Poroshenko’s Orbits. Who Influences the President and His Decisions?

Ukrayinska Pravda — June 10, 2016

Maria Zhartovska, Roman Kravets

It is May 2014. Presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko is being driven in his SUV on a highway in Khmelnytska Oblast. A few hours ago he conducted a rally in Khmelnitsky and then had an interview on one of the local TV stations. He is tired and is trying to sit comfortably on the back seat of his car. Still, Poroshenko manages to squeeze several minutes out of his tight schedule to talk to one of the authors of this text.

A question bothering journalists and opponents of the future president then was: who will be on the team of President Poroshenko, should he win the elections? Like a troublesome fly, this question followed candidate Poroshenko throughout his entire campaign.

The explanation is easy: after having been visible in Ukrainian politics since 1997, Poroshenko was regarded as a solo politician and he was approaching his presidential term without a clear team or political party.

In September 2013 Poroshenko started restoring Solidarnist [En.: Solidarity] political party, created in 2000 after he left SDPU(o) [En: Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (United)] — a political project that was owned by Viktor Medvedchuk and was loyal to Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s president. In 2001 Poroshenko was involved in creating the now notorious Party of the Regions [ed: which was quite a different political project back in 2001 from what it became under Yanukovich] that was loyal to President Kuchma. Then, Poroshenko supported opposition candidate Yushchenko [ed: who later became Ukraine’s president].

In 2013 Ukrainian Forbes published a piece, explaining that Solidarnist was restoring its local party structures and getting prepared for parliamentary elections. Poroshenko’s team wasn’t happy with that publication [ed.: the described event happened before Ukrainian Forbes was acquired by Serhiy Kurchenko, a nominal shell owner, with Yanukovych, country’s President at that time, being the real buyer behind the acquisition. Later in 2015 Forbes, Inc. withdrew the license to its trademark from its Ukrainian franchisee. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian publication of what was known as ‘Forbes’ still continues online, while the trademark litigation is pending].

— How will I select my team? — Poroshenko repeated the question with a slightly hoarse voice, sipping water from a dark green bottle of Morshinska — when I am creating a new project, I have a core management team. Then we simply find the right people on the market. If a newly hired person is discovered to be engaged in corruption, this person should never appear in the government again.

A month after that conversation on June 7, 2014 Poroshenko became the fifth President of Ukraine. After two years of his term it is now clear that Poroshenko is having difficulties with keeping his promises.

His managerial team: people whom Poroshenko trusts and listens to, can be counted by hand. Some of these people were publicly accused of corruption, yet it did not influence their proximity to the President.

— Poroshenko’s team has its doves and hawks. The doves favor effective government, the hawks favor radical actions and strong authority, — elaborates one of the President’s close allies.

Ukrayinska Pravda will tell their stories and explain how and why they influence Ukraine’s President and his policies.

Show names under the photos

Safe Haven

It was summer 2014 and Borys Lozhkin, a tall and skinny businessman, who sold his Ukrainian Media Holding [ed: which included the abovementioned Ukrainian Forbes prior to recall of the license, which happened because of the sale] to ‘shell oligarch’ Serhiy Kurchenko in 2013, was hurrying to Mystetskyi Arsenal building in the company of his wife, Nadiya Shalomova. The inauguration reception was due to start in minutes.

— Is it true that you are going to be the Head of the Administration? — Lozhkin was vigorously followed by Ukrayinska Pravda journalist Serhiy Leshchenko [now MP from Poroshenko Bloc]. Lozhkin kept quiet.

Lozhkin is a former business associate of Poroshenko, they jointly owned Korrespondent [ed: one of Ukraine’s leading print and online media of that time], as well as United Online Ventures — another of Lozhkin’s media holdings.

Borys Lozhkin avoided journalists for six months after being appointed. He gave not a single press conference nor interview. In December 2014, he agreed to tell Ukrayinska Pravda about his path to the Administration and his accomplishments during the first six months in the office.

One of Lozhkin’s major tasks within the Administration is communication with large business, i.e. oligarchs, as well as MPs from the different factions and parliamentary groups. Lozhkin now talks openly about his functions.

In his book, the Fourth Republic, which he lavishly presented in mid-March 2016 in the luxurious Intercontinental hotel, the Head of the Presidential Administration mentions that communicating with the large business was his duty from the very beginning.

Lozhkin is one of those rare people, who can discuss additional capitalization of Privatbank with Igor Kolomoiskyi while openly admitting drinking tea with Rinat Akhmetov, another oligarch [Ed: and the archrival of Kolomoiskyi].

Lozhkin’s other zone of responsibility is coordinating the parliamentary majority. Recent examples are Lozhkin’s campaigns to gather votes for Yuri Lutsenko to be appointed Prosecutor General and for the amendments to the Constitution regarding judicial reform.

— He called and met dozens of people and convinced them to vote. He also made a pact with former PM Yatsenyuk and unaffiliated parliamentarians, — says our source in Lozhkin’s team.

The Head of Poroshenko’s Administration is equally successful in his negotiations with the Opposition Bloc, controlled by the former Head of Yanukovych’s Administration Serhiy Lyovochkin and abovementioned Rinat Akhmetov or with Vidrodzhennya [En.: Renaissance] parliamentary group, controlled by oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi.

Photo exhibitions on the second floor of the Presidential Administration building are Lozhkin’s idea and a source of pride. One such photo exhibition, titled "16", features 16 photo portraits of Ukrainian soldiers and freedom fighters.

According to our information, Vidrodzhennya has only one unwavering condition: Roman Nasirov should continue serving as the Head of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine. Not such a long time ago, journalists from Skhemy [En.: ‘Schemes’] TV show spotted the current Head of the Presidential Administration at the birthday party of Evhen Heller, known as the ‘cashier’ of the now-banned Party of the Regions. 

These qualities, i.e. Lozhkin’s ability to stay half-way and conflict-free, make him highly valuable to Poroshenko. If Poroshenko is quick-tempered and unforgiving, Lozhkin knows how to smooth the edges. He never quarrels with anyone. He has perfect relations with everybody, — our source in Poroshenko’s team describes Lozhkin.

After two years of being the Head of Administration Borys Lozhkin has only one enemy — businessman Konstantin Grigorishin, who criticized Lozhkin in an interview to Ukrayinska Pravda. According to our information, Lozhkin did everything he could to scuttle the tender aimed at procuring electric compensators from Grigorishin’s factory. Poroshenko himself started pacifying the two of his allies in December 2015. The current relations between Lozhkin and Grigorishin can be described as a ‘Cold Peace’.

The two years of Lozhkin as the Head of the Administration were not only focused on negotiations and smoothing the edges with everyone, but to human resources efforts as well. Ukrayinska Pravda had already published a text on people, whom Lozhkin hired to the government.

Among Lozhkin’s men was the so-called ‘reforms spetsnaz’ within the Ministry of Infrastructure under Andriy Pyvovarsky, Finance Ministry under Natalie Jaresko and Ministry of Economy under Aivaras Abromavičius, who left his post with a scandal in February 2016. Abromavičius was not the only one to quit. Pyvovarsky and Jaresko, who were talked into joining the government in 2014, also left their ministerial posts after the new cabinet was formed.

In the very end, the cabinet of Volodymyr Groysman, formed as a result of a long political crisis and exhausting negotiations, turned out to have no high-profile media personas. Lozhkin himself could have reinforced it by becoming the First Vice Premier — an appointment widely discussed in the media for several months. Yet, when the level of the new cabinet became clear, Borys decided to stay out, — says one of our sources.

Overall, Lozhkin does not see himself in the government. In the beginning of 2016 information appeared that the Head of the Administration wants to quit. — He wanted to quit long time ago. He already became fed up with governing. Poroshenko just does not let him go. Lozhkin won’t be here soon, — says our source.

According to our information, Lozhkin plans to launch an investment business after his resignation. The question is when would Poroshenko let him go and whether it would happen at all.

Vitaliy Kovalchuk (to the left) and Borys Lozhkin playing chess in the Administration building

The President’s Eyes and Ears

Lozhkin’s aide in smoothing the sharp edges is his First Deputy Vitaliy Kovalchuk, who joined Poroshenko’s team in 2013 to lead the presidential campaign.

Kovalchuk was the major proponent of the joint campaign by the Poroshenko Bloc and UDAR party of Vitali Klitschko. As a result Kovalchuk was appointed the head of the campaign staff for Poroshenko, which in turn damaged his relations with Klitschko, who was not running for President. Yet, we doubt that this falling-out made Kovalchuk very disappointed.

Vitaliy Kovalchuk has high standing within Poroshenko’s team and Lozhkin trusts him. During the local elections the current Deputy Head of the Administration was in charge of two political projects: ‘Nash Krai’ [En: Our Land] as a counterbalance to Opposition Bloc in the South and Southeast and ‘Narodnyi Kontrol’ [En.: People’s Control] which was targeting the electoral base of Samopomich [En.: Self-help] in the West. After Lozhkin refused the post of First Vice Premier it was offered to Kovalchuk. Yet the deal went sour.

Volodymyr Groysman was totally against this appointment, which turned him into Kovalchuk’s enemy. It looked like Groysman was afraid of Kovalchuk taking over all the processes of Groysman’s cabinet. At some point the incoming PM backed down, but got an angry reply à la "I will never be a deputy to the mayor of Vinnytsia" [Ed: Groysman was the mayor of Vinnytsia, the capital of Vinnytsia Oblast, and held other high ranking positions in Vinnytsia municipal and oblast governments. Here this title is used in derogatory tone to indicate some petty provincial politician].

— Kovalchuk is a professional apparatchik, he knows how to mix and mingle the documents. Who is always responsible in Ukraine? Not the person responsible for pushing the document to his boss, but the person responsible for signing it. That was the reason why Groysman was afraid to have Kovalchuk in his cabinet, — says our source.

Yet Groysman did not manage to avoid Kovalchuk. On May 11, 2016 Poroshenko appointed Kovalchuk as his second representative to the Cabinet of the Ministers. Nowadays Kovalchuk is the most likely candidate to get the post of the Head of Administration when Lozhkin quits.

— Our dugout is not just short. Frankly speaking: we don’t have a dugout at all, — one of Poroshenko’s men once told Ukrayinska Pravda their favorite joke.

This joke reflects the sad reality. After two years in power Poroshenko lacks ambition and courage to select people based on their professional merit. Loyalty of the future appointee, or at least a feeling of loyalty, is the key factor when admitting new members to the team.

— You open the box of Ptashyne Moloko sweets [Ed: a a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with marshmallow or milk soufflì according to Wikipedia, which is sold in boxes of 5 or more and is a very popular dessert in post-Soviet countries] and there is a slip inside saying ‘packager No. 6’ [Ed: a Soviet way of including a piece of paper indicating the number of the person in charge of that particular box of candy, so that customer complaints can be made directly to this person]. We are going to have such loyal ‘packagers’ everywhere, — says another source, who was working with Poroshenko at the dawn of the current president’s political career.

Divide et Impera

It is unlikely that Poroshenko was guided by professional merit when he picked Volodymyr Groysman to be his next Prime Minister, or Yuri Lutsenko, who has no legal education, to be his Prosecutor General.

By appointing Groysman, Poroshenko was expecting loyalty. Yet it turned out that the new Ukrainian premier is trying to play his own game. One of his preconditions during the negotiations was having his ‘own men’, which turned out to be Minister of the Cabinet Oleksandr Sayenko, Minister of Social Policy Andriy Reva and Vice-Premier Volodymyr Kistion. Groysman used to work with Reva and Kistion while he was Mayor of Vinnytsia.

— I cannot say that I am somehow dependant on the President and vice versa. We have good team communication. I think that all representatives of the government should find ways to interact effectively. Yet in my decisions and professional views I am totally independent, — Groysman said in an interview to Ukrayinska Pravda.

The major task of Volodymyr Groysman is to become independent of Poroshenko. The current task of the Prime Minister is to get the loyalty of the majority of his ministers.

— He is trying to play a separate game. He started a dialog with Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Arsen Avakov as well as other ministers to get their loyalty, — says our source, adding, that in October the new Premier is going to have tough times as Ukrainians will start getting their winter heating bills [Ed: winter heating in Ukraine is largely dependant on Russian gas and coal from the regions of Donbas that are now under control of the separatists. As a consequence, the heating prices have risen hugely from the previously low levels]. Groysman’s cabinet will be under even more harsh criticism. That is why the Administration of the President is interested in Groysman delivering results while staying loyal.

Another person, who is also expected to deliver results, is newly appointed Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko.

In two years of his term, Poroshenko experienced two unsuccessful appointments of Prosecutor General: Vitaliy Yarema and Victor Shokin, who failed to demonstrate efficiency. As a result, Yuri Lutsenko turned out to be the most acceptable candidate for this position.

On May 12, 2016 Lutsenko was appointed to his post, with 259 votes. The voting was preceded by prolonged negotiations with parliamentary factions and groups. Specially for Lutsenko the Rada adopted a new law removing the mandatory requirement of legal education for the Prosecutor General.

— Americans, who were for quite a long time requesting that the President fire Shokin, were upset with Lutsenko’s appointment. That is why he will have to work hard and demonstrate practical results. Otherwise in autumn a new campaign to fire another Prosecutor General might be launched, — says our source in the American embassy.

— I am well aware of the professional burden that I will have to bear not only in terms of my professional qualities and delivering practical results, but also from the standpoint of restoring the trust of the Ukrainian citizens to their government. I really wish for all of us to succeed, — said Lutsenko after his appointment.

The Current Prosecutor General did quite a lot for the political career of Poroshenko by leading his political party, parliamentary faction and by campaigning for Poroshenko during the presidential elections in 2014.

After appointing Lutsenko, Poroshenko got another issue: the new head of the parliamentary faction of Poroshenko Bloc, Ihor Hryniv, is also one of the few men Poroshenko can fully trust.

— Hryniv was reluctant to lead the faction. This kerfuffle is distracting him from his major tasks. Yet he is the most prepared to do it, — says our source. Poroshenko started working with Hryniv in the 2000s. 

In December 2001, Poroshenko’s Solidarnist joined Nasha Ukrayina of Victor Yushchenko and Poroshenko became Yushchenko’s head of elections. During the parliamentary elections of 2002 Hryniv became his deputy.

For a long time Hryniv was primarily playing the role of campaign strategist. He is an author of ‘Living in the New Way’ [Ukr.: ‘Жити по-новоому’] slogan [which Poroshenko used for his 2014 campaign]. Hryniv was active during the parliamentary elections of 2014, which were organized ahead of schedule. Poroshenko’s slogan during those elections was ‘Time to Get United’ [Ukr.: ‘Час єднатися’].

Yet, during the parliamentary elections of 2014 Poroshenko’s team didn’t get the result it was expecting [21.81%, or 132 seats]. Many of Poroshenko’s men rushed to accuse Hryniv of failing to create an adequate visual component of the campaign.

Hryniv is also a member of the ‘situation awareness room’ — an informal group of people who are looking for solutions to difficult situations and help the President react to the current challenges he is facing.

This ‘Situatyvka’ meets during the moments which are crucial to the President and works out his tactics. Some recent examples are firing the head of Dnipro [former Dnipropetrovsk] State Administration and oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi, detaining the leader of the ‘Ukrop’ party Gennadiy Korban or the most recent offshore scandal.

Currently Hryniv is a strategy consultant to Poroshenko. His ideas are complemented by other political strategists: Oleh Medvedev, whose main task is writing speeches, Viktor Ukolov, who is consulting speakers of Poroshenko Bloc on which facts and angles they should use in their discussions during live appearances on the Ukrainian TV and is providing them with the major theses and arguments. Practically, these are temnyky [Ed: spin directives from the Government to its members and loyal media instructing how to portray and highlight a certain event. The term ‘temnyky’ was coined in the 2000s under the administration of the President Kuchma], which are sent to MPs and key speakers of the Poroshenko Bloc on a weekly basis.

Ukolov is also in charge of the holiday videos of Poroshenko, like the ones for Christmas or Easter. Former MP from UDAR and a political strategist Rostyslav Pavlenko is in charge of monitoring media threats and public reactions to Poroshenko.  

It is important for Poroshenko to be surrounded by political consultants and media experts. Even before becoming the President he was good at maintaining media relations, generating news and creating pictures for the media.

For example, Poroshenko gathered a pool of journalists before accepting an invitation by Mykola Azarov [who used to be the Prime Minister under Yanukovych] to become his Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Poroshenko wanted to ‘ask journalists for their advice’. Many of the journalists who attended that meeting recommended that Poroshenko stay out of Azarov’s government, yet Poroshenko made his own decision in the very end.

— He knows that media perception increases influence or decreases chances of success, — says a source from Poroshenko’s team.

— Poroshenko spends a lot of time on his PR. I would estimate around 15% of his working schedule. Yet for some reason his team fails to realize that a good rating is not caused by political technologies. People need true changes. But where to find time for bringing about changes, when you are spending huge amounts of time doing personal PR, a purely cosmetic measure? — reasons another source, who knows Poroshenko and his daily schedule quite well.

Iryna Friz worked as press secretary for Poroshenko for more than 14 years. Now she is an MP with Poroshenko Bloc

In addition to Hryniv, the ‘situatyvka’ includes Minister of Information Policy and Poroshenko’s kum [Ed: Ukrainian equivalent of compadre. This term gathered media significance in the Yushchenko era. In the current Ukrainian realities it has quite little to do with the Christian faith or a child’s baptism, yet a lot to do with securing political and business allies] Yuri Stets and Iryna Friz — Poroshenko’s long-time press secretary who is currently an MP. They are characteristic representatives of ‘doves’ in Poroshenko’s team.

— Hryniv, Stets and Friz are Poroshenko’s cornerstones, — tells our source from the Administration.

— If you criticize him one-on-one — he listens to it. If you do it publicly — he gets angry at you. He does not believe in Facebook or media criticism and instantly starts looking for a booby trap, for an enemy who ‘paid for’ this criticism. They almost never believe that people can simply have their personal position, — says our source who used be a member of Poroshenko’s team.

Yet there are situations, when Poroshenko listens to his ‘hawks’.

There Will be Blood

Early February 2016 was a tough time for Ihor Kononenko — former business associate and an army friend of Petro Poroshenko.

Aivaras Abromavičius, who then was the Minister of Economy, came out guns blazing against Kononenko, the ‘grey cardinal’ of the Poroshenko Bloc, with a press conference that became a media sensation. — "I don’t want to visit Davos, meet foreign investors there and tell them about our successes, while behind my back certain people are pursuing their petty interests", — stated Abromavičius, a Lithuanian expat, who was invited to join the Ukrainian government by Poroshenko.

Abromavičius claimed that the President’s closest ally was lobbying his personal friends to different managerial positions at major Ukrainian enterprises controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Kononenko’s desire to have ‘his own’ Deputy minister of Economy in charge of Naftogaz and other large state-owned enterprises. Accusations voiced by Abromavičius became a cold shower to Poroshenko’s team and to Kononenko himself.

Ihor Kononenko — the ‘grey cardinal’ of Poroshenko Bloc could be frequently seen in the transept of the sessions hall of the Verkhovna Rada, where he was having conversations with various MPs. In this photo he is talking to Oles Dovhyi (to the right), a personality that will be covered later in this text.

The ‘grey cardinal’ was forced to temporarily quit the post of the First Deputy Head of the Poroshenko Bloc and promised full cooperation with NABU which launched an investigation after the media statements by Abromavičius.

Kononenko also stopped walking in the Rada lobbies and talking to journalists. According to the information of Ukrayinska Pravda, we has suspended from the decision-making process for some time, despite that he was taking part in the negotiations about the new cabinet and discussed the ‘results grid’.

Only on May 12 did the press service of Poroshenko Bloc publish a response to an inquiry by then Head of the faction of the Poroshenko Bloc in the Rada Yuri Lutsenko to SAP [Ed: Office of the Specialized Anti-corruption Prosecutor], which stated that it has no questions to Kononenko. After some time he was reinstated as the Deputy Head of the Poroshenko Bloc faction. Kononenko’s tasks in the parliament vary: starting with informal negotiations with MPs — he could be frequently seen standing near the column with the childhood friend of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and one of the deputy heads of the Narodnyi Front [En: People’s Front] parliamentary faction Andriy Ivanchuk or with Vitaliy Khomutynnyk from Vidrodzhennya. Kononenko is also an active participant in collecting votes for various legislation, he was also engaged in collecting votes for judicial reform. We could not get Kononenko’s comments on this matter because he refused to answer any questions from Ukrayinska Pravda.

— Kononenko could write a message and politely request you come to the Parliament — people usually don’t refuse his offers, — says our source in the Poroshenko Bloc. 

Facts allow to conclude that Kononenko is close to law enforcement: he was one of the few MPs, who knew that the Office of the Prosecutor General and SBU were preparing to arrest Ihor Moseychuk, an MP of the Radical Party.

It was Kononenko, who was walking along the rows of the Rada’s sessions hall asking MPs to stay for the evening session, at which the issue of depriving Moseychuk of his parliamentary immunity was raised all of a sudden. 

Kononenko, together with then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, Head of the SBU Vasyl Hrytsak and the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Oleksandr Turchynov knew about the planned arrest of one of Kolomoyskyi’s close associates Gennadiy Korban. Poroshenko personally made a decision to launch this operation, following the advice of his hawks.

While Korban’s arrest was spectacular, the subsequent steps were not so convincing [Ed: Korban was transferred from prison to house arrest and the judicial review of his case is still pending with visibly less political momentum]. — We should have pushed the matter forward. Otherwise, only our men will respect us, and even they will do it reluctantly, — one of Poroshenko’s team later regretted.

The ‘Young Team’

Serhiy Berezenko a 32-year-old MP from Poroshenko Bloc is trusted by Poroshenko and is another of the hawks.

Berezenko was one of the shadow managers of Poroshenko’s staff during the presidential campaign. He was responsible for ‘working in the fields’, i.e. managing the oblast cells of Poroshenko Bloc. After Poroshenko’s victory Berezenko became chief of the Office for the State Management of Affairs [Ukr: Державне управління справами].

Berezenko comes from the ‘young team’ of Leonid Chernovetsky [ed: a.k.a. Lyonya ‘Cosmos’] — the notorious former mayor of Kyiv. In 2006 he became a member of the city council of Kyiv as a local deputy from Chernovetsky bloc on a quota from Our Ukraine political party [associated with President Yushchenko, who was acting president].

Berezenko’s uncle — Anatoliy Matviyenko, who is now one of the deputy heads of the Poroshenko Bloc faction, helped his nephew to get into big politics. Nowadays Berezenko has his own working cabinet in the Administration building and he is one of Poroshenko’s close advisers.

In 2010 part of Chernovetsky’s Bloc splintered to create the Initsiatyva [En.: Initiative] group in the Kyiv City Council. The new group was led by Ihor Kononenko, the current ‘grey cardinal’ of Poroshenko Bloc, who at that time got to the city council as a member of the Chernovetsky Bloc. Berezenko joined Initsiatyva.

During his ‘working for Poroshenko in the fields’ period Berezenko was responsible for interviews with candidates who wanted an opportunity to become an MP from Poroshenko Bloc via local constituencies [Ed: Ukraine currently uses a ‘mixed’ elections system, with 50% (or 225 MPs) elected by national party lists with a 5% election threshold and the other 50% of the seats elected in 225 local constituencies].

The ‘Dnipropretrovskies’ political group of Ihor Kolomoiskyi and his associates told journalists that Berezenko was responsible for ‘selling the constituencies’ of the Poroshenko Bloc.

Berezenko himself became an MP after winning elections in the 205th constituency of Chernihiv, where he controversially defeated Gennadiy Korban [Ed: whose subsequent arrest and the role of Ihor Kononenko in it we have already described above]. The Chernihiv campaign of Berezenko became one of the dirtiest in the electoral history of modern Ukraine.

— Berezenko is gifted but cynical. He hasn’t yet got tired of quarrelling with everyone. When you get tired of quarrelling — you learn to make compromises. You should not push others out when you can simply come to terms with them. He hasn’t realized this yet, — describes our source in the Administration.

Like Kononenko, Berezenko works on votes collection in the Rada. His trump card is his friendship with Oles Dovhyi — another typical representative of the ‘Young Team’. Dovhyi is an MP of the People’s Will parliamentary group [which was founded by the late Ihor Yeremeyev, who died in 2015 after a horse riding accident. The group includes controversial personalities like another fan of horse riding and current high profile corruption suspect Oleksandr Onyshchenko, founder of Aidar Battalion Serhiy Melnychuk and a ‘singing rector’ Mykhailo Poplavskyi].

According to Serhiy Leshchenko [the journalist who followed Lozhkin in Mystetskyi Arsenal at the beginning of this article and who is now MP from Poroshenko Bloc] Dovhiy adds votes that are necessary for the coalition to have some issue passed in the Rada. In Poroshenko Bloc, Kononeko and Berezenko are responsible for communication with him.

— The mistake of Berezenko is that he started speaking to MPs in a manner as if he is ‘settling issues’ in the name of Poroshenko. The truth is that his political weight is insufficient so far, — one of Poroshenko’s close allies told us recently.

Our sources say that the ‘curator’ of the law-enforcement agencies in the President’s team is Oleksandr Hranovskyi, MP from Poroshenko Bloc and associate of Kononenko.

Leshchenko calls the Department of Investigation and Supervision of Criminal Proceedings in the spheres of the State Service and Property the ‘Kononenko-Hranovskyi Department’.

This department launched investigations against the former Deputies to the Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko and Davit Sakvaleridze and tried searching the offices of the Anticorruption Action Center NGO.

Hranovskyi denied everything until journalists filmed his meetings with prosecutors, judges and former officials. In early May 2016 Dmytro Gnap filmed Hranovskyi talking to Serhiy Lysenko, the chieftain of the Lysye Ptitsy [En: Bold Birds] clique in the Office of the Prosecutor General.

This clique became notorious, when the transcripts of their instant messengers were published. The transcripts revealed a discussion of the ways to deal with a public activist: should a criminal investigation be launched against him or should he be simply beaten.

After that, journalists of Radio Liberty filmed Hranovskyi conducting a number of meetings in the Inc. restaurant in Kyiv. He met former Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Volodymyr Demchyshyn, Head of the Kyiv State Forensic Research Institute Oleksandr Ruvin, head of the District Administrative Court for the City of Kyiv Pavlo Vovk, and Serhiy Tyshchenko — owner of Ukroilproduct, which bought the arrested petrochemicals of Serhiy Kurchenko.

Journalists only recently discovered the name of Oleksandr Hranovskyi
(bottom row, in the center) and his ‘potential’

Ukrayinska Pravda sources note particular role of Hranovskyi in the communication of the Administration with Ihor Kolomoiskyi.

— I know that he is engaged in particular in issues related to the procedure of restructuring Ukrnafta and is engaged in any communications with Privat on behalf of the President, — notes our high-ranking source in the Administration.

Recently our sources repeatedly mention the increasing role of another personality — the managing partner of ICU investment firm Makar Paseniuk.

His name became known to the media during the offshore scandal in April 2016. The financial adviser to Poroshenko then stated that all taxes from the sale of the corporation will be paid to the state budget of Ukraine and that the transfer of Roshen to a blind trust was completed the next day after the Panama Papers scandal began. Yet, Paseniuk’s role in the personal affairs of Poroshenko is not limited to finance and investments.

In Autumn 2015 a video record appeared on the Internet, in which a man with the likeliness of Makar Paseniuk is talking to the management of 112 TV Channel. In it the financial adviser to the President asks the person he is talking to about a favor: to remove the leader of the Radical Party Oleh Lyashko from the air of Shuster Live because Paseniuk’s partners ‘are kindly asking to do so’.

— I would call him a consiglieri of Poroshenko, who is responsible for the President’s former business and is talking to a great number of businessmen on the requests of Poroshenko. Makar is spending enough time on Bankova [ed: the street on which the Administration of the President is located], — tells an employee of the Administration.

An important Ukrainian businessman, whose business is related to oil trading, comments on Paseniuk’s role: "In business circles it is well known that Makar is settling various sensitive issues for the President, not only the issues of the blind trust. His influence is underestimated by journalists. Partially this can be explained by the fact that Makar has no official position with the government".

Paseniuk might get an official position soon. In Spring 2016 he was named among the candidates to lead the Administration when Lozhkin quits.

Ukrayinska Pravda asked Paseniuk for a meeting to ask him questions related to his role in the President’s team, but he did not answer. 

Another person, who is influencing the President is Viktor Medvedchuk — kum of Russian president Putin [and former Head of the Administration under Yanukovych] and official member of the Minsk group on exchange of POWs.

According to our sources, nowadays he is the main communicator between Kyiv and Moscow. "Poroshenko listens to him on issues of peace negotiations in Donbas and future elections there. Medvedchuk was the main communicator of Nadiya Savchenko’s return to Ukraine. What is the most important: the President always sticks to the word he gives to Medvedchuk," — emphasizes our source in the Administration.

Our other source, whose main business is the energy market, illustrates the relationship between Poroshenko and Medvedchuk by stories of coal supplies from the separatist-controlled territories when the origin of the Ukrainian coal was disguised as ‘South African Republic’ or the sale of the Prykarpattya Zakhidtrans oil pipeline — in both cases investigations by independent journalists figured out that the transactions were performed by the people of Medvedchuk.

"To pull off a deal of such a scale you need the tacit approval of at least the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry. As we know, he was appointed on the quota of Poroshenko Bloc," — concludes our source.

There are no people in the President’s team, whom he would listen to unquestioningly. They all are guided by their personal or business interests, political ambitions or desire to prove their rightness in their rush to influence him. Poroshenko trusts nobody but himself. All the others he simply lets closer or pushes further. ‘A Tsar’ —  this is a precise description of Poroshenko by one of our sources.

— The iconic description of Poroshenko is that he registered an offshore, which in the very end brought him a lot of trouble, in his own name. He even did not use his family members. The explanation is: he trusts nobody, — explains a close political ally of Poroshenko.

Nevertheless, Poroshenko might need his close allies this autumn, when the new political season starts. Autumn is also a time when the Administration expects a rush of popular anger and fall of Poroshenko’s ratings after people start getting heating bills based on the new tariffs. Experts are also tentatively discussing a potential early parliamentary election this spring.

The real dilemma for Poroshenko is that even his closest allies might start their own game to avoid sinking with the ship. Such intrigues might start exactly because of Poroshenko and his closest allies.

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