7 January 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky campaigned for and was elected president of Ukraine in 2019 promising to do something about oligarchic control of the economy and society. He vowed to take on the oligarchy and limit their power. Two years later, even faced with a build up of Russian military might on his border he is trying to fulfill some of those promises.
In the name of “deoligarchisation” Zelensky’s government has targeted some of Ukraine’s most powerful oligarchy including pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk. Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest and charged with crimes including treason. Medvedchuk, of course, claims that the charges are “political repression.”
The Zelensky administration introduced legislation that legally defined oligarchs and subjected them to restrictions including a ban on financing political parties.
Critics have argued that these moves are intended to impress U.S. President Biden, and are cosmetic, but they are occurring none the less.
In November of 2021, the Atlantic Council published an article claiming that:
“…the Ukrainian parliament recently passed de-oligarchization legislation to prevent oligarchs from purchasing elections, wielding undue influence over Ukraine’s government and economy, or possessing the power to stymie Ukraine’s reform progress and democratic potential.”
The article noted the problem of a media space dominated by oligarch-controlled outlets that combine TV, news, and social media channels to influence the political debate inside Ukraine. It was also noted that when Zelensky’s administration introduced this legislation and “insisted on its adoption” the media outlets which were oligarch controlled began to attack him.
The article notes that there is an expectation that the oligarchs will try to sabotage key sectors of the Ukrainian economy to stop the reforms.