Interviews and articles

24.02.2014

When oligarch Viktor Pinchuk greets «Maidan’s Heroes»

The time has come in Ukraine when the oligarchs cannot feel perfectly safe at the street. The time of civil disturbances. Viktor Pinchuk, one of the richest people in Ukraine, welcomes us at his home, on Sunday, 23rd of February, in the magnificent mansion surrounded by the pine forest, half-an-hour out of the capital. It is hidden from the permanent gazes beyond the high green fence and guard service. It is the house of exquisite taste decorated with the modern pictures and sculptures, the host being a great popularizer of them. The violet piece of art by Jeff Koons rises in front of the entrance. 

Viktor Pinchuk has just finished his phone talk. He was talking with his colleague – Dmytro Firtash, the mighty gas transactor. Recently the contacts between the Ukrainian oligarchs have intensified. «Each one has done what he could to reach a compromise» - explains Viktor Pinchuk. The blood is harmful for business; during three days 82 people were killed in Maidan. «People faced death, they fought for the right to express own opinion and even to make mistakes. Those who won in this revolution of Maidan became absolutely different people. Likewise the veterans of Afghanistan war. They faced death, lost their friends or relatives. This changed them. This reality won’t pass for no reason. The community has formed. They will always lament their dead».

RESTRAINT

Some oligarchs support the Maidan but covertly. For a long time there was some rhetoric regarding them; it was particularly often used by Yuliia Tymoshenko. Only Petro Poroshenko, the owner of the chocolate company Roshen, came out to the Maidan’s tribune on Saturday, waving with a still warm official newspaper confirming the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych from power. Meanwhile Viktor Pinchuk greeted this civil movement in mid-December, 2013, in the Financial Times. On 18 January, after the police opened fire on demonstrators near the Rada (Parliament), he and Rinat Akhmetov, the richest of them, condemned the violence. The difference is that Akhmetov has close relations with the fugitive president. A person born in Donetsk can lose a lot after the fall of Yanukovych.

And Viktor Pinchuk worked hard building his reputation in the West. He used his influence in the domestic arena for the representatives of political and business elites, from Davos to Washington. His wealth is estimated in $ 3.6 bn (EUR 2.6 bn), in spite of the recent failures and jurisdictional dispute with another oligarch Igor Kolomoiskyi. His wealth has close relation to the politics. Pinchuk married the daughter of Leonid Kuchma, who was the president since 1994 until the «Orange Revolution» of 2004 and the godfather of his ascension.

Visas

Being the graduator of Dnipropetrovsk Metallurgical Institute, he founded the company «Interpipe» in 1990, which produces the pipes for the Russian giants «Rosneft» and «Gazprom». A philanthropist, amateur of modern arts – his PinchukArtCentre is unparalleled in the former USSR – Viktor Pinchuk is undoubtedly the most popular regional businessman in Europe and the USA. He launched the Yalta European Strategy Conference that annually brings together the political and intellectual leaders in the resort town at the Black Sea. Being the European integration supporter for a long time, he would like Brussels to show more commitment as a result of History acceleration. «This morning the European Union should declare visa abolition for our citizens as a first step!»

When answering the question about the role that Viktor Yanukovych played in stirring of police violence that speeded up the President’s fall, Viktor Pinchuk was wary in the choice of words. His enmity should not be expressed in too tough form. «I have no doubts that he has personal responsibility for this tragedy».

Mostly the oligarchs kept silence in public during three months of crisis at Maidan. Of course, they prefer stability to uncertainty. However, the voracity of the Yanukovych’s clan after his election in 2010 led to the outburst of escalation. The particularity of the Ukrainian oligarchs comparing with their Russian colleagues is reflected in their pluralism in the power arena. In Ukraine it is impossible to separate business from policy. In both cases the monopoly is taken negatively.

In December, 2013 with deepening of the crisis a lot of them proposed the President to sacrifice with his Minister of Interior Vitalii Zakharchenko. But not succeeded. Three weeks ago Bill Clinton, a good friend of Pinchuk, wanted to propose himself as a mediator. The businessman got in touch with Yanukovych on his behalf. Vainly. The refusal from any compromise. The changing positions of oligarchs were also reflected in the way their TV channels covered the events (Pinchuk  owns the ICTV channel).

Or through their allies: the whole divisions of deputies acting according to their instructions. In the Rada the Akhmetov’s deputies played a deterrent role in the Party of Regions at the moment when the issue of imposing the state of emergency had became especially topical.

Psychological influence

Pro-European but very sensitive to the relations with Russia in his business, Viktor Pinchuk remains discreet concerning the political consequences of the crisis. However he underlines the incredible psychological influence of Maidan. «There are two centers of power now. Rada and Maidan. People surpassed the politicians. During these three months they formed a common vision of values. They are heroes. The revolution belongs to them. The civil society considerably outran the large business and politicians that have to adjust now».

Viktor Pinchuk seems optimistic as for the threats of separatism. «There is no one in Ukraine who would wish the Ukrainian territory to be reduced. And especially in the large business. In fact everything that happens enhances the attractiveness of Ukraine. We have our financial problems only in the short run. We can become the most attractive country in the world. If this chance won’t be ruined and we won’t find ourselves in the dead end again».

Source: Le Monde
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