Ukraine’s anti-oligarch law is selective in how it applies to the country’s top tycoons, founder of civil liberties watchdog tells NV Radio

28 December 2021, 08:13 PM

An anti-oligarch law introduced earlier this year “is arbitrary and designed to single out only some prominent businessmen,” the founder of the civil liberties watchdog StateWatch, Oleksandr Lemenov, told NV Radio on Dec. 28.

 “The political struggle between Rinat Akhmetov and Presdent (Volodymyr) Zelensky we see unfolding in our media is a direct consequence of this anti-oligarch law,” Lemenov said.

“But, of course, it is more like a pantomime, and not a real attempt to rein in our oligarchs – how else could one explain why this law singles out only a few of them? (…) It’s ostensibly a good idea, but the execution is rather primitive and linear.”

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“Zelensky is clearly after their media businesses, trying to establish a monopoly of his own; when he could and should be trying to reduce their chokehold on Ukraine’s economy,” Lemenov said in the interview.

One of the criteria that the law uses to designate individuals as oligarchs relates to media: “(a person who) exerts significant influence over mass media.”

“Akhmentov’s System Capital Management is responsible for 20 to 25 percent of the nation’s GDP, so it is rather reckless for the president to start a feud with him. I am no ally of (Akhmetov) (…), but anti-oligarch measures should be systemic, not arbitrary.”

Zelensky signed the so-called “anti-oligarch” bill № 5599 into law on Nov. 5; it will come into effect in May 2022.

Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest citizen, has since insisted that he is only an investor – hardly an oligarch – and has said he is prepared to argue this point in Ukrainian and international courts.

“I’m not opposed to this law per se, I simply wish to defend human rights and the free press,” Akhmetov said.

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