Thursday, February 17, 2005

I don't really understand anything about the justice minister's alleged desire to resign - but it seems that, just like anywhere else, it's all about oil.

Roman Zvarych said this on Channel 5 yesterday:

I won't allow any businessmen, who are also Ukrainian parliament members and hold very powerful positions in the oil refinery sphere, to interfere directly in the work of my ministry. I also won’t allow the actions and decisions of certain members of the government to try getting members of my family involved in corrupt schemes.

Roman Bezsmertny, vice prime minister, explained (in Ukrainian) at a news conference that the government had recently banned re-export of oil by Ukrainian companies, and Zvarych was against this decision.

Ukrainska Pravda explained (in Ukrainian) the situation by citing an open letter sent to Yulia Tymoshenko by Oil Transit, a company re-selling Russian oil to Slovakia and thus affected by the new ban. The letter describes some sort of a very complex scheme invented to bypass the ban (at least this is how I understand it). According to Ukrainska Pravda's unnamed sources, Roman Zvarych's wife works for Oil Transit (the company's name, in Ukrainian, is not googleable, somehow).


Even at the time of the 2002 parliamentary election, there was a tiny connection between Roman Zvarych and a trickle of oil (via The Jamestown Foundation):

Late on the evening of March 29, the Vice Governor of West Ukraine's Ivano-Frankivsk Region, Mykola Shkriblyak was riddled with bullets on the stairs of his home. In the early hours of March 30, he died. His murder will have serious political consequences, he having been a favorite of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) race in the local single-seat constituency and the leader of the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional branch of the United Social Democratic Party (USDP).

Until the election campaign got underway, Shkriblyak, as vice governor, supervised the lucrative energy sector in a region key to Ukraine's fuel industry. Ivano-Frankivsk is home to one of two western Ukrainian oil refineries--Nadvirna-based Naftokhimik Prykarpattya. Several Russian and Ukrainian companies have recently been vying for control of this plant, and Shkriblyak's position as broker was thus inherently dangerous.

President Leonid Kuchma personally instructed the prosecution, the police and secret services to solve the murder as soon as possible. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office warned against anyone making hasty conclusions. Yet the Ivano-Frankivsk authorities hurried to define the murder as political, as did the USDP and For United Ukraine (the major pro-government force backing Shkriblyak in the parliamentary campaign). The Green Party said that it would withdraw its candidate from the constituency in protest. The same parties, along with front-running Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, suggested that the election in the single-seat constituency Number 90 should be postponed until the murder is solved. But the election took place, and Shkriblyak's main rival--an American-born radical Ukrainian nationalist, Roman Zvarych--won.

Shkriblyak's tragic death has taken a toll on Our Ukraine, whose candidate Zvarych was. Moral scruples aside, USDP-linked media hinted that the party, or individuals connected to it, might be behind the murder. Inter, probably Ukraine's most popular television channel, showed in its evening news a video of Zvarych vowing to "tear his rivals to pieces" along with a report about Shkriblyak's murder. The message, aimed mainly at Russophone audiences in the East of Ukraine, where support for Yushchenko was thin, was clear. On April 1, the Kievskie Vedomosti newspaper claimed that the U.S. embassy had tried to help Zvarych. "Don't play with your fate," someone from the embassy told Shkriblyak, persuading him to bow out of the race, according to the newspaper. The embassy indignantly denied the allegation.


I've no idea whether any of it has anything to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary Ukrainians. Reminds me of Russia: an oil-rich country where most people live in shit, more or less, and nothing can be done about it.


Abdymok has more on Zvarych and other recent developments/non-developments: here, here and here (the last one, about pigs, was very helpful in getting me back in touch with reality).

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