Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
March 24, 2015
[Ukrainian billionaire oligarch Igor] Kolomoysky is the de-facto master of that [Dnepropetrovsk] territory, and Kiev has to negotiate with it, said [Donetsk People’s Republic Prime Minister Alexander] Zakharchenko. Kolomoysky said earlier that he considers the heads of LPR and DPR to be the real government there, no matter what Kiev thinks about them.
“I propose that Kolomoysky create the Dnepropetrovsk Republic of Kolomoysky—the DRK. That would be only just. And why not? There already is a DPR. DRK would be a good republic. Kolomoysky is the de facto master of that territory, the real government there, and Kiev has to negotiate with him,” Zakarchenko told the journalists.
Kolomoysky earlier said that he considers DPR and LPR heads Zakharchenko and [Igor] Plotnitskiy to be the real government, no matter what Kiev thinks about them. DPR deputy chairman Denis Pushilin in response said that the statement was a blow to Poroshenko’s authority. Mass media published experts’ opinions that Kolomoysky could offer his assistance to DPR and LPR, and thus create an anti-Kiev coalition.
J.Hawk’s Comment: Stranger things have happened. Even stranger things are yet to happen. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, fleas and all. Let’s keep in mind that nothing Zakharchenko said is untrue. Kolomoysky is the government of the Dnepropetrovsk Region. Kiev does have to negotiate with him. At this point even an exchange of fire between Poroshenko’s and Kolomoysky’s battalions is not out of the question.
Kolomoysky is playing this card deliberately and consciously. He even went so far as to predict the possibility of a large-scale uprising in Dnepropetrovsk against Kiev, something he was careful to say he did not want to see happen. Poroshenko’s options are to back down (thus undermining his own hold on the country and encouraging other oligarchs) or to challenge Kolomoysky directly (thus risking a DRK which would lead to Ukraine’s further splintering). Not to mention that a DRK would likely lead to a Kharkov republic and make it rather difficult for the UAF to continue operating against the Donbass…
Not everybody seems to think the Poroshenko faction has the upper hand. [As Lev Sharansky tweets:] “If Kolomoysky does not obey Avakov’s order to disarm in 24 hours, Avakov will remove Kolomoysky as a friend on Facebook.”–a clear allusion to Avakov’s penchant to post orders and directives on social media, which is of course what ministers with real power do.
Officially, the Russian government rules out dealing with Kolomoysky. What happens unofficially is probably a very different story.
Quemado Institute comments: A further breakup of eastern Ukraine is probably beneficial for Novorossiya. We believe the best strategy is to quietly let it happen, and say nothing one way or another about Kolomoisky. This appears to be the approach Zakharchenko is taking.
About a “large-scale uprising in Dnepropetrovsk against Kiev,” a reliable source tweeted on March 23: “BREAKING—Denisenko, Kolomoiskiy’s ally, calls for a public rally in Dnepr against Poroshenko’s ‘criminal regime’. / Yes—March 25th, 18:00, Public Rally in Dnepropetrovsk to carry out a vote of non-confidence in Poroshenko’s ‘criminal regime’.”
Update: Dnipropetrovsk Governer Kolomoisky Steps Down. According to pusatnews.com, billionaire oligarch and Petro Poroshenko rival Igor Kolomoisky has resigned, and was subsequently dismissed by Poroshenko, as governer of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk Oblast: “Ukraine’s president has fired billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky as governor of a key region in the east, the presidential website said on Wednesday, after armed men that lawmakers said were linked to the oligarch raided a state-owned oil firm. Kolomoisky has been at the center of a political storm since the masked men briefly entered the offices of UkrTransNafta on Thursday night after its director, his ally, was summarily replaced. As governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Kolomoisky, a banking, energy and media tycoon with a fortune put at $1.8 billion by Forbes last year, has been a valuable ally to the central government by financing volunteer battalions there to defend against pro-Russian separatists. But a statement on President Petro Poroshenko’s website said he had dismissed Kolomoisky after the oligarch had offered to step down during a meeting late on Tuesday. Poroshenko came under pressure from deputies opposed to the power of Ukraine’s super-rich to sack Kolomoisky after the March 19 night raid on UkrTransNafta’s offices. The tycoon himself appeared at the scene and angrily cursed and berated journalists. But it will have been a difficult decision for Poroshenko, who, while a shaky ceasefire is still holding, is seeking to win back the diplomatic initiative in the crisis with Russia over separatist-held territories in the east.” The original article is found at Ukraine leader fires oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky as regional chief (Mar 25), by Opik Rodriguez.
Meet the private army controlled by sacked Ukrainian
billionaire Igor Kolomoisky
by Tomas Hirst
March 25, 2015
Billionaire banking tycoon Igor Kolomoisky was appointed governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, a region in the east of the country that includes Ukraine’s third-largest city, in March last year. He had one job: prevent the territory from falling into the hands of pro-Moscow rebels. Although he was a close ally of President Petro Poroshenko’s new government in Kiev, neither had the financial nor military clout to achieve that aim. So Kolomoisky decided to build his own private army of volunteers, equipped with heavy weaponry. He paid for all of this from out of his own pocket.
The recruits came from Ukraine and Europe. There are even a couple of Americans. Estimates suggest Kolomoisky could call on over 20,000 troops and reserves. His Dnipro Battalion, also known as Dnipro-1, includes around 2,000 heavily armed fighters. The unit is reported to have cost the banking billionaire $10 million to set up. They helped play a key role in halting the advance of the Moscow-backed rebels from their strongholds in the neighbouring Donetsk and Luhansk. However, there are doubts about where the troops’ ultimate loyalties lie — to the government in Ukraine or to their regional paymaster. Last week, armed men in masks stormed the headquarters of state-owned oil company UkrTransNafta in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, following the sacking of its director Oleksander Lazorko, a key ally of Kolomoisky.
On Tuesday, Poroshenko fired Kolomoisky and now this private could become a major problem for the Ukrainian authorities.
Quemado Institute: For more background on these emerging events, see previous post on our home page, or click here: Could Kolomoysky’s Challenge Topple Kiev?