Ukraine struggles against oligarchs and what was in it for hockey?

Ukraine struggles against oligarchs and what was in it for hockey?

The Ukrainian authorities have initiated a war with the oligarchs. Some politicians, for example, Boris Kolesnikov, the owner of the hockey club "Donbass", who falls under the classification of "oligarch", mixes sports and politics, and is the one who discredits hockey in Ukraine.

The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the process of de-oligarchization of the country. One of the key problems for Ukraine is the great political leverage of an inner circle of people who became rich after the collapse of the USSR at the end of the 1990s. The same President Zelensky believes that these people, taking advantage of the situation, grabbed political, financial, industrial and media resources. Moreover, decades later, the oligarchs appear on the lists of the richest Ukrainians. And most importantly, this group of influential people modeled the political, economic structure in the state for themselves, taking into account their own interests. At the same time, the rest of the members of society had to simply accept the situation. Oligarchs monopolized economic sectors and it has led to low standard of living in Ukraine thereby eliminating competition - the main factor in the development of a market economy.

It is no longer a secret that some big businessmen have sports projects, often own clubs - in football, basketball, hockey. The fact that a wealthy person can have interests in a sports discipline is not so bad in itself. They are often the top businessmen who have enough resources to own sports teams. It allows the sport to develop, attract athletes and the sympathy of the audience. But problems begin when sport is used as a tool for the political influence of the same oligarchs who have become a problem for Ukraine.

The foremost example of this is the oligarch Boris Kolesnikov, the owner of the Donbass club, who owns the media and is included in the Forbes list of the richest Ukrainians. One might think that this person is doing a good deed, promoting sports to the masses. But it's a trap. The truth is that his hockey initiative is another political technology used in the country.
So, in Ukraine, such a practice is quite common - before the elections, candidates for deputies build sports grounds with exercise equipment, swings, places for small children in residential areas, and put their name tag on them. In the future, these candidates go from door to door and tell what they have done, encouraging people to vote for them. It happens only before the elections and, in fact, is a veiled buying of votes. This practice is widespread and has repeatedly appeared in the articles of journalists. Kolesnikov acts in a similar way.

But let’s get back to basics. His political activity began in 2006, when he got into the Verkhovna Rada, the main legislative body of the country. Then he became a deputy of the Partia Regionov which was the political force that brought Viktor Yanukovych to power, who became the president of Ukraine. In 2013, unbridled corruption and neglect for all democratic norms became the reason for the so-called “Euromaidan” - a social and political movement that showed that Ukrainians want to live by fair standards.

As is well-known, Yanukovych escaped from Ukraine in 2014 amid massive public protests, but Kolesnikov did not leave the political arena. Literally in the same year, a new political force was created - the "Opposition Bloc", which was co-chaired by Mr. Kolesnikov.

Let’s not get into the political ideology of the "Opposition Bloc", so as not to create the impression of sympathy or, on the contrary, antipathy for this party. Political diversity is the foundation of democracy. Let's just turn to the facts of how Kolesnikov used his political position and mixed sports there.

For example, in October 2020, before the local elections, Kolesnikov visited the city of Druzhkovka, campaigning in support of the candidate for the post of mayor Viktor Bashtovoy, who ran from the Opposition Bloc. Then, among other political slogans, Kolesnikov boasted of a children's and youth sports school, which he opened in 2014 on the basis of the Altair ice arena, thereby showing himself to be a successful political figure. But in March 2021, after the elections, this school was closed, reflecting his selfish goals - when the political necessity disappeared, then the school was not needed.

Another significant moment - in the same 2020, Kolesnikov visited another city of Konstantinovka, where he also supported the candidate for mayor Alexander Kulik. Among the many political slogans, Mr. Kolesnikov invariably mentioned the topic of hockey, for example, he promised to build an ice arena in the city, while praising the team of the Opposition Bloc party.

Kolesnikov constantly uses his status as a politician to use the topic of sports in his political trips around the country. In 2018, during their stay in Zaporozhye and visiting the “Yunost” Sports Palace, together with the local mayor Volodymyr Buryak (later a candidate for elections to the Verkhovna Rada from the Opposition Bloc), they speculated the possibility of building an ice hockey arena.

In 2019, the Kolesnikov Foundation initiated a competition to create a logo for the new ice hockey club “Mariupol”, but immediately used this initiative for political purposes - as the website of the Opposition Bloc party presented this news as an achievement of this politician's work.

But Kolesnikov did not stop there. In the spring of 2021, he announced the creation of a new party project called "Ukraine is our home", although just a few months ago he declared that he was not interested in anything other than hockey.

There are many examples of Kolesnikov mixing up the politics and sports subject. Once again, his political activity, whatever it was, does not concern the topic of this article. The point is that hockey for this figure is another technology for "getting" votes, like the aforementioned sponsors (candidates for deputies) for putting playgrounds in residential areas. Only the last ones have built small sports facilities, and Mr. Kolesnikov has more money, therefore he is building large sports facilities. But hockey is always on his teeth even when it comes to a political dispute.

Mr. Kolesnikov brings discord to the sport with his politically motivated actions. One of his initiatives is the creation of a virtual sports association - in parallel with the “ice hockey federation”, despite the fact that since 1992 there has been an officially operating “Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation” (FHU) in the country, recognized by all international bodies. This can be called an attempted raider takeover of a functioning and legitimate sports organization. Such behavior on the part of the founder of a political party is contrary to all ethical norms.

All this shows the personal qualities of this politician. For example, Mr. Kolesnikov was involved in sexist scandals in which he indecently assaulted people while discussing political issues. So, on March 5, 2021, on the air of the Ukrainian TV channel "Ukraina 24", Mr. Kolesnikov called the children's writer Larisa Nitsa with such a rude expression: "You are a homeless flea bitch, a stray dog." These provocative insults, based on cave stereotypes of gender types, speaks of the unworthy demeanor of the owner of the Donbass hockey club. Kolesnikov did not apologize for the insult.

This is the main problem - sport should remain outside politics, the task for the sports business is to make money and create a positive mood among the fans. In the end, satisfaction with life in society is measured not only by fringe benefits, but also by social, sports initiatives, and highlights.

For Kolesnikov, hockey has become another way to increase his political rating, while he does not bend by any means. He implicates politics in his sports activities, even tries to apply the division in sports into "ours" and "aliens", tries to monopolize it, openly using hate speech. In the above context, the fight against oligarchs in Ukraine is a real confrontation for the country's future without political hypocrisy, without economic, monopoly diktat and without sports barbarism.