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Kyiv Post shuts down; staff says this is the owner’s act of vengeance

A 30 March 2018 issue of the Kyiv Post announcing its new owner Adnan Kivan. Photo: Anna Myroniuk
Kyiv Post shuts down; staff says this is the owner’s act of vengeance

Ukraine’s largest English-language newspaper Kyiv Post reports that its owner, Adnan Kivan, is shutting down the newspaper “for a short time.”

“One day, we hope to reopen the newspaper bigger and better,” Kivan said. “I think the entire Kyiv Post team and Brian Bonner for his service to Ukraine and independent journalism in the past 25 years,” Kivan is quoted as saying.

Brian Bonner, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for the last 22 years, said he would retire after closing down the newspaper’s operations and archiving its materials.

Mr. Kivan, a developer of Syrian origin from Odesa, bought the newspaper in 2018. Then, he claimed that he would ensure the newspaper’s independence.

In a recent interview with NV, Kivan stated that he is stopping the Kyiv Post and hopes to relaunch it by the end of the year, but with four language versions Ukrainian, Russian, English, and Arabic.

However, changes were brewing already three weeks ago, when media reported that Kyiv Post, which positioned itself as Ukraine’s Global Voice, will launch a Ukrainian and Russian version. According to those plans, Brian Bonner was to remain as editor-in-chief of the English-language newsroom, while Mr. Kivan’s media manager Olena Rotari was to become deputy chief editor and manage the Ukrainian and Russian versions.

The staff does not believe in Mr. Kivan’s plans to relaunch the newspaper.

In a statement being shared by Kyiv Post journalists, including deputy chief editor Olga Rudenko, they say that the Kyiv Post’s owner’s plans to expand the publication, including the appointment of a hand-picked chief editor, are an attempt to infringe on the newspaper’s independence. As well, they claim that his move to shut down the newspaper is an act of vengeance for the newsroom’s independence, and appeal to everyone who believes in independent journalism to support the team.

“There will be no ‘relaunch’ of Kyiv Post, as announced today. 

There is the murder of Kyiv Post as an independent publication. 

This will be followed by a possible relaunch of a pseudo-Kyiv Post with a team of people completely loyal to the owner. This will not have anything to do with the journalism that the Kyiv Post has been doing for twenty-six (!) years,” Rudenko wrote.

We bring the statement of the staff that is leaving in full:

“The independent Kyiv Post has ceased to exist today, after 26 years.

On the morning of Nov. 8, the paper’s employees came to the office only to be notified that they were all being fired, effective immediately.

Three weeks ago, the Kyiv Post’s owner, Odesa construction tycoon Adnan Kivan, had other plans: To expand the Kyiv Post and launch a Ukrainian-language outlet under the paper’s brand. At the time, this news, as well as the appointment of a hand-picked chief editor to head this new section, were a total surprise to the newsroom.

We saw significant risks in the expansion format chosen by Mr. Kivan. We also saw it as an attempt to infringe on our editorial independence.

The newsroom’s attempt to save the editorial independence of the Kyiv Post elicited opposition from our owner.

We consider the cessation of publication and the dismissal of the paper’s staff to be an act of vengeance by Adnan Kivan. He has officially announced plans to “reorganize” the Kyiv Post and to restart operations in a month with a new team.

We see this as the owner getting rid of inconvenient, fair, and honest journalists.

The Kyiv Post has been the international community’s primary source of news about Ukraine for the last 26 years.

We have exemplified high professional and ethical standards. That is why every president and government in Ukraine’s history attempted to influence the Kyiv Post.

However, even under all this pressure, none of our owners went so far as to shut down the paper. Adnan Kivan himself promised to protect our editorial independence when he bought the Kyiv Post in 2018.

“I highly value the work of Kyiv Post journalists and intend to preserve editorial independence,” Kivan said at the time.

Today, we asked him to sell the paper or to hand over the Kyiv Post trademark to the newsroom. He did not agree.

We call upon our readers and advertisers, businessmen, diplomats, international organizations, and everyone else who believes in independent journalism to support us.

The Kyiv Post newsroom”

Euromaidan Press has reached out to Adnan Kivan and Brian Bonner but has not received a response at publishing time. We will update this article when we do.

Kyiv Post is the oldest Ukrainian English-language weekly newspaper, founded in 1995 by American Jed Sunden. The online version of the publication appeared in 2002.

In 2018, the newspaper was purchased from its then-owner Muhammad Zahoor by Odesa developer Adnan Kivan. He is originally from Syria. In 2012, his fortune was estimated by Ukrainian Forbes at $95 million. In 2016, Odesa media reported that the construction company Kivan Kadorr Group was valued at $1 bn. The businessman’s company has built about 30 residential and commercial buildings in the most expensive areas of Odesa, including the coastline where construction is prohibited.

In 2017, the Security Service accused Kivan of funding Russian-backed militants in the warzone of Donbas. The businessman himself called these accusations “nonsense.”

The apparent closure of Ukraine’s largest English-language publication is a blow to Ukraine’s international communications.  It is especially devastating given that just this year, the English-language version of UNIAN was shut down, and in 2020, UATV shut down international broadcasting. In 2017, the English-language channel Ukraine Today was also shut down, with a part of its team joining UNIAN English’s English-language operations.

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