Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 123

With the presidential elections just four months away, developments involving nascent Ukrainian oligarchs are taking unexpected and spectacular turns. Yesterday, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced that Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukrainian-Israeli tycoon–president of Swiss-registered concern Rico Capital Group and chairman of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress–will be denied entry to Ukraine for five years. The SBU explained that Rabinovich, who is an Israeli citizen, is undesirable in Ukraine because of “activities [he engaged in which] seriously damag[ed] the economy.” Yevhen Chervonenko–President Leonid Kuchma’s adviser and co-chairman of an organization rival to Rabinovich’s Congress (the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine)–explained the SBU decision somewhat differently, suggesting that Rabinovich is punished for his “very negative image in the world.” Rabinovich who, reportedly, left Ukraine for Israel by plane several hours before the SBU announced its verdict, described it as “either a mistake or a provocation.” Rabinovich’s international image had been, indeed, tarnished by his reported underworld connections in Ukraine, Russia and Israel and suspected involvement in illegal arms trade and money laundering. He is on the U.S. immigration authorities’ list of undesirable aliens (Ukrainian television and agencies, AP, June 24).

In Ukraine, however, the positions of Rabinovich have so far been rather strong. His business empire controls several newspapers and broadcasting companies, large stakes in trading, advertising, insurance and banking. Rabinovich runs Ukraine-Israel chamber of commerce and influences the pro-Kuchma Green Party faction in parliament, which owes its miraculous performance in the 1998 elections to Rabinovich’s backing. The media has been claiming that Rabinovich was once informal adviser to Kuchma and has connections to the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky–all of which Rabinovich himself repeatedly denied (Kyiv Post, January 21, Zerkalo nedeli, January 11).

Rabinovich has had strained relations with another Ukrainian tycoon, Oleksandr Volkov, who is Kuchma’s close adviser and his current campaign manager. According to recent media rumors, Rabinovich’s business ties with a former agricultural entrepreneur and current Ukrainian Speaker Oleksandr Tkachenko would prompt him to change allegiance and back Tkachenko’s bid in the run-up to the October 31 elections. Not long ago, Tkachenko heartily embraced if not directly orchestrated a massive attack against Volkov in the parliament, targeting him for suspected money-laundering in Belgium. Rabinovich could be the casualty of this particular warfare (see the Monitor, June 17).–OV