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Leonid Bershidsky

Putin Gets Personal in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin's battle of words with a Ukrainian oligarch demonstrates the extent to which Russia's conflict with Ukraine is personal for him.

There is an absurd subplot in the very serious conflict between Russia and Ukraine: Russian President Vladimir Putin is publicly trading insults with Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyy, recently appointed governor of the industrial Dnepropetrovsk region by Ukraine's interim government.

According to the most recent version of Forbes' global rich list, Kolomoyskyy is the 828th richest person in the world, with a fortune of $2.1 billion. The flamboyant and contentious magnate, one of the pillars of Dnepropetrovsk's powerful Jewish community, owns a disparate pool of assets in the mining, steel, oil, airline, fertilizer and petrochemical industries. His Privatbank is the biggest in Ukraine. Kolomoyskyy earned the trust of the revolutionary government that came to power after president Viktor Yanukovych's flight to Russia by firmly opposing separatism in the pro-Russian east of the country.