Ukrainian leader pledges to fight corruption

KIEV, Ukraine – Like most Ukrainian university students, Olena Prokhorova can earn a passing grade two ways: by slogging through the books or by paying a $20 bribe. Traffic cops are notoriously on the take, and Ukrainians say they don’t give it a second thought when they can bribe their way out of a traffic infraction – real or not.

“We almost don’t even consider it corruption,” said Prokhorova, a 19-year-old university student from the western city of Lviv.

There’s evidence the plague of corruption spawned the fraud in the second-round presidential vote on Nov. 21. Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters such as Prokhorova massed in Kiev to protest not only their stolen votes, but also the underlying corruption. The Supreme Court later annulled the results, citing mass fraud, and ordered last week’s revote.

It is not surprising then that Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader whom preliminary results show to be the victor, has pledged to fight corruption as the first task of his presidency.

By all accounts, it won’t be easy. According to Transparency International’s 2004 ranking of corrupt nations, Ukraine was one of the worst – No. 128 out of 146, nestled between Sudan and Cameroon.

This summer, some of the world’s biggest steel companies cried foul after Ukraine’s main steel producer Kryvorizhstal was sold to a company controlled by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law, Viktor Pinchuk – even though his bid was significantly lower than the bids offered by the steel companies.

But it is the little bribes – to a university teacher, doctors, judges, traffic cops – that have outraged this nation.

Svetlana Bordyla, 47, said it is common practice to bring a box of chocolates to the state medical clinic – it guarantees a gentler touch and more time with the physician.

“Ninety-nine percent of Ukrainian citizens feel corruption impact on their lives,” said Petro Poroshenko, a lawmaker and one of Yushchenko’s closest allies. “It is awful. We think that during the next two or three months, it will be our main problem.”

Viktor Luhovyk, a political analyst with the Dragon Capital investment house, said the problem dates back to the days of the Soviet Union when bureaucrats, fearing they could lose their jobs anytime, sought to reap as much as possible in the way of graft.

Yushchenko has promised to reshuffle government at all levels, and said “without a doubt” that he will consider replacing all regional governors. He also warned that some privatization deals, including Kryvorizhstal, might be revisited, though he has left open the possibility that the buyers could just pay extra cash.

“He will probably try to reverse some of the recent, and most obviously rigged deals … but that doesn’t mean there will be a major crackdown on oligarchs,” Luhovyk said.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mel Jennings sits in his structure during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Mel has had a brain and spinal surgery, and currently has been homeless for a year. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Annual homeless count aims to give snapshot of housing crisis

Volunteers set out into the rain Tuesday to count all the people facing homelessness in central Everett.

Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 in Everett, Wa.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Lawmakers push to boost voting in county jails across the state

A House bill envisions an approach similar to what’s been happening in the Snohomish County Jail for several years.

Vandalism at Seaview Park on Jan. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Edmonds Police Department)
Police seek suspects in repeated vandalism at Edmonds parks

Vandals have done over $10,000 of damage to parks across the city, including suspected arson and graffiti with hate speech.

One worker looks up from the cargo area as another works in what will be the passenger compartment on one of the first Boeing 787 jets as it stands near completion at the front of the assembly line, Monday, May 19, 2008, in Everett, Wash. The plane, the first new Boeing jet in 14 years, is targeted for power on in June followed by an anticipated first flight sometime late in 2008.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing workers long-exposed to carcinogen far above legal limits

The company confirmed in depositions that parts of its Everett plant still don’t meet 2010 standards.

CarlaRae Arneson, of Lynnwood, grabs a tea press full of fresh tea from Peanut the server robot while dining with her 12-year-old son Levi at Sushi Hana on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. CarlaRae said she and her son used to visit the previous restaurant at Sushi Hana’s location and were excited to try the new business’s food. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Peanut the robot waitress is on a roll at Lynnwood’s Sushi Hana

She’s less RoboCop and more Rosey as she patrols the restaurant, making sure everyone has a drink and good time.

K-9 Hobbs and Sgt. Jason Robinson pose for a photo after Hobbs’ retirement ceremony at the Edmonds Police Department in Edmonds, Washington on Thursday Jan. 26, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Police dog Hobbs retires after nearly 10 years on the Edmonds force

The German shepherd had 520 deployments, 166 arrests and 113 evidence finds with his handler, Sgt. Jason Robinson.

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown and the victim of a brutal attack in 2018 answer questions from reporters on Jan. 27, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Jake Goldstein-Street / The Herald)
White supremacists sentenced for racist beating at Lynnwood bar

A federal judge handed out stiffer sentences than prosecutors had asked for in a series of sentencing hearings Friday.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Marysville State of the City address set for Feb. 1

Mayor Jon Nehring will highlight 2022 accomplishments and look to the future. Questions from the audience will follow.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
A move to require voting and a bicameral chasm on vehicle pursuits

It’s Day 19 and the mood is heating up as the third week of the 2023 legislative session comes to an end.

Most Read