New Donet­skites: A shift of gen­er­a­tions in the elec­toral field of the for­mer Party of Re­gions clans

How gen­er­a­tions shift in the elec­toral field of the for­mer Party of Re­gions clans

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - Denys Kazan­skyi

The word "Donet­skite" took on a nega­tive mean­ing in Ukraine as the Donetsk clan led by for­mer Donetsk Oblast Ad­min­is­tra­tion head Viktor Yanukovych be­came stronger and started to as­pire to power. Over the years, this neg­a­tiv­ity only ac­cu­mu­lated, and by the end of 2013 the ad­jec­tive "Donet­skite" (not to be con­fused with a "res­i­dent of Donetsk") was al­most a swear word.

How­ever, since the start of the war in the Don­bas, the word, strangely enough, has al­most dis­ap­peared from use. It lost its rel­e­vance as Don­bas na­tives lost their power and fled Ukraine en masse. A dif­fer­ent, pre­vi­ously unknown word – "separ" [sep­a­ratist] – re­placed it.

So have those whom we called Donet­skites re­ally dis­ap­peared? In­deed, af­ter the crush­ing de­feat of the Yanukovych clan and the start of the war in the Don­bas, the author­ity of peo­ple from the re­gion plum­meted. But they did not go any­where, only re­treat­ing into the shad­ows for a short time be­fore start­ing a new march on Kyiv. Although Ukraine does not con­trol Donetsk and Luhansk at present, the Donet­skites have stayed put and still play an im­por­tant role in po­lit­i­cal life.

As be­fore, the rich­est cit­i­zen of Ukraine is Donetsk oli­garch Ri­nat Akhme­tov. The Op­po­si­tion Bloc (OB) fac­tion in par­lia­ment is fi­nanced by him and con­tains peo­ple loyal to him. The co-leader of the OB, by the way, is Akhme­tov's long-time part­ner Bo­rys Kolesnikov, also one of the wealth­i­est Ukraini­ans, who still has a business in oc­cu­pied Donetsk. Vet­er­ans of the "Donetsk Move­ment", such as YukhymZvi­ahilskyi, and the Luhansk clans of Nataliya Korolevska, Min­is­ter of So­cial Pol­icy un­der Yanukovych, and Yuriy Boiko, ex-Min­is­ter of En­ergy un­der Yanukovych, are also present in the party.

To­day, these peo­ple are ac­tively think­ing through their plans for a re­turn to power. And, ad­mit­tedly, they are do­ing ev­ery­thing right. At the very least, Op­po­si­tion Bloc poll num­bers are rising.

How­ever, lead­ing roles in to­day's Ukraine are be­ing oc­cu­pied not by vet­er­ans of the Party of Re­gions, but by a new wave of Donet­skites. Rel­a­tively young, as far as politi­cians go, they are peo­ple from the Don­bas that pre­vi­ously played bit parts or were to­tally ob­scure. They are cur­rently rapidly gain­ing strength and in­flu­ence, and un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances will even be able to force out their older coun­ter­parts in the fu­ture.

The new Donet­skites are usu­ally not as­so­ci­ated with the Op­po­si­tion Bloc and rep­re­sent the new po­lit­i­cal forces that emerged af­ter the 2014 rev­o­lu­tion. A clas­sic ex­am­ple of the new Don­bass gen­er­a­tion is 40-year-old Vi­taliy Kho­mu­tyn­nyk, who Ukrainian jour­nal­ists call the "rising star of the Ukrainian oli­garchy".

Just re­cently, sev­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions de­voted to Kho­mu­tyn­nyk have ap­peared in the me­dia. Each of them recorded a sharp in­crease in the MP's in­flu­ence and rev­enue since the tri­umph of the Maidan. Vi­taliy Kho­mu­tyn­nyk hails from Makiyivka, Donetsk Oblast. He be­came leader of the Party of Re­gions youth or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2001 and was first elected to par­lia­ment in 2002. At that time, Kho­mu­tyn­nyk was only 26 years old and re­mained in the shadow of his el­der and more in­flu­en­tial col­leagues. His name was al­most unknown in Ukraine.

How­ever, Kho­mu­tyn­nyk's in­flu­ence grew over the years. Af­ter the col­lapse of the Party of Re­gions (PoR), where the MP carved out a ca­reer for him­self, it in­creased even fur­ther. In 2014, the Makiyivka na­tive put him­self up for elec­tion in a ma­jor­ity con­stituency of Kharkiv Oblast and won. In the opin­ion of lo­cal jour­nal­ists, he was able to achieve such a re­sult thanks to the sup­port of Kharkiv Mayor Hen­nadiy Kernes, who moved to new party Vidrodzhen­nia (Re­nais­sance) af­ter the col­lapse of the PoR and led it to vic­tory at lo­cal elec­tions in 2015. In this party, a lead­ing role is played by Vi­taliy Kho­mu­tyn­nyk him­self, who is a mem­ber of its po­lit­i­cal coun­cil and leads the par­lia­men­tary group of the same name. It is known to be as­so­ci­ated with oli­garch Ihor Kolo­moiskyi.


In 2014, Kho­mu­tyn­nyk of­fi­cially de­clared an in­come of US $293 mil­lion. De­spite the fact that he has been an MP for the last 14 years. In ad­di­tion to these mil­lions, he also has a yacht and a pri­vate jet, as jour­nal­ist Khrystyna Ber­dyn­skykh dis­cov­ered not too long ago.

This sud­den pros­per­ity came to Kho­mu­tyn­nyk for good rea­son. When the Donetsk clan lost power, the young "Re­gional" made friends with Ihor Kolo­moiskyi. To­day, Kho­mu­tyn­nyk is in business with the oli­garch. In ad­di­tion, the man from Makiyivka is most likely in­volved in cus­toms fraud. Re­cently, jour­nal­ists man­aged to pho­to­graph the screen of his phone, which showed mes­sages to another of Kolo­moiskyi's men – ex-Gover­nor of Odesa Oblast Ihor Pa­lyt­sia. They men­tioned suit­able amounts for bribes.

New Donet­skites have also ap­peared in the pres­i­dent's or­bit. In the Petro Poroshenko Bloc (PPB) fac­tion to­day, there are sev­eral for­mer "Re­gion­als" from Donetsk Oblast. The most odi­ous is Oleh Ne­dava, who has been linked to crime boss Yura Ye­nakiyivskyi (Yuriy Iva­niushchenko). In­ter­est­ingly, Ne­dava is a ma-

jor­ity con­stituency MP elected in a con­stituency not con­trolled by Ukraine. At the elec­tions, he rep­re­sented Vuh­le­hirsk, now cap­tured by the mil­i­tants.

Ac­cord­ing to nu­mer­ous sources, Ne­dava continues to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of ty­coon Yuriy Iva­niushchenko in Ukraine. Re­cently, Peo­ple's Front MP Ta­tiana Chorno­vol stated to jour­nal­ists that Ne­dava is help­ing Iva­niushchenko to re­tain con­trol over the 7th Kilo­me­tre Market in Odesa.

Another in­flu­en­tial "Re­gional" in the past and now a mem­ber of the PPB is Kram­a­torsk res­i­dent Maksym Ye­fi­mov, for­mer deputy on Kram­a­torsk City Coun­cil. At the 2014 elec­tions, Ye­fi­mov was vic­to­ri­ous in the first-past-the-post Kram­a­torsk con­stituency. Then he joined the PPB par­lia­men­tary group. Cu­ri­ously, de­spite re­main­ing a mem­ber of that fac­tion, he is es­sen­tially in charge of another party in Kram­a­torsk – Nash Krai (Our Land). The lat­ter is mainly com­posed of for­mer PoR mem­bers, but is con­trolled by the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Poroshenko is try­ing in this way to pick up some of the for­mer PoR elec­torate. And lo­cal elec­tions in 2015 showed that Our Land did in­deed man­age to steal away some sup­port from the Op­po­si­tion Bloc.

This sum­mer, another rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Our

Land, Stakhanov na­tive Ser­hiy Shakhov, won a by-elec­tion in Luhansk Oblast. How­ever, he only man­aged to do this thanks to mas­sive elec­toral fraud. Al­most all Ukrainian me­dia out­lets wrote about the nu­mer­ous vi­o­la­tions in ma­jor­ity con­stituency 114, but the Cen­tral Elec­tion

Com­mis­sion turned a blind eye, as tra­di­tion de­mands.

Shakov's pa­tron in par­lia­ment is his old friend Ar­tur

Herasy­mov, who is close to Poroshenko. In 2012, Herasy­mov at­tempted to be elected in one of the ma­jor­ity con­stituen­cies in Hor­livka, where he po­si­tioned him­self as a mem­ber of "Shakhov's team". Shakhov him­self ran in Luhansk Oblast. Both lost to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Party of Re­gions, who it was vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to com­pete with at the time. How­ever, a few years ago the finest hour of "Shakhov's team" came af­ter all.

Things are not so rosy for those who it is now cus­tom­ary to con­sider fresh-faced Donet­skites. For some time, young Yevhen Mu­rayev from Kharkiv, who be­gan to gain pop­u­lar­ity af­ter Yanukovych's down­fall, was seen as the new fig­ure­head and rising star of the for­mer "Re­gion­als". Nev­er­the­less, af­ter a while he left the Op­po­si­tion Bloc fac­tion and an­nounced the cre­ation of a new party project along­side another ex-Re­gional Vadym Rabi­novych.

Ob­vi­ously, in the fu­ture a phe­nom­e­non like an en­tire party of peo­ple from the Don­bas will have no chance of suc­cess in Ukraine and will once and for all be­come a thing of the past. To­day, we can al­ready ob­serve how the na­tives of East­ern re­gions are dis­pers­ing into var­i­ous par­ties and projects. More­over, if Luhansk and Donetsk are not reintegrated into Ukraine in the near fu­ture, the Donetsk-Luhansk clans will fi­nally lose their for­mer might and will no longer be able to lay claim to power.

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