Kiev between America and Russia: Part 3 – How the Ukrainian Oligarchy will Sacrifice Poroshenko for Trump

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February 4, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts for his native Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group. Popov has actively contributed to Fort Russ since June, 2016.

Foreword from Dr. Eduard Popov: I am grateful to have the opportunity to be featured on the pages of the authoritative and brilliant Fort Russ and be able to offer readers my views on the prospects of the emerging rapprochement between the United States and Russia, as well as the place in this two-way process occupied (or to be occupied) by Ukraine. Below is the third and final installment in my new three-part series on this evermore pressing topic. 

Continued from Part 2


The change of administration in the White House and the Ukrainian establishment’s support for the former Democratic administration and Hillary Clinton’s candidacy have led to the biggest foreign policy fiasco of President Prosohenko in the entire history of post-Maidan Ukraine. This massive failure has spurred domestic political turbulence and intensified the activities of the opposition and oligarchical and regional groups in Ukraine.

On January 18th, people’s deputy and former member of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, Viktor Chumak, delivered a speech in front of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. From the tribune, he read an appeal to the president signed by 22 people’s deputies from Petro Poroshenko’s own parliamentary bloc. The co-signing deputies demanded that Poroshenko adopt a law on impeachment, hold a referendum, and lift parliamentary immunity. According to Chumak, over the past two and half years since the president’s election and the two years of work of the current convocation of the Rada, the president and his political group have not fulfilled their election promises.

In other words, Petro Poroshenko has essentially been given an ultimatum. After all, a law on impeachment would be directed against none other than himself. What’s more, it appears like the mounting criticism being hurled at the president is based on the anti-oligarchical slogans recycled from the Euromaidan.

Anti-oligarchical criticism in Ukraine is always organized by oligarchs themselves. In this case, according to Ukrainian political analysts, the oligarchs Viktor Pinchuk, Igor Kolomoysky, Dmitry Firtash, and Viktor Baloga stand behind this parliamentary move, having concluded a “pact” to overthrow Poroshenko. It is worth recalling that Kolomoysky became Poroshenko’s main opponent immediately after the coup d’etat of February 2014. However, due to heavy US pressure, Kolomoysky was compelled to refrain from active opposition and slide into the shadows. 

Today, it is Viktor Pinchuk, a Dnepropetrovsk oligarch, the son-in-law of ex-President Kuchma, and the former chairman of the Jewish Congress of Ukraine, who claims the role of the main opponent of the regime. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the end of December last year, Pinchuk offered a position of compromise with Russia, something for which he was subjected to harsh criticism in Ukrainian official mass media. 

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If we accept the theory put forth by Ukrainian political analysts that the oligarchs are unifying against Poroshenko, then we can draw the following conclusions: this united force wields powerful financial, media (control over a number of print and electronic media), political (control over groups of deputies in the Verkhovna Rada), and fighting potential (the private armies sponsored by them and the Ukrainian neo-Nazi volunteer battalions). The combination of these resources allows them to unleash a discrediting campaign against Poroshenko both in Ukraine and abroad. If the need arises, the oligarchs could not only instigate local social conflicts in Kiev and the regions, but also organize massive protest actions in the capital supported by militants. Simultaneously, the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada controlled by them will increase criticism of Poroshenko. This scenario is possible provided that the White House offers its approval.

Viktor Baloga’s presence in this network is symptomatic. The Baloga clan is the most powerful in Transcarpathia (the most Western region of Ukraine populated by Rusyns and a significant Hungarian minority – 12% of the population). Baloga himself is one of the most experienced and clever Ukrainian politicians. Currently, he is a deputy of the Verkhovna Rada (like his brother, Ivan, the former chairman of the Transcarpathian Regional Council) and he controls the most numerous fraction in the latter council, the United Center Party headed by his son, Andrey. Baloga’s family and supporters command widespread financial, political, social, and security resources, including criminal gangs controlling contraband flows from EU countries into Ukraine via Transcarpathia. In addition, Baloga partly controls the 128th separate Transcarpathian mountain infantry brigade of the Ukrainian army. After the Debaltsevo cauldron, Baloga demonstratively demanded that President Poroshenko not send servicemen from Transcarpathian to the Anti-Terrorist Operation zone in Donbass.

Viktor Baloga is famous for his extremely sharp political instincts. Throughout his career, he has repeatedly changed political bosses, thus helping him achieve new heights. Not once did he end up mistaken by his choice, and he has always come out a winner. For example, just before the “Orange Revolution”, he switched from Prime Minister Yanukovych’s camp to Viktor Yushchenko’s side, and won. After a while, he left the Yushchenko camp and returned to Yanukovych’s entourage, for which he received the post of Minister of Emergency Situations. 

Let us quote an excerpt from Baloga’s speech in the Verkhovna Rada on January 27th: “Over all this time we have established not so much a quality new army as we have an environment of corruption in which the friends of the Guarantor (President Poroshenko) have made money, about which the American press is already writing. We have not carried out reforms which would have helped us become economically strong. What’s more, in the next three years we will be obliged to pay 14 billion dollars in debt, money which we do not have and won’t have with such an economy.”

Baloga is convinced that all the future responsibility for the sanctions against Russia being lifted rests solely on one person. This is Petro Poroshenko, who disregarded all the rules by interfering in the American presidential race. As a result, the Ukrainian people, undeservingly, will gain if not an enemy, then an indifferent observer in the person of Donald Trump.

“In such a state we have one exit: a complete reset of the government which would show the West our commitment to a new relationship with a clean slate in which there will be no corruption and double standards,” Baloga concluded.

Thus, Viktor Baloga is openly calling on the Ukrainian political elite to launch a “complete government reset,” i.e., force Poroshenko to resign. This will be the price of allowing trouble-free relations with the new American administration to be established and preventing Russia from taking advantage of new opportunities. But this is not Baloga’s first declaration of war on Poroshenko.

Just before the winter holidays, Baloga casually let slip to local journalists that Poroshenko will soon “be forced to send all of his political circle into resignation” and he himself will subsequently have to go. If the president will not want to go peacefully, according to Baloga, then he will be “taken out” by force. This, in addition to Baloga’s speech in the Verkhovna Rada on January 27th, speaks to the seriousness of the intentions of this public and shadow politician and the force which he represents.

Thus, the group of oligarchs opposing Petro Poroshenko has a serious foothold in Transcarpathia for realizing their plans. Perhaps it is Transcarpathia (along with Kiev) which will act at hour “x” as the frontline against the Poroshenko regime.

Thus, the oligarchs have appointed themselves to the role of “saving Ukraine from the oligarchs.” These oligarchs, like Petro Poroshenko, financed the Maidan and neo-Nazi militants and are now preparing to overthrow the oligarch President Poroshenko, whom they see as a small sacrifice in order to negotiate with Trump. They will place all the blame for corruption and the theft of American money in Ukraine on Petro. 

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For Ukraine itself, this will mean another, this time uncontrolled oligarchical reign and a slide into civil war – but this time not in “far away” Donbass, but Kiev itself and Central and Western Ukraine. 

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