When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Ihor Kolomoyskyi, A Ukrainian Oligarch Rises In The East

While billionaire incoming president Petro Poroshenko takes over in Kiev, the fate of the country may also be in the hands of another super-rich businessman from contested eastern Ukraine.

Billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi in front of PrivatBank HQ in Dnipropetrovsk.
Billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi in front of PrivatBank HQ in Dnipropetrovsk.
Louis Imbert

DNIPROPETROVSK — In the partition of the new Ukraine, billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi plays his game far from the capital. The oligarch is actively seeking his piece of business and political opportunities, and regularly goes to Kiev, but keeps his whereabouts rather quiet.

From his hometown of Dnipropetrovsk to Odessa on the Black Sea, he is busy building himself a kingdom in the southeast of Ukraine. A trained engineer, Kolomoyskyi, 51, is believed to be worth at least $3.5 billion, with a fortune built on oil, media and finance holdings.

Kiev named him governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in March. Then on May 6, one of his close associates, Ihor Palytsia, was named governor of the Odessa region. The Kiev governement is currently too busy with the showdown with Russia to tame Kolomoyskyi's ambitions. Indeed, the government is grateful for the part he played earlier in keeping the peace at the Donbas border.

Still violence has continued to spread among armed separatists around the contested city of Donetsk. After Sunday's election to the presidency of another Ukranian oligarch, Petro Poroshenko, a major assault was unleashed by Kiev forces in the east, which led to the death of dozens of pro-Russian rebels.

Dnipropetrovsk belongs to the Russian-speaking minority in the East, just like Donbas. But in the regional capital, where Kolomoyskyi's Privat and PrivatBank group are headquartered, Ukrainian patriotism is stronger than in Donetsk. A vital industrial center of Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk looks like an open skies shopping mall. Two other key figures have lived there: former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and businessman Victor Pinchuk.

"Small green man"

When he took office, Ihor Kolomoyskyi showed he would deal with the elites of the former regime. For instance, the director of the leading local television channel kept his job. Evgueny Oudod, former supporter of Viktor Yanukovych, stayed on as the head of the regional council. Kolomoyskyi says he is trying to "maintain peace."

On the other hand, Oleh Tsarov, former head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional branch of the Russian-speaking Party of Regions, left the country. This former presidential candidate was sanctioned by the European Union because he called for the creation of a Federal Republic of New Russia in the eastern Ukraine. Some Russian media accuse Kolomoyskyi of putting a $1 million price on Tsarov's head, though the sources quote a telephone recording which is of dubious authenticity.

But Kolomoyskyi's team did offer a reward: $10,000 for the capture of a certain "small green man," an apparent reference to the Russian-backed militants who took control of the official buildings in Donbas dressed in green fatigues.

Boris Filatov, deputy head of the Dnipropetrovsk region, works as a businessman who negotiates with the protestors in the streets on Kolomoyskyi's behalf. "In Ukraine, there's no state," Filatov said. "There is a network of patriots and a network of bastards." He offered a "headquarters" to the armed patriots on the first floor of the governate council. Kolomoyskyi also provided equipment to thousands of them in the region. But not weapons, he insisted.

For two months, 2,000 locals have joined the police and the army and thus have reinforced Kolomoyskyi's influence on these corps. The governor's assistants say to everyone that the new police chief who was named by Kiev is as "corrupt" as his predecessor.

Because he recruited and trained these volunteers, Kolomoyskyi is accused of having let criminal elements enter the police forces. On May 9, one of these battalion took part in the fights with separatists in Mariupol, a harbor town in Donbas. At least seven people were killed. The Human Rights Watch organisation is probing whether the army shot civilians, though the Department of Homeland Security denied such reports.

"Our New York"

On the business side, things are a bit different. Guennadi Korban, another ally of Kolomoyskyi, works these days as a salesman for the state enterprise that manufactures missiles and rockets. And right now, his exports to Russia are jeopardized. He also wants to build in his city the "largest convention center in Eastern Europe," where sectors such as mining, siderurgy and agriculture could meet.

In Odessa, governor Ihor Palytsia took office four days after the death of more than 40 people, who died mostly in pro-Russian protests, street fighting and the fire at the House of Trade Unions. The police forces are now the subject of two judicial inquiries as they are accused of inaction and collusion. The police chief left the country as Kolomoyskyi's opponents accused him of being involved in these events.

Kolomoyskyi considers Odessa as the "most competitive and capitalist" city in Ukraine. "It's our New York, the Ukrainian dream," he says.

His ally Boris Filatov has already contacted the pro-Kiev and pro-Russian movements of the city. He will have to buy the loyalty of the police and cope with the harbor mafia. "We know how to talk to the police and no mafia in the world wants to live under the heel of the Federal Security Service," Filatov says smiling.

Without any other choice, this city may have to put up with a new sheriff.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest