Monday, October 30, 2017

Update on Ukraine

I expect Ukraine doesn't make the North american news much these days.  Too much going on in both Canada and USA.  Besides, on a daily basis, not much changes.  Yesterday's news is as good as today's.

On the Donetsk front Russian backed troops attack Ukrainian positions many times per day resulting in 1 to 5 deaths of Ukrainian soldiers and 1 to 10 wounded.  These are the official counts.  The attacks are always driven off; no accounting of Russian deaths or wounded.  Rinse, repeat. Occasionally, the Ukrainian side will retake a few meters of ground in driving back an attack but they must be careful or they will be accused of "breaking the Minsk Accord".

However the Ukrainian government has passed two laws regarding the war in Donbas that essentially lay out the Ukrainian understanding of the Minsk Agreements in black and white regardless of how Putin would like it understood.  The first law "establishes that a special procedure for local self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions comes into force only after all the conditions set forth in Article 10 of the law have been fulfilled, in particular, with regard to the withdrawal of all illegal armed formations and their military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries, from the territory of Ukraine." 

The second law "defines the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as: the land territory and its internal waters within the limits of separate districts, cities, towns and villages, where the military forces of the Russian Federation and Russian occupational administration have established and carry out the occupying government and general control; internal sea waters and the territorial sea of Ukraine adjacent to the same land territory; airspace over these territories.

In other words it is no longer an anti-terrorist operation.  Russia has been named as the invading and occupying force in Donbas.

There have been a number of kidnappings of Ukrainian citizens who are taken to Russia and imprisoned on made-up charges.  Recently a young man was lured to Belarus by a girl who had been coerced by the FSB.  The young man is now in Russia, charged with plotting to blow up a school.  His actual crime was blogging something the Russians didn't like.  Two young men in the Russian controlled area of Donetsk have been arrested and sentenced to several years in jail for spying for the Ukrainians.  Their actual crime was waving a Ukrainian flag. In Russian occupied Crimea, Tatars are specifically targeted by the Russians for extremism or terrorism.

A number of people have been assassinated in broad daylight in Kyiv.  Bullets or bombs.  By whom is never certain even when the trigger men are caught.  Could be both sides or even third parties. Two ammunition dumps were blown up this year.  Sabotage.  The most recent in Vinnitsa Oblast was a main  arsenal of the Ukrainian army and fortunately 70% of the ammunition survived the blast.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/27/fire-ukraine-ammunition-depot-prompts-mass-evacuation/

The real war is in the Ukrainian parliament with the old guard fighting tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to preserve the corruption that has made them or their allies rich.  Progress is made slowly, mainly forced on them by outside pressure. (You need eg IMF money?  Clean up your act). Reforms have been quickest in areas that do not affect the lawmakers.  The price of gas and electricity have gone up dramatically, as an example.

The attempt to reform the health care system is a good example of the difficulties faced by reformers.  The Minister in charge has submitted a bill to parliament to reduce the corruption levels and provide more money for actual health care.  The bill was not initially passed in July as it did not get support.

“The state has spent about 300 million UAH [$11.5 million] to build the new facilities for that hospital; 60 million UAH [$2.3 million] was spent on equipment—which disappeared,” Suprun explained. . .
In many countries the hugely expensive equipment in hospitals is leased. But in Ukraine, that’s forbidden by law. Why? Because kickbacks are built in to the sales, generating enormous income every year for everybody in the corrupt chain. “The pharmo-mafia and some hospitals make billions of dollars, while we want the purchasing to be done by international organizations including the UNDP, UNICEF, through tenders,” Suprun explained. . .
“There is a tiny piece left to fix the poor infrastructure of hospitals and pay extremely low salaries for the workers,” Suprun said. The average salary of a Ukrainian doctor is about $200 a month. “That’s what makes medical workers charge payments for their services, then kick back up to their head doctors and higher,” she said.

The bill was finally passed in October.  The following article provides an overview of the reforms.  It will give you an idea of the situation I faced in the best hospital in Dnipro. And of course how or even if it is implemented is another question.  http://euromaidanpress.com/2017/10/20/what-ukraines-healthcare-reform-is-about/

The hardest fought battles are in the area of reforming the courts, judges and prosecutors.  This is the root of corruption in Ukraine.  Attempts to establish an independent anti-corruption court has not gone anywhere and may never if President Poroshenko has his way.  The powers that be dare not allow such a court because they know they will all go down. Again, such a court is being forced on Ukraine by outside pressure but there are many ways to sabotage it.

Optimists such as Alexander Motyl that Ukraine is reforming slowly but surely. As my father once said about me, "You have to put a stake in the ground and use a tape measure to discern any movement at all." OK, maybe it isn't as bad as I think but I am not optimistic until they fix the roads.


8 comments:

  1. So to survive in Ukraine, you have to be careful what you say, what you write, who you criticize, and what flag you wave. Don't get sick unless you have lots of money, and don't trust anyone in government to keep any promises. I think you are happy to be in Canada for a while.

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    1. No danger from Ukrainians but certainly from Russians

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  2. I've often wondered whether you were at risk for what you wrote in your blog. Ukraine may be beautiful but Canada is just as beautiful, and much safer.

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    1. My inability to speak the language has kept me out of a great deal of trouble

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  3. Ukraine is in the US news because it seems that the recently-indicted Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were representing Russia. It appears that other members of the Trump-supporting American First Policies Super PAC (possibly including Trump's son-in-law) are soon to be indicted as undeclared representatives of a foreign power.

    Boize moi!

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    1. Is there anyone in Trump's coterie NOT working with/for Russia?

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