Fears of an oligarchs war creep into Ukraine

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.

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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.
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Is Ukraine’s next president Willy Wonka?

The latest political news from mainland Ukraine’s special presidential election campaign is that Tymoshenko is in, Klitschko is out, and Poroshenko is in:

Boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko pulled out of the race for Ukrainian president on Saturday, throwing his weight instead behind billionaire confectionary oligarch Petro Poroshenko.
[…]
Poroshenko, 48, confirmed his candidacy late on Friday. Several opinions polls already had him in the lead even before he said he would run to succeed ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

Poroshenko was an early and influential supporter of the popular uprising that toppled Yanukovich in late February, three months after he spurned a deal on closer ties with the European Union and plunged the country of 46 million people into turmoil.

 
Klitschko announced he will run for Mayor of Kiev instead, which still seems pretty big. But back to this Poroshenko fellow:

Klitschko’s withdrawal sets up a May 25 contest between the man known as the ‘Chocolate King’ and Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

 


 
From the Wikipedia summary of the Chocolate King’s company:

Roshen Confectionery Corporation is a Ukrainian confectionery manufacturing group, controlled by Petro Poroshenko. The leading manufacturer of confectionery products in the country, it united factories in Ukrainian cities of Bershad, Kiev, Vinnytsia, Mariupol and Kremenchuk, as well as in Klaipėda (Lithuania) and Lipetsk (Russia). The name of the company is created from the last name of its owner, Poroshenko.

As of 2012, Roshen Corporation was ranked 18th in the “Candy Industry Top 100” list of world’s largest confectionery companies. It has a total annual production volume exceeding 410,000 tonnes. It exports to Russia (stopped in July 2013), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Germany and Israel.

 
ukraine-flag-sqBut fear not, he is more than just master of all the oompa-loompas of the Dnieper: Mr. Poroshenko has also previously served (fairly briefly each, at various points) as Ukraine’s Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (2005), a very pro-NATO Minister for Foreign Affairs (2009-2010), and Minister of Trade and Economic Development (2012).

He was first elected to parliament in 1998 and served there until the 2007 elections, when he did not run. He was elected back overwhelmingly as an independent from a Western district to the national parliament in the October 2012 elections. He is believed to have been a major financier of the 2004 Orange Revolution and former president Viktor Yushchenko, once chairing the latter’s party’s national campaign.