Ukraine First Lady Bought Apartment from Tycoon Below Market Price

The wife of Ukraine’s president-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy bought in 2013 an upscale penthouse apartment on the Black Sea for less than half of its 2012 list price from a controlling shareholder of a bank enmeshed in a corruption investigation-- Reuters reported Wednesday.

360px-Volodymyr Zelensky 31 March 2019Volodymyr Zelenskiy (CC 3.0)Olena Zelenskiy bought the apartment from businessman Oleksandr Buryak, a former member of parliament of Ukraine and a former controlling shareholder in Brokbiznesbank. Some of the bank’s executives are suspected of embezzlement.

Prosecutors have seized assets of two companies owned by Buryak because they suspect the firms had benefited from the alleged fraud, Reuters said.

Olena Zelenska’s ownership of the property--now valued at $790,668 -- casts another shadow on her husband’s image as a reformer with no ties to Ukraine’s wealthy elite.

Information about Zelenska’s apartment was in the asset declaration filed by Zelenskiy this year, and in Ukrainian property records. Those declarations show that Zelenska is the owner of a three-bedroom penthouse apartment in a gated complex called “Emperor” in Yalta, Crimea.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political outsider who played the president of Ukraine in a television series called “Servant of the People,” ran on an energetically anti-corruption platform, promising to increase penalties for corrupt civil servants, and end parliamentarians’ immunity to investigation.

But shadows dogged his campaign trail, as reporters and other politicians raised questions about his ties to Igor Kolomoisky, an oligarch who fled Ukraine after US$5 billion disappeared from PrivatBank.

Kolomoisky is currently under investigation by the FBI. Some, like Jonathan Brunson, who worked at the US embassy in Kyiv, say that his support of Zelenskiy in the elections was an attempt to humiliate Ukraine’s current president, Petro Poroshenko.

Others say Kolomoisky might use Zelenskiy’s election as a way to return to Ukraine.