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The Bald President and the Oligarch

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Television star Selenskyj clearly won the Ukrainian presidential election because he does not belong to the old political elite, which is often controlled by oligarchs. But Selenskyj maintains contacts with the rich and powerful in the country.

A fresh head for the Ukrainian presidency. One who does not belong to the old political elite. One who is not an oligarch or acts according to the wishes of an oligarch. This is what Volodymyr Selenskyj stands for. And that’s why so many Ukrainians voted for him in Sunday’s runoff election.

But there are also those who mistrust his Saubermann image, who suspect that the ex-showmaker and soon-to-be president is just a puppet – namely, the oligarch and media mogul Ihor Kolomojskyj. „It would be ridiculous to say that I’m not upset, of course I want him to be president,“ Kolomojskyj said before the election.

Oil and banking businesses

Kolomojskyj rose by oil and banking transactions to one of the richest men in Ukraine. He also owns the TV station „1plus1“. This is the channel broadcasting the series „Servants of the People“, in which Selenskyj played the Ukrainian president. On the station also run the shows of Selenskyjs comedy troupe „Kwartal 95“.

But that the two media partners could combine more than a pure business relationship, Selenskyj has always denied. „I have not signed any agreements with him, nothing to serve a Mr. Kolomoslkyj, he is not a gentleman for me, I have no master,“ said Selensky. Every TV station would belong to somebody. „What should I do, it’s just like that.“

Consultant: „The risk is too high“

And even in the future – as the future Ukrainian president – Selenskyj does not intend to maintain special relations with Kolomojskyj, as his adviser Ruslan Ryaboshapka stressed before the election. „Volodymyr has said several times that he does not plan to support Kolomojsky – whether it is about his bank, the oil and gas company UkrNafta or other economic ties,“ said Ryaboshapka. For Selenskyj, the risk is too high, thereby losing his reputation.

Instead, Selenskyj wanted to achieve what his predecessor Petro Poroshenko did not manage: to limit the influence of the oligarchs in the institutions. „One of his key principles is that honest professionals should be at the forefront of our legal system,“ said Ryaboshapka. „These are people who know what they are doing and who can say no to Kolomojskyj, Achmetov or Poroshenko.“

Rumors persist

Nevertheless, the rumors about the close – even politically close – collaboration of Selensky and Kolomolsky persist. They think so, too, because Kolomolskyi still has an account open with the now deselected President Poroshenko. During his reign, the oligarchs were deprived of control of the oil and gas company UkrNafta. There was a break between the two men, who previously had rather good relationships.

Today Kolomojskyj lives abroad. But he already announced that he would return to Ukraine. „Of course, I’ll go back in. Actually, I wanted to go back before the runoff election, but since the election campaign was so tough and intense, I did not want to cause any further chaos,“ he said.

Or he just did not want to fuel the rumors any further – possibly harming Selenskyj.