Andriy Yermak, a former top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, has been appointed as the head of Zelensky’s office on Feb. 11.
Yermak succeeds Andriy Bohdan, who was fired by Zelensky on the same day.
Bohdan, 43, had led Zelensky’s office since the president’s inauguration on May 20, 2019. He is a former lawyer whose clients included oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. He led Zelensky’s election campaign and said that he persuaded him to run for the presidency. According to multiple reports from Ukrainian media, Bohdan filed his resignation on Feb. 10.
Yermak, 48, is a former copyright lawyer and television executive. He has served as Zelensky’s aide since May 21, 2019. It was his first job in public service. Yermak founded and led the Garnet Media Group, which produces Ukrainian films and TV shows.
Yermak has been Zelensky’s point man for international relations, while Bohdan oversaw domestic policy. The two have been embroiled in a power struggle for months, forming two separate influence centers around Zelensky according to multiple reports from Ukrainian media. The two never publicly admitted conflict.
Yermak was the point of contact for an apparent scheme by these U.S. officials to pressure Zelensky and his government to investigate Trump’s political rival, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter and had conversations with former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and U.S. President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Yermak has also played a major role in Zelensky’s relations with Russia. He took an active part in the Sept. 7 prisoner swap, when Ukraine and Russia each released 35 captives. He also attended the Normandy Format negotiations as the president’s representative alongside Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko in early September.
Rumors of Bohdan’s possible resignation have been circulating in Ukrainian media since mid-December, when the notoriously energetic head of Zelensky’s office disappeared from the public eye. His usual place near Zelensky at the president’s public appearances was taken by Yermak.
Yermak in impeachment scandal
On Oct. 4, Volker presented his personal text messages to the U.S. Congress in the midst of the U.S. impeachment trial. The messages show that Yermak was the man who spoke with Volker and Giuliani on behalf of Zelensky.
According to the messages, Yermak told the American officials that Zelensky would give in to their request and publicly pledge to investigate Burisma, a gas company that employed Hunter Biden. He also said there would be an investigation into Trump’s allegations of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked. For reasons that aren’t clear, Zelensky never made the promised statement. In September, the pressure campaign became known to the public, leading to the impeachment trial of Trump.
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