Zelensky not really running Ukraine – The Times

Chief of staff Andrey Yermak is de facto the head of state, critics have told the outlet

File photo: ’s chief of staff, Andrey Yermak, in Kiev, on August 22, 2022. ©  Metin Aktas/Getty Images

Multiple Ukrainian officials have complained to British daily The Times about the growing power of Vladimir Zelensky’s chief of staff Andrey Yermak, who they say de facto runs Ukraine.

The 52-year-old has previously been described as “Zelensky’s right-hand man” and “Ukraine’s real power broker.” Officials in Kiev now say he has become something more, the outlet has reported.

“Yermak’s authority has surpassed that of all of Ukraine’s elected officials bar the president,” The Times’ Maxim Tucker wrote in the article published on Friday. “Some sources went so far as to describe him as the ‘de facto head of state’ or ‘Ukraine’s vice-president’ in a series of interviews.”

Tucker, who previously worked as Amnesty International’s campaigner on Ukraine, claimed to have spoken with “senior government, military, law enforcement and diplomatic sources,” many of whom requested anonymity. He described Yermak as Zelensky’s “greatest flaw,” and his behavior as “thirst for power.”

“Concern is mounting that Zelensky is increasingly reliant on a handful of sycophantic domestic voices,” Tucker noted, as the number of people with direct access to him shrinks while Yermak’s team expands.

Zelensky’s “big mistake has been to entrust so much authority to Yermak, who is clearly intoxicated with power,” said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center.

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Military officials have also blamed Yermak for arranging the firing of General Valery Zaluzhny in February, because he saw him as a rival. A spokesman for the Zelensky’s office denied this, saying Zaluzhny was not fired but promoted to ambassador to the UK, “which signifies a high level of trust.”

A spokesperson for the presidential office, which Yermak runs, dismissed all criticism of the chief of staff as “propaganda attacks.” Yermak has a “direct but efficient management style,” they said, which has delivered successes such as the Swiss “peace summit” next week.

Zelensky “is the one who makes all the key decisions,” the spokesperson insisted.

Yermak is a former film producer whom Zelensky – an actor turned politician – brought into the government in 2019. He has recently begun moving into the spotlight, attending the ‘Democracy Summit’ in Denmark alongside former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, himself a paid adviser to the Ukrainian government.

It was Yermak and Rasmussen’s ‘International Working Group on Security Issues and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine’ that first proposed lifting all the restrictions on the use of Western weapons supplied to Kiev, which was quickly amplified by former British PM Boris Johnson. The talking point then spread to NATO capitals until the White House eventually agreed to it.


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