Ukrainians have been waiting for four long years for justice. None of our high-profile crooks are behind bars. Plus, Ukraine needs the next IMF tranche of $2 billion to avoid default, and everything depends on the new law.
So what’s in it?
Good and bad. High-profile corruption cases will finally be heard by an impartial court, but the authorities did manage to water down the law.
That is emphatically no longer the case. Few would doubt that Russia and the Western world are engaged in the most intense geopolitical struggle since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps even more remarkably, Russia appears to be winning.
Despite perfect name recognition, the frontrunner Yulia Tymoshenko has only 9 to 13 percent support, according to recent polls (Rating, SOCIS, and Democratic Initiatives). Other candidates, including the incumbent president, are in a tight cluster, suggesting they all have a fair chance of making the second round since no one is expected to win outright.
Past elections showed that sitting presidents, other than Leonid Kuchma, haven’t benefited from the power of incumbency. Poroshenko may be nervous and trying to undermine his main challenger former Defense Minister Anatoliy Gritsenko through a new special investigative commission charged with looking into embezzlement in the armed forces from 2004 to 2017 (Gritsenko was minister from 2005 to 2007).
The current polls are an anomaly given that voters typically favor two strong candidates whose support is based on geography: the east votes for a pro-Russian candidate, and the west backs a pro-Western one. But this dynamic seems to be changing. Public trust in the old guard is currently so low that more than a third of voters are undecided, 11 percent would vote for another candidate, and almost 14 percent are leaning toward unconventional choices: 7 percent favor rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and and 6.6 percent back comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The public clearly wants new leaders who are honest and patriotic, so Ukrainians are considering outsiders like Vakarchuk and Zelenskiy.
What follows is a saga that left Solomatina disillusioned about corruption within NACP itself. Ultimately, it led her to a crossroads: stay silent and keep her head down, or speak out and risk everything. She spoke out, bravely becoming one of Ukraine's most prominent whistleblowers, and her life hasn't been the same since. This is her story.
Ukrainians were thrilled that the SBU, which doesn’t have a good reputation, managed to carry out such a complicated operation. For once, they bested Russia.
While we wait for more information on the Babchenko case, now is time to examine the SBU, which remains the country’s only unreformed law enforcement institution.
When I was last in Kyiv, posters advertising rock star Slava Vakarchuk’s Independence Day concert were everywhere and he was the talk of the town. No longer. Now former prime minister and campaigner extraordinaire Yulia Tymoshenko’s “New Course for Ukraine” billboards dot major roads as she tops the polls.
My interlocutor was highly dissatisfied with the answer. But why doesn’t the West pick their choice and invest $150-250 million in its candidate as is required to win an election? Both the Russians and the oligarchs do so. Why aren’t the Americans rational? Another expert claimed that a popular candidate can win the presidency with only $40-50 million, but that is also big money. By comparison, a Swedish parliamentary election campaign costs $12 million and a German one $90 million. Those amounts include all the parties.
We went on to discuss Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who is considered Putin’s foremost agent in Ukraine. He was one of the first people the United States sanctioned over Russia’s occupation of Crimea on March 17, 2014, but he thrives in Ukraine in full freedom. He has allegedly just bought three television channels in Ukraine—112, NewsOne, and Zik—in apparent preparation for the presidential election. These channels match a populist electorate. Needless to say, nobody thinks that Medvedchuk has bought these television channels with his own money but has been financed by the Kremlin. Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash still owns the television channel Inter, and we know that he has received his money from Gazprom and Gazprombank.
Next we discussed who stands behind which candidate. A clear pattern can be seen: half a dozen Ukrainian oligarchs are allegedly financing up to eighteen potential presidential candidates. Serious oligarchs have three candidates in the game—one is their favorite, one might win, and one is a spoiler. The picture of a tense game of poker in a smoke-filled room late in the night captures the scene well.
This conversation reflects Ukrainian reality and what is wrong with it.
Fresh polls register a devastating rejection by 71 percent of Ukrainians regarding the country’s political direction and even greater distaste for its leaders.
The 81 percent polled disapprove or somewhat disapprove of President Petro Poroshenko; 73 percent feel the same about Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman; 88 percent feel the same way about parliament; and 77 percent feel that way about the judiciary.
Those polled, aged between 18 and 35, are even more disaffected. The poll also showed that less than one-third of Ukrainians under 35 will bother to vote in the next election and that only 20 percent believe they have a good future in Ukraine.
Political disaffection is not unique to Ukraine, but the lack of optimism and new access to European jobs foretells more migration.