Ex-minister alleges prime minister is fronting for Ukraine’s top oligarch

28 December 2021, 05:56 PM

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal “from time to time makes decisions beneficial to DTEK, Ukraine’s largest energy company, owned by Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, and lobbies for the interests of officials loyal to the businessman.”

That’s according to an article in the latest edition of the Novoye Vremya weekly news magazine titled “Legionnaires. How the network of lobbying and political influence of Rinat Akhmetov is organized in Ukraine.”

The man making the claims, former Energy Minister Oleksiy Orzhel, told NV he had decided to resign as soon as he learned that Shmyhal would be appointed prime minister, although the president persuaded him to stay on.

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In the summer of 2020, Shmyhal initiated a law to increase the cost of the preferential green tariff, Orzhel said.

DTEK Renewables, the operating company managing the renewable energy assets of DTEK Group, is a major beneficiary of the green tariff scheme.

As a result, the tariff, which is beneficial for Akhmetov’s company, was slightly reduced.

According to Orzhel, the leadership of the energy industry was well aware the tariff would now be too low to compensate for the cost of generating green energy, and debts would continue to grow on the market.

In the autumn of 2020, the government accepted a DTEK proposal to return the mines of the Dobropilliavuhillia company to the state. The energy company had leased the mines in 2010 for 49 years, but had since decided to abandon them.

As a result, instead of conducting a transparent audit, the government decided to pay Akhmetov compensation from the state budget of more than UAH 400 million ($14.7 million) for investments allegedly made in the mines.

According to NV, in April 2020 Shmyhal also made a decision to introduce a 65 percent duty on coal imports from Russia, which was also a boon for DTEK’s business.

Orzhel also said Shmyhal had actively defended former Acting Energy Minister Olha Buslavets from dismissal. Buslavets had been accused of acting in the interests of Akhmetov’s energy company.

“I don’t believe that (former members of) DTEK’s top management who are appointed to posts in the government don’t have in the company’s interests at heart,” said Agia Zagrebelskaya, the founder of the League of Antitrust, a non-government anti-monopoly organization.

“They are persuaded and infected with the idea that what is good for them is good for the whole country,” she said.

The prime minister’s press service did not reply to an NV request for comments on this story.

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