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Ukraine's Minister Of Facebook

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is not shy about sharing his opnions on social media.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov is not shy about sharing his opnions on social media.

Angry about continued protests outside Ukraine's parliament building and an apparent attack on a female journalist, a Facebook user vents his anger on his personal page.

"The real Ukrainian warriors [the troops fighting against separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions] will return from the front for just a minute and beat you so bad you'll never think about doing it again," he says.

The author of this post wasn't some random keyboard jockey. It was Ukraine's interior minister, one of the most visible members of the country's new government.

Welcome to the world of Arsen Avakov. Since his appointment in February, he has used Facebook to post a seemingly stream-of-consciousness accounting of his views on the Ukrainian crisis.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry does have an official site. But for Avakov, a 50-year-old ethnic Armenian who was born in Baku and brought up in the rough-and-tumble political world of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, Facebook appears to be better suited to his style.

Nevertheless, his frequent declarations on the crisis, particularly about Ukrainian troops' ongoing battle against separatists in the country's east, have led some to question whether he should show some decorum more appropriate for his new ministerial role.

Below are some examples from Avakov's Facebook page:

Major Announcements, Including Russia's Invasion Of Crimea

On February 28 Avakov wrote that armed men occupying Crimea's Belbek Airport "do not hide their affiliation with the armed forces of the Russian federation" and added for emphasis that it was "AN ARMED INVASION AND OCCUPATION IN VIOLATION OF ALL INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS AND NORMS."

As journalist Leonid Ragozin pointed out at the time, this may have been a historical first:

Avakov was right about the Russian invasion, but at other times the information he has provided on Facebook has appeared questionable. He frequently reports unverified figures, like deaths of armed pro-Russian separatist deaths, on his page.

Invective At Russian Leaders

In June, Ukraine's then-acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya outraged Moscow after using a profanity to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Avakov too has used some salty language of his own in reference to Russia's leaders.

In this photo, posted by Avakov in early July, someone had scrawled the same expletive directed at Putin as had been used by Deshchytsya earlier. Avakov half-heartedly distanced himself from it, saying the words were someone else's "private opinion."

Avakov has also focused his ire at Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying once on Facebook that he lied "as naturally as an alcoholic drinks vodka."

Of course, there's no love lost on Russia's part. Moscow issued an international arrest warrant for Avakov and Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskiy in June, accusing them of using "banned methods of warfare, aggravated murder, hindrance to the professional activity of journalists, and abductions of people in eastern Ukraine." (Avakov said this showed Russia had "high regard" for his work, on Facebook, of course.)

Sometimes He Throws His Police Forces Under The Bus

One of Avakov's first acts as interim interior minister was to sign an order disbanding Ukraine's Berkut riot-police unit, which had become one of the main objects of ire for those opposed to former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine in February.

"BERKUT IS NO MORE," Avakov wrote.

But with the Berkut disbanded and some local law enforcement in the east either disappearing or joining with armed pro-Russian separatists, Avakov has frequently used Facebook to vent his anger at forces under his command.

After a fire at the Odesa state administration building left over 40 pro-Russian separatist supporters dead, Avakov was quick to blame local Interior Ministry troops for allowing the situation to get out of hand. In a post on Facebook, he called the police effort "disgraceful and possibly criminal."

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    Glenn Kates

    Glenn Kates is the former managing editor for digital at Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. He now reports for RFE/RL as a freelancer.