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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

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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