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Ukrainian Oligarch Tears into Radio Liberty Journalist for Asking Simple Question

Billionaire oligarch and Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoysky lost his cool in the late-night hours of March 19-20 when a reporter from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service asked him why he had just spent six hours with a group of armed men in the headquarters of the state-owned Ukrtransnafta oil-transit company

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This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe


One would expect Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians to be made of sterner stuff.

<figcaption>Ukrainian oligarch and politician Ihor Kolomoysky</figcaption>
Ukrainian oligarch and politician Ihor Kolomoysky

Billionaire oligarch and Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoysky, however, lost his cool in the late-night hours of March 19-20 when a reporter from RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service -- together with other journalists -- asked him why he had just spent six hours with a group of armed men in the headquarters of the state-owned Ukrtransnafta oil-transit company.

The question by journalist Serhiy Andrushko sent Kolomoysky into an expletive-filled rant in which he urged RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, to go looking for Russian saboteurs rather than tracking his movements. The profanity-laced tirade lasted more than a minute and was caught on video.

On March 19, the supervisory board of Ukrtransanafta, in which Kolomoysky's PrivatGroup holds a 42-percent stake, dismissed the board chairman and Kolomoysky associate, Oleksandr Lazorko. 

This followed a decision by Ukraine's parliament to lower the necessary quorum for shareholder votes at state-owned companies, from 60 percent to 50 percent.

Kolomoysky called the actions a "corporate raid." 

WATCH: Ihor Kolomoysky's Tirade (In Russian, No Subtitles)

The governor, who also provides funding for pro-Kyiv battalions, may also have been upset with Andrushko and Radio Svoboda because of a video report published on March 12 that outlines Kolomoysky's manipulation of his political ties to benefit his business interests.

In one exchange from last year shown in that report, Andrushko asks why Kolomoysky has Ukrainian, Israeli, and Cypriot passports when Ukrainian law forbids dual citizenship.

"In the constitution it says dual citizenship is forbidden," Kolomoysky says. "But triple citizenship is not forbidden."

Ukraine's state Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information has called on Kolomoysky to apologize to Andrushko, saying he violated his oath as a public servant and the rant showed "signs of obstruction of journalism." 

In a statement, RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic condemned Kolomoysky's "verbal attack."

"It is a violation of all international standards and decency that a public official would verbally abuse a journalist," he said. "It is also reckless and potentially dangerous. We also condemn the outrageous accusations made against RFE/RL, whose job is to serve the public interest by providing independent, unbiased, and accurate reporting to the people of Ukraine."

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