In Background, Digest, Feature Articles, Ukraine

By Jérôme Duval, December 5, 2015, published on the website of the Belgium-based Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debty (CADTM)

In the continuity of the famous pirated telephone call between Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia under Obama, and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, [1] the new Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, working closely with George Soros [2], pursues his rapprochement with the USA and the business milieu at the expense of the Ukrainian people – who, meanwhile, are sinking into destitution under merciless austerity policies.

Billionaire Poroshenko takes power

The 'chocolate king' Petro Poroshenko, began his business career in cocoa (photo by AFP)

The ‘chocolate king’ Petro Poroshenko, began his business career in cocoa (photo by AFP)

On 25 May, 2014 a presidential election, marked by an abstention rate of over 40%, was finally held, bringing billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko to power. He is one of the main sponsors and organisers of the “Orange Revolution” and is also thought to have given financial support to the EuroMaidan movement [3]. The newly-converted statesman built his fortune by taking advantage of the wave of privatisations between 1996 and 1998, during which he bought up several public confectionery companies, which he then merged into the Roshen group – a reference to his surname (which explains his nickname, the “Chocolate King”). In an irony of history, the Roshen group also produces “Kiev cake”, a hazelnut-based confection, in the former Karl Marx plant in the capital.

A former director of Ukraine’s central bank (2007 – 2012), then Minister of the Economy, in 2012 under the Azarov government, Petro Poroshenko practises ultra-neoliberal politics: the free trade agreement between Kiev and the European Union is to enter into force in January 2016, and another with Canada is about to be concluded [4]. In 2014, according to Forbes magazine, his fortune was estimated at 1.6 billion dollars (some 1.5 billion euros), making him one of the richest men in the country. Poroshenko heads an empire that includes the Leninska Kuznya shipyard, taxi fleets, automobile factories, and media [5], including the Channel 5 (5 Kanal) television channel. One of his campaign promises was to bring the average wage of all Ukrainians in line with that of his employees – approximately 7,000 hryvnia: “If we can do it for 45,000 employees, we can do it for 45 million Ukrainians” is a favourite pronouncement of his [6]. And yet Ukraine’s minimum wage has become Europe’s lowest, at approximately 1,300 hryvnia per month, or not quite 50 € at November 2015 exchange rates [7] – less than Ghana’s.

Echoes of the Cold War

The new Poroshenko government has begged Ottawa, Washington and other Western capitals for high-performance weaponry to use in the struggle against the pro-Russian separatists [sic] in the country’s industrial East – weapons that have left 8,000 dead in 18 months. So far, the White House has agreed to send all-terrain military vehicles and unarmed drones [8]. In addition, based on announcements by the Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, Donald Renn, the Pentagon plans to train battalions of Ukrainian aerospace forces beginning on 23 November 2015 [9].

A new government of oligarchs and financiers

Journalists in Ukraine protest in front of Rada on Dec. 2, 2014 a newly created 'ministry of information', joined by new MP Mustafa Nayyem (photo by Christopher Miller-Mashable)

Journalists in Ukraine protest in front of Rada on Dec. 2, 2014 a newly created ‘ministry of information’, joined by new MP Mustafa Nayyem (photo by Christopher Miller-Mashable)

Under the Poroshenko government, a new “Ministry of Information Policy” has been formed. On the day it was approved, 2 December 2014, around forty journalists demonstrated in front of the Parliament with placards reading “Hello, Big Brother” – a reference to the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s novel 1984. This propaganda ministry – which, to bring the irony to its paroxysm, harks back to certain aspects of the former Communist regime which is a favourite target of criticism by the Ukrainian government – is directed by Yuriy Stets, the producer of Channel 5, which is owned by President Poroshenko. The creation of this ministry comes just after the publication of reports by several Ukrainian journalists and human-rights defence groups pointing to possible war crimes committed in East Ukraine by the fascist-like nationalist militias as well as separatist groups supported by Russia [10].

President Poroshenko has granted Ukrainian citizenship by decree to three foreign personalities who were immediately appointed ministers [11]:

  • After working for Hansabank in Estonia and the Swedish investment fund East Capital in 2002, then serving as a member of the Board of Directors of OAO Federal Hydrogeneration Company, Aivaras Abromavičius had to give up his Lithuanian citizenship to become Minister of Economy and Trade in Ukraine. While he speaks Russian, Lithuanian, Estonian and English fluently, he admits to understanding only 85% of what is said in Ukrainian in the Parliament [12].
  • Aivaras Abromavičius is not alone in adopting Ukrainian nationality in order to hold a political position. After a career in the U.S. State Department in Washington and a stint at the American embassy in Ukraine from 1992 to 1995, Natalie Jaresko started the investment firm Horizon Capital and is now Ukraine’s Finance Minister. While keeping her U.S. citizenship, she was granted Ukrainian nationality the day of her appointment, on 2 December 2014. On 16 September 2015 she signed an agreement for a loan of close to 500 million dollars with the World Bank|[13].
  • Demonstrating that a minister can successively hold appointments in several countries, Alexander Kvitashvili has become the new Minister of Health, the post he held in his own country, Georgia, for two years (2008-2010) [14].
Ceremony marking appointment of Mikheil Saakashvili (R) as governor of Odessa, May 30, 2015 (Ukraine Presidential Service photo)

Ceremony marking appointment of Mikheil Saakashvili (R) as governor of Odessa, May 30, 2015 (Ukraine Presidential Service photo)

But that’s not all. Mikheil Saakashvili [15], the former Georgian president who now faces several criminal charges, in particular abuse of authority and embezzlement of public monies (he is charged with pocketing nearly 5 million dollars out of the budget [16], is a friend of George W. Bush —the road from the airport in the capital, Tbilisi, was even renamed “George Bush Street” in 2005 after the then U.S. president’s visit to Georgia– and a supporter of the EuroMaidan movement; he became Governor of Odessa Oblast in May 2015, after having refused the post of Vice-Prime Minister. Saakashvili, then living in New York, where he was out of reach of legal proceedings stemming from a criminal investigation in his home country, answered a call from Poroshenko to join his team in the summer of 2014. To take the job, he had to give up his Georgian nationality to become a Ukrainian citizen [17]. This is the first case of a former president leaving his own country to assume a political post abroad. Saakashvili has declared that he is in Ukraine to fight the war against Putin: “I hate Vladimir Putin. I am in Ukraine because this is my war, the destiny of my life is being decided here.” [18]

The key post of Minister of Energy has gone to Volodymyr Demchyshyn. Before taking on the post of Minister, he was Executive Director of the investment fund Investment Capital Ukraine. He served as vice-president of ING Bank Ukraine and was chief economist of Ernst & Young in Kiev (2003 – 2006)… the perfect profile for conducting a policy of rate increases and privatisation of the energy sector.

Arsen Avakov, who was put on Interpol’s list in 2012 for illegally transferring 55 hectares of land near Pisochyn in Kharkiv Oblast, where he held the post of Governor (between 2005 and 2010), has remained Minister of the Interior.

Dmytro Yarosh, the Nazi leader of the Right Sector (Pravy Sektor) movement, was appointed adviser to the Ministry of Defense in April with the task of facilitating the integration of the Right Sector volunteer battalions into the army.

The new government of the oligarch Poroshenko, with close ties to both the extreme Right and NATO, does not appear to want to tread the path of peace in the region. Looking at these appointments, interference by the business milieu into political and economic decisions appears unavoidable, and the revolving-door phenomenon between the financial world and key positions of power is flagrant.

CADTM translation by Snake Arbusto and Vicki Briaul.

[1] During that discussion, Victoria Nuland said that the USA had devoted 5 billion dollars to promoting democracy in Ukraine. See:

[2] See, for example, Soros’s letter to Poroshenko:,_Petro_and_Yatsenyuk,_Arseniy_23DEC14.pdf

[3] Tadeusz A. Olszański, Agata Wierzbowska-Miazga, “Poroshenko, President of Ukraine”, 2014-05-28.

[4] Trade between Canada and Ukraine totalled an average 347 million dollars between 2011 and 2013, according to Canadian government officials, but slowed to 244 million in 2014. See:

[5] In Ukraine, the great majority of the major television channels are owned by oligarchs. For example, Rinat Akhmetov is the owner of Ukrayina TV.

[6] See

[7] Exchange rate as of 6 November 2015: 26 hryvnias = 1 euro.

[8] See:

[9] See: To do this, Decree No. 626/2015, adopted on 6 November 2015, authorises units of the United States armed forces, members of NATO, and other States participating in the “Partnership for Peace” program (with a maximum of 2,500 military with weapons and military equipment) to participate in multinational military manoeuvres within Ukraine for up to 61 days, in November-December 2015.

[10] Charles Recknagel, 3 December 2014, “‘No Big Brother!’ Ukrainian Journalists Oppose Kyiv’s New Ministry Of Information.”

[11] As ministers of the Economy, Finance, and Health. “Un gouvernement ukrainien ouvert aux étrangers”, Stéphane Siohan, Le, 04/12/2014 (in French)

[12] Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 6 January 2015. “Can This Man Save Ukraine’s Economy?”

[13] “Ukraine’s Bright Horizon: An Interview with Natalie A. Jaresko, Managing Partner, Horizon Capital, Kiev”; Leaders Online

[14] See: “‘Foreigners’ land top minister posts in Ukraine”, Financial Times, 2 December 2014.

[15] Mikheil Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2013. He left the country after the current president, Giorgi Margvelashvili, took office in November 2013.

]16] See:

[17] Georgian legislation prohibits holding dual nationality. A person loses Georgian citizenship if he or she lives outside the country full-time.


Read also:
Joe Biden, his son and the case against a Ukrainian oligarch, New York Times, Dec 8, 2015

In Ukraine, U.S. vice president announces more U.S. money and intervention in Ukraine, New Cold, Dec 8, 2015


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