Ukraine’s President Poroshenko has fired the billionaire Governor of Dnipropetrovsk, a southeastern oblast next to war-torn Donetsk, after the latter allegedly sent armed gunmen to the capital on Sunday to enter the offices of a state oil firm when his friend was fired as director.
Gov. Kolomoisky, appointed after the fall of the Yanukovich government, had been a vital ally in the war with Russia by financing a private army to support the central government. He publicly contends that the gunmen were not part of his units and had not been sent there on his orders. His allies also claimed a political hatchet job was being enacted against him.
According to the Financial Times, fellow oligarch President Poroshenko took a very dim view of this explanation:
Addressing Ukrainian soldiers in Kiev, Mr Poroshenko said: “We will not have any governor with their own pocket army”.
Other allegations assert that Kolomoisky has used his private army not just to fend off rebel advances but also to protect his business interests. The fact that he used to manage the oil company directly until recent reforms essentially spun its management back over to the state in a move he has fought probably strengthens the assumption that he was behind the mini-siege at the offices in Kiev beginning this past weekend. Plus, he showed up in person later in the day to defend the need for “private security,” even if he denied responsibility for the arrival of the gunmen.
Ironically (or perhaps cynically), Gov. Kolomoisky has actually previously accused other oligarchs of ill-gotten gains in the largely corrupt, post-Soviet privatizations that made most of them very wealthy.
Nevertheless, this latest fracas raises the specter of the militarily vital private armies being turned against the revolution and the elected government.