KIEV, Ukraine – In November of 2013, Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych, after years of discussion on a free trade deal with the European Union, suddenly decided to renege and sign with Russia instead. His 180 degree spin caused a clamor among the Billionaire Oligarchs reportedly connected to Western financial markets. In fear for their fortunes, these rich executives, having climbed the post Soviet era financial upswing, began to ease their support of Yanukovych. At the same time, Pro Russian Oligarchs entered the scene – also causing drama.
On November 21, 2013, protests began in Kiev’s Independence Square, known as Maidan (Євромайдан, Yevromaidan, Euromaidan - meaning literally "Eurosquare”). On November 24, 2013, Kiev police stated protesters, on the offense, began to use tear gas and fire crackers. By December 1, 2013, the protesters in Maidan Square numbered 400 – 800,000. It is difficult to determine whether the protests were incited by the Oligarchs, as protesters disavowing corruption in the Ukraine had become apparent. Of note, Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index cites Ukraine as one of the most corrupt countries in Eastern Europe, scoring just below the corruption level of Russia.
When Billionaire Oligarchs own major media venues, it is easy to quickly derail rogue news bulletins. Some sources disclosed protesters were first to use force against the police, and avowed the media curtailed this information. Tycoon Dmitry Firtash’s television station broadcast footage countering government claims; and newspaper billionaire Viktor Pinchuk provided an office to journalists in order to cover protesters attempts to topple Yanukovych. Leading to question Firtash’s involvement in the toppling of the Ukraine government is this fact: Firtash has been an ally of Yanukovych. Equally strange - many EU Politicians have been challenged over having similar ties to Yanukovych. To make matters more interesting, the FBI has just arrested Russian agent, Dmytri Firtash in Vienna. His current bail is set at $174 million.
Firtash exploited the natural gas market; buying inexpensive gas and selling at inflated prices to the Ukraine. Firtash is said to have funneled the assets to a Gazprom slush fund. Gazprom is the largest natural gas company and one of the largest corporations worldwide. It was constructed by the Soviet Union in 1989, and has been the main supportive network of Vladimir Putin’s Russia; it is also a major enabler of corruption.
Earlier On January 16, 2014; in an appearance to grasp for control, Yanukovych by-passed the electronic voting system, violating parliament procedures, and signed an anti-protest bill. This bill was stated to have passed quickly in parliament by only a hurried show of hands of MP’s and presidential loyalists. The Draconian group of ten combined laws, limiting freedom of speech and assembly was referred to as Black Thursday or the Dictatorship Laws. Perhaps they should have referred to them as a ridiculous joke.
Some of the restrictions under this bill were: Criminalizing “extremist activity” in an over-broad sense, providing amnesty to those who committed crimes against protesters, commencement of trials in protester absence, six years in jail for blocking access to residential buildings, 15 days in jail for installing unauthorized tents, loss of driver’s license for causing five or more cars to cause a traffic jam, one year in jail for slandering a public official, forbidding of protesters to wear helmets – (to which protesters began to don kitchen colanders), and the list continues. What well deserving protester would not be incited by such laws – thus creating a quick protester inflamed removal of heads of government.
Yanukovych’s fantasy house of cards began to topple. Not only were the Billionaire Oligarchs disenchanted with Yanukovych’s financial decisions, Yanukovych’s shrewd deeds caused further uproar and violence. Leading to what William Hauge illustrated as “The biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century.” February 20, 2014, became the Ukraine’s bloodiest day and will forever tarnish its history. Wherein 70 protesters died within 48 hours, 21 corpses laid in Independence Square, 562 wounded and the final death toll was said to be approximately 100 people. On January 28, 2014 Yanukovych repealed the anti-protest bill, after much destruction had been wrought.
Yanukovych out-did himself by imposing harsh Draconian laws and inflaming the society. Yet if Oligarchs had wanted him to stay in place, he may still be there. Some Oligarch business models are best suited by continuing financial ties with Europe and the United States. However, impending sanctions by United States may threaten these Oligarch’s financial system.
Pro-EU/Western and Pro-Russian Oligarchs have ruled the Ukraine, calling the shots on financial outcomes of Ukrainian society, even far reaching into the wages and job sector. In so doing they have succeeded in building their financial empires. With Gazprom in the forefront of the Ukraine crisis, shake ups will continue; as the Ukraine is too important to geopolitical financial futures. The extreme corruption in the Ukraine and events of staged or real government overthrow, have brought Ukraine into dire straits; while the citizenry vie for true democracy. As billions of financial assets are fought over on the world stage, the outcome of toppling this house of cards can end as any player’s game.