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Dismissal of Oleksandr Tkachenko: A Controversial Tenure in Ukrainian Culture and Information Policy
On July 27, Ukraine witnessed a significant event in its political landscape as the Verkhovna Rada, the country’s Parliament, voted 321 to 2 to dismiss Oleksandr Tkachenko from his ministerial role in culture and information policy.
The issue was brought to a vote after the Parliamentary Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy rejected Tkachenko’s earlier resignation, which he had tendered on July 26. The circumstances leading to his resignation were marked by growing discontent and mounting criticisms from various quarters.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s involvement surfaced when he requested Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to consider replacing Tkachenko on July 20. Tkachenko, however, pre-empted any formal dismissal by announcing his resignation, citing a “wave of misunderstanding about the importance of culture in wartime” as the reason behind his decision. “Culture in war is as important as drones. Because culture is about both the past and the future. This is what unites us, it is about talents. It is ultimately about our soft power in the world,” he said on the Telegram app.
In his resignation statement, Tkachenko emphasised the crucial role of culture during wartime and argued that funds allocated for cultural initiatives were equally significant as those invested in military assets, as culture serves as a shield for national identity and borders. Nevertheless, his words sparked a mixed response on Ukrainian social media, with one soldier’s sarcastic tweet suggesting that a good movie would suffice for soldiers in the trenches.
Oleksandr Tkachenko’s appointment as the minister of culture in June 2020, following his election as an MP for the Servant of the People party in July 2019, met with disapproval from many within the Ukrainian cultural sector. A petition demanding his dismissal had gained traction and garnered 25,000 signatures in June, the minimum requirement for government consideration.
Tkachenko’s tenure was marred by controversies, with various incidents sparking public outrage and calls for his removal. In August 2022, protests erupted when the Dovzhenko Center, housing Ukraine’s most prominent film archive, faced reorganisation and relocation, leading to accusations against Tkachenko’s role in the decision-making process. Critics claimed the move was influenced by property development interests, given the centre’s strategic location in Kyiv.
The minister’s budget allocations also came under intense scrutiny. Particularly contentious were decisions regarding state-funded television programming during wartime, with concerns raised about its impact on freedom of information and expression. Additionally, the allocation of funds to produce Ukrainian television series and the construction of the National Memorial Museum of Holodomor was criticised, particularly considering the wartime context.
President Zelensky cited Tkachenko’s decisions on budget allocations as the primary reason for his dismissal. He stressed the need for fair and appropriate use of budget resources and suggested seeking private funding for genuinely necessary cultural projects. Critics, however, expressed concerns that Tkachenko’s replacement might remain the same as the cultural sector’s policies.