As Ukraine and Zelensky have been pulled into the U.S. impeachment drama in recent months, the 41-year-old comedian-turned-president has had domestic turmoil of his own to navigate, including an ongoing conflict with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Zelensky won a landslide victory last spring on a promise to crack down on corruption and curb the influence of the country’s powerful oligarchs. Honcharuk was helping to spearhead that campaign.
In the recordings that leaked this week, Honcharuk said in a closed-door meeting with several ministers that Zelensky “has a very primitive understanding of economic processes.” But Honcharuk went on to describe himself as an “idiot” when it came to the economy.
Honcharuk did not deny that it was his voice in the audio, but he said on Facebook that the recording was doctored from “snippets of government meetings” to give the impression “that I and my team do not respect the president.”
“Many groups of influence, which are trying to gain access to financial flows, benefit from such a presentation, but this is not true,” Honcharuk added. “I came to this post to execute the president’s program. He is a model of openness and honesty for me. I wrote the resignation letter to cast away any doubts of our respect for and trust in the president.”
The government flap came just two days after Ukraine’s powerful rival, Russia, upended its Cabinet, with President Vladimir Putin obtaining Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s resignation and promptly replacing him with Mikhail Mishustin.
Stern reported from Kyiv, Ukraine.