Every Month Ukrainian dissident blogger Dmitriy Kovalevich writes a summary of developments for the New Cold War website. The extracts here deal with everyday life and media and present a very different view from the one you will see on the BBC or read in the papers here.
The full version, entitled One year of the tragic proxy war being waged by NATO in Ukraine, which also covers the ‘Official’ deaths of the peace agreements of 2014 and 2015, Russian military strategy, a ‘Ukraine offensive’? and the Tense situation brewing over Moldova can be read here at newcoldwar.org.
The situation in agriculture and utilities
As the sowing season looms in Ukraine’s countryside, agricultural enterprises in all regions are complaining about the shortage of tractor drivers and other machine operators because so many workers have been taken for military service. Due to shortages of workers, fuel and fertilizers, Ukrainian experts predict a 40 per cent drop in wheat and corn yields this year, even if fighting were to suddenly stop.
Similar shortages of skilled workers are being experienced by the country’s utility companies. Hundreds of electricians, mechanics, cleaners and other vital workers have been taken into military service and there is no one to replace them.
The utilities are experiencing an acute shortage of skilled workers because their employees are being conscripted into in the AFU, they are hiding in their homes to evade military service, or they have succeeded in fleeing the country. Current law in Ukraine prohibits any male of the age of military service from leaving the country, and this is strictly enforced along the country’s borders.
Most Ukrainian towns outside of the front lines in the southeast of the country have not been hit particularly hard so far by military hostilities. On the other hand, there is a gradual degradation of infrastructure throughout the country and there is an ever-present danger of its collapse.
“All business in Ukraine is close to being paralyzed,” writes the Ukrainian telegram channel ‘The Skeptic’. “Entrepreneurs are suffering huge losses. Several factors contribute to this, one of which is the shortage of male employees. Men are being taken from the streets by military conscription units and immediately shipped off to the front lines.”
The channel emphasizes that no economic recovery is taking place in real life. The prospect of recovery is only ‘announced’ by Ukrainian authorities from time to time when they decide it is a good moment to again plea to the West for more money.
Daily life in wartime Ukraine
Thanks to a relatively warm winter, the energy situation for ordinary Ukrainians has improved in February. In most regions, shutting off of electricity has diminished and hot water supply has reappeared.
Another issue is that despite relatively low gas and electricity prices (frozen during the current period of martial law), Ukrainians have nonetheless accumulated significant debts owed to utilities. Russia has cancelled such debts in regions that have come under its control and is promising more of the same to other regions that may come under its control in the future.
The price of gas and electricity has been raised for businesses and industrial enterprises, which has led to the closure of many enterprises and, consequently, mass layoffs of workers.
Beginning in February of this year, businesses are required to submit lists of their employees to the military enlistment offices. Male employees then receive notification to appear for military service. To get around the loss of key workers, many companies do not list them as employed.
Significant part of workers in Ukraine since the years of privatizations during the 1990s work unofficially – working part-time or off-site—and are paid in cash. Officially, they are unemployed. This allows a business owner to avoid paying salary-delated taxes and allows workers to avoid paying income taxes. But it also means that workers do not have such rights as joining a trade union, paid vacations or paying into a company’s pension plan. Ukraine’s government has for many years tried to reduce such ‘shadow employment’, but it has returned with a vengeance due to the fear of military conscription.
However, with this form of ’employment’ causes big problems for workers in receiving salaries. An employee can be listed as employed and is therefore subject to army recruitment, or he works without a formal contract and risks not receiving a paycheque or a fair paycheque.
For businesses and industrial enterprises, the prices of gas and electricity have risen, leading to the closure of many enterprises and, consequently, to the dismissal of employees.
Similar problems are experienced by the utility companies. They are experiencing acute shortages of workers due to military conscription or because workers are hiding in their homes to avoid conscription or have fled the country. The hundreds of electricians, mechanics, cleaners and loaders needed to replace them are simply not available.
Most Ukrainian towns, outside the front lines in the southeast of the country, have so far not been hit particularly hard by the military conflict. On the other hand, there is a gradual degradation of infrastructure.
Continued media censorship
One year later, all media in Ukraine with a different point of view from the official line remain closed. All television channels are required to broadcast the ‘United News’, telemarathon-style broadcasts where only the official position of the office of the Ukrainian president is aired. For the past year, not a single attempt to reflect upon or explain the conflict has been broadcast in the permitted media.
Official Ukrainian propaganda involves almost exclusively the airing of hysterical emotions by Ukrainian citizens. The country’s opponents are termed “psychopaths” and the causes of the conflict are reduced exclusively to the desires of a single “tyrant”, namely, the president of Russia. The study and practice of political economy in once-renowned schools of political economy in Ukraine has been replaced in such institutions by straight-up, pro-government propaganda.
Ukrainian propaganda for domestic consumption is focused exclusively on the emotional whipping up of its audience. This has led to a sharp fall in viewers and in trust for the television channels because their ‘reporting’ is, frankly, bringing much of the civilian population into states of nervous breakdown. This media promotes hatred of all things Russian. But most Ukrainians speak Russian fluently and many have Russian relatives. Thanks to strict censorship in the media following adoption last year of the Zelensky regime’s ‘Law On the Media’, the share of Ukrainians using television as their main source of news has fallen by 12 per cent. The images and messages on television differ too much from real life.