Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe | Ukraine | The Guardian

Half of Ukraine’s men, and a fifth of its women, smoke; the national diet is heavy with animal fat; the national drink is vodka. Radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spread thyroid cancers throughout the 1980s generation, increasing the incidence among children tenfold. There are few family doctors, which means that breast, prostate and bowel tumours often go undetected for months. Survival rates for these cancers are among the worst in Europe.

Kiev has a grand opera house, cathedrals, chain stores, sweeping central avenues, a metro, everything required to make a place look European. But it resembles a modern European capital city only in the way the Cancer Institute resembles a hospital. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide – rates Ukraine 142nd in the world, alongside Uganda. In the latest ranking, it fell behind Nigeria.

Since 1991, officials, members of parliament and businessmen have created complex and highly lucrative schemes to plunder the state budget. The theft has crippled Ukraine. The economy was as large as Poland’s at independence, now it is a third of the size. Ordinary Ukrainians have seen their living standards stagnate, while a handful of oligarchs have become billionaires.

In 2009, Yushchenko had commissioned a security operative, who specialised in organised crime, to lead an internal report into healthcare corruption. The report exposed how businessmen use offshore shell companies to conspire with corrupt officials, rig state tenders and jack up prices. Within weeks of the report being completed, an assailant threw a grenade at the operative who had written it, as he got out of his car on Tatarska Street in central Kiev. Shrapnel shredded his car, and scarred the nearby buildings. The man survived but only after extensive surgery at a specialist unit in Israel. His report was never officially published – although it was leaked online – and the assailant was never found.

Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe | Ukraine | The Guardian