Home MOREBUSINESS & ECONOMY Alona Lebedieva: “In Ukraine, one shouldn’t count on Themis* being just”

Alona Lebedieva: “In Ukraine, one shouldn’t count on Themis* being just”

by gary cartwright
0 comment

As the tragedy of the war in Ukraine unfolds, in Brussels and other major capital cities the focus is on the rebuilding of Ukraine. Generally speaking in the EU both confidence in Ukraine and optimism for the nation’s future within the EU is running at a very high level.

However, concerns about corruption in the country run high. The phenomena known as “Corporate Raiding” is a major concern, and one that is being actively discussed in the European institutions, in particular the European Parliament.

EU Today discussed the issue with Alona Lebedieva, a prominent business leader, a campaigner for women’s rights, and a highly respected interlocutor in Brussels.

What is the situation now in Ukraine?

“You know, now in Ukraine, just like in 2014-2015, one can often hear the phrase – “war will bear everything”. Now, just like then, raiders, using corruption (in all its manifestations) in law enforcement agencies, are trying to redistribute property. This is like in the 90s in the post-Soviet space, only now such phenomena have become ubiquitous and reached the highest level. In 2014, my own group – AURUM – already experienced a wave of raider takeovers, when partners and competitors tried to take 4 enterprises from me simultaneously. But we fought them back.”

Why are you being attacked?

“Now, at the time of war, using loud slogans and clumsy fabricated cases, I’m being attacked again after a few units of water pumps, which are normally used in waterworks or dairy farms, and which are not categorised as “dual use” entered the supply chain  a case was being opened against me.

“I am happy to answer such allegations, but they literally crumble before your eyes. However, sanctions were applied against me. Unfortunately, Ukraine is riddled with corruption. Just think for a moment, the very people who live off the taxes of Ukrainians are also ripping them off.

“This is definitely a political persecution. The application of sanctions against a citizen of Ukraine is possible in case of a proven fact of terrorist activity. I am closely watching everything that is happening, as I said six months ago, “we have such a country, that if you drive a car and happen to not let the “authority” cross at the pedestrian crossing, tomorrow he will have you sanctioned or will initiate a criminal case.”

“So, at the moment everything is possible in our country. In my case, everything is due to my family ties, because I am the daughter of the former Minister of Defence of Ukraine, and it is very easy to “unleash the dogs” on me.

What is the “evidence” against you?

“It is worth noting that not one of my opponents could ever provide any confirmation of at least one financial transaction or one  commercial agreement concerning myself, or any of the companies included in the AURUM Group, that has had negative consequences for the economy of Ukraine, or even more so, for its national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, similar situations are becoming ubiquitous: in Ukraine, cases are being “made up”, sanctions are being thoughtlessly introduced and criminal cases are being initiated.

“In amongst all of this chaos, the scary thing is that one will have to bear responsibility for this. One will have to compensate the victims, and those who were robbed. And if not with the assistance of the Ukrainian justice system, then of the European one, that’s for sure. And let’s see who is to pay? That’s right, ordinary Ukrainians will pay, again from their taxes.

“I clearly understand that we must break this vicious circle! Why are our people dying today, defending their country? I can definitely answer you – they are fighting, and dying, for the future of their children. And I am fighting on the economic front for the future of my children! For the well-being and prosperity of our Motherland! Despite all the difficulties, the losses at enterprises, I continue to support the country’s economy. My business pays taxes in full and creates jobs for thousands of Ukrainian families. I believe that today we must stop this chaos! Today, so that we never again face it!”

There is awareness in the EU institutions of problems in the Ukrainian justice system. The EU wants to help bring standards up to EU norms. How do you see the situation?

“The fact is that I do not believe in Ukrainian justice as it stands at this moment. Let us take the recent high-profile case against the head of the Supreme Court, the most important person in the judicial system of Ukraine, and there are more such examples. I clearly see that if Ukraine wants to be included in civilised society, it needs to radically change everything. There is no magic pill, we have a long and difficult journey ahead! These are cancerous tumors, and it is not an easy fight! I am waiting for the end of all court procedures in Ukraine and I am preparing for the ECHR.

“At the moment, the lawyers are preparing a lawsuit to appeal the sanctions, and I’ve also filed a complaint with the DBR demanding to look into the initiators of the sanctions and have them checked for corruption. But again, I repeat, today only “law upon a phone call” works in Ukraine, so one shouldn’t rely too much on justice.

“That’s quite a painful question. Some kind of hysteria exists today, there is no other name for this.

“And although globally, at the legislative level, my situation should not be influencing the current activities of enterprises, because everything is done solely in order to take away assets: many state structures are starting to block the work of companies, breaking their business relationships, thus paralysing their activities. And this I consider to be a crime against Ukraine!

You state publicly that you, and AURUM Group, support the war effort. What are you doing in this respect?

“In the military year of 2022, my Aurum group paid about UAH 90 million in taxes, and this despite our losses amounting to more than UAH 10 million. Now the state authorities)are stopping our operations, and the country’s economy is going to lack these revenues.

“But such a situation is true not only for me, it is massive. Business stops working, the economy stops receiving taxes, people become unemployed… And this goes on and on. It seems to me that in this situation, only the military recruiters will win, because people will go to the front en masse because of hopelessness. After all, they would get paid at least something there.

“Despite the sanctions, just a few days ago we shipped equipment for the “Ohmatdyt”. Over the past year, my Charitable Fund “Aurum” sent about UAH 6.5 million to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the population. We handed 9 vehicles over to the front line, including an ambulance, produced more than 1,000 plate carriers on our own, set up the production of camp stoves, a batch of which was sent to the liberated villages of the Kherson region just a few weeks ago, where people are struggling to survive now. Just recently, I founded a charitable organisation in Europe that will help Ukrainian children who have suffered from the war and need complex operations or rehabilitation in European clinics. There are a lot of plans yet to be implemented …”

How do you see the situation progressing?

“Unfortunately, today everything is very turbulent. This will definitely complicate the implementation of otherwise beneficial projects, but we are working to ensure that our help to the Armed Forces, the population and children persists.

“The ones who initiated terror and gave false data to the president – definitely not. Because these people don’t normally think about the future, not least about other people. They “patriotically” wear embroidered shirts and continue to work to destroy the country from the inside. About 1,000 people work in my structure. Who needs them now and where will they go, in the event of a shutdown?– this remains a big question…

“It’s a pity, but undoubtedly, this is no longer something new for Ukrainian realities. The case of “Smart-holding”, one of the largest investment conglomerates in Ukraine today, is quite indicative.

“By means of extortion, outright robbery and the weakening of rivals the new elites are getting rich. But the problem is that the country’s economy will lose millions of hryvnias, and what’s going to be the number of unemployed? But who thinks about people? I can give another example – the situation surrounding the Mainytskyi gas field, which was purchased by Ihor Mazepa, the owner of the leading Ukrainian investment company Concorde Capital, together with a partner.

“In this story, behind the dirty cops there also were the oligarchs-puppeteers, pulling strings. The representatives of one private company, after the sale of the field, decided that they received too little, and since the law was not on their side, they decided to act according to the principle of the 90s and filed a complaint with the police on allegedly incomplete payment for the acquired property. And what do we have in the balance? Hit by corruption were the ordinary people, as due to the blocking of accounts the legal owners of the gas field could not pay salaries and taxes to the state budget.”

 Read also: Alona Lebedieva, founder of Ukraine’s AURUM Group, speaks out in Brussels against “corporate raiders”

nb: Themis is the goddess and personification of justice, divine order, law, and custom. 

You may also like

Leave a Comment


EU Today brings you the latest news and commentary from across the EU and beyond. 

Editors' Picks

Latest Posts