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.