[Marxism] Fwd: Reforming Ukraine After the Revolutions - The New Yorker
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 29 07:02:48 MDT 2016
One of the most influential oligarchs is Igor Kolomoisky, who assembled
a $1.4-billion empire through aggressive corporate raiding. Known for
his florid, profane speech and for a gigantic shark aquarium in his
office, he enjoyed for years effective control over Ukrnafta, a
nominally state-owned oil company that sold crude oil at below-market
prices to Ukraine’s largest petroleum refinery, which he also
controlled. The refined oil was then put on the market and sold for huge
In the months after Maidan, Poroshenko appointed Kolomoisky the governor
of the Dnipropetrovsk region, which borders the separatist-held enclaves
in Donbass. At a time when the Army barely functioned, Kolomoisky funded
volunteer battalions, and managed to keep pro-Russian groups from making
inroads in Dnipropetrovsk.
In March, 2015, Leshchenko got a tip that Kolomoisky was plotting to
seize control of Ukrnafta. The government had recently changed the
structure of the company’s board, threatening Kolomoisky’s ability to
siphon profits from what, on paper, was a state firm. On March 20th,
Leshchenko went to the Ukrnafta building, in Kiev, and found armed men
blocking the front entrance and welding grilles onto the windows. One of
the militiamen told him that he was from the Dnipro-1 Battalion, a
pro-Kiev unit financed by Kolomoisky in his role as a regional governor.
To Leshchenko, it looked like an oligarchic coup, with mercenaries
carrying out the will of a businessman.
Two nights later, well past midnight, Nayyem made his way to the
Ukrnafta office. At the barricades, he ran into Kolomoisky, who, with
his soft face, bushy gray beard, and black leather jacket, looked like a
cross between an elf and a mafioso. Television cameramen had staked out
the building, and the two men had a testy, almost theatrical exchange.
“What are you doing here?” Kolomoisky asked, with an arch smile. “Are
you a journalist or a parliamentary deputy?”
“Are you a governor or a businessman?” Nayyem responded.
Their encounter captured the anomaly of Ukrainian politics: two men who
weren’t really politicians facing off over the country’s most urgent
political question. Several days later, Poroshenko fired Kolomoisky as
governor and announced a “de-oligarchization” campaign, saying, “The
caste of the privileged will be eliminated.”
Leshchenko was happy to see an outright crisis of authority averted, but
he suspected that the ultimate balance of power hadn’t shifted much.
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