Real crack­down?

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

With all the ne­far­i­ous mem­bers of the for­mer rul­ing Party of Re­gions run­ning around free and un­in­ves­ti­gated, or hid­ing out with im­punity in Rus­sia, it was un­for­tu­nate that Pres­i­dent Petro Porosenko had to go af­ter fel­low bil­lion­aire Igor Kolo­moisky, sacking him as Dnipropetr­o­vsk Oblast gover­nor on March 25.

Still, Kolo­moisky richly de­served to be re­moved from power. He ac­tu­ally forced Poroshenko’s hand af­ter de­ploy­ing pri­vate armed guards in a failed bid to wrest con­trol of state-owned Ukr­nafta. Kolo­moisky con­trols a mi­nor­ity 42 per­cent stake in the oil com­pany, but it amounted to a block­ing in­ter­est be­cause the state couldn’t take any ac­tion with­out a 60 per­cent quo­rum un­der a pre­vi­ous law. Law­mak­ers wisely changed that to 50 per­cent plus one share, a bill signed into law by Poroshenko, and de­manded that Kolo­moisky fork over Hr 1.9 bil­lion in div­i­dends de­nied to the state.

Kolo­moisky has en­gaged in very ques­tion­able busi­ness tac­tics in the past, to put it mildly, but has been for­given be­cause he has shored up the eastern front quite ad­mirably since Rus­sia launched its war against Ukraine more than a year ago.

Poroshenko needs to go even fur­ther and de­mand tax pay­ments and even re­na­tion­al­iza­tion of some state as­sets that had been cheaply, un­com­pet­i­tively and non-trans­par­ently sold to in­sider ty­coons in the past.

Po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors must also launch in­ves­ti­ga­tions into whether Kolo­moisky com­mit­ted crimes in his con­trol of Ukr­nafta.

The Kolo­moisky af­fair, com­bined with this week’s tele­vised ar­rests of two top state emer­gency ser­vice of­fi­cials sus­pected of tak­ing kick­backs in mak­ing fuel pur­chases, must sig­nal the long over­due start of a real battle against cor­rup­tion – not merely more pub­lic­ity stunts.

Kolo­moisky’s re­moval and the re­asser­tion of state con­trol over Ukr­nafta also seemed to show that Poroshenko and Prime Min­is­ter Arseniy Yat­senyukuk are united in putting public in­ter­ests above pri­vate ones. Ac­cu­sa­tions of Kolo­moisky’s strong in­flu­ence over the Yat­senyuk bloc in par­lia­ment seem to be ex­ag­ger­ated, at the least.

As for se­cu­rity con­cerns, we hope that Kolo­moisky’s de­par­ture cre­ates no open­ing for Rus­sian forces and their prox­ies to ad­vance west­ward. We hopepe that Kolo­moisky will put the na­tional in­ter­ests first when it comes to de­fend­ding the moth­er­land. Even if he doesn’t, the de­fense of Ukraine rests with thehe Ukrainian peo­ple – and their armies.

It was en­cour­ag­ing, on this score, to see Poroshenko and Kolo­moisky at a joint press con­fer­ence on March 26 pledg­ing to sup­port Ukraine and eachch other.

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