Their Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Ukrainian state only benefits those who run it, and not those who live in it. Diplomats tend to tiptoe around the truth. But European Union ambassador Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira hit the nail on the head last week when he suggested that the Ukraine’s rich and powerful have a stranglehold over the country, and are choking it for personal gain.

Rinat Akhmetov, richest of the rich Ukrainians.

The EU ambassador didn’t mention oligarchs by name. But it’s clear who he was referring to when he said that life could be much better in Ukraine, but that progress is sabotaged for the masses because it runs contrary to the interests of the filthy few rich who so control the country, both its economy and politics.

In 18 years of independence, the state has been made to serve the will of rapacious businessmen, greedy bureaucrats and corrupt politicians. As the health care, education and social welfare systems have fallen apart, the leeches have sucked public finances dry to buy mansions, cars and designer clothes.

They drive their Bentleys bought with pilfered public money along roads peppered with potholes, and sometimes over unfortunate pedestrians.

The blame falls not only on the oligarchs, but on the politicians and bureaucrats who are all part of the same game, built for their benefit and by their rules. The state is working for them; they are not working for the state.

Terrified of competition and jealous of success, they have stifled small and medium businesses, and made life a nightmare for foreign businesses. They are above the law because the law is in their pockets.

The biggest split in Ukraine today is not between east and west, or between Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers. It is between ordinary people who want to be free to build successful businesses and pay taxes in return for good public services, and the leeches who know only how to steal.

The Orange Revolution was supposed to change all that. It didn’t. Instead, weaker central authorities who can’t coordinate their efforts have overseen an increase in corruption.

The Jan. 17 presidential election should give some hope for change, but Ukrainians are not looking at the ballot with much hope. No candidate has put forward concrete measures in his or her program to tackle the biggest problem that Ukraine has today – that the Ukrainian state benefits only those who run it, and not those who live in it.

Source: Kyiv Post