The president began work in 2013 with making new appointments. Incidentally, he finished the past year in a similar way by forming a new Cabinet of Ministers. Oleksandr Yakymenko was appointed Chairman of the State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) the other day, while his predecessor Ihor Kalinin became advisor to the president. Before this, Yakymenko was SBU First Deputy Chairman and chief of the SBU Central Directorate’s Main Department to Combat Corruption and Organized Crime.
Naturally, journalists immediately rushed to seek information about the new secret service boss. Interestingly, the SBU website contained some biographical data of all the deputies and even Kalinin himself, but there was nothing about Yakymenko. Unfortunately, lack of openness is typical of the current leadership. More often than not, very little-known people are appointed to top governmental offices. What can we write these days about the newly-appointed SBU chief? First of all, he is a man of the Family, i.e. a creature of Viktor Yanukovych’s son Olensandr. Another widely-cited factor is closeness to Russia (birth, education, residence, etc.), which, incidentally, has been a tradition in the last few appointments of SBU and Defense Ministry heads.
Here is some information. Yakymenko was born in 1964. He graduated from the Yeysk Higher Air Force School in 1986. After the graduation he served in Choibalsan, Mongolia, and Hvardiiske, the Crimea. In 1997 Yakymenko graduated from the Yuri Gagarin Air Force Academy in Russia. He flew the Su 37 fighter aircraft and resigned from the Russian Air Force in 1998. No further information is available until 2010. Yakymenko held the office of Sevastopol SBU chief from March 17, 2010, until August 5, 2011. He was appointed Donetsk oblast SBU chief on August 5, 2011, and SBU First Deputy Chairman on July 5, 2012.
Another change of portfolios is Ihor Sorkin. The Verkhovna Rada managed to approve his appointment as National Bank governor on January 11. That the president had put forward the candidature of Sorkin was a foregone conclusion.
One more appointment has remained almost unnoticed, but, in the view of political scientist Viktor Nebozhenko, it is “far more important than that of Yakymenko or Sorkin.” It is dismissal of Serhii Larin as chairman of the Kirovohrad Oblast Administration and his promotion to deputy head of the Presidential Administration. That Larin is in for a higher office has long been a matter of chats. He and Oleksandr Vilkul, the former Dnipropetrovsk oblast boss, were considered by far the most successful “governors” in Ukraine.
Here is some information. Larin was born in 1962 in Khartsyzk, Donetsk oblast. In 1981 he graduated from the Donetsk Polytechnic School as electrical technician and then from the Kharkiv Engineering and Pedagogical Institute as electrical engineer and mechanic. He was deputy head of the Party of Regions (PoR) Donetsk regional branch from 2001, deputy chairman of the PoR Political Executive Committee from 2003, and member of the PoR parliamentary faction from 2007 onwards. He was appointed chairman of the Kirovohrad Oblast Administration on April 6, 2010.
The blogs of the Kirovohrad-based Ukraina-Tsentr portal are full of comments on the new appointments. In particular, the portal’s editor Yukhym Marmer writes: “SN [Larin. – Author] is clearly feeling sad. He says he knew about the decree long ago, but when he saw it on the president’s website, his heart began to ache. He said in no uncertain terms that he would remain at a phone call’s distance. He firmly believes in Andrii Nikolaiienko [new chairman of the Kirovohrad Oblast Administration. – Author], in his ability to keep the course unchanged.” A user named Rainbow writes below: “Well, a few years ago Kirovohrad oblast was also just a place to be exiled to. SN has a talent to transform the world around him. Yanukovych is feeling bored, so he decided to bring the main creative soul closer to himself.” The editor responds: “I think it is one more step before a major appointment.”
Den wrote a year ago about an initiative of the Kirovohrad Oblast Administration (see: Den, No.12. January 26, 2012). Kirovohrad hosted an international forum, “Yelysavetgrad Is a Creative City,” which was the beginning of a long-term program of Kirovohrad’s strategic development based on territorial market studies and branding.
Having analyzed the available information and interviewed our experts, we can make five conclusions about the new appointments.
One: lack of information prompts various commentators to make a superficial analysis. Nobody is very much sure of their conclusions or, to be more exact, conjectures.
Two: a growing influence of the Family. But it is still unclear whether it is good or bad. As they put it, like cures like. It is obvious so far that the president’s sons are in fact shaping a parallel information channel (in addition to the official structures) for Yanukovych.
Three: the Russian roots of the new uniformed services bosses. But the same was said about their predecessors – SBU Chairman Kalinin and Defense Minister Salamatin. As a result, Yanukovych dismissed them. So is the role of Russia that great?
Four: people from the regions are being appointed to top governmental offices. In addition to Larin, we can cite the example of Oleksandr Vilkul, not to mention the never-ending influx of Donetsk officials to Kyiv.
Five: there are some new faces. At least for the time being, they have not been seen leaving an odious trace.
THE PRESIDENT APPOINTED YAKYMENKO BECAUSE HE CAN REFORM THE SBU
Yurii SAMOILENKO, member of the Ukrainian Parliament from the Party of Regions, chairman of the Civic Council at the Security Service of Ukraine:
“Oleksandr Yakymenko is an experienced professional. Once, when I headed the Donetsk Oblast SBU Directorate, he served under my supervision. So I know him as one who has made a career from an operative to the SBU chief.
“In November-December 2012 I conducted three meetings as Civic Council chairman. Mr. Yakymenko and the SBU chief’s advisors were also present. He supported the plan of the actions the council is to take in order to introduce openness and transparency into the secret services, familiarize the public with the SBU’s position on some nationwide political problems, and spotlight some negative facts that, unfortunately, still remain in the work of this body. I have no doubts at all that he will also continue to follow this line now that he has assumed the office of SBU chairman.
“In my opinion, the president appointed Yakymenko as Security Service chief, an office previously held by Kalinin, because he is an official who is capable of reforming this agency. The newly-appointed chairman has reported to the president on the plan of reforms and must have created the impression of an individual who can make the necessary changes in the work of the secret service in compliance with the requirements of today.
“General Skybynetsky and I submitted a revised draft law on the SBU, but we had to call it off. The laws that govern the secret services’ performance should comply with the existing strategy of national security. Now this strategy has at last been mapped out and approved. Our council and the SBU itself are busy drawing up a new law that calls for a closer civic and parliamentary control over the security service. Yakymenko has a lot of ideas about reforming the secret services.
“As to the claim that Yakymenko is taking a dim view of the media [he says in a published interview that journalists should be “swept away with a broom.” – Author], I do not agree to this. When he was still an operative, my policy was that we should be open and furnish information, except for the instances when it is about, say, a state secret. I think he got it then.”
I CAN SAY NOTHING ABOUT THE NEW SBU CHIEF BY THE THREE CRITERIA
Valentyn NALYVAICHENKO, member of the Ukrainian Parliament from the UDAR party, ex-chairman of the SBU:
“The SBU chairman should be appointed and supervised by parliament. The candidature for this office should be discussed and approved in good time by the relevant committee. People have the right to know who will be responsible for their security.
“The SBU chief must pursue a preemptive tactic in organizing the secret services’ work and, at the same time, he should not infringe the rights and freedoms of people – the Ukrainians should not have their phones tapped and their offices bugged illegally and the antiterrorist center should forestall blasts and terrorist acts.
“Undoubtedly, being free of corruption is important. I can say nothing about the new SBU chief by these three criteria.
“It would be a good idea if he and his deputies showed people their incomes and expenditures by making public their tax declarations. When I was the SBU chief, we did so every year.
“Unfortunately, there is no such thing as staff-placement policy in the SBU. When somebody is appointed or reappointed, it is nothing but a fuss about portfolios.
“A true staff-placement policy is, first of all, solution of the social and legal problems of rank-and-file SBU officers, such as housing, legal status, and adequate salary. Functions clearly defined by the law, social security of the officers’ families – this is what the SBU’s staff-placement policy should be all about.”