A group of Ukrainian business leaders met with senior government officials on Jan. 22 to address concerns over the perceived escalation of law enforcement pressure on businesses, following the recent detention of influential investment banker Ihor Mazepa, Forbes Ukraine reported.
Mazepa, who was a vocal critic of state pressure on business, was detained on Jan. 18 under suspicion of illegally seizing land in Kyiv Oblast. Law enforcement officers also searched the premises of his investment firm Concorde Capital in Kyiv. Mazepa and his press service have vehemently denied the accusations, calling his detention an unfounded attack against his business.
The incident is just the latest in a string of what the business community in Ukraine says is systemic pressure from the state, including unannounced searches, asset seizure, and detentions.
A unnamed business leader speaking to Forbes Ukraine described a tense meeting with government officials, expressing the business communitiess outrange in the in handling of the detainment by law enforcement agencies.
Another business representative detailed the "obvious anger of the businesses" for the perceived pressure on businesses.
Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko, Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov, Senior Advisor to the President's Office Daria Zarivna, and the Verkhovna Rada Chairman Ruslan Stefanchuk led the closed door meeting on Monday, aiming to quell anger among prominent business leaders.
Mazepa has connected his detention with his involvement in forming the "Manifesto 42" group, which emphasized the need to defend Article 42 of Ukraine's Constitution.
The article stipulates that "everyone has the right to engage in legal entrepreneurial activity" and that the state "shall ensure the protection of competition and entrepreneurial activity."
The CEO Club Ukraine community has previously said it is “outraged by the illegal actions of SBI investigators against Ihor Mazepa” and called on law enforcement agencies to stop pressure on business.
In his nightly address, President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the meeting, acknowledging that "real difficulties" and "serious issues" remain in mending the relationship between Ukraine's government and businesses.
"I have familiarized myself with the details and asked to do the necessary groundwork to ensure that all complications between government officials, business, and law enforcers are resolved," the President said, calling for unity.