Ukraine Lawmakers Remove Powerful Infrastructure Minister as Zelenskiy Asserts Control

(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian lawmakers voted to dismiss the nation’s powerful infrastructure minister as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy seeks to reassert control over key areas of government.

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The removal of Oleksandr Kubrakov, who had also served as deputy premier in charge of wartime reconstruction, was backed by legislators on Thursday. The ruling parliamentary majority had moved to break up the current Ministry for Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development — which was only set up two years ago — into separate offices, one to focus strictly on infrastructure and the other on regional development.

While neither Zelenskiy nor his office has publicly attacked Kubrakov directly, the motion to remove him was initiated by 40 deputies. All but three of them were members of the president’s Servant of the People party, which has a majority in the 401-strong legislature.

“A cooling in relations with Kubrakov and an increased critical attitude toward Kubrakov by the president was at work here,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta research institute in Kyiv. “This is probably the main motive behind this staff decision.”

Prior to the vote, Kubrakov said that Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had not discussed this decision with him. “I was not invited to the meeting of the parliament committee either,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

As a young technocrat who joined the government three years ago, Kubrakov’s brief was expanded after Russia’s invasion to cover infrastructure repair, as well as current and future postwar reconstruction efforts. He may yet return to head a new infrastructure ministry, the Hromadske website reported, citing unidentified lawmakers from Zelenskiy’s party.

After the war started Kubrakov became one of the officials who signed United Nations’ grain deal. He was a co-chairman of Multi-agency Donor Coordination Panel, which was set up by the Group of Seven to arrange international funding for Ukraine’s recovery, only to be replaced at the end of last year.

His removal comes as Russian missile and drone strikes continue to inflict damage on the country’s power system, prompting questions about the effectiveness of efforts to protect vital infrastructure.

Parliament also voted on Thursday to dismiss Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi, who became a target in a graft probe looking into a state-owned land grab in the eastern Sumy region. He was released from detention last month after posting $1.9 million bail.

--With assistance from Olesia Safronova.

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