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Oligarchs, corruption, and thuggery: local elections in Dnepropetrovsk (Part 1)

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November 11, 2014 – 

Aleksey Blyuminov, PolitNavigator – 

Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski

“The battle for Kolomoysky’s ‘heartland.’”

Very soon a second round of local elections in Ukraine will be held in those cities where electing mayors with a majority vote of 50% + 1 vote wasn’t successful. Among such cities are Kiev, Lvov, Zaporozhye, Poltava, and several others. However, today we focus our attention on the Dnepropetrovsk region.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, the Dnepropetrovsk region, due to its political and economic weight, has taken the baton of leadership in the Ukrainian South-East. It has essentially become a kind of center of attraction for the political elite of the two other large major centers of the South-East – Kharkov and Odessa. In both of these cities mayors who are oriented towards Igor Kolomoysky won.

In addition, the “Privat” group maintains control over local governments through a parliamentary majority of the parties affiliated with Kolomoysky. In the case of Kharkov, this is “Renaissance”, and in the case of Odessa “Trust Business.” It is no wonder that one of the first to stand for the re-election of mayor Gennady Trukhanov was none other than one of the leaders of “Ukrop”, Igor Palitsa, the ex-governor of Odessa and one of Kolomoysky’s guys. As we remember, Palitsa urged Saakashvili to respect the choice of its citizens and not split Odessa. 

For “Privat”, Odessa and Kharkov are, so to say, “mandated territories.” and Dnepropetrovsk region is the “heartland,” the political “heart” of Kolomoysky and co. Losing influence there would be simply unacceptable to them. These guys will stand tough to the last one standing for power in the Dnepr. 

The night of vote-counting in the first round of elections already showed this. We all remember how this counting went. Armored vehicles were on the streets outside of election commissions, and gunmen were in the buildings themselves – this is, if you will, the most “herbivore” of Dnepropetrovsk elections.  

The first round of elections for the mayor of Dnepropetrovsk demonstrated this intrigue. It is not a secret that the Dnepropetrovsk region is also important for President Poroshenko. It is critical that he knock the “Privat” guys out of their ancestral lands or weaken their positions there. In such a situation, Kolomoysky would transform from a full-fledged baron of the feudal type into a mere oligarch emigrant living in Geneva.

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However, solving this task isn’t so easy for Poroshenko. The problem is that his party “Solidarity” is not  very popular. Moreover, it couldn’t find an authoritative person in Dnepropetrovsk who could win and become mayor. Therefore, Poroshenko’s strategists are solving their task of weakening Kolomoysky through a situational alliance with the Party of Regions-Opposition bloc which always has their candidate. And this candidate, Alexander Vilkul, is popular in the city. He was a top official in Yanukovich’s times, ex-Vice Premier and the former governor of Dnepropetrovsk.

In essence, Poroshenko, in leaving the region and Dnepropetrovsk itself in the hands of the Opposition bloc, is creating a system of checks and balances. After all, while the fascists and “Ukrops” claw at each other, they have less time for sawing the legs of the chair upon which their guarantor sits. This is politics Ukrainian style.

But let’s return to the elections in Dnepropetrovsk. The first round showed that Kolomoysky and his trusty “henchman” Boris Filatov couldn’t take the city in a rush. Filatov came in second, trailing behind Vilkul by a few percent. And, by his own admission, he completely lost in the “sleepy,” proletarian districts of the city, where the workers of Dnepropetrovsk’s factories live, who are today oriented towards Russia and as a result of the insane policies of the current government are unemployed en masse. 

This “other” Dnepropetrovsk wanted to sneeze on the rich raider traditions of Kolomoysky’s team. It was difficult to cheat them, as they do not vote for tales about the Maidan, but rather for stable orders for their enterprises. And these can come only from Russia. For example, we have “Yuzhmash”, which was destroyed by Maidaners right before everyone’s eyes.

Thus, the fact that Boris Filatov’s hysterics, which urged his supporters to “hide their grandmothers’ passports” and go the polls for “scooping up” with the “rogues,” didn’t gain any votes is fully understandable. 

It is also clear that the game will be a lot tougher in the second round than it was in the first. After the arrest of Korban, Kolomoysky’s team’s path for reconciliation with Poroshenko is cut off. And it is no wonder political scientists unanimously say that in “packing up” Korban, Petr Alekseevich sent a signal to Filatov that he doesn’t see any mayor of Dnepropetrovsk in him. And if he is too zealous, then he will suffer the fate of his accomplice. Moreover, the incident of Mosiychuk showed that Poroshenko’s Ukraine is not the Ukraine of Yanukovich. A deputy can wind up in jail regardless of the person. 

As for now, Mr. Filatov is rushing around with “bags of dirt” promising to tell all about “total fraud” (in favor of Vilkul, of course). It is natural that all the “vote buying”, according to Kolomoysky’s associates, was coordinated from Russia (well, where else?)

According to Filatov, he has irrefutable proof that “Russia allocated all funds towards this goal.” It’s decidedly unclear why Russia would need to “drown” the creature Kolomoysky when he himself is successfully “flushing” Moscow’s worst friend, Petro Poroshenko.

Thus, the residents of Dnepropetrovsk should be ready for anything – for waves of “journalists” in camouflage with bats, the massive damaging of ballots an hour before the polls open, and the disappearance of commission heads before votes are counted. You can never know what the “creatures” from campaign headquarters can come up with. 

Well, as concerns the “man with a gun” factor in these elections, that is, the role in the elections that the private armies of Igor Kolomoysky can play – we will discuss this in a following article. 

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