Ukraine adopts law limiting oligarchs after gun attack

Ukraine’s parliament Thursday passed a law meant to reduce the influence of oligarchs in the country a day after an attack on a top presidential aide that officials said could have been a retaliation to the legislation.

Gunmen opened fire on a car carrying President Volodymyr Zelensky’s senior aide, Sergiy Shefir, on Wednesday. 

The new law aims to “prevent risks to national security linked to the excessive influence” of oligarchs, according to the parliament’s website.

Zelensky put forward the legislation earlier this year when he announced a new campaign to limit the authority of the country’s oligarchs, accusing them of exerting too much control over the economy.

Under the law, individuals recognised as “oligarchs” will be prohibited from financing political parties and participating in the privatisation of large companies. 

An individual may be classified as an oligarch if three out of four criteria outlined by the law are met.

These are beneficial ownership of a monopoly company, significant influence over the media, participation in political activities, and a fortune of over 2.4 billion hryvnias (about $87 million). 

Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, powerful tycoon Igor Kolomoisky and former president Petro Poroshenko — an outspoken critic of Zelensky — are among those who could be targeted by the law. 

The legislation was passed in a second and final reading by 279 lawmakers out of a required minimum of 226. 

The vote came after what officials described as an assassination attempt on presidential aide Shefir. 

More than 10 bullets hit Shefir’s car during the attack near the village of Lisnyky, south of the capital Kiev. He escaped unharmed but his driver was “seriously injured.” 

Shefir is a 57-year-old former script writer and longtime associate of comedian-turned-politician Zelensky.

Zelensky, who was on a visit in the United States, promised a “strong response”.  

“That is the price of changes in the state, that is the price of reforms,” he said in his speech to the UN General Assembly. 

Police said they did not rule out that the attack was politically motivated. 

National police chief Igor Klymenko said Wednesday that Shefir may have been targeted as part of a bid to pressure Ukraine’s top leadership or destabilise “the political situation in our country.”