Rule by oligarchs: Kiev appoints billionaires to govern east

The self-proclaimed government in Kiev has appointed two of Ukraine’s richest men to govern large industrial regions in the defiant east. One of the reasons for the Maidan protest was the influence the rich have on politics in the country.

The appointments of new governors of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk  Regions are among 18 made on Sunday by Kiev, which is struggling  to consolidate power after the coup which ousted President  Yanukovich last month.

The newly-appointed Dnepropetrovsk governor is Igor Kolomoysky,  Ukraine’s third-wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of $2.4  billion. He co-owns the informal commercial group Privat, which  includes Ukraine’s largest bank Privatbank, which Kolomoysky  heads, as well as assets in the oil, ferroalloys and food  industries, agriculture and transport.

 A former ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, Kolomoysky reportedly had a  falling out with her and refused to finance her election campaign  in 2010, which the ex-prime minister subsequently lost to  Yanukovich. Kolomoysky was reported to be a principal sponsor of  the UDAR party, which is one of the three fueling the street  campaign to oust Yanukovich. Kolomoysky has a dual  Ukrainian-Israeli citizenship and controls his business empire  from Switzerland.

 The new governor of Donetsk Region is Sergey Taruta, who is  estimated to worth around $2 billion, putting him among the  top-10 wealthiest people in Ukraine. He heads ISD, one of the  biggest mining and smelting companies in the world, and also own  Donetsk-based Metallurg Football Club.

Not a stranger to politics, he used to sponsor Viktor Yushchenko,  who came to power in Ukraine after the Orange Revolution of 2004.  Among his personal habits is a reputed love for luxurious jewelry  and ostentatious gold statues, reports RT’s Peter Oliver.

The appointments will have “a positive effect on the regional  aspect,” believes Vladimir Groisman, who was appointed  vice-president for regional development in the self-installed  government.

“They are well-known and wealthy people. They had a choice –  they could by a plane ticket or fly their own plane and go to  another country and wait for the developments there. Or they  could take responsibility. I respect their choice,” he said.

Among the accusations mounted on Yanukovich by protesting crowds  in Kiev was the charge that he used his presidential power to  take over assets of Ukrainian businessmen and make an illegal  fortune for himself and his allies. Some Ukraine observers  suggested that the oligarchs, threatened by presidential greed,  financed the Maidan protests, seeing them as leverage on the  government.

After his ouster, photos from Yanukovich’s opulent residence of  gilded furniture and a private zoo in suburban Kiev made  headlines worldwide. There is little doubt that many of those who  sought to topple him for being corruptly enriched would eye the  appointment of affluent businessmen to offices of power with a  deal of suspicion…




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