Gleb Garanich / Courtesy Reuters Banknotes of Ukrainian hryvnia are seen Kiev, May 23, 2012.

Ukraine’s Own Worst Enemy

Why Corruption Is More Dangerous than Putin

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From the outside, the state of affairs in Ukraine seem easy to summarize. Peaceful protests for closer ties with the EU in Kiev’s Maidan Square provoked a brutal crackdown, which in turn, led to the ousting of incumbent President Viktor Yanukovych. After that, Russia annexed Crimea. There have since been violent tremors in cities such as Odessa, and Russian-backed separatists in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics continue waging brutal insurrections.

An end to all this death and destruction would bring some measure of respite to the new government of Ukraine, led by President Petro Poroshenko. However, upon a closer examination, it is clear that this alone will not be enough to place the country on a truly new path. To do that, Ukraine must overcome its self-inflicted problems, in particular rampant and pervasive corruption.


Traveling through Kiev and Odessa, it is hard to believe that some 500 miles to the east, a war is raging. A few tents remain in the Maidan, and civilians collect money for volunteer units created to support the under-equipped Ukrainian army. The receptionists at Kiev’s Ukraine Hotel break down when asked to recall what they witnessed as their hotel’s lobby was turned into a makeshift field hospital for protestors wounded by gunfire. Memorials surround Odessa’s Trade Union House, where 48 people died in a tragic conflagration. Everywhere in Kiev and Odessa, Ukrainians want the unseen war to end.

Beyond that, two themes prevail. The first is

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