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Ukraine: the people speak out

The people protesting in Ukraine should not be subject to brutal repression by the security forces. Ukrainians are braving physical and legal attacks in their efforts to send a strong message to their political leaders that they want a more transparent and accountable government that answers to the people.

Attacks by the government have included the raiding of opposition offices, shutting down media outlets and the intimidation of civil society. The executive director of Transparency International Ukraine Oleksii Khmara was sent to court on 9 December to face administrative charges for a case that was initially dismissed months ago due to falsified evidence.

I fear that the authorities are trying to stop us reacting to the events that have unfolded in Ukraine over the last few weeks. I see this as a purely politically manoeuvre caused by the activities of Transparency International Ukraine, including our tough assessment of the security services during the recent violent dispersal of Euromaidan protestors in Kiev.”

– Oleksii Khmara, Transparency International Ukraine

Transparency International Ukraine calls on international organisations to facilitate dialogue between protestors and the government.

With very low-levels of public trust in institutions and the government, the protest movement looks likely to maintain momentum despite brutal attacks by the police, a move governments and civil society – including Transparency International Ukraine – have condemned.

In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, released on 3 December, Ukraine scored just 25 out of 100, indicating a serious problem with corruption. The country has the lowest ranking in Europe and came 144th out of 177 countries overall.

In Europe Ukraine ranked behind Belarus, Russia, and Azerbaijan, the three countries in the Customs Union that Russia wants the Ukraine to join instead of moving closer to the EU. Transparency International is concerned that postponing the agreement with the EU will cause the country to stumble in its anti-corruption efforts, something it can ill afford to do.

Regaining public trust

The spectre of an agreement with the EU spurred Ukraine towards creating anti-corruption mechanisms. The government set up the National Anti-Corruption Committee three years ago; however, the committee has not convened in 18 months, and has not had any tangible or visible impact. Procedures have also been put in place to train border guards, customs officials and other civil servants in how to resist and combat bribery.

According to Transparency International Ukraine's Khmara, the government’s decision to reject the EU agreement does not reflect the will of the people:

There is a general disconnect between the official rhetoric and how people feel. A recent poll cites 45 per cent of Ukrainians favour joining the EU association agreement over only 20 per cent preferring the Russian-led Customs Union. The people understand that not signing in Vilnius is a great pity, not just for economic and political reasons, but also as an opportunity to tackle some of the inherent problems of corruption in the country. Public trust in politicians is as low as it could be.”

– Transparency International Ukraine, Oleksii Khmara

Despite risking a backlash from Russia in the form of trade sanctions and the cutting off of fuel supplies during the harsh winter, Ukrainians are still protesting. The desire for transparency and good governance is a demand that governments cannot ignore.


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