Three sources in the Ukrainian government have told the Kyiv Post that President Volodymyr Zelensky is considering veteran politician Serhiy Tigipko for the post of the prime minister.
The sources weren’t authorized to talk to the press about the possible appointment as negotiations with Tigipko were still underway.
Iuliia Mendel, spokeswoman for the President’s Office, did not respond to a request for comment. The Kyiv Post reached out to the press service of Tigipko’s company, Group TAS, for comment, but has not received a response.
If he is appointed, Tigipko will replace Oleksiy Honcharuk, who has served as prime minister since August 2019.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed on Feb. 26 to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty that he had met with Tigipko. “I am interviewing many people,” he said.
Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk denied that he is going to leave his post. He said he is used to such reports in media.
“I have not written any (resignation) letters and have not discussed with the president,” he told journalists at a briefing on Feb. 26.
He said he also met with Tigipko “like with many others.”
“We need backup with advisers who understand the industry, possibly, on the position in the government,” Honcharuk said.
Tigipko is one of the veterans of Ukrainian politics. Since the 1990s, he has maneuvered between business, politics and public service.
Tigipko entered public service as deputy prime minister under Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko in 1997 and stayed for two years, working for Lazarenko’s successor Valeriy Pustovoytenko.
In 1999-2000, he was economy minister in the government of then-Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, who would go on to become Ukraine’s third president in 2005. Tigipko himself ran for president in 2010, winning third place. He joined forces with President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions for the 2012 parliamentary election, and served as deputy prime minister under Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
His career started from business, though. In 1992, Tigipko persuaded businessmen Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholyubov to start a bank. With their money, he created PrivatBank, which grew into Ukraine’s largest private bank. It was nationalized in 2016 after authorities discovered a $5.5-billion hole in its ledgers.
Now, the bank’s former co-owner, Kolomoisky, is suing to retake control of the bank, even after the state had to save it with taxpayers’ money. Meanwhile, the bank’s new management is suing Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov in London, alleging that they stole the $5.5 billion from the bank’s coffers through insider lending, which they deny.
Tigipko’s return to public service as prime minister would raise a question: Will it strengthen the position of his former partners Kolomoisky and Boholyubov?
As a former member of the Yanukovych-era government, Tigipko is subject to the 2014 lustration law and is prohibited from holding high-level government jobs. It’s not clear how Zelensky’s administration would go around this law, but they have ignored it in the past: The president’s former chief of staff, Andriy Bohdan, is also an alumnus of the government of Yanukovych.
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