Another Phase of Ukraine’s Statehood Crisis: US Embassy Involved in Showdown between Tycoons

Another Phase of Ukraine’s Statehood Crisis: US Embassy Involved in Showdown between Tycoons

The Ukraine’s government is losing independence unable to stop the internal fight between the clans of tycoons. For instance, the current stand-off between Ukrainian big business tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Region (one of the most important regions of the country) and President Petro Poroshenko was stopped only after the US embassy directly interfered to support the head of state. Poroshenko would not dare launch an open attack against Kolomoisky or, all the more, fire him without Washington’s say so. 

The United States is seriously concerned over stand-offs between tycoons in the country under its control. The influential New York Times believes that the dispute between Poroshenko and Kolomoisky «emphasized the potential threat that private militias pose to the fragile new government». Ukrainian experts are concerned even more. They believe that if Poroshenko and Kolomoisky do not iron out the differences before Easter (or even Passover), then the current system of power will be totally destroyed to entail the loss of statehood, the paralysis of economy and fierce information war. Ukraine will collapse if the incumbent government has to go. 

Sergey Leshchenko, a parliamentarian from the bloc of President Poroshenko who has studied in the United States as a grant-aided student, admitted that the new law, which allowed Naftogas, a state company (or the one that belongs to Poroshenko), to get control over Ukrneft to spite Kolomoisky, was adopted according to the instructions coming directly from Washington. The Ukrainian leaders got a call from the US. They were told, «Esteemed Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister of Ukraine, we, the government of the United States of America, gather the money paid by American taxpayers to give it to you, the miserable Ukraine’s government, which is unable to neither implement reforms, nor collect money from tycoons. Why should we, American taxpayers, support you, if you are so impotent and unable to make tycoons pay what they should to fill the budget?» That’s how Leshchenko interprets the events. By the way, he predicted the end of the governor’s career after Kolomoisky used obscene language talking to a Radio Svoboda journalist. Svoboda exists thanks to taxes paid by American citizens. A portion of this money goes to Ukraine. Leshchenko was sure that the US government would not like it. By and large, that’s what happened. Sergey Leshchenko and the like don’t think the situation degrades Ukraine in any way. Moreover, they welcome the system of governance from outside, that’s something they pin their hopes on. They hardly see any other way their country could get out of the quagmire it has plunged into. 

The Ukraine’ security forces operation to seize the building of Ukrtransnaft held by the formations under Kolomoisky’s command was the culmination of the tycoons’ war. Media outlets reported that the armed groups of volunteers loyal to Kolomoisky leave the front line for Dnipropetrovsk to organize protests there. US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt directly interfered into the conflict. He told Kolomoisky to come to the embassy where he told him in no uncertain terms who was the boss in Ukraine. According to Pyatt, he told the rebellious tycoon that the United States supported the decisions taken by Ukrainian parliament related to Ukrtransnaft. Kolomoisky immediately agreed and assured the American vicegerent that as the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region he fully supported the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Pyatt had an important leverage – the Kolomoisky’s financial interests in the West. The American ambassador told him bluntly that the climate favorable for international investments, including the money coming from the United States, as well as the business opportunities for Ukrainians themselves, will depend upon the primacy of law. Under the given circumstances, it meant that Kolomoisky had to put up with the measures taken against him. It’s funny that Pyatt was talking about the progress achieved by Ukraine since the days of Yanukovych - the days when the «law of the jungle» ruled the country, as he put it. But jungle is what the country is becoming today and this jungle may turn into prairies – the land where dashing cowboys feel at home. 

Kolomoisky is a seasoned warrior. He had to retreat, but he never gives up. It means the wars between tycoons will not stop. The Kolomoisky’s puppet MPs declared war on Poroshenko. Those who belong to the team of former Dnipropetrovsk governor lambaste President Poroshenko for failing to keep the word he gave during the election campaign when he promised to sell his business (first of all the Lipetsk-based Roshen factory and the 5th TV channel). They accuse the President and Valeriya Gontareva, the head of the National Bank of Ukraine, of having used the financial instability in the country to their advantage filling the pockets with billions of dollars. They say the President does not keep his word because he promised the European Union to make Ukraine accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It has not been done. They say he does not do it being afraid to face justice for mass killings of civilians in the Donbass. Poroshenko failed to carry out the reform of tax collecting bodies and law enforcement agencies. According to them, the President pushed through the budget that did not meet the people’s interests as it lowered social standards. He delays the creation of Ukraine’s anti-corruption bureau. The President exerts influence when it comes to high-profile cases, including his opposition to declassifying the information related to the case of journalist Gongadze allowing those behind the crime to avoid responsibility. Ukrainian journalists call the strife between the two clans «showdowns in tycoons dive». 

It’s worth to note that no matter all that, the Ukraine’s regime feel certain discomfort related to the US growing meddling into the country’s internal affairs and its full dependence on the overseas sponsor. It makes appear stories that sound plausible enough telling that not Washington only but also Moscow was behind the Kolomoisky’s dismissal. Media spread around information that Putin himself demanded that Kolomoisky be fired as it was tacitly envisioned by the Minsk accords. 

It has become a kind of schizophrenia; they blame Moscow for each and everything that goes wrong in Ukraine. One can agree with the opinion of some Ukrainian experts who say that, no matter what happened to Kolomoisky, the government cannot really challenge the existing system because the rule of tycoons is what the state of Ukraine is based on today. This system was supported by Americans during the Maidan events. The attacks against individual tycoons, even if upon the command from the White House, don’t really change anything.