Interviews and articles

16.02.2005

Interview: Renat Akhmetov and I treasure a reputation of honest-minded businessman and a patriot within and without Ukraine

Victor Pinchuk speaks about new government, about relations with his father-in-law and a joint project  with Steven Spielberg.

Victor Pinchuk, one of the wealthiest men in Ukraine, son-in-law of the former president Leonid Kuchma, a businessman and a people's deputy, rarely gives interview to the national and Russian publications. The big industrialist and media-tycoon prefers to speak to the foreign media, cultivating the image of a European-type public figure. In the last year alone, thanks to Pinchuk, Ukraine was visited by an American businessman and philanthropist, George Soros and former US President, George Bush senior. Now, Pinchuk started to work jointly with Steven Spielberg on a documentary about holocaust in Ukraine. Pinchuk does not have an interpreter's assistance when communicating with foreign celebrities.

He unflappably bears "son-in-law-of-the-Former-President" title and makes no secret of his wealth. According to the last year's ranking of the 50 wealthiest people of Central and Eastern Europe prepared by a polish weekly "Wprost", Pinchuk took the tenth position. The magazine assessed its wealth at US 2, 5 bln. 

In his interview to "Korrespondent" magazine, Pinchuk was talking about his prospects and hopes for the future. 

"If, say, I am set to sell something and someone has bought it from me, I will say: you know    it has appeared to cost this much."

- Not so long ago, Peter Poroshenko, being the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, assessed your and Leonid Kuchma's joint property at $7-8 bln. Moreover, "Wprost" magazine ranked it at $2, 5 bln. Which figure is more accurate then? 

- I wish one of the leaders of "Our Ukraine" Bloc would not lie. One always wishes that a figure could be bigger (smiles). 

Well, you know, Leonid Dnilovich does not have any fortune. As for assessment of wealth owned by the Ukrainian businessmen, one cannot measure it. We do not have a market capable of assessing it. One can only say: if this plant were in the States, it would be of this or that value. There exist different risks that influence price. 

A journalist presented me with "Wprost" magazine, and I read it for the first time. In particular, they wrote that I'd made my fortune thanks to my electoral constituency that the President Kuchma had presented me during the wedding. It's both funny and sad. I do know what I had to go through fighting with Pavel Lazarenko within this electoral constituency. He used to be an informal proprietor of Dniepropetrovsk Region. I won, and I know the price of the victory. Therefore, when they write such stupid things, one may have similar attitude to what has been written. 

- How would you assess your wealth? 

- Nominally only. If, say, I am set to sell something and someone has bought it from me, I will say: you know    it has appeared to cost this much. This is just a theoretical speculation. 

- What's your attitude towards your being defined as an oligarch? 

- Ironic. To be more serious, an oligarch is a person who combines business and politics within itself and makes use of political muscle in order to produce a desirable business outcome. And I do not feel shy to say that I am the first, well, may be, one of the first in the country who stated more than a year ago that business and politics had to be conducted separately. This is not good for the country at all when there are over one hundred sheer businessmen. So, it's next to impossible to make up one's mind whether to vote for your private business interest or for the interests of the country. 

We have to knock down the system. Now, I'd like to point out that now the power is fully responsible for creating conditions for businessmen to restrain them from becoming politicians and securing favorable decisions through the parliament. 

- Do you think the businessmen are ready for that? 

- Businessmen have been ready for that for a long time. But the power should say: we assure you that there are clear and transparent laws, there'll be no squeezing on form visiting taxmen, police or firemen; the governors will not demand from you anything. You don't have to seek any "shelter" in a regional or city council or in Verkhovna Rada. Please do your business, and I am [THE POWER] protecting your interests. 

- Do you often see your father-in-law? Do you have a lot of common topics for discussion? 

- Now, we drop into their place almost every evening. We talk about the family, about his foundation and about the granddaughter Katya. He is getting on all right. We've brought tons of greeting to him from Davos (from the International Economic Forum). We met different personalities, politicians and his colleagues [presidents of other states]. They have highly appreciated the way hi acted during the political crisis. They understand and realize what difficult decisions he made at that time. He managed to prevent bloodshed, being under pressure to impose a state of emergency and resort to solution by force scenario. 

- Are you and Rinat Akhmentov planning to participate in tendering on privatization of "Kryvorizhstal" or just pay extra several hundred million if required? 

- We are ready to accept any decision of the court. And we also hope that the President of Ukraine will also make any decision, even if it does not agree with his own opinion. 

"What the new government and business really need now is just to start building up the country" 

- Why do you think the issue on re-privatization was raised specifically towards "Kryvorizhstal"? 

- I am sure this is directly associated with the names of Rinat Akhmentov and Victor Pinchuk. We paid for "Kryvorizhstal" twice as much compared to all the rest Ukrainian metallurgy works. Therefore, to state that the price is wrong is somewhat inaccurate. I think this is just a political prank that appeared to have been justified during the Presidential campaign. Now, we'd better get back to reality. I might have said many things during a campaign too. Now, the new government and business should be building up the country and always looking for a compromise for the sake of achieving key goals. 

I would also like to emphasize that it is very important for Rinat Akhmentov and myself to uphold a reputation of honest businessmen and patriots of Ukraine both in the world and within the State. Moreover, this will have a significant influence on our standpoint regarding "Kryvorizhstal". 

- What are the major advantages and risks, from the point of view of big business, of Ukraine's joining EU? 

- Are concerned of what will be happening 15 years from now? 

- Why 15? The government is promising that we will join EU in five years max. 

- I visited Davos. I had breakfast with Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission. There were several more people, including son of Egypt's President, Gamal Mubarak. He asked a question about the future relations between Egypt and European Union. Mr. Barroso was talking cordially about those relations, pointing out that for the EU such countries as Egypt, Morocco, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are very important. I just want to say the following in order to get rid of illusions: Ukraine is in one basket with Morocco. Unfortunately, this is the way in which EU sees us and this is how our prospects look like. 

I am supportive of tasks as for the quickest possible accession to the EU. May be we'll manage to travel this long distance fast. But it cannot be too fast. I just say what I've heard. By the way, it was not his [Barroso's] personal opinion. I don't say that all 25 leaders of EU member-state stick to the same opinion, but several of them, the most influential ones, do. 

Pray God they "digest" the new ten members and then successfully go though negotiations with Turkey. For me personally though, as a citizen of Ukraine, such cities as Odessa, Lvov or Kyiv are much more European cities than Istanbul. But taking in around 50 mln people with the problems that we have, with ambiguous political situation, segregation is very difficult. Many things depend on the Ukrainian politicians and what signals will be sent to the European Community within the next few months. 

- What about the documentary about Babi Yar tragedy? At what stage is it now? Have you signed a contract yet? 

- It was signed in December under the auspices of S. Spielberg's Shoah Foundation. We have also agreed that they will do the creative part of the work. Spielberg said that the subject was very important for him and that he would be an executive producer provided that I would be one too. 

- What's the budget of the film? 

- I'd not speak about it. In any case, budget of a documentary has nothing in common with a feature film. 

- When will your passion for fine arts finally take shape of a museum, of which you said once quite long ago? 

- We have a nice collection. We have managed to bring back to Ukraine rare works of our world-renowned artists. However, the goal is much wider. This is going to be a museum featuring works by not only Ukrainian but European artists as well. After the "orange" revolution, such a museum will create a nice opportunity to display how contemporary and European we are.

This summer we won a tender arranged by the Ministry of Culture Affairs to create a museum in one of the premises of "Arsenal" plant. Now we are waiting for corresponding actions from authorities as for transferring the property. In short, the State is to include the museum building into design and we provide money i.e. millions of dollars for reconstruction of the premise. It is in a very poor condition and we cannot just paint it. We need to make something that would be an honor to Ukraine and a gem of Europe.

All of this is like a passion for football for somebody. It is interesting and fascinating as well. I am willing to invest big money into this project.


Share |

Back to the list

Created and supported by: «Art Depo» Creative Agency