Truce in Ukraine, but not for the oligarchs

This article is a translation of "Bestand in Oekraïne, maar niet tussen de oligarchen"

The truce in eastern Ukraine achieved by Merkel’s intervention when it appeared that Poroshenko’s army was about to collapse near Debaltseve, is still holding in spite of recurrent violations. Both sides are dissatisfied, the rebels because without the port city of Mariupol the Donbass area is unable to economically survive on its own; the regime in Kiev because the forces unleashed by the coup d’état in February 2014 cannot be kept under control without war. The picture shows fighters of the Dnepr-1 battalion of the east Ukrainian oligarch, Kolomoysky, who on Sunday, 21 March, occupied the Kiev headquarters of the oil company, Ukrnafta, which he claims as his own. Because among the oligarchs, open warfare has broken out again. 

The oligarchs of Ukraine have pillaged all public property of the country and in the process have fought each other with relentless violence. The career of the wealthiest one among them, Rinat Achmetov, in particular has left a long trail of dead bodies. The removal of Yanukowych too was part of a battle among different oligarchs. The same actually happened under Yeltsin in Russia, but in 2000 Putin made short shrift with oligarchs with political aspirations or were negotiating with foreign interests without a licence from the state (Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky, etc.)

In Ukraine all the oligarchs are in fact conducting their own foreign policy, and not just to get their money into safe havens like London, Cyprus and the like. It has recently been revealed that the Clinton Foundation, at the time of Hilary’s incumbency as US Secretary of State, has received large sums of the pipeline king, Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of former president Kuchma.

On the advice of his guru, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama right after his assumption of office began with an attempt to extricate the US from the Middle East (failed) and instead raise the pressure on Russia (successful).
Pinchuk had agreed to donate 29 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation to make Ukraine ‘a successful, free, modern country, on the basis of European values’. The Wall Street Journal recently revealed this in a report—we must assume to damage the presidential bid of Hilary, but that can be left aside here.

Several politicians trained by the Clinton Foundation meanwhile have taken seats in the parliament in Kiev. Money for the Foundation has also flowed in from Britain, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, as well as China and India. Of course always in the form of private donations, because the most powerful foreign secretary in the world cannot of course be bribed by governments. Pinchuk and a few other, smaller donors from Ukraine were in the number one spot, however.

Yanukowych was a Kuchma protégé and as long as he welcomed the overtures of the EU to conclude an association agreement, the noses appeared to be pointing in the same direction. But frictions over financial dealings by the Yanukowych family and especially, the last minute turnaround to accept Russian support instead of ‘European values’ (which meant, opening the borders, accepting defence coordination with NATO, but not a penny of support), led to the coup d’état of 22 February 2014.

After that the oligarchs continued their internecine struggle over the spoils, with the aid of their own militias. When Poroshenko, one of the oligarchs himself, was elected president, he obtained control over the power of the state apparatus as well. Again, no problem as long as there was a war on. But now that there is a truce, the militias are being deployed to secure economic possessions.

Poroshenko a few days ago dismissed Kolomoysky from his post as governor of Dnepropetrovsk, upon which Kolomoysky’s deputy declared that Kiev had now ‘fallen into the hands of thieves’. But that of course has been the case ever since 1991. With NATO and EU support and approval.

The fight is about the control of the oil company, Ukrnafta, which is majority state-owned, but under current legislation was being managed by minority owner Kolomoysky. This enabled him to channel dividends and other income due to the state, to himself instead, but now the law has been changed and this is no longer possible. In response Kolomoysky threatened to move 2,000 troops of his militia to Kiev, had the headquarters occupied (pictured) and froze a private $ 50 million account of Poroshenko’s in his (Kolomoysky’s) Privatbank. Rumours that two battalions of National Guard have been sent to Dnepropetrovsk, could not yet be verified.

What is clear though is that the strategy of NATO and the EU to make Ukraine ‘a successful, free, modern country, on the basis of European values’, after the Minsk agreement has entered a new phase once again.

Kees van der Pijl

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