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A Thousand Little Revolutions
Ukraine's Real Problem: Rampant Corruption

If you look past the mainstream media’s incessant tick-tock coverage of Putin’s escalation in eastern Ukraine, an appalling picture of corruption that is eating away at Ukraine’s social fabric emerges. Case in point: the recent scandal at Bohomolets Medical University:

Considered the most prestigious training center for future doctors, 13,000 students at the Bohomolets National Medical University saw their president of more than a decade, Vitaliy Moskalenko, dismissed on April 10 by the Health Ministry amid allegations that he ran a bribery ring.

Moskalenko is currently under investigation for embezzling more than $4 million of taxpayer’s money during the last four years of his presidency, and failed to get reinstated in the courts. While Moskalenko denies the corruption allegations, his lawyer, Ivan Vladinov, said his sacking “had nothing to do with the law.”

For years, Ukraine’s once vaunted Soviet education system has deteriorated, with corruption taking a toll on the quality of education. Plagiarism is widespread and often goes unpunished, while bribes are often accepted to purchase grades, to pass exams and even to buy diplomas. Several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, no longer recognize Ukrainian medical diplomas because of the sub-grade qualification level of graduates. The U.S. also doesn’t recognize Ukrainian medical degrees.

When bribery and corruption become routine in the training process for medical doctors—such an open scandal that foreign countries don’t recognize your medical qualifications—you are in the HOV lane on the highway to hell.

The Maidan launched movements across the country to reform Ukraine’s institutions—including the crooked administration of the country’s leading medical university. That’s encouraging, but it’s no simple task to clean up a country that has been looted and pillaged by its own administrative elite for 25 years. Victory won’t come all at once, and corruption can never be rooted out completely. But whether the schools, courts, police stations, government ministries, hospitals, and city halls of Ukraine can be cleaned up is the key to Ukraine’s hopes for the future.

Corruption and the resulting government weakness and incompetence are the core reasons Ukraine is in trouble today. If Ukraine had managed to build a strong economy and effective government in the 25 years of independence since 1990, Vladimir Putin would have no hope of breaking up the country. Indeed, the example of Ukrainian success might have inspired Russian democrats to force change in their own country. But largely because a handful of corrupt oligarchs and a larger number of hangers-on and accomplices have preferred to loot the country rather than to build it, Ukraine today is vulnerable to outside aggression. And the corruption of Ukraine isn’t just a millstone dragging the country down; it’s providing Putin an opportunity to undermine the country from within. What he can’t win on the battlefield, he can buy on the black market.

Ukraine had one big revolution in the Maidan; it now needs hundreds and thousands of revolutions all across the country, where petty tyrants, thieves, and thugs have had things their own destructive way for far too long.

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  • Arkeygeezer

    Corruption and political chaos were Ukraine’s basic problems in the first place. The EU recognized this and backed away from Ukraine. The political leader of Ukraine then wanted to join with Russia in anther economic union. He was then thrown out of office by vested interests in western Ukraine. Things went downhill from there.

    The ultimate solution to the Ukraine problem is to have a plebiscite to determine which provinces of Ukraine want to join with Russia. Let the people decide, or let Putin plow on.

    • lukelea

      How about two independent countries, one predominantly Ukrainian speaking, the other Russian, it being understood that the eastern half will remain within the Soviet sphere of influence for the foreseeable future? I bet Putin could live with that. He has as much as said so.

      • Andrew Allison

        The problem with that is that, unlike in Crimea, Russian-speakers are actually a minority in Eastern Ukraine and a majority of even them oppose secession.

        • Duperray

          I don’t see how this could be exact: Shall a majority of population be opposed to separatism, pro-russian separatists would have been facing a non-russian speaking armed party fighting against them, and pro-russian party be eliminated fater two weeks fight even before Kiev troops arrive.
          I think we are all disinformed by too much mediatic propagandas…

  • lukelea

    The legacy of seventy years of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism. We forget how totally corrupt the old Soviet Union became. We also forget that Ukraine was an integral part of the Soviet Union in a way that Poland, for example, wasn’t.

    • rheddles

      And thanks to Walter Duranty we never even knew about the Holomodor.

  • Jon Cloke

    Nice piece of sorrowful head-shaking which also serves to avoid neatly the 800lb gorilla in the room – the role of the EU, the IMF and the US in fostering corruption through sweetheart deals with the kleptocracies of Timoshenko etc. As convenient as it may be to pretend that it was the Soviet era that did all the damage, the same thing is happening in the Ukraine as happened in Russia under dear Boris when the West pumped in the billions needed to ‘stabilize’ the economy – the wholesale looting of assets and resources by the oligarchs and a big sucking noise as the IMF’s ‘Cold War Loan’ disappears into elite bank accounts in Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the ordinary people of the Ukraine are being afflicted with Draghi-style, useless and damaging ‘austerity’; but just wait until they realise that all of this money being ‘lent’ by the EU and IMF is just going to prop up the German and Austrian banking systems which are heavily invested in the Ukraine, and that they, the citizenry, are going to be told to ‘eat cake’ by the EU’s Versailles-esque austerity reparations…

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