Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 130

Speaking in Tel Aviv on June 30, Vadim Rabinovych–a Ukrainian-Israeli businessman who was declared officially undesirable by Ukraine on June 24–gave his side of the story of his relations with the establishment and media (see the Monitor, June 25). Rabinovych, president of the Swiss-registered concern Rico Capital Group and chairman of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress, claimed that Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin was behind his ouster from the country. Rabinovych cited “irreconcilable personal differences” with Horbulin and also accused Horbulin of attempting to bar Rabinovych from the Jewish movement in Ukraine. Horbulin for his part denied having anything to do with “this foreign citizen” (STB, Studio 1+1, June 30; UNIAN, June 29).

Whether those accusations have merit, Horbulin could hardly oust Rabinovych, an “oligarch” with strong connections in the corridors of power and a long-time supporter of Kuchma, without the president’s blessing. In an earlier interview, Rabinovych had in fact suggested that he was denied entry to Ukraine for five years “not without knowledge of Ukraine’s top leadership.”

Rabinovych, furthermore, confirmed a recent British press report according to which Horbulin had forced him to relinquish his stake in Studio 1+1, Ukraine’s second most popular television channel (Financial Times, May 29-30). According to another report, that stake was sold to Oleksandr Volkov, another tycoon and Kuchma’s adviser. In 1996, both Rabinovych and Volkov were said to have been behind the creation of Studio 1+1 as a joint venture with Ronald Lauder’s Central European Media. Until now, however, Rabinovych and Studio 1+1 had each denied any direct connection between them.

Rabinovych’s account in any case seems designed to expose the Kuchma team’s strategy of concentrating control over television. Kuchma is placing control in the hands of Volkov, his campaign manager in this year’s presidential election. Volkov is also said to influence two of Ukraine’s four nationwide TV channels–ICTV and 1st Channel (Den, July 1; STB, June 30; Segodnya, April 21; Eastern Economist, January 19, 1998; New York Times, April 5, 1997).

Rabinovych’s ouster should go down well in Washington, where he has come to be considered a corrupt figure. Meanwhile, Volkov’s own position is growing shaky as an ad-hoc parliament committee continues investigating him on allegations of moneylaundering in Belgium (see the Monitor, June 17).