Ukrainian lawmaker subjected to probe of finances

Police to look into "dubious activities" between Jewish millionaire's company, AVEC, and municipal bodies.

Alexander Feldman, a Jewish member of the Ukrainian parliament and vice president of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians, has become the subject of a investigation by local authorities into his finances, in a move that comes just three months ahead of the country's early parliamentary elections. Feldman, a Jewish millionaire and also a principal donor to the Jewish Fund of Ukraine, became embroiled in the dispute in Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv. Also a member of the British Royal Institute for Foreign Affairs, Chatham House, Feldman's AVEC corporation, a leader in the commercial real estate market and affiliated with the "club" of the largest investors and developers in Ukraine, was subjected to a total financial investigation. AVEC has been acting as an umbrella organization since 1997 for the city's municipal charity fund, working to help troubled children, providing financial assistance to the poor, and providing arts and sports program for young people. It also provides help to local intellectuals, and has given more than $7.3 million in charity since its inception. It also cooperates with different state institutions and with state and foreign charity organizations, including the UK's "Children in Crisis" fund. As part of the probe, Kharkiv municipal officials decided to create a municipal commission to examine all previous agreements between AVEC and municipal bodies, claiming they were looking for any "dubious activities." However, it appears clear that the real reason behind the "examination" lies in the political sphere. All of the city's major posts, from mayor to local council, are held by supporters of pro-Russian prime minister Victor Yanukovich, the main political rival of Feldman's pro-Western Bloc of Yulia Timoshenko. The authorities have already banned demonstrations by the opposition party, while allowing pro-government groups to demonstrate freely. Local observers say one of those responsible for looking into "Feldman's case" is Municipality Secretary Gennady Kernes, who like Yanukovich has previously been convicted of fraud and hooliganism. They add that the case may even take on anti-Semitic tone, despite the fact that Feldman's aid goes not only to the Jewish community, but to all Kharkiv area residents.