Fighting for power

Oligarchs have started campaigning for seats in the parliament with a war in the media

Oligarchs have started campaigning for seats in the parliament with a war in the media
Igor Kolomoisky is seriously thinking about entering public politics
Photo: Unian

Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration Ihor Kolomoiskiy came into open conflict with the group of businessman Dmytro Firtash and the former head of the Presidential Administration Serhiy Lyovochkin. For now their confrontation takes place in the media plane, but soon it may move into the political arena.

War in primetime

The other day the leading TV channels of Ukraine – 1+1 and Inter – exchanged revealing stories about the owners of their competitors. On Tuesday Inter showed the film Hello/Privat Chameleon that sharply criticized the work of Kolomoiskiy and PrivatBank, which he is a co-owner of. This can be considered a response to the investigation of the illegal activities of Lyovochkin and Firtash previously broadcast by 1+1. “The tradition of settling accounts through controlled media persists. As we can see the main television channels continue to broadcast biased stories. Journalists are being used to settle accounts with political and economic opponents,” First Secretary of the National Council of Journalists of Ukraine Serhiy Tomilenko said.

Clashes in the media space are taking place on the backdrop of the increasing political activity of the owners of the aforementioned channels. For example, Lyovochkin engaged in party building and oversees the formation of the Party for the Development of Ukraine. Last Sunday he announced live on the air of the ICTV channel his intentions of running in the next elections to the Verkhovna Rada.

The head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration, which has been actively involved in formation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs volunteer battalions in the east, made a proposal on Monday to confiscate the assets of supporters of the separatists. “This is a fight for the expansion of zones of interest for the Privat Group, which managed to gain a foothold, despite the extremely complicated economic and political situation in the country.

Kolomoyskiy met with members of the former government and people in its inner circles,” said Director of the Institute of Ukrainian Politics Kostyantyn Bondarenko. He says one of the reasons for the conflicts between financial and industrial groups is the struggle for influence on President Petro Poroshenko. “Kolomoyskiy sees Lyovochkin and Firtash as the main rivals. For this reason, they are targets of information attacks by the Privat Group, while Kolomoyskiy himself is the main character in hard-hitting TV stories aired by Inter. In case of victory over separatism in the Donbas the conflict on television will only grow stronger,” says Bondarenko.
Former MP Taras Chornovol advocates a similar version, saying that the Presidential Administration watches the conflict from the sidelines.

In anticipation of elections

Capital learned that the relations between Kolomoyskiy’s inner circle and the Lyovochkin-Firtash group deteriorated in May. At the same time, the head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration placed a stake on Serhiy Tihipko, who was previously considered to be close to the “gas” group. Capital’s source in Lyovochkin’s cabal confirmed this information, saying that Kolomoyskiy is mainly interested in Tihipko’s political project Strong Ukraine for participation in early elections to the Rada.

MPs close to Tihipko assure there is no need to discuss a serious conflict between the groups of Kolomoyskiy and Firtash-Lyovochkin. “Tomorrow they will reach some agreement. Generally speaking, there has always been a conflict, but now we see this from a different angle,” said MP Oleh Shablatovych (independent), who abandoned the PoR faction together with Tihipko back in April. A similar opinion was expressed by MP Andriy Pinchuk, who ran Tihipko’s headquarters in Kyiv during the presidential election. “There will be no political opposition when MPs and officials belonging to certain groups of influence actively counteract each other. There are no prerequisites for such behavior,” he assured.

Deputy Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast State Administration Svyatoslav Oliynyk said the actions of his colleagues are dictated solely by the struggle against separatism. “We fight anyone who stands up for separatism. We believe Firtash is one of those people. And if there are such stories, it means we are not mistaken in our suspicions,” said Oliynyk.

Andriy Yermolayev, who heads the New Ukraine institute created by Lyovochkin, explains moving the conflict into the public plane with Kolomoyskiy’s attempt to show his political openness. Earlier, he resorted to the tactic of influencing Ukrainian politics from the shadows. Yermolayev believes this is dictated by the fact that the Privat Group is interested in early elections to the VR with the aim of forming its own lobby in the parliament.

“Over the time after the events on Maidan they worked on their images, dressing up as patriots and advocates of a strong state. They try to use such images to gain power and build up their future monopolies,” said Yermolayev.

Chornovol says at present both conflicting groups have major political plans. “Kolomoyskiy is also interested in the administrative vertical in the south, and most likely, in the east, where he would like to “squeeze out” the Party of Regions. At the elections to the parliament he will make a stake on the brightest politicians, as a key element in certain political projects. At the same time, the Firtash - Lyovochkin group is not only creating new projects with a vision of a bright political future, but will also promote such scandalous and infamous politicians such as Lyashko,” Chornovil said in a conversation with Capital.

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