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

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin steps back and takes in a standing ovation after delivering the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Everett Mall in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
In meeting, Everett mayor confirms Topgolf, Chicken N Pickle rumors

This month, the mayor confirmed she was hopeful Topgolf “would be a fantastic new entertainment partner located right next to the cinemas.”

Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

“I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.