News / Europe

Oligarchs Adapt to New Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire owner of Ukrainian chocolate manufacture Roshen, and front-runner in Ukraine's presidential election, listens during an interview with Reuters in Kiev April 4, 2014Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire owner of Ukrainian chocolate manufacture Roshen, and front-runner in Ukraine's presidential election, listens during an interview with Reuters in Kiev April 4, 2014
x
Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire owner of Ukrainian chocolate manufacture Roshen, and front-runner in Ukraine's presidential election, listens during an interview with Reuters in Kiev April 4, 2014
Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire owner of Ukrainian chocolate manufacture Roshen, and front-runner in Ukraine's presidential election, listens during an interview with Reuters in Kiev April 4, 2014
In Ukraine regimes come and go, but oligarchs continue to make money.

The oligarchs, powerful business leaders who impact Ukraine’s politics as well, have carefully positioned themselves in both spheres to try to ensure their prosperity.
 
As the situation unraveled for President Viktor Yanukovych early this year, oligarchs who benefited from his regime abandoned him once he was no longer useful.

Some observers point to this as a key reason why Yanukovych left Kyiv in late February for de facto exile in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don.
 
And, there are allegations that these wealthy individuals are hedging their bets politically.

Andy Hunder, who has spent years doing government relations in Ukraine, told the Financial Times, “They are bargaining with both the Kremlin and the new Ukrainian authorities to agree [to] a status quo where their businesses and assets will be protected and allowed to prosper in a post-Yanukovych Ukraine.”
 
Indeed, Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, exemplifies how he and other oligarchs have moved beyond Yanukovych. Akhmetov once supported the departed president and served in the National Assembly for Yanuokovych’s Party of Regions.
 
Since Yanukovych’s departure, Akhmetov has tried to insert himself as a so-called mediator. Earlier this month, he joined talks in Donetsk involving pro-Russian separatists and the new government in Kyiv.

Akhmetov issued a public statement that “together, we must stop and think how to glue the country together. Not to split it, but glue it together.”
 
Victor Pinchuk, said to be Ukraine’s second-richest man, is another who appears to now tread a fine line.

Shortly after Yanukovych left, he offered support to the protesters in Kiev but later, Pinchuk reportedly decided not to provide assistance to the new government despite its requests.

Observers say his posture reflects caution in the face of today’s uncertainties.
 
But another Ukrainian oligarch, banking and energy giant Igor Kolomoisky, is casting his lot squarely with Kyiv.

Kolomoisky, who in March was appointed governor of the Eastern Ukrainian region of Dnipropetrovsk, is bolstering the central government by offering his own cash as bounties for the capture of pro-Russian militants who have seized government buildings.

Kolomoisky, who strongly dislikes Russian President Vladimir Putin, is reportedly offering cash for weapons held by insurgents: $2,000 for grenade launchers, $1,500 for machine guns and $1,000 for automatic weapons.
 
While some Ukrainian oligarchs seek to influence politics from behind the scenes, others are directly participating in the May 25 presidential balloting. 

Leading the race, according to polls, is Petro Poroshenko, head of the Udar party. Poroshenko is Ukraine’s so-called “chocolate king,” whose Rosen Group also holds companies producing vehicle parts, shipbuilding, armaments and Kyiv’s Channel 5 TV.
 
Poroshenko, who wants Ukraine to strengthen relations with the European Union, said, “The priorities are to preserve sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will also have to work on the country’s unity.” 
 
His main rival is former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the “Fatherland” party, who made a fortune in energy during the 1990s.

That earned her the nickname “The Gas Princess.” Tymoshenko became a leading figure in the Orange Revolution, which upended the 2004 presidential election with a re-vote that put Viktor Yushenko in power.

When Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010, Tymoshenko was jailed on ”corruption charges” and finally released in February 2014.

The former prime minister is behind Poroshenko in the polls, but observers say she appeals to a broad range of Ukrainians with her populist stance supporting price controls, subsidies to low-income people, and other public assistance. 
 
One strongly pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch, Dmitry Firtash, has been sidelined.  Firtash, whose Group DF holding company has major gas, banking, fertilizer and titanium interests, was arrested in Vienna last month and is fighting extradition to the United States for alleged violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

A U.S. grand jury says Firtash was involved in efforts to bribe entities in India that were to supply one of his U.S.-incorporated companies with titanium.
 
The May 25 presidential election will give Ukraine a new leader.

But analysts say it is business as usual for the oligarchs.

Political analyst Taras Berezovets is quoted by Financial Times as saying they are engaging in ”negotiations with Kyiv’s new authorities, aimed at preserving their influence going forward, or playing into Russia’s interest in case the region gets taken over by Russia.”
 
But former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor told VOA that for the time being, at least those oligarchs supporting Kyiv have not wavered.

“I haven’t seen them switch sides,” he said.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs