From Zelensky to Putin: who is the deputy Kovalev, who exchanged the "Servant of the People" for the occupiers of the Kherson region
On August 29, 2019, Oleksiy Kovalyov officially became the People's Deputy of Ukraine: he joined the Servant of the People faction and became a member of the Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy
Three years ago, Oleksiy Kovalyov was an agrarian businessman in the Kherson region and few people outside the region knew about him.
In 2019, he became a People's Deputy and at the peak of the popularity of Volodymyr Zelensky and "Servants of the People" he entered parliament as a majority member of this political force.
Kovalev was first talked about loudly at the end of 2021, when he, an ordinary parliamentarian, suddenly became the owner of an all-Ukrainian TV channel for many .
And a few months after the start of Russia's large-scale war against Ukraine, all the media wrote about Kovalev: he not only went to the occupied territory of Kherson region , but also announced his intention to cooperate with the Russian occupation administration .
Will he lose his parliamentary mandate now and how can this happen?
What did Oleksiy Kovalyov do in the parliament for three years and whose interests did he lobby for?
But thanks to whom and why Alexei Kovalev became a People's Deputy from the "Servant of the People"?
Radio Svoboda was looking for answers to these questions. Oleksiy Kovalyov
owes his appearance among the majority servants of the "Servant of the People" in the Kherson region to the "shadow curator" of the mono-majority Ilya Pavlyuk . Radio Svoboda was assured of this by several influential people who are aware of the nuances of the 2019 parliamentary election campaign. According to them, Pavlyuk then was engaged in selection of candidates for "ZE-team" in Odessa, Nikolaev and Kherson areas.
"Kovalev is a middle-class agrarian businessman in the Kherson region. Such candidates, of course, were welcomed, so it is clear why he became the majority. Who offered it to Pavlyuk? Probably (and most likely) Vitaliy Bulyuk is a very well-known agrarian in the Kherson region, who communicates closely with Pavlyuk , ”one of the interlocutors told Radio Svoboda.
"There were no filth or things that could raise questions about Kovalev then. We were told that he worked at the regional headquarters and was an activist , ”another interlocutor familiar with the details added to Radio Svoboda.
After the election, the same Pavlyuk, according to sources in the Verkhovna Rada, recommended to include Kovalev in one of the most prestigious parliamentary committees - on finance, tax and customs policy.
Why? Radio Svoboda inquired about this directly from the "shadow curator" of the mono-majority , Ilya Pavlyuk. But at the time of publication, he did not answer the questions, although he read them.
"Lyosha - free cash register"
On August 29, 2019, Oleksiy Kovalyov officially became a People's Deputy of Ukraine and became a member of the Servant of the People faction.
At the beginning of the parliamentary term, he, as mentioned in the majority, did not differ much. But pretty quickly everything changed.
He was "deciding." I tried to make money on everything. All deputies knew it. Someone even jokingly called him "Lesha is a free box office ," one of the interlocutors in parliament told Radio Svoboda. At the same time, Kovalev was not officially suspected of corruption.
Becoming a member of the tax committee, Kovalev headed the department of excise tax and legislative regulation of the market of alcohol, alcohol and tobacco. But he was not only engaged in this.
"Several times he proposed certain solutions for" Eurobonds ". For some reason, he was very interested in it , "an interlocutor familiar with the situation told Radio Svoboda.
But deputies are in no hurry to speak publicly about how Kovalev worked in the committee.
"No comment ," said Danilo Hetmantsev , chairman of the parliamentary committee on finance, tax and customs policy , when asked by Radio Svoboda.
Instead, deputies are more talkative in informal conversations about Kovalev's activities.
From the first day in the committee, Lyosha tried to "muddy". When the "tobacconists" were looking for a person to protect their interests, he quickly reconciled with them. Plus, he immediately got hooked on Yatsenko's money. Everyone saw it: Yatsenko could approach him both in the hall and on the sidelines and give some instructions, " a member of the tax committee told Radio Svoboda.
According to him, it was Kovalev who in 2019 defended the so-called "Yatsenko sites" from liquidation . (This is a corruption scheme in the form of electronic platforms-intermediaries, which for money helped to provide property valuation reports to the State Property Fund, and which, as journalists of the Bihus.Info project found , were connected with Anton Yatsenko - ed.) .
"Lyosha was the person who went and offered money to the members of the committee so that this topic would not be touched upon with the playgrounds ," the interlocutor told Radio Svoboda.
The fact that Kovalev really defended the scheme of "Yatsenko's sites" is confirmed by the first deputy chairman of the tax committee and a member of the "Voice" faction Yaroslav Zheleznyak .
He was the author of the bill, which preserved these "platforms", openly defended them in committee. His role in this issue was then one of the determinants. In general, Kovalev proposed bills on land valuation in the committee and lobbied for the interests of the tobacco industry , ”Zheleznyak recalls.
Meanwhile, MP Anton Yatsenko claims that he has never had or has any dealings with "servant of the people" Oleksiy Kovalyov.
"I have never had any relationship with him (especially financial). And in general, how could I give him any instructions? Am I the head of the Servant of the People faction or President Zelensky or Pavlyuk, whose group Kovalev is rumored to belong to? My "influence" on him is the same delusion as on my involvement in some "platforms" , Yatsenko said in a comment to Radio Svoboda.
According to the parliamentarian, information about his connection with Kovalev is being spread because he criticizes the head of the tax committee Danylo Hetmantsev and the current government in general.
Purchase a channel
On December 28, 2021, Oleksiy Kovalyov unexpectedly announced for many the acquisition of Channel 4 and promised to make it "one of the information leaders."
Media experts saw this as another stage in the "formation of a pro-government media pool": in their opinion, Channel 4 should now work for the President's Office.
However, close circle of Volodymyr Zelensky assures: everything was not so at all.
"Even the president was surprised when Kovalev announced the purchase of this channel. He did not know about it. I wondered what was happening. That is, it was definitely not us. This was not our channel. Most of all, Kovalev wanted to insure Medvedchuk-Kozak's media pool in this way. "- one of the influential representatives of the ruling elite, close to Volodymyr Zelensky, told Radio Svoboda.
Mykhailo Podoliak , an anti-crisis adviser to the head of the OP, says the same .
"The Office of the President certainly had nothing to do with the strange acquisition of the TV channel by the future collaborator Kovalev. That would be absolute nonsense. "Such" information "was extremely false, " he told Radio Svoboda.
According to Podoliak, such messages were spread in their own interests by various political groups in order to compromise the OP, although in fact Kovalev needed Channel 4 "exclusively in the interests of Russia and its domestic satellites."
The first "alarm bells"
For a long time, Kovalev's actions and statements did not have pro-Russian sentiments. This is emphasized by the representatives of the majority, with whom Radio Svoboda spoke.
According to them, the first questions to him began to appear only during the 2020 election campaign.
"All our deputies participated in the formation of lists for local authorities. And it was then that the "first bells" appeared, because all the candidates proposed by Kovalev were in one way or another connected with the OPZH, and he proposed to make Kateryna Gandziuk the head of one of the local communities in the Kherson region. In other words, there were questions about his personnel policy , ”a representative of the Servants of the People, who is familiar with the details of the 2020 election campaign, told Radio Svoboda.
Already during the large-scale war - when Kovalev went to the occupied part of the Kherson region, stayed there and declared his intention to cooperate with the self-proclaimed government - the majority understood: everything was not easy.
"It is clear that he, as well as the rest of the Kherson collaborators, worked well before the war, systematically. He consciously stayed there and consciously began to probe the ground there. Only a person taken out of context can do under pressure what Kovalev is doing now, but he is definitely not. I am sure that it is voluntary for him, "said one of the influential interlocutors in the People's Servant in an interview with Radio Svoboda.
"He is such that he will adapt to any government. That's why I'm 99 percent sure he's not doing it under pressure. It is no coincidence that he went there and stayed there, ”another deputy, who is familiar with the details of Kovalev's political path, told Radio Svoboda.
Politically impotent with a mandate
Despite the official expulsion of Oleksiy Kovalyov from the Servant of the People faction, he still has the mandate of a People's Deputy. But now this status, as Radio Svoboda assured in parliament, does not give him special opportunities.
"He has nothing now: no electronic signature, no access to SEDO. His work tablet was found and turned off, office keys were taken away, assistants were fired. We will remove him from the committee and he will be virtually impotent , "one of the influential interlocutors in the Verkhovna Rada told Radio Svoboda.
So far, Kovalev is still a member of the parliamentary committee on finance, tax and customs policy. But in it, Radio Svoboda was told that even at the beginning of the full-scale war, this deputy was cut off from any communication within the committee.
What to do with Kovalev's mandate?
Can the Rada deprive Kovalev of his deputy mandate? Yes, maybe. But this requires either his personal statement (as was the case with Ilya Kiva ) or a guilty verdict.
The Servant of the People does not believe that Kovalev can write a statement on resigning. More hopes are placed on the second option (especially since back in April they asked the Office of the Prosecutor General and the SBU to "thoroughly investigate" his stay and activities in the occupied territory of Kherson region).
"We will not call on our former colleague to resign. If conscience, honor and dignity are already lost - there is no point in appealing to them. Let it happen according to the law, after the court verdict , ” the mono-majority faction emphasizes .
The President's Office is also convinced that Kovalev will receive a guilty verdict.
"It seems to me that Mr. Kovalev's future destiny is obvious: a specific collaborator who will definitely go through the whole stage - from treason to the prison cell," - said in a comment to Radio Liberty anti-crisis adviser to the chairman of the OP Mikhail Podolyak.
How soon can a court verdict against Kovalev appear?
"It's not a matter of two days, but it can be done in a month," one of the influential interlocutors in parliament told Radio Svoboda.
At the same time, another authoritative MP from the majority called: the verdict of the court, although it can be done quickly, but the main thing - that he was legally competent.
"It can be done in a hurry, but then the purity will be questionable. It is necessary that all necessary investigative actions take place, "the interlocutor told Radio Svoboda.
And what does Kovalev himself say?
Back in mid-April, Oleksiy Kovalyov , in a comment to Schemes, stressed that he "did not betray the interests of the state" and "may return at any time and provide any explanations to any law enforcement agency."
According to him, he went to the occupied territory of Kherson region for two reasons: because of voters and because of his own business.
"25,000 citizens voted for me, so I think it's wrong to throw them at random ... We also have a lot of business, which is designed, of course, not for me, my relatives and so on. You see, looting began in the first days… Various materials were stolen from shops, warehouses and offices , ”Kovalev explained the purpose of his trip to the occupied territories.
He also said that the Russian military came to his house to conduct a search, but "found nothing."
Asked whether he was afraid that he could be taken prisoner as an MP and later exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, Kovalev said that "everyone is afraid, no one wants to be taken prisoner, but this is life."
In addition, the parliamentarian stressed that he did not have access to classified information, so "he does not know what exactly he can tell the Russian troops."
But if in April the deputy assured that he did not cooperate with the occupation authorities, then on June 8 a post appeared on his Facebook page in which he announced his intention to cooperate with the Russian occupation administration .
Radio Svoboda has asked Oleksiy Kovalyov to comment on all new questions about his activities mentioned in this article and is waiting for an answer.