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.