Two Men (Or Three) Who Know What They’re About

Ihor Kolomoisky, a 51-year-old outspoken banking tycoon, and recently appointed by [Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, himself a so-called oligarch] as governor of Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine, has decided to dip into his fortune to bolster that army and defend the homeland.

So far, that has included buying tires, car batteries and fuel for army units, as well outfitting local militias. He also announced a program to buy up contraband weapons and offer a $10,000 bounty for any pro-Russia militant captured with a gun.

Mr Kolomoisky declined to say how much he is spending personally to build up what his aides call the “Kolomoisky army,” but experts estimate it is about $10 million a month just to fund the salaries of militia and police units, some of whom technically report to Ukraine’s army and interior ministry. His province now has close to 2,000 battle-ready troops in the field, his aides say. By comparison, Ukraine’s army had only 6,000 through the entire country when Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula earlier this year.

One of Kolomoisky’s assistants is Gennady Korban, a self-described “conflict manager in hostile corporate takeovers” and whom Kolomoisky tasked to run the military operations in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, was a bit more…direct…but no less clear on what the current mission is. Pointing to an imaginary boundary, he noted that on one side, the oblast was secure and safely in the hands of the legitimate government in Kiev, while the other side was held by Russia-supported rebels: “troublemakers,” “maniacs.” Korban described the enemy and the mission:

“Men without families, who don’t want families, they just like war.” If they cross over the line, he said, “We’ll just have to kill them.”

And there’s this from one of Korban’s commanders, Yury Beryoza:

If any Russian soldier wants to die for Russia, “they should come to Dnipropetrovsk, because here we will kill them.”

Critics, and there are many, question Kolomoisky’s motives, pointing out that he and other oligarchs in Ukraine may have more financial than altruistic reasons for maintaining the status quo. That’s often—usually—the case, but that doesn’t mean that acting on those motives don’t benefit everyone else, too. That’s the invisible hand: each man acts on his personal self-interest, and the voluntary outcomes of those interactions benefit both, and in their aggregate, benefit everyone.

In that light, Kolomoisky has stated his own goal.

It would have been possible to have warmer relations with Russia, but I’m not going to sacrifice my principles for it. I’m a die-hard European.

At this point, I’m far more inclined to trust these two oligarchs (three, including Ukraine’s President) than I am the Russian Vladimir Putin or any of his thugs in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast or anywhere else in Ukraine.

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