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Ukraine's Former President Sells TV Channels Following Passage Of 'Oligarch' Bill

Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech at a forum in Kyiv on June 11.
Petro Poroshenko delivers a speech at a forum in Kyiv on June 11.

Ex-President Petro Poroshenko says he has sold two television stations to current and former employees to comply with a controversial new law targeting Ukraine's wealthiest individuals.

Poroshenko, a billionaire who served as president from 2014 to 2019, said in a November 8 video statement posted on the website of his party, European Solidarity, that he was "forced" to sell the channels following the signing of a bill known as the anti-oligarch law.

He also accused his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of seeking to limit freedom of speech.

"The main reason why they came up with the so-called 'law on oligarchs' for the [office of the president] to take full control of the media," said Poroshenko, who is considered a competitor for the 2024 election.

Zelenskiy, a political novice, defeated Poroshenko in a landslide in 2019 on a promise to curtail the power of magnates who for decades have wielded outsized influence over government, business, and the media, stunting Ukraine's growth.

Ukrainian activists say the tycoons use their media assets -- which in many cases are loss making -- to attack opponents and pursue their own personal business and political agenda.

Zelenskiy on November 5 signed a new law that provides a definition for an oligarch based on several criteria including wealth in the tens of millions of dollars, monopolistic-like control of an industry, possession of media assets, and political activity.

Those who meet the criteria -- which will be determined by a government body Zelenskiy heads -- would be barred from financing political parties or taking part in privatizations.

"There can be no other option but to dismantle the oligarchic system. Without this, it is simply impossible to overcome poverty in Ukraine and fully join the European community," he said after signing the bill.

With reporting by Todd Prince
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