Foto: World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger

The bill sets up several criteria against oligarchs, but it is unclear whether the Ukrainian Parliament will implement the bill. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said that he would make a new plan to fight Ukraine’s oligarchs and end corruption. Zelensky has now acted and submitted a new bill to the Ukrainian Parliament, aiming at de-oligarchization.

The bill says that people who are officially recognized as oligarchs by the government will be prohibited from making political donations, taking part in the country’s privatization of state assets, among other things. It is aimed at removing the political influence of oligarchs in Ukraine. 

If the bill passes, the government will list Ukrainian oligarchs, which fits several criteria, including business monopolies, media ownership, financing of political parties, and or holding a government position, writes the Kyiv Post. Furthermore, politicians will need to make any meeting with oligarchs public. 

The bill comes after Zelensky recently targeted the pro-Russian politician and oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, which is charged with high treason and is facing trial. Oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky has also been implicated in an embezzlement case, and former President Petro Poroshenko is accused of abuse of power. It is not clear whether any of those three cases will lead to any verdict.

Criticism of the bill

While some argue that the law is a significant step forward to fight oligarchy, corruption, and monopoly in Ukraine, critics say that this is more of a PR stunt. They argue that Zelensky is just targeting individuals without making meaningful market reforms. Others also criticize selecting who would be categorized as an oligarch, arguing that it would be based on a subjective opinion by the President. Therefore, some say that the President is just trying to remove his political opponents. 

“Zelenskiy is trying in every way to get rid of Poroshenko as the leader of the most powerful pro-European opposition party and to ban his political activities,” said Poroshenko’s party in a press release yesterday. 

“The president’s initiative was submitted to parliament only as a PR stunt…Instead of reforming the judiciary and creating fair courts in the country, the president is submitting a populist bill that will not change anything fundamentally,” said Kira Rudyk, head of the liberal opposition party Golos, according to UBN

Government response

Kira Rudyk says that she does not see Zelensky’s party being equally hard on all oligarchs. She points to how the government introduced an increase in tax on iron ore extraction recently, which was supposed to increase the annual payments of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov by one billion dollars to the state. The new law was later changed, so it only raised the taxes by 500 million dollars per year, which, according to Rudyk, is an example of how oligarchs can influence Ukrainian politics. 

“The bill radically changes the traditional system of secret relations between oligarchs and public officials… Before Volodymyr Zelensky, nobody in Ukrainian politics tried to take such steps aimed at legally defining the (oligarch) phenomenon and later dismantling the oligarchic system,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak, to Kyiv Post. 

“Oligarchs and people affiliated with them have long held a special position in our politics and economics. They did not obey the law, bought politicians, lawmakers, and judges. They could blackmail the state through their mechanisms and seize public resources. Now all of this will be blocked,” he argued.