Oligarchs battle for control of Lugansk coal industry

By Victor Shapinov

Yuri Ivanyushchenko and his business partner Ivan (Ivan Ivanovich) Avramov, at one time Yanukovych’s “kingpin” in the Odessa region, have intensified pressure on the coal industry in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LC). Their business does serious harm to the country. 

Miner’s monument at the administrative office of State Enterprise “Anthracite” in Lugansk.
Photo: Jaroslav Emelchenko

The authoritative MP

The struggle with the old Ukrainian oligarchs has become a real second front in the battle for the Donbass. Despite all the drama, the subject is given far less attention than the confrontation between the people’s militia and the Ukrainian army. But it is still possible to shed some light on these processes.

In this article, I will give a concrete example of the destructive influence of the oligarchy: “the battle for coal,” which was launched against the Lugansk People’s Republic by the oligarchic group of Yuri Ivanyushchenko. Ivanyushchenko (also known as crime boss Yura Yenakiyevo) was a member of the inner circle of ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. A longtime deputy of the Party of Regions, Ivanyushchenko rarely appeared at sessions of the Parliament, preferring to deal with “economic issues.”

Under the “old regime,” the name of Ivanyushchenko, or the criminal nicknamed Yenakiyevo, was often known as a “kingpin.”[Polozhenets, mob boss]. In fact, the influence of this businessman, who never liked publicity, has always been greater than one would expect based on the enterprises officially belonging to him. Ivanyushchenko, one of the pillars of the “family clan” of Viktor Yanukovych, has not lost weight and influence since the fall of the “criminal regime” and the victory of the “revolution of dignity.” Rumor has it that Ivanyushchenko is no stranger to the circles of Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Return to the Donbass

Recently, the oligarchic group of Yuri Ivanyushchenko and his younger business partner Ivan (Ivan Ivanovich) Avramov, at one time the former president’s “kingpin” for the Odessa region, have tried to increase their control over the coal industry in Lugansk. Note that both of these close associates of Yanukovych reside safely on the territory of Ukraine and run a profitable business on territory controlled by the Kiev regime. This clan is trying to gain control of the coal assets of the People’s Republic, including the use of state-owned enterprises of the LC for private enrichment, just as it was practiced in the days of Ukraine.

The main object of the Ivanyushchenko- Avramov scam was the coal-mining state-owned enterprise (SOE) “Anthracite”, which is located on the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic. Its structure includes the mines “Komsomol” and “Guerrilla,” as well as seven support units and the privatized central concentrating factory “Nagolchanskaya.” The total number of workers and staff is more than 3,000 people. In its warehouses are about 40,000 tons of high-quality coal and 500,000 tons of waste coal (“sludge” used in thermal power plants).

During the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, state-owned enterprises were used for the enrichment of people close to him. So, from 2008 to 2013, “Anthracite” was unofficially “administered” by Lugansk Parliamentary Deputies Natalia Korolevska and Aleksandr Efremov (head of the Party of Regions faction in the Verkhovna Rada). In reality, control over the work of the “state” enterprise was held by Yuri Ivanyushchenko and Ivan Avramov.

The control scheme focused on the privatized “Nagolchanskaya” factory, where Avramov holds a 51-percent stake. This factory had an exclusive contract with the “Komsomol” coal mine, which allowed them to keep the entire process under control.

In 2011, for the benefit of Ivanyushchenko and Avramov, the acting CEO of SE “Anthracite” Gorovtsov concluded with the Director of “Lugansk Coal Company” Maslov a 418 million hryvina deal to lease state-owned property until 2041. The contract was awarded in violation of Ukrainian law, and without regard for the ministry which is the legal owner of SOEs. The deal was so scandalous that it even attracted the attention of Minister of Fuel and Energy Yuriy Boyko – a member of Efremov’s party.

LC destroys oligarchs’ plans

In May 2015, SE “Anthracite” was re-registered as a state unitary enterprise of the Lugansk People’s Republic, which led to a conflict between the oligarchic clan and LC leadership.

In the summer of 2015, Avramov attempted to regain his former position of control over the enterprise. In particular, he used his influence with the leaders of the “Independent Trade Union of Miners of Ukraine” (the leaders of the NPGU, unlike its rank-and-file members, actively supported the Euromaidan) to organize rallies and speeches by miners against the LC, really acting in the interests of Kiev to destabilize he situation in the Donbass.

According to confidential sources, in August Avramov met in Russia with ex-Chairman of the Board of “Naftogaz Ukrainy” Bakai, during which he offered him a fee to lobby his contacts in the Russian leadership to return operational management of SE “Anthracite” to representatives of Avramov and Ivanyushchenko. At the same time, Ivanyushchenko enlisted the support of former Ukrainian President Yanukovich to “resolve the issue.”

The problem the Ivanyushchenko- Avramov clan is trying to solve by regaining control of state enterprise “Anthracite” is to pay back loans the group took from Ukrainian banks before 2014 under the guise of investments in the development of SOEs. In fact, the loans disappeared to parts unknown. It is known that Avramov supports business contacts with corrupt Ukrainian officials, members of the inner circle Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and President Petro Poroshenko, and with the Ukrainian police agencies. Also, according to LC security officials, Avramov made ​​repeated attempts to organize smuggling channels to export coal from the LC to Ukraine.

The activities of the Ivanyushchenko- Avramov group are detrimental to both the budget and the economy of the LC and the security and national interests of the Republic. Especially when you consider that the People’s Republic stopped shipping coal in response to Ukraine’s energy blockade of Crimea.


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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