Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week

Kyiv Post

By Brian Bonner, Illia Ponomarenko. Published May 21 at 11:31 pm

Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.

Friend: U.S. attorney Justin E. Herdman

The Kyiv Post doesn’t know Justin E. Herdman and he doesn’t know us. But the federal prosecutor’s office he leads could be key in helping to deliver justice to Ukrainians involving the alleged multibillion-dollar bank fraud by oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and his business partner Gennady Boholyubov.

Herdman is the U.S. attorney in northern Ohio, which BuzzFeed Newsreported this week has convened a federal grand jury to investigate evidence of bank fraud involving Kolomoisky and Boholyoubov. Representatives of the federal prosecutor’s office wouldn’t comment on the case, as they rarely do in an active investigation.

But Ukraine can only hope prosecutors and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation success. Again, the United States may be Ukraine’s only hope for justice, just as its judicial system was in obtaining convictions against Pavlo Lazarenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister, and Paul Manafort, a long-time consultant to overthrown Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before he briefly managed Donald J. Trump’s successful 2016 presidential election campaign.

The investigation into money laundering has been going on for more than a year. The evidentiary trail is extensive. A lawsuit filed in 2019 in Delaware alleges that, from 2006 to 2016 while they owned PrivatBank, Kolomoisky and Boholyubov “laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent cooperate loans to purchase assets in the United States and unjustly enrich themselves and their associates,” according to a June 11, 2019, article by Sam Allard of the Cleveland Scene, a news website.

The “Optima Schemes” case, as it was called, alleges that the pair used PrivatBank “as their own personal piggy bank.” PrivatBank was taken over by the state in December 2016 after a $5.5 billion hole was found in its ledgers. Kolomoisky has denied the allegations and has sued to recover the bank or be compensated.  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed into law that contained provisions that would have blocked Kolomoisky from regaining ownership of the bank.

Kolomoisky’s enormous political clout has allowed him to escape criminal investigations in Ukraine, although the state-owned PrivatBank is pursuing civil lawsuits in various jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, to compensate taxpayers for the $5.5 billion loss.

A firm called Optima Ventures acquired U.S. properties for the Ukrainian pair, most of them in Cleveland, according to the Cleveland Scene. Using the allegedly laundered loan proceeds, the news website in Cleveland said that Kolomoisky and Boholyubov acquired top-end Cleveland commercial properties worth roughly $200 million.

Such investigations are complicated and time-consuming. They also never take place in Ukraine, unfortunately, at least not successfully.

A federal grand jury is a group of impaneled regular citizens who are convened to hear from prosecutors whether enough evidence exists in a particular case to formally charge a suspect with a crime.

Ukraine wishes the prosecutors godspeed and, for leading the 200-employee office that is taking on the case, Herdman is a deserving winner of Ukraine’s friend of the week.

Foe: Russian terrorist Igor Girkin

This week’s interview with Russian terrorist Igor Girkin by journalist Dmytro Gordon triggered an immense uproar for giving attention to the former top warlord of Kremlin-backed soldiers in the Donbas.

But, despite being rather restrained and sometimes even complimentary, this three-hour Skype conversation offered the world yet another chance to see what kind of human beings are behind Russia’s war, unleashed in 2014 at the cost of 14,000 lives and 7% of Ukrainian territory now occupied by the Kremlin.

Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, has a decades-long footprint in numerous local conflicts since the 1990s from Bosnia to Transnistria and Chechnya. After he was officially dismissed from Russia’s FSB secret service in the rank of colonel in 2013, he also participated in Russia’s operation to seize and annex the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, has a decades-long footprint in numerous local conflicts since the 1990s from Bosnia to Transnistria and Chechnya. After he was officially dismissed from Russia’s FSB secret service in the rank of colonel in 2013, he also participated in Russia’s operation to seize and annex the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

And eventually, it was he who was leading a force of 50 militants crossing the Ukrainian border from Russia and capturing the city of Slovyansk in April 2014, which spelled the beginning of the earliest major battle of Russia’s war in Donbas.

In the first months of the war, he was the media front-man of the Russian-sponsored armed riot in the region, the official mover and shaker idolized by his followers.

But by August 2014, he was fired by the Kremlin and sent back to Russia during an intense and bloody phase of the war. To this day, he is a fringe misfit on the margins of life somewhere in Moscow. In his own words, he even had to sell his unofficial medals for his role in the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea because he needed money.

He bitterly criticizes the Kremlin and its leadership in the Donbas for endemic corruption. He says he is disappointed by President Vladimir Putin for betraying the cause of the so-called “New Russia,” a swath of southeast Ukraine coveted by Russia.

And yet Girkin regrets nothing.

As the Gordon interview shows once again, this person is still obsessed with restoring imperial Russia that includes Ukraine.

Girkin enjoys recalling his days of executing people, including murders of non-combatant civilians like Volodymyr Rybak, who was slain for refusing the wave the flag of Russian subversives. He justifies the killings by the need to “enforce order.”

Girkin cynically denies his direct involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight, killing all 298 people aboard in July 2014, even though the evidence points to his complicity.

Girkin openly admits that he instigated the summer 2014 invasion of the Donetsk Oblast city of Slovyansk.

Such a person is not only a foe of Ukraine but also an enemy of humanity.

One comment

  • “But, despite being rather restrained and sometimes even complimentary, this three-hour Skype conversation offered the world yet another chance to see what kind of human beings are behind Russia’s war”

    Human beings is a very loose association with these vermin from Russia.

    Liked by 3 people

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