Politicians in debt-stricken Ukraine reveal lavish fortunes, spark public outcry

© Andrey Vasilenko
Ukraine is facing a public outcry after country’s politicians have declared the possession of vast hordes of cash, bulging bank accounts, high-end cars, elite wine collections and other luxury goods in the aftermath of anti-corruption reform.

Ukrainian politicians and officials had until November 1 to file declarations of their assets to an open searchable web . The move is part of an anti-corruption fight in the country and comes in the wake of respective laws passed on February 16 and March 15 this year. The legislation also demands that relatives who live with the officials disclose their fortunes. 

The revelations have sparked quite a stir among activists, experts and average Ukrainians, who are outraged at the luxury lifestyle of their representatives. 

“I personally for the second day feel sick. To be more precise, like someone who has been severe beaten and is therefore sick. I had no illusions about our political and official elite. But all the same, what's come out is beyond the pale,” wrote Roman Donik, a Ukrainian army volunteer, his anger on Facebook. 

According to the database, Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman and his wife revealed a possession of some $1.2 million and 460,000 euros in cash, adding to a collection of luxury watches. A prominent lawmaker from the Ukrainian Opposition bloc, Mikhail Dobkin, disclosed he owns 1,780 bottles of wine and a rare 19th century edition of the Russian novel “Anna Karenina,” whose value is estimated at $5,500.

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine’s Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov, revealed that he and his wife possess luxury watches, diamond jewelry, fur coats and cash worth a cool $2.2 million. For comparison, the average salary in Ukraine, according to Reuters, is just over $200 per month.

“These people are supposedly leading us into the EU, but such assets among officials – this is not normal. Especially since almost none of those who declared their assets and savings cannot explain the source” of their wealth, financial expert Vsevolod Stepanyuk  the Ukrainian branch of RIA Novosti.

The question of the source of the fortunes is being shared by some people on social media.

“What's more important for Ukraine: the fact that officials start declaring their opulent assets or investigation into how they got them?” one tweet said. 

In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion aid tranche for Ukraine from its $17.2 billion bailout program. The fresh transfer should help keep the crumbling economy of Ukraine afloat.

“If tax is payed from everything declared by the officials and national MPs, then Ukraine itself will be able to credit the IMF,” one person  in an ironic tweet. 

Some Kiev officials apparently decided to poke fun of the declaration process, including the former chief of the paramilitary far-right “Aidar” battalion and a current MP for the Narodnaya Volya (National Will) party, Sergei Melnichuk. The lawmaker declared he possessed assets of nearly $39 million.

“That was an unfortunate joke from his side,” the party’s press office later  the Apostrophe media outlet.

According to the State Statistics Committee, Ukrainians’ average income fell a massive 22 percent last year. Data from the Ukrainian Association of Suppliers to Retail Chains showed that sales of food decreased by 20 percent in the first six month of this year.