Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine speaking in the "Special Address by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine" session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. Congress Hall World Economic Forum / Boris Baldinger

The President says that it is the key to a prosperous Ukraine. 

Recently, pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk and Taras Kozak, both members of the Ukrainian parliament, were charged with high treason for sharing secret information with Russia. It has raised hope that Zelensky will give the country’s reform work a revival and fight for deoligarchization, which he promised to do back in 2019. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously been accused of halting the country’s reform progress due to passing laws that might benefit some oligarchs such as  Kolomoisky and Akhmetov. Recently, however, the picture seems to change, and Zelensky now makes it clear that he is indeed ready to wage war against oligarchs in Ukraine. 

“Since the 1990s, a small handful of Ukrainians have dominated the economic and political life of the country. We all know the names of these people. They feature in annual lists of the richest Ukrainians, which remain virtually unchanged from year to year. The rest of the country has little choice but to adapt to the reality created by this oligarch class, which distributes Ukraine’s political, financial, industrial, and media resources among themselves,” writes Zelensky in the Atlantic Council

What we know about Ukraine’s high treason charges against lawmakers Medvedchuk and Kozak

It is now the time

Zelensky was elected as the Ukrainian President back in Spring 2019 on the promise of ending the war in Eastern Ukraine and fight corruption. He said that he was free from influence from any oligarchs and was ready to get rid of their power. However, speculations about a link between oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky and Zelensky persisted as Zelensky preferred to be interviewed on Kolomoiskys tv-channel 1+1, and there were several media reports about business connections between the two.

After coming to office, Zelensky quickly passed many reforms such as the land-reform, but he came under fire from international organizations such as the IMF and the EU later on for interfering with the National Bank of Ukraine and halting several free-market reforms. Now, the charges against Medvedchuk give new hope for the revival of the reform program.

“For the first time in many years, the number of oligarchs in the country has recently decreased, following a series of measures imposed against Viktor Medvedchuk. With the help of legal tools, Medvedchuk has been deprived of the opportunity to use media assets and state property in order to openly attack the country and damage Ukraine’s national security,” Zelensky wrote, “This is just the beginning. There will be many more such measures until all of Ukraine’s oligarchs are cut down to size and reduced to the status of ordinary big businessmen.”

Wants to deprive them of assets

Zelensky writes that the key to stopping the oligarchs is to remove their media resources, deny them access to their state assets and remove their political protection. It is similar to Ukraine recently did with Medvedchuk, who had his media blocked and state assets confiscated before being arrested and put under house arrest. 

“By curtailing the power of the oligarchs and preventing them from blackmailing the state, we will create a fairer Ukraine that is truly competitive on the global stage and able to defend its sovereignty effectively,” Zelensky writes, “In the near future, we will unveil key legislation addressing our systematic plans for the further deoligarchization of Ukraine. Our goal is to prevent destructive concentrations of power and resources while guaranteeing the equality of all Ukrainian citizens before the law. If we succeed, we can end decades of poverty and finally shed Ukraine’s artificial status as one of Europe’s poorest countries.”

Zelensky: Ukraine will become a member of the EU

Zelensky says that reforms are also needed. Among them, reforms of the judiciary, decentralization, creating a modern financial sector, developing transparent privatization of state-owned assets, and implementing the land-reform. 

“During the first two years of my administration, we have gained a detailed understanding of the transformation needed for Ukraine to occupy its rightful place in the global community. This requires a whole package of interconnected and systemic reforms, many of which are now underway. Much more will follow in the years ahead. Our ultimate objective is to destroy the traditional oligarchic order and replace it with a fairer system that will allow Ukraine to flourish,” writes Zelensky.