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Ukraine hollows out

Since independence and especially since the Maidan coup Ukraine has experienced a population collapse unprecedented in post Second World War Europe.

Andrey Fomin

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This article was first published by Oriental Review

In the legendary Gogol’s novel “Dead Souls”, a swindler buys on paper slaves who died after the latest census (therefore officially alive) in order to use them as a collateral to take a loan he has no intention of paying back. As we’ll see, Groisman’s government of Ukraine wrote a new version of the novel, this time taking down a whole country in their insane plan.

It’s official: Ukraine doesn’t count its emigration

Ukraine held its last census in 2001. At that time its population accounted 48,457,000 people. The official figures as on Jun 1, 2017 show a demographic disaster: 42,482,000, 6 million or 13% down in 16 years.

Population of Ukraine 1990-2017, in millions. Source: Ukrstat.

Surprisingly, according to the same data, net migration in Ukraine after the first Orange Revolution (2014) turns slightly positive: 

Ukrainian population in 1990-2016 chart. Source: UkrStat. Positive migration balance in 2005-2016 marked in red.

This miracle has a very simple explanation.

The figures of immigration and emigration are normally based on the entries and exits of the national territory. In Ukraine, on the contrary, these statistics are based on the official place of residence.When a citizen moves from one part of Ukraine to another, he has to declare his change of residence for administrative reasons. But those who move out of the country simply have no reason to do so. The falsification of Ukrainian demographic data therefore consists in a simple change of definition, as confirmed in an endnote of the 2017 migration figures. Importantly, this endnote in available in Ukrainian language only:

Translation into English: Information based on the available administrative data on the change of registration of place of residence.

In other words: the falsification of the Ukrainian demographic data is absolutely not a secret. We shall try to measure the magnitude of this falsification, and try to understand who is benefiting from these ‘dead souls’.

Estimates of the real population of Ukraine

Electicity consumption

The first is based on the official electricity consumption figures:

Energy consumption in Ukraine, 2015 compared to 2014 (total, industry, agriculture, transport, public utilities, population). Source: Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine.

Thus, during that year the Ukrainian industries decreased approximately on 18%, while population diminished on 7-8%.

Bread comsumption

A notable Ukrainian analysis shows that the bread consumption had plummetted 55% between 2000 and 2016:

The chart presents statistics of production of different types of breads in 2000-2016 in Ukraine, in tons.
The chart presents statistics of production of different types of breads in 2000-2016 in Ukraine, in tons.

It should be taken into account that in Ukrainian culture the fall of incomes impacts the consumption of bread in a minimal scale or even leads to its increase as the bread often replaces more expensive products like meat and fish. Therefore, 55% decrease in bread production together with lowering incomes evidence that Ukraine has apparently lost half of its population for the last 16 years.

Number of the schoolchildren

During the 1995/1996 school year there were 7.1 million schoolchildren in Ukraine. In the 2015/2016schoolyear it was down to 3,783,150 (official data of the Ministry of Education of Ukraine) or 47% in 20 years.

Ukrainian Institute for the Future

In June 2017 the Ukrainian Institute for the Future released a symptomatic report with the following graphics:

Structure of the Ukrainian population in employment terms.

It shows that there are only 12.3 million officially declared jobs in Ukraine today.

Emigration statistics in neighboring countries since 2014

From the Russian official statistics the net legal migration between the two countries in 2014 and 2015 was 240,501 towards Russia. In 2016194,385 Ukrainians obtained a residence permit and 100,696 obtained Russian citizenship. Another 600,000 Ukrainians living in Russia are waiting a law change to allow them to obtain Russian citizenship. These figures do not include temporary refugees and people with work patents. Also, due to the absence of visa requirements, a significant part of the immigration from Ukanire to Russia is illegal. All this taken into account, we can roughly estimate the emigration from Ukraine to Russia since 2014 to about 2.5 million people.

As to the rest of the world, the main destination is Poland and we can estimate that by the end of 2016 there were 1.5 million Ukrainians working there. The total exodus from Ukraine to abroad since 2014 most likely reached 6-10 million people. However the vast majority of them do not have any permanent residence permits and have to go back to Ukraine regularly.

Emigration between 2004 and 2013

The World Migration Report 2008 claimed that 780,000 Ukrainians worked abroad, compared to 62,000 people according to Ukrainian authorities.

Russian figures indicate that the net migration between Ukraine and Russia was approximately292,000 towards Russia from 2005 until 2013. The equivalent figures for Italy from 2003 until 2013 is 206,320 people towards Italy. There have also been 892,908 Ukrainians who received long term visas (over 3 months) to the EU between 2008 and 2013. In total, we can estimate that the falsification of demographic figures before 2014 was approximately one million people who were already living abroad before the 2014 coup. If we add the loss of population in the Donbass to DNR and LNR at 3.5 millions, the permanent Kiev-controlled population now should be around 42,5-8-3,5-1=30 million people.

Why do they falsify?

Alexandr Klymenko

Aleksandr Klymenko, former Minister of Taxes and Duties of Ukraine, offers four interesting explanations for this falsifications:

Trick the IMF and the EU

The international donors seem to use the official falsified figures in their predictive models to determine if Ukraine will be able to pay back. It is obvious that Ukraine will default (it has already defaulted on a 3 billion dollar debt to Russia) and that no analyst could take the current Ukrainian government seriously in this matter, but maybe all this make-believe theater is simply very convenient to transfer Western taxpayer money into the right pockets: several Ukrainian oligarchs and Western companies benefit from the chaos.

Steal money from the Ukrainian people

Oleksandr Klymenko suggests that the falsification could help some officials become richer, through the energy officially used for the millions of dead souls. As Ukrainian apartments do not usually have individual electric or gas counters, the energy is counted for the whole building, then paid by each tenant based on how many people officially live in each apartment. One way to steal money would be to make people who live a large part of the year abroad as much as if they were always in Ukraine, then pocket the difference.

Steal the elections

Until 2014, mass emigration was mostly observed in the pro-NATO Western part of the country. Letting relatives vote for two million people living mostly or permanently abroady greatly helped parties opposed to good relations with Russia.

Minimise the casualties of the war

Officially, Kiev recognizes only 2700 soldiers killed in the undeclared war against Donbass, despite catastrophic losses during several combat phses, such as the Ilovaisk mousetrap. Hiding the real losses of the war helps the government to remain in power: it hides their incompetence, reduces protests against the war, and lets them blame all of Ukraine’s problems on the war (which is imputed on the mighty invisible Russian army).

Hide Ukraine’s weakness compared to its neighbours

The economic and demographic collapse of Ukraine puts it in an extremely weak position compared to all of its neighbors: Ukraine is now in all aspects much weaker than the smaller Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. The main problem however may come from Poland, which has not forgotten that almost 100,000 km² of the West of Ukraine used to belong to Poland until 1939. The relations between the two countries are already getting sour because of the glorification of Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian Waffen-SS volunteers, who massacred not only Jews but also many Poles. There is no risk of war between the two countries in a foreseeable future, but Poland, America’s most servile vassal in Eastern Europe, knows how easy it can be to invade another country in the name of democracy and Western values and get away with it. This may be far-fetched, but more simply if millions of West-Ukrainians live in Poland and obtain Polish citizenship, Ukraine might very well become Poland’s vassal state. Hiding the real demographic disaster might prevent Polish politicians from even planning such a take-over.

Minimise the importance of emigrants for the economy

Remittances sent by migrant workers to their families in Ukraine represents sums larger than foreign direct investments (over $6 bln compared to less than $3.5 bln in 2016). They are the reason why the value of the hryvna has not completely collapsed despite collapsing exports. Remittances contribute to around 8% of the Ukrainian economy. Denying the mass emigration is a way of exagerrating the strength of the Ukrainian economy, as these remittances are due to the weakness of Ukraine’s economy and not a measure of its strength.

Hide the government project of population reduction

Having its Soviet-built industry, completely destroyed, today’s Ukraine simply cannot afford to socially support 30 million people and latently encourages emigration elsewhere. Oleksandr Klymenko agrees and adds that the plan of the government is to reduce the population of Ukraine to 20 millions as quickly as possible: old people will die faster from the reform of pensions and the reform of health services, and on the other hand fertility will decrease due to the end of free medicine for expecting mothers and the end of benefits paid to parents of young children. The falsification of demographic figures hide the fact that the “operation 20 millions” is carrying out successfully.

Conclusion

Although the falsification of Ukraine’s demographic data is not a secret, as it is clearly mentioned on Ukrstat’s website, the validity of the official figures is hardly ever discussed. We showed here an exclusive method of estimating the population of Ukraine which confirms that the demographic collapse of Ukraine is much worse than officially acknowledged. As in Gogol’s novel, the trafficking of dead souls probably helps a few people getting richer, but beyond this, the dissimulation of mass emigration hides the criminal incompetence of the Ukrainian government and the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis they initiated. Many elements point to a worsening of the demographic situation in the foreseeable future, and the very existence of Ukraine might be threatened in the next few decades by the consequence of the suicidal politics of the current government, if it is not soon replaced by competent people determined to pull Ukraine out of the disaster by ending the war, stop the all-out confrontation with Russia and definitely cancel the politics designed to serve the financial and strategic interests of the Western elite instead of the interests of the Ukrainian people.

Photo taken in the Ukrainian town of Drogobych, 2016

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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