Most Ukrainians think country headed in wrong direction on 2nd anniversary of Maidan uprising
Two years ago, protesters gathered in central Kiev to demand change and reforms, eventually ousting then-President Yanukovich. However, 730 days later, the country is far from prosperity, with mounting debts and a costly conflict in the east.
On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Kiev’s central Independence Square, better known as Maidan, to celebrate the Day of Dignity and Freedom, marking the second anniversary of the Euromaidan protests. Various events were held around the city.
President Petro Poroshenko attended a commemorative ceremony devoted to those killed during the Maidan protests and laid flowers and lit candles at the “Heavenly Hundred” memorial.
"Together with all the heavenly hero’s we honored the memory of our hero’s," Poroshenko tweeted.
He was booed by some protesters, however, who had come to decry the country’s dire economic situation. “Neither Poroshenko, nor the authorities… they don’t care for the people. We stay here with our questions concerning Financial Maidan… They neither want to hear us nor to hold restructuring measures,” one man told Ruptly.
Ukraine’s desire to move out of Moscow’s orbit and into the arms of the West does not seem to be paying dividends. According to statistics from the International Monetary Fund, Ukraine’s economy will contract by a staggering 12 percent in 2015, while Kiev’s external debt is expected to reach 153 percent of GDP in 2015 before and 134.2 percent in 2016.
The average standard of living has nosedived for the general population, with Ukraine’s national currency, the hryvnia, losing three-times its value against the US dollar since the protests first started on November 21, 2013.
“Many people two years ago were very optimistic and they thought Maidan would mean a break with the past and a bright future. Unfortunately, for that vast majority that bright future has not appeared. The biggest problem is corruption and very little is being done, and Ukraine is not making very much progress,” author and political analyst Martin McCauley told RT.
Despite the great fanfare that came with the introduction of new reforms to improve standards of living and stem corruption, President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected in May 2014, has achieved neither. A recent poll by the Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research showed that 72 percent of those asked do not believe Ukraine is heading in the right direction, saying either the reform process is moving too slowly or not at all.
One of the reasons for the uprising against Viktor Yanukovich in November 2013 was the former-president’s reluctance to sign a trade deal with the EU, which vast numbers of the Ukrainian public believed would also eventually bring EU membership and visa free travel. However, with the continent gripped by a refugee crisis, the appetite for loosening the bloc’s borders further is waning, despite the EU’s vague, lukewarm allusions to the possibility of visa free travel for Ukrainians.
“The European Union has mandated specific changes in Ukrainian legislation, but even if all of the requirements posed by the European Union are met in legislation, that does not guarantee there will be visa free transit between Ukraine and the European Union,” said Nicolai Petro of the Political Science Department at Rhode Island University, who spoke to RT.
Things are not looking any brighter for President Poroshenko on the second anniversary of the Maidan riots. His approval rating remains low, while he still has the small matter of a not so small debt to Russia that needs to be attended to. The three billion dollar loan is scheduled to be paid back in December.
“Ukraine has a three billion dollar Eurobond dispute with Russia and that is ongoing and Ukraine is not really able to pay for that. For all intents and purposes, Ukraine is bankrupt,” McCauley said.