Ukraine’s richest man agrees to hand over media empire

This handout photograph taken and released by the System Capital Management (SCM) company on February 16, 2022, shows Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov (C) and businessman Vadim Novinsky (R) walking along a seafront in Mariupol. AFP

KYIV — Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov said Monday he will be handing over his entire media empire to the government under a law aimed at limiting the influence of oligarchs in the country.

“This week, Media Group Ukraine will surrender for the benefit of the state all Ukrainian licences of our television channels… as well as print media licenses,” Akhmetov said in a statement on the website of the group’s holding company SCM.

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The 55-year-old billionaire said that his decision was “driven” by the entry into force of a law aimed at “preventing threats to national security associated with excessive influence” of oligarchs, adopted in September 2021.

In the statement, he said the “short six-month term provided by the law for the sale of media assets, coupled with the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, makes it impossible for SCM to sell its media business on market terms”.

Media Group Ukraine is one of the largest media holdings in Ukraine and is made up of 10 television channels, including several news channels, online resources and print media.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhaylo Podolyak welcomed the decision on Twitter, saying the “deoligarchization law is the beginning of a new page in relation between state and business”.

The move comes shortly after EU leaders granted Ukraine candidate status for membership to the 27-nation bloc, together with a roadmap for bringing the country’s institutions up to European standards.