Will Ukraine Ever Change?

Walk around Rivne, a town of a quarter-million people in western Ukraine, a four-hour drive from Kiev, and you could easily get the impression that things are going far better than the country’s official statistics indicate they should be. To a certain extent this is not surprising: economists calculate that between 40 and 50 percent of Ukraine’s economy is off the books, because so much of it is cash-based and it is easy to evade taxes. But a closer look at Rivne tells another story. Along with lots of new houses, one sees fancy new SUVs driven by beefy, shaven-headed men who are accompanied by glamorous high-heeled girls—one of many indications of the extent to which the town has been taken over by organized crime.

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