Ihor Plahuta is the new commander of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces. This is another change in the highest Ukrainian command in recent days. However, Płahuta’s nomination attracted media attention due to his past. – During Euromaidan, he was “on the wrong side of the force”, he served in the internal troops – recalls Jakub Ber, a specialist at the Center for Eastern Studies. It was the internal troops who were then responsible for trying to suppress the protests by force.
President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, he appointed Ihor Plahuta as commander of the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine. In this role, he replaced Anatoly Barhyłevich, who took over as chief of the general staff. This is another in a series of changes in the highest Ukrainian command, which began on Thursday changes in the position of commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army.
Ihor Płahuta “on the wrong side of the force”
However, as reported by the Ukrainian media, Ihor Plahuta was in the past the commander of the internal forces subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, when at the turn of 2013 and 2014 Euromaidan and the so-called Revolution of Dignity, i.e. the political and social changes that broke out against the power of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. It was the Interior Ministry troops who then tried to suppress the pro-democracy protests by force, killing and injuring many civilians.
Why did an officer of the forces suppressing grassroots protests at that time receive a job in the highest Ukrainian command? As Jakub Ber, a senior specialist from the team, explains in an interview with tvn24.pl BelarusUkraine and Moldova Center for Eastern Studies, “Ihor Płahuta is a relatively unknown figure.”
– He had an episode during Euromaidan, he was “on the wrong side of the force” then, he served in the internal troops, but there are no strong allegations against his actions at that time – he notes. – Even people who fought against the Euromaidan regime at that time do not make strong accusations against it today. There is no information that Płahuta ordered clubbing, beating or any other unethical behavior, on the contrary. It is said that he tried to release his emotions and tried to face the whole situation – says the expert.
The new commander of the territorial defense forces of Ukraine
Jakub Ber points out that from the beginning of the invasion Russia to Ukraine in February 2022. Plahuta has not been involved in independent command at a higher level so far, but his new position is directly related to the appointment of Oleksandr Syrski as the new head of the Ukrainian army.
– Płahuta is considered to be associated with Syrski, he previously served on his staff – he notes. – However, it should be remembered that this is not a key position in the entire command system in Ukraine. The Chief of the Territorial Defense Forces in Ukraine is an administrative position rather than a commanding, operational position, he emphasizes. According to Ber, if there is no scandal involving Płahuta, or new facts from the past that discredit him come to light, “no one will remember his existence in a week.”
According to the expert, the appointment of an Interior Ministry officer from the Yanukovych era as the new head WOT therefore, it should not affect the popularity of the Ukrainian president. – Zelensky’s closest circle already includes people from Viktor Yanukovych’s circle, including Oleh Tatarov, deputy head of the president’s office – he notes. – After the outbreak of the war in 2022, some of these people fled abroad or were sent to prison for high treason. However, some of them remained and still belong to the president’s close circle – he adds.
Jakub Ber also emphasizes that although Ukrainian society is reconciled with the presence of such people in the structures of power, “at the same time, an enlightened part of the Ukrainian army believes that people like Plahuta, even if they did not defile themselves during Euromaidan, is not the time and not the place to were in the army and held commanding positions in it.
Zelensky is building his own faction
So the question remains: why does Volodymyr Zelensky keep Yanukovych’s former people in his administration at all? – This is a question for Zelensky – replies Jakub Ber, admitting at the same time that “he has this style of exercising power.” – Like every politician, Zelensky is building his own faction, and such people are convenient for him because they have no other career options in politics. So they can be more loyal to the president, more faithful to him, he explains.
According to the expert, Zelensky’s past should also not be forgotten. – He came to power with the slogan of achieving peace with Russia, but he was brought to power by the eastern part of Ukraine rather than the western part. And on December 31, 2013, when Euromaidan was underway in Kiev, Zelensky hosted a New Year’s Eve party on Russian state television, he recalls. The OSW analyst also points out that in recent days Volodymyr Zelensky has announced a total of a dozen general nominations in the highest Ukrainian command, and they are generally well assessed. – I also evaluate them positively as a whole. In some cases, officers with great authority and merits for the army were appointed, he says. – It was a smart move by Zelensky, because he got rid of (the current commander-in-chief of the army) Valery Zaluzhny, a man very popular in society and the army, but at the same time he covered this dismissal with the appointment of other, very popular younger officers, such as Syrski’s deputy for drones. Wadym Sucharewski – estimates Ber.
Euromaidan and the Revolution of Dignity
The Revolution of Dignity triggered by Euromaidan went down in history as mass public protests against President Viktor Yanukovych. Demonstrations broke out in November 2013 in response to Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the association agreement with the European Union. Over a few days of the bloodiest clashes with Ukrainian militia and special forces, over 100 protesters were killed. They were remembered as the “Heavenly Hundreds”.
The Revolution of Dignity protests continued until February 2014, when Yanukovych was overthrown and fled to Russia. This initiated a series of events: including: Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and the war with Moscow-backed separatists in Donbass.
Ukrainian Truth, PAP, tvn24.pl
Main photo source: Getty Images Europe