World
Natalia Meden
May 19, 2014
© Photo: Public domain

As the presidential election in Ukraine slated for May 25 is drawing near, the Kiev regime starts to imitate «national unity» by launching round tables with participation of the regions. At that, the so called «anti-terror operation» in the south-east never stops. Some time ago the idea of comprehensive talks was supported by Berlin. Now Germany has no wish to admit the evident failure of the «dialogue» started by Kiev. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is known to be an informal sponsor of the Ukrainian round tables. He has recently come under harsh criticism from Markus Ferber, a German politician and Member of European Parliament for Bavaria with the Christian Social Union. According to Ferber, the Steinmeier’s efforts have been in vain and the whole process has failed. The German establishment flatly rebuffed this attack. The Social Democratic Party of Germany even said it was mean to denigrate the national foreign policy. At that, the pessimistic assessment of Markus Ferber could be understood. The round tables have become a makeshift decoration to imitate the democratic procedures before the election. The first round table was held in Kiev, the second – in Kharkiv. The third round is to be held in Cherkassy. As a rule only those who accept the rules imposed by the Kiev regime are invited. What effect could the «the Peace and Harmony Memorandum» produce at the time when the war is raging in the country’s south-east with artillery fire and aviation attacks increasing the civilian death toll? Before leaving for the May 19-20 visit to Germany, Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshitsa told German Welt in an interview (1)  that Kiev refused to hold talks with terrorists and called upon Germany to more vigorously oppose Russia. The Welt readers were shocked by the fact that a representative of the regime coming to power as a result of a coup allows himself criticism of the federal government. Emboldened, Deshitsa stated to pontificate about the Western policy as a whole. He said the West should toughen the sanctions regime against Russia going to the stage of imposing sectoral punitive actions comprising some branches of Russian economy, including banks… He stressed the importance of preventive measures. This kind of swagger makes sober European politicians start mulling the ways to keep Ukraine away from being pushed into the abyss of civil conflict.

One of the ways is obvious. It is related to the oligarchic circles – the tycoons who have appeared in Ukraine since it got independence as a result of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Right after the coup Igor Kolomoisky was appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor and Sergey Taruta became the governor of Donetsk. Donetsk-based steel and iron ore billionaire Rinat Akhmetov is the richest man in Donbass region and Ukraine. Forbes magazine lists Akhmetov as the 92nd richest man in the world, worth $12.2 billion. Until now he has been cautious sticking to wait and see policy. Realizing that the situation in Ukraine is extremely shaky, the German diplomacy has started to seek new approaches and connections.

There was a leak into media about Steinmeier meeting Rinat Akhmetov on May 13 during his short visit to Ukraine. The information was scarce. The Foreign Minister’s schedule was pretty busy including the meetings with Alexander Turchinov, acting speaker and president of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, acting prime minister of the country, the OSCE team and also a short stop in Odessa. The very fact that Steinmeier found time for an informal meeting with the richest Ukrainian tycoon displays how important it was for Berlin. It’s worth to note that the meeting was held away from radar screen. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs statements omitted the fact, but some believe the event was the main part of the tour…

It’s not known what they talked about. One can conjecture that Steinmeier failed to convince Akhmetov to take part in round tables. Soon after the meeting it was reported that Rinat Akhmetov-owned companies group Metinvest signed a memorandum on protecting order and security with the Donetsk People’s Republic. As Metinvest reports, it was signed on May 15 in Mariupol. Some Ukrainian analysts saw it as a warning to the Kiev regime; Akhmetov concluded an agreement with «terrorists» and politely asked the Ukrainian block posts be removed from the city suburbs. German Spigel construed the events in its own way. The outlet believes that Akhmetov is trying to squeeze the self-proclaimed republic forces away so that he could side with Kiev. This interpretation of goings-on was allegedly confirmed by SKM industrial group press-service saying the Akhmetov-owned enterprises will operate only according to the laws of Ukraine. It was not an off-the-cuff statement: the government of the republic has suggested that Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov pay taxes into its budget. (2) In a YouTube posted video clip the billionaire declared unequivocally that he favors a unified Ukraine, though he also spoke in favor of federalization, "The only right way, in my view, is to amend the Constitution and decentralize government. It is when Kyiv gives authority to the regions. It is when regional governments are not appointed but elected. And it is when local authorities are responsible to the people in the present and future." The Kiev interim government plans to start reforms aimed at federalization no earlier than in 200 years, as it was stated by Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andrei Deshitsa before starting his visit to Germany. One way or another Akhmetov does not disclose his real intentions. Perhaps he has not made his choice as yet. And he has a reason to think real hard about it.

Berlin is not inclined to overestimate the regime’s achievements if they are not backed by the money and influence of Ukrainian tycoons. Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the patriarch of German politics, has come out with harsh criticism of Western Ukraine policy. According to him, the West underestimates the implications in case the situation aggravates further and, what’s even worse, nobody has any concrete plan to manage the crisis. It’s hard to disagree with this opinion especially in view that the United States of America, the leader of Western world, has proven its proclivity to spoiling the things while tackling the crises instead of finding appropriate solutions to them.

(1) Berlin muss gegenüber Russland starker auftreten/Welt, 17.05.2014.
(2) Forbes Ukraine 05.16.2014.

 

The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.
Ukraine: Tycoon Rinat Akhmetov Creates Puzzle

As the presidential election in Ukraine slated for May 25 is drawing near, the Kiev regime starts to imitate «national unity» by launching round tables with participation of the regions. At that, the so called «anti-terror operation» in the south-east never stops. Some time ago the idea of comprehensive talks was supported by Berlin. Now Germany has no wish to admit the evident failure of the «dialogue» started by Kiev. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is known to be an informal sponsor of the Ukrainian round tables. He has recently come under harsh criticism from Markus Ferber, a German politician and Member of European Parliament for Bavaria with the Christian Social Union. According to Ferber, the Steinmeier’s efforts have been in vain and the whole process has failed. The German establishment flatly rebuffed this attack. The Social Democratic Party of Germany even said it was mean to denigrate the national foreign policy. At that, the pessimistic assessment of Markus Ferber could be understood. The round tables have become a makeshift decoration to imitate the democratic procedures before the election. The first round table was held in Kiev, the second – in Kharkiv. The third round is to be held in Cherkassy. As a rule only those who accept the rules imposed by the Kiev regime are invited. What effect could the «the Peace and Harmony Memorandum» produce at the time when the war is raging in the country’s south-east with artillery fire and aviation attacks increasing the civilian death toll? Before leaving for the May 19-20 visit to Germany, Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshitsa told German Welt in an interview (1)  that Kiev refused to hold talks with terrorists and called upon Germany to more vigorously oppose Russia. The Welt readers were shocked by the fact that a representative of the regime coming to power as a result of a coup allows himself criticism of the federal government. Emboldened, Deshitsa stated to pontificate about the Western policy as a whole. He said the West should toughen the sanctions regime against Russia going to the stage of imposing sectoral punitive actions comprising some branches of Russian economy, including banks… He stressed the importance of preventive measures. This kind of swagger makes sober European politicians start mulling the ways to keep Ukraine away from being pushed into the abyss of civil conflict.

One of the ways is obvious. It is related to the oligarchic circles – the tycoons who have appeared in Ukraine since it got independence as a result of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Right after the coup Igor Kolomoisky was appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor and Sergey Taruta became the governor of Donetsk. Donetsk-based steel and iron ore billionaire Rinat Akhmetov is the richest man in Donbass region and Ukraine. Forbes magazine lists Akhmetov as the 92nd richest man in the world, worth $12.2 billion. Until now he has been cautious sticking to wait and see policy. Realizing that the situation in Ukraine is extremely shaky, the German diplomacy has started to seek new approaches and connections.

There was a leak into media about Steinmeier meeting Rinat Akhmetov on May 13 during his short visit to Ukraine. The information was scarce. The Foreign Minister’s schedule was pretty busy including the meetings with Alexander Turchinov, acting speaker and president of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, acting prime minister of the country, the OSCE team and also a short stop in Odessa. The very fact that Steinmeier found time for an informal meeting with the richest Ukrainian tycoon displays how important it was for Berlin. It’s worth to note that the meeting was held away from radar screen. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs statements omitted the fact, but some believe the event was the main part of the tour…

It’s not known what they talked about. One can conjecture that Steinmeier failed to convince Akhmetov to take part in round tables. Soon after the meeting it was reported that Rinat Akhmetov-owned companies group Metinvest signed a memorandum on protecting order and security with the Donetsk People’s Republic. As Metinvest reports, it was signed on May 15 in Mariupol. Some Ukrainian analysts saw it as a warning to the Kiev regime; Akhmetov concluded an agreement with «terrorists» and politely asked the Ukrainian block posts be removed from the city suburbs. German Spigel construed the events in its own way. The outlet believes that Akhmetov is trying to squeeze the self-proclaimed republic forces away so that he could side with Kiev. This interpretation of goings-on was allegedly confirmed by SKM industrial group press-service saying the Akhmetov-owned enterprises will operate only according to the laws of Ukraine. It was not an off-the-cuff statement: the government of the republic has suggested that Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov pay taxes into its budget. (2) In a YouTube posted video clip the billionaire declared unequivocally that he favors a unified Ukraine, though he also spoke in favor of federalization, "The only right way, in my view, is to amend the Constitution and decentralize government. It is when Kyiv gives authority to the regions. It is when regional governments are not appointed but elected. And it is when local authorities are responsible to the people in the present and future." The Kiev interim government plans to start reforms aimed at federalization no earlier than in 200 years, as it was stated by Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andrei Deshitsa before starting his visit to Germany. One way or another Akhmetov does not disclose his real intentions. Perhaps he has not made his choice as yet. And he has a reason to think real hard about it.

Berlin is not inclined to overestimate the regime’s achievements if they are not backed by the money and influence of Ukrainian tycoons. Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, the patriarch of German politics, has come out with harsh criticism of Western Ukraine policy. According to him, the West underestimates the implications in case the situation aggravates further and, what’s even worse, nobody has any concrete plan to manage the crisis. It’s hard to disagree with this opinion especially in view that the United States of America, the leader of Western world, has proven its proclivity to spoiling the things while tackling the crises instead of finding appropriate solutions to them.

(1) Berlin muss gegenüber Russland starker auftreten/Welt, 17.05.2014.
(2) Forbes Ukraine 05.16.2014.