Leonid Chernovetskiy interviewed by Segodnya newspaper, issue #147, July 11, 2013
On July 12, it will be exactly one year since you handed in your resignation and two and a half years since you stepped down from the position of Head of the Kiev City Administration. What have you been doing since leaving the City Hall?
These 12 months since my resignation were all about the revision of all my priorities in life. Now I know what exactly I want to dedicate the years of my life to. Forget the years! Each day and each hour. Business and philanthropy – and no politics!
So you will not run for the Mayor of Kiev?
I’m not running for anything with regard to Ukrainian politics. I’m not going to prove anything to anybody.
Do you maintain any relations with anybody from you mayor’s office staff?
I didn’t use to have friends in the city hall. Nothing personal. With Anatoly Golubchenko [he was the first deputy of Chernovetskiy], however, we have a long-standing friendship, we used to be members of the Supreme Council for a long time and our families were friends. He is an accomplished and responsible public servant. But now there is no communication between us. He is a man of duty, and he must have only one boss. For a laugh, I’d like to tell you a story about a peculiar communication style of the public employees, i.e. kissing your boss’ butt. In my bank, people didn’t behave like that. I taught them that sneaks in business are extremely dangerous and tend to be rogues, I fired such people… In the City Hall, I had to keep many of my predecessor’s staff, because they knew their business. And here’s what I faced with … My deputy, one of those “old bureaucrats” (by the way, it was not Golubchenko) enters my office and starts his sweet talk: how great I am, how good my strategic decisions are, how fair, ethical and wise I am… This kind of bullshit really annoyed me at first. I was like, “Stop it, I’m not that kind of person, let’s get down to business!” But they just went on and on. They swore they were not fawning, that they just had never seen a person like me before. An angel, really! I wasn’t able to put an end to this. So it remained this way. That’s their ritual. And if you do not let them say all this before you start talking business, they feel deeply offended and start thinking I want to fire them. That’s just horrible. And the most terrible thing is that I started getting used to it and caught myself thinking that I liked it. This was insane. Your readers should know what principles govern the relationships in government agencies, and that’s not only in Ukraine. As soon as you start losing your power, they go to your anticipated replacement and start bootlicking and complain how hard it has been for them to work with their current boss.
Of course now I smile when I recall all this now. But that was an interesting experience.
Now my former subordinates from the City Hall don’t even call me on occasions. Obviously, they have forgotten how “great” I am. Well, I don’t hold a grudge against them. This is the way life is… In contrast, many people of Kiev keep sending me their best wishes, they’ve found my website. They e-mail me, ask how I’m doing. Nice guys!
There were rumours that you were about to obtain the Israeli citizenship. A citizen of what country are you?
People tell all sorts of stories about me, even that I visit Mars every now and then. Sure I do, and not just Mars. Commenting rumours is against my principles, as it would put me on the same level with those who start them.
What kind of Christian are you? What churches in Kiev do you go to and how often?
Every Sunday, no matter where I am, in Ukraine or in Europe, I go to an Orthodox church and pray. I always start my day with a prayer. I never start working before I pray. It takes me 30-40 minutes a day. I thank the Lord for giving me more than to any average person on Earth, absolutely everything that I only dreamed of! And even more than that! I tell Him I’m perfectly aware that He has given me all this with a purpose and that He has special plans for me. I ask Him to help me accomplish my goals of a hundred or thousand times greater magnitude in business and philanthropy. I always confess all my sins. And I ask for health, of course. By the way, a cleric once gave me a prayer copied from the Bible: it definitely reaches the Lord. Tested! [We do not have the text of the precious prayer, but Mr. Chernovetskiy promised to share it soon.]
I would appreciate if you give our readers advice on where best to invest the money and why?
The real problem is that most people have nothing to invest. This is the problem that should be addressed. But if you have money to invest, then you should mail your questions and an overview of your business experience to the editors, and I’ll be happy to provide answers. Go on, get writing!
Tell us about your new business venture. How profitable it is to invest in information technologies? (Chernovetskiy created an investment fund which invests, inter alia, in online projects, telecommunications, and various start-ups.)
Everything I do or used to be doing is profitable, highly profitable! And it’s all from God! I shouldn’t be given credit. It’s a gift from above. But I don’t want to encourage readers to start investing in information technologies. Therefore, no comments.
What prominent people do you admire? How did they affect your life?
Among our contemporaries, it’s Gorbachev. A distinguished personality! I think that there haven’t been people like him for many centuries. There was no force that could prevent him from remaining the leader of the superpower for many years. He could have luxury that Arab sheiks cannot even dream about! But he gave it all to the people of the USSR, because he believed in the principles of democracy. A righteous, remarkable person. I cannot remember another case in history, when a person with so much power gave up everything to pursue his ideals. Yes, the nations and the people have abused freedom and many are suffering, but that’s a completely different story…
You have already told us about your new house in Georgia. When do you expect to move in, how many rooms are there?
The house has 7 bedrooms. Nothing fancy, I hate that. No antiques. Everything is modern and I wouldn’t say it’s cheap, but it’s not overblown. I think by the end of November the house will be ready. I will take photos of the inside and send them to the newspaper, before some media crooks start spreading gossip.
They say that you donate to charity in Georgia. What exactly do you do?
Two months ago, I opened a children’s home; I’ve just sponsored a sea vacation for 40 Georgian children from poor families. Yesterday I visited them… Lovely happy kids, they’ve never seen the sea and so much ice cream before… I thought I should take pictures with them and send them to the newspaper, as you suggested. But then I thought it would look as if I’m trying to wheedle the readers, get in the spotlight… “Look how kind he is, taking care of those poor kids.” It smells of politics… So I didn’t do it.
How are your children Stepan and Christina doing? How often do you see them? What presents do you give them on holidays and what do you get in return?
I rarely see them. Stepan is in Europe, Christina is in Moscow. They and my grandchildren are all doing well. I gave my children the most important thing: I raised them and I was their role model. They are honest and kind people, and by the way, they have a knack for business. They got it from me and their mother. As long as they are doing okay, there is nothing I can do for them. I live my own life. And I have so much to do! That’s my mission… However, the kids know that if something goes wrong, I’ll leave everything and give my life to them, and even for them, I won’t hesitate for a second.
You don’t like questions about your private life, but for the readers you are a human being first, and then an ex-mayor and a politician.
I’m doing great. Nonsense, I’m not going to tell any schmaltzy stories! This is not a soap opera, this is an interview with the ex-mayor of the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, who was elected twice…
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