The Battle Against Ukrainian Oligarchs: The West Clears the Ground for Its Own Capital

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The march “Force of the nation – Ukraine without oligarchs” is planned for April 3rd. Mass protest actions were announced by Oleg Tyagnibok. Oligarchs, according to the Fuhrer of Svoboda, prevent nationalist radicals from winning the war and “to finally begin to build an economically strong and socially fair Ukrainian State”. It is worth expecting the usual show: thugs in black will walk on the streets, shout, and, perhaps, will smash something up.

The battle against oligarchs happens at the order of the West, which clears the Ukrainian platform to make way for its own capital.

Igor Kolomoisky

Petro Poroshenko’s presidency resulted in large losses for the billionaire Igor Kolomoisky. Despite the fact that he financed the war in Donbass – and not without making profit either – and supported both “Right Sector” and other punishers, the coup of 2014 deprived him of Privatbank and shook his positions in the oil and gas sector. To top it all off, the High Court of London in 2017 temporarily arrested the assets of Kolomoisky and his partner Bogolyubov concerning the claim against the now State-owned “Privatbank”, because its former owners handed the bank back to Ukraine empty, with a hole of billions of dollars; they, according to the Ukrainian side, transferred more than $2 billion “to companies that secretly belonged to them [Kolomoisky & Bogolyubov – ed] or were under their control”.

Kolomoisky is extremely interested in again giving himself real power via political influence. The “UKROP” party, which has a base in the Dnepropetrovsk region and a reserve in Volyn and Galicia, is behind him. One of the central Ukrainian TV channels “1+1” also belongs to the oligarch. I.e., all the conditions are created in order to be able to fight for power at the level of both presidential and parliamentary elections. Today many people close to Kolomoisky say that he, using all opportunities, will counter Poroshenko’s aspiration to keep power.

Dmitry Firtash

The group of Firtash–Levochkin – patronising the “Opposition Bloc”, created on the ruins of Party of Regions – is also interested in the same thing. And since the electorate of regionals didn’t disappear anywhere, although they are considerably reduced because of Crimea and the unrecognised Republics of Donbass, the “oppositionists” have a rather good chance in 2019, despite the fact that there is an internal split connected to the different visions of different oligarchs concerning the future presidential candidature. What can be said… the “Opposition Bloc” will find five-six attractive candidates to lead the country, not less. The question is will the oligarchs see eye-to-eye? They have another oligarchical asset in the person of Vadim Novinsky – a deputy and the representative of Ukraine in PACE.

Vadim Novinsky

As for Akhmetov – who also helps “oppositionists”, he in many respects is deprived of his key region with its capital in Donetsk, but since the “Oligarchs Donetsk” got used to making losses since the 90’s, Rinat Akhmetov managed to not only hold his ground, but he also reached 334th place in the fresh rating of billionaires according to the American Forbes magazine. $5.5 billion (last year he was in 359th place with $4.6 billion).

Rinat Akhmetov

It is said that Akhmetov puts gold eggs in different political baskets: the top manager of the main holding of Akhmetov “Metinvest” occupied one of the senior positions in the “Radical party” of Oleg Lyashko, who is working together with Petro Poroshenko.

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It is rather the owner of Myronivskyi Khliboprodukt Yury Kosyuk – claiming 1561st place in the Forbes list, with a fortune of $1.5 billion – who will obviously support the current authorities.

Konstantin Zhevago

As for Yulia Tymoshenko – who today, according to the Ukrainian sociological companies, has a better approval rating than the incumbent President, Kolomoisky with Bogolyubov and Akhmetov and his former colleague Zhevago (who rose in Forbes to 1477th place from 1678th, with a fortune of $1.6 billion) can throw money at her for elections. Yulia Tymoshenko’s difficulties stem from being able to manoeuvre between two drops – to receive funds for elections and to not be convicted of having ties with oligarchs in the opinion of western “friends of Ukraine”, who will define the legitimacy of the winner.

However, the West can have a rabbit up its sleeve in the skirmish with Ukrainian oligarchs – a presidential candidate who hasn’t been tainted by unsavoury ties to fat cats, a self-made politician. Say, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk – the leader of the very popular music group “Okean Elzy”, who suddenly left his favourite industry and nowadays gives boring lectures in Stanford about the difficulties of reforming Ukraine. And although Svyatoslav, among other things, talks to students in the US about the excessive influence of oligarchs on the Ukrainian economy, it is possible to look at his transformation more attentively and see behind him the shadow Victor Pinchuk – the son-in-law of the former President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, whose assets are estimated by Forbes at a modest $1.4 billion.

Evil tongues say that Vakarchuk is a creature not of the West, but of Pinchuk, who tries through his connections and his lobby in the US to shape affairs in such a way that Svyatoslav looks like a candidate who is supported from the outside. In parallel the “New Leaders” program is being pushed forward – its declared purpose is the “manifestation of a class of socially responsible leaders capable of actively participate in changing Ukraine”. But since the search deadline of the project is the end of April, and since in May the selection of 100 “new leaders” will take place, it is clear that the program is being sharpened for the Ukrainian elections – the winner will be declared on November 31st. It isn’t excluded that this initiative, should it be needed, will work for Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.

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What the result will be for the lead singer of “Okean Elzy” – the Ukrainian Macron or the second Yushchenko – will become clear later, but should the project “Svyatoslav Vakarchuk – the President of Ukraine” start successfully oligarchs won’t stand aside, and will also fill this basket with gold eggs. And since Svyatoslav in the mean time doesn’t have a team at all, the probability is great that people who are close not only to Pinchuk will become a part of this team in the most different ways.

Viktor Pinchuk

The Ukrainian heroes of the Forbes billionaires ranking during Ukraine’s independence learned to pass through the eye of a needle towards political influence. It’s not a coincidence that the West over the past year has shattered its teeth on Ukraine, trying to shake the authorities put in place by Maidan in the name of fighting against oligarchs. But it doesn’t work, all anti-corruption initiatives are either blocked or don’t gain due development. Such is the case with electronic declarations – they already exist, but this didn’t change anything… unless the press had more reasons to write articles and to film programs about the fantastic income of the authorities.

Petro Poroshenko

Poroshenko – who Forbes for some reason excluded from the billionaires ranking – also has something to lose. He completely gave his annual salary as a president – $12,800 – to charity, went on holiday in the Maldives for $500,000, and increased his assets (according to Dragon Capital) to $1 billion. By all accounts, he was two-three dollars away from being in Forbes. Besides the one billion, the current President of Ukraine has absolute power over the law enforcement bloc and his own “people” who lead the SBU, the prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of Defence, the armed and so-called united forces, the parliamentary bloc named after him, plus the governors who are completely under his control.

Even the fugitive Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, whose main task was to raise the street and to compel Poroshenko to adopt the law on the Anti-corruption court, wasn’t able to shake the regime. As a result, after a series of shows with Saakashvili’s participation, the Georgian again appeared in Poland, from where he broke though to Ukraine, and the street party was humiliatingly and violently dispersed by law enforcement officers.

International creditors didn’t intimidate Poroshenko either. For certain the IMF didn’t expect such impudence – in response to the threats to deprive Ukraine of credits should the fight against corruption and oligarchs not reach a new level, Kiev said in reply: we don’t need this, this year we will cope without the IMF. The other day the Minister of Finance of Ukraine Aleksandr Danilyuk stated that, perhaps, the authorities won’t launch a new program with the IMF. So far this looks like an attempt to moderate the speed of creditors concerning the anti-corruption questions that are painful for Poroshenko.

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According to the poll of the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, today’s approval rating of the acting President of Ukraine is 9.8%. He considerably concedes to Yulia Tymoshenko, who has 24.6%. Petro Poroshenko was overtaken also by the radical Oleg Lyashko (15.5%) and the pro-West Russophobe Anatoly Gritsenko (12.5%). The leader of the “Opposition Bloc” Yury Boyko – 9.7% – is neck and neck with Poroshenko. The results of presidential elections would be like this if they took place at the end of February, 2018.

Party approval ratings also changed – Yulia Tymoshenko’s “Fatherland” party is in first place with 22.5%. Lyashko’s radicals – 13.7% – are behind the “Opposition Bloc” (12.4%). Side by side with the former regionals is the “For Life” party, which is close to them in spirit (10.3%). Gritsenko’s “Civil Position” party (9.4%) follows behind. The “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” is only fifth with 6.6%. The ratings of the Galician Samopomich (6%) and “Svoboda” (5.8%) are approximately at the same level. “UKROP” has 3.1% and Saakashvili’s “Movement of New Forces” party has 2.4%.

And if nobody is surprised at the falling level of trust in Poroshenko and his party camarilla, then experts connect the success of the radicals of Lyashko to the “Akhmetov factor”.

And in general, the figures of oligarchs are visible behind every candidate for the Ukrainian presidency presented in the KIIS ratings – in some cases it is clear, in others it is slightly indistinct. The same Gritsenko – the former Minister of Defence of Ukraine – can’t financially raise either himself or his party for elections. And this means that someone will put a couple of gold eggs in his basket.

The situation with parties is the same, except for those that knock together their political capital for the fight against oligarchs (most likely, with the money of other oligarchs). Let’s not forget that besides dollar billionaires, in Ukraine there are still simple dollar multimillionaires. Both the former and latter categorically don’t want to be ruined on the West’s whim. It is precisely for this reason that in Ukraine healthcare reform – pernicious for the population – has already been adopted and has taken effect, while the oligarchy, although it was frayed by the changes, didn’t allow the West to exterminate it as a class. And the rating of Forbes serves as proof of this.

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