Ukraine is the most corrupt country in Europe, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. It was anger over this entrenched graft and bribe-taking, as well as the impunity enjoyed by regime insiders, that drove the revolution of 2014.
Two years have passed, and Ukrainians have found it to be far harder to change the way their country is run, than it was to change the people running it. Officials remain unaccountable, distant and dishonest. Hospitals, ministries, regions and towns continue to be run as private fiefdoms. Since prosecutors and judges are also corrupt, it is very hard to do anything about it.
In this reporting project, Oliver Bullough studies the nature of Ukraine’s epidemic of corruption, meets the people standing up to it, and those benefiting from it. The problem extends far beyond Ukraine’s borders: taking in bankers in Cyprus and elsewhere who deliberately fail to question the origin of funds; and estate agents and others in the world’s most prestigious cities who happily accept those funds.
The project shows how modern corruption is not confined to one country, but spreads and flourishes in the gaps between different jurisdictions. Once money has passed from Ukraine to the West, it has been cleaned and stripped of its suspicious taint. It buys houses, goods and influence, distorting Western economies, just as it has distorted Ukraine.