The US State Department is aware that there are ties between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi. However, US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker hopes that Zelensky will manage to become a president who is independent of the oligarchs.
During a hearing titled “Five years after the Revolution of Dignity: Ukraine’s progress/Russia’s malign activities” held by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 18 June, Volker responded to questions from Senator Bob Menendez about oligarch Kolomoyskyi’s influence over Ukraine’s sixth president.
“I know that Zelensky came to the post on a powerful anti-corruption platform, but there are warnings concerning his ties to certain Ukrainian oligarchs… in particular Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who is suspected of embezzling funds from the bank he was a co-owner of,” Menendez observed.
Volker confirmed that the State Department was aware of Zelensky’s ties to Kolomoyskyi, and emphasized that the new president should endeavor to weaken the oligarchs’ influence over the political system.
“We think that he (Zelensky) deserves a chance. We support the principles of reform, the overcoming of the domination of oligarchs, such as Kolomoyskyi, in the political system. We hope that he will be able to be independent and to deliver on his promises,” the diplomat remarked.
“We intend both to assist him and to hold him accountable if this doesn’t happen,” Volker emphasized.
Previously Volker said that, since the election of Volodymyr Zelensky, “a window of opportunity has opened for promoting the common interests of Ukraine and the US”. He also expressed hope that the negotiation process on the Donbas would resume.
On 31 May, Zelensky signed a decree to appoint Andriy Bohdan as head of the Presidential Administration. According to the Ukrainian news outlet the Mirror Weekly, he ignored Kurt Volker’s recommendation in this regard. The US Special Representative for Ukraine has consistently advised the Ukrainian president not to appoint a person with close ties to the oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.
Relations between Kyiv and Washington have been complicated by the publication of a ledger belonging to the “Party of Regions” that featured the name of Paul Manafort, the convicted former head of Donald Trump’s election campaign. In addition, Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, Trump’s primary competitor in the next round of US presidential elections, was on the board of directors of the Ukrainian company Burisma, whose owner and founder Mykola Zlechevsky is under investigation for graft.