Plahotniuc Won’t Let Poroshenko to Shelter in Moldova

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No more friendship: the main Moldovan oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc sacrifices partnership with Petro Poroshenko for the sake of preserving his own interests in Ukraine.

Moldova is an ‘alternate aerodrome’ for Poroshenko?

Today Ukraine ended the counting of votes in the presidential elections on March 31. Petro Poroshenko broke into the second round, literally at the eleventh hour beating the leader of the Batkivshchina party Yulia Tymoshenko. However, even after this local triumph, Poroshenko’s prospects look clouded. On April 21, he will face not only a duel with a much more popular opponent, but also a protest vote of many Ukrainians. Chances are that Poroshenko won’t win this fight. Considering this scenario, experts are arguing more about the future plans of the president. Some believe that he will try to take revenge in the elections to the Verkhovna Rada, which will be held in the autumn of 2019. But most tend to believe that the current head of state will leave the country to escape political persecution. That makes sense: after the election, the demand for a reprisal against the oligarch will be too high for his successor not to take advantage of such an easy way to increase his own popularity. Or not to prevent to Petro Poroshenko’s enemies. Interestingly, around mid-March, at the instigation of the Verkhovna Rada deputy and former member of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc Serhiy Leshchenko, Russian, Ukrainian and Moldovan media began to persistently call Moldova an ‘alternate aerodrome’ for the President of Ukraine. Apparently, it is not groundless since journalists claim that Poroshenko has a lot of property in Moldova and unrecognized Transnistria so he could live a comfortable life even at loss of property in Ukraine. The main argument in favor of the Poroshenko’s ‘Moldovan retreat’ is his strong friendship with the ‘master’ of Moldova Vlad Plahotniuc. They have long been linked by common business interests, including joint assets and offshore withdrawal schemes of funds from the public sector of both countries. The partnership between the two oligarchs has also influenced on inter-state relations, which have become noticeably stronger and warmer in recent years. Moldova and Ukraine have worked together on many issues of the foreign policy agenda and skillfully exploited the ‘Russian threat’ topic in order to keep receiving political and financial support from international partners. In 2016, Poroshenko even organized the extradition of Ukrainian citizen Veaceslav Platon (as many wrote – Plahotniuc’s political opponent), who was sentenced to 18 years in Moldova. At the beginning of this year, both oligarchs were in a similar situation – before the need to win the election, being in an initially losing situation. However, if Plahotniuc managed to stay at the top of the political food chain of Moldova, Poroshenko loses his election battle. In this regard, Moldova really seems to be a convenient place for the ‘escape’ of the Ukrainian President – but only at first glance. The pragmatic and prudent leader of the PDM has never been famous for his charity, and he is unlikely to be guided by the friendship concept in deciding the fate of the former President of Ukraine. Plakhotniuc’s actions suggest that he has already written off Petro Poroshenko and is already looking for access to the new leadership of the neighboring state.

Plahotniuc establishes ties with the new government in Kyiv

Rumor says that on the day of the vote on March 31 the plane of Vlad Plahotniuc was refused landing in Kyiv on the personal order of the head of the the Security Service of Ukraine (who is accountable to Poroshenko). Plahotniuc allegedly was going to pay a visit to the headquarters of Volodymyr Zelensky. Apparently, Plahotniuc wants to maintain his business flows in Ukraine, as well as close interstate ties, centering Ukrainian contacts on new decision-makers in Kyiv. Zelensky is still a ‘clean slate’, and the desire of the Moldovan oligarch to quickly negotiate both with him and with the large capital supporting him, first of all Ihor Kolomoyskyi, is understandable. Information about Poroshenko’s flight to Moldova and his friendship with Plahotniuc, which has already reached the prime time of Russian state TV channels, is not a good background for relations with the new President of Ukraine. Any publicly visible associations with toxic Poroshenko are dangerous, so Plahotniuc will only disown the disgraced president. Of course, ‘future ex-president’ won’t find any alternate aerodrome in Moldova. Rather, on the contrary – for Plahotniuc it will be a convenient reason to take over the property of Poroshenko in Moldova, at the same time giving the right signal to Kyiv. Such a scenario is indirectly confirmed by information on the Internet about the redistribution of influence in the contraband flows from the port of Odessa to Eastern Europe, where Plahotniuc came under the wing of Poroshenko’s opponents. Another indicative fact is perhaps the deliberate disruption of voting in the elections of the Ukrainian President in Moldova, as a little more than a thousand people voted. This is not only lower than the turnout in the previous elections, but also significantly less than the total number of residents of Moldova with Ukrainian citizenship. And the majority of those who nevertheless went to voting stations, voted for the leader of For Life platform Yuriy Boyko. It is obvious that ‘honeymoon’ in the relations of two oligarchs comes to an end, and there comes a moment of truth for the former partners. For Poroshenko – whether he will be able to stay in power or remain in political life of Ukraine, at least, before parliamentary elections. For Plahotniuc – whether Volodymyr Zelensky will be as useful and close partner as his predecessor.