September 21, 2015 –
Translated for Fort Russ by J. Arnoldski
“Journalist Sergey Sakadynsky: “It’s even worse in Ukraine than in the 1990’s.”
The famous social activist and independent journalist from Lugansk who now lives in Kiev, Sergey Sakadynsky, discussed the systemic political, economic, and social crisis totally affecting the Ukrainian government and Ukraine’s economy and society in an interview with Lits. Previously, Sakadynsky was a leading editor for a number of local and regional media, and for a few years after 2011 was the chief editor of the internet portal “Politics 2.0”
It is impossible to call him a support of the LPR. Sakadynsky left for Ukraine has having spent three and a half months in the cellars of the “Batman” gang. This undoubtedly influences his perception of reality. More valuable is Sakadynsky’s independent opinion about what is happening in Ukraine today.
“How do you appraise the current political situation in Ukraine?”
It just so happens that each new Ukrainian government claims more than the previous one. The activities of Yanukovich and his entourage, of course, were on the reasons for the Maidan and all subsequent events. However, Yanukovich came to this after a few years. Poroshenko has managed to alienate his former supporters in just a year. Today, the country has no confidence in the current government and no one trusts those who claim to be the opposition. There is a serious political crisis even more profound than the one in 2013.
“Could another parliamentary crisis lead to a reshuffling of authorities?”
A reshuffle is inevitable, but it will not lead to a stabilization of the situation. Because a viable, third force has not appeared in the country. Against the background of falling ratings for the current ruling party, the ratings of the political forces which were removed from power before are growing. But, in fact, they’re all the same people, so re-elections will not fundamentally change anything.
“How serious is the issue of ‘disgruntled armed men returning from the front?’”
Every third man is ready to take up arms and go to Kiev. In fact, there are no leaders who could win over the unsatisfied masses. However, if someone has a machine gun in the attic, he will sooner or later shoot it. The events in Mukachevo and the grenade outside of the Verkhovna Rada are direct proof.
“Is the breakdown of the situation to the point of a chaotic war ‘of all against all’ possible?”
This is the main danger. There are a huge number of military “orphans” in the country, who were removed from the front and are dissatisfied with the government. In addition, there are a lot of impostors under the branding of volunteer battalions. Getting a weapon is no problem. There is a temptation to use these troops in inner squabbles.
“What is your forecast of the political situation?”
Stabilization of the situation is impossible for the current composition of the Verkhovna Rada and government. Therefore, after local elections, there will inevitably be re-elections of people’s deputies and probably a president. If this doesn’t happen peacefully, then there will inevitably be another Maidan. And, as follows, there are two options: to disperse protestors with the cancellation of elections in general and the introduction of martial law, or a change of government by force.
“What is the economic situation in the country?”
In Ukraine, it is perhaps worse than in the 1990’s. It is significant that, in the entire history of the Ukrainian currency, never was it devalued twice in such a short period of time. Actually, from the introduction of the hryvnia in 1996 to 2013, it has fallen against the dollar four times. In the past year, the hryvnia fell three times. No matter what was said, the Ukrainian economy is dollar-dependent. Therefore, prices rose in proportion, despite the fact that wages have not increased. As a result, living standards have fallen by several times.
“What are the reasons for this?”
The government has blamed the war and the previous government. But one needs to understand that the economy of Ukraine was systematically killed by Yushchenko and Yanukovich, and nothing is being done today to stabilize the situation. Many budget-forming enterprises are stopped, loans are stolen or spent on plugging holes in the social sphere. Nothing has changed, but has only worsened, and there is no reason for things to become better.
“Was there in fact a technical default and is a real default with hyperinflation likely?”
Actually, for the past eight years, Ukraine has been stable in a pre-default state. And only a huge reservoir of the shadow economy can stay afloat. That is, there is no money, but the economy continues to survive at the expense of the shadow economy. But this resource is not unlimited and, if current trends continue, the erosion of the money supply may lead to the paralysis of the economy in general.
“What is your forecast of the situation?”
Western partners have no interest in a default, as this would lead to a complete destabilization of the situation in Ukraine which will inevitably affect the situation in Europe in general. Therefore, further debt relief and lending is likely. This actually leads to a complete loss of economic independence, but allows the economy to stay afloat. Of course, there can be talk of any kind of economic development in this situation.
“How is the current life of Ukrainian society?”
Little has changed in daily life in the regions unaffected by the war. They began to earn less so, accordingly, they began to buy less. The fall of living standards is more noticeable in the periphery than in the big cities.
“What are the main causes of the falling standards of living?”
I outlined them above: the war and the devaluation of the hryvnia. In addition, the flawed economic model in which all money is accumulated and deposited in Kiev.
It turns out that in order to earn a learning, people are compelled to move to the capital. But, as they say, “Kiev is not rubber,” and the cost of living here, like in any big city, is much higher and eats up a larger part of earnings. Decentralizing the economy was needed earlier, but all governments wanted to maintain absolute control over money flows. Kiev has always worked like a pump, sucking money from the regions. As a result, we have more and more of an impoverished periphery and a center happily fattened at their expense.
“What major problems do immigrants from the Donbass republics to Ukraine face?”
The main problem is that the government doesn’t need immigrants, therefore the government is doing everything to squeeze them back to Donbass. If problems are solved, then it’s only thanks to the strength of the immigrants themselves or thanks to the aid of private foundations and organizations. The majority of people done’t have the possibility to live normally, as they’ve lost work and housing. The only assistance from the state is a benefit of 442 hryvnia (884 hryvnia for the disabled), which officials cynically call “help for the rent.” But what kind of dwelling can be paid for by this sum if, for example, in Severodonetsk the rent of an apartment starts from 1,000 and, in Kiev, 4,000 hryvnia. And finding a properly-paid job is difficult even for locals, not to mention visitors.
“And what is your forecast?”
I believe that it won’t come to food riots. But the flow of immigrants from Ukraine to richer countries will grow. I personally know people who left for Poland and Germany by different methods, and aren’t planning on returning. There is a steady trend towards further reducing the population through emigration.
“How do you believe, if it’s possible to say, that the situation of “neither piece nor war” works against Kiev?”
In the short-term this situation, on the contrary, is advantageous to the Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk government. On the one hand, there is no risk of another Ilovaysk happening, getting involved in a large-scale military campaign. On the other hand, with an unresolved situation in the east of the country, it’s possible to continue to write off political and economic problems and beg for more loans and so on. But in the long term, the absence of certainty in this matter leads to an increase in internal and external contradictions. This includes a split in Ukrainian society and a loss of confidence in the actions of the current government.
“How do you appraise the relationship and prospects of ‘Donbass republics – Ukraine?”’
On paper, it’s possible to formally agree about anything. But in practice, I have absolutely no idea how people who just yesterday were shooting at each other will peacefully coexist in one country. How will Plotnitsky go to Kiev and shake hands with Poroshenko? How will the residents of Western Ukraine come to restore the Donbass which was destroyed with their participation? After one year of fire and blood, it looks like some kind of surrealism. Reconciliation is a very long and complicated process.
“What are your predictions and hopes in general?”
A stabilization of the political and economic situation in Ukraine is impossible without: a) the settlement of the conflict on Donbass; b) real decentralization; c) holding re-elections to the Verkhovna Rada and president in the nearest time. However, there is the danger that we will get a frozen conflict in Donbass and decentralization will be carried out only on paper. With regard to re-elections, as in the interest of many political forces, they will be held next year.
In fact, there are too many problems to be solved by another round of elections. For this, political will and the desire of the elites is needed. Unfortunately, they still strive to satisfy their private interests at the expense of the state. The country had practically returned to the beginning of the ’90’s, and it will take another ten years to return to the pre-war level.