Authorities search office of Poroshenko-controlled television network

8 November 2019

Law enforcement authorities conducted searches on Nov. 7 of the office of Volodymyr Makeyenko, the formal owner of the Priamiy television network, in a criminal case of tax evasion when he acquired the broadcaster, according to the State Bureau of Investigations. The search warrant was granted by a court, though authorities declined to offer any specifics, the news site reported, citing officials at the network. They accused the government of “pressure and an assault” on freedom of the press. The true owner of Priamiy is widely acknowledged to be former President Poroshenko. The network practically served as his mouthpiece during his presidency and the months afterwards.


Poroshenko called upon Zelensky to interfere personally with the searches of the television network in a statement released that day. “Searches and arrests of accounts are attempts to halt the broadcast of any channel,” Poroshenko said. “This is not the channel’s problem and not some isolated incident. This is a problem with Ukraine on the whole and the country’s European choice because this definitely has nothing in common with European rules, nor with European values.”


Petro Poroshenko has begun to transfer ownership in Roshen Corp, Ukraine’s largest confectionary producer, to his eldest son Oleksiy Poroshenko, reported the news site, citing the company’s press service. “Regarding the reasons, that’s a question to the beneficiaries,” the press service said.


Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine during the Poroshenko administration, requested that Zelensky administration officials refrain from “persecuting” former President Poroshenko, the news site reported on Nov. 7, citing a transcript of acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, Jr.’s testimony to the U.S. House intelligence committee in its impeachment investigation of U.S. President Trump. The request was made during a Sept. 14 meeting between Taylor, Volker, Presidential Aide Andriy Yermak and Ihor Novikov, a non-staff presidential adviser.


Taylor, Jr. testified that he was privy to information and actions that demonstrated the Zelensky team was preparing to persecute Poroshenko for a whole series of issues, for example, the incident in the Kerch Strait. During the meeting, Yermak and Novikov demonstrated photos on their mobile phones of relatives, including a brother and cousin, who were injured or killed in the war in Donbas. “They showed this to Kurt and I, saying, ‘Poroshenko is guilty of this’,” Taylor, Jr. testified. “At an emotional level, they have a deep anger for Poroshenko. This is one of the things motivating attacks and court cases against Poroshenko, but not only. Oligarch (Ihor) Kolomoisky also has a bone to pick against Poroshenko.”


Zenon Zawada: When considering Volker’s recommendations against prosecuting Poroshenko, it’ worth considering that Volker’s work as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine was financed by the McCain Institute, which was partly financed by a lobbying firm, the BGR Group, that lists Poroshenko as among its clients, as reported by the news site. So Volker is essentially returning Poroshenko’s favor in discouraging the Zelensky administration from prosecuting the former president.


The many crimes that Poroshenko stands accused of committing (at least a dozen criminal cases being investigated) led us to believe that he would go to great lengths to avoid handing over power to Zelensky, whose election campaign was sponsored by the former president’s biggest political rival, Ihor Kolomoisky. Instead, Poroshenko is staying put in Ukraine but some his associates are reported to have secured immigration visas – as in the case of Oleksandr Hranovskiy, as reported by journalist Serhiy Leshchenko. The Lutsenkos, meanwhile, have set up a part-time residence in London, at minimum. And now Poroshenko is beginning to transfer his assets to his eldest son.


Yet the public won’t be convinced of a serious attempt at rule of law in Ukraine without high-profile prosecutions and convictions. If the Zelensky administration decides not to prosecute Poroshenko, then other targets need to be selected that are higher in status than those currently being detained, such as MPs Serhiy Pashynskiy and Yaroslav Dubnevych.

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