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Ukraine's Powerful Interior Minister Tenders Resignation


Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov (file photo)
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov (file photo)

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, one of the nation's most powerful officials, has resigned after more than seven years in the job.

Avakov, 57 , submitted his letter of resignation on July 13, according to a post on the Interior Ministry’s website. He did not disclose any reason for his sudden decision.

Parliament is expected to accept his resignation on July 15.

Avakov's decision to step down comes amid growing speculation President Volodymyr Zelenskiy intended to sack the powerful minister for his failure to back certain decisions before 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 in March said 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 investigations that he calls politically motivated.

A former governor and party leader, Avakov is considered to be the second- or third-most powerful person in the country after 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 has been able to build strong support in the parliament and because he 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.

Ukrainskaya Pravda described the Interior Ministry under Avakov as the “last center of power” not controlled by Zelenskiy’s office.

The interior minister controls most of Ukraine's law enforcement bodies, from the national police force on 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.

Just hours after Avakov’s announcement, Zelenskiy named Denys Monastyrskiy, a lawmaker from his Servant of the People party, to replace the outgoing minister.

Monastyrskiy currently heads the parliament’s Law Enforcement Committee.

Analysts said the immediate announcement of a successor supported speculation that Zelenskiy had been planning to oust Avakov.

Monastyrskiy told reporters later in the evening that he expected to be approved by parliament during a vote on July 16.

With reporting by the Kyiv Post and Ukrainskaya Pravda
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