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by John Helmer, Moscow 

Advertisements for replacements of Vladimir Zelensky aren’t unusual, even if he has disposed of almost all of them already.

That leaves just one, Andrei Yermak, head of the Presidential Office —  prompter, grey eminence, comfort blanket of Zelensky in almost every significant move he has made since 2019– and now candidate to become prime minister in a revolutionary transfer of power in the Kiev regime,  reducing the presidency to a shadow; centralizing all military and civil command in Yermak’s office,  but letting Zelensky stay alive.

Advertising Andrei Yermak to be prime minister is unusual in Vzglyad, the semi-official platform in Moscow for political and security analysis. This is especially so at this point in time when President Vladimir Putin has identified the Kiev regime as responsible for the Crocus City Hall attack,  and  the General Staff are escalating the Russian offensive on the ground along the line of contact east of the Dnieper River,  and in the air deep into the west as far as Lvov.  

What war aim would be served by Vzglyad’s signal that Yermak may be an acceptable counterparty to the Kremlin for negotiations to end the war short of regime capitulation – unless the signal is a false flag,  intended to encourage Zelensky to save himself by eliminating Yermak, as he did General Valery Zaluzhny, and thereby leave nothing and no one in Kiev to put a brake on the Russian resolve to create a demilitarized zone all the way to the Polish border.

What follows is a verbatim translation of the publication on April 9 of a piece in Vzglyad by Vasily Stoyakin, entitled “The all-powerful ‘Green Cardinal’ is operating behind Zelensky’s back”.  There is no precedent in the mainstream Russian media, nor in military blogs and the internet media, for promotion of any end for the Zelensky regime, except its end.  A profile of Yermak which is neutral to positive towards the role he has played so far and may play in the future is so exceptional that the fact  it appears now is more significant than what the story, compiled from earlier publications, actually says.   

Oleg Tsarev, a leading Ukrainian opposition figure in exile in Russia and potential candidate for the Ukrainian president after the Russian victory, has ignored Yermak in his regular Telegram commentaries; Zelensky and Yermak targeted Tsarev for assassination in Crimea last October, but failed.

Dmitry Rogozin, a possible presidential candidate for the Russian presidency, has mentioned Yermak once in his Telegram channel, declaring: “the Bandera leadership of Ukraine has embarked on the path of ‘the final solution of the Russian question.’ Well, [they are] creative people. [They are] comedians [Zelensky], [television] producers [Yermak]. Hitler was also an artist. Mediocre. But in other respects he surpassed everyone. This, apparently, is enviable. They want to repeat it. We’ll have to do it again.”  Rogozin is currently senator for the Zaporozhye region. He was targeted for Ukrainian assassination in Donetsk in December 2022; he survived.

There are two reasons why Yermak might be considered by the Kremlin to be the substitute for Zelensky with whom a negotiated settlement can be reached. One is that it has reportedly happened before. In September 2020, when Yermak and Zelensky were meeting in Muscat, Oman, with the Omani foreign minister and other officials, the Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, flew to Muscat and reportedly met them for several hours. What happened between them remains secret. Less secret is that the aircraft on which the two Ukrainians returned to Kiev was identified to be the same aircraft which had brought Patrushev to Oman.

The secrecy was exposed by the US government’s propaganda organ, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and then amplified by the Ukrainian press.  Yermak claimed the report “does not correspond to reality”  attacking the US-financed Ukrainian source for “a blatant manipulation of public opinion [as]  part of the aggressor’s information operations against Ukraine.”  Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed the reported meeting was “a classic example of fake news”.  

The second reason for possible Russian favour for Yermak is a long history of his family’s connections to Russia. His mother is a Leningrader; his father, a Jewish Kievan, served in a   Soviet government agency in Afghanistan;  since then he and Yermak himself have had personal and business connections with Russians engaged with the intelligence services.  

Stoyakin cites no official Russian source on Yermak and draws this uncertain conclusion: “Last year, it was assumed that in the event of Zelensky’s death, Yermak could head a particular  collective management body that would replace the president; according to the Constitution, the acting speaker [Ruslan] Stefanchuk should be, but he does not enjoy authority. Some western media even believe that Yermak may become Zelensky’s successor. Ukrainian political analysts, given Yermak’s low popularity, believe that the head of the OP [Office of the President] will try to become prime minister while retaining control of the president’s office. At the same time, the centre of the country’s political life will move to the government. However, it seems that such a change is possible only in peacetime – in wartime, the main focus is still on the military sphere, which is subordinate to the president.”

For a backgrounder on Yermak’s career, read this.  

The US-Ukrainian sources for the reported Omani talks between Zelensky, Yermak,  and Patrushev claim that Zelensky and Yermak arrived in Muscat on January 5, 2020. Zelensky’s stay at an Omani hotel was first reported, with photographs, by Strana.ru. Another Ukrainian source, texty.org.ua, then published details of associated flights arriving and leaving from Muscat around the same time; these included the arrival of Victor Medvedchuk, the Ukrainian opposition party leader close to Putin, in the afternoon of January 7. He was followed a few hours later by an aircraft arriving from Moscow. The next day that aircraft returned Zelensky and Yermak to Kiev. The Medvedchuk aircraft then flew to Moscow.  

The published Ukrainian investigation at the time concluded: “What did Zelensky and Yermak talk about with representatives of the Russian authorities dealing with security issues? We can only guess.”  

Two official records of Zelensky’s and Yermak’s meetings in Muscat on January 5-8, 2020. Above, Zelensky with the Omani Foreign Minister,Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. Below, Zelensky and Yermak with the President of the Omani State General Reserve Fund.  

In the past week Yermak has been courting the English-language media to press for more money from the US Congress, more Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. “We know that Putin is preparing a new wave of mobilization and we reckon new counter-offensive operations by the Russians could start at the end of the May or the beginning of June. Of course, we have to be ready for this. We still critically need additional air-defense systems because without them it is impossible to for us to defend our cities…I’d like to emphasize that it’s a critical moment now. It’s very important the [Congressional] package is approved this month…[there has] to be payback for what the Russians are doing to us. We must ruin their critical infrastructure — as the only language they understand is force.”  

He ruled out negotiations with Moscow. “The Russians are not interested in any negotiations. They want the capitulation of Ukraine. But it will never happen — all of us who are in Ukraine, we will not accept any compromise on our independence, on our territorial integrity, on our freedom. And this president will never agree to anything like the Minsk agreements or a frozen conflict. No, I’m sure about that.”  

These publications appeared in the US and German-owned Politico on April 4. Five days later Vzglyad published this.  

Source: https://vz.ru/world/2024/4/9/1262431.html 

April 9, 2024
The all-powerful “green cardinal” is operating behind Zelensky’s  back
By Vasily Stoyakin

Ukrainian political scientists claim that the leader of the Kiev regime does not make any decision entirely on his own. Out of necessity he consults with another official – the head of his administration, the office of the President of Ukraine, Andrei Yermak. What kind of person is this, where did he come from,  and what is his real power over both Ukraine and Zelensky?

Recently, Ukrainian experts have been paying more and more attention to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine [OP], Andrei Borisovich Yermak. He had previously played an exceptionally large role in Zelensky’s entourage, and after the resignation of Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council [Alexei] Danilov and first assistant to the president [Sergei] Shefir, this influence became total. Who is this man who, as it was said in a document from another historical era, “concentrated immense power in his hands”?

Left to right: Andrei Yermak, Alexei Danilov, Sergei Shefir. 

How did Yermak get to Zelensky

Andrey Yermak was born on November 21, 1971 in Kiev. He comes from an intelligent family, his father worked at the Artem rocket factory, and [was] the head of the personnel department of the USSR trade mission in Afghanistan.

Yermak is Zelensky’s colleague, who is also a lawyer, and his education is not less prestigious – Yermak graduated from the Institute of International Relations of Kiev University. In addition to the degree, he immediately received extra awards as an English translator (he really speaks better than Zelensky) and the right to practice law.

Yermak is often reproached with the fact that he started in legal service for the stalls in the market, but there is nothing surprising here – it was the 1990s, so where should one start? Many people who have made a career in business and politics have started with something like this. Moreover, then he went into a growth business, found his niche – copyright. He worked with media manager Evgeny Rybchinsky (son of the famous Soviet songwriter Yuri Rybchinsky).

In the mid-2000s, he met Vladimir Zelensky, who had just started appearing on television.

In 2011, he began working with Studio Kvartal-95 as a producer. In 2017, Yermak became the producer of the films “The Rule of Battle” and “Inter” (unrelated to the “Quarter”). At the same time he became a member of the Ukrainian and European film academies. Later, three more films were released under his production and co-production. Information about Yermak’s role in the “Quarter” is contradictory – it can be said for sure that the cooperation began with legal issues, while Yermak’s interests as a producer went far beyond the projects of the “Quarter”.

In 2018, Yermak became a member of Zelensky’s election headquarters. On May 21, 2019, Zelensky appointed Yermak as his assistant. In this position, he oversaw foreign policy and international relations, including negotiations with Russia and the republics of Donbass. He was responsible for organizing meetings in the Normandy Format on the Ukrainian side.

For a detailed briefing on the Normandy Format negotiations which Dmitry Kozak held with Yermak, click to read.  

On February 11, 2020, Yermak was appointed head of the Office of the President. It is believed that the resignation of his predecessor Andrei Bogdan was the result of a conflict with Ermak.

Contradictions in Yermak’s policy

Yermak’s relationship with Zelensky is quite peculiar – until 2022, they were separated  extremely rarely. In 2020, they even fell ill with coronavirus synchronously and were treated together at the nomenclatura hospital in the resort area of Feofaniya. This caused jokes in the media community, but for some reason they did not grow into rumours, although there is no information about Yermak’s marital status in open sources. It was only after the outbreak of the armed conflict that he began to travel abroad on his own – and, one must think, at the moment he has acquired an impressive number of lobbyists in the allied countries of Ukraine.

At the same time, Yermak is not a public politician. He rarely gives interviews. The posts of the head of the OP on social networks are sets of emoticons. He refuses to comment on these puzzles. However, he expresses most of what needs to be communicated to the public through his speaker, ex–Belarusian journalist and political strategist Mikhail Podolyak.

The first situation in which Ermak was publicly highlighted was an attempt to oust Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko in the summer of 2019; Yermak was opposed to the removal of the Kiev mayor. Yermak then met with Trump’s lawyer [Rudolf] Giuliani – and they agreed on something. In any case, Klitschko still keeps his place, and relations between Ukraine and the United States have improved, culminating in Trump’s introduction of the strongest sanctions against Russia before the start of his campaign.

Yermak’s political image is controversial. On the one hand, he was suspected of having ties with Russia: his father is allegedly a GRU employee (this is almost certainly not true); his mother is a native of Leningrad (this is the basis for suspicion); his former business partner Rahamim Emanuilov is called a person connected with the top of the Russian government. Yermak denies that their partnership was of a financial nature).

On the other hand, there is a point of view that it was Yermak who initiated the turn of Zelensky’s policy towards Galicia.

This could be due to his close relations with Western special services – the British, first of all; Americans do not trust Yermak. There is also the fact that his brother Denis participated in the ATO in 2014 as part of the Nazi Aidar battalion (recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia). However, both circumstances are not so contradictory – suspicions of sympathy for Russia often push Ukrainian figures to demonstrate a nationalist position.

On November 4, 2022, Yermak met in Kiev with US National Security Adviser, Jacob Sullivan. Russian media reports claim Yermak is much closer to the British government than to the US, and as a result the US is hostile to the expansion of Yermak’s powers at the expense of Zelensky.

Yermak in video conference with the British National Security Adviser Sir Timothy Yarrow, on February 24, 2024.  

By the end of 2023, Yermak took the fourth place in the ranking of the most influential people in Europe according to Politico (in the “figures” category), second only to Meloni, Macron and von der Leyen. The publication called him the “green cardinal” of Ukraine.

How and what does Ermak affect?

And so Yermak is Zelensky’s strongest and closest ally. His influence is truly immense. Firstly, Yermak manages the office of the president, and now also has influence on the staff of the National Security Council, which prepares all the important documents related to the activities of the president.

Any decree or order of Zelensky passes through Yermak, and he has enough influence to dissuade the president from signing it or, on the contrary, suggest some kind of solution.

Secondly, Yermak, through David Arakhamiya, controls the work of the Servants of the People faction in the Verkhovna Rada and coordinates negotiations with opposition factions. That is to say, the legislative power is also under his control.

Thirdly, Yermak directs personnel policy, including in areas which are not directly managed by the OP. For example, the government cannot propose to the president the candidacy of the head of the local administration, unless it would have been previously agreed with the OP. It also has an impact on the appointment/removal of judges. It is difficult to assess Yermak’s influence on the military sphere, although it can be said with certainty that the conflict which ended with the resignation of Commander–in-chief Zaluzhny was provoked by the leadership of the OP.

Yermak with General Valery Zaluzhny, April 27, 2023.

Only Zelensky’s first assistant, Sergei Shefir, could match him in weight, but he has left. Now Zelensky is left without alternative sources of information – and he can only rely on Yermak.

Last year, it was assumed that in the event of Zelensky’s death, Yermak could head a particular  collective management body that would replace the president (according to the Constitution, the acting speaker [Ruslan] Stefanchuk should be,  but he does not enjoy authority). Some Western media even believe that Yermak may become Zelensky’s successor. Ukrainian political analysts, given Yermak’s low rating, believe that the head of the OP will try to become prime minister while retaining control of the president’s office. At the same time, the centre of the country’s political life will move to the government. However, it seems that such a change is possible only in peacetime – in wartime, the main focus is still on the military sphere, which is subordinate to the president.

The level of trust in Yermak among the population of the country is low. For example, according to last year’s June study by the Razumkov Center, Yermak ranked eighth among political figures of Ukraine in terms of trust (38%).  Yermak’s electoral rating was not measured. Recall that the data of Ukrainian sociologists should not be trusted. At least for now – while the fighting is going on.

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