The co-owner of Kyivstar, Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, has been sanctioned by Kiev
Kiev is still planning to seize the country’s largest mobile service provider, Kyivstar, a senior Ukrainian government official has said. Former CIA director and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is on the company’s board of directors.
The mobile carrier is owned by the Dutch-headquartered telecom giant Veon, in which a majority share is held by LetterOne, a company co-founded by a group of Russian businessmen sanctioned by Kiev. There is an ongoing legal battle in Ukraine for the assets of Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and Andrey Kosogov, including part of Kyivstar.
Rostislav Shurman, the point man for economy in the office of President Vladimir Zelensky, said the probability of Kyivstar being seized by the government was “high” when asked about the firm by the Ekonomicheskaya Pravda business news website.
“Relevant services are now studying the present legal situation,” he said, but declined to predict whether the entire company or just the part owned by LetterOne would be affected.
Last month, a court in Kiev arrested 99.9% of Kyivstar at the request of the Prosecutor General’s office. A week later, the order was amended to limit the arrest to just 47.85% of the firm, with the court blaming a “typo” in the government’s original request.
The part of the interview with Shurman in which Kyivstar was mentioned related to a program that he oversees for the privatization of confiscated property.
Veon announced that Mike Pompeo was joining Kyivstar as “an independent non-executive director” last week. He was a member of the US House of Representatives before becoming a prominent member in the administration of President Donald Trump – first as a spy chief and later as the country’s top diplomat.
Pompeo has no background in telecommunications, but used to co-own an aerospace firm in the US and later headed an oil equipment manufacturer before pursuing a political career.
In May 2022, Kiev created a legal framework for nationalizing the assets of people whom it considers to be enemies of the state. Mikhail Fridman has been on its list of sanctioned individuals since October last year, but the Ukrainian government has reportedly hesitated to seize Kyivstar due to its large market share and the presence of Western investors among Veon’s owners.
The Veon announcement also declared its full withdrawal from the Russian market. The company has business interests in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, in addition to Ukraine.
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