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With saber rattling on both sides, large troop movements towards the borders, and bellicose rhetoric, war seems to be a real possibility. If it happens, Ukrainian armed forces would be decimated in a matter of hours, and Ukrainian youth know this, so they are fleeing conscription, heading to Russia and the EU, anywhere but home.
Ukrainians are not eager for war with Russia. Russians feel the same way. This segment takes a closer look at Ukrainians unhappy with their country’s government and they explain why.
65% of them oppose martial law and military age men are fleeing the country to avoid the draft.
The escalating conflict is entirely artificial, provoked by an incredibly corrupt Ukrainian government that ignores the impoverished people and enriches itself.
65% of Ukrainians oppose martial law according to the latest poll. However, the situation at the border checkpoints shows the people's attitude to Poroshenko's election strategy even more explicitly. Kiev has banned all Russian men from entering Ukraine but now can't keep its own in. Ukrainian men liable for military service are literally fleeing to the neighboring countries.
Our correspondent Yelena Yerofeyeva drove along the western and eastern borders of Ukraine and talked to those who decided to lay low and sit it out.
Geese are strolling around under the Ukrainian flag. Martial law doesn't apply to birds. No tanks or trenches beyond the border. It almost seems like life is back to normal. Ukrainians travel to Russia and Russians travel to Ukraine.
Vladimir Marchenko, priest:
- Do you see what's happening?
- In Ukraine?
- Yes. A single person has gone mad and is thrashing the whole country.
Men aged 16 to 60 are banned from entering Ukraine. The Ukrainian border guards demand a notarized invitation and a valid reason. Vladimir Sirotenko has the latter in his trunk.
Vladimir Sirotenko: "My mother and father are buried there. My dad was there when they took Berlin. But I'm not allowed to visit his grave."
Ukrainians don't have to prove anything upon crossing the border. The people are fleeing as far as they can even though since the first day of his presidency, Poroshenko promised to lead the country to a European future.
This road was supposed to lead Ukraine to Europe. Hungary was the first to recognize its independence and the right to join the EU and NATO. However, the Zahony-Chop checkpoint isn't that popular. Only trucks are waiting in line. Even the people who travel to Europe to earn money come back home on Christmas.
The phrase "Ukraine is Europe" has remained a mere slogan. Now, Alexander Malnor knows the difference. After the Maidan, he moved to the Netherlands to Germany, and then, to Czechia. Now, he works at a parking lot in Budapest.
- Why did you move from Europe to Europe?
- I came here for European wages, but what I got were European gas prices.
He doesn't want to come back to Zakarpattia. After martial law was announced, the military commissariat began looking for him. He already has three draft notices.
Arpad Tsapovich, political analyst: "This martial law is goofy. Ukraine's goofy. They didn't need martial law. Everybody knows that the Ukrainian economy won't survive without Russia."
Nevertheless, Hungary welcomes Ukrainians. Newly built factories and construction sites won't staff themselves. Our crew member tried to get a job as an electrician. The employer was ready to hire him the same day.
“Assistants get 1,100. Masters get 1,200 and free accommodation.”
1,100 forint is about 400 rubles ($6) for a shift. The dorm is free. It's a simple two-story house with a small kitchen, double bunk beds two rows of mattresses, and about 20 inhabitants.
“Are you high or what? Bon appetit.”
Here, young guys are hiding from the army and working at the same time. The environment is not home-like. But only far away from home can those people earn decent money.
Evgeniy, taxi driver: "I came to Poland because the situation in Ukraine is worse than ever. I feel sorry for my elderly parents. They earn enough money to pay their bills and eat for a single week."
Eugeny traveled to Krakow to work as a taxi driver. He keeps getting disturbing news from home. Ukraine is mobilizing troops.
Evgeniy: “I won't hurry back to Ukraine to enlist at the military commissariat. I haven't received any substantial help from the government that would make me want to give something back.”
Igor and his brigade have been traveling around Europe for many years. Now, they're renovating facades in Krakow. In January, he's getting a nice contract in Spain... if he doesn't get conscripted.
Igor Stepanov, construction worker: "I don't care about the fighting. I have to feed my family, raise my kids, and educate them so that they don't end up like me, chasing contracts in foreign lands."
A so-called illegal bazaar has existed on the outskirts of Warsaw for several years. Workers come here at 6 A.M. and wait to be picked by employers.
“They can look at my work and pay me as much as they want.”
Oresta, 53, travels from Ternopil to work in Poland. Along the way, she complains about her life. With a cup of tea, she talks about politics.
- Poroshenko must have a truckful.
- Of money?
- Yeah, money.
- Where does he get the money if Ukraine is poor?
- He gets it from Canada, America, Austria, and Germany. Many countries support Ukraine but he stuffs all of the money into his pockets.
The cleaning took less than an hour and cost us 80 zlotys, even though that's not what we'd agreed upon. Even the Polish begin to complain that Ukrainians work worse and take more.
Yuri Karyagin, President of Ukrainian Worker Union: "The cooks at the health resort overcooked the borshch and made it so salty that it was impossible to eat. All of the 100 vacationers remained hungry."
People are still selling vodka and cigarettes at the Polish-Ukrainian border. Vodka, we have vodka. Poroshenko's candies are sold at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border. The candy-president provided a sweet life for his country. He cooks the candies and his citizens sell them, though abroad.
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