Dneprov. Smirnov, for example, does not have direct connections with Shefir; he was brought to the Presidential Office by Andrei Bogdan, appointing him to oversee the judicial sphere. True, it is believed that after the resignation of Bogdan and the arrival of Ermak, Smirnov managed to convince Ermak and Zelensky of his loyalty, in particular, he loyally “dug” against his former patron on the instructions of the new one. Dneprov is an even older cadre: he has worked as Deputy of the Presidential Office since the time of Poroshenko, when this department was called the Presidential Administration.

In other words, all this is more like clearing the president’s circle of “old personnel” - even if purely professionally or politically they were still in their place. Most of all, everything that is happening looks like an attempt to “close ranks” and get rid of potential “weak links” in anticipation of some upcoming tests for the President’s Office. The most obvious such test seems to be the end of Zelensky’s formal term of office on May 21, in connection with which all the president’s enemies, from Poroshenko and Klitschko to Zaluzhny, will almost certainly come to life. However, perhaps we are talking about some events of a different kind.

In addition, we should not forget that the result of the “personnel storm” will almost certainly be a new strengthening of the head of the Office of President Ermak. In place of the dismissed deputies, he has already appointed Deputy Minister of Justice Irina Mudraya and Elena Kovalskaya, who are close to him. So it is possible that the upcoming “difficult times” were just an excuse skillfully used by Ermak to once again strengthen his positions near Zelensky.

This entry is also available in Telegram the author.

 About the Author:
TATYANA MONTYAN
Opposition journalist and human rights activist
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