"Change of Elites" or The (In)Famous Faces Missing From Ukraine's New Parliament
24 July, 2019
MPs Oleksandr Hranovskyy (left) and Ihor Kononenko during the parliamentary session, Kyiv, September 7, 2017 Oleksandr Kosmach / UNIAN

Editor's Note: This is an opinion-style article by Hromadske's political correspondent Maxim Kamenev who has long been studying and reporting on Ukrainian politics. 

The greatest since 1991 change of political elites is taking place in Ukraine. According to preliminary estimates, at least half of the parliament will be renewed. After all, the two parties that make up 50% – Servant of the People and Golos – did not include any former MPs on their lists.

The parliament will be updated not just quantitatively but qualitatively. It will be missing the majority of influential MPs of past convocations, which have formed their influence groups over the years “under the dome", and which they exploited to capitalize on their own businesses, build "schemes" in the economy and resolve other "issues".

At this early election, the "generals" of the last parliament were not welcome in any of the leading parties. Thus they ran in constituencies, some of which they won back in 2014.

Below are the top 7 lame ducks of Ukrainian politics.

1. Ihor Kononenko

In the last convocation of the parliament – the first deputy head of Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB) faction

Ran in the 94th constituency (Kyiv region)

Army friend and long-time business partner of the fifth president Petro Poroshenko entered the previous parliament on the list of PPB Solidarity party.

Prior to 2016, journalist investigations into the involvement of the president’s friend in corruption schemes prevented him from appointment as vice prime minister in the government. The range of accusations is worthy of the title of "shadow vice prime minister" – coal, roads and railways, oil, prosecutors and, ultimately, collection of votes in the parliament.

"The last nail" in the political career of Kononenko was the "war" with the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Jeffrey Payet. First, Kononenko wanted to give up his mandate, but then changed his mind and for the past three years, he regularly visited the 94th constituency.

The MP’s team, in particular, became known for gifts to veterans, teachers and pensioners, who were given, among other things, shampoo and towels.

Army years was not the only thing that drew Kononenko to Obukhiv District. It was also the state-owned enterprise Tsentrenergo, whose capacities, in particular, the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant is located in Ukrainka.

Kononenko was accused of influencing the management of this state enterprise and involvement in the schemes associated with supplying coal there.

Nonetheless, neither the three-year work nor the good relations with the leadership of Tsentrenergo helped Kononenko. According to preliminary results, he has lost the constituency to the candidate from the Servant of the People, Oleksandr Dubinsky.

Thus, he got odd revenge from his other opponent – Ihor Kolomoisky. Former co-owner of PrivatBank repeatedly promised to prevent Poroshenko’s friend from making it into the parliament once again. The winner Dubinsky works on the TV channel 1+1, whose co-owner is also Kolomoisky.

Ukrainian MP, deputy leader of the PPB faction Ihor Kononenko (left) during a parliamentary session in Kyiv, Ukraine on September 18, 2018. Photo: UNIAN

2. Yaroslav Moskalenko

In the last convocation of the parliament – co-chairman of the deputy group "Will of the People"

Ran in the 96th constituency (Kyiv region)

Moskalenko was successfully elected twice in the Vyshhorodsky district of the Kyiv region – in 2012 and 2014. Both times as an independent candidate.

In his first cadence, Moskalenko entered the Party of Regions faction, headed by ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Despite voting in support of amendments to the constitution and of Yanukovych's “self-dismissal” from power on February 22, 2014, he was still seen as too "toxic" by Ukraine's pro-European parties.

Nevertheless, Moskalenko managed to get re-elected into the 2014 parliament through the same 96th constituency. 

Under the Poroshenko presidency, companies affiliated with Moskalenko repeatedly appeared in law enforcement investigations, but the prosecutor general did not appeal to the parliament to take matters further. 

Moskalenko's "Will of the People" group considered the actions of prosecutors a tool that allowed Poroshenko to incline Moskalenko and his colleagues to support presidential bills.

Like Kononenko, Moskalenko partly became a “victim of Kolomoisky” with the latter stating that Moskalenko should not be re-elected. According to preliminary results, Olga Vasilevska-Smaglyuk, the candidate representing Zelenskyy's Servant of the People, and, before that, another 1+1 journalist, will become the deputy from the constituency this time round.

During the campaign, Vasilevska-Smaglyuk was assisted by 1+1's staff and by party members of UKROP, the party whose sponsor and member Kolomoisky officially is.

Ukrainian MP Yaroslav Moskalenko during a parliament session in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 13, 2018. Photo:  UNIAN

3. Oleksandr Tretyakov

In the last convocation of the parliament – deputy head of the PPB faction

Ran in the 219th constituency (Sviatoshynskyy district of Kyiv)

Tretyakov spoke to Hromadske ahead of the presidential elections and considered them "orange politicians’ job" prophesying a second round with Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, whose stars shone during the Orange Revolution.

But 2019 elections saw the end of “orange politicians”. In particular, Tretyakov himself – the assistant to the third president Viktor Yushchenko and one of the four "loyal friends" who were accused of corruption at a resounding press conference in 2005 by the State Secretary Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Under the fifth president, Tretyakov was one of the deputy heads of the PPB faction and the main lobbyist for the creation of the Ministry of Veterans. Investigative journalists argue that Tretyakov successfully lobbied the interests of the operators of the Ukrainian national lottery in parallel with his MP work.

It was also for this that he was accused by the former deputy head of the Antimonopoly Committee of Agia Zagrebelska. At the legislative election, Tretyakov lost to the restaurateur Mykola Tyshchenko who represented Servant of the People.

In 2012, Tretyakov experienced a similar course of events. He conceded the 219th constituency to Volodymyr Ariev, who ran from Batkivshchyna. Back then, the former MP believed that it was Batkivshchyna he lost to, not Ariev.

Two years later, in 2014, Ariev ran in another constituency, while Tretyakov was elected to the parliament from the second attempt.

Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Tretyakov (center) in the Parliament session hall, Kyiv, May 22, 2018. Photo: Oleksandr Kosmach / UNIAN

4. Serhiy Pashynsky

In the last convocation of the parliament – deputy head of the faction People's Front

Ran in the 64th constituency (Zhytomyr region)

Sergiy Pashynsky is an MP of the last four convocations. He came to the parliament 13 years ago on the party list of Yulia Tymoshenko, but was associated, above all, with Oleksandr Turchynov, at that time – head of Batkivshchyna headquarters.

After Yanukovych's escape in 2014, Pashynsky temporarily served as head of the Presidential Administration. The duties of the head of state were then carried out by Turchynov.

Over his years in the parliament, Pashynsky had served as chairman of the Fuel and Energy Committee. During the last term, he chaired the Committee on National Security and Defense. 

Under Poroshenko’s presidency, Pashynsky became a regular contributor to journalistic investigations on dealings in both key areas: energy and defense.

Following one of the investigations, a group of unknown visited the editorial office of the magazine Novoye Vremya and demanded refutation of the material. Pashynsky himself promised to sue the magazine and the author of the investigation, Ivan Verstyuk.

Like other "generals" of the past parliament, Pashynsky lost to the candidate from Servant of the People, Vyacheslav Sigachov, who in turn came second to the self-nominated Volodymyr Areshonkov.

The National Police even sent special forces to strengthen the local police. They had to check the information about the preparation of falsifications.

Ukrainian MP Serhiy Pashynsky (center) during the parliamentary session, Kyiv, January 18, 2018. Photo: UNIAN

5. Oleksandr Hranovskiy

In the last convocation of the parliament – MP from the PPB. Entered the last convocation on PPB party list.

Ran in the 169th constituency (Kharkiv region)

Hranovskiy, who, just like Kononenko, was elected to the parliament for the first time in 2014, also quickly earned the reputation of a "toxic politician". Hranovskiy was suspected of influencing a part of the judiciary, in particular, the head of the District Administrative Court of Ukraine Pavlo Vovk, as well as the Department of Investigation of Economic Crimes of the Prosecutor General's Office, which is why it even got the informal name "Kononenko-Hranovskiy Department".

Subsequently, the State Bureau of Investigation was added to the list of law enforcement agencies influenced by Hranovskiy. There are allegations he even influenced the Central Election Commission (CEC).

The MP never refuted acquaintance with judges and prosecutors, but rejected the title of "overseer" from Poroshenko and emphasized that he was an ordinary MP, a member of the committee on legal policy, and his profile of work required communication with judges and prosecutors.

Like Kononenko, Hranovskiy, in the midst of scandals, decided to run in a constituency and chose 169th one in Kharkiv region. During the campaign, Hranovskyy stressed that he had the support of City Mayor Hennadiy Kernes.

Within a few days, the CEC canceled registration as a candidate for MP of the main competitor of Hranovskiy – Oleksandr Kunytskyy, a well-known blogger zpsanek, who became famous for videos about police bribes.

However, the court reinstated his candidacy. Kunytskyy beat Hranovskiy with a margin of over 30%. Hranovskiy could now use this fact as another argument in favor of his position that he did not influence court decisions.

Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Hranovskiy (left) in the session hall of the parliament, Kyiv, July 13, 2017. Photo: UNIAN

6. Vitaliy Khomutynnik

In the last convocation of the parliament – co-chairman of the MP group Renaissance. 

Was elected in the 171th constituency (city of Kharkiv)

Ran on the party list of the Opposition Bloc (which did not make the 5% threshold)

During the presidency of Petro Poroshenko, Khomutynnik became increasingly called the new Ukrainian oligarch. As a co-chairman of the Renaissance MP group, he successfully balanced between the president, supporting some of the key laws for him, and Ihor Kolomoisky – on the contrary, not supporting bills that could hurt the business of the oligarch.

Khomutynnik successfully combined lobbyist activity under the dome with his ties in the leadership of the State Fiscal Service. However, in a few interviews, Khomutynnik himself denied helping businessmen to solve the issue of reimbursement of value-added tax to their companies.

Khomutynnik planned to run for the parliament in the same constituency in Kharkiv, but just before the election, he joined the Opposition Bloc. For the first time since 2002 he will not make it into the Ukrainian parliament.

Ukrainian MP Vitaliy Khomutynnik (center) during the parliamentary session, Kyiv, May 25, 2017. Photo by Oleksandr Kosariev / UNIAN

7. Akhmetov on the sidelines

For the first time, there will be no faction in the new parliament, which will act at least to some extent in the interests of the richest Ukrainian oligarch – Rinat Akhmetov.

According to preliminary results, neither Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party, whose MPs regularly registered laws in the interests of corporations of Akhmetov's SCM since 2016, nor Opposition Bloc led by a friend of the oligarch Borys Kolesnikov and his business partner Vadym Novinskyy, failed to get the coveted 5%

Former PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s People's Front did not go to the polls at all. During the premiership of Yatsenyuk, journalists registered Akhmetov's visits to the Cabinet on the eve of decisive votes in the parliament.

However, Akhmetov has experience of reeling in an entire parliamentary faction already inside the parliament. For example, Lyashko, five years ago, entered the parliament with the media support of Serhiy Lyovochkin, which did not stop him from becoming a lobbyist for the interests of Kolomoisky’s Privat group, and eventually going under the patronage of Akhmetov.

For the past two years, Kolesnikov and Novinskyy have been stressing that Akhmetov completely moved away from politics in 2016. Now the richest citizen of Ukraine has an opportunity to prove that he has really put an end to political games.

Leader of the Radical Party Oleh Lyashko (center) with members of his faction during a parliamentary session, Kyiv, May 18, 2018. Photo: Vladyslav Musienko / POOL / UNIAN

/By Maxim Kamenev