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  • Writer's pictureMariia Chubareva

Kyiv protesters demand bigger slice of city budget for the fight against Russia

“While the Kyiv Administration plants new flowers in parks, we put flowers on graves,” reads the sign held by one of the protesters outside the Kyiv City Council. Last Saturday, hundreds of Kyiv residents demanded the local government to spend the city budget on the needs of the army, taking yet another step in Ukraine’s long fight against corruption.

Outside of the Kyiv City Council building, September 23rd © Olena Tkachenko

On September 23rd, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Kyiv City Council building to protest against what they called wasteful management of Kyiv's budget by the local government, reports The Village Ukraine.

According to Iuliia Chereshnia, a 32-year-old volunteer and protester, people demand that the city stop spending money on renovating infrastructure in Kyiv and instead use this money to buy equipment for the army and build inclusive bomb shelters. Chereshnia says that with the growing number of people with disabilities, most of whom are war veterans, shelters must be equipped with ramps.

A similar protest first occurred in Odesa earlier this September, Ukrainska Pravda reported. The movement then spread to Kyiv as people went to the streets on September 16th with the slogan ‘Money to the Armed Forces of Ukraine’. Chereshnia tells The Groninger that the lack of response from the local government on September 16th motivated more people to gather for the second demonstration.

Chereshnia points out, with reference to Open Budget UA, a platform with updates on budget programs and management, that multiple pavements and parks around the city, otherwise in good condition, have been renewed recently. “Who are these pavements for? If Russians attempt to occupy Kyiv again, is it for them? I pay taxes and it is important to me that that money is spent on helping my friends and relatives at the frontlines, not on pavements in Kyiv,” she says.

"I don't want new pavements, I want evacuation vehicles that save lives at the frontlines" © Iuliia Chereshnia

Chereshnia has been volunteering and raising funds to support the army since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Multiple media channels have been referring to her as the organizer of the protest because she was the first to share the idea with her almost 100 thousand followers on social media. However, she denies being the organizer as she says that she “didn’t gather people, hand them banners, and tell them what to say,” but just voiced her position publicly. “People don’t come because it is organized. They come because they feel the injustice,” explains Chereshnia.

Olena Tkachenko who joined both of the demonstrations tells The Groninger it is her responsibility, as a civilian, to prevent corruption and ensure support for the army. “A lot of our activists are already fighting at war, so they cannot come to these protests. That’s why we, civilians, are the people who need to control the government in the meantime,” says Tkachenko.

Both Tkachenko and Chereshnia are confident that they will continue to protest every Saturday until they see real changes. Although three of the politicians from Mayor Klychko’s party came to the second demonstration, Chereshnia wouldn’t describe their interaction with protesters as a dialogue. One of the promises the politicians made was to allocate 120 million hryvnas (roughly 3 million euros) to building inclusive bomb shelters by the end of the week. “We will wait until the end of the week of course. But I don’t trust them. I want to see reports and real documentation concerning what exactly the money is spent on,” Chereshnia notes.

Tkachenko says that corruption in Ukraine has never been a secret, and in fact, has often been used by Russian propaganda channels to emphasize Ukraine’s inability to join the EU. “However, if we show Europeans that we know about this problem, that we don’t like it, and protest against it, even during the war, this will mean that we don’t just put up with things like that, we fight in our aim to be part of EU,” she adds.

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