Russian politician stirs debate after Ukraine appointment

Gaidar expressed to Ukrainian media that she hoped to institute social reforms to help fight rampant corruption, largely from security and custom officials.
By Jared M. Feldschreiber  |  July 20, 2015 at 5:40 PM
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ODESSA, Georgia, July 20 (UPI) -- Maria Gaidar, the daughter of former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar, was nominated last Friday to assume the role of deputy governor in the Ukrainian region of Odessa.

Gaidar was selected by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, currently the governor of Odessa. Saakashvili, president of Georgia during that country's 2008 war with Russia, was appointed governor and granted Ukrainian citizenship by President Petro Poroshenko in May.

Gaidar told Ukrainian media on Monday that while she did not want to give up her Russian citizenship, she will still follow Ukrainian legislation and may work with the head of the Odessa regional administration as an adviser.

Gaidar hopes to institute social reforms to help fight rampant corruption, largely among security and customs officials.

There are numerous questions over particular specifics of Gaidar's appointment, which still faces potential hurdles over a Ukrainian citizenship requirement, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"We would like to open a citizen's office, where people would come discuss corruption, make suggestions or complaints so we could talk with them, analyze their situation, and work to effectively resolve their problems," she told Radio Free Europe's Ukrainian Service on the sidelines of a press conference in Kiev. Gaidar also pledged to improve the lives of displaced persons coming into Odessa from the conflict zones of eastern Ukraine.

Gaidar's Kremlin critics view her appointment as deputy governor as a betrayal. A Russian citizen, she is also a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin. The Kiev Post reported on Monday that Gaidar does not want to give up Russian citizenship.

She previously worked as the deputy governor of Russia's Kirov region between 2009 and 2011, and advised Moscow's deputy mayor in 2012, Radio Free Europe reported.

While she recently wrote on her blog that she always "supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine," and opposed "the annexation of Crimea and the war in east Ukraine," she had previously gone on record to say that Crimea was rightfully returned to Russia, despite international condemnation of the annexation, The Interpreter reported.

Saakashvili has vowed a uniform crackdown on corruption in Odessa; he has already fired previous security and customs officials for their part in accepting bribes.

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