Ukraine 2016: Between war and reforms

Piotr Andrusieczko
2016 has proven not to be a breakthrough year for Ukraine. For three years now, a “stable” trench warfare takes place in the east, with moment of escalation and using heavy weapons, which officially there are none on the demarcation line, meaning de facto the battlefront. People are still killed. The peace process boxes, and nothing indicates that the conflict will get resolved in the near future. Russia holds the cards, and it is not its intention to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.

However, Ukraine stands not only for war, but also reforms which it tries to implement after the 2013-2014 revolution. In the Ukrainian social media, the term “betrayal” became popular both in terms of the situation on the battlefront, as well as the transformation. Even in Poland, commentators speak about the failed Ukrainian reforms, regress, etc. That is however, a simplified view.
If one would to analyze the political-economic processes which took place in that country after claiming independence in 1991, then it can be understood what problems do the reforms in Ukraine have to face. It’s about changing all of the most important elements of a system basing on oligarchy and corruption. A system, which has replaced the soviet one by absorbing and transforming some of its elements. Comparisons to the Polish transformations can be regarded as false at the very beginning
Yes it’s true that the reforms take forever, and the old system puts enormous resistance. Just look at today’s political elites which have been formed when the oligarchic system took on its final form in Ukraine. Many of those who are directly responsible for creating a country in the form of a corruption pyramid, are today responsible for implementing the reforms.
But only those who have never seen or don’t remember that country from before 2014, can speak of a complete downfall of the changes in Ukraine. It can be calculated what was possible to be done, what reforms are at risk or still can not be executed.
One positive example, which should change the image of the Ukrainian political elites and officials in the near future. In 2016, with many problems, and even attempts of sabotage, it was successfully possible to implement a mandatory system of electronic property declarations for politicians and officials. Ordinary Ukrainians were able to learn the property state of those “chosen by the nation”, and even if it’s not a full image, it still presents pretty well who are the people in charge. It turned out that the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, does not trust the banking system (maybe for a good reason, because in December the country has nationalized the largest commercial bank – Prywatbank) and keeps his cash at home, in the value of the equivalent of a few million PLN. It turned out that, contrary to previous promises, the President of Ukraine was still the owner of many companies in 2015. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, is a collector of expensive watches, wines, and art. In fact, many political colleagues and officials share his hobbies. And one deputy is even the owner of an orthodox church. The fact that Ukrainian politicians and officials are filthily rich, was no surprise for anyone. After all, what is needed to see what luxury cars do the deputies, judges, and prosecutors drive, is to simply walk through the parking lots of various institutions. The electronic declarations showed the “Byzantinism” and anachronism of the political class. But most importantly, it forced the politicians to reveal, even if not fully, the details concerning their properties. And from now on it will be much more difficult to steal. In fact, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, which as an independent authority fights corruption within the structures of power, has already shown interest in a few declarations. And that is yet another example of changes. But more on that next time. Anyway, the e-declarations show pretty well how far has Ukraine moved from Russia in recent times.
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