Armed raid on Ukraine oil firm ends but fears of oligarch battle remain

 The occupation of the offices of Ukraine`s biggest oil and gas producer by an armed gang suspected of links to a powerful oligarch ended peacefully Tuesday without a feared showdown between the tycoon and the state, Ukrnafta energy firm said.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 25, 2015, 03:31 AM IST

Kiev: The occupation of the offices of Ukraine`s biggest oil and gas producer by an armed gang suspected of links to a powerful oligarch ended peacefully Tuesday without a feared showdown between the tycoon and the state, Ukrnafta energy firm said.

Two days after masked men barricaded themselves inside Ukrnafta`s headquarters in the capital Kiev they left peacefully in a convoy of vehicles, the state-controlled oil company confirmed.

The occupation came just days after armed men also suspected of acting on orders from billionaire oligarch Igor Kolomoisky briefly occupied the headquarters of Ukrnafta`s pipeline management subsidiary, UkrTransNafta. 

Kolomoisky`s Privat Group owns 43 percent of Ukrnafta. The show of force comes hot on the heels of parliament`s passing of a law that increases the state`s control over public companies, weakening Kolomoisky`s de-facto grip on the oil producer.

Kolomoisky is believed to have been angered by the sacking of his ally, UkrTransNafta chief executive Oleksandr Lazorko.

The 52-year-old tycoon, who has supported Ukraine`s pro-Western government in its fight against pro-Russian separatists, came out of the UkrTransNafta building at one point during last week`s raid, claiming he was there to ward off "Russian saboteurs".

One of Ukraine`s most controversial oligarchs, Kolomoisky is also governor of his native Dnipropetrovsk region, which borders the conflict zone between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

He gained in popularity after declaring his commitment to a united Ukraine and is widely credited with helping halt the advance of rebels in the east by establishing a militia that fought alongside government forces to keep Dnipropetrovsk out of rebel hands.

The adoption of the new laws on state-owned companies have strained his alliance with Kiev, however.

Kolomoisky, who is estimated to be worth $2.4 billion (1.7 billion euros), opposed the legislation.

He has often been accused of using threats to build his empire, which stretches from the banking sector to metallurgy through aviation and media.