Ukrainian officials concerned about Zelenskyy’s dependence on Yermak – The Times

Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukrainian officials are concerned about President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s increasing dependence on his Chief-of-Staff, Andriy Yermak, The Times wrote on June 7.

As Zelenskyy’s first presidential term was coming to an end, anonymous senior government, military, law enforcement, and diplomatic sources expressed concern about his growing dependence on Yermak.

The Times writes that the head of the President’s Office is accused of “accumulating personal power and usurping democratic processes.”

Since the introduction of martial law, which allows Zelenskyy to remain in office until the war ends, Yermak’s power exceeded all Ukrainian officials except the head of state.

In a number of interviews, some sources referred to him as the “de facto head of state” or “vice president of Ukraine,” newspaper noted.

Read also: Yermak meets with China’s top envoy in Kyiv

At the same time, diplomatic sources complained that the head of the OP fully controls access to the president, and G7 ambassadors hoping for an audience with Zelenskyy met with Yermak instead.

The Presidential Office dismissed the criticism as “propaganda attacks,” insisting that Zelenskyy regularly meets with ambassadors, but is often out of the country or has more pressing matters to attend to.

It also argues that the criticism stems from Yermak’s “direct but effective” management style, pointing to his success in initiatives that include bringing international partners to the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland.

According to The Times, dismissals of the Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Deputy Prime Minister for Reconstruction Oleksandr Kubrakov are also linked to actions of the head of the Presidential Office.

In addition, military officials accuse Yermak of keeping Zaluzhnyi as far away from the head of state as possible, and then organizing his dismissal from the post of Armed Forces chief. According to officials, Yermak considered Zaluzhnyi his rival.

“Concerns are growing that Zelenskyy is increasingly relying on a handful of sycophantic domestic voices, a fear that is becoming even more acute as the number of officials with direct access to the president shrinks and Yermak’s team grows,” publication notes.

Read also: Zelenskyy’s chief-of-staff Yermak and his influence — expert interview

The article also mentions the deputy head of the OP, Oleh Tatarov. A high-ranking law enforcement official claims that Yermak uses Tatarov to ensure the loyalty of criminal justice officials.

“He is extremely effective, he knows the system and the people who work in it,” unnamed official added.

“He has no moral constraints and knows how to accumulate money.”

Read also: Time's 100 most influential: Yermak in, Zelenskyy out

Yermak’s influence in Ukraine

In April, Andriy Yermak was included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in the Leaders category. He was the only Ukrainian to make to the list. Zelenskyy was not included.

Read also: Ukraine needs just peace, not merely any peace — President's Office

The Washington Post on May 18 reported that Yermak had become the most powerful presidential chief of staff in Ukraine’s history.

The article noted that the conditions of martial law in Ukraine had concentrated “exceptional power” in the Office of the President and that this made Yermak very influential, almost indistinguishable from the head of state.

BBC-Ukraine citing a source in the Ukrainian government, reported on May 20 that in early 2022, Yermak did not believe in a full-scale Russian invasion and convinced Zelenskyy of this.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine