ReportRussia Caucasus Ukraine

When Ukrainians lose faith in the future

Hotel Odessa at the Port of Odessa, Ukraine (Loreline Merelle@B2)
Hotel Odessa at the port of Odessa, Ukraine (Loreline Merelle © B2)

(BRUSSELS2 - in Odessa) “At least when there was Viktor Yaounokovitch [Editor’s note: former Ukrainian President, deposed at the end of February], prices were low. Today, everything increases! » says Vladimir, a 24-year-old boxer turned taxi driver.

He is not the only one to make this observation. The city of Odessa with its opulent architecture and beautiful statues, could be rich. But the grandeur of the monuments of Saint Petersburg in the south, dreamed of by Catherine II of Russia, faces the reality of a depressed population. The economic situation is catastrophic, the black market has never been better, political tensions in eastern Ukraine have spread to the region and Ukrainians are expressing their exasperation with “to the new government in Kiev”, accused of immobility and corruption. A loss of confidence that is expressed everywhere. Suffice to say that the coming of the presidential elections, scheduled for May 25, does not raise the crowds.

Loss of confidence in banks

On April 7, one euro equals 13 grivnas (Ukrainian currency). Five days later, one euro was worth 19 before falling a little afterwards. The currency is very volatile. As of April 30, this rate had returned to 1:16 compared to the more or less stabilized rate of 1:11, which was in effect from November to the end of January. As a result, exchange offices have to change prices every day as inflation increases or the rate changes. Prices are skyrocketing. How do people live? "Most have already taken all their money out of the banks" tells me a well-informed source. And it is better. “Every week, there are problems with money withdrawals. Because there is no more liquidity.. Consequently, the underground economy and the black market, already frequent before, prosper in the city. “My neighbor earns the maximum (400 euros) per month. And yet, he has a car that is worth a hundred times more. No one declares what he earns” indignant Vladimir, who drives a taxi himself " unofficial " and get paid at “black”.

in government 

“How to have confidence in the new government? » Pavel, a young pro-Ukrainian EuroMaidan activist, tells me as we walk towards the statue of Catherine the Great. He watches the cars in the distance. With the new government, “There is only one head that has changed. But all the rest of the political class is completely corrupt”. And the candidacy for the presidential elections of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, released from prison at the end of February, does not commit to change. “She and her “Timoshenko clan” were at the head of corruption in the 80s and 90s. No one wants her back."  As for the current Prime Minister, Arseny Yatsenyuk, he has always lived in “this corrupt political world and no one has any illusions about how he arrived at his post”. Consequence: the new government elected on May 25 "can't change anything".

In law enforcement

Law enforcement in the city of Odessa (Loreline Merelle@B2)
Law enforcement in the city of Odessa (Loreline Merelle@B2)

In the streets of Odessa, the police are very discreet. You rarely come across navy uniforms, and when you do, they move in groups of five or ten. During pro-Russian demonstrations, two or three sandpits - the usefulness of which raises questions - are placed at the entrance to the underground pedestrian crossings. The police block access to Kulikovo Square, a stronghold of pro-Russian demonstrators (Read: In Odessa, nationalists, Soviets and federalists face each other), but do not prevent BMW cars with tinted windows from accessing it. Even after the disbandment of the Berkout law enforcement authorities, accused of having fired on the population during the demonstrations in kyiv in February (Read: Murders in Ukraine (Update)), mistrust remains high vis-à-vis the police. No one is preventing demonstrators from arming themselves, with impunity, with bats and shields.

In the future

« I can't take a position for either side, there are extremists on both. says Viktor, a young Ukrainian, whom he met near Kulikovo Square. For this reader of theGulag Archipelago of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, see some residents of Odessa "admiring Stalin's flag hurts. I do not understand ". A young computer science graduate, Viktor still hasn't found a job after months of searching. Access to the market is blocked. He hopes that " It will be sorted out in two or three years”. When asked about the association agreement with the European Union and economic benefits, he replies uncertainly: “Will this really help us? ".

(Loreline Merelle)

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Loreline Merelle

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