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11 Feb, 2020 16:15

Surkov & Bogdan out: Russia & Ukraine announce new negotiators as relations slowly thaw

Surkov & Bogdan out: Russia & Ukraine announce new negotiators as relations slowly thaw

For two decades he has been a big beast on the Moscow political stage, but the Kremlin has finally confirmed that Vladislav Surkov is no longer Russia's point man in Ukraine.

The news came over two weeks after it was first speculated in Russian media. He will be replaced by President Vladimir Putin's new Deputy Chief of Staff, Dmitry Kozak. Meanwhile, Kiev made a change of its own today, with Andriy Yermak coming in for Andrei Bogdan as President Volodymyr Zelensky's own Chief of Staff.

Some, including Echo of Moscow editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov, believe the two moves are related, and a signal both governments want to make progress on ending the almost six-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine. 

Yermak has previously stated that he dealt with Kozak in talks about prisoner swaps between Kiev and Moscow. He described their dealings as "constructive," and indicated his belief that Kozak is more open to dialogue with Ukraine than his predecessor. A former film producer and lawyer, Yermak is credited with handling Kiev's response to Ukraine-centred scandals surrounding US President Donald Trump. It's believed Zelensky has been appreciative of his efforts.

The opposition 'Batkivshchyna' party — led by Yulia Timoshenko — accused Zelensky of making his foreign policy to suit Russia. The Ukrainian President rejected this assertion.

Announcing the appointment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the exact wording and outline of Kozak's responsibilities is not yet "formalized." But he confirmed Kozak is now the chief Presidential representative dealing with Ukraine.

"I can say that, yes, Kozak is engaged with Ukrainian affairs and will deal with these issues in his new position," Peskov revealed. Meanwhile, he also pointed out that Surkov officially remains a government employee. Moscow daily RBK claims he wrote a letter of resignation on January 24.

It was previously reported that Surkov is leaving the civil service, based on statements from his close associate Alexey Chesnakov, who said the move was "in connection with the change of course in policy towards Ukraine."

Also on rt.com Long-time Putin aide Vladislav Surkov leaving Kremlin ‘over Ukraine course shift,’ reports claim

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