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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

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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