Lose Flashy Car, Leader Tells Top Official

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's president has told a top member of his administration to sell a flashy new car with built-in massage seats, paid for with state funds because the official was used to riding around in the latest top of the range models.

$200,000 S-Class Mercedes

"Yesterday... we had a talk and I asked him that the car be sold immediately," Viktor Yushchenko told a news conference in Kiev on Wednesday.

The move came after a muckracking online newspaper here reported last week that Olexiy Ivchenko, head of the state oil and gas firm Naftogaz, was riding around in a new Mercedes worth more than $200 000 (about UAH1,2-million).

Ivchenko said the car was bought by a Naftogaz subsidiary for his use because "since 1992 I've ridden around in the latest models. The only thing that's changed is that every two years I have upgraded to the latest Mercedes model... I won't betray my traditions."

"I think that a director of such an enterprise should ride around in the most decent and most expensive car," Ivchenko told Ukrainian media after the report was published in Ukrainska Pravda.

The car's cost "is a drop in the ocean that can hardly affect Naftogaz's finances," he said.

The Ukrainian president disagreed.

"State structures should behave themselves adequately to their needs," he said on Wednesday, adding that he told Ivchenko to "get back to the car that you used to drive and it will in no way affect your status".

The Ukrainian leader himself was embroiled in a scandal last summer after revelations by Ukrainska Pravda that his oldest son Andriy, a university student, drove a top-end car worth well over $121 000 and used a cellphone with a €4 000 price tag.

Yushchenko said at the time that his son had rented the car with earnings from a part-time job.

Source: Independent Online