Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a fugitive lawmaker from the People’s Will faction, has accused President Petro Poroshenko and his inner circle of massive corruption and released what he says is evidence to back his claims.

Though the vast scale of Ukrainian corruption is common knowledge, Onyshchenko’s sweeping allegations add minute detail to the overall picture and specify the exact amounts allegedly paid by the president to bribe lawmakers, as well as those allegedly extorted from state companies by Poroshenko and his right-hand man, lawmaker Ihor Kononenko.

The Presidential Administration has dismissed Onyshchenko’s accusations as “absolutely false” and said that he was attempting to politicize an embezzlement case against him. Representatives of Kononenko, who has denied such accusations in the past, declined to comment.


The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has opened a criminal case to investigate Onyshchenko’s claims, while some lawmakers have called for the creation of a special commission. Poroshenko’s critics argue that the scandal could potentially lead to his impeachment and have compared it to the scandal around tapes allegedly implicating then-President Leonid Kuchma in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000.

Critics of Onyshchenko, who was interviewed by the Kyiv Post on Dec. 8, have also questioned his credibility. He voiced some of his accusations through strana.ua, a news site linked to ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, and Rossiya 24 television, a Kremlin propaganda channel.

The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has charged Onyshchenko with stealing Hr 1.6 billion ($64 million) from state-owned gas producer Ukrgazvydobuvannya, which he denies. He fled Ukraine before he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in July.

Onyshchenko said on Dec. 1 he had given the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation evidence of the alleged corruption of Poroshenko and his inner circle – a claim that was neither confirmed nor denied by the U.S. Department of Justice.


“Everything depends on how U.S. authorities handle these materials – whether they will want to investigate it transparently or use it as a tool of pressure on (Ukrainian) authorities,” political analyst Vitaly Bala told the Kyiv Post.

Meanwhile, reformist lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko said on Dec. 1 that he believed an unlawful enrichment case against him was Poroshenko’s reaction to his help in sending information on alleged corruption about the president and his inner circle to U.S. intelligence agencies. He could not confirm or deny, however, whether it was linked to  Onyshchenko.

Theft at state firms

Onyshchenko has also accused Poroshenko and Kononenko of taking money from state and private companies.

He told the Kyiv Post that he had been paying Hr 2,000 per 1,000 cubic meters to Kononenko from his company’s natural gas supplies to two state-owned companies – fertilizer producer Odesa Portside Plant and electric power producer Tsentrenergo. He showed the Kyiv Post alleged smartphone correspondence with Kononenko on the Tsentrenergo supplies.

Onyshchenko also claimed that Kononenko had been getting $20 per ton from coal supplies coming from Russian-occupied Donbas.


Moreover, he told The Independent on Dec. 2 that an agent of a government figure used to come to his office and collect $1 million in cash for “pocket expenses.” Onyshchenko told the Kyiv Post that the person was Kononenko.

Poroshenko has also instructed the State Fiscal Service to delay tax payments for natural gas firms and used the money to finance his political projects, Onyshchenko told Rossiya 24 television on Dec. 4.

He has also accused Poroshenko of extorting and raiding businesses, including assets owned by oligarch Rinat Akhmetov and ex-Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky.

Poroshenko “instructs the Prosecutor General’s Office to open a criminal case, then assets are frozen, and then negotiations are held with the company’s CEO on how much (the president) can get for resolving the problem,” Onyshchenko claimed.

Plea bargain

Another accusation is that Poroshenko has been trying to reach a deal to write off his alleged $50 million debt to Onyshchenko in exchange for a plea bargain.

Onyshchenko on Dec. 6 released a recording in which he and People’s Will lawmaker Oles Dovhiy, whom the fugitive member of parliament described as representing Poroshenko, discuss the possibility of Onyshchenko reaching a plea bargain. Dovhiy has confirmed the authenticity of the recording, but said he had represented the People’s Will rather than Poroshenko.


Dovhiy mentions another negotiator from Poroshenko, Andriy Tsygankov, and Onyshchenko refers to him as a friend of Poroshenko’s top ally and lawmaker Oleksandr Hranovsky. Tsygankov told Onyshchenko that he had to pay $2 million to Poroshenko to be allowed a plea bargain, Onyshchenko claimed.

Hranovsky and Tsygankov denied negotiating with Onyshchenko on behalf of Poroshenko.

Another alleged negotiator with Poroshenko mentioned in the recording is journalist Mykhailo Podolyak.

Podolyak told the Kyiv Post he had advised Onyshchenko on potentially reaching a plea bargain. He said that Dovhiy and Tsygankov could have represented someone from the Presidential Administration. Asked whether he had contacted the Presidential Administration, Podolyak said he could not comment.

Bribery in parliament

Onyshchenko has also exposed what he claims to be pervasive corruption in the Verkhovna Rada.

He told The Independent that he had paid $6 million to support Poroshenko in the 2014 parliamentary election, and as a result, the electoral authorities had cleared his candidacy to become a member of parliament despite his violation of residency rules.

Onyshchenko has also said he had been an intermediary in Poroshenko’s alleged efforts to bribe lawmakers, and has showed to the media text messages that he says prove his claims. He told the Kyiv Post that he, as well as Poroshenko Bloc lawmakers Kononenko, Hranovsky and Serhiy Berezenko, had participated in the purchase of votes in parliament. Hranovsky called the accusations “nonsense,” and Berezenko did not reply to a request for comment.


In a Nov. 30 interview with strana.ua, Onyshchenko described a case in which he allegedly received two bags with $3 million in cash at the Presidential Administration to bribe lawmakers.

About 70 lawmakers sell their votes individually, Onyshchenko told strana.ua. The price of their votes ranges from $20,000 to $100,000 per lawmaker, he said.

He told strana.ua that between $2 million and $2.5 million had been paid for the vote in favor of the resignation of Security Service of Ukraine Chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, and $3 million had been disbursed for the vote to approve the appointment of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in 2015.

The appointment of Shokin’s successor Yuriy Lutsenko in May 2016 cost $2 million, he told the Kyiv Post.

Lawmakers were also bribed during annual budget votes, he said.

Last week strana.ua published a document that Onyshchenko claimed proves that Poroshenko’s investment banker Makar Paseniuk had paid him 11.88 million euros to bribe regional lawmakers to select pro-presidential oblast council speakers after the Oct. 25, 2015 local elections. The amount was transferred by an offshore firm called Meliam Properties Limited to Onyshchenko’s Ostexpert Limited. Paseniuk has denied the accusations.


Media corruption

Onyshchenko also said he had been asked by Kononenko to orchestrate a smear campaign against former Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to force him to resign. The campaign, which included anti-Yatsenyuk protests and bribing media to attack the then prime minister, cost $3 million per month and ran for 10 months, he told the Independent.

In September, Onyshchenko told strana.ua that he had been asked to buy Channel 112 on Poroshenko’s behalf as part of the president’s efforts to crack down on independent media, which has been denied by Poroshenko. Strana.ua published an alleged memorandum between Onyshchenko and Channel 112’s owner Andriy Podshchypkov under which the channel would abstain from criticizing Poroshenko and Onyshchenko would have a preemptive right to buy it for at least $30 million. The memorandum’s authenticity was confirmed by Podshchypkov.

According to strana.ua, Poroshenko has also held talks on buying the NewsOne and 1+1 television channels.

Onyshchenko told the Kyiv Post that, apart from the recording on a plea bargain, he also had audio recordings proving Poroshenko’s alleged efforts to bribe lawmakers, take money from and seize businesses, the distribution of Ukrgazvydobuvannya’s cash flows and negotiations on buying Channel 112 on behalf of Poroshenko.

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