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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.