Ukraine in One Sentence: 'Our Leaders Are All Millionaires, and They Don't Want to Listen'

Not even German media can hide the sour mood in West Ukraine

Tue, Jun 2, 2015
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"Where do you keep your millions?" "Under my mattress"
"Where do you keep your millions?" "Under my mattress"

Deutsche Welle has a rather remarkable report about popular discontent in West Ukraine. Yes, even the Germans are now incapable of spinning the social and economic ruin facing Ukraine

In the Buzhanska mine 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the Polish border Ukrainian miners are putting on their uniforms and collecting their flashlights as they prepare to relieve the nightshift. The work is grueling and little of it automated. In the past mining was one of the better jobs in the area, with miners able to earn up to $240 (219 euros) a month. With miners owed months in back pay by the state that is no longer case.

The average wage in nearby Novovolynsk, a city of 57,000 built in 1950 to support the then new mines, is $140 a month. Though locals say the most people not working in the mines can hope to make is $119. Here the economic crisis that followed the Maidan protests and the war - which destroyed 60 percent of the local currency's value - has hit hard.

"What did we need all of that for? We've gotten nothing for it," says Svetlana Shevchuk, 56, who is forced to live off of the state's unemployment payments, now worth $20 a month.

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Twenty dollars a month

As for young Ukrainians, there are basically two options: Get turned into hamburger meat in Donbass, or leave the country in search of a not-completely-hopeless future. 

For the older generation it is hard to see so many of the young leave to find work or to fight. Vasyl Buslovsky, 89, is originally from Russia's Belgorod region and was sent to Novovolynsk to drill the first mines back in the '50s. He laments that the economic situation has made his grandchildren move away to the US and Norway and makes their children not even want to visit Ukraine.

"Our leaders are all millionaires, he says. "And they don't want to listen."

Ding ding ding! We have a winner! (Except they're billionaires.)

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