Column from Ukraine: If a wounded soldier has to pay for his evacuation
What to do after victory, Oleksii Blyzniuk wondered in late October. But what victory? As long as corruption exists, it is impossible to win. Because the war is a profitable business for some high-ranking officials, he says now.
The situation in Ukraine is changing very rapidly. Three months ago, I wrote about the social problems that Ukraine is already facing and will face even more after the victory.
Interestingly, when I wrote about "victory" two months ago, I was pretty sure that this time would come sooner or later. However, the last two months have significantly changed my perception.
Today, the more pressing question is not "How will we rebuild the country after the victory?" but: "Can we hope for victory at all?". Below, I will briefly present a few points on why the second question is actually more relevant. I will focus on something other than external challenges, such as the reduction of aid from the United States, the Israeli-Palestinian war, or the presence of pro-Russian leaders in the EU who significantly slow down any decisions regarding Ukraine.
Instead, I will focus more on two severe internal problems in Ukraine that jeopardise our victory.
1) Shortage of people
The first problem is the need for more people. Yes, there is a banal shortage of people, and this is no longer some state secret that cannot be talked about. Everyone is talking about this, especially the soldiers on the front line.
A couple of weeks ago, President Zelensky gave a two-hour interview in which he complained that the generals were asking him to mobilise 450-500,000 new soldiers immediately. To this, Zelensky honestly replies that this is impossible because, from an economic point of view, if the country mobilises one new soldier, it should be provided by six working people who pay taxes. So, if we mobilise 500,000 new soldiers, the country should simultaneously have three million new working people who pay taxes. And this is impossible because, as I mentioned in the previous article, the number of working people in Ukraine is already catastrophically low.
At the same time, this figure of working people is decreasing constantly. According to the latest data from the Border Guard Service, 5-8,000 working-age people leave the country every month. Thus, even if partner countries flood us with the necessary weapons today, we do not have enough people to use them.
In Russia, with its 145 million population, there are no problems with this at all. This is actually a severe problem for us because tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of our soldiers who went to serve voluntarily or were drafted into the army in the first months of the war have been fighting for almost two years. So far, they do not even dream of demobilisation, because there is simply no one to replace them. And for a moment, these are also living people who find themselves in the hell of war every single day, exhausted physically and burned out psychologically.
The second internal problem is even worse: corruption. At first, its catastrophic scale was not noticeable, because everyone was on a euphoric patriotic rise, waiting for the long-awaited counteroffensive, the quick return of territories, and filled with pride for our president, who became the person of the year.
But today, the metastases of corruption have become so evident that society cannot remain silent anymore. For example, humanitarian aid collected by volunteers is often misused. It is "lost" somewhere in the endless bureaucratic machine and eventually ends up in someone's pockets. Due to the lack of qualified officers, soldiers on the front line are often led by ignorant people who, without understanding a particular situation, thoughtlessly send soldiers to certain deaths.
A soldier who fights directly on the front line must pay about 70 per cent of his monthly salary not to be sent on a meaningless combat mission, from which it is almost 100 per cent sure that he will not return. If he starts opening his mouth, the corrupt commander throws him in jail as a "traitor to the state." If such a soldier is wounded in battle, he must pay about 30 per cent of his salary to be evacuated.
There are also many facts when officers profit from the deaths of soldiers. The scheme is very simple; for example, some soldiers have been missing in action for several months, and commanders do not give information about this and continue to receive salaries and bonuses due to these soldiers.
Recently, a refugee, a woman with two children, visited our church. Her husband went missing in action on the left bank of Kherson a couple of months ago. She several times submitted a request to his military unit to obtain his documents so that she, as a relative of the missing, could receive all the payments guaranteed to her by law.
But miraculously, she has already been sent documents with errors in her husband's data three times, which makes it impossible for her to receive any compensation. Ultimately, she had to find funds to hire a qualified lawyer who helped her write complaints to the relevant government agencies. How this story will end is still unknown, but the blatant fact of corruption is evident.
These are just a few examples that reflect the glaring reality during the war. No wonder a famous saying claims that war is the most profitable business. But it's terrifying to witness it all.
As a Christian, despite all my patriotic inclinations, I do not understand how we can get out of this situation. When Russia's full-scale invasion began in 2022, we all understood what to do and why. But now I know less and less why the flower of our nation is dying. What are we fighting for if it is simply beneficial for many high-ranking officials that this war lasts as long as possible?
Unfortunately, I don't have answers to these questions. But one thing I understand for sure is that we will never win this war with this level of corruption. Given the shortage of people mentioned above, the longed-for victory is increasingly disappearing as a short-term pleasant dream in a cruel reality.
God help us!
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