The European community is dissatisfied with developments that are taking place in Ukraine as well as with the state of Ukrainian civil society. The European Union sends clear messages to the Ukrainian authorities pointing at the inconsistencies that do not comply with Ukrainian aspiration to become a European state, and which Ukraine has been declaring for many years. And those messages follow one another.

Hence, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid announced in September that Ukraine would not become a member of the European Union anytime soon.

“All the forecasts are based on the previous experience. Unfortunately, over the past five years, I have not seen Ukraine committed to the fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria. Ukraine is light years away from the implementation of these criteria,” Kaljulaid said.

Recently, several EU countries, in particular, Austria, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia expressed skepticism regarding the validity of the visa-free arrangements between the EU and Ukraine. The consorting document was made public by Radio Svoboda. The governments of the above-mentioned countries record too high a level of Ukrainian citizens’ illegal residency, and furthermore, too many unfounded requests for asylum. This suggests that the Ukrainian government is not coping with its responsibilities and life in the country is getting worse day by day.

Denys Shmygal
Denys Shmygal

Yet, there was another signal: the close attention of the European media to the involvement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the “Pandora Affair” scandal.

Mr. Zelensky and his entourage turned out to be the owners of offshore companies, most probably contributing to drawing out the funds from the notorious Privatbank. The British edition of Independence called Mr. Zelensky an anti-oligarchic, in scare quotes, president. The reason for such forthright skepticism is the fact that the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmygal is the henchman of the biggest Ukrainian oligarch with a criminal past, Rinat Akhmetov.

Even though the Ukrainian Parliament recently passed the law on oligarchs, Mr. Shmygal retains his position and continues to openly serve the interests of financial and industrial powerhouses. For example, last year the government allowed gas companies owned by a number of oligarchs to set a special tariff for gas transportation. People were forced to pay for the gas pipelines that they have layed with their own money. By winter the bills for gas reached 200-250 euros per month while an average pension is around 100 euros. Desperate Ukrainians took to the streets. Protests swept across the country and the government responded by slightly reducing the tariffs. However, this did not solve the problem.

Ukraine has enough natural resources to fully meet the needs for gas of its population. At the same time, state-owned companies controlled by the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as private gas companies sell Ukrainian gas to Ukrainian citizens for the price that exceeds the cost by 6-7 times. Ukraine is entering the current heating season with half-empty gas repositories. The launch of Nord Stream-2 deprives Ukraine of the prospect to receive additional gas supply from Russia. A utility disaster might begin in the country in the winter.

Gas prices are already breaking all the records. The prices for firewood and coal, used vastly by Ukrainians in the provinces to heat the houses as an alternative to gas, have also skyrocketed. Denys Shmygal has repeatedly made promises not to raise utility prices for the population this winter. Nevertheless, the gas prices have already started to rise even before the winter cold. The Ukrainian government proved to be absolutely incapable to deal with the situation and continues to support the interests of private owners of gas companies, thus ignoring the interests of the people. The likelihood that people will take to the streets and rock the country to a full-fledged Maidan, as it was in 2014, is now higher than ever. It is quite obvious that the new Maidan will become a factor of instability not only for Ukraine but also for neighboring European Union countries.

Dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister and with the Ukrainian government is growing concerning the excessive rise of government officials’ salaries as well as the salaries of the members of supervisory boards in state corporations. Mr. Shmygal has lifted all salary restrictions and the earnings of officials in certain positions have increased from about 1,200 euros to 10,000 euros a month while the average salary in Ukraine is 400 euros, Moreover, such disproportionate salaries are paid even in enduringly unprofitable corporations such as Ukrzaliznytsya (the company that operates Ukrainian railways) or Naftogaz (the company responsible for the gas mining, its import and distribution.) The Shmygal government cannot also handle the replenishment of the budget. For example, according to the program for the privatization of state-owned enterprises in 2021, the cabinet of Ministers was expected to receive at least 400 million euros. However, by October of this year, the program revenue barely exceeded the 67-million-euro mark.

Ukraine is not prepared for the forthcoming winter, and not just financially, but also in terms of combating the pandemic. Vaccination in the country has failed. To date, according to official statistics, only about 6 million out of 44 million Ukrainians have been vaccinated. This number is utterly insufficient to prevent wide-sweeping infection and to fight the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant. Prime Minister Shmygal has repeatedly promised to have at least 25 million Ukrainians vaccinated by the end of the year. However, the Ukrainian government has not even come close to this goal.

In addition to the vaccination failure, virtually no quarantine measures are administered in the country. Epidemiological control is nonexistent even in the largest cities. Any attempts to impose stricter quarantine rules are met with a rampant grudge on the part of the people brought to despair by the authorities. The system for scanning and monitoring of the vaccination certificates linked to the Diya Application does not work in Ukraine unlike the monitoring systems in most other countries. This is the result of virtually straightforward sabotage by Oleg Nemchinov, the Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers, who is Mr. Shmygal’s close friend.

Nowadays Ukraine is the source of the uncontrolled spread of Coronavirus on its borders with the European Union countries. Ukraine is on the brink of energy collapse. It is the country where riots are about to begin to the extent of overthrowing the lethargic government, which relies on the wonted support of the West. It is a territory that has almost completely lost its transit potential. Does Europe need such a Ukraine?

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