By John Helmer, Moscow
Igor Kolomoisky, the single largest beneficiary of international lending to Ukraine and until Tuesday night the most powerful figure in the country, has lost his residence permit for Switzerland, according to a reliable source in Geneva. Coming after the news of Kolomoisky’s armed and vocal clash in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the Swiss action adds to Kolomoisky’s isolation.
Overnight, Kolomoisky announced through his deputy, Boris Filatov, that he had sent his resignation as Governor of Dniepropetrovsk to Poroshenko, and that Poroshenko is “satisfied”. At 3 a.m., Filatov announced on Facebook: “Kolomoisky has retired”. An hour and a half earlier in Kiev, at 1.45 a.m., the presidential website issued a notice that Poroshenko had signed a decree dismissing Kolomoisky. “We have to ensure peace, stability and tranquillity,” Poroshenko said. “The Dniepropetrovsk region should remain a bastion of Ukraine in the east, to protect peace and peace.”
Valentin Reznichenko (below, left), whom Poroshenko had named Governor of Zaporozhye region just a month ago, has now been moved into Kolomoisky’s place. For more on Reznichenko, read this.
According to Kolomoisky’s deputy Filatov (above, right), “let’s stop drinking valerian drops and we will show to the whole world that we can be civilized people for whom our country is higher than our ambitions. Don’t give reasons for pleasure to our enemies, both internal, and external. And now, let’s all go to sleep.” Filatov did not say where Kolomoisky will go.
In Berne, Switzerland, at midday on Tuesday, a spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM, formerly BFM) at the Federal Department for Police and Justice said: “we cannot comment on specific cases, this for reasons of protection of privacy.” The SEM is not denying that Kolomoisky has acquired the status in Switzerland, where he and his family have lived since 1999, of a significant public figure, political appointee, and military commander. For the start of the Swiss government review of Kolomoisky’s permit last June, read this.
A Swiss source claims the government in Berne has deliberately delayed granting Kolomoisky his new permit, while his wife and children have received their authorization. The source claims the SEM has stopped short of rejecting the permit, but it is avoiding a decision to exclude Kolomoisky while the permit process is protracted indefinitely. “Switzerland, as usual, doesn’t take any responsibility,” the source comments. “Of course now things can change.”
At the headquarters of Privatbank and at the Governor’s office in Dniepropetrovsk, Kolomoisky was asked to say whether he continues to hold a current residence permit for Geneva, yes or no. Boris Braginsky, spokesman at the governorate, responded: “Why did you decide that Mr. Kolomoisky will certainly want to communicate with your media? And who gave you the right to make demands in the form of an ultimatum? Sorry, but it looks like a fake letter. Self-respecting media do not allow tosend information requests in such an outrageous tone. You can find your own answer to this question by referring to the relevant authorities in Switzerland. We reserve the right of recourse to the courts, in the event of publication in your publication of false information regarding Mr. Kolomoisky.”
Missing from Braginsky’s answer is confirmation that Kolomoisky has renewed his permit to live in Geneva.
For Kolomoisky’s response to press questioning last week about his takeover of the headquarters of Ukrtransnafta in Kiev, click to listen (parental guidance recommended).
Federal Swiss and Geneva cantonal regulations for foreigners allow the purchase of residency for a lump sum payable every time the permit is renewed. The amount is calculated by the cantonal authorities and then negotiated with the applying resident. To qualify, an informed Geneva source said, Kolomoisky is likely to be obliged to pay between 750,000 and one million Swiss francs ($783,000-$1.1 million) per year. In addition, the Swiss regulations require Kolomoisky to qualify for residency by showing he makes Switzerland the “centre of his life”. For the story of the start of the Swiss investigation last year, read this.
If the Swiss have not renewed last year’s permit, Kolomoisky’s travel options are now limited. His legal right to cross the border into France, where he requires a permit de séjour to live at his summer home on the French shore of Lake Leman (pictured), would also be lost if the Swiss permit is withdrawn.
Kolomoisky is the target of a Russian prosecutor’s warrant for conspiracy to murder; commission of war crimes; and kidnapping. Interpol is unlikely to have accepted the Russian request for his arrest and extradition, but if Kolomoisky were to leave Ukraine, the only country certain to allow him entry would be Israel, where he and his family have lived in the past. In the present conflict with Poroshenko and elements of the Ukrainian security services, Kolomoisky may also have reason to doubt that once outside Ukraine, he would not be arrested if he attempted to return. Kolomoisky’s means of transportation have also been curtailed, since much of the aircraft fleet he used to control has been grounded by bankruptcy litigation.
Monthly financial reports from the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and the state Deposit Guarantee Fund reveal that since December a total of $210 million has been given to Kolomoisky’s Privatbank. For an analysis of the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) support for Privat, and for the airplane collateral Kolomoisky has offered, read this. The Financial Times, a supporter of Kolomoisky to the end, reports him as saying that noone else in the Ukraine should “receive any new funds from the International Monetary Fund until all ‘illegally’ privatised property had been restored to state ownership.”
Following Kolomoisky’s dismissal, Kiev sources say they now expect a government raid against Kolomoisky’s financial position. Privatbank has been conceding in recent days that the NBU is increasing its pressure on Kolomoisky to add personal cash to the balance-sheet of his bank.
On the Berlin Bourse, where the Privatbank bonds are traded, confidence in the bank and in its chances of refinancing from Kolomoisky, have plummeted. The 9.375% bond maturing in September of this year is now worth less than half its face value.
The 2016 Privatbank bond is now below 25% of face value; and the 2018 bond is at 44.9%.