Ukrainian security forces moved in to search the home of Ihor Kolomoiskiy, a prominent billionaire who was once called the billionaire behind the president. Prior to becoming president, Zelensky played one on tv, and that sitcom was on a network owned by Kolomoiskiy. His presidential campaign, too, relied heavily on funding from the now-raided oligarch.
Kolomoiskiy is accused of embezzlement of over $1 billion from two oil companies with which he was connected. Both companies were seized by Zelensky's government in November under martial law.
Kolomoiskiy and Zelensky were very tight during Zelensky's presidential run, as well. "During the campaign," the Atlantic Council reports, "Zelenskyy appointed Kolomoisky’s personal lawyer as a key adviser, traveled abroad to confer with the then-exiled Kolomoisky on multiple occasions, and benefited from the enthusiastic endorsement of Kolomoisky’s media empire. Unsurprisingly, many viewed Zelenskyy as Kolomoisky’s candidate."
Hunter Biden's contact at Burisma, Vadym Pozharskyi, to whom he introduced his then-VP father, was reported by the New York Post in 2020 to be connected to Kolomoiskiy. Kolomoiskiy has been under sanctions by the US since 2021. In February 2021, Zelensky bypassed pandemic restrictions in Ukraine to attend a birthday bash for Kolomoiskiy.
Under Zelensky's leadership in Ukraine, "government officials deemed a threat to Kolomoisky’s interests have been removed from their posts," the Atlantic Council reports. These included Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka who was investigating Kolomoiskiy, as well as Zelensky's first prime minister Oleksiy Honcharuk who was attempting to "loosen Kolomoisky’s control of a state-owned electricity company."
Kolomoiskiy previously held a stake in two of Ukraine's biggest oil companies, Ukrnafta and refiner Ukrtatnafta. Zelensky seized both of those companies in November under martial law. This after he had revoked Kolomoiskiy's citizenship in July 2022, along with two other men.
Kolomoiskiy has denied any involvement with Burisma, though Russian writer and investigator John Helmer "suggested that Zlochevsky and Pozharskyi were front men for Kolomoisky at Burisma," the Post reported. Other sources indicate that, despite the off-shore financial obfuscation, the oligarch was connected to Burisma.
After Vice President Biden was introduced to Pozharskyi, he pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was allegedly looking into Burisma. Burisma was "described as a big shell company network of a classic British kind, with ownership and control completely obfuscated.'"
On Friday, Zelensky said "We are preparing new reforms in Ukraine. Reforms that will change the social, legal and political reality in many ways, making it more human, transparent and effective." He did not give details at that time, saying they would come later.
Kolomoiskiy, according to the Pandora Papers, gave millions of dollars to companies that were close to Zelensky and his associates.
Top officials with the Zelensky government were recently fired amid allegations of corruption that alleged that the Ministry of Defense had purchased food for their troops at inflated prices, including eggs that were three times their normal cost. Others were fired for using aid that had been sent to the country for their own, personal purposes.
During the recent gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian officials were eager to discuss ways the nation was dealing with allegations of corruption and purging corrupt officials from their ranks. This, they said, was necessary so that the west would be confident about funneling more cash and aid into the country.
"The three men are among the wealthiest Jews in Ukraine, and the official reason for the move appears to be that they hold foreign citizenship — including in Israel," the Times of Israel reported.
However, critics of the move said that Zelensky was trying to give the appearance of being tough on corruption so that the west would believe his efforts to be in earnest, and continue funding the war-torn nation despite ongoing allegations of corruption in the government.
"The country will change during the war," wrote parliamentary leader of Zelensky's Servant of the People party David Arakhamia on Telegram. "If someone is not ready for change, then the state itself will come and help them change."
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