The whole last week, Ukrainian society has been debating the secret luxury Christmas vacation of President Petro Poroshenko on the Maldives. The vacation was exposed on 18 January 2018 by a high-profile investigation of the joint project of Ukraine’s RFE/RL service together with UA:Pershiy called “Skhemy” and made the #Maldives hashtag trend in the Ukrainian twitter segment.
The work of the “Skhemy” journalists Nataliya Sedliar and Mykhailo Tkach polarized feedback. One part of society condemned what they called attempt to intervene in the private life of the president who also needs rest and used his own money for it. Others were outraged by the fact that Poroshenko can afford such a luxurious vacation during a time of war.
However, the authors of the investigation have also questioned the top-secret fashion in which the president’s trip was organized and whether it meets the necessary safety and ethical requirements.
The journalists hunted down the flight of the plane Falcon 7X. According to their private sources, the president Poroshenko was onboard. They observed the plain landing at the Zhuliany airport and the secret cortege which took away its passengers.
Here are the main facts and conclusions of the investigation.
1. Lack of transparency
“As an official billionaire, Petro Poroshenko can afford a vacation in any country of the world. And as any person he has a right to rest. However, as a president whose responsibilities to manage the country do not stop throughout the year, probably he should not have hidden his absence from the country from society,” starts the investigation.
The journalists stressed that during the four years of Poroshenko’s presidency, neither he nor the President’s Office had officially informed society when the President crossed the state border for a vacation.
On January 15, “Skhemy” sent a request to the President’s Office with the evidence of his vacation and the office acknowledged this fact. The press office informed that President Poroshenko went to a private trip to Maldives “with the aim of a short vacation.”
“He paid for this trip by himself from the own account of declared money which will be reflected in his e-declaration,” says the answer.
Still, it did not answer the request’s following questions:
- In which way was the flight and stay paid for?
- Who was on board with the president during these flights?
- How much did the trip cost?
- Did Poroshenko meet any officials of other countries, politicians, or businessmen during his stay on the Maldives?
- Did he go through the passport and customs control during his departure on January 1 and on January 8 after arriving to Kyiv?
2. The price and place
According to the investigation, President Poroshenko vacationed on the Maldives islands in the “Owner’s villa,” situated on a private island, of the hotel Cheval Blanc over 2-8 January, the holiday season in Ukraine prior to the old-calendar Christmas on 7 January. There, he was mentioned as Mr. Petro Incognito (Ukraine) – a typical service for guests seeking privacy. The journalists calculated that the hotel costs during the vacation amounted to $276,000. Additional expenses (breakfasts, dinners, diving, water sports etc.) amounted to $37,550 and were paid by cash.
3. The companions and border crossing
Relying on their own sources, the journalists found out the list of passengers of the flight Kyiv-Male-Kyiv. According to the data, on the 1 January, 8 passengers left Kyiv and returned on January 8. There were 3 men and 5 women on board. However, neither the president, nor the members of his family were among them. Their names were Vera Lazarieva, Ivan Dekhteriev, Evheniia Safonova, Oleksandr Syshchykov, Kateryna Boieva, Vitalii Kokorin, Olena Senchenko, Olha Herasymenko.
At this point the journalists question whether the corresponding institutions register when the president crosses the border at all?
“Skhemy” sent a request to the State Border Guard Service asking whether Poroshenko crossed the border on January 1 and 8. However, at the moment of publication, there was no answer.
After the publication the State Border Guard Service answered that there were no violations when Poroshenko crossed the border. However, it is unclear whether the president went through the passport control during his flight to Maldives as the State Fiscal Service refuses to inform about it.
4. The plane and the flight
Falcon 7X is one of the most expensive planes which costs about $40 mn. It is able to fly from Kyiv to Maldives for 8 hours without refueling. The Turkish airline Setair rents the Falcon which carried Poroshenko (board number ТС-KMR).
The editorial board of “Skhemy” sent a request to the company asking to calculate how much does the flight from and to Kyiv might cost and figured out that there are 2 options:
- If the plane stayed at the Maldives over the 7 days, the flight Kyiv-Male-Kyiv would cost EUR 154,000.
- If it didn’t stay there – EUR 119,000.
- As the investigation figures out, the plane had waited for the passengers in the airport of Male. This option might be needed if there would be a need to return to Ukraine. Only one day on the 5th of January the plane for unknown reasons flew to Turin and came back.
5. Official security
The journalists revealed that the plane landed not in Ukraine’s largest Boryspil airport, but at the smaller Zhuliany, in Kyiv. There was neither security around, nor the National Guard. When the car of the shooting crew went around the airport it noticed a Mercedes with a minibus which entered the remote gates which lead to the most distant part of the airport. Later, in the same way, 4 more minibuses came. Also, a Land Cruiser with lights turned off arrived. The cortege drove to Poroshenko’s residence in the outskirts of Kyiv
The aircraft did not land in places where private aviation usually lands, but in the most remote part of the airport. According to the journalists, during the 3 hours of observations, no other car used this gate.
While some Ukrainians demand answers to these questions, others say that Petro Poroshenko has the right to do whatever he likes with his own money. Debates continue.