Who is Vadim Novinsky? (To answer a reader’s question)November 4, 2016
Following yesterday’s entry relating to the coincidences – or not – of current wriggling within the Opposition Block, a question has been asked by a reader about the importance of Vadim Novinsky in the Ukrainian arena.
There has been a lot written about him in Ukrainian and Russian, but little in English, so a brief glossary follows. (He is perhaps best known to the English speaking reader for his recent Guardian piece – or at least a piece that was published naming him as the author even though he wasn’t)
Before doing so however, as stated in the link above to yesterday’s entry, Mr Novinsky did indeed leave Ukraine today for Greece for a visit to Mount Athos, apparently spending time in the company of some senior Orthodox clergy. Also, the request by the Prosecutor General to lift the parliamentary immunity of Mr Novinsky has indeed arrived at the Verkhovna Rada and has been passed to the Procedural Committee of the Verkhovna Rada by Speaker Paruby.
The relevant committee will mull the Prosecutor General’s request next week.
So to the question of how important is Vadim Novinsky within the Ukrainian arena? (Aside from being a leading and very wealthy Opposition Block parliamentary personality and extremely conservative member of the Russian Orthodoxy.)
Vadim Novinsky is a Russian “businessman” who was granted Ukrainian citizenship in 2012 by former-President Yanukovych. Despite calls for that citizenship to be revoked due to Mr Novinsky’s very pro-Russian stance (and alleged pro-Kremlin actions), thus far President Poroshenko has refused to do so. It remains to be seen whether that position will change in the future.
Mr Novinsky is perhaps best known in Ukraine as a junior partner of Rinat Akhmetov via shares in Mr Akhmetov’s MetInvest. The deal in 2006/7 involved Mr Akhmetov assuming control of a plethora of Mr Novinsky’s mining and metallurgical companies held under the umbrella of Mr Novinsky’s infamous Smart Group (and latterly Smart Holdings), in exchange for a junior share in MetInvest. (To be blunt neither Smart Group nor Smart Holdings have anything approaching a good business reputation – consistently in the orbit of numerous scandals.)
The outcome of the MetInvest 2006/7 deal was that this gave Mr Novinsky “access all areas” within the Ukrainian political elite – which he clearly wanted. (The benefits for Mr Akhmetov will not be dealt with in this entry.)
It is necessary however to briefly describe how Mr Novinsky first managed to acquire the ability to own numerous mining and metallurgy assets in both Russia and Ukraine, why he came to Ukraine buying such assets during the 1990s/2000s when all assets worth holding were subject to bloody wars between the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk clans.
Ukraine at this time was not a place for the faint hearted making acquisitions without a significant influential “roof” (guarantor) that could insure property rights in the absence of a predictable rule of law.
Without going into the minutiae of his early business career in Russia, it is sufficient to note that very early on he managed to secure the patronage of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, influential Russian politician Viktor Chernomyrdin, and alleged Tambov mafia gang associate Andrei Klyamko. The later Mr Klyamko for several decades has been a consistent business partner of Mr Novinsky – a formal business divorce occurring in March 2014 in the immediate aftermath of “The Revolution of Dignity”.
A reader would probably understand that official business divorce to be little more than a facade dictated by circumstances at the time to mitigate volatile public perception. (Indeed it is rumoured by reliable sources that Mr Novinsky’s name originally appeared in the Spanish Tambov mafia investigations – until Kremlin intervention managed to have his name removed before reports were published.)
Quite how such planets aligned for an engineering management systems graduate from Leningrad who came to Ukraine with Lukoil a reader is left to ponder.
Considering the extremely volatile and bloody warfare between the political and business clans of Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk during the 1990’s/2000s, it is perhaps fair to speculate that Mr Novinsky’s entry into Ukrainian assets at that time (and many were physically within the Dnepro/Donbas geography) occurred via the friendship/association of then President Kuchma with Viktor Chernomyrdin. That is not to infer that President Kuchma had any special relationship with Mr Novinsky other than by extension to that from Mr Chernomyrdin.
President Yushenko who followed however, perhaps can be viewed as far more accessible following Mr Novinsky’s arrival as a junior partner at MetInvest – and this access was further enabled by Mr Novinsky funding a few “pet projects” of President Yushenko. (Disclosure – it was at about this time Mr Novinsky started rubbing shoulders with acquaintances of this blog – both Ukrainian and foreign.)
The rise to power of President Yanukovych naturally suited Mr Novinsky’s ideology far more than did President Yushenko’s. Mr Novinsky already close to “The Family” due to business arrangements with Mr Akhmetov quickly went into business with Alexander Yanukovych with several ventures. It is during this period that the alleged offences of unlawful imprisonment of a member of the Orthodox clergy occurred for which he is now under investigation. It is also stated that aside from the alleged crime, the goal was to change the leadership of the Orthodoxy in Ukraine and in this he (apparently) played a robust role.
Since then Mr Novinsky has continued his support of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Moscow Patriarchy zealously whilst allegedly simultaneously continuing to exert pressure (and it is also alleged threats) toward the Kyiv Patriarchy. Indeed, it is no secret that Mr Novinsky was significant in the organisation and financing of what was widely perceived as a Kremlin influence operation during a “peace march” by the Moscow Patriarchy for the celebrations for the baptism of Vladymyr in July.
More locally for Odessa, he is also supposed to be part/”supportive” of the “Odessa Network” of politicians (and a few businessmen) with what are for many constituents particularly questionable definitions of patriotism.
Considering his nationality of birth, circumstances surrounding the evolution of his business career and the 3 wise men that nurtured it from the Russian oligarchy, political and mafia classes, Mr Novinsky is unquestionably trusted far more by The Kremlin, and the wider Russian political, business, religious and organsied criminal classes than the usual suspects such as Messrs Medvedchuk and Firtash – despite their robust connections.
A cynical reader, as well as a few counterintelligence bods, will by now perhaps be questioning the true role of Mr Novinsky, and whether Mr Novinsky is an independent actor with agency – or something else operating for “others”? Was he in fact propelled into Ukraine quite deliberately so swiftly after it became independent with the long game task of getting access to the body of whomever is president of the day, whilst simultaneously gaining control of GDP and employment percentages within the Ukrainian economy – or has he (willingly or otherwise) simply been co-opted by The Kremlin along the way due to his access to whomever is president and his personal control over Ukrainian GDP and employment percentages – or has he simply volunteered those services, acting as an asset for The Kremlin, considering his ideological alignment?
Although it is possible to continue, the question relating to the importance of Mr Novinsky in the Ukrainian arena has probably been answered sufficiently well for a reader to draw their own conclusions.