Igor Shevchenko joins the Saakashvili team in Odessa

On 2nd July, the Rada voted with 235 votes in favour, to dismiss then Ministry of Ecology & Natural Resources of Ukraine, Igor Shevchenko.

Upon his dismissal Mr Shevchenko stated that he was considering running for Mayor in the local elections, due in late October, in either Kyiv or Odessa.

Although somewhat fanciful perhaps, it was a statement of a clear intent to remain actively in Ukrainian politics.

Igor Shevchenko

Yesterday, 19th July, Mr Shevchenko announced that he was to join the team of Governor Saakashvili in Odessa as a “freelance advisor”.

If nothing else, it is in keeping with Governor Saakashvili’s recruitment drive for western educated, reform minded personnel to be sat around the Governor’s policy top table.  Mr Shevchenko becomes the second Harvard graduate to be appointed to the team in a matter of days following the announcement of the appointment of Maria Gaidar as Deputy Governor.

His role will apparently be to “promote the rapid implementation of a number of specific investment projects that have already started or are planned to be implemented in the Odessa region, attracting new investors and the organization of new investment projects, assistance to Odessa Business in collaboration with the central government in Kiev, and assistance in solving their problems at the national level”.

Part trouble-shooter, part lobbyist - but not part of the official Odessa Oblast Administration executive organagram (unless in brackets somewhere).

The obvious question therefore, as Mr Shevchenko clearly meets the Saakashvili tick-box of western educated and previous holder of (senior) governmental position, is why he is employed as a “freelance advisor” and not in a permanent Oblast executive role?

With Governor Saakashvili increasing coming to ever-more public loggerheads with Dnepropetrovsk MP Boris Filatov, is perhaps directly employing an ex-minister that fell out with a populist like Oleh Lyashko and The Radical Party, deemed unnecessarily risky for PR purposes?

Is it (unlikely as it seems) the decision of Mr Shevchenko to begin to ingratiate himself into the Oblast psyche in preparation for a run for Mayor, without taking a position he would therefore have to resign from if successful, and/or being able to distance himself from any Oblast/Saakashvili faux pas that may come to pass prior to any run for office?

Perhaps Mr Shevchenko can best serve the Governor (and hopefully Odessa) in the “advisory role” in and around the Kyiv circuit specifically without any permanent role in the Oblast.  With his connections within and without Ukraine, Mr Shevchenko is perhaps best suited for “shuffling around behind the curtain” amongst the Kyiv (and Davos) clique?

Maybe the rumours of nefariousness that were circulated regarding the actions of Mr Shevchenko when Ecology Minister have some merit, and thus “advisor” is as close as Governor Saakashvili will allow Mr Shevchenko to get - an insurance policy against anything substantive hitting the media, whilst simultaneously making the most of a Harvard educated Ukrainian who knows a little about governance?

Certainly the western educated, government experienced, Saakashvili run Oblast “policy top table” is not yet completely assembled with chairs for the right candidates vacant.

It is thus interesting as to why Mr Shevchenko is to be employed in the role he has been given.  Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as long as Mr Shevchenko ably fulfills the role he has taken on.