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Ukraine Shackled by Revolution and Oligarchs

Published: March 5, 2014 (Issue # 1800)


Many people see theUkrainian uprising as adirect result ofa sort ofdoubles match that paired ousted Presidents Vladimir Putin andViktor Yanukovych against German Chancellor Angela Merkel andEuropean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Others suspect that Washington instigated theturmoil. But if we clear thehaze surrounding thecrisis, then suddenly we can see that thereal root ofthe problem lies buried deep beneath thesurface: anintricate web woven byUkraines wealthiest business leaders.

It would be amistake tothink that Ukraine wants torepeat Russias accomplishments andYanukovych sought toreplicate Putins success as apowerful leader. Even though thetwo countries share asimilar language andculture, their political systems are vastly different, especially when it comes tothe part played bywealth businessmen ininfluencing politics.

Bythe late 2000s, theoperative influence ofbillionaires ondaily politics had almost completely vanished inRussia, mainly aresult ofmeasures taken byPutin. Clear examples ofthose measures include the10-year imprisonment ofRussias once most wealthy man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, andthe banishment ofone-time Kremlin powerbroker Boris Berezovsky intoself-exile andapparent suicide inBritain. While Russian billionaires visibly controlled politics via the Family atthe end ofthe Boris Yeltsin era, Putin systematically destroyed their influence byappointing siloviki, who have controlled Russia forthe past decade.

Incontrast with Russia, Ukraine has established afairly unique political system after the1991 dissolution ofthe Soviet Union. Similarly toRussia, several billionaires andtheir clans have emerged due tothe unaccountable andfast privatization offormer state assets under President Leonid Kuchma during the1990s. Dominant clans fromDonetsk, Dnipropetrovsk andKiev have appeared inmetallurgy, banking, energy andother industries.

Bythe early 2000s, Kuchmas presidential powers began tofade thanks toa status quo-based system that lacked reform. That is why thelast few years ofhis regime are known income circles as theKuchma vapidity.

Enter anunexpected andinteresting turn ofevents. In2004, Ukrainian voters elected apresident, Viktor Yushchenko, who was out ofthe reach ofthe clans influence. Yushchenko, with his independence, patriotism andradical anti-corruption andanti-Russian attitude, became asignificant threat tothe billionaires who controlled Ukrainian politics. Yushchenkos supporters were mere businessmen fromthe western part ofUkraine: small fry compared tobillionaires such as Rinat Akhmetov andDmytro Firtash. This is exactly what proved tobe Yushchenkos undoing. He only had thesupport ofthe masses but barely any financial or political support fromthe ruling elite. That disadvantage proved tobe quite costly inan oligarch-controlled nation such as Ukraine.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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