Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A grim reminder of Ukraine's challenges

The above is a grim reminder of the challenges Ukraine and its citizens still must deal with as it moves from a centrally-planned authoritarian regime through mafia-style politics on its way to stable democracy. The flowers were laid on a sidewalk in downtown Kyiv in memory of the head of Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences, who was gunned down in an apparent contract hit about a couple of weeks ago. This shooting happened across the street from an expat friend of mine, and in front of the building where a US Embassy employee lives. It's about 3 blocks from my apartment.

I can find no mention of the incident in the English-language Internet. But I heard from a Ukrainian doctor friend that there has recently been a large restructuring of the health care system between the Ministry of Health and the Academy. I've heard the Academy has one of the largest, if not the largest, budget of any ministry in Ukraine. And like all parts of the government, corruption is rampant.

I don't know why this person was killed, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that there are obviously still at least one too many Ukrainians who believe killing people is the best way to get what you want. I know it happens in every country. Contract hits in Ukraine don't happen nearly as often as they did 15 years ago, or as often as in Russia today. But as an American, it is still pretty scary to think this kind of thing happens on a public street in the heart of downtown.