Editor's Note: Kyiv Post deputy chief editor Katya Gorchinskaya, a staff writer at the time this story was published on July 31, 1997, takes a look at a common tactic for silencing independent or critical media during President Leonid Kuchma's era -- namely endless raids and tax inspections.
Almost as quickly as it reached the top of Ukraine's corporate heap, the Dendi holding company has fallen on hard times brought on by endless raids and inspections by Ukraine's numerous tax administrations, law enforcement agencies and regulators.
The firms' officials charge that the full-court press is retaliation for a series of articles in an affiliated newspaper accusing Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko of corruption.
Dendi Vice President Dmytro Chekalkin said the raids were caused by the active social position of [Dendi] President Mykhailo Brodsky, and the harsh criticism of many state agencies in the Kievskie Vedomosti newspaper founded by Dendi.
Chekalkin, who is traveling outside Ukraine, gave written answers on July 29 to questions submitted by the Kyiv Post.
He said that the inspections, which began eight months ago, turned into a war of destruction after particularly damaging Vedomosti attacks on Kravchenko this spring.
Among other misdeeds, the newspaper accused the minister of illegally obtaining apartments and of acquiring a Mercedes sedan with funds given to him by a Chernobyl charity.
However, Interior Ministry spokesman Viktor Kryvorotko said there is no link between the publications and checks of Dendis business activities, describing the inspections as routine.
At the same time, Kryvorotko said, these publications chewed over this official Mercedes car just for too long. Kravchenko has sued some of Vedomostis journalists because their stories twisted facts in a way that compromises the reputation of the interior minister, his honor and dignity.
Brodsky is reportedly out of the country and could not be reached for comment.
He is the president of the Kyiv Guild of Entrepreneurs and a prominent member of the nationalist Rukh party.
Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil last week criticized Kravchenko's reappointment in the new Cabinet as inexplicable given the recent accusations of abuse of office.
In the meantime, the inspections have become a way of life at Dendi, to the point that one subsidiary advertises its products as having passed rigorous government checks.
Serhy Reminny, director of the Dendi Exim company, which imports equipment for bars, shops, and beauty salons, said he has lost track of the number of various tax, police and even fire inspectors that have visited his offices in the last few months.
This is a result of anti-Dendi policy, he said. Chekalkin is also convinced that anti-Dendi campaign is one of the priority directions for the Interior Ministry.
Even Kalina cafe, which bakes cakes, is checked not by district or city militia departments, but the central department, he said.
Dendi officials say that its not just the offices that suffer from searches, but homes of managers and chief accountants of Dendi enterprises. Reminny, whose flat was also searched last Thursday, said it was extremely stressful. "I thank God a thousand times that I had taken my family to Cherkasy for a week just before that," he said.
He added that he still has not told his wife and child about the search. Chekalkin said that the violations uncovered by inspections of Dendi businesses have been petty to the point of absurdity. For example, the warehouse of Pechera restaurant was lacking 20 grams of Brussels sprouts. At the same time, they are searching the flats of Dendis managers.
Maybe they are trying to find the missing 20 grams of sprouts?
Chekalkin said the searches have hamstrung the companys activities and distracted its managers. He added that complaints by the firms lawyers have been ignored, partly because of a carte blanche given to the campaign against Dendi by President Leonid Kuchma, who has backed Kravchenko in his fight with Vedomosti.
However, the Interior Ministry;s Kryvorotko said there have been no complaints from Dendi at all, other than critical publications in Kievskie Vedomosti. And if they did not own the newspaper, there would be no scandal about it at all, he said.