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10 Jun, 2024 18:52

West ‘losing trust’ in Ukrainian government – FT

Kiev’s image has been tarnished by the resignation of a top reconstruction official, according to the outlet
West ‘losing trust’ in Ukrainian government – FT

Vladimir Zelensky’s recent purges of government officials have damaged the confidence of Ukraine’s foreign supporters, the Financial Times has reported, citing multiple sources in Kiev.

The head of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, Mustafa Nayyem, tendered his resignation on Monday. He was followed by officials responsible for procurement and anti-corruption policy.

Their departure is the latest in a series of personnel changes “that have shaken the confidence of western partners” in Vladimir Zelensky’s government, according to the FT.

“The US and other western partners want a normal, predictable relationship with their Ukrainian counterparts,” one concerned Ukrainian official told the outlet on condition of anonymity. “Right now they are losing trust in Ukraine’s government because of personnel decisions that they do not understand.”

A spree of firings, resignations, and reassignments overseen by Zelensky in recent months has “caused tension” between Kiev and the countries financing Ukraine, six Ukrainian and Western officials told the outlet on condition of anonymity. They also said they had warned the Ukrainian leader about the “disruptive and inexplicable” moves.

Nayyem’s resignation letter, seen by FT, said he was leaving due to “constant opposition, resistance and the creation of artificial obstacles” by Prime Minister Denis Shmygal. 

According to the outlet, Nayyem spoke to two dozen USAID and other Western officials two weeks ago, telling them he expected to be fired. He urged Kiev’s foreign backers to continue working with his replacement, but one USAID representative was perturbed by changes to “ our most important partnership,” according to an audio recording of the meeting.

Last month, Zelensky dismissed Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Alexander Kubrakov. He and Nayyem were in charge of both reconstruction and the building of defensive fortifications. Two Ukrainian officials told FT that Zelensky viewed Kubrakov as “too cozy” with the Americans. 

Nayyem had warned USAID to expect a government probe into Kubrakov. FT reported last week that Kubrakov’s ouster had been orchestrated by Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrey Yermak, described as the “de facto head of state.” 

“This situation is really bad for [the] perception of the Ukrainian government and Ukraine generally,” Gleb Vishlinsky, the executive director at the Center for Economic Strategy in Kiev, told FT. He added that the firing of Kubrakov and Nayyem’s resignation, “build an image of weak and unpredictable governance.”

Kubrakov’s sacking in particular attracted “backlash” from the US and its allies. The US, German, French, and EU ambassadors in Kiev posted messages of support for the minister on May 9 and complained about his departure to Shmygal four days later. A meeting that was supposed to be about the dire condition of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure reportedly turned into an argument about the absence of Kubrakov and Nayyem.

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