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Gaidar's Daughter Plans Social Reforms In Ukraine's Odesa

  • RFE/RL

Maria Gaidar told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on the sidelines of a Kyiv press conference on July 20 that she would work under Saakashvili to oversee the social sphere, where the biggest challenges are "corruption and a lack of openness."

Maria Gaidar told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on the sidelines of a Kyiv press conference on July 20 that she would work under Saakashvili to oversee the social sphere, where the biggest challenges are "corruption and a lack of openness."

A Russian activist and politician who last week agreed to serve as a deputy governor in the tense Ukrainian region of Odesa has vowed to launch social reforms and help fight corruption there.

Maria Gaidar, the 32-year-old daughter of late former acting Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, was chosen for the Odesa post last week by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was himself tapped by Kyiv in late May to govern Odesa.

There are still questions over the specifics of Gaidar's appointment, which faces potential hurdles over a Ukrainian-citizenship requirement.

But Gaidar told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on the sidelines of a Kyiv press conference on July 20 that she would work under Saakashvili to oversee the social sphere, where the biggest challenges are "corruption and a lack of openness."

"We would like to open a citizen's office, where people could come to discuss corruption, make suggestions or complaints so we could talk with them, analyze their situation, and work to effectively resolve their problems," Gaidar said.

Gaidar pledged to work to improve the lives of displaced persons who come to Odesa from conflict zones in eastern Ukraine, saying their situation is "the most acute issue."

Kyiv and the West accuse Russia of supplying troops and weapons to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine to feed that conflict, which has killed more than 6,500 people since Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.

Harvard-educated Gaidar, who is both an economist and a lawyer by profession, previously worked as deputy governor of Russia's Kirov region in 2009-11 and advised Moscow's deputy mayor in 2012-13.

Saakashvili said when he announced her appointment on July 17 that he had asked Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to grant Gaidar Ukrainian citizenship.

"There is war going on. There are the dead, the refugees," Gaidar said. "It's a fact that there is a war going on between Russia and Ukraine, there is no question about it."

Gaidar was criticized in Ukraine for appearing hesitant to denounce Russia's occupation and seizure of Crimea.

Gaidar said she supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

She wrote on her blog on July 18 that she opposed "the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine" between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops.

Gaidar, a prominent activist and vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said she took part in opposition demonstrations when not many people protested against the government.

Gaidar's appointment has been criticized in Russia as a betrayal.

"Working with people of which Russia has a very bad opinion is perceived not only as defiance against power, but also against all Russians," Nikita Belykh, governor of the Kirov region, said.

Gaidar also said she would oversee reforms of health care and other sectors.

"My task is to attract international experts so they come and help to study the situation and create an appropriate reforms program, which I will begin to implement," Gaidar said.

Her father, who served as acting prime minister in 1992, helped launch Russian economic reforms after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He died in 2009.

Saakashvili, whose appointment to the Odesa gubernatorial post in late May shocked many people, earned early praise for dismissing security and customs officials suspected of involvement in bribery.

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