The power struggle between oligarchs and the political elite of Ukraine
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The power struggle between oligarchs and the political elite of Ukraine

Thursday, 15 April 2021
This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine has recently stepped up its seizure of assets from several oligarchs in the country. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

While Europe continues its struggle with the pandemic, Ukraine currently experiences additional challenges and political tension in confronting Russian aggression.

In such conditions, it is no surprise that the political elite — in its struggle for power, control and resources — sometimes pass off their actions as the wishes of the EU and the US within the context of Ukraine’s fight against oligarchs and implementation of unpopular reforms.

Russian and pro-Russian media continues to spread the narratives of Ukraine being de facto controlled by Brussels and Washington. The reality however is that the impact of the West on the domestic policy of Ukraine is exaggerated. But Ukrainian politicians benefit from such an interpretation as it enables them to further their personal interests under the guise of sanctions.

As a result of this scenario, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) has effectively become an instrument for out-of-court settlement of property issues under the pretense of the West’s wishes. The first blow was struck to the assets of pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk and his partners. The result of the sanctions imposed by the decision of the NSDC was the nationalization of the LLC PRIKARPATZAKHIDTRANS oil pipeline, the closure of three TV channels, a network of gas stations and its other oil and gas assets.

Influential media outlet, Warsaw based Nexta, which coordinated the protests in Belarus, claims that these actions are directly instructed from the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak and the former head of the Presidential Administration Viktor Yanukovych Sergiy Lyovochkin.

Another recent example of this trend is the release of the large investigation film “The Heir”, directed against the wealthiest Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.

To convince the oligarch to become more compliant and form a coalition with the Presidential Office, the team shot and released a documentary film “Heir” on the TV channel Hromadske TV. The purpose of the film was effectively to show Rinat Akhmetov’s associates that the West has not forgotten about the oligarch’s past.

The film “Heir” is just one of many examples of tactics and strategy Ukrainian politics sometimes use to exert influence over the business community.

On December 3, 2020, the movie premiered on the TV channel and YouTube. Maxym Kameniev, the film’s ideologist and journalist at Hromadske TV, previously worked at a media affiliated with Sergiy Lyovochkin.

The film’s budget and scale are in stark contrast with interest from its viewership as well as recent events involving Hromadske TV itself, which has faced its own challenges and announced in November 2019 that it would downscale its operations in order to save money.

Besides, the premiere of the film was accompanied by an information campaign in Ukrainian media to provide the image of a certain kind of message to Rinat Akhmetov from Ukraine’s western partners. After all, most of the funding for Hromadske TV comes from European and American grants.

As the power struggle between the business and political community continues in Ukraine, it is important to take a step back and properly analyse whether all the actions from Ukrainian politicians are warranted, instead of blindly accepting them under the guise of pro-European wishes.