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14 Sep 2021

Todd Prince,
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Ukraine: Dominance of 'oligarch' businessmen continues to undermine political reform, fair judiciary

Thirty Years After Independence From Moscow, Ukraine Struggles To Throw Off Oligarch Yoke, 21 August 2021

When Ukraine’s Constitutional Court dismantled much of the nation’s anti-corruption legislation in October 2020, dealing a blow to Kyiv’s reform agenda and its reputation abroad, many observers discerned what they believe was the influence of powerful local magnates.

By declaring it unconstitutional to force political candidates and officials to declare their assets and to penalize them for lying about their wealth, the nation’s top court blew the door wide open for wealthy businesspeople to buy the loyalty of lawmakers, cabinet members, and judges, critics of the ruling said...

Since the late 1990s, critics say, tycoons known as “oligarchs” have dominated Ukraine’s political and economic landscape, using the money earned from former Soviet assets to back candidates, influence corruptible judges, and support media outlets that advance their agendas.

The tycoons “still have a stranglehold on the country. Their power over the judiciary and parliament is just far too great,” said Morgan Williams, the president of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, a Washington-based association that represents the interests of foreign businesses operating in the country. Williams refers to the tycoons as “monopolists” on account of their industry dominance...

Critics like Williams contend that the tycoons’ dominance over key industries and officials has hampered political reform, including what they believe are crucial changes to the judiciary and law enforcement, and has stifled foreign investment and competition...