What rise of Poroshenko’s son, Oleksiy, says about father’s ways

The resume of Oleksiy Poroshenko tells much more than the credentials of the president’s son.

It offers a glance into how Petro Poroshenko often appears to shape his political power base and make top-level appointments from business to politics not necessarily based on merit, but from a mix of loyalists, former business partners and even family.

The swift rise of his 31-year-old son from top-tier universities into management at family-owned companies — and ultimately into politics as a parliament lawmaker – is telling.

For some, it smacks of the deeply entrenched nepotism and cronyism that Ukraine was yearning to rid itself of nearly three years ago, when protesters dodged sniper fire on Kyiv’s main square to oust Viktor Yanukovych, the kleptocratic pro-Moscow president.

In a rare interview, an English-speaking and at times nervous Oleksiy Poroshenko, who has served as a lawmaker in the president’s party since October 2014, steadfastly denounced such comparisons.

‘Do you see similarity…?

“Do you see a similarity between me and Oleksandr Yanukovych or Viktor?” asked Poroshenko Junior, a physically gentle character compared to the two towering sons of ex-president Yanukovych.

Under his father’s presidency, Oleksandr Yanukovych, the elder son educated as a dentist, became one of Ukraine’s wealthiest people. The younger Viktor, who reportedly drowned while driving over Lake Baikal on March 20, 2015, was more known for his love of tuned-up automobiles and off-road racing.

According to his declaration, Oleksiy Poroshenko owns a BMW cabriolet, Land Rover Discovery, and rare GAZ 14 Chaika, a legendary Soviet business-class car.

Switching to other comparisons made between his father and the former president, Oleksiy Poroshenko stressed his father became president after having already owned a vast estate outside Kyiv — after having established himself as a wealthy man, not vice versa.

“Everyone knew about these estates when Poroshenko was being elected. It’s a different story where Yanukovych got the estates,” he said referring to Yanukovych’s vast Mezhyhiriya estate outside the capital.

Defends father’s record

Oleksiy Poroshenko defended his father’s record on reforms.

“I always believed that Petro Poroshenko is very professional and very patriotic man. For me he has been a role model for the big part of my life,” he said. “So when he was elected as president I definitely thought that he is a person who has the will power and necessary instruments to bring around change and reforms.”

Oleksiy Poroshenko sits in his office in Kyiv during an interview with the Kyiv Post on April 22.

Oleksiy Poroshenko sits in his office in Kyiv during an interview with the Kyiv Post on April 22.

Oleksiy Poroshenko studied at some of the world’s most prestigious schools, from Eton and Winchester Colleges, to the London School of Economics and INSEAD business school in Singapore and France.

Apart from summer internships at Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan, most of his hands-on working experience came either thanks to his father, or under his watchful eye.

He spent a few years working at the finance department in Roshen company, Petro Poroshenko’s confectionary giant.

“(Then) I thought that people with good education, with some experience and most of all with good intentions should try to reform the government. That’s why I applied for the job in diplomacy,” he says. He applied for and got a job in Ukraine’s trade economic mission in China in 2010, when his father served as Ukraine’s foreign minister.

No nepotism here

Oleksiy Poroshenko says his father had nothing to do with his appointment for the job, as he was a subordinate to the economy and trade minister, who made all the decisions considering the economic and trade mission.

The president’s son has also consulted his father’s Channel 5 television station on cost cutting.

The political career of Oleksiy Poroshenko started a few years back when he was elected to the oblast council of Vinnytsia, a region that has served as a political power base for his father. Poroshenko himself was elected for many years to parliament in the region where his Roshen chocolate group is a big employer.

Interestingly, Oleksiy Poroshenko was elected regional council member from the Batkivshchyna Party led by then-jailed Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and rival of his father. Oleksiy said he at the time considered this “the main opposition party to Yanukovych.” Soon after the EuroMaidan Revolution, Oleksiy Poroshenko switched to Petro Poroshenko Bloc and was elected to parliament in autumn 2014.

Oleksiy Poroshenko says he takes his job seriously.

“For me the main thing is that the overwhelming majority of citizens in my constituency trusted me and delegated me to the parliament to do what I promised them I’d do,” Oleksiy Poroshenko says. “And this is very important for me. Not to let them down.”

Judge by deeds

“I want to show that if you’re a relative of a president or a prime minister, or a member of parliament, or whoever in politics, it doesn’t necessarily make you good or bad,” Oleksiy Poroshenko explains, adding that one can judge a person only by their deeds.

While Viktor Yanukovych Jr. hardly ever attended parliamentary sessions, Oleksiy Poroshenko seems more diligent in his job.

As a lawmaker, Oleksiy Poroshenko has co-written 23 draft laws, according to the official website of Ukraine’s parliament. Of those, six have already become law.

In four cases Oleksiy Poroshenko initiated draft laws with one co-author, either his father’s former press secretary Iryna Fryz or another ex-member of the Vinnytsia Oblast Council and former assistant of Petro Poroshenko, Ivan Melnychuk. At least half of the bills filed by Oleksiy Poroshenko were co-written by more than 15 authors.

While Viktor Yanukovych Junior was elected to parliament on the party ticket of his father’s party, Oleksiy Poroshenko claims he decided to get elected through a single mandate constituency so as “not to hide behind parties or … [a] family member.”

The constituency in Vinnytsia Oblast where he was elected is the same one that twice elected his father to parliament.

But pointing to Oleksiy’s own resume, critics paint a different picture.

Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, told the Kyiv Post that it is almost impossible to win a seat in parliament through the single-mandate constituency in Ukraine without administrative resources or bribes.

“Oleksiy Poroshenko is not known for any exceptional achievements for the community, so his appearance in parliament is connected to a single feature – that he is the son of Petro Poroshenko,” she said.

Oleksiy Poroshenko defended his father’s work as president.

“I think that we’re very lucky that we have such a president, because I definitely see a lot of positive changes in national security, and of course our diplomacy. I think this is one of the areas we have had a very professional approach from the very beginning.”

He said Yanukovych and Poroshenko can’t be compared, as the first one usurped power, while the second one maintains freedom of speech and respects the constitution.

“Can we say that everything is fine now and everyone should be satisfied? Obviously, no,” he said. “But if we keep asking these questions, we’re just trying to prove to ourselves that nothing is changing. I think that’s dangerous. Something is changing, 100 percent.”

“We had a very negative experience before in Ukraine, and given that, I can understand some frustration,” he said stressing: “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

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