The struggle for control over Kyiv exacerbates in Zelenskyi’s team. In 2019, the city had a record budget of over UAH 58 billion (the 2020 budget is planned to reach UAH 65 billion). Control over Kyiv utility companies (metropolitan, advertising, transport, parking, construction of houses, roads and bridges, landscaping, renovation of premises, purchases and permits, etc.) annually gives corrupt officials hundreds of millions of dollars of shadow revenues. In addition to purely commercial interest, the President’s Office is interested in political control of Kyiv because the capital is a political gateway to Ukraine. Political revolutions and the biggest protests against the authorities have always started in Kyiv. Therefore, loyal local government is the key to the political stability of parliament and government. The mayor of Kyiv and city administration grant permits for protests; Kyiv city authorities have infrastructure facilities and premises at their disposal, and service central authorities.
The environment of Volodymyr Zelenskyi has divided to 5 groups of influence competing for control of Kyiv. They have completely different motives and agenda.
- Group of “Kolomoiskyi-Bohdan” promotes the head of the humanitarian committee of parliament Oleksandr Tkachenko (former media manager of 1+1 channel of oligarch Kolomoiskyi). The well-known “Saga Group” developer Andriy Vavrysh works for them in the capital. Vavrysh wants to take control of the construction business of Vadym Stolar “Kyivmiskbud” and Maksym Mykytas “UKRBUD” (both are under criminal investigation). “Kolomoiskyi-Bohdan” group has initiated a major war against Vitaliy Klychko in August, which failed to proceed further than the dismissal of Klychko from the post of the head of the KCSA. Oleksandr Tkachenko actively communicates with Western diplomats, created the inter-factional formation of “New Kyiv” and became a driver for the development of a new law on Kyiv. At the same time, Andriy Bohdan (supported by the lawyer Andriy Portnov) is actively terrorizing Klychko and his immediate surrounding with criminal cases conducted by the NABU and the State Bureau of Investigation. The anti-corruption authorities are also actively pressuring another partner of Vitaliy Klychko, Artur Palatnyi, who owns the largest UKR.NET media resource and a network of illegal strip clubs and gambling businesses. The “Bohdan-Tkachenko” group likes Deputy Head of the Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko, Yuriy Kostiuk and Andriy Smyrnov.
- “Kvartal” group headed by Serhiy Shefir sees comedian Yevhen Koshovyi as the mayor of Kyiv, and Andriy Palchevskyi as the head of the KCSA. The last may play the role of a technical candidate against Klychko. This group advocates for the avoidance of sharp steps in Kyiv. They do not want to make Klychko their enemy. According to the group, the Kyiv authorities should be restarted after the elections to the Kyiv City Council in spring or fall 2020. According to the available information, Shefir has put his efforts for the suspension of the appointment of Oleksandr Tkachenko to the post of the head of the KCSA. In turn, Tkachenko submitted the e-declaration for the post almost two months ago. It was Shefir and Yermak who insisted that Tkachenko was a toxic person who would damage the image of the President and testify about his connection with Kolomoiskyi. The first deputy head of the Office Serhiy Trofimov and the “Zaporizhzhia team” work closely with Shefir.
- This group is headed by a tandem of “Andriy Yermak-Tymur Mindych” who lobby for appointing Mykola Tyshchenko (the owner of restaurants, has a common business with the family) and restaurateur Harik Korohodskyi to the Kyiv authorities. The “Yermak-Mindych” group is interested in working with Klychko in Kyiv if he shares his shadow business and appoints new deputies and managers of the most profitable businesses, namely, illegal gambling establishments, parking lots, strip clubs, control over profitable utility companies, such as the Metropolitan, Kyiv passenger transport, “Kyiv” Channel, “KyivmiskBud”, “KyivAvtodor” and many others. In addition to international affairs, Andriy Yermak has interests in trade. Interestingly, before work in the official government, Yermak was the lawyer defending owners of small stalls and shops (small chaotic outlets are called “MAF” meaning “small architectural form”).
- Group consists of liberals Oleksiy Honcharuk, Maksym Nefiodov and Aivaras Abromavicius who push for placing in Kyiv the restaurateur and former leader of the “Samopomich” party in Kyiv – Serhiy Husovskyi. This liberal group is supported by Viktor Pinchuk and the Czech investment banker Tomas Fiala who has a strong interest in the real estate market in Kyiv. Thus, Fiala pursues his pragmatic interest by supporting Husovskyi who has blatantly weak positions and the image of a failure coordinator of “Samopomich” faction in the Kyiv City Council. Husovskyi unites people from Kyiv party “Samopomich”, Honcharuk’s BRDO asset, and people of the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov (former “Liudy Vazhlyvi” project). Liberals, supported by Avakov, want to get their quotas in Kyiv and district administrations of the capital to create their basic electoral region in Kyiv and use it in the future. The Liberal group understands that after the resignation of Honcharuk’s government, it will lose its positions. Thus, the foundation for a new political project must be created now.
The new party leader Oleksandr Korniyenko began actively creating the 5th group of interest. As a party organizer and a party leader, he has his own strategy for Kyiv (Korniyenko wants to delegate his people to Kyiv City Council deputies and to the capital districts). Potentially, during the creation of district and city party organizations of the “Sluha Narodu”, Korniyenko will enter into a political clash with other more powerful players. So far, one of Korniienko’s most important political allies is the shareholder of the “Sluha Narodu”, Illia Pavliuk. Speaker of Parliament Dmytro Razumkov is offended at Bohdan and actively communicates with Korniyenko, as well as several MPs who were included in the party list on the recommendation of Korniyenko. Korniyenko will be responsible for the local elections, including such in Kyiv. Therefore, other shareholders of the “Sluha Narodu” will be forced to listen to his opinions and staff proposals.
It should be added that all the four groups oppose the appointment of Oleksandr Tkachenko from Kolomoiskyi’s orbit to the post of the head of the KCSA. Bohdan’s and Tkachenko’s opponents persuade Zelenskyi that Tkachenko would fail the winter-heating period in Kyiv due to his incompetence. Due to this, the ratings of the President and the “Sluha Narodu” party may fail before the local elections. Second, they believe that Tkachenko’s appointment as head of the KCSA is another signal to Western creditors about influence of oligarch Kolomoiskyi on Zelenskyi. Therefore, the President is advised to stay away from Tkachenko until a new agreement with the IMF is reached. Another conflict line between the influence groups is the struggle for the appointment of heads of party organizations and District State Administrations in Kyiv, which are likely to be divided by the quota principle.