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Ukrainian Oligarch Tears Into RFE/RL Journalist


Ukrainian oligarch and politician Ihor Kolomoyskiy

Ukrainian oligarch and politician Ihor Kolomoyskiy

One would expect Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians to be made of sterner stuff.
Billionaire oligarch and Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskiy, however, lost his cool in the late-night hours of March 19-20 when a reporter from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service -- together with other journalists -- asked him why he had just spent six hours with a group of armed men in the headquarters of the state-owned Ukrtransnafta oil-transit company.
The question by journalist Serhiy Andrushko sent Kolomoyskiy into an expletive-filled rant in which he urged RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, to go looking for Russian saboteurs rather than tracking his movements. The profanity-laced tirade lasted more than a minute and was caught on video.
On March 19, the supervisory board of Ukrtransanafta, in which Kolomoyskiy's PrivatGroup holds a 42 percent stake, dismissed the board chairman and Kolomoyskiy associate, Oleksandr Lazorko.
This followed a decision by Ukraine's parliament to lower the necessary quorum for shareholder votes at state-owned companies, from 60 percent to 50 percent.
Kolomoyskiy called the actions a "corporate raid."
WATCH: Ihor Kolomoyskiy's tirade (in Russian, no subtitles)
The governor, who also provides funding for pro-Kyiv battalions, may also have been upset with Andrushko and Radio Svoboda because of a video report published on March 12 that outlines Kolomoyskiy's manipulation of his political ties to benefit his business interests.
In one exchange from last year shown in that report, Andrushko asks why Kolomoyskiy has Ukrainian, Israeli, and Cypriot passports when Ukrainian law forbids dual citizenship.
"In the constitution it says dual citizenship is forbidden," Kolomoyskiy says. "But triple citizenship is not forbidden."
Ukraine's state Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information has called on Kolomoyskiy to apologize to Andrushko, saying he violated his oath as a public servant and the rant showed "signs of obstruction of journalism."
In a statement, RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic condemned Kolomoyskiy's "verbal attack."
"It is a violation of all international standards and decency that a public official would verbally abuse a journalist," he said. "It is also reckless and potentially dangerous. We also condemn the outrageous accusations made against RFE/RL, whose job is to serve the public interest by providing independent, unbiased, and accurate reporting to the people of Ukraine."
-- Robert Coalson, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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