A political guidebook to the 2012 UEFA Cup in Ukraine
When the decision in favour of Poland and Ukraine was made, Grigori Surkis, the president of Ukrainian Football Federation, cheered and called the award of the championship an historical decision.
At the end of October 2010 I went to Kiev to participate in the Sixth „Kiev Dialogue“. The subject of the conference was - Corruption in Politics, Economy and Administration – Strategies of the Civil Society and the International Community to fight against Corruption. Various German political foundations were invited to participate, from the Friedrich Naumann foundation to the Friedrich Ebert foundation. There were over 200 participants, predominantly representatives of social and civic organizations.
A few government functionaries were present, but no representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior attended the event. The subject of various speeches and discussions was the current situation in Ukraine. The atmosphere became strangely quiet when representatives of the Party of Regions (PR) spoke. They described the situation in Ukraine very optimistically: Ukraine was on the way to Europe, it was a lawful state where its democratic principles went unchallenged.
In the evening I met Vlad, a colleague from Kiev Post newspaper. I told him that I had been invited by Grigori (name changed), whom I had known for over ten years. That day was his birthday, and I absolutely had to attend the celebration. Vlad hesitated a little, because the restaurant where Grigori celebrated his birthday, was considered an upmarket place for the Ukrainian elite. I insisted that he join us, so that he could meet Grigori, quite a dubious figure in Kiev.
In front of the entrance of the brightly illuminated restaurant there were luxury cars parked, which is not unusual; inside everything was stylish: black tables, black marble floors, personnel dressed in black. Grigori sat at the very end of the room; in front of him was a table with bottles of champagne.
A young black-haired lady “lolled” near him. Next to him sat his apparent friend, also accompanied by a very young lady. Everyone smoked a water-pipe in turns. What a change in this man! Only several years ago he was a passionate devotee of the current leader of opposition Julia Timoshenko and proudly showed me pictures where he and Julia Timoschenko celebrated the victory of the orange revolution together at the Independence Square in Kiev.
He told me that he had become responsible for the security service of Anatoli Prysyazhnyuk, the Kiev regional Governor, for the dominating Party of the Regions (PR) of the current president Janukowitsch.
“Wow”, I thought, “you’ve changed your loyalty. “
I wondered who was the person next to him. Initially he didn't give any names, he only said that the man was an entrepreneur and a member of the Parliament, and that he also used to be in Timoschenko's party. Both laughed, as if they were stoned. Now he took the side of the Party of the Regions. Later he sent me a text message with the name of his friend: Sergei Vasilenko.
On the next day, while the congress members were stuffing themselves at the buffet table in the hotel, Vadim Rabinovich who had been the owner of the football-club FK Arsenal Kiev for two years came to visit me,. I had known him for over ten years. He had bought the club in the times of financial hardship and sold it two years later to Kiev Mayor for one Hryvnia, which equals to nine Euro cents.
Vadim Rabinovich is a reserved millionaire, who has long been active in the mass-media sector. His comment on the widespread corruption was: “in Ukraine, really, nothing changed. With regards to corruption… Who actually bribes the Ukrainian authorities, is it the responsible political class, the decision makers? Let’s rather look at the many foreign companies, that make investments under the auspice of one or another prime minister. I think that the Ukrainian side is not the only one to blame, but also foreign enterprises, that resort to corruption to make investments. “
When I mentioned Grigori Surkis, the man who brought the 2012 European Championship to Ukraine, Vadim Rabinovich, who in other respects spoke openly, now wrapped himself in silence.
When the decision in favour of Poland and Ukraine was made, Grigori Surkis, the president of Ukrainian Football Federation, cheered and called the award of the championship an historical decision. Grigori Surkis is a devoted football fan and one of the biggest oligarchs in Ukraine. Without him, as it was observed, the European Championship would have never reached Eastern Europe. Surkis got the votes of Eastern European delegates to help Michel Platinis become head of UEFA. Give so as to get.
On the UEFA web page Surkis is listed as a member of the executive committee since 2004. He was selected as a member of the Ukrainian Olympic committee and three times as president of Ukrainian football league. His mandate came to its end in 2012. Nothing else is known about his life, except for the fact that he has two children.
Between 1975 and 1991 he worked as an engineer in Kiev city administration construction department for very little money. After Ukraine became independent in 1991 his life took a dramatic turn. He invested money, wherever it came from, in oil, agriculture and banks. In 2000 he bought a TV channel for 1.5 m USD (about 1.04 m Euro), Kiev journalists called that a very good deal. Later I had the opportunity to watch a video about Surkis.
This secret video made in 1998 with a hidden camera in the apartment of a well-known crime boss, showing him having a conversation with a politician from Surkis’ party - the United Social-Democratic Party of Ukraine (VSDPU). The three men had a lively discussion about how Surkis' election campaign could be supported in order to let him enter the parliament. After some time they agreed that the crime boss would provide sponsorship for the election campaign and that Surkis would return the favour.
As a matter of course Surkis was elected member of the parliament, where many delegates would normally buy their mandate for a large sum of money. In her speech to the Kiev Parliament delegate Natalia Witrenko spoke about the delegates' readiness to hold investigations against various politicians' and their connections with criminal activities; when she also mentioned Grigori Surkis this is what happened: in the parliament lobby Grigori Surkis said to the delegate Marschenko: „Either she takes back her words, or some bodily harm will be done. “
After this discussion Marschenko took the speaker's desk in the plenary assembly hall: „I warn you and all others. Pray to God that not a single hair of Natalia Witrenko's head will be touched. “
It's worth mentioning that Grigori Surkis participated in Kiev mayor elections in 1999 and lost. The Court later nullified the votes he received at the election, because he presented false information regarding his income tax. According to his tax declaration, he was poor as a beggar and did not even have bank accounts.
All that’s past history. But has anything in the least changed today in the Ukranian football business?