Vadim Rabinovich, the multi-millionaire Jewish businessman running for president in Ukraine’s first post-revolution election in May, has said that he is willing to work with the far-right party Pravy Sektor if he takes up office.
The nationalist party played a major role in the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, but has been criticised for harbouring violent fascists.
During the battle with government forces in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Kiev’s central square, some Pravy Sektor protesters sported yellow armbands with the insignia of the Social National Assembly, a largely Kiev-based neo-Nazi organisation.
Mr Rabinovich said: “Pravy Sektor is criticised by everyone but has publically attacked antisemitism and said they will fight it. I have no questions for them on this. I am ready to build a new Ukraine with them.”
He denied, however, that he would have anything to do with Svoboda, another far-right party that has links to neo-Nazi parties across Europe including Germany’s NPD. Last month, Svoboda MPs entered the office of head of the Ukraine’s state television company, beat him up and forced him to resign.
“Svoboda has never publically denied its antisemitism, and never come out against anti-democracy forces. I will have nothing to do with them.”
On his recipe to lift Ukraine out its dire economic situation — the IMF last month agreed a $14-$18bn loan to Kiev — Mr Rabinovich has a three-point plan.
“First we have to establish a bank to sell off land and property. This will release $80bn. We must stop subsidising industries such as metal and iron. We also have to focus on high-tech and part of this means better education in the field of technology.”
Mr Rabinovich made his fortune in the metals industry after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has poured millions into Jewish causes. He is the founder of JN1, a Kiev-based Jewish news channel, and the European Jewish Parliament, a body designed to bring Jewish leaders together and facilitate dialogue with governments and the Muslim world.
Like most Ukrainian oligarchs, he has had bruising battles with the state and rival businessmen. He survived an assassination attempt and was sentenced to 14 years in the 1980s for doing business on the black market — a charge he denies.
If conflict breaks out with Russia, he said, “Ukraine will turn to the far right. But there are two ways. Either kill one another or talk. I am a man of peace. We have to talk to Russians, there is no other way. And even better with whiskey.”