Despite many scandals and over 25,000 signatures on a petition demanding his removal, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy, Oleksandr Tkachenko, has kept his position in the Cabinet. Kyiv Post has investigated and found out why: no one else would want the job after his mishandling of the ministry, critics have said.

Several scandals surround Tkachenko. He has been accused of only passively supporting Ukrainian culture, mishandling the nation’s historical artefacts and museum pieces, attempting to liquidate the film archives, and botching the Lavra situation.

Further accusations from the public allege he has stifled free speech through censorship of opposition voices on Ukraine’s news telethon, while allowing former pro-Russian channel journalists a platform.

And the list goes on.

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Who is Oleksandr Tkachenko?

In 2019, Oleksandr Tkachenko, the general producer of the 1+1 Media Group (funded by the notorious oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky), decided to quit his media work and venture into politics. He joined Volodymyr Zelensky’s Servant of the People (SN) party and was elected a people’s deputy. Tkachenko knew Zelensky well before the elections, back when the current president was still the lead actor and the head of the “Kvartal 95 Studio.”

Tkachenko became one of the experts on information policy in the parliament and became the chairman of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy.

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Moreover, he was one of the SN candidates for the mayorship of Kyiv in the local elections in 2020. He even proclaimed himself ready to face off against the mayor of the capital, Vitaly Klitschko. But then he was appointed Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine in June 2020.

The scandals surrounding him have not subsided since then. But, it was after Russia’s full-scale invasion that the public started paying him the greatest attention.

What are the complaints?

The United News telethon was created with the help of the ministry and Tkachenko personally, bringing together the main TV channels of the country since February 24, 2022. There were accusations from opposition political forces and international partners that the telethon does not meet the standards of freedom of speech and can be subject to state censorship.

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There were calls to stop the telethon and let the TV channels decide what kind of content to create. Tkachenko doesn’t support this idea. He claims that the telethon will run until the end of the war, until the victory of Ukraine. And he says this is not his personal decision, but one made by higher management.

In addition, people are upset that journalists who used to work for pro-Russian channels and were not fired because of their past are taking part in the telethon.

The minister and his team are also accused of not preserving ancient artifacts and works of art that were not evacuated from the museums of the cities under Russian occupation. A vivid example is the museums of Kherson – during almost nine months of occupation the Russians took almost all its valuable exhibits. Tkachenko denies these accusations.

“Since the start of the [full-scale] war, we have evacuated hundreds of thousands of museum exhibits. The items on the territories that were quickly taken over could not have been physically removed. We don’t have a law on preventive evacuation,” he said in a comment for the Suspilne TV channel.

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People were also concerned about the slow process of decommunization and demolition of monuments to Russian writers and cultural figures.

The priests of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) who refuse to leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra – a shrine that Russians consider their own and which they used to spread pro-Russian narratives among the congregation – also harbor a grudge against him. Tkachenko has repeatedly stated that all lease agreements with the Russian Orthodox Church will be terminated and that Lavra is not the property of the priests of this church.

Hence, there are plenty of those interested in Tkachenko being fired. His passive approach to supporting Ukrainian culture – the thing that society demands, especially during the war – his slow reaction to the Lavra situation, scandals surrounding the Shevchenko Prize, and his attempts to reorganize the state film archive held at the Dovzhenko Center only increase the level of hostility toward Tkachenko in society.

Baseless accusations

We ask that Oleksandr Vladyslavovych Tkachenko be dismissed from the post of Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine

A related online petition has already been registered on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers. “While holding the post of Minister of Culture and Information Policy, he managed his activities in such a way that caused stagnation in the cultural sphere” the petition says.

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“By breaking his word, he publicly defiled the memory of all fallen Heroes of Ukraine and showed extreme contempt for them – for the soldiers, for those who are giving their lives. The people are outraged by Mr. Tkachenko’s policy.

“We ask that Oleksandr Vladyslavovych Tkachenko be dismissed from the post of Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.”

It got the 25,000 signatures that were required. The petition even disappeared under suspicious circumstances but was brought back after the appeals of the activists. The Cabinet of Ministers said that it happened due to technical problems. The author of the petition, Yuriy Shiyan, told Liga.net that some of the people who wanted to vote for it were unable to do so due to constant problems with the website.

Meanwhile, in his comments to Suspilne channel Tkachenko said that he personally supported the petition and his own dismissal, because he has “a philosophical attitude” toward the situation.

However, the Cabinet of Ministers refused to consider the votes of over 25,000 signatories and the minister himself. They said: “From the text of this petition, it is impossible to establish facts and circumstances that can provide the ground for the Prime Minister of Ukraine to raise the issue of the dismissal of the Minister of Culture and Information Policy O.V. Tkachenko in the Verkhovna Rada.

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“The Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine got a letter from his office regarding the petition, and the minister refutes all the accusations.”

It didn’t stop the activists. On June 23, they came to a meeting with the minister at the Book Arsenal in Kyiv holding posters calling for his dismissal.

After the event, the minister decided to find out why they demanded it, but the protesters only accused the Ministry of being unfairly selective when it comes to granting permits to cultural figures to leave the country during the war.

To set the record straight, Tkachenko invited the activists to a meeting, but not everyone showed up. Oleksandr Bychenko, one of the organizers of the protest, defended this choice by saying it was only “an illusion of a dialogue.”

“To ban half of Twitter users who criticize him on the official pages, to turn off the comments under the posts on Facebook and Instagram to collect and skillfully manipulate in a conversation, and then to write positive remarks about being open to a conversation is nothing short of mockery,” he wrote on social networks. “Even meaningless formal letters from the ministry make more sense.”

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Kyiv Post asked the representatives of the SN to share their feelings regarding the demand for Tkachenko’s dismissal. According to the information from our sources, the minister will keep his position due to one main reason – it’s difficult to find someone who would agree to take over the Ministry that has a bad reputation and a lot of problems.

Kyiv Post contacted Tkachenko for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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