In Ukraine, anger grows over reckless public spending as war drags on

30 oct., 2023

To vent his anger and frustration over what he believes is reckless government spending by a regional authority in northern Ukraine as the war with Russia drags on, Ukrainian activist Ivan Kaverin made a bold statement by dousing their local council building with pig’s blood.

The 39-year-old activist’s protest stunt in July aimed to draw the attention of the officials working at Zhytomyr City Council, whom he accuses of frivolous spending and corruption. The money, said Kaverin, who founded the charitable foundation UA Phoenix Fly, which delivers aid to Ukraine’s troops, should be spent on military hardware for Ukraine’s continued war effort.

Three streets in Zhytomyr city centre, for example, were set to be repaved this year at a cost of more than 700,000 euros, local media have reported. However, corruption concerns were raised after it was found that the owner of the factory that makes the paving slabs is related to the head of the city’s council, Serhiy Sukhomlyn.

“They are removing normal asphalt and laying paving slabs. So in protest, I just came and poured blood on the entrance to the city council,” Kaverin said. “The position of Zhytomyr residents is clear: all funds must (go to) the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

“The city’s mayor and those close to him simply do not care about the community. Their only goal is to enrich their pockets,” he said, but added: “This is not officially confirmed, but all local residents know about it… unconfirmed data in our city is a fact that cannot be proved because of bribery. The person who gives a bribe and the other person who takes it will never admit to it.”

Ivan Kaverin

Ivan Kaverin

The activist’s pig blood stunt was meant to highlight the potential price Ukrainian soldiers are paying on the war’s frontlines. His protest drew wide praise from angry locals who turned out to support him. Serhiy Hryshchenko, a lawmaker from Korosten, a city in the Zhytomyr region, also expressed support for the activist.

Their concerns over bloated public spending aren’t unfounded.

The Committee of Voters of Ukraine, which monitors public policies, also noted in August this year that regional authorities aren’t spending enough public money to meet the needs of the war-torn country’s military. “Local councils are building stadiums, renovating squares and parks, and repairing roads,” the committee said. “Money spent on each metre of asphalt laid or fountain built could be used to buy drones, cars, night vision devices for our military.”

During the full-scale war, many authorities across Ukraine are accused of squandering public funds. In the central Vinnytsia region, Zhmerynka City Council spent 40,000 euros on flower beds to prettify the town, which is the equivalent of about 15 military drones, while authorities in Kyiv allocated more than 180,000 euros on renovating a children’s camp.

For about 40,000 euros, the military could purchase multiple charging stations, which are vital for frontline forces to charge equipment such digital devices, thermal imagers, and drones. Or, they could buy dozens of Starlink internet satellites.

sange de porc ucraina

foto: Video capture

Official corruption has long plagued Ukraine but has been under the spotlight since the war started in February last year. In recent months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has fired scores of officials amid a concerted effort to crack down on graft.

A representative from Ukraine’s Bureau of Economic Security, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told in an interview that in the first half of 2023, analysts identified around 20 million euros in embezzled funds and that investigations have been launched. “Thanks to the bureau’s analysts, this money was saved from the country’s budget,” they said.

Reporting mechanisms, the person at the bureau said, have been implemented so that people can alert the authorities to corruption and insisted that thorough checks are being carried out. “When there are risks of misappropriation of budget funds … tenders are usually cancelled,” they said.

One of the most common complaints about misappropriated public funds, however, concerns road works. In the Lviv region, a tender worth 59 million euros was granted in the first half of 2023 for road maintenance and repairs, and 138 million euros for other construction works.

Meanwhile, in Zhytomyr, anger continues to grow among locals. On 16 Oct., more than 200 protesters converged in the city centre to demand more public funds go toward the war effort. Many of them brandished placards that read: “Not paving stones, but drones for the military.”

But protests may be having limited effects. After Kaverin’s July protest, the Zhytomyr council announced that 3.6 million euros would be redirected from planned construction works to the country’s armed forces.

But even that announcement, the activist said, has been mired in controversy. Kaverin said that last year, Zhytomyr city officials already allocated funds for new bomb shelters for residents, but that they “still do not exist.”

Kaverin said he has made written requests to various local institutions seeking explanations regarding budget expenditures. “When I wrote a request asking them to explain where the money was distributed,” he said. “I was told that it is confidential information.”

Edited by Stephen McGrath

Despre autor: Alina Okolot

Avatar of Alina Okolot
Alina Okolot este o jurnalistă ucraineană din Kiev care lucrează în presă din 2017. Alina a lucrat ca reporter TV în departamentul de știri al canalului PravdaTut TV unde a documentat știri din sectoare diverse, de la politic la economic, cultură și sport. Ea a lucrat de asemenea ca editor de programe educaționale și de divertisment pentru canalul Kiev TV și pentru ediția online a Adevărului de Irpin. Alina spune că jurnalismul este vocația sa. Ea s-a alăturat echipei CONTEXT, după ce s-a mutat în România. Ca jurnalist, ea se ocupă de investigarea crimelor de război comise de Rusia în Ucraina, țara sa natală. Ea scrie des despre corupție și documentează poveștile martorilor în subiecte legate de război. Țelul Alinei este să arate lumii adevărul printr-un jurnalism de calitate.

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