Ukraine's Top English-Language Newspaper Suddenly Shut Down Amid Owner-Staff Dispute

The Kyiv Post, Ukraine's largest, independent English-language newspaper, has suddenly shut its operations after more than a quarter-century amid a dispute between the owner and journalists.

Adnan Kivan, the Kyiv Post publisher and a real-estate businessman, announced the abrupt closure on the paper's website on November 8, saying it would be temporary. He did not give a reason for the closure, though it did not appear to be financial.

"One day, we hope to reopen the newspaper bigger and better," Kivan said in the statement.

However, reporters at the Kyiv Post said in a joint statement that the sudden closure comes on the heels of Kivan's attempt to "infringe" on their editorial independence.

"We consider the cessation of publication and the dismissal of the paper's staff to be an act of vengeance by Adnan Kivan," the newsroom said in a statement.

The reporters said that Kivan had announced three weeks ago that he would expand the Kyiv Post by launching a Ukrainian-language publication under the same name.

Kivan handpicked an editor to oversee the new product, raising concerns among the staff that he was attempting to curtail their independence.

Kivan could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Kyiv Post has been critical of Ukraine's leadership at times, highlighting slow progress on Western-backed reforms, including the crucial fight against corruption.

The paper was an important source of information for Ukraine's expat community, including foreign embassy staff.

Roman Waschuk, Canada's ambassador to Ukraine from 2014 to 2019, told RFE/RL the paper was "feisty" in its coverage, "with no punches pulled."

The staff said in their statement that Kivan's plans to relaunch with new staff was an attempt to get rid of "inconvenient" journalists.

RFE/RL e-mailed Kivan's company, Kadorr Group, seeking a response to the Kyiv Post staff's statement, but did not immediately receive an answer.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's spokesman, Serhiy Nykyforov, quickly rejected speculation that the administration had been putting pressure on Kivan over the Kyiv Post's critical coverage.

"Today's news came as much of a surprise to us as it did to everyone else," he said in a statement on Facebook.

42nd Richest

Like many other media owners in Ukraine, Kivan is among the country's richest people.

In 2021 Forbes ranked him 42nd in their annual list of the wealthiest Ukrainians, with a net worth of $240 million.

Kadorr Group says it owns commercial real estate in Ukraine valued at more than $800 million. Kivan's firm also invests in agriculture and media.

In contrast to most on Ukraine's rich list, Kivan did not grow up in the former Soviet Union. He was born in Syria and moved to Soviet Ukraine in the early 1980s to attend university.

He claims to have made his first millions importing goods into the Soviet Union from Egypt before switching to the export of Ukrainian steel to Africa and the Middle East.

He began investing in real estate in Odesa, the popular Ukrainian Black Sea resort known for its endemic corruption, in the mid-2000s, registering Kadorr in 2010.

He has built dozens of residential high-rise apartment buildings in and around Odesa over the years.

Kivan has had various partners on projects, including several with Hennadiy Trukhanov before he become mayor of Odesa starting in 2014.

Trukhanov, who had a falling out with Kivan, was recently charged with illegally acquiring land plots among other crimes.

Kivan also teamed up on real-estate projects with Ihor Markov, an Odesa-based, Kremlin-leaning politician who fled Ukraine in 2014 after the toppling of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

As he built up his real-estate empire in Odesa, Kivan acquired the Channel 7 TV station. Two years after he expanded into Kyiv in 2016, he purchased the Kyiv Post.

Vera Zaporozhets, an Odesa-based investigative journalist who used to work at Channel 7, told the Kyiv Post in 2018 that Kivan would rein in criticism of the government.

Sasha Borovik, a former adviser to ex-Odesa Governor and former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, told the Kyiv Post in 2018 that Kivan "uses his publications as a political resource and a tool in business competition."

Rights activists accuse Ukraine's wealthiest people of using their media assets to push their own business and political interests.

Upon purchasing the Kyiv Post, Kivan said in a statement he would respect the paper's legacy of editorial independence.

"Without independent journalism, full-fledged democratic development of any country is impossible," he said in March 2018.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service