Ukrainian oligarch under fire after night raid on state oil firm

Fri Mar 20, 2015 2:40pm EDT
 
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By Richard Balmforth

KIEV (Reuters) - A raid by a group of armed men in combat fatigues on a state-owned oil company in the Ukrainian capital Kiev caused uproar in parliament on Friday and thrust banking billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky into the spotlight.

Two parliamentary deputies accused Kolomoisky of sending the masked men into the offices of UkrTransNafta late on Thursday night after it was announced that its chairman, an ally of the 52-year-old oligarch, had been sacked.

Kolomoisky, governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region and one of Ukraine's richest men with a net worth of about $3 billion according to Forbes, later came out of the building and clashed angrily with journalists.

"I came to free the building from Russian saboteurs," he could be heard saying on a YouTube video clip in which he swore several times at reporters.

The affair turned a spotlight on the role of Ukraine's super-rich and the future of their business empires as the country grapples with an economic crisis and a separatist war.

It risks embarrassing President Petro Poroshenko, who himself built a billion-dollar empire in the confectionery business and who has been bolstered by support from Kolomoisky in the conflict with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

A robust defender of Ukrainian unity, Kolomoisky is widely credited with financing the setting-up of a battalion of volunteer fighters which stopped the big city of Dnipropetrovsk from slipping into the hands of the separatists.

Replying to a question at a joint news conference with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Poroshenko said the oligarch would be issued with a "reprimand" for his behavior.   Continued...

 
Igor Kolomoisky, billionaire and governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, speaks during an interview in Dnipropetrovsk May 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/Files