The Top 10 Unfulfilled Promises of Petro Poroshenko

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Exactly four years ago, on May 25th, 2014, Ukrainians elected Petro Poroshenko as the President in one round. Of course, not everyone.

Donbass and Crimea practically didn’t participate in the vote. In the east, under the control of the militias, there was still Slavyansk and Mariupol [under Ukraine’s control – ed], and in the already self-proclaimed DPR and LPR a referendum on separation from Ukraine took place.

Crimea, of course, back then was already de facto a part of Russia. Thus, six million voters didn’t participate in the Ukrainian elections – such is the difference between the turnout in 2014 and in 2010, when Yanukovych was elected.

But the remaining mass of Ukrainians wanted the same as the inhabitants of the cut-away Donbass: an end to war. And quickly (if to trust the polls, this was their main desire and it still is).

The future President Poroshenko didn’t skimp on such promises. But the result turned out on the contrary: the escalation of violence and tens of thousands of victims.

Such a fate in general overtook the other significant pre-election guarantees of the future guarantor of the constitution. “Strana” remembered the top 10 unfulfilled promises of Petro Poroshenko.

1. “The ATO will last a few hours”

This was the main promise of Poroshenko, which so frankly and tragically didn’t come true.

On May 28th, 2014, the future President stated: “The ATO can’t and won’t last for two-three months. It has to and will last hours … We will soon see the efficiency of the anti-terrorist operation”.

As a result, the anti-terrorist operation officially came to an end practically on the fourth anniversary of the presidency of Poroshenko – on April 29th, 2018.

But this is formally. In fact, the war continues. Supporters of the incumbent president shift the blame for this onto Russia, which “attacked Ukraine in Donbass”, and Kiev can do nothing except “defend itself”.

On the other hand, nobody forced Poroshenko to promise the end of war at a time when it was only inflaming. Donetsk, Lugansk, and the majority of settlements of these regions were held by the militias, the army was thrown into the mix, which formally had no right in general to participate in the ATO.

And exactly a week after elections – on June 2nd – aircraft, according to the OSCE, launched missiles against the building of the Lugansk Regional Administration and against the adjacent square, where eight passersby were killed.

After such a demonstration of force the conflict inflamed even more strongly. This doesn’t really fit into the logic of defense and the end of war “in a matter of hours”.

2. “1,000 hryvnia per day”

The second most known – and unfulfilled to this day – promise of the president: to pay participants of the ATO 1,000 hryvnia per day.

He sounded this promise three days before the elections, while in Odessa. By the way, unlike today, the candidate Poroshenko communicated with voters of this Russian-speaking city in their native language.

“The soldier who fights in battle – there won’t be any conscripts, there will be volunteers – he will receive 1,000 hryvnia per day!” said the future president, cutting the air with his fist.

In fact, before 2017 soldiers on the first line of the ATO zone didn’t receive even 10,000 per month – and only in August did Poroshenko order to bring figures to this level. And in January, 2018, he stated that on the frontline “nobody receives less than 17,000 hryvnia”.

But all the same, this is almost half what the guarantor promised four years ago. And the exchange rate of the hryvnia in 2014 was 11 to the dollar. So at a rate of 26, like today, the current salaries of ATO soldiers look even more modest than the “1,000 per day” sample of 2014.

3. The sale of Roshen

On July 11th, 2014 – one and a half months after the election – the president stated that he gave the order to employ an investment consultant who will begin the pre-sale preparation of the business empire of Poroshenko.

“Starting from today we begin the intense preparation of the sale of my main asset,” stated the president at a HQ briefing.

He specified that he will demand from each member of his team to get rid of their businesses and devote himself to serving the people.

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But the end of the year approached, and the “main asset” wasn’t sold. Then the head of state, answering the questions of journalists, stated that, instead of selling it, he gave Roshen to the leadership of the Rothschild Bank – a so-called “blind trust”.

“I wouldn’t be revealing a secret to you if I said that in the conditions of war investment don’t come into the country,” said the guarantor, explaining his change of tune.

However, in cases that didn’t concern his business, Petro Poroshenko often noted an interest in Ukraine from investors, and in a number of sectors (for example, IT) – he even declared a three-fold growth in investments. In March Poroshenko cited data that said that in 2017 capital investments in Ukraine grew by 21%, and in 2016 – by 18%.

But it is strange that the investors who were returning to the country didn’t notice the President’s dynamically growing business. Although this growth is visible to the naked eye: from all the new branded stores of the company to the official 10% growth in sales in 2017.

Despite the “blind trust”, all the top managers of Poroshenko continued to manage his business. And in the autumn “Roshen” will open a new factory in Borispol. And the old factory – in the Russian Lipetsk, as “Strana” found out, continues to pay taxes into the budget of the Russian Federation.

Why investors aren’t that interested in such a tidbit of Ukrainian business is a question that is almost unanswerable. But the fact remains – he promised to sell it, but he hasn’t.

4. He promised not to open criminal cases against journalists. But he opened them…

Zealous behavior in front of the media and the principles of freedom of speech from the side of Petro Poroshenko are separate stories.

Directly on election day the future president on the air of Ukrainian TV promised not to open criminal cases against the media. However, it’s true that he did this in an extremely peculiar manner.

“Can we, Ukrainian journalists, hope that in the next five years of your presidency there will be no criminal cases against the media?” asked the journalist Sonya Koshkina at a press conference.

“No!” answered Poroshenko, with a charming smile on his face. Later the future president explained that he was joking. And he gave a lengthy speech about how he will protect freedom of speech in Ukraine.

However, the reality turned out to be very different. Petro Poroshenko’s presidency became a record in Ukraine for the persecution of journalists and whole agencies.

Five criminal cases were fabricated against “Strana” and its editor-in-chief Igor Guzhva alone. Last summer two searches in the office of our Internet newspaper took place. And for reporting about the return to Ukraine of Mikhail Saakashvili the deputy chief editor Svetlana Kryukova was put on Mirotvorets.

The persecution of “Strana” made it into the reports of the UN, OSCE, “Reporters Without Borders”, and other international organisations. And the editor-in-chief of the publication Igor Guzhva was forced to leave Ukraine.

The situation with other media agencies is no better. The editorial board of the “Vesti” holding company was evicted from their office after a masked raid [by the SBU – ed]. Journalists are regularly trialled under political Articles: the names of Ruslan Kotsaba, Vasily Muravitsky, Dmitry Vasilets, and Kirill Vyshinsky are always mentioned in the reports of human rights organisations.

The activity of right-wing radical organisations, which terrorise media agencies that displease the authorities, deserves special attention. This includes the arson at the Inter TV channel, the blockade of “NewsOne“, and regular attacks on the same “Vesti”.

It is still important to understand that it is exactly the president who is ultimately responsible for criminal prosecutions in the country. After all, the Prosecutor-General  [Yury Lutsenko – ed] was appointed on his quota. Thus, the National Union of journalists of Ukraine documents the complete disregard for the attacks on journalists – they simply aren’t investigated.

It seems that in Poroshenko’s joke there was a part of a joke. Or, maybe, he wasn’t joking at all with Sonya Koshkina when he answered her question with “No”.

5. “There will be 10 hryvnia to the dollar”

“We will reverse the exchange rate. The dollar must not be higher than 10,” stated Petro Poroshenko on the air of one of the TV channels in April, 2014 – i.e., he stated this in the middle of the electoral campaign.

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Already back then the dollar fluctuated between 13 and 14 hryvnia – in March there was the “annexation” of Crimea, and the economic situation in the country was on the verge of collapse. Closer to the date of elections the hryvnia strengthened to 11-12 to the dollar.

But then the collapse of the exchange rate began, the responsibility for which belongs to the President. After all, the head of the National Bank became his ally Valeriya Gontareva, who headed the National Bank of Ukraine actually until 2018.

Under her the hryvnia fell to astronomical values – for example, to 33 hryvnia to the dollar at peak times. In general the exchange rate of the national currency under Poroshenko’s reign collapsed by 2.5-fold.

6. “All offshores will be closed”

The closure of offshores became a curious point of the program of Petro Poroshenko. It was written down officially as: “Reducing the amount of taxes, reduce the rates, and close all offshores“.

After that, in 2017, there was the loud scandal with the paradise papers“. Hundreds of documents from the offshore registrar from Panama were leaked into the world press. In particular, it became known that Petro Poroshenko opened a company through an offshore. And this happened whilst already being the Ukrainian president.

It happened in August, 2014, when the Ukrainian army suffered a defeat near Ilovaisk.

In the letters written by Poroshenko’s lawyers that were leaked to the press it is said that their client wants to open a company to bring the production of “Roshen” to the world markets. It should be noted that opening an offshore for this company is needed only in one case – if there is a strong desire to hide taxes from his native land. Or, for example, to keep his business in the event of a loss of power – by transferring it to international jurisdiction.

Here is how the president’s lawyers write about it:

“The case is extremely delicate. The name of the client is Petro Poroshenko. We are working on restructuring his confectionery business. In order to receive access to the international markets we are going to build in Luxembourg a new holding company for the group. Under it there will be a Dutch sub-holding that will possess all the operating companies. For the purposes of tax over the Luxembourg company there will be a Cyprian firm. It will possess the offshore company – we prefer the British Virgin Islands, but the Isle of Man can also be used… it will hold shares and receive dividends,” it is said in the letter addressed to the offshore registrar Appleby.

After dumbfounded silence, Bankova Street started talking. The president admitted that his people created the offshore company in the middle of fighting in Donbass. However, according to Poroshenko, this was a requirement of the transfer of the confectionery business to the Rothschilds “blind trust” – apparently the Rothschilds don’t work with firms in the Ukrainian jurisdiction.

Who is telling the truth is certainly not known. But the fact that offshores were used by a president who called to “close” them is obvious.

7. Open party lists

Holding the first parliamentary elections after Maidan according to open party lists is written down in black and white in the program of the president.

“I will do my best within my constitutional powers so that before the end of 2014 early parliamentary elections take place only on a proportional basis according to open lists,” stated Poroshenko.

Voting according to open lists means that it will be more difficult for the “owners” of political parties to form them at their own discretion – after all, the voter votes not only for parties, but also for the personnel that will go into parliament.

Closed lists relieve party bosses of this “headache” and allow to hold any support group in the Rada – from drivers and massage therapists to secretaries and security guards.

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Contrary to the president’s wishes, the 2014 elections took place according to closed lists and were majoritarian. Thanks to this many exotic personalities entered into parliament.

However, this isn’t exactly the fault of Petro Poroshenko. He, as the beneficiary of a large parliamentary faction, is only one of the many persons interested in forming lists without thinking about voters. Such a situation suits in principle all systemic players of the Ukrainian political circle.

In words the president is still a supporter of open lists. Deputies of his faction even submitted this bill to parliament. But when the question arises about why this law still hasn’t been adopted, the head of the country points at his deputies.

8. “Status quo” for the Russian language

Looking at today’s Ukrainianising Poroshenko it is difficult to believe that four years ago he with inspiration quoted Article 10 of Constitution of Ukraine and mentioned the Russian language.

The future president in his electoral program clearly and concisely promised not to narrow the scope of Russian (and as we already mentioned – he spoke in this language during the electoral campaign).

“I will be guided by Article 10 of the Constitution, which defines Ukrainian as the State language, but especially emphasises the rights of the Russian language and guarantees the free development of all languages. I consider it to be appropriate to preserve the existing status quo concerning the language question to ensure the unity of the Ukrainian political nation,” it is said in the document.

In practice general Ukraininsation became one of Poroshenko’s main reforms. During his presidency language quotas for radio and TV were introduced, the law on the general Ukrainisation of education was adopted, and the law on languages in the services sector – which introduces such an innovation as the “language police”, which will fine sellers and waiters for speaking to clients in Russian – is being prepared.

At the same time, as “Strana” found out, in the shops of Poroshenko the clients speak in Russian.

In addition, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the language law of Kolesnichenko-Kivalov, which allowed to use regional languages on the ground. Poroshenko welcomed this step and promised more “Ukrainianising” laws instead.

9. “Finding acceptable ways of cooperating with Russia”

In Poroshenko’s program there was a movement towards Europe. Nevertheless he promised – despite the already taken place “annexation” of Crimea and events in Donbass – to find “acceptable ways of cooperating with Russia”.

“I take fully advantage of my diplomatic talent and political experience to ensure a de-escalation of the conflict, to avoid war and to preserve peace, to find acceptable ways of cooperating with Russia, first of all – in the economic sphere – but taking into account the irreversibility of our European choice and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” it is said in Poroshenko’s program.

In practice the President brought down a mass of economic sanctions on the Russian Federation, closed air communication with Russia, and blocked Russian social networks. And the phrase “final farewell to the Russian empire” became his catchphrase.

The signing of the law on recognising Russia as the occupier [Law on the Reintegration of Donbass – ed] became the final chord.

Of course, many in Ukraine wouldn’t want to start reproaching the guarantor for not fulfilling this promise. But why was it made, knowing that a tough conflict with Russia had already begun?

Probably, and passages about Russia and the Russian language were a curtsey towards the east and south Ukrainian electorate – which, after victory would be forgotten according to the “good tradition”.

10. Making Zhytomyr the capital of Ukrainian space

The guarantor also made promises that were less serious, but no less of a failure.

During the pre-election race Petro Poroshenko came to Zhytomyr. He called the Motherland of the great designer Sergey Korolev “the capital of Ukrainian space” and promised to return “the best world technologies” there.

“Here, in Zhytomyr, we will revive Ukrainian space!” stated Poroshenko.

[Watch from 50 seconds onwards]

As far as we know, over the last four years Zhytomyr hasn’t become the capital of Ukrainian space. However, the city still has a year more to wait for the emergence of the best world technologies.

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