The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Reversal of Fortune …

May 1, 2023

This article is translated from the April 28 issue #2856 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Forbes magazine made a list of the richest people in Ukraine. It is less spectacular than Russia’s because Ukraine has “only” seven people worth at least one billion U.S. dollars. These billionaires’ fortunes fell by 45% in the last year, given the war. Their fortunes would have sunk even more if they had not invested much of their wealth in tax havens and in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, even before the war.

The biggest loser was Petro Poroshenko, formerly president of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. He is nicknamed “the chocolate king” because he built an empire with his candy business, Roshen. Of course, at a time of bombings everywhere, the population has other priorities than buying sweets. And his factories have been hit. As a result, Zelensky’s predecessor is now only worth 750 million dollars, says Forbes. Not that anyone is shedding tears for him. He made himself hated as the very image of a businessman turned politician who will do anything to make himself richer at the expense of the masses. So, voters dumped him as president in 2019 and chose Zelensky, who was a practically unknown actor promising to end government corruption. Stealthily, Poroshenko tiptoed abroad….

Although the war has also cut into his fortune somewhat, the richest man in Ukraine is Rinat Akhmetov, with nearly 4.5 billion dollars. Originally from Donetsk, he built his fortune in 1992 after the USSR collapsed. He had a mafia-like business buying and reselling steel and metallurgical coke from the Donbass, always sheltering himself under the wing of allies in high office.

Akhmetov was considered pro-Russian because he had close ties with Russian oligarchs, with Moscow and with several so-called pro-Kremlin Ukrainian presidents. Akhmetov has always veered and tacked with political winds. He had to scramble in 2005 when the pro-Western “orange” regime of president Viktor Yushchenko and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko dropped their purchase of the largest company in Ukraine, the Kryvorizhstal steel mill, which he had snatched up for almost nothing. And again in 2017, when the pro-Russian authorities in Donbass requisitioned 43 companies he owned there. But these big losses did not prevent him from continuing to prosper, thanks to his holding company SCM, but especially thanks to his friends in high places. Last March, he boasted in an interview about “helping the army” of Ukraine with supply contracts during the war.

Clearly, he reaps the dividends, but not the shrapnel. He leaves that to those he “helps”: they fight for him and for his fellow fat cats and their Western sponsors.