See also: Pinchuk – Friend Or Foe of Ukraine?
See also: For this oligarch, owning 3 TV stations is way to help friends, warn enemies
Billionaire Victor Pinchuk says that he left politics, in part by not seeking re-election as a parliament lawmaker, after his father-in-law Leonid Kuchma’s presidency ended in 2005.
There is, however, evidence of financial influence on domestic politics by this wealthy businessman and media magnate, who has given money to members of various political parties over the years.
For instance, the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation donated $1.75 million to ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Open Ukraine charity fund in 2006-2015, according to a report by the Pinchuk Foundation.
However, Open Ukraine denies the existence of any political links between Yatsenyuk and Pinchuk.
“Arseniy Yatsenyuk is just a founder of the foundation, and does not influence the decisions made by its supervisory and executive boards,” Open Ukraine told the Kyiv Post. “…The foundation’s activities are not directed by any external interests. This principle also applies to Arseniy Yatsenyuk.”
Another example is that of Sergii Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist who brands himself as an anti-corruption crusader critical even of President Petro Poroshenko – despite being a member of the pro-presidential parliament faction. Leshchenko received Hr 55,478 in 2015 and Hr 35,543 in 2016 from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according to Leshchenko’s leaked tax returns, published by Espreso.tv website, which in turn was founded by a member of Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front party.
Leshchenko told the Kyiv Post the money was payment for his participation in events organized by Pinchuk during the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Leshchenko denied having any links to Pinchuk, telling the Kyiv Post that the Victor Pinchuk Foundation had received money from George Soros’ International Renaissance Foundation to finance his participation and that of other Ukrainian lawmakers in the Davos Economic Forum.
In other cases, loyalty to Pinchuk may be simply because he financially helped students get ahead in life — and they took leadership positions in the nation.
Before they became politicians, lawmakers Oleksiy Ryabchyn and Alyona Shkrum from the Batkivshchyna Party and Natalia Katser-Buchkovska from the People’s Front party received WorldWideStudies scholarships from Pinchuk’s foundation to study abroad. Each scholarship amounted to about $30,000.
Do they feel beholden to him as a consequence? Do they feel a need to protect his interests above the national interest?
Shkrum and Kastser-Buchkovska dismissed as nonsense allegations that, as past scholarship winners, they represent Pinchuk’s interests. Ryabchyn initially said that Pinchuk’s money went to the university where he studied.
After this article was published in print, Ryabchyn, who represents the Batkivshchyna Party led by Yulia Tymoshenko, elaborated on his statement.
” The only deal I have with the Pinchuk Foundation is to spend 5 years in Ukraine after returning from my study, which is usual condition for this type of agreement,” Ryabchyn said. “As for the energy committee, I got my quota at the energy committee as Batkivshchina had only 19 people for the 28 committees. I am not the gas and fossil fuel lobbyist as I’ve spent 10 years working and studying in the green energy sphere and happy to chair the subcommittee on energy-saving and energy-efficiency. The MSc thesis I wrote in the United Kingdom about renewables I’ve already implemented into law, which helped to attract foreign direct investment into the sector.”
Olga Bielkova, a lawmaker from the Poroshenko Bloc, used to work for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and was responsible for the WorldWideStudies program, while Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, deputy prime minister for European integration and a former Poroshenko Bloc lawmaker, used to be the director of Pinchuk’s Yalta European Strategy project. Klympush-Tsintsadze did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, U.S. lobbyist Doug Schoen said in a May 16 report filed with the U.S. Department of Justice that he had received money from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and the oligarch’s EastOne business group to meet with 76 people, including Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko, another lawmaker from the Poroshenko Bloc, the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper reported in September. According to the report, Schoen gets $40,000 from Pinchuk every month.
Bielkova said she has visited the United States and contacted Schoen, but says she has nothing to do with Pinchuk’s money.
“The Victor Pinchuk Foundation paid neither for this trip nor for any others,” she told the Kyiv Post. “The document published on Ukrainska Pravda shows a report by a registered lobbyist who gets monthly payments for his services, regardless of my presence.”
She said that she made the trip after being invited by the Atlantic Council, a think tank, and the International Monetary Fund, war-torn Ukraine’s top financial creditor. Bielkova added that Pinchuk’s foundation had never paid her after she left it.
Rizanenko told Ukrainska Pravda that Bielkova had invited him to one of her meetings in the United States.
Bielkova, Katser-Buchkovska and Ryabchyn sit on the Verkhovna Rada’s energy committee. Katser-Bychkovska and Bielkova, as well as Leshchenko, have praised some actions of the current management of state gas production company Ukrgazvydobuvannya, which has been accused by critics of having links to Pinchuk.
Oleksandr Romanyuk, a deputy head of Ukrgazvydobuvannya, used to be an adviser to the chief executive of Pinchuk’s EastOne group.
Ukrgazvydobuvannya has cancelled controversial joint gas production contracts with private firms controlled by vested interests as part of efforts to make the company more transparent and profitable. The contracts have been criticized as rent-seeking schemes for politicians to skim off Ukrgazvydobuvannya’s profits.
However, the company’s contract with a firm called Dion has not been cancelled, energy analyst Bohdan Sokolovsky told the Kyiv Post. Dion is controlled by Pinchuk, according to the dsnews.ua news site.
Bielkova denied accusations that she is lobbying for Pinchuk’s interests in the natural gas industry. “All of my bills are publicly discussed with all market players, signed by various lawmakers, and are directed towards one goal: increasing Ukraine’s domestic natural gas production,” she said.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter