Korrespondent Publishes TOP-100 Influential People List

KIEV, Ukraine -- Korrespondent, a leading Ukrainian news magazine, has announced its rating of the Top 100 most influential people in the country, an annual poll conducted by the editorial staff of the Russian-language weekly that attempts to reflect the changing fortunes of Ukraine’s power elite against a background of shifting public opinion.

This year’s rating results were presented by Korrespondent editors during an Aug. 17 press conference held at UNIAN news agency in Kyiv.

With the 2006 Top 100 list, the magazine’s fourth since it launched the poll in 2003, “Korrespondent wanted to offer its readers its own view of just how much the country’s landscape of personal influence has changed following the recent political shakeup,” chief editor, Vitaly Sych, said during the news conference.

The change in those positions compared with last year’s poll has indeed been significant, with some individuals “losing unlimited influence and power, and others, gaining it,” reads a statement released by the magazine.

Ukrainians reappraised their and the country’s priorities following the 2004 Orange Revolution and the March 2006 parliamentary elections, which both had a significant impact on the distribution of power among the elite in Ukraine, according to Korrespondent.

“While the political battles this year [the protracted fight over the formation of a parliamentary coalition and government following the March 26 elections] were not as pitched as the social unrest of the Orange Revolution in 2004, the consequences of those battles for the most influential people in the country were no less significant,” the statement continues.

A total of 44 new individuals made the rating this year – nearly as many as last year, following the 2004 presidential elections.

“The creation of a parliamentary coalition has truly changed the face of the elite,” according to the Russian-language weekly. “While the rating last year included only several members of the elite from Donetsk Region, this year they form the backbone of the list.”

This year, a businessman replaced the Ukrainian president in the top spot on the list for the first time in the list’s four-year history.

Considered to be the wealthiest man in Ukraine, Donetsk tycoon and parliament deputy Rinat Ahkmetov moved into first spot on the list from fifth position last year.

He replaced President Viktor Yushchenko, who moved to second place in 2006 because “his [Yushchenko’s] ideas are no longer as popular as they were two years ago and he also has fewer levers of influence over events in the country,” Korrespondent said.

The magazine named Akhmetov Ukraine’s most influential person due to his enormous wealth and sprawling business holdings, as well as the key role that he plays within the Party of Regions – the pro-Russian bloc that recently wrested power from the shattered Orange forces in parliament, forming a coalition of its own.

Vadim Karasyov, the director of the Institute of Global Strategies, a political think tank, told the Post, Korrespondent’s sister publication, that the list not only documents the rise and fall of Ukraine’s powerbrokers, but also shows the large extent to which big business – and big businessmen – have come to dominate and exert great influence on Ukrainian politics within the last year.

He said that in this sense, the fact that Akhmetov heads this year’s list, followed by a large number of other powerful businessmen, many of whom are also closely linked with Akhmetov, was very significant.

“Since the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has become the Republic of Businessmen, the Republic of Big Business,” Karasyov said. “Business has taken political power into its hands.”

Viktor Luhovyk, the head of communications at Kyiv-based investment bank Dragon Capital, said that the rating introduces a civilizing factor into the political life of Ukraine, since it not only reflects which individuals played the most important role in charting the country’s political and economic course over the last year, but also helps make Ukrainian politics more transparent.

“It helps remind politicians that they are in the public eye and being scrutinized by the mass media, as well as other observers,” Luhovyk said in an interview to the Post.

Source: Kyiv Post