Ukrainian tycoon tired of government perturbations fears for his business

Viktor Pinchuk, the tycoon son-in-law of former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, hopes the country's new government will create a better climate for Ukrainian and foreign businesses.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, dismissed last week by President Viktor Yushchenko along with her government, had initiated a legal battle to try to seize Pinchuk's metals factories as part of her government's review of questionable privatization deals. Pinchuk accused Tymoshenko of using the program to wage a personal vendetta against him.

"We have now (had) a very important, very expensive lesson," Pinchuk told then. "Now we have to go ahead. We have a second chance."

Yushchenko tapped a former economist, Yuriy Yekhanurov, to replace Tymoshenko, and announced Tuesday that he was reversing Tymoshenko's policy of reconsidering past privatization deals.

"It is never too late to win," said Pinchuk, who became the Tymoshenko government's enemy No. 1.

Yekhanurov "understands very well how important the investment climate is to the country and he has a chance to stop the recession in the economy and move forward," Pinchuk said.

Pinchuk also said he was hopeful that Yekhanurov's government would be more receptive to reaching an agreement with him over the properties it claims he bought illegally under Kuchma.

Last month, the Ukrainian government set a US$2 billion starting price for a 93.2 percent stake in Ukraine's largest steel producer, Kryvorizhstal. The mill had been controlled by Pinchuk and another tycoon, Rinat Akhmetov, but a Ukrainian court ruled that its 2003 privatization was marred by numerous violations. Pinchuk still has an appeal before Ukraine's High Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

"To carry out another tender, I will not say this lightly, it is adventurism," Pinchuk said. "The property is ours. No serious investors could in principle participate in the sale of such a property."

Another Pinchuk business, the Nikopol steel mill, sparked a crisis in Tymoshenko's government, when she was accused of intervening to help a minority shareholder gain key management seats after a court approved the renationalization. Yushchenko described Tymoshenko's alleged mishandling of the Nikopol renationalization as "the last straw" before she was dismissed. She has denied the accusations.

Pinchuk said that while he was more hopeful now that the business climate would improve, a threat still existed, particularly with the March parliamentary elections on the horizon.

He also said that he expected more business leaders to seek a place in parliament, particularly to secure the legal immunity that comes with legislative service, the AP reports.

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