KIEV, Dec. 5 – Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Friday she has a “very big” list of Ukrainian businessmen whose assets will be nationalized in the event of her winning the presidency next month.
The comment echoes the previous plans to undo the privatization of 3,000 businesses she had first announced in 2005, plans which had forced many businesses to suspend capital investments.
“I have a very big list of people that one must begin with in starting the fight against corruption,” Tymoshenko said in an interview with Korrespondent magazine.
“I can tell you more,” she continued. “These are the people that one must not only begin with, but to literally finish them up for what they’ve done to the country over the past 18 years.”
The reply came to a question whether the fight against corruption must begin with Tymoshenko, apparently a reference to her business experience in 1996-1997 when she owned a well-connected natural gas trading operation with annual turnover of $10 billion.
President Viktor Yushchenko, who stopped Tymoshenko’s attempts to re-privatize 3,000 businesses in 2005, on Saturday said he was very alarmed by the disclosed plans to nationalize the assets.
“I again hear the threats that the budget next year must be formed through annexation, through nationalization,” Yushchenko said in Kharkiv. “I call on you to stop before it’s too late.”
The threats to re-privatize 3,000 businesses had a major macro-economic impact on the Ukrainian economy in 2005 with many businessmen suspending investments and, instead, sending capital to bank accounts overseas.
This, jointly with some other factors, stifled economic growth and turned a robustly growing economy into the one that had recorded contraction in August 2005, the first contraction since January 2000.
Yushchenko fired Tymoshenko from the post of the prime minister in early September 2005 over corruption scandal, with the economy returning to economic growth later that year.
“We cannot think by these categories,” Yushchenko said adding that this policy may take three months to destroy the economy. “Don’t let your emotions rule. This will be a big mistake and it will be very hard to turn back.”
Tymoshenko never disclosed the names of businessmen that may become the targets of her nationalization action, joking that otherwise they will have enough time to “escape” the country.
But Yushchenko said the list may include far too many people, including Rinat Akhmetov, the wealthiest Ukrainian businessman who sponsors the opposition Regions Party.
“I understand Tymoshenko well: she knows who to begin with, but she doesn’t know at whom to stop,” Yushchenko said. “One may have an impression that Akhmetov can be the one to begin with, while others may have the immunity. This is not the right policy.”
Tymoshenko, after becoming the prime minister in December 2007, has been specifically targeting Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian billionaire who co-owned RosUkrEnergo gas trader among other assets.
Tymoshenko, following a deal with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, removed RosUkrEnergo from the market, and later took action against Firtash’s other assets, including nitrogen fertilizer producer.
She was also targeting Inter, Ukraine’s most popular television co-owned by Firtash, and last week cancelled several extraction licenses earlier issued to Krymskiy Tytan, a Crimea-based titanium producer co-owned by Firtash.
A Tymoshenko ally recently also said that Ihor Kolomoyskiy, a Ukrainian billionaire with assets in oil, banking, metals and media, may also become the target with his oil assets taken under the government’s control. (tl/ez)