Politics

Ukraine's Poroshenko offers ex-British PM Tony Blair a job

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has offered former British prime minister Tony Blair a job as an advisor as he continued his overhaul of government staff, seeking to increase his country's effectiveness in responding to Russian aggression.

Since last summer, in a bid to increase Kiev's political ties with the West and strengthen Ukraine's diplomatic hand with Russia, Poroshenko's government has approached several high-profile political figures from abroad to become advisors and even officials. Earlier this year Poroshenko set up the Advisory International Council of Reforms, admitting the likes of former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, former Slovak prime minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili.

Now Poroshenko has extended the invite to Blair to join the council after he and the former British leader met in Kiev yesterday, according to the press service of the Ukrainian president's administration.

According to Kiev, Blair highlighted security and internal reforms as the main challenges facing the Ukrainian government at the moment and emphasized that the global community had every desire to help Ukraine.

"It is an approach of a true friend of Ukraine," Poroshenko said in response, asking the former British prime minister to share his experience in public administration by joining the Advisory International Council of Reforms. No public response from Blair on this offer has been given.

The council's significance is not inconsequential as Saakashvili, who was appointed its head in February has since been appointed a regional governor of Odessa, one of the Western-most regions in Ukraine with a sizeable Russian-speaking population. The region's historical significance has made it a frequent target for pro-Russian guerilla groups which have organised bombings in a bid to export the conflict in Eastern Ukraine to the region.

Former US presidential candidate and current Arizona senator John McCain has also previously been invited to join the council, however he had to turn the offer down because he believed accepting it would clash with his commitments in the US legislature.

Poroshenko's staff rotation this week has not just been consigned to advisors as he has also today dismissed the head of Ukraine's security services (SBU), Valentin Nalyvaichenko.

Poroshenko tabled a proposal in Ukrainian parliament to dismiss Nalyvaichenko which was supported by 248 out of 364 MPs. According to a member of the president's party the decision was not motivated by anything other than the desire of hiring someone with experience in intelligence to reflect the increased internal threat from Russia.

"There is no internal intrigue, of a personal or a political character in this [decision]," Yury Lutsenko from the Poroshenko Bloc party told Ukrainskaya Pravda. "It is simply that the head of state wants the SBU to now be headed not by a diplomat, not by a politician but by a professional official from an intelligence agency."

"As the war in the east turns into a half-frozen conflict and the new strategy for the pro-Russian terrorists is to subvert Ukraine from within, a new challenge is coming and the appropriate response is necessary. To respond to this new challenge a new figure must head the security service of Ukraine," he added.

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