Mutual friends and borrowed cars – how Ukraine’s would-be leader is linked to tycoon

KIEV (Reuters) – Volodymyr Zelenskiy, front runner to be the next Ukrainian president, has connections to one of the country’s wealthiest tycoons that are undermining his image as an insurgent who will sweep aside the powerful moneyed elite.

Presenting himself as an anti-establishment outsider backed by spontaneous grass-roots support, Zelenskiy won the first round of voting last month, and opinion polls make him strong favourite in the run-off on April 21 against the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko.

Zelenskiy’s ties to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky have, however, become an election issue. Poroshenko has said that, if elected, Zelenskiy will do the businessman’s bidding, something the front runner denies. In interviews, Zelenskiy has bridled at suggestions he is Kolomoisky’s “puppet”.

The Ukrainian government has alleged that billions of dollars were fraudulently siphoned out of PrivatBank, Ukraine’s biggest lender, while Kolomoisky owned it. It has since been nationalised. Kolomoisky denied any wrongdoing.

Zelenskiy’s celebrity was established by a comedy show – in which he played an everyman who accidentally becomes president – broadcast by 1+1, a TV network controlled by Kolomoisky.

A study by Reuters of vehicle registration databases, company ownership documents and photographic records indicates that Kolomoisky and the Zelenskiy intersect in other ways.

According to that evidence, the two men have business partners in common, Zelenskiy uses security staff also seen in the past accompanying Kolomoisky, a former Kolomoisky adviser is on Zelenskiy’s campaign team and at least two vehicles used by Zelenskiy and his entourage are owned by people or entities linked to Kolomoisky.

None of the evidence demonstrates that Kolomoisky is financing Zelenskiy’s campaign or influencing him.

Both Zelenskiy and Kolomoisky have said their relationship is strictly professional, and centred on the comedian’s TV work. Both say no undue influence is being exerted by the oligarch.


While Zelenskiy’s connections to Kolomoisky are not seen as swaying the election result, given the candidate’s popularity with voters, commentators question how the relationship would develop later.

“The risks of influence are there, and they will most likely become evident in his hiring policies,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, political analyst and director of Kiev’s Penta think-tank.

“If Zelenskiy becomes president, taking into account that he basically doesn’t have any people, or has very few, Kolomoisky can suggest different people to him (for government office) through whom he will then exert his influence on power.”

Asked to comment on the connections documented by Reuters, Zelenskiy’s campaign did not reply. Kolomoisky did not reply to a request for comment sent to him via his 1+1 media company.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks with journalists before undergoing a drugs and alcohol test, which is a precondition to participate in a policy debate ahead of the second round of a presidential election, outside a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

After one campaign stop on April 5, Zelenskiy squeezed through a scrum of journalists and climbed into a black bulletproof Mercedes that was registered, according to a vehicle ownership database, to an associate of Kolomoisky.

The car is an example of a web of connections between Zelenskiy and Kolomoisky that have muddied the candidate’s image as an outsider

The Mercedes was registered in the name of a Ukrainian businessman called Timur Mindych, who is on the board of trustees of the Jewish Community of Dnipropetrovsk, a body of which Kolomoisky is president.

Until recently Mindych shared ownership with Kolomoisky of Vision TV. In 2017 Mindych was registered as holding a 9 percent stake in Kolomoisky’s Belize offshore company, Harley Trading Limited, one of the firms via which Kolomoisky controls the 1+1 media empire.

Mindych is also a part of Zelenskiy’s orbit.

Cyprus and Ukrainian business registry records show that he is a co-owner of Cyprus-registered Green Family Ltd, founded by Zelenskiy and his partners in 2012. Zelenskiy exited the company in January this year.

Ukrainian business ownership records list Mindych as co-owner, with Green Family Ltd and other owners, of three companies involved in producing Zelenskiy’s TV shows, among other activities.

Calls to a phone number listed for Mindych went unanswered.


Some of the people helping Zelenskiy with his election campaign have worked in the past for Kolomoisky.

A lawyer called Andrei Bogdan is on Zelenskiy’s staff, and represented him at a meeting with a government official last week, the official’s press office confirmed.

Bogdan became Kolomoisky’s adviser in 2014, when the businessman was the governor of Dnipropetrovsk region, the lawyer told the Ukrainian Pravda newspaper in 2016.

Dmytro Razumkov, an adviser to Zelenskiy’s campaign, declined to answer questions from Reuters about Bogdan’s role and declined to put Reuters in contact with him. Ukrainian media outlet Bihus quoted Razumkov as saying Bogdan was involved in Zelenskiy’s campaign “as his old friend”.

At the appearance in April, Zelenskiy was accompanied by a man who appeared to be in his security detail. The two were also photographed together during the campaign in the city of Lviv.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Reuters has also found photographs from six different occasions when the same man was with Kolomoisky.

Earlier this year, members of Zelenskiy’s security detail were filmed with him in a van owned by a company connected to Kolomoisky. Asked for comment, Zelenskiy’s campaign and Kolomoisky’s representatives did not reply.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova, Natalia Zinets, Sergiy Karazy and Pavel Polityuk in KIEV, Rinat Sagdiev and Anton Zverev in MOSCOW; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood


more recommended stories

  • China hopes U.S. will come back to the table at Chile climate talks

    By Natalia A. Ramos Miranda and.

  • Syrian army poised to take key town after rebel withdrawals

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government forces.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo says ISIS strong in some areas -CBS

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State.

  • Tensions build on migrant ship off Italy; 10 jump overboard

    MADRID/LAMPEDUSA (Reuters) – Tensions rose on.

  • Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

    (Reuters) – Direct observations from a.

  • U.S. envoy offers farm visas to boost asylum deal with Guatemala

    GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – In a.

  • In retrial, El Salvador acquits woman accused of killing her stillborn child

    CIUDAD DELGADO, El Salvador (Reuters) –.

  • Washington cannot influence China’s decisions on Hong Kong – Global Times tabloid

    FILE PHOTO: Anti-extradition bill protesters march.

  • Polish opposition unites in bid to wrest Senate from ruling nationalists

    WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish opposition parties.

  • Afghanistan blasts wound dozens on Independence Day

    KABUL (Reuters) – A series of.

  • Trump affirms that Mike Pence will be 2020 running mate

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Chinese embassy tells Canada to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs

    OTTAWA (Reuters) – China’s embassy in.

  • Hong Kong protesters throng streets peacefully in pouring rain

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hundreds of.

  • Canary Islands authorities evacuate 4,000 as wildfire spreads

    Flames and smoke from a forest.

  • Islamic State claims Afghan wedding suicide blast that killed 63

    KABUL (Reuters) – The Islamic State.

  • Afghan wedding suicide blast kills 63, amid hopes for talks

    KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomber.

  • Israeli military fires on militants at Gaza border, Palestinians say three killed

    Relatives of Palestinian gunmen who were.

  • Police make arrests as right-wing, anti-fascist groups rally in Portland

    (Reuters) – Police in Portland, Oregon.

  • Eastern Libyan forces damaged civilian airport in western Libya – U.N.

    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Eastern Libyan forces.

  • Sudanese army and civilians seal interim power-sharing deal

    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s main opposition.

  • Italy’s Salvini dismisses fears for health of stranded migrants

    LAMPEDUSA, Italy (Reuters) – A charity.

  • Yemeni Houthis claim attack on Saudi oilfield; no Saudi confirmation

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement.

  • Exclusive: Muslim insurgent group says it met with Thai government

    (Reuters) – The main group fighting.

  • Building set on fire in protest against China’s CNPC in Peru

    LIMA (Reuters) – A building in.

  • Official autopsy concludes Epstein death’s was suicide by hanging

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York.

  • Schools, telephone lines to be opened in Kashmir after lockdown

    SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Authorities will.

  • Greenland tells Trump it is open for business but not for sale

    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Greenland on Friday.

  • Germany’s Merkel and PM Johnson to meet soon – spokesman

    FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

  • Zimbabwe on edge as opposition challenges protest ban

    HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition.

  • Gibraltar decides to free seized Iranian tanker; U.S. seeks to hold it

    LONDON/GIBRALTAR (Reuters) – Britain’s Mediterranean territory.

  • Trump blames mass shootings on mentally ill, calls for more mental institutions

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to.

  • Gibraltar decides to free seized Iranian tanker; U.S. seeks to hold it

    LONDON/GIBRALTAR (Reuters) – Britain’s Mediterranean territory.