Ukraine’s richest man announces the withdrawal of his holding company from the media sector

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KYIV, July 11 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, said on Monday his investment firm would quit its vast media operations to comply with a law aimed at limiting the influence of “oligarchs “, a decision hailed by the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. .

In a statement sent to Reuters, Akhmetov said Media Group Ukraine would hand over licenses for its TV channels and print media to the Ukrainian state and cease online media, calling the move “involuntary”.

Last year, Ukraine passed a law ordering ‘oligarchs’ to register and stay out of politics, and offered to identify them with criteria such as having ‘a significant impact on the media “.

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the legislation as a historic chance to reform Ukraine, though some foreign diplomats in Kyiv called it largely cosmetic.

“I made the involuntary decision that my investment company SCM quit its media business,” Akhmetov said, citing the legislation.

“Being the largest private investor in the Ukrainian economy, I have repeatedly stated that I have never been and will not be an oligarch,” he said.

Akhmetov said his investment company SCM was unable to sell its media business on market terms due to Russia’s war in Ukraine and a six-month deadline given by anti-oligarch legislation for the sale of media assets.

Following Akhmetov’s announcement, presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak described the law as “the start of a new page in state-business relations.”

“Relationships based on transparency and (a) rejection of the back room,” he wrote on Twitter, calling Akhmetov’s decision a “worthy example.”

Media Group Ukraine includes an array of TV channels, including Ukraine and Ukraine 24, which are among the most watched in the country.

“In the coming days, the return of all broadcast and print licenses in Ukraine will be initiated. This will automatically strip licensees of … their mass media status,” an SCM spokesman told Reuters. .

In the months leading up to the Russian invasion, Akhmetov’s TV channels grew more critical of Zelenskiy as the billionaire battled the government over the proposed Oligarch Law and increases in taxes. rail freight rates.

Zelenskiy alleged in November that Moscow was planning to drag Akhmetov into an attempted coup against him. Akhmetov dismissed the allegations and said he was “outraged by the spread of this lie”.

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Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Max Hunder; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Tomasz Janowski

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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