There are 13 people who fall under the definition of oligarch in Ukraine, the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on May 11.
He didn’t identify them by name.
Back in April, President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the Security Council to draw up a law that would tame oligarchs’ grip over the country’s politics.
The bill is being developed and wasn’t yet submitted to parliament.
But the names of the 13 “oligarchs” aren’t a complete secret.
According to a Kyiv Post source with the knowledge of the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak to the press, the Security Council’s bill defines oligarchs as businesspeople who control monopolies, own media and participate in politics, either personally or through close allies.
There are some names that are likely to appear on the list. They are the people that have been publicly known as oligarchs for decades. Most of them dispute the controversial title:
- Rinat Akhmetov
- Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Bogolyubov
- Dmytro Firtash
- Serhiy Lovochkin
- Victor Pinchuk
- Kostyantyn Zhevago
- Petro Poroshenko
- Viktor Medvedchuk
- Vadym Novinsky
All of them control business assets worth billions of dollars, have the political reach, and together own at least 65% of Ukraine’s TV market.
Four of them are lawmakers. Poroshenko leads the 27-member European Solidarity faction in parliament. Medvedchuk and Lovochkin co-chair the pro-Russian 44-member Opposition Platform. Novinsky is an independent lawmaker.
Read More: The Other War: Is Zelensky willing and able to tame Ukraine’s oligarchs?
Ex-lawmaker and Kyiv Post columnist Sergii Leshchenko, citing his sources, published the alleged list of people who qualify as oligarchs by the Security Council’s criteria. Apart from the people on the list above, Leshchenko’s list mentions poultry tycoon Yuriy Kosiuk, fugitive agricultural mogul Oleh Bakhmatyuk, and the family of Oleksandr and Halyna Hereha, who control Ukraine’s largest home improvement store chain, Epicentr.
While those four aren’t widely known as media owners, at least three of them have media assets.
Bakhmatyuk owns local media in Ivano-Frankivsk, while the Herehas reportedly control a local TV station in Khmelnytskiy, also a Western Ukrainian city.
Change of tone
Since mid-April, Zelensky has been vocal on de-oligarchization.
He called oligarchs bandits that robbed the state. In one TV address, he listed several top oligarchs by name, ominously saying they will have to live by the law.
This marks a change of tone for the president whose ascension to power in 2019 was backed by one of the top oligarchs.
Oligarch Kolomoisky’s 1+1 media empire played a big role in Zelensky’s election. More than 30 lawmakers in Zelensky’s newly established Servant of the People party were associates or former employees of Kolomoisky.
This played out well for Kolomoisky. After Zelensky’s election, Kolomoisky gained control of Centrenergo, a state-owned energy company, and preserved his control over Ukrnafta, a state-owned petroleum producer where he owns a minority stake.
But the relationship went sour. In early 2021, the government replaced the management of Centrenergo, allegedly to eliminate Kolomoisky’s influence. On April 22, the oligarch’s offices in central Kyiv were searched over suspected embezzlement of $8 million from Centrenergo. Before that, in January, one of Kolomoisky’s top allies in parliament, lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinsky, was kicked out of Zelensky’s party faction.
Another top oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, has so far been doing well under Zelensky.
Akhmetov, the owner of DTEK energy company and Metinvest steel and mining holding, is benefiting largely from the state-owned railway monopolist Ukrzaliznytsia, which transports iron ore and coal for him at below-market prices, costing the state company billions.
Moreover, the oligarch’s been benefitting from a very low resource rent tax that his company pays to the budget for the iron ore they extract in Ukraine. The government has recently drafted a bill that raises the iron ore resource tax. Getting it through parliament won’t be easy: According to Ukrainian journalists, Akhmetov allegedly influences at least 40 lawmakers, based on how they vote.
The bill, if adopted, won’t affect just Akhmetov. Oligarch Zhevago, whose main asset is Ferrexpo mining company, will also have to pay more to the state budget.
Zhevago, who owns Channel 4, is a fugitive steel tycoon. He is wanted in Ukraine for allegedly vacuuming $178 million through insider trading from his Finance and Credit bank.
Other top oligarchs who haven’t yet felt any consequences of Zelensky’s crusade against oligarchs are Firtash and Pinchuk.
Although Firtash has been living in Vienna since 2014, fighting a U.S. extradition warrant, he preserves his influence in Ukraine. He has monopolies in the nitrogen fertilizer sector, the titanium market and controls most regional gas distribution companies. Firtash and Lovochkin co-own Inter, a TV channel popular with pro-Russian audiences in Ukraine.
Pinchuk is the king of pipe production and controls the biggest TV group out of all oligarchs: It includes popular channels ICTV, STB, and Novy. In 2019-2020, Pinchuk’s father-in-law, ex-President Leonid Kuchma led the Ukrainian delegation at the peace talks in Minsk, appointed by Zelensky.
Oligarchs who are political opponents
Poroshenko and his allies, who vehemently criticize every step of Zelensky, have claimed that the coming anti-oligarch bill is designed to target Poroshenko.
Poroshenko indeed falls under the criteria of an oligarch: He has vast business assets, controls a parliament faction, and owns two TV channels.
From the campaign trail, Zelensky made it clear that he would go after Poroshenko for alleged corruption and abuse of office. The ex-president is now the subject of several criminal investigations alleging abuse of office. Poroshenko denies all accusations and calls the cases political pressure.
The oligarch who lost the most under Zelensky is Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian lawmaker and unofficial representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
On Feb. 2, Zelensky sanctioned Medvedchuk’s closest ally, lawmaker Taras Kozak, and closed his nationwide TV channels — NewsOne, Channel 112, and ZIK. It deprived Medvedchuk and his parliament faction of their main media platform.
On Feb. 19, the NSDC imposed sanctions on Medvedchuk himself, freezing his assets, restricting his financial operations for five years and nullifying all his permits and licenses.
Finally, on May 11, Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova signed charges against Medvedchuk and Kozak.
Besides the most obvious choices, several Ukrainian businesspeople might qualify to be considered oligarchs by the new legislation drafted by the Security Council.
Read More: Zelensky deploys sharp tool, National Security Council, to speed up his agenda
Among them are Novinsky, Kosiuk, Bakhmatyuk, Oleksandr and Halyna Hereha, steel tycoon Oleksandr Yaroslavsky and construction mogul Vadym Stolar.
First on the list is independent lawmaker Novinsky, who controls a minority stake in Akhmetov’s Metinvest Holding.
Russian-born Novinsky is a vivid supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church and is alleged of financing the pro-Russian Nash TV channel. According to Ukrainska Pravda news outlet, Akhmetov has been planning on investing in a new political party and Novinsky will most likely join the project.
Another big name that is likely to appear on the oligarchs list is Kosiuk.
Kosiuk is Ukraine’s poultry king and used to serve as Poroshenko’s adviser at large. Under Poroshenko, Kosiuk’s Mironivsky Hliboproduct was accused of receiving enormous government subsidies despite being a profitable company.
Kosiuk is usually not labeled an oligarch since he doesn’t openly own any media.
Bakhmatyuk, who is accused of embezzling a $49-million stabilization loan that the government gave to his VAB Bank, owns several local newspapers and websites in Ivano Frankivsk Oblast.
The Hereha family, who own the Epicentr home improvement store chain, are reportedly linked to a local TV channel in Khmelnytsky Oblast. Oleksandr Hereha is a member of parliament, while his wife served as the secretary of the Kyiv City Council in 2011-2014.
Kyiv’s construction mogul Stolar who represents the pro-Russian Opposition Platform party in parliament, has launched a local TV channel Kyiv.Live in August.
Yaroslavsky, the owner of DCH Holding, is a well-known metallurgy tycoon tied to local politics in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city home to 1.4 million people. He has been involved in the scandalous purchase of Motor Sich aircraft company by the Chinese investors. The government overturned the deal in March.
Like Kosiuk, Yaroslavsky was never reported to own any media assets.
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