Why Ukraine reformists yearn for change

Media captionVolodymyr Bondarchuk’s father died in the Maidan protests

It was 20 February 2014, the bloodiest day of Kiev’s so-called Maidan protests.

The demonstrations had gone on for months, through the bitter Ukrainian winter, and culminated in forcing President Viktor Yanukovych from power.

When Volodymyr Bondarchuk found out that demonstrators had been shot dead, near Kiev’s Independence Square, he repeatedly rang his father’s mobile phone. There was no answer.

His father Sergiy, a physics teacher and member of a Ukrainian political party, was 52.

Volodymyr can vividly remember the badly damaged hands of other dead protesters as he searched for his father’s body at the morgue.

Two years on and he feels proud of the way that civil society in Ukraine has rallied behind the banner of reform, but he feels “betrayed” by Ukraine’s political class, which he says has failed to root out corruption and change the system of governance.

“They are using the same methods as they were using two years ago.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the reformist MP Serhiy Leshenko, an independent MP who is still formally part of President Poroshenko’s political grouping, but has now become a sharp-tongued critic of the government.

Mr Leshenko describes efforts to install Volodymyr Groysman, an ally of President Poroshenko, as the new prime minister as “business as usual.”

“Now we see everything as it was in Yanukovych’s time.”

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Parliament speaker Volodymyr Groysman (left) could succeed Mr Yatsenyuk (centre) as President Poroshenko’s prime minister

The former journalist believes a new Ukrainian government has to demonstrate zero tolerance towards corruption, but he claims Mr Groysman is not the right man for the job because “he is a product of the system”.

Walking out

It is true that Mr Groysman, a former city mayor of Vinnytsia and former deputy prime minister, is a career politician and close to the president.

However, his allies point to his previous successes in office.

Artur Arutyunov, an MP and member of President Poroshenko’s party, describes Mr Groysman as “one of the best mayors in Ukraine’s history”, and exactly the man who can unite the president and the cabinet, and push through much-needed reforms.

Some progress has been made in Ukraine to do away with clumsy, Soviet-era bureaucracy, which is ripe for corruption.

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Ukraine could be set for a period of prolonged political uncertainty

However a number of reformists have left the government in recent weeks claiming that the vested interests of the political elite stand in the way of true change.

On Monday night there were reports that negotiations to install Mr Groysman as prime minister had stalled.

If he does take office then the pressure will increase on President Poroshenko to deliver a stable and genuinely reformist government for Ukraine.


Volodymyr Bondarchuk, whose father’s photo is now part of a permanent memorial to those killed during the Maidan protests in 2014, believes Ukraine’s politicians are not fighting for democracy and ideals “but to control access to money”.

Cynicism and frustration towards post-Maidan politics, and the lack of change, in Ukraine is growing.

War veterans who fought in the ongoing conflict in the east of the country were involved in another small anti-government demonstration last week.

Volodymyr believes the government should heed the warnings.

“There are a lot of people in this country who volunteered… who know how to handle a weapon and I would not recommend the government to play games like this,” he says.

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