Ukrainian PM Yatsenyuk Resigning

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced yesterday that he is resigning his office effective tomorrow. The delay seems merely to be so that constitutional niceties can be observed. His replacement is likely to be Volodymyr Groysman, a supporter of President Petro Poroshenko. This gives the president an opportunity to turn his low approval ratings around, but at the same time, he risks the inability of any Ukrainian government to root out corruption becoming his personal failure. While the West is likely to give the new government some time, its patience is not infinite. Mr. Putin is still a threat as well. Things in Ukraine are going to get worse before there is a chance they can get better.

Mr. Yatsenyuk has seen his popularity collapse in the last several months. The BBC notes, “Mr Yatsenyuk came to power promising to tackle corruption and implement economic reforms but has increasingly become the focus of accusations of corruption, even though no concrete evidence was produced.” Whether he has done corrupt things or whether this is a whispering campaign by his political enemies is neither here nor there. He has been painted with the brush of corruption and so has lost the support of the people. H barely survived a vote of no confidence in February, but as expereinced a further erosion in his backing if polls are to be believed. Certainly, he has done nothing concrete to alter perceptions.

Meanwhile, President Poroshenko has come under fire thanks to the Panama Papers. As a billionaire (from chocolate manufacturing if the official story is to be believed), he probably has more reason to engage in off-shore banking, and according to the leaked papers, has done so.Mossack Fonseca set up an offshore company for him. Whether this was a legitimate way to manage his overseas funds or whether he is hiding money from his own government, one cannot say. However, it looks truly awful, and that will harm him and his future prime minister.

The Kyiv Post stated, “Poroshenko has said he is ready to face any investigation into his affairs, as revealed by the Panama Papers scandal, but experts say the president runs next to no legal risk in doing so.

“Under the constitution, the president has immunity from prosecution, which can only be removed in the case of his impeachment. Impeachment, in turn, can come about only if it can be proved that the president committed a crime or treason against the state, which legal experts doubt in the case of the offshore scandal.

“Besides, while Ukraine’s constitution mentions impeachment, there is no legislation that specifies the procedure.” It would seem that no matter how weak and unpopular President Poroshenko is, the only way he will leave office is at the end of his term or at bayonet point. Thus, Ukraine is likely to struggle no matter what.

Mr. Yatsenyuk’s resignation is being brushed aside in Moscow. The Russians are concerned with the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which set a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian national forces and pro-Russia rebels. DmitryPeskov, spokesman for the Russian government, told TASS, “Of course, we think that change of government and prime minister should not hamper what has been stalling for over a year already . . . . We still hope that Kiev will fulfill the commitments it assumed.”

He added that Yatsenyuk “is not remembered for making any contribution” to settling the Ukrainian crisis. “In reality, Mr Yatsenyuk is not remembered for making a contribution to normalization of relations between our countries,” he added. “He is also not remembered for any contribution to settling the Ukrainian crisis, I mean the situation in the south-east,” he concluded.

As for the rest of the world, the key to Ukraine’s future is its IMF relationship. More funding hinges on successful anti-corruption actions. Right now, it’s all uncertain except for the continuing weakness in Kyiv.