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11 February, 2013  ▪  Спілкувався: Milan Lielich

Oleksandra Kuzhel: “Yanukovych is digging a hole for himself by putting pressure on his own men and the oligarchs”

Oleksandra Kuzhel, an opposition MP, speaks about the politically motivated murder of Yevhen Shcherban, the role of Yevhen Marchuk in that case, the "greedy" Pavlo Lazarenko, Leonid Kuchma as a “Sixtier”, the composition of the current Cabinet of Ministers, Serhiy Tihipko's future, Yulia Tymoshenko's mindset and the fight to monopolize the Ukrainian economy

This interview with Oleksandra Kuzhel began with a discussion of a high-profile criminal case – the murder of politician and businessman Yevhen Shcherban. Kuzhel knew him well and was a member of his faction in the parliament of the second convocation. Since the time of his murder and until today, she has articulated an unusual version of events to explain what happened – she claims that Shcherban was assassinated purely for political reasons and that the murder was organized by the special services.

Surprisingly, Kuzhel claims that then-president Leonid Kuchma did not have a clue about the attempt on Shcherban’s life. Instead, she accuses Pavlo Lazarenko. Kuzhel was in constant conflict with Lazarenko when he was prime minister, and has accused him of excessive greed and even an attempt to arrange a coup d’état.

The interview touches upon a number of topics: the situation in parliament and in the Cabinet of Ministers, the situation surrounding Yuliya Tymoshenko (Kuzhel sincerely believes in her political future) and many others.

The interview ends with a discussion of the most fundamental of issues: What economic reforms must be implemented in the near future to keep Ukraine's economy from going to ruin? Is it worthwhile to fight oligarchic rule as a global cause of Ukraine's problems?


U.W.: Ms. Kuzhel, you were a member of the Social-Market Choice faction organized by Yevhen Shcherban. Today his name is again on everyone’s lips. In your opinion, why was he killed, and who was behind his murder?

The version of Shcherban’s murder I voiced in May 2012 when questioned by the Prosecutor General's Office has for some reason been ignored. The day after he was murdered, our faction declared that it was a political assassination. Shcherban ventured into something that oligarchs are never permitted to do in this country – playing big politics. Oligarchs can influence politics, finance people, put their eggs in different baskets, etc.

For as long as Yevhen Shcherban did business, everyone knew that he was very civil. He had the rare trait of never counting on the imperfections of his opponents but instead taking advantage of their achievements to reach his own goals. Everything in Donetsk was under his control, including Governor Volodymyr Shcherban.

But then Yevhen Shcherban publicly revealed his great political ambitions and showed that he wanted to extend his influence far beyond Donetsk region. He let it be understood that he wanted to promote Yevhen Marchuk for president in 1999. Shcherban “picked him up” after Marchuk lost the prime minister’s seat, helped him get elected to parliament in a first-past-the-post district and made him the head of our faction. (This caused quite an outrage in the faction and made Volodymyr Shcherban very wary, because he was hoping that Yevhen Shcherban would support him for president.)

Lazarenko was afraid of Yevhen Shcherban and never visited the Donbas as prime minister. There was no way the Dnipropetrovsk group could have organized the murder. That’s why the murder could only have been organized by the special services.

U.W.: Ours or a foreign service?

This I don't know. There was very strong security at Scherban’s funeral. Marchuk insisted on this, thinking there could be more shooting. However, the political version [of Shcherban’s murder] is for some reason not being considered, even though it is the only one that there really is.

U.W.: From what you said, the scenario looks like this: Shcherban was murdered, because he wanted to promote Marchuk for president. The person who would fear this scenario the most could be Kuchma. Given that a murder of this kind could only be organized by the special services, is it reasonable to assume that it was ultimately contracted by ex-President Kuchma?

I would not say so. I do not think Kuchma even knew about it.

U.W.: How do you think that Kuchma сould not in principle know about plans that big?

The president is not always the decision maker. He has a whole team behind him which calculates what advantages and disadvantages any political reshuffles or decisions may bring.

I know Kuchma a little bit. He is a “Sixtier” in the better sense of the word. He is a priori incapable of meanness. He has always tried to forgive everyone and understand the situation. He is never been bloodthirsty as, for example, Yanukovych is. So when they said that Kuchma ordered Gongadze to be murdered, I was the first to say that he was incapable of doing that.

Shcherban's murder could not in principle be organized by those Donetsk gangsters on whom it was laid. True, they could carry out the contract, but they could never have planned it. At the time, there was only one group in Donetsk which controlled everything and o bandit in Donetsk would have dared to kill Shcherban on his own, without guarantees of his own safety.

The scheme of Shcherban’s murder is absolutely clear to me. Tell me, who should be the hiring party if the murderer hits the target for free and then calmly waits for six months to be paid?

Tymoshenko did not have problems with Shcherban. They rotated in different orbits that never crossed.

U.W.: So who was, so to speak, the beneficiary of Shcherban’s murder?

From the murder – no-one. Shcherban’s assets were divided up. It was not necessary to kill the MP to take his assets. Both Rinat Akhmetov and others simply received what they were entitled to as his partners by law.

The person who lost everything – hopes of presidency and political weight – was Marchuk. He never became a powerful presidential candidate, and his career went downwards from there.

You know, the statement that in my opinion the best describes rebellious oligarchs who try to play politics on their own belongs to the president of our neighbouring country: “Oligarchs should go to the stable.” This principle should have been a warning to Ukrainian oligarchs – you are not to play politics. Take, for example, Oleksandr Yaroslavsky. When Hennadiy Kernes was running for mayor’s office, I told him: How can the city be put into the hands of such a semi-criminal? Yaroslavsky replied that Kernes would not be the one to run the city anyway. He was a completely controlled and dependent figure. Look where Yaroslavsky is now.

U.W.: What can you say about Tymoshenko’s statement in which she directly implicated Akhmetov and Yanukovych as persons interested in Shcherban's death?

I would not want to comment on Tymoshenko’s statements, but she may simply not know what I know. Let me repeat that back then Tymoshenko was on another level of influence that was very distant from where politics was done. It so happened that at that time I was close to Shcherban, a member of his faction, and all of these events unfolded before my eyes. I clearly remember the faction issuing a statement that it was a political assassination. Incidentally, I was against the candidacy of Marchuk for president. At the time, I was more in favour of Kuchma’s reelection.

U.W.: Why?

I can assure you, both as an MP and as head of a state committee, that I found it very comfortable to work with Kuchma: he was open, listened to my arguments and could meet me halfway. If he trusted a person and saw that a person was working for the interests of the state, he could even support risky decisions, as was the case with the single tax.

U.W.: To sum up our discussion regarding Shcherban: he was murdered in order not to let Marchuk become president?

I would put it differently: his murder told all others that it was not their business to get involved in big politics and deciding who would run for president and who wouldn’t. I think many learned the lesson.

U.W.: What was your relationship with Lazarenko?

I first met him when he gathered all MPs from eastern Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk. It was early spring and still cold. I was the only woman in the hall, so he gallantly put his jacket over my shoulders. As I returned the jacket to him, I warned him to tell his wife that that was my perfume…

This was our first encounter, but when he was Prime Minister, we were irreconcilable opponents. I had never seen a person as greedy as Lazarenko. He would grab everything he saw and whatever his hands could reach. When he tried to introduce the monopoly of YeESU [United Energy Systems of Ukraine], our conflict reached a new level. At the time, I was a member of an investigation commission on the energy sector and sent all the materials I gathered on Lazarenko personally to Kuchma. By the way, my path did not cross Tymoshenko’s in any way back then.

U.W.: When did you meet her?

When she came to parliament, and I met her just like all other fellow MPs. She invited me to join her Batkivshyna (Fatherland) faction in 1997. I declined, saying: “No, Yulia, I will never go where Lazarenko is.” She said she wouldn’t be with Lazarenko, but I didn't change my mind anyway.

U.W.: Can you say anything about the relationship between Lazarenko and Tymoshenko?

I never interfere in other people's relationships. But I understand what you are getting at with your question. It’s disgusting when mud is slung at a married woman. This is being done in Ukrainian politics exclusively by men who are, in fact, 100 times more immoral than those they try to condemn.

There were two big conflicts with Lazarenko. The first one came when parliament was about to vote on Viktor Yushchenko’s candidacy for Governor of the National Bank. A preliminary count made it evident that Lazarenko’s faction held the critical votes needed for his election. I reported this to Kuchma. He called Lazarenko and said: “If your faction fails to vote tomorrow, I will take it that you as the Prime Minister are working against the president.”

An even fiercer confrontation with Lazarenko occurred when the Constitution was put to a vote. At the time, Lazarenko was preparing a coup. He had convinced Kuchma that a referendum on the Constitution had to be called, realizing that the president had very low popularity at the moment. The most important thing for Lazarenko in that situation was to have the Constitution fail in parliament and have Kuchma disband the Verkhovna Rada. Then the country would be in a stalemate, which was highly beneficial to Lazarenko as Prime Minister: parliament would have been disbanded; a vote of no-confidence in the president would have been passed and Lazarenko would have ended up heading the only functioning top government body, the Cabinet of Ministers.

Lazarenko then called MPs and ordered all MPs who were members of the Cabinet of Ministers not to attend the vote on the Constitution. I called Lazarenko and bluntly asked him about his motives. He replied: “You, Ms. Kuzhel, may be present.” As a result, there were only two government members in the session hall when the Constitution was put to the vote.

These two episodes were highly symptomatic.  Maybe one day I will describe these events in greater detail.


U.W.: Let’s go back to the parliamentary sessions prior to the current one. Do you have the impression that the opposition was quite passive as it fought ещ call an extraordinary session?

As far as accusations of passiveness are concerned, I can say the following. Didn’t we say during the election campaign that we needed a majority? Didn't we warn that the country could be reset only if the opposition had a numerical advantage over the Party of Regions in parliament? We did. But people did not hear or believe us. What did we get? About 180 seats. What can we do now? Block and invite fights – and people will again say, “These MPs are again fighting as if they have nothing else to do.”

U.W.: So the opposition is doing everything it can?

I understand that the parliamentary opposition is just part of Ukraine which is opposed to the current ruling regime. The true power resides in the people, in their unwillingness to be ruled by criminal elements and to live amid lawlessness and in fear. As long as people submissively agree to live in penury, any successful actions of the opposition will have the nature of pin-point tactical victories. I already spoke about this when protesters came to the Central Election Commission – there were several hundred people there, but if ten thousand had shown up, it would have changed the situation completely.

True, there have been many articles published that are intended to belittle the importance of an extraordinary session in the eyes of society. But both the provocations that preceded the meeting and the pointedly nonchalant comments from Party of Regions members that are in the fifth, not even third, tier in the party hierarchy all point to the government being badly scared. Perhaps for the first time in the past three years. This is because it received real resistance from parliament which used to be completely obedient. During the previous convocation parliament sheepishly rubber-stamped all decisions needed by the president’s family and a select few. We can argue about the degree of efficiency, but everyone acknowledges the main thing: the opposition forces the government to be afraid. And in this case, the government will make compromises and deal with us as equal partners. The total domination of the Party of Regions is over, and they have grasped it better than those who purposefully or unwittingly are spreading the idea that the opposition is weak.

U.W.: There is also a version that explains why Party of Regions members were so fiercely opposed to an extraordinary session: they were afraid that some of them would go with the opposition in voting. The first warning call came during the vote to decriminalize the article under which Tymoshenko was sentenced. Several party of regions MPs voted in support.

Of course. First, they do not have a stable majority. Second, many Party of Regions members totally support us on the need to vote personally. This is because members of the Party of Regions are also coming under pressure. Their businesses are being taken away and so on. I am waiting for the moment a rebellion erupts inside that party. Yanukovych is digging a hole for himself by putting pressure on his own men and the oligarchs. There have already been attacks on Akhmetov, Dmytro Firtash, Ihor Kolomoisky, Yaroslavsky, Viktor Pinchuk and others. This is to say nothing of asset redistribution at lower levels that stays below the radar of the mass media and does not get discussed by the public.

U.W.: Can massive or individual migration of Party of Regions MPs to the opposition occur in the near future?

I don’t think so, not publicly.

U.W.: Will they be afraid?

Precisely. They are people, too. What they can do is sabotage here and there, fail to cast a yes vote from time to time, etc. The oligarchs are no fools, either – they wouldn't want to give up everything and put it into the hands of the president’s family.

U.W.: What do you think about the "Family’s" attempt to take over the Cabinet of Ministers? Can it swallow up other oligarchs?

I always judge people by their actions. For example, I have always liked, to an extent, and respected Oleksandr Vilkul, former governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. He is a talented manager, self-sufficient and self-respecting person, so he is not afraid of criticism. He is open to dialogue and his dignity will never let him lower himself to such idiocy as throwing brilliant green [dye at opposition members]. This is something that widely known figures in Kharkiv are prompted to do because of their incurable inferiority complexes.

U.W.: Let us tour the Cabinet of Ministers and look at individuals there. Natalia Korolevska?

She has been given a chance. Let her work. Maybe she is a future star?

U.W.: Do you believe it?

I only believe in God. I can only predict other things. The Minister of Finance is not a fool at all. He has conducted himself in a fairly civil and professional manner. I have watched him for a long time now. I am not acquainted with the Minister of the Economy. Judging by his first speech, I conclude that he is simply a dummy figure. He has no own vision of the country’s development. Deputy Prime Minister Vilkul will do what he was doing in Dnipropetrovsk: implementing his vision of how to develop the construction sector, housing and maintenance sector, and so on. Hopefully, he will succeed in accomplishing some things.

But I simply have no respect for Deputy Prime Minister Kostiantyn Hryshchenko. He does not love Ukraine, period. And that says it all.

U.W.: What about Serhiy Arbuzov and Oleksandr Klymenko? They are probably the most interesting figures in the new government?

You know, I have absolutely no interest in Arbuzov.

U.W.: You don’t think he has a big future?

A person who has a gift from God, capacity for work and decency can have great prospects. Can that be said about Arbuzov? He is nobody and he doesn’t have a name. He has come from nowhere and will go to the land of nowhere.  He does not have either professionalism or decency. Judging from the numerous light boxes with his image scattered around Kyiv, modesty is not his virtue, either.

U.W.: What about Klymenko?

Yanukovych has put his people in the right offices. Klymenko is responsible for securing business operations, Vitaliy Zakharchenko for security and Viktor Pshonka for legal support. I even like some of Klymenko’s proposals. He attracts a number of smart consultants who generate interesting ideas. The question is whether there will be any will to implement them.

You asked about Korolevska – she does have a chance. She has experience working in a committee and has material resources, which means she can hire good specialists and advisers. If she listens to them and truly wants to change some things, she may succeed.

U.W.: Is Korolevska likely to follow in the footsteps of Serhiy Tihipko, whom you know well?

No. For one thing, Tihipko is smarter. Second, he has good intuition.

U.W.: Are you saying that he recently stepped aside on his own rather than being fired?

He did it of his own accord. He knows well when he needs to move into the “shadows”. Never say never. Almost any fighter who is thought to be done can return. This requires financing and good creative material. Now, Korolevska is not creative, and that’s why she has failed to build trust. Tihipko is several levels higher in this respect.

He should have waited for several years rather than joining the government. If he had, he would now have a very large faction in the Verkhovna Rada, would be a candidate for premiership and would be a political heavyweight. But I would not recommend anyone writing him off. He has probably learned his lessons.


U.W.: By the way, many have already written Tymoshenko off. You spoke with her recently. Has she changed in some way in prison?

No. Her inner core and staying power are indestructible. She views all trials and tribulations as the path she must take as a politician. She has not once reproached us for doing nothing to have her released. She has not called for people to be brought to the streets for her sake… She said: “Perhaps I had to go this way in order to experience our system and our circus of courts and prosecutors to understand how they need to be changed.”

U.W.: So Tymoshenko believes that she will have a chance to change thу system?

She is certain that her whole life is before her, and she will fight to the end.

U.W.: Does she see any specific way out of the situation in which she has found herself?

I won’t tell you this. She spoke with us, three women, together and with each one of us individually. I cannot tell you about the things she told me and the tasks she set before me personally.

There were also general discussions. She has said clearly that she condemns any divisions inside the faction and any subversive activity. She has given us the task to work out a statute of the faction which would clearly distribute duties among deputy heads of faction so that no single MP is left out. She has demanded to stop dividing privileges – who gets a committee and who doesn’t and so on.

U.W.: Opposition MPs are doing precisely that. Viacheslav Kyrylenko and Oleksandr Bryhynets, MPs in your faction, are publicly squabbling and publicly saying that the reason is the Committee on Culture and Spirituality…

My position remains unchanged – everyone who is working to split the opposition is an ally of the government.

Tymoshenko has thanked us for supporting her as the single opposition candidate for president and has assured that she will fight as best she can to be released. But she understands: if this fails, everyone has to rally around Arseniy Yatseniuk as the one candidate for presidency. It is far from her to think that any of her political comrades-in-arms may reap any political dividends from her imprisonment. Her proposal to form one opposition party is further proof of her confidence.

U.W.: One of the MPs from your faction recently said off the record: “We made a mistake. Tymoshenko was a symbol and image that was above everyday life. When we began highlighting that her back and spine hurt, that her ear was punctured and so on, we lost her as a symbol and made her a mere mortal. This was a grave mistake.” What do you think?

Yulia has put all these men on her back and carried them into politics. She produced ideas so fast that the people around her who were to implement them could not keep up.

Is she really an ephemeral symbol lifted above everyday life? She is a real person who has travelled across Ukraine, and everyone could hug her. She did not have 14 security guards like some do. A symbol is a person who does nothing, while Tymoshenko is a hard worker. Many of these colleagues have been like abandoned orphans without her.

So, no-one is interested in having this “symbol” simply shine from party banners. Everyone is waiting for her to be released and again work around the clock. It would be much simpler for us if she was free! Regarding the “mistakes” that focus attention on her health… I don’t know and don’t want to know how true human suffering and pain fit into the rules of political spin. This is not even cynicism but simply human meanness and spiritual blindness.


U.W.: You head the Committee for Entrepreneurship and Regulatory and Antimonopoly Policy. In your opinion,  is the total monopolization of Ukraine’s economy and political system by oligarchs the main obstacle to the country’s development?

Yes. The threat of a financial oligarchy, which is what we seem to be talking about here, lies in the fact that a person obtains super-high profits from the unfair division of national wealth and then begins to convert these resources into political clout, which affects the lives of many people. When 10 per cent of the population own 90 per cent of the country’s assets, and the other 90 per cent the remaining one-tenth, we understand that it is the Ukrainian people that have to pay for any decisions made by the oligarchs. These include unreasonably high utility tariffs, the price of gas and electricity for consumers, and so on.

To be sure, coupled with total embezzlement of the budget and corruption, the absence of a fair justice system and mechanism for protecting property, this factor is the main source of problems in the economy. When the oligarchs grasp that the Yanukovych regime is an even bigger threat to them than the 90 per cent of the population, the dictatorship of the president’s family will start breaking up.

U.W.: Do you and your faction have any proposals to topple the oligarchs' rule?

In fact, oligarchic rule in the classical sense is the rule of few. It can only be counteracted through democracy, i.e., a political system in which decisions are made collectively by the people which is the source of power. As far as oligarchs are concerned, let me assure you that all of them know how to play exactly by the rules set by the government, provided that there is political will on the part of the leadership.

There are different methods which can be used to persuade them into submission to the majority. One was employed by Pinochet who gave the rich 10 days to transfer their capital to the country and then let them operate under general binding rules. Those who failed to make the transfer were shot.

Another method, more palatable to a democratic country, was used by Tony Blair. In 1997, on his initiative, the British parliament introduced a windfall tax for large businesses – a one-time payment to the budget equal to 23 per cent of the difference between the value of privatized property in 1997 and its sale price during privatization in 1980. Many big businessmen in England accepted it, because they received a more important thing in return – the legitimacy of their assets in the eyes of society. In Ukraine, the issue is much more complicated – paradoxically, the government would put itself at a disadvantage by taking this step, and not only because the country is ruled by puppets whose strings are pulled by oligarchs, but because of the model been built over the past decades in which any government benefits from keeping Ukrainian businessmen in limbo or on the ropes.

The introduction of a windfall tax would be important in that society would receive material and financial compensation for unfair privatization. Moreover, it would promote respect for the institute of private property which is one of the foundations of an economy.

In any case, a person who creates jobs and added value is a national treasure. Not everyone can do that. So we need to fight not so much against oligarchy itself as against the influence that oligarchs exert on political decision-making. If the Antimonopoly Committee operates normally, oligarchs will never be able to monopolize the economy. In Ukraine, this instrument has been totally ruined.

Many oligarchs understand the social responsibility of their businesses. For example, Pinchuk has said he is joining Bill Gates’ initiative to offer online lectures by the world’s best professors. The charitable activities of the funds run by Akhmetov and Yaroslavsky are well-known.

However, some of the rich fail to see their social obligations to help solve the issues of a country that has made them very rich. Ukrainian society has a point in thinking – and I fully subscribe to this view – that a couple of oligarchs got their hands on large assets as a result of a crime which for some reason was designated with the nice market term privatization. None of today's oligarchs earned his wealth on the strength of his own initiative, a brilliant invention or dazzling scientific discovery. They have all made fortunes based on what several generations of our ancestors built.

If an oligarch finds the rules of the game set by the normal authorities – the president and the government – to be understandable and agrees to play by them, no-one will take away his business, but he will be forced to create added value, leave it in the country and pay taxes on it.

U.W.: But monopolies in individual sectors need to be broken up, don't they?

No doubt. Our country, just like any other, loses a lot when some very important sectors become monopolized. Sadly, there is a growing trend towards uncontrolled monopolization. Our committee will direct maximum effort at demonopolizing the economy and creating a competititve environment. At one point, when a group of specialists, including myself, were drafting antimonopoly legislation, the plan was to make members of the Antimonopoly Committee responsible before parliament for making sure there are no secret deals on the market and it is not being monopolized. This norm was scrapped, and the committee is now subordinated directly to the president. Of course, in this situation it is simply unreal to fulfil the task you’ve mentioned. When Akhmetov gets his hands on another regional power distribution company and Firtash on another regional gas distribution company, the Antimonopoly Committee has no right to allow these acquisitions to happen, but…

U.W.: Do you have a package of bills on demonopolization ready?

The antimonopoly policy is one of the lines of work for our newly created committee. It is one of the most important areas, I believe. So far previously registered bills in this area look like a bandaid approach to me. They do not get to the heart of the problem. However, we already have a team of the best Ukrainian specialists on this issue and are preparing to launch an attack.

In any case, the main impediment to the development of entrepreneurship is a lack of legality in the judicial system. You can make any legislative changes you want and introduce tax relief for businesses, but businessmen will still be afraid that someone will come tomorrow and will take everything away. Entrepreneurs are simply afraid to be successful, even donate money to charity and hear: “Aha, so you have some money. Now, let's share.”

I have scrutinized all bills that have been submitted to our committee. You know, people demand good laws from parliament. And it is the right thing to do. But parliament is a tool of the current government and the president. How does it work in a normal country? The government develops a plan of reforms in an area, proposes budget sequestration, suggests measures to fight embezzlement related to government purchases, and so on. These proposals are then further refined, the opposition offers its amendments, and the result is a fundamental bill.

Such a system is non-existent in Ukraine now. Some cosmetic changes are being proposed, but they will have no effect on the real state of affairs in business.

U.W.: What fundamental bills need to be adopted?

First, a reform of the budget system. I would return to the budget code I developed with Tymoshenko. It took into account the interests of every region and every population centre, even the most distant ones. Then I would cut expenses on the president, the government, government bodies, etc.

Second, we need to introduce an electronic system of government procurement. Its implementation is simple and can be done within a month. How does it work? For example, I make medicine, and I know what medicine the state purchases. I register in the system of government purchases, but no-one with regular access sees the name of the company, its location, or anything but my price offer.Then a representative of the state, for example, a medical director who needs to buy this medicina, goes online and picks the offer with the lowest price. His purchase request is sent to the State Treasury, which pays for the purchase.

Third, optimizing administrative services through electronic payments for government-provided services.

Fourth, restoring the natural functions of the Antimonopoly Committee. Any head of state should be interested in this, because antimonopoly efforts mean security for the president and the state. The Antimonopoly Committee should report on the market situation almost on an everyday basis.

Next, the opposition should be given the right to head the Audit Chamber. Indeed, if there is genuine interest in the transparency of budget appropriations, why conceal information on their misuse? Why conceal the names of the main embezzlers as is the case today? Another matter of principle is that a member of the opposition should be the ombudsman – always, no matter who is in power and who is in the opposition.

Moreover, the banking system should be normalized so that an investor from any country knows that he can bring his money here without fear and inject new blood into our economy.

But let me stress again that without an adequate law enforcement and judicial system all these and other efforts are doomed to failure.

U.W.: Is existing antimonopoly legislation inadequate or does it simply need to be enforced properly? What changes need to be made?

We drafted the current law on the Antimonopoly Committee based on the best European practices, and its main principles are intact. The key thing needing correction is the mechanism of appointing the leadership of the committee and subordinating it or making it report to parliament. If the chief of the Antimonopoly Committee is appointed by Yanukovych, can the committee pass a decision that is not to the master’s liking?

U.W.: Do you support the idea of breaking up business empires?

There is a great temptation to agree to the thesis “take and divide”. Most people find it very appealing. Bell wrote that a person with a gun in his hand acquires “through his personal valour the things he was denied by the complicated order of stratified society.” There are hundreds of examples from history when this has happened, and unfortunately, the finale was always tragic both for the state and for the person. True, there have been individual cases in the world in which companies were broken up. For example, it has happened 30 times in the history of the United States. The best known cases are the dissolution of the oil refining and tobacco trusts in 1911 and the breakup of AT&T. But these processes took place in courts and proceedings lasted for years.

Who in Ukraine will determine who should be stripped of assets and who should get a share of them? The state whose leadership is sick with greed, an incurable disease? This reminds me of a popular joke in which the president asks his older son: “Son, tell me, what is this miserable business the TV is talking about?” “Father, it must be a business in which we have no share yet.”

Entrepreneurship is a great talent. No more than five per cent of people can create a truly successful business. These people should not be destroyed. They need to be given good conditions and given a peace of mind so that they could focus on work.  We need to make deals with the oligarchs. Let them continue to be rich, but not at the expense of 90 per cent of people being poor. Let them work but create new jobs. Let them pay good wages, develop cutting-edge technologies, make payments to the budget and assume social responsibility for the underprivileged – all of us will only benefit from that.

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