Pavlo Kyshkar is a new parliament member, but he says he will continue to use a bus to get to the Verkhovna Rada. He will also wear his fatigues to the session hall to help his colleagues “visualize the war.”
Kyshkar is one of more than a dozen men in the current parliament who come from the war front. Although many political experts remain skeptical about their value in the legislature, 34-year-old Kyshkar insists it’s a good thing for now.
In May, Kyshkar gave up his peaceful life in Thailand. He quit his job as a financial controller for a tourist company and came back to Ukraine, along with his wife and two daughters.
He then volunteered for the war, where he coordinated the information campaign of the volunteer Donbas Battalion.
He started attending Samopomich (Self-Help) party meetings in late August. “I wanted to influence the situation,” Kyshkar explains. “I used to know many politicians and I had a feeling there was an abyss between those in power and ordinary people.”
While stationed in the east, he and other fighters were amazed with the slow pace and passive reactions of Ukraine’s politicians. “We saw top officials doing nothing. And some of their appointments we can’t comprehend at all, for example Valeriy Heletei as defense minister.”
This poor leadership was another reason that pushed Kyshkar to come to Kyiv. Now he has high expectations from Samopomich that won 32 seats in parliament. Kyshkar hopes that his party will change the political environment with their clear “natural ideology.”
He is still naive. He gets agitated when he hears government representatives’ explanations at public forums on why things cannot be done quickly. He wants fast action, like on the front lines.
He understands, though, that the new parliament will not be totally new, even though it’s already been dubbed the most pro-Western parliament Ukraine has ever had. It’s also the youngest.
“Only the next parliament will be new,” Kyshkar says. “We need to admit this one still has lots of people who shared the Soviet past, including me,” he explains.
Kyshkar’s top priority is ensuring success in Ukraine’s war with Russia. Kyshkar says that he does not understand Russia’s plans.
“There is a real threat that one day we won’t see Kyiv the way it is now. It may happen simply with a couple of airstrikes. And that is something that our top officials and oligarchs need to understand,” he says.
His other priority is to make public spending more transparent. “There are systems in Europe that help to track embezzlement,” Kyshkar says.
Kyshkar says he has experience writing legislation and that at least 11 of the laws he originally drafted are currently in effect. They are mostly related to land and agriculture. Legislation to improve the business environment is another key priority.
Kyshkar also hopes that the new parliament will overhaul the judicial system and adopt a new defense doctrine.
“We also need to ask the president to encourage more volunteers for the army,” he says. “It’s effective only when people who are willing to fight go to the front.”
Kyshkar says he still has much anger towards the politicians who represent the old regime of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych because of how they damaged the country. “We have to deal with it somehow, because we need to communicate with them now,” he said.
For now, humor is a weapon. “The next parliament will be different and Samopomich will get 226 votes there,” Kyshkar grins.
But the plan for now, he says, is for his party to kickstart the long-awaited reforms. The party will not accept jobs in the government to do it, however. “People voted for us as lawmakers,” Kyshkar explains, even though they do have skilled managers in their ranks.
“At least Samopomich will pass all the draft laws we have been working on in the shortest time possible, so they can be passed soon,” Kyshkar says.
“You know, my family has its own set of rules – a constitution. One basic point there says that we were born to change the world. Somehow it has lots in common with what we are going to do now.”
Kyiv Post staff writer Olena Goncharova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.