KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday appointed a well-known volunteer as governor in one of the two war-torn regions in the east in a possible sign of a policy change.
Since hostilities broke out in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, killing more than 6,400 people, the Ukrainian government has controlled only parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Poroshenko on Wednesday signed the order on live television to appoint 51-year-old Heorhiy Tuka, a former telecom executive, as governor of the Luhansk region presenting him as a “man with an immaculate reputation, intolerant to corruption and (who has) Ukraine in his heart.”
Tuka, known for his efforts helping Ukrainian troops with supplies, is replacing hard-liner Hennadiy Moskal who decreed that civilians were not allowed to travel between rebel-controlled areas and the government-controlled part of the region.
Tuka’s appointment could signal Kiev’s intention to reach out to the Ukrainians living in rebel-held areas and reverse Moskal’s scorched earth policy which ran against Kiev’s commitment for a political settlement in the east.
International observers have criticized the Ukrainian government for restricting the freedom of movement of residents across the front line. Authorities on the Ukrainian side have also been suspected of turning a blind eye on a smuggling business which flourished in the area after Kiev imposed a de-facto frontier with the separatist-held areas.
During Tuka’s presentation in Severodonetsk, the region’s temporary capital while Luhansk remains in rebel hands, Poroshenko said the new governor’s primary task will be to clamp down on the flow of contraband and corruption associated with the crossing the front line.