The idea that the Ukrainian runaway oligarch, Igor Kolomoisky, is planning to regain control of the nationalized PrivatBank was in the air for some time now. But until the presidential race for the upcoming elections in Ukraine, it had little substance to it.
Today, there are at least three candidates who are in one way or another associated with Kolomoisky – Vladimir Zelensky, Alexander Shevchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. The ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine Anatoly Grytsenko was also heard to be seeking funding from the oligarch.
As Kolomoisky is fighting not to let the acting president Petro Poroshenko become a president once again, in his interviews he praised almost anyone who plays against the current president. “If I had an opportunity, I would financially support Yulia Tymoshenko, Vladimir Zelensky and Anatoly Grytsenko,” – he once said in the interview.
It might have been considered a joke if he wasn’t in the top 10 of the Forbes “THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD” rating for Ukraine and didn’t own one of the most popular TV channels in the country.
The Servant of his Master
Zelensky has long and fruitful cooperation with the owner of the 1+1 TV channel. How far beyond business it goes is hard to tell, but it is also hard to imagine why successful showman will decide to become a president of a country at war with zero political experience, no team and as much knowledge about the inert and still quite rusty mechanism of the state in the middle of the painful reforms. There is no logical explanation unless he is doing it not entirely of his own accord.
And may this “incentive” be connected to the recent accusations of his involvement in the withdrawal of the $41 million of PrivatBank depositors’ funds when Kolomoisky was still in charge, or something more sinister, it doesn’t matter. Something is missing from the picture if we were to assume that Zelensky really wants to become the “servant of the people”, as the name of his newly registered political party suggests him to be.
Some say Kolomoisky has come up with the idea of creating a no-name party from scratch to defend his interests 20 years ago, but today he may be finally close to realize his dreams with the help of this fictional character portrayed by Zelensky – Holoborodko [formerly a high school history teacher and now a president in the Ukrainian sitcom “Servant of the People” – YT].
But in real life he is nothing like that, he crumbles under the critique, he is afraid of the live shows [he appears through skype with a 6 seconds delay], he looks totally unprepared even for the simple interviews. How will he be able to steer the wheel of the biggest country in Europe? The only possible answer may be that he wouldn’t have to, he is just a facade, just a ventriloquist doll in the skillful hands of his master.
Big False Start of Presidential Campaign 2019
In 2008 and even in 2014 Kolomoisky openly disliked Tymoshenko and referred to her as to “a mix of Trotskyism and a broken business career.” But in 2018 in the interview for the Deutsche Welle in the truly surprising change of heart, he calls her “the most worthy” among the “old faces” in Ukrainian politics. Later the same year, we have learned about the secret negotiations between Tymoshenko and Kolomoisky in Warsaw. And finally in December of 2018 Kolomoisky calls her the leader of the upcoming presidential race.
But Tymoshenko grossly miscalculated her moves if she really intended to become a president, false starting her campaign almost a year before the elections [officially in Ukraine presidential campaign starts 3 months prior to the polling day] she flooded Ukrainian cities with her billboard and citylight ads. As the elections’ day came closer, voters became extensively tired of her intrusive campaign, scandals, accusations and a neverending torrent of populism. Now she finally went down to the third place in pre-election polls, falling behind Zelensky and Poroshenko.
In the last-minute bid to salvage her presidential prospects, Tymoshenko announced she was launching impeachment proceedings against Poroshenko [same tactics that we have seen times and times before] on the grounds of the questionable journalistic investigation, that conveniently appeared a little more than a month before the elections.
There’s little chance Tymoshenko will be able to book a seat in the second round, but if she were to succeed that would leave Ukrainians with the combination of the two Kolomoisky’s candidates. Yes, the ventriloquist puppet – Zelensky – is by far a more desirable choice for Kolomoisky, but Tymoshenko would have to do if it comes to that.
Even though presidential prospects for Kolomoisky are looking somewhat promising for now, Ukrainian oligarchs are known to diversify their political investments. And as the elections to the parliament are coming later this year, Kolomoisky is willing to support Alexander Shevchenko [his business partner and candidate from his previous political project – party UKROP] and Anatoly Grytsenko [ex-Minister of Defense of Ukraine with his own political party – Civic Position].
All this support should be enough to help Kolomoisky defend his business interests in the new parliament. Even if he wouldn’t be able to affect the vote for the decisions he needs, he would most likely be able to block necessary decisions and therefore will surely try to bargain for the return of at least part of his former influence.
Kolomoisky and the Holding Company
What does all this have to do with Kolomoisky’s big Holding Company “Privat Group” [it is not officially registered, and does not act as a legal entity, but is often mentioned in the media as an informal association]? If Poroshenko wins, probably nothing. But either way Kolomoisky’s main goal is and will remain the return of PrivatBank and other assets to its former owner [himself and his partners]. Aside from PrivatBank, he would like to regain influence on Ukraine’s largest oil producer, Ukrnafta, in which Kolomoisky is a minority shareholder and which he effectively controlled until 2015. And also PJSC “Ordzhonikidze Mining and Processing Plant”, PJSC “Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant”, PJSC “Marganets Mining and Processing Plant”, PJSC “Dneproazot” and other enterprises controlled by former PrivatBank owners.
But if Kolomoisky will be able to succeed in knocking Poroshenko out of the race (which is looking more and more unlikely), it will leave Ukrainians with a truly awkward choice.
Willingly or not Kolomoisky is playing Putin’s game. Because if anyone is going to benefit from that, it would be Vladimir Putin, who is continuing attempts to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and wants anyone but Poroshenko to become the next Ukrainian president. Maybe Kolomoisky believes that he will be able to shake things out with Putin after all, but the truth is – nobody was really able to do it so far. Outside of the Ukrainian jurisdiction, he is even more likely to lose all of his assets, because Putin’s Russia [albeit the same as every Russia before] is not very keen on following any court rulings except its own, as we all had the opportunity to see.