First Kyiv, then Ukraine

Lesya Orobets is not happy about things in Ukraine. But she plans to do something about it. At just 32, she is currently the youngest member of the Ukrainian parliament. Now she hopes to become mayor of Kyiv. If successful, she would become not just the youngest person ever to hold the position, but also the first woman.

Elections will take place on May 25. If Orobets wins, she has a clear vision for the future direction she wants to take: an end to the corruption that plays such a large part in Ukrainian life. In its place, a gradual progression toward Western values. A movement toward the European Union. Kyiv will lead the way: “It’s easier to change things in the city before trying to change things in the whole country,” she says.

Orobets, a law graduate, was first elected to the Ukrainian parliament aged just 25. Back then, she was part of the Blok Nasha Ukrayina alliance, the Our Ukraine Bloc. Today she is part of Batkivshchyna, or the All-Ukrainian Union “Fatherland”, the party of Yulia Tymoshenko. She has been involved in the fight against corruption in Ukraine for many years. Between 2011 and 2013 alone, she wrote more than 800 letters of complaint to members of the government, defending the rights of citizens, criticizing corrupt relationships and even managing on occasion to prevent bribery taking place in the first place.

A dangerous occupation for a young woman. Early in 2013, she received her first death threats. The pressure escalated to such an extent that her husband was forced to flee Ukraine for a while. But fighting is in her blood. Her father, Yuriy Orobets, was also active in the campaign to eradicate electoral fraud and corruption in Ukraine. He died in 2006 in a mysterious car accident.

“It is difficult to ignore the human rights abuses which often occur in Russia and Belarus, and, unfortunately, in recent years also in Ukraine,” wrote Orobets in a contribution to the Munich Security Conference. “The world in general and Europe in particular are still divided into two parts. In one of them the state serves people, whereas in the other it is the other way round” (http://www.koerber-stiftung.de/internationale-politik/munich-young-leaders/round-tables/round-table-2013/kommentare/lesya-orobets.html).

That’s something that Orobets wants to change. She played a prominent role in the recent Maidan protests. Despite having two young daughters, she took part in the demonstrations on the square calling for change. So she was particularly relieved when President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed. But for her, that doesn’t go nearly far enough. Putin’s intervention, the occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula – and now the unconstitutional referendum in which 96% of voters decided to join Russia. The referendum was boycotted by the Crimean Tartars, a traditionally Islamic minority who suffered greatly in the past under Russian rule. Now that minority is afraid that history will repeat itself.

“My country has many problems,” says Orobets. She believes that Ukraine can only protect itself against Russia with international help. At the Munich Security Conference, she already asked the EU for support: “We are not asking anyone to do anything in our place. We are just asking the European Union to adhere to its political creed.” The creed of peace and reconciliation, democracy and inviolable human rights.

Links:

http://www.koerber-stiftung.de/en/international-affairs/munich-young-leaders/round-tables/round-table-2013/comments/lesya-orobets.html

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/12/16/Parliamentarian-lesya-orobets-on-the-myth-of-a-divided-ukraine.html

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