This will be one of the results of the work of the public supervisory council, an advisory body composed of representatives of civil society. The group is supposed to oversee the channel’s editorial policy, suggest ideas for new programs and make sure its news coverage is balanced.

As of next year, Inter’s most popular pro-government political talk show with Russian host Yevgeniy Kiselev will be replaced by a new one with a more neutral Ukrainian Anna Bezulyk; an investigative program will be launched , most likely with oppositional journalist Mustafa Nayyem as a host, and a Ukrainian version of BBC’s Hard Talk show will be launched with a host who is yet to be disclosed, according to Viktoria Siumar, head of Institute for Mass Information and member of Inter’s public council.


There are many skeptics about this initiative, given the channel’s longstanding news slant in favor of the government. If Inter TV adopts a truly independent and nonpartisan news policy, it could have a profound effect on what the nation learns. The station covers 99.7 percent of Ukraine’s territory, according the channel’s own information and has the greatest share of national audience.

At least one good thing has come out of this sudden drive for transparency: a clearer ownership structure of the channel, which goes to several offshore destinations where true owners are usually hard to discover.

Inter TV channel’s ownership structure.

According to Yaroslav Porokhniak, head of the management board of Inter, the long chain of Inter’s owners starts with three companies: Ukrainian Media Project, which owns 61 percent of the channel and manages the company on a day-to-day basis; 29 percent is owned by Russia’s Channel 1; and the other 10 percent is owned by the widow of Igor Pluzhnikov, a former co-owner of Inter, who died a mysterious and sudden death in 2005 at the age of 47.

Pluzhnikov was then believed to be a majority owner of Inter, but other sources said he sold the channel shortly before his death. In any case, his heirs now own 10 percent of Inter.


Porokhniak said that his channel’s relationship with Russia’s main TV channel is “at arm’s length,” and that although the Russian shareholders do take part in meetings, they have no say in the channel’s editorial or programming policies.

These decisions are taken by Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, until recently a high-ranking government official, and the channel’s beneficiary owner through Ukrainian Media Project. But his name only appears at the end of a trail of companies that go to Cyprus and Belize, two offshore paradises much favored by Ukraine’s tycoons for both tax and privacy reasons.

The trail reveals no presence of another Ukrainian oligarch, Dmytro Firtash, who had an option of buying 50 percent of Inter channel in 2009, according to Khoroshkovsky. But it seems that Firtash has not exercised that option.

Ukrainian Media Project, a Ukrainian-registered company which owns the majority stake of 61 percent in Inter TV, has a single owner Inter Media Group, registered in Cyprus and whose director is Khoroshkovsky’s wife Olena. The same company owns eight more channels of the Inter group.


Inter Media Group, in turn, is owned by two Cyprus-registered companies: K.H. Media and Ionics Nominees, with 5,500 and two shares, respectively. Porokhniak explained that Ionics Nominees is “a nominal founder, which created the company and acted in the interests of K.H. Media Limited (the beneficiary).” But the documents obtained by Washington-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a Kyiv Post partner, from the Cyprus registrar only show that the company lists three residents of Cyprus as directors, and no shareholders.

K.H. Media, in its turn, was founded by K.H. Steel Industry, also based in Cyprus. Both of these companies are currently “going through alteration of officers and of their particulars as of Nov. 26,” according to their registration documents.

In response to the Kyiv Post inquiry about those changes, Porokhniak said that Olena Khoroshkovska is being taken out of the list of directors of both os these companies. “And after the termination of the status of a state official of Khoroshkovsky Valeriy Ivanovich, he will be appointed to the Council of Directors of both of these companies, as well as head of the board of directors of Inter Media Group Limited,” he said.

Khoroshkovsky resigned loudly as a deputy prime minister on Dec. 14, saying that Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was “unable to conduct economic reform and protect the strategic course of Ukraine towards European integration.” But changes in the statutory documents of his offshore companies that date back to November, indicate that he has been preparing the decision for a long time.


The changes in dates on the statutory documents are not the only indication of dissent. In the summer, he and another media tycoon, Viktor Pinchuk approached the Renaissance Foundation (a private foundation funded by American George Soros) to start a media monitoring effort that would push their channels to greater transparency during the parliamentary election campaign. The monitoring, which started in September, showed many positive changes in the channels’ news coverage.

Inter’s Porokhniak also said that on Feb. 14 the channel will have a shareholders’ meeting, and one of the issues on the agenda will be Khoroshkovsky’s election as head of the channel’s supervisory council, giving him another official role at the channel.

K.H. Steel Industry, where Khoroshkovsky will feature in statutory documents after their alteration process is finished. ends the trail of Cyprus-registered companies. K.H. Steel Industry’s owner, K.H. Management is registered in Belize, another offshore heaven in Central America. Porokhniak said that this is Khoroshkovsky’s asset management company that shows up in his tax declaration. Its Belize registration documents show that Khoroshkovsky holds 2 shares, while its capital is divided up into 5,000 shares.


Porokhniak said that the company’s authorized capital is 5,000 shares, but only two shares have in fact been allocated – a common practice in corporate law. They are both owned by Khoroshkovsky.

Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at [email protected].

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