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You're reading: ‘The Family’ is on the march

Ukraine has entered the New Year with a new government approved in
the parliament by the Party of Regions, their Communist satellites, and a
dozen “independents” engaged by both hook and crook. There are few
changes in the content of the new-old government, either in
personalities, or (even less) in its spirit, i.e. the expected policies.
Some ministers, like Borys Kolesnikov, moved into the parliament to
serve as MPs; others, like Valery Khoroshkovsky, resigned citing policy
disagreements; and still others were moved to honorable positions as
presidential advisers, like SBU chief Ihor Kalinin and Minister of
Defense Dmytro Salamatin, or were promoted to seemingly prestigious but
less influential positions of deputy prime ministers, like former
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostiantyn Hryshchenko and former Minister
of Energy and Coal Industry Yury Boyko.

There are no signs, however, that all these moves were connected to the
incumbents’ policy failures or corruption scandals, and no signs that
the new nominations are merit-based and policy-driven. Again, more than
half of the ministers were either born in the Donbas region or made some
crucial part of their careers there. It seems the president and his
team feel no need to hide or justify this peculiar regional
cronyism—staffing police, judiciary, and tax services all over Ukraine
with Donbas people [],
giving various preferences to regional business, or endorsing over 46%
of the budget subventions for social and economic development to two
privileged oblasts, Donetsk and Luhansk, – 618 million UAH ($76.2
million)  [].

The only shamelessness overshadowing this regional cronyism is the
nepotism of the president and his son. The latter is particularly
notorious for the promotion of his close friends and business associates
to top governmental positions. Now, his clients have taken an even
firmer grip over Ukraine’s economy and law-enforcement agencies. Besides
the General Prosecutor’s office, which fully staffed with Yanukovych’s
loyalists from Donbas, and the Security Service and Ministry of Defense
subordinated directly to the president, the Family controls the Interior
Ministry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agrarian Policy, National
Bank, and a newly created Klondike—the Ministry of Revenues and Duties,
which has replaced the Customs Service (loaned out until recently to the
Communist allies) and National Tax Administration. The most conspicuous
event is the rise of the 36-year-old Serhiy Arbuzov, within a few
years, from the manager of a minor bank in Donetsk to the head of the
National Bank and, now, to first deputy prime minister. Rumors are afoot
that it is only a matter of time until he replaces incumbent Prime
Minister Mykola Azarov.

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