In the third part, we analyse the results of 2021 for oligarchs Ihor Kolomoiskyi, Ihor Palytsia, Oleksandr Hereha, Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi, Serhii Tihipko, Vadym Novynskyi, and agricultural oligarchs Yurii Kosiuk and Andrii Verevskyi.
Ihor Kolomoiskyi and Ihor Palytsia
The past 2021 can be considered the most successful year for oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi since his return to Ukraine in 2019. In 2021, the oligarch Kolomoiskyi has finally become a political and economic partner and ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyi. After the dismissal of Dmytro Razumkov from the post of parliamentary speaker, the mono-coalition was finally destroyed, and the oligarch Kolomoiskyi used his “Za Majbutne” group to become an informal member of the coalition with the “Servant of the People” party. In fact, now the President’s Office cannot adopt any decision in Parliament without the consent of Kolomoiskyi and the agrarian oligarchs who control the “Dovira” group.
In addition, the oligarch Kolomoiskyi is actively helping Zelenskyi in the media coverage of his presidential activities. Channel “1+1” has become a mouthpiece for the President’s Office, which promotes big construction, praises all of Zelenskyi’s decisions, and discredits his political opponents and other oligarchs.
In parallel, Kolomoiskyi’s group represented by Ihor Palytsia and Tymur Mindich is actively helping the President’s Office to build its own media empire. In particular, the structures of Tymur Mindich, with the mediation of Ihor Palytsia, bought channels M1 and M2 from Viktor Pinchuk to create a new information channel. Currently, information is spread that the frequencies M1 and M2 will operate in the interests of the information channel of Kolomoiskyi – UNIAN TV that is now very actively developing. In addition, Ihor Palytsia is actively buying up regional TV channels and frequencies for them (we wrote about this in detail in our previous analytical reviews “Week at Glance”). Therefore, in general, Kolomoiskyi’s group is the only reliable ally for Zelenskyi. The President would have a political collapse, parliamentary crisis and major problems in political competition without it.
At the end of 2021, it became known that the channel of the oligarch Kolomoiskyi “1+1” extended the contract with “95th Quarter” studio of Zelenskyi for another 5 years. Taking advantage of his great political influence on Zelenskyi, Kolomoiskyi stopped all investigations of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, the PGO and the SSU into his financial crimes. The anti-corruption NGOs openly accuse Prosecutor General Iryna Venedyktova and the SSU head Ivan Bakanov of blocking the investigation against Kolomoiskyi upon Zelenskyi’s instructions; de-oligarchization does not apply to Kolomoiskyi.
Kolomoiskyi is very comfortable, and is gradually regaining the previously arrested assets and real estate of Privatbank through the courts. The only uncomfortable thing for Kolomoiskyi is the ongoing investigations by American law enforcement agencies. Of course, it seems very paradoxical that the Americans are investigating money laundering by Kolomoiskyi, and the Ukrainian authorities are turning a blind eye to the oligarch’s crimes in Ukraine. Moreover, they enjoy his political, financial and media support.
In 2021, the Prosecutor General’s Office closed a criminal case on illegal enrichment of Ihor Palytsia, upon instructions of the President’s Office (in 2021, Ihor Palytsia had a fortune of USD 410 million, and ranked 27th in the list of the richest Ukrainians, according to the “Focus” magazine). At the same time, Ihor Palytsia keeps most of his assets in Switzerland (luxury real estate, bank accounts), where his wife and son live. At the end of 2021, the media reported that the Volyn Regional Council, controlled by Ihor Palytsia, had voted on December 24 to reorganize the “Volynpryrodresurs” communal enterprise into an open joint-stock company. This enterprise mines amber and has a license to extract copper, and has an annual turnover of over UAH 1 billion. According to the media, the new owners of the company will be the “Zavod Izumrud” company of Tymur Mindich – a partner of Zelenskyi and Kolomoiskyi.
In 2021, Kolomoiskyi took full control of the key body that oversees the media in Ukraine – the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine (the Parliament voted for members of the National Council working for Kolomoiskyi). In addition, at the end of the year, Kolomoiskyi lobbied for the state-funded construction of the “Dnipro” airport owned by the oligarch. In fact, as part of a major infrastructure construction project, the Ukrainian government will build a private airport owned by oligarch Kolomoiskyi since 2009 in the city of Dnipro for Ukrainian taxes. Another of Kolomoiskyi’s big victories was the successful division of the “UKRNAFTA”, according to which the oligarch will receive gas and oil worth several billion hryvnias (we analysed the history of the division of the “UKRNAFTA” in our reviews for October 2021).
Kolomoiskyi’s other local victories in state contracts, tenders, and lawsuits could be a few pages long, as there have been many of them.
However, the fact is that that Kolomoiskyi’s life became much better in 2021. As his influence on Zelenskyi increased, Kolomoiskyi’s oligarchic position also grew stronger. One thing remains clear – a broad front of other oligarchs is forming against Kolomoiskyi and Zelenskyi, who do not like the selective nature of de-oligarchization, as well as Zelenskyi’s illegal actions with the sanctions of the NSDC.
Kolomoiskyi managed to involve Zelenskyi in a political scam over the struggle with oligarchs Poroshenko and Akhmetov. Now that the authorities and the oligarchs have split into two camps, Zelenskyi will become even more dependent on the oligarch. It is possible that in the spring of 2021, the oligarch Kolomoiskyi will push Zelenskyi to form a new government. Thus, the oligarchic group “Privat” will be able to get a much bigger cake than it was in 2020.
In 2021, the “Forbes” magazine estimated the assets of the family of oligarch Oleksandr Hereha at USD 1.7 billion. In an interview, Hereha said he estimated his “Epicenter-K” business empire at more than USD 2 billion. In general, 2021 was a very successful year for Oleksandr Hereha being a businessman and MP from the “Za Majbutne” Group of Kolomoiskyi.
First, the capitalization of his “Epicenter-K” group grew during 2021. Despite the quarantine restrictions, the volume of trade in the network was constantly growing, new hypercentres were opened, logistics centres and new warehouses were built. In particular, in 2021, “Epicenter” opened about 100 new facilities throughout Ukraine (warehouses, logistics centres, new stores and so on). There were some reputable scandals around “Epicenter-K”, as the network continued to trade during the quarantine period, but Hereha’s business did not suffer any sanctions for this.
Second, “Epicenter-K” continued to actively invest in the agricultural sector, as well as expand its land bank. The profile agrarian portal Latifundist believes that Hereha’s agrarian business is among the top five most dynamically developing agrarian groups of companies in Ukraine. However, in addition to agribusiness, “Epicenter-K” has been actively investing in the woodworking industry in Ukraine. Oleksandr Hereha stated that his company was actively buying up woodworking businesses in Ukraine to process wood in Ukraine and sell finished products in Ukraine, rather than exporting roundwood to the European Union. It is for this reason that the “Za Majbutne” parliamentary group has been so active in opposing the supply of roundwood to the European Union, as raw roundwood was among Oleksandr Hereha’s business interests.
In his interviews, Hereha said that he really wanted to open a network of grocery hypermarkets, which would be the largest in Ukraine, but his business consultants opposed this idea.
As for the political influence of Oleksandr Hereha, he also grew and capitalized in 2021. In particular, the oligarch Hereha has political influence over the new speaker of Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk who comes from Khmelnytskyi, as well as Hereha. It is a well-known fact in narrow political circles that Hereha has long supported Speaker Stefanchuk and used him as a direct channel of communication with Zelenskyi and the President’s Office. Therefore, Stefanchuk solves some business issues of the oligarch Hereha, and receives diverse support from him in exchange (in particular, in the elections in 2019 Hereha financed the election campaign of Stefanchuk’s brother – Mykola). Hereha also continues having full political control over the Khmelnytskyi region (regional council, regional administration and local UTCs are headed by the oligarch’s political clients).
In the period of the “Pandora Papers” journalistic investigation, oligarch Hereha was involved in an offshore scandal over the operation of his business in the occupied Crimea. In particular, it is a well-known fact that the “Epicenter-K” hypermarket chain continues to operate and bring profit to the Hereha family in Crimea under the new name “Novacenter”. For this reason, journalists and opposition politicians have demanded the imposition of sanctions of the NSDC against Hereha for doing business in Crimea and financing the occupying Russian administration in Crimea with taxes. However, the authorities did not react in any way to Hereha’s business in Crimea, as this oligarch is friendly to Kolomoiskyi and partially finances the “Za Majbutne” parliamentary group.
At the end of 2021, Oleksandr Hereha bought a Bell 429 helicopter for more than USD 10 million through “Epicenter-K” company to fly across Ukraine.
This helicopter is also used by some MPs being part of the oligarch Hereha’s mini-group (mostly, they are majoritarian MPs from Khmelnytskyi and Vinnytsia regions).
In 2021, the assets of the businessman from Kharkiv Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi were estimated at about USD 1 billion, which allowed him to enter the top 10 richest Ukrainians. In general, the metallurgical business and trade in iron ore with Chinese partners brought record profits to Yaroslavskyi. Yaroslavskyi seems to be actively returning to the top oligarchic league, as he is actively investing in the media, sports, politics and business start-ups. During 2021, Yaroslavskyi’s position in Kharkiv strengthened significantly, as he actively financed and supported the election of Ihor Terekhov as the mayor of Kharkiv. Now Yaroslavskyi is the number one figure in Kharkiv. Together with the Kernes family and Terekhov, they decide everything and determine regional policy in the Kharkiv region. During 2021, Yaroslavskyi completed his old idea – to revive the football club “Metalist”; the oligarch is actively investing in football in Kharkiv, restoring the city stadium and infrastructure, supporting sports tournaments and charity. In 2021, Yaroslavskyi invested about USD 30 million in football.
In 2021, financial company “NS Finance” of Yaroslavskyi completed an agreement with Kazakhstan’s “BTA Bank” to buy a 20% stake in one of Ukraine’s largest insurance companies “Oranta”, once owned by oligarch Pinchuk. Now Yaroslavskyi has a controlling stake in the insurance company “Oranta”, which is 72%. In parallel with the insurance business, Yaroslavskyi is developing his bank “Credit-Dnipro”, which he bought in 2020 from the oligarch Pinchuk. In his interviews, Yaroslavskyi said that he planned to provide extensive banking and insurance services for business; thus, he planned to acquire new banks and insurance companies, as he considered this market promising.
In February 2021, the “DCH” Group (manages the “Caravan” shopping mall network), owned by Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi acquired from private investors 100% of the corporate rights of one of the leading players in Ukrainian online fashion retailers: the LeBoutique online store. The “DCH” plans to work with the “Credit-Dnipro” Bank to develop a payment processing system and offer consumer lending to the LeBoutique customers. In general, Yaroslavskyi bought this business for his young wife, and it is unlikely to be profitable, given the narrowness of this segment.
A separate promising area in the “DCH” of Yaroslavskyi is green energy and cryptocurrency mining. According to Yaroslavskyi, he plans to develop these areas of business together with Chinese partners and investors, but this requires Ukraine to return to a multi-vector policy (at the same time, Yaroslavskyi has been under sanctions of the Russian government since 2018).
It is also worth noting that Oleksandr Yaroslavskyi is considered one of the political and economic representatives of China’s interests in Ukraine. Yaroslavskyi is friends with serious Chinese businessmen, as well as communist functionaries from China. The reasons are that Yaroslavskyi sells iron ore to China, and helps Chinese business to find partners in Ukraine; Yaroslavskyi acts as a communicator between the Chinese and Ukrainian oligarchs. It was Yaroslavskyi who almost got into big trouble with the Ukrainian authorities in 2021 because he helped Chinese businessman Wang Jing with the agreement to buy “Motor Sich”. The nationalization of the “Motor Sich” and sanctions of the NSDC against Chinese investors in 2021 have seriously damaged relations between Yaroslavskyi and the President’s Office.
According to our information, the President’s Office tried to return Yaroslavskyi to its holder in 2021, proposing control of the Kharkiv region to the oligarch. However, due to the sanctions of the NSDC against the “Motor Sich” and Chinese partners, Yaroslavskyi flatly refused to cooperate with Zelenskyi’s authorities, and personally considers the President an enemy. On the other side, in 2020, Yaroslavskyi was one of the businessmen who donated the most to the oligarchic anti-COVID-19 fund created by Zelenskyi. In total, Yaroslavskyi donated more than USD 30 million to the fight against COVID-19, most of which went to Kharkiv and the Kharkiv region.
Politically, Yaroslavskyi has good relations and a history of cooperation in the metallurgical business with Rinat Akhmetov. Therefore, it is likely that Yaroslavskyi will support Akhmetov’s political projects, as he has no own parties. Interestingly, in an interview with a Kharkiv newspaper, Yaroslavskyi said he considered Dmytro Razumkov a very promising young politician with every chance of becoming President. In addition, Yaroslavskyi traditionally has good political contacts with Yuliia Tymoshenko. Most likely, he will finance her at the next elections.
The “Forbes” magazine estimated the fortune of Rinat Akhmetov’s partner, Vadym Novynskyi (“Smart Holding”) at USD 1.5 billion. Due to high prices for iron ore and metallurgical products, Novynskyi’s assets and surpluses grew significantly in 2021.
In 2021, Novynskyi bought a minority stake of “NASH TV”, although he wanted to buy out the entire TV channel from Muraev. However, the parties failed to agree on the price of the media asset. In addition, oligarch Novynskyi is one of the sponsors of the “Apostrophe” media group (online site and news TV channel). During 2021, Novynskyi resumed contacts with Russia and actively flew to Moscow (the Russian government lifted sanctions on Vadym Novynskyi only in mid-2020).
It is also worth noting that political relations of Novynskyi and Zelenskyi deteriorated in 2021. The reason is not just a conflict between the authorities and Akhmetov. The exacerbation was due to the fact that Novynskyi actively supported and financed the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (in particular, Novynskyi financed the procession in July 2021 in Kyiv, when tens of thousands of believers without masks celebrated the Baptism of Kievan Rus, in the midst of the pandemic). Novynskyi also actively raised the issue of discrimination against the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and all these religious topics irritated Zelenskyi who did not want to interfere. Politically, Novynskyi supports Muraev’s “Nashi” party financially and has a good political dialogue with Medvedchuk. It is possible that Novynskyi may become one of the faces of a renewed pro-Russian political project in the next election cycle, in which Medvedchuk and Akhmetov will be the main shareholders.
At the same time, during the second half of 2021, there were active rumours in political circles that the NSDC would impose sanctions against Novynskyi for his flights to Russia and pro-Russian activities. Therefore, in 2022, Novynskyi still risks falling under the sanctions of the NSDC in the framework of de-oligarchization. Most likely, these actions will be primarily a tool to intimidate Akhmetov, or force him to peace.
Ukrainian “Forbes” estimated the assets of Serhii Tihipko in 2021 at USD 730 million, which puts him in 11th place in the list of the richest people in Ukraine. In turn, other investment companies estimate Tihipko’s assets at more than USD 2 billion.
During 2021, Serhii Tiiipko, who retired from politics, actively bought banking and other financial companies. According to the media, in 2021, the agreements of Taskombank of Tihipko on the purchase of Universal Bank, assets of the closed Diamantbank, BIEC Bank, Prominvestbank and others were finally formalized. Tihipko is also one of the beneficiaries of the “Monobank” software product, which is actively developing on the basis of Universal Bank. In April 2021, Tihipko’s TAS Group sold the pharmacy chain, which numbered about 150 pharmacies in Kyiv and the region.
The media reported that in 2021 Serhii Tihipko decided to abandon the pharmacy business because it did not bring much profit. Tihipko sold the pharmacy business for USD 30 million. The biggest political risk for Serhii Tihipko was the case of the fictitious purchase of the “Lenin’s smithy” from Petro Poroshenko, which is being investigated by law enforcement agencies. In 2019, Tihipko bought the “Lenin’s smithy” and land from Poroshenko and his partner Ihor Kononenko for almost UAH 10 billion. The price for this old asset was clearly inflated and did not correspond to the market. Political circles say the story is not over, and Tihipko may have problems because of the deal. It should be understood that neither Kolomoiskyi nor his business partners Serhii Liovochkin and Valerii Khoroshkovskyi would protect Tihipko. Therefore, if the President’s Office wants to imprison Petro Poroshenko, at least it is to be expected that law enforcement agencies will start pressuring Tihipko concerning the agreement on the sale of the “Lenin’s smithy” asset.
Agrarian oligarchs Yurii Kosiuk and Andrii Verevskyi
Oligarchs Yurii Kosiuk and Andrii Verevskyi are among the political beneficiaries of the “Dovira” parliamentary group, which, along with the “Za Majbutne”, is a de facto member of the coalition with the “Servant of the People”. In exchange for political support in Parliament for the initiatives of the President’s Office, the agrarian businesses of oligarchs Verevskyi and Kosiuk developed very well.
First, the so-called Fiscal Law 5600 reduced the fiscal burden on Verevskyi’s agrarian business and Kosiuk’s chicken business.
Second, the agricultural businesses of these two oligarchs in the budget for 2022 received large subsidies.
Third, at the end of 2021, the government proposed to include the enterprises of oligarchs Kosiuk and Verevskyi in the list of companies that would receive cheap gas on preferential terms until April 30, 2022. In early 2022, the government approved this decision. Thus, Verevskyi’s oil and Kosiuk’s chicken are included in the list of social products, the prices of which will not increase due to the fact that they receive cheap gas. However, it is far from a fact that such a government decision will help stopping the rise of food prices.
During 2021, the assets of these agrarian oligarchs grew, which was positively affected by high world prices for food and meat, as well as subsidies for agribusiness from the Ukrainian government.
Yurii Kosiuk “MHP” – showed a fortune of USD 780 million, was on the 10th place in the list of the richest Ukrainians in 2021 according to the “Forbes”.
Andrii Verevskyi “Kernel” – showed a fortune of USD 520 million, being on the 16th place in the list of the richest Ukrainians in 2021, according to the “Forbes”. In 2021, the “Kernel” of Verevskyi paid UAH 1.4 billion in taxes; and the “MHP” – about UAH 2 billion of taxes (information from an interview with Kosiuk).
In the autumn of 2021, Yurii Kosiuk’s “MHP” conducted a profitable operation for the purchase of 51% of the shares of the “LubnyMiaso” plant. The deal costed almost USD 800,000. The plant had a closed production cycle – grazing cows, feed production, meat processing and its sale in branded stores under the Scott Smeat brand. In 2021, Yurii Kosiuk presented a strategy for the development of the “MHP” for the next 15 years, according to which the company plans to move from the production of raw meat to the production of ready meals and semi-finished products. As a result, Kosiuk plans to build new specialty butcher shops, set up a fast food chain, and start producing semi-finished products.
As for the “Kernel”, in 2021 this agricultural company went with its shares on the Ukrainian stock exchange. Verevskyi himself said in an interview that this event was the most important for his business in recent decades.
Thus, on June 24, 2021, the investment company “Dragon Capital” of oligarch Fiala together with the Ukrainian Stock Exchange announced the start of trading in shares of the Ukrainian agricultural holding “Kernel”.