Zelensky’s diaspora delegation led by economic hit-woman who led plunder of Ukraine

by | Dec 27, 2022


Steel fencing and police barricades ringed the perimeter of the US Capitol Building hours ahead of the arrival of Volodymyr Zelensky. The Ukrainian president appeared in Washington DC in the early afternoon on December 21, 2022, emerging from a US military jet clad in an olive drab sweatshirt and cargo pants, and charged with a singular mission: convince Congress and the Biden administration to send his government more than the whopping $45 billion in military and humanitarian aid it had already allocated for 2023.

Just outside the police barricades, at the eastern side of the Capitol grounds, as a demonstration by a small but dedicated group of antiwar activists wound down, a group of around 20 Ukrainians in dark business attire gathered for a photo. They were on their way into the Capitol, where they were to function as Zelensky’s personal cheering section, representing the Ukrainian diaspora before a nationally televised audience.

I approached members of the delegation to challenge them on Zelensky’s lobbying push and the planned expansion of the NATO proxy war he is leading against Russia. My questions were met with a torrent of worn-out talking points about Ukraine’s crusade to defend democracy, accusations that Moscow was sponsoring my reporting, and a complaint that $45 billion in US aid was too little.

Several of the Ukrainian delegates I encountered on the way into the US Capitol happened to have played significant roles in the transformation of Ukraine from a neutral state into a hyper-militarized vassal of the US and the IMF.

The most voluble among them, acting as a de facto spokesperson for the group, was Natalie Jaresko. A Ukrainian-American financial industry operative, Jaresko presided over several IMF austerity packages and the rampant privatization of Ukraine’s economy as the country’s Minister of Finance in its post-coup government.

The economic hit-woman

In our exchange, Jaresko unabashedly defended Zelensky’s outlawing of 11 opposition political parties, his banning of opposition media, and his plans to blacklist the Russian wing of the Orthodox Church. “It’s martial law!” Jaresko exclaimed, justifying Kiev’s authoritarian crackdown as a necessary wartime measure.

Jaresko has seen the corruption and de-democratization of Ukraine from within. She helped open up the country’s economy to Western multinationals after being appointed to the Foreign Investors Advisory Council of Victor Yuschenko, a neoliberal president who gained power thanks to the “Orange Revolution” backed by US intelligence and Western-aligned oligarchs George Soros and Boris Berisovsky in 2005.

Under Yuschenko’s reign, Ukraine’s government officially heroized the World War Two-era Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. During our exchange, Jaresko deflected when asked if she supported Bandera. However, her brother, John, has presided over the construction of a memorial in Bloomingdale, New Jersey to “Heroes of Ukraine” including World War Two-era Nazi collaborators, according to researcher Moss Robeson.

Nine years later, following the Euromaidan coup also engineered by Washington, Jaresko rose to Minister of Finance. She was granted Ukrainian citizenship on the day of her appointment.

Through her new post, Jaresko assumed control of Datagroup, the company that oversees Ukraine’s telecom sector. As former investment executive Tim Duff recounted, Jaresko “immediately proceeded to squeeze her competitor, the owner of Datagroup, out of business using the kind of foreign currency loan debt scam favored by Mafia hoods and economic hitmen employed by the CIA.”

While in Kiev, steering the government alongside a cadre of Ukrainian-American operatives, Jaresko grumbled about her salary while angling for opportunities to supplement it. In a withering analysis of her financial self-dealing, the late investigative journalist Robert Parry found that Jaresko “collected $1.77 million in bonuses from a US-taxpayer-financed investment fund where her annual compensation was supposed to be limited to $150,000”

As Jaresko lapped up praise from Beltway corporate media, the NATO-sponsored Atlantic Council that employed her as a visiting fellow acknowledged that under her watch, “the average monthly wage in Ukraine is only $194, an inflation rate of 55 percent is decimating citizens’ purchasing power, and a painful IMF-mandated austerity program involving sweeping cuts to social programs is being implemented.”

In 2017, Jaresko was rewarded with an appointment and $625,000 salary as director of Promesa, the unelected US board charged with restructuring Puerto Rico’s debt – and which average Puerto Ricans refer to derisively as “La Junta.” Jaresko resigned rom her position this April after leaving Puerto Rico’s economy firmly in the hands of Wall Street creditors.

The all-encompassing shock therapy that Jaresko prescribed from Puerto Rico to Ukraine was only possible thanks to society-wide disasters. In San Juan, it was Hurricane Maria that placed neoliberal capitalism on overdrive; in Kiev, it was a coup and a proxy war. Indeed, the conflict with Russia has provided Zelensky with justification to strip 70 percent of Ukraine’s workers of collective bargaining rights and arrest everyone from his political rivals to socialist organizers – a wave of repression that Jaresko explicitly justified in her exchange with me.

The Ukrainian president accompanied his Pinochet-style crackdown with an appeal this October at the NYSE Stock Exchange for multinational corporations to deepen their exploitation of his country’s economy and resources. As The Grayzone’s Alex Rubinstein reported, Zelensky’s foreign investment initiative plastered the word “deregulation” across the homepage of its website.

The diaspora lobbyist

As I challenged the Ukrainian delegation on the nearly $100 billion of military aid the US has forked over to Kiev, a bespectacled middle-aged man interjected, demanding to know why I supposedly supported an “unprovoked” assault on an “innocent people.”

I countered that I opposed the Ukrainian military’s 8-year-long attack on the ethnic Russian population of Donetsk and Lugansk, where thousands had been killed before the Russian military ever entered Ukraine in February 2022. I then asked the indignant character if he also opposed the shelling of civilians in the eastern republics.

His reply came in the form of a firm “no!”

That person turns out to be a member of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe named Orest Deychakiwsky. His commission is charged with monitoring Ukrainian compliance with OSCE commitments, including those Kiev made – and relentlessly violated –– to the Minsk Accords. As former German Chancellor Angela Merkel confessed this December, Ukraine’s Western backers used the Minsk Accords as a stalling tactic to prepare it for military conflict with Russia.

The son of a former member of Stepan Bandera’s OUN-B organization that collaborated with Nazi Germany towards the end of World War II, Deychakiwsky serves as the Vice President of the US-Ukraine Foundation. He previously worked at the Helsinki Commission under Sen. Ben Cardin, the pro-war Democrat who sponsored the Magnitsky Act imposing the first set of harsh post-Cold War sanctions on Russia and helping set the stage for the current conflict.

The Maidan infowarrior

A member of the Ukrainian delegation who remained in the background while her fellow delegates jawed at me strongly resembled a prominent functionary of the post-Maidan media complex spawned with hundreds of millions in Western donations.

She closely resembled Anastasia Stanko, the deputy editor of Hromadske, a broadcast network she helped to found on the eve of the Maidan coup. Stanko was honored by the corporate-funded Committee to Protect Journalists with its 2018 press freedom award.

While opposition and Russian-language outlets have been banned by Zelensky, pro-NATO infowar instruments like Hromadske have flourished thanks to massive donations from the EU, USAID, the Thomson Foundation and transnational elites like Paypal founder Pierre Omidyar.

Though Hromadske has attempted to strike the liberal tone its benefactors prefer, it has occasionally provided a platform for genocide-level anti-Russian nationalism.

This March, days after Russia launched its military operation inside Ukraine, a guest on Hromadske ranted that the ethnic Russian population of Donetsk was filled “superfluous” and “absolutely useless people” who “must be killed.”

Researcher Moss Robeson noted in his analysis of Zelensky’s Ukrainian diaspora delegation that it also included Andrew Mac, an unpaid advisor to Zelensky described by Politico as “one of the biggest Washington power players for Ukraine.”

“We’re gonna send a lot more!”

With tens of billions more on the way to Ukraine, the country’s debt to international creditors continues to grow, setting the stage for another crushing wave of austerity after the war. The diaspora operatives I encountered on their way into the Capitol gallery appeared poised to guide the plunder from the comfort of suburban America.

In the meantime, lawmakers from both parties can hardly contain their exuberance for expanding the proxy war. As one of the energy industry’s favorite senators, Democrat Joe Manchin, exclaimed when I asked him on a sidewalk outside the Capitol about the billions in military aid on the way to Ukraine, “We’re gonna send a lot more. I’m all in!”

Reprinted with permission from The Grayzone.
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  • Max Blumenthal

    Max Blumenthal is an American journalist, author and blogger who is the editor of The Grayzone website. He was formerly a writer for The Nation, AlterNet, The Daily Beast, Al Akhbar, and Media Matters for America, and has contributed to Al Jazeera English, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

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