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Ukrainian tycoons’ war fraught with crisis of power - analysts

March 24, 2015, 17:01 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
Igor Kolomoisky

Igor Kolomoisky

© ITAR-TASS/Konstantin Sazonchik/file image

MOSCOW, March 24. /TASS/. The current stand-off between Ukrainian big business tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Region, and President Petro Poroshenko has not only a commercial side to it, but underlying political reasons as well, and this may well trigger a crisis of power in the country, polled experts have told TASS.

In brief, the unfolding conflict looks as follows. First, President Poroshenko made a decision to replace the chief of the country’s largest oil and gas company Ukranafta, in which Kolomoisky’s businesses control an aggregate 42% stake, while the government owns 50% plus one share. Kolomoisky rose in revolt last Sunday to venture into Ukrnafta’s building with a group of gunmen by his side to put it under control.

The US ambassador in Kiev, according to the Ukrainian press, has intervened to take President Poroshenko’s side.

Kolomoisky has not confined himself to fighting for his business interests, though. In an interview to the television broadcaster 1+1 he owns the tycoon explained his political platform. He declared that in his opinion the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk Republics were "an accomplished fact" and urged negotiations with their leaders. In the meantime, the deputy governor of the Dnipropetrovsk Region, Gennady Korban, has accused the authorities in Kiev of concealing the true casualties sustained by the Ukrainian army during what the Ukrainian establishment invariably refers to as "anti-terrorist operation" in the south-east of the country.

President Poroshenko has repaid Kolomoisky with his own coin. He vowed he would not let any governor have a "private army", thereby making a clear hint at the head of the Dnipropetrovsk Region, who is known to keep several volunteer battalions on his payroll. The Ukrainian Security Service has dealt its own blow on Kolomoisky. As its chief Valentin Nalivaichenko has said at a special news briefing, the security service is probing into the rumoured involvement of senior officials of the Dnipropetrovsk Region’s administration in financing a crime ring responsible for smuggling goods across the line of disengagement with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics and for kidnappings.

"Kolomoisky has laid hands not only on the country’s largest oil and gas company, but on the largest pipeline network, too, and this is a kind of business that is inseparable from politics," the director of the Globalization Problems Institute, Mikhail Delyagin, has told TASS. "Now the question of power is high on the agenda for him. Kolomoisky is ready to pay his supporters with a lavish hand. He can easily afford to literally buy up a majority in the Ukrainian parliament. This, in turn may lead to the overthrow of Petro Poroshenko, for instance with the help of more massive street protests."

"In Dnepropetrovsk, some have already called a mass rally to rehearse Maidan-style demonstrations," Delyagin warns. "It is not ruled out that the Kolomoisky-led Dnepropetrovsk Region will become a country within a country, independent from Kiev. US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, after having a word with Kolomoisky, came out in support of the Poroshenko team, which Washington had railroaded to power, but he tends to underestimate how really dangerous the Dnipropetrovsk governor can be. He defies any restrictions on the use of violence".

The deputy director of the Political Technologies Centre, Alexey Makarkin, believes that "as most of the volunteer battalions Kolomoisky was financing throughout the crackdown on Donbas have become integrated with Ukraine’s law enforcement system, President Poroshenko has decided to strip the Dnipropetrovsk governor of his risky influence on the events in the country and to bar him from the strategic oil industry."

"But Kolomoisky does not give up," says Makarkin. "He tries to keep Ukrnafta under control and achieve a compromise with Poroshenko. Kolomoisky will certainly not go as far as an armed confrontation with Kiev. Firstly, he lacks the resources for that. Secondly, in the latest flare-up of the conflict the United States has preferred to throw its weight behind the Ukrainian president. The big business tycoon will surely not dare confront the United States."

"The Kolomoisky-Poroshenko clash merely mirrors the confrontation of these two heavyweights in both politics and in business. Everything is tightly intertwined here. Kolomoisky is adamant to expand his zone of influence in Ukraine. Naturally, the president is very unhappy about this. He has been using all available administrative leverage to hamstring his competitor," the head of the Niccolo-M political consultancy, Igor Mintusov, has told TASS.

"Objectively, the conflict between Kolomoisky and Poroshenko is provoking a crisis of government in Ukraine, which harms the positions of the state in the international scene and in home politics."

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