Ukraine Shackled by Revolution and Oligarchs
Published: March 5, 2014 (Issue # 1800)
Many people see theáUkrainian uprising as aádirect result ofáa sort ofádoubles match that paired ousted Presidents Vladimir Putin andáViktor Yanukovych against German Chancellor Angela Merkel andáEuropean Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Others suspect that Washington instigated theáturmoil. But if we clear theáhaze surrounding theácrisis, then suddenly we can see that theáreal root ofáthe problem lies buried deep beneath theásurface: anáintricate web woven byáUkraineĺs wealthiest business leaders.
It would be aámistake toáthink that Ukraine wants toárepeat Russiaĺs accomplishments andáYanukovych sought toáreplicate Putinĺs success as aápowerful leader. Even though theátwo countries share aásimilar language andáculture, their political systems are vastly different, especially when it comes toáthe part played byáwealth businessmen ináinfluencing politics.
Byáthe late 2000s, theáoperative influence ofábillionaires onádaily politics had almost completely vanished ináRussia, mainly aáresult ofámeasures taken byáPutin. Clear examples ofáthose measures include theá10-year imprisonment ofáRussiaĺs once most wealthy man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, andáthe banishment ofáone-time Kremlin powerbroker Boris Berezovsky intoáself-exile andáapparent suicide ináBritain. While Russian billionaires visibly controlled politics via ôthe Familyö atáthe end ofáthe Boris Yeltsin era, Putin systematically destroyed their influence byáappointing siloviki, who have controlled Russia foráthe past decade.
Inácontrast with Russia, Ukraine has established aáfairly unique political system after theá1991 dissolution ofáthe Soviet Union. Similarly toáRussia, several billionaires andátheir clans have emerged due toáthe unaccountable andáfast privatization ofáformer state assets under President Leonid Kuchma during theá1990s. Dominant clans fromáDonetsk, Dnipropetrovsk andáKiev have appeared inámetallurgy, banking, energy andáother industries.
Byáthe early 2000s, Kuchmaĺs presidential powers began toáfade thanks toáa status quo-based system that lacked reform. That is why theálast few years ofáhis regime are known inácome circles as theáKuchma vapidity.
Enter anáunexpected andáinteresting turn ofáevents. Iná2004, Ukrainian voters elected aápresident, Viktor Yushchenko, who was out ofáthe reach ofáthe clansĺ influence. Yushchenko, with his independence, patriotism andáradical anti-corruption andáanti-Russian attitude, became aásignificant threat toáthe billionaires who controlled Ukrainian politics. Yushchenkoĺs supporters were mere businessmen fromáthe western part ofáUkraine: small fry compared toábillionaires such as Rinat Akhmetov andáDmytro Firtash. This is exactly what proved toábe Yushchenkoĺs undoing. He only had theásupport ofáthe masses but barely any financial or political support fromáthe ruling elite. That disadvantage proved toábe quite costly ináan oligarch-controlled nation such as Ukraine.
Pages:  [2 ]