RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Autor)
Ukrainian lawmakers have accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, one of the nation's most powerful officials, who led the ministry for more than seven years.
Avakov, 57, who served as minister in the last four governments, submitted his letter of resignation two days before parliament voted on July 15 to accept it.
Avakov did not disclose a reason for his sudden decision, which comes amid growing speculation that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy intended to dismiss him for his failure to back certain decisions taken by the National Security and Defense Council, a stance which some in the administration perceived as a lack of loyalty. Avakov is a member of the council.
Avakov's replacement may be considered by parliament as early as July 16.
Immediately after Avakov announced his intention to resign, Zelenskiy named 40-year-old Denys Monastyrskiy, a lawmaker from his Servant of the People party, as the person he wanted to replace the outgoing minister.
Analysts said the immediate announcement of a successor supported speculation that Zelenskiy had been planning to oust Avakov.
Avakov said in March that he would not support imposing sanctions on Zelenskiy's chief rival, former President Petro Poroshenko, adding he was not "an enemy of Ukraine." Avakov served under Poroshenko, who is now under investigation for abuse of office charges he calls politically motivated.
A former governor and party leader, Avakov is considered to be one of the most powerful people in the country behind Zelenskiy and his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.
He was one of only two ministers from Poroshenko’s team to be invited to join Zelenskiy’s first government in 2019 headed by Prime Minister Oleksei Honcharuk. The other -- Finance Minister Oksana Markarova -- was fired in March 2020.
Avakov has been able to hang on to his post despite several changes of government because he had built strong support among lawmakers and because he likely possesses potentially compromising information on politicians, Ukrainskaya Pravda said in a June 17 article focusing on rumors of his possible dismissal.
Avakov's departure potentially strengthens the power concentrated in the presidential office, said former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst.
The interior minister controls most of Ukraine's law enforcement bodies, from the National Police force down to local police departments, as well as the National Guard.
The border guards, Coast Guard, Emergency Situations Ministry, and Migration Service also fall under the control of the Interior Ministry.
Avakov has been a divisive figure in Ukraine during his tenure, facing calls in recent years to step down, including in 2020.
Critics had long accused Avakov of failing to rein in police abuses, carry out reforms, and promote law and order in the country. He has also been accused of corruption.
His continued presence at the ministry appeared to become a drag on Zelenskiy’s ratings.
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