Three factors that have blocked Ukraine’s efforts in making a leap forward

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Former journalist and current Ukrainian MP Mustafa Nayyem about the mistakes the authorities and the West are making.

Why is it that no tangible reforms have been carried out over the past two post-Maidan years? I see three factors that are thwarting our efforts: our oligarchic past, populism, and Russia.
Those radical reforms we had expected to achieve over the past two years have not been achieved and it is not because we lack the staff or the expertise. We have been unable to succeed because the politicians who came to power are in one way or another connected to the oligarchs.
Two years ago when a new government was being negotiated instead of inviting people who had participated in the Maidan movement, the same old oligarchs or their representatives were invited to sit at the table to discuss the formation of the new government. At that time the chief concern was to stabilize the situation but in the end what has happened is that the oligarchs are the ones who have the final word on government policies. The president had declared as a guiding principle the stripping of powerfrom the oligarchs but Kolomoiskyi, Firtash, and Akhmetov have continued to wield their power. Their representatives still affect decision-making both in the parliament and through the media.

Two years ago civic society had furnished the government with a power telescope and now the government is trying to use that telescope to hammer in the nails. This leads to despair and loss of confidence.

The ineffectiveness of government institutions has encouraged populism to gain momentum. Politicians who have never been involved in the reform movement, who have never been responsible for making important, hard choices are taking advantage of whatever they can simply to gain popularity, including the war, the people’s despair, the lack of determination on the part of the government to fight the oligarchs – all of it is fair game. Those politicians are collaborating with the oligarchs no matter how you look at it. They are the ones resisting reforms in the judiciary, the courts, and the energy sector.
In addition, everything that we see happening in Ukraine is an aftereffect of the war, and not the repercussions of the Maidan. As a reminder: the Maidan had ended in March, 2014, and the Russian invasion began right at that time, first in Crimea and then in the Donbas. National defense, and not reforms, was the priority. The toppling of the Maidan objectives is Putin’s greatest crime.
The people who wanted change and reform have failed in bringing their representatives to power and now we have what we have. The reforms in the justice system, in law enforcement and in the energy sector have stalled due to the lack of resources, the lion’s share of which goes to the war effort.
In 1994 under security guarantees from the United States, Great Britain and Russia Ukraine agreed to destroy its nuclear arsenal. When the war in eastern Ukraine began, our security guarantors declined to provide us with any kind of weapons.
It is very difficult to explain to our electorate why NATO declinesto provide us with military aid. And if you compare the aid the European Union has granted other countries, what we would receive would be a pittance.None of the Eastern European countries had gone through such reforms as we have, and with a war going on.
We are grateful for the aid we have received. But now we are faced with a problem that could reduce all our efforts to nothing:the fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements. Any efforts to push through the parliament amendments to the Constitution will end in clashes in which the populists, the oligarchs, and the military establishment will participate. Most of the deputies in parliament will not agree to grant any kind of special status to Donbas.In spite of everything, we feel the international community applying an immense pressure on us.
What are the possible outcomes of a snap election? Those people who had financed the rise and the election of Yanukovich, who had supported him, are gaining in popularity. They stress that the West will never provide the financial aid Ukraine needs, and that in the long run Ukraine will be unable to secure its independence, or withstand Russia’s never-ending aggression.
If elections were to be held in two years we risk losing a pro-European parliament, and a pro-European government. And all of it would be the consequence of the pressurebeing applied on us by our European partners.
We understand that the Minsk Agreement is a sequence of negotiations. My brother is currently serving on the front line in Avdiivka and every day he sees soldiers dying. Official data does not mention the hundreds of wounded and killed at the front. But eventually, the fighting soldiers will return home. How will we be able to explain to them the granting of an amnesty to the aggressor, how will we be able to explain to them some kind of autonomy for Donbas, or elections in Donbas?
It is not discussions about reforming the medical, judicial, or economic sectors that take up the most time in parliament these days, it is discussions about the Minsk Agreements, the elections in Donbas, and the escalation of the war.
Any kind of pressure on the president, on the parliament, on the government will lead to destabilization. There is no script that Ukraine will agree to in order to allow elections on territory not under the control of the government. I do understand that looking from the outside it would seem like a compromise, but from our point of view, for us, who live here, it does not seem like a compromise at all.
There is no ceasefire. Since the Minsk Agreement was signed not a single day, I repeat, not a single day has passed without shots being fired. These days we hear that the liberation of Savchenko, Soloshenko, and Afanasiev could serve as a basisfor easing the sanctions imposed on Russia. We’re not on the market to be traded or sold. Why would the liberation of our citizens, who had been kidnapped from our territory serve as a trade-off for sanctions? How does their liberation affect the sanctions that had been imposed on Russia after the occupation of Crimea and after the invasion of eastern Ukraine? And after a war in eastern Ukraine was ignited?

EMPR, O. R. contributed to this publication
Original article is available on
1 Comment

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  1. Gelsomino Pasqualino 6 years ago

    Ukraine would have been better off after Maidan if they simply fired every civil service employee/judge/cop/officer in the nation and put in their place the entire national class of university graduates from that year. They might have been inexperienced, but they would have had idealism, energy, ideas and no connections with anti-democratic elements like oligarchs and political parties.

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