The Oligarchs’ Loss of Power after the War in Ukraine

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine entered a new era where the country had to forget the socialist regime and embark on an absolutely new democratic path. Needless to say, it took a while, because the state was in a terrible economic situation.

In the early 1990s, many businesses stood idle, with high unemployment and banditry running amock in the country. During that period there were people who began to buy plants, factories, production facilities and other property owned by the government very cheaply, because the USSR had no concept of business.  According to the WashingtonPost’s article these individuals became fabulously rich and built monopolies in different markets. They had great influence and strong ties with the media and politicians, thus becoming Ukraine’s shadow power. They were called oligarchs.

According to official data, Rinat Akhmetov, a native of Donbas, is Ukraine’s richest person. Before Putin’s invasion of the sovereign country, he owned 90 percent of the steel industry, one of the largest energy companies, and many other businesses. He still owns many of them, but some of his plants were occupied by the enemy or simply destroyed by Russia’s missiles. The billionaire says he does not consider himself an oligarch and claims that he has never wanted to become one. Rinat Akhmetov is regularly criticised by journalists who believe that he needs to invest all his means and resources to save Ukraine, including the need to sell all his property abroad. The businessman does not consider that such statements are correct, claiming that he has been providing the biggest support of all the Ukrainian businessmen to ensure Ukraine’s victory in this war. This is really true, because he has channelled more than $100 million from his own pocket to help the army. In addition, his Foundation has been providing regular assistance to the war-affected people.

Even Russian oligarchs do not have the same influence as Ukrainian ones. Most likely, it comes from the fact that Putin’s authoritarian regime in Russia sees the richest people as a “purse”. Many say that the war will strongly impact the influence of oligarchs in the country, because they have come under enormous pressure from the government, keep suffering huge losses as a result of Russia’s terrorism, and because Ukrainians will no longer tolerate such power. The anti-oligarchic steps taken by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who introduced the corresponding law are very important. Ihor Kolomoiskyy has already been deprived of Ukrainian citizenship because he had a passport of another country, which is illegal. Viktor Medvedchuk, an oligarch and Putin’s close friend, who was a pro-Russian politician, was arrested during the war. At the end of 2021, Zelenskyy accused Akhmetov of being recruited to participate in a coup d’état, to which the billionaire replied it was absurd.

Two days before the start of the full-scale invasion, Rinat Akhmetov said that he and SCM, his holding company, were ready to invest in Ukraine $34 million in taxes upfront to support the country. The day before the war, the President called on all the richest people of Ukraine to help during the coming difficult times.

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