American Accuses Kyiv Politicians, Ex-Wife Of Keeping Him From His Child

KIEV, Ukraine -- An American citizen who says his Ukrainian ex-wife is denying him access to their nine-year-old son has accused her new husband, a Kyiv city councilman, of trying to intimidate him into giving up his visitation rights.

Yury Starodubsky with his son Michael.

Yury Starodubsky, a naturalized American citizen of Ukrainian origin, told a news conference in Kyiv on Aug. 27 that Kyiv City Councilman Oleksandr Rybak has threatened and harassed him.

Starodubsky’s ex-wife Irina Fidenthal denied the accusations, which she said might be tied to the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Rybak and his father Volodymr, a deputy prime minister, are both members of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s Regions party.

“I am not seeking custody. I only want to see my boy, to be a part of his life,” Starodubsky told the Post.

Starodubsky, who also goes by the surname Star, said he has seen his son, Michael, less than a dozen times since the couple was estranged in 2002.

Some of these meetings consisted of Starodubsky’s waiting for the nine-year-old in front of his house or catching him on the beach with his grandmother in Crimea, according to the US citizen.

Starodubsky, 38, began litigation in July at Kyiv’s Pechersky Court to enforce his visitation rights.

He has also sent several letters to top Cabinet officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Rybak.

“A man identifying himself as Volodymyr Vasylevych [Deputy Prime Minister Rybak] called me and said he had nothing to do with the affair, that it was between me and his son and my wife’s family,” Starodubsky said.

Relations with 38-year-old Oleksandr Rybak, the deputy prime minister’s son, started out civilly but have deteriorated in recent months, according to Starodubsky.

Starodubsky accused the city councilman of sending him threatening SMS messages and having him followed and accosted by strangers during his visits to Kyiv.

“I am afraid for my life,” the American citizen said.

Starodubsky said his former wife and her husband are both from wealthy Donetsk families and thus capable of making him disappear.

“If they were a normal, run-of-the-mill family, we would have sat down and settled this.”

Starodubsky, who is Jewish, said his former wife and her new husband also had his son baptized as a Christian without his permission.

“We agreed before he was born that he would be raised as a Jew, so that he wouldn’t have any identity problems.”

The other side

Irina Fridenthal told the Post that Starodubsky has never been prevented from visiting his son.

“I have nothing against him seeing our child. I only found out that he was unable to when I learned about the lawsuit this year.”

According to her, Starodubsky shows up and disappears as he pleases.

She said her ex-husband was supposed to come to the US Consulate in Kyiv last September to renew Michael’s US passport but failed to appear.

“I find it strange that he suddenly shows up a year later with these accusations against my husband and his father, just before the elections. My husband, much less his father, has nothing to do with this matter.”

Fridenthal, who identifies herself as an ethnic Russian, acknowledged having the nine-year-old baptized, adding that it was done according to the boy’s wishes.

She dismissed Starodubsky’s accusations that her current husband had threatened or pressured him.

Starodubsky said his son was a US citizen and that his wife held two passports.

An insider’s spat?

Starodubsky drove up in an expensive Mercedes with a muscle-bound driver for an interview with the Post.

He said he moved to the US with his family in 1979 when he was nine years old. He now says he works as an electrician in Chicago.

A 2004 announcement by Patch Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Praxis Pharmaceuticals Inc, states that Starodubsky was appointed the company’s director of business development for Ukraine and Russia.

The announcement refers to Starodubsky as “an international businessman with very strong political and business contacts in both Ukraine and Russia.”

Starodubsky said he was employed by Patch as a consultant, but currently has no business interests in Ukraine.

Starodubsky and Fridenthal, 31, met and married in the US in the mid-1990s.

“It was true love, a real marriage,” Starodubsky said.

By 2002, the couple had separated, and in 2004 Starodubsky filed for divorce.

“I only found out about the divorce after the fact,” Fridenthal said, adding that she remarried in 2005.

Fridenthal took her son Michael to Ukraine in 2002 together with Starodubsky, then returned alone to collect her things from Starodubsky a few months later.

Starodubsky said he hadn’t been able to bring legal action against Irina in the US because she left before being served a subpoena.

“They apparently planned the whole thing from the start,” Starodubsky said, referring to Fridenthal and Rybak.

Fridenthal denied this accusation.

Source: Kyiv Post