Thu, 26 Nov 2020

A company controlled by Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy is bidding to manage the assets of a local media company, potentially giving the tycoon greater influence over the nation's news content.

A subsidiary of Kolomoyskiy's 1+1 Media Group is one of six companies vying for UMH Holding, once the leading media company in Ukraine, the Kyiv Post reported.

A state agency charged with recovering and managing assets stolen during the tenure of President Viktor Yanukovych is handling the bidding process. Yanukovych was overthrown in 2014 following street protests over his corrupt rule.

Fugitive oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko bought UHM in 2013 for $400 million, but a Ukrainian court seized the asset in 2017 on the grounds that the money had been acquired illegally.

UMH Holding, though no longer wielding the same influence as in previous years, still owns 72 legal entities, including newspapers, radio stations, magazines and websites. It also possesses the intellectual property rights on 283 trademarks as well as printing equipment.

Kolomoyskiy's media assets are credited with helping comic-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelenskiy defeat incumbent Petro Poroshenko in a landslide in the April 2019 presidential election.

His media empire already includes seven television channels, a group of Internet sites, and a production department, among other assets.

Kolomoyskiy returned to Ukraine from self-imposed exile shortly after Zelenskiy's victory and is now considered one of the most influential oligarchs in the country.

Western nations are wary of his influence and have pushed Zelenskiy to pass laws that would prevent Kolomoyskiy from regaining his bank, which was nationalized by the state in 2016 amid a $5.5 billion hole in its accounts.

Ukraine's wealthiest oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, has criticized the bidding process for UMH Holding, calling it "a covert transfer of broadcasting licenses" that violates local broadcasting laws. Akhmetov also owns media assets.

With reporting by the Kyiv Post

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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