Ukraine's Roads: An Endangered Species

Ukrainian drivers are as fond of using dashboard cameras as their Russian counterparts, a “phenomenon” that has recently become known internationally thanks to the Chelyabinsk meteor. This winter, Ukraine's roads have grown so grotesquely potholed – as if hit by hundreds of small meteors! – that many drivers couldn't help sharing their dash cam videos online.

By mid-February 2013, the public outrage over the appalling state of the roads temporarily stole the social media spotlight from the bizarre and ominous second trial of the already jailed ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko, and from the opposition's two-week 24/7 blockade of the Parliament.

Below is a small selection of the recent footage documenting Ukrainian drivers’ bumpy riding routines.

  • The road from Zhytomyr to Berdychiv (this video has been viewed over 20,000 times; its author, Yulia Bankova, mockingly calls the road an Autobahn, referring to the comparatively impeccable German motorways; at one point, the driver is heard wishing that such a ghastly road led to President Victor Yanukovych‘s residence):

  • The road from Ukraine's capital Kyiv to the city of Kremenchuk (the video's author comments: “There's still one month of winter left, but the roads are already gone!!!”):

  • One of the central streets in the city of Gorlovka in Donetsk region (this is not a dash cam video, but a view “from the outside”; its author, Oleg Nosov, notes that the majority of the city's residents are forced to take this route every day, either in their own cars or on public buses and trolleybuses):

  • The road connecting Lviv and Ternopil (the video's author, Roman Symko, uses AC/DC's “Highway to Hell” as a soundtrack):

  • The Ternopil-Lviv road again (this video, by Nazar Kovalyshyn, has been viewed 86,685 times; the discussion that follows is lively and multilingual; there are mentions of similar road problems in Moldova, Hungary, Russia and Poland; the “Czech Republic could also do better”; one user vows to “never complain about potholes here in Sweden ever again,” while another one thinks it's no “big deal. I would rather drive that road any day than drive anywhere in India…”; a number of users praise the author's choice of a background song – “Die Young” by Black Sabbath):

Among other things, Nazar Kovalyshyn, the author of the last video in the selection above, mentioned that the Ternopil-Lviv road had been repaired for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, which Ukraine co-hosted with Poland last summer, spending $6.6 billion from its budget on preparations for the event. These preparations included large-scale road repairs in the host cities and all over the country. In Sept. 2011, President Yanukovych was quoted saying that he was “confident that the infrastructure built in Ukraine [would] serve many generations.”

The newly-repaired roads, however, have failed to survive their first winter – which says a lot about the quality of those costly repairs and confirms that Ukraine's reputation as one of the world's most corrupt countries is well deserved.

"Euro 2012: The End." (An anonymous image widely circulated online.)

“Euro 2012: The End.” (An anonymous image widely circulated online.)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov sees the root of the road problem elsewhere. On Feb. 8, in a wordy Facebook post [ru], he (or whoever maintains his page for him) explained to nearly 24,000 of his subscribers that Ukraine “has 170,000 km of various roads,” of which only 2,731 km are “roads of the first category, i.e., those on which it is possible to drive comfortably.” According to PM Azarov, “the construction of 1 km of road surface in Ukraine costs approximately 40 million hryvnias ($4.9 million)”, or even more, whereas in Poland “it's almost twice as much,” and in Germany it's 2.5 times the Ukrainian cost, i.e., “100,000 hryvnias” ($12.3 million) per kilometer. The Ukrainian budget provides approximately 20 billion hryvnias per year ($2.5 billion) for road construction and repairs. “It's easy to calculate,” writes PM Azarov, “that these 20 billion [hryvnias] will be enough for just 500 km.” His conclusion:

[…] It is absolutely obvious that with the current levels of funding it is rather hard to expect a radical and very fast change of the situation. […]

It didn't take long, of course, for PM Azarov's readers to start posting their retorts.

Olga Bryga wrote [ru]:

In Poland, I was told the cost of the roads there (with drains, heating, hydroisolation and 20-year warranty) – 5 million hryvnias per km [$600,000] […]. And there is only one answer to the question of “Why are they sucking, squeezing, twisting the taxes out of us, while the roads remain [so embarrassingly bad]?” – [because] they are stealing [the money meant for the roads]. […]

Sergei Gorbach wrote [ru]:

Where does the price of 40 million hryvnias per kilometer come from?????????? It is $5 million!!!!???? Can anyone from the government conduct an audit and adequately and in detail explain in the mass media what this price is made of? […] The price of an autobahn in Germany is something I am able to understand. The materials, salaries, and, above all, the RESULT, can cost this much. But in Ukraine, where the materials are not imported, where salaries are dozen times lower than in Germany, and where there is NO RESULT, a road cannot cost this much. […] Trust me, I'm a long-time supporter of your political party and you personally. But I would like to tell you honestly that with each new election, I simply do not know what to reply to my opponents! There are no visible results!

Igor Ignatenko summed it all up [ru]:

In our country, road construction price tags are a few times higher than they should be. In Germany, 1 kilometer actually costs less than in Ukraine. It's just that in our country they know how to pocket a billion, not how to invest it. Because you don't really care what words are being used to curse you…

Five road workers are patching a pothole in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (5/02/13).

Five road workers are patching a pothole in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (5/02/13).

Much of the road crisis citizen-generated content and discussions, as well as media links, can be found in the “I Hate UkrAvtoDor” Facebook group [uk, ru], whose 4,801 members have publicly declared their hatred for the state agency responsible for maintaining Ukraine's roads. Journalist Andrey Chernikov, the group's founder, posted this introduction [ru] on his Ukrainska Pravda blog on Feb. 12:

While the roads of Ukraine haven't yet disappeared along with the snow, let's eternalize their memory.

Take photos, shoot video and post in the “I Hate UkrAvtoDor” group, if you accidentally come across a good road.

They, the roads, are dying out.

Let's leave warm memories of them.

Join us.

Recently, there have been attempts to hold rallies in Kyiv to draw the authorities’ attention to the road problems. Even though over a thousand people expressed their willingness to come to the UkrAvtoDor office on Feb. 18 [ru] and place car parts that broke off due to potholes by its entrance, only about 30 car owners (and many more journalists) actually showed up. Another action [uk], during which drivers were supposed to stop by the Cabinet of Ministers on Feb. 20 to change tires on their cars, also drew only a few dozen participants. To catch the relevant authorities in their offices, both events were scheduled to take place during work hours, but this strategy backfired, as many of those who wanted to attend, were busy working, too.

UkrAvtoDor has been the activists’ target before. In August 2012, members of the Democratic Alliance [en], a Ukrainian youth organization, were monitoring road repairs in Kyiv's residential areas, for which funds had been allotted from the budget, stenciling the words “Catch the Thief from UkrAvtoDor” next to potholes [photos are here; uk]. While the Kyiv campaign was not as bold and creative as the one in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where activists used to “spray-paint the portraits of local dignitaries around potholes, with quotes of their promises to fix the problem” (see this text by GV Author Vilhelm Konnander), it did bring some relief. Halyna Yanchenko wrote this [uk] in the “I Hate UkrAvtoDor” group:

[…] The repairs did take place at all the locations where we stenciled our slogan on the asphalt. Where there were no stencils, some 30 percent of the [necessary] repairs took place. […]

Other related citizen initiatives include UkrYama [uk, ru], inspired by the Russian project RosYama (more about it in this RuNet Echo text by Teplitsa/Greenhouses of Social Technologies), and Control [uk, ru]. An umbrella Facebook group – “The Ruin of Ukraine's Infrastructure. Enough!” [uk, ru] – has recently been set up to coordinate individual and group efforts to prevent the infrastructure collapse in Ukraine.




  • this is really a sad state of affairs.. and what is even sad to know is that the story is same all over the world.. in such situation in my opinion all the people must unite and stand up to volunteer for a better world and should commit to service for a better society and ultimate a better life for all and for our future generations.. i am reminded about a quote on service by Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji “When you make service your sole purpose in Life, it eliminates fear, brings focus in the mind, a sense of purpose & long term joy.” here is the a link more of his quotes

  • […] the MPs’ watches cost hundreds of thousands dollars, billions are being laundered through [nonexistent road repairs], and the old woman stands there weighing one little potato?????? Where [the hell] are your […]

  • […] wo die Uhren des Ministerpräsidenten mehrere Hunderttausend Dollar kosten und Milliarden durch [nicht stattfindende Straßenreparaturen] gewaschen werden und die alte Frau steht da und wiegt eine kleine Kartoffel ab?????? Wo sind eure […]

  • […] zegarki członków rządu kosztują setki tysięcy dolarów, gdzie biliony są prane przy pomocy [fikcyjnych remontów dróg], a tu starsza kobieta stoi i waży jednego małego ziemniaka??????? Gdzie [do diabła] sa wasze […]

  • […] I, too, am more worried about [the absence of the asphalt on the roads], and not about the language of the bastard […] who stole the money meant for this asphalt. […]

  • […] I, too, am more worried about [the absence of the asphalt on the roads], and not about the language of the bastard […] who stole the money meant for this asphalt. […]

  • […] Praiminisitra mitontaly dolara hetsiny maro, voahodinkodinana ny mliara maro mba hanamboarana làlana tsy misy akory, dia ovy kely iray no mba lanjain'ilay vavy antitra nijoro teo?????? Aiza koa izao ireo […]

  • […] the MPs’ watches cost hundreds of thousands dollars, billions are being laundered through [nonexistent road repairs], and the old woman stands there weighing one little potato?????? Where [the hell] are your […]

  • […] 走進一家商店,看見蔬菜區有個老婦人正在秤東西,細看竟是一顆馬鈴薯!可憐的女店員驚呆了,我也是。老婦人說她必須支付公寓、水電、煤氣費和醫藥費,而現在只能用剩餘的錢來度日,她只能允許自己今天吃一顆馬鈴薯和四分之一塊黑麵包,我被震驚到了!很快地,我走過去並裝滿一整袋的馬鈴薯,付錢並在收銀檯前交給老婦人。她感到很尷尬,但她仍不斷地謝謝,於是我在回家的路上獨自啜泣。一袋馬鈴薯只值6格里夫尼亞(相當於0.74美元)。什麼樣的國家是如此該死?總統住所Mezhyhirya有耗資幾百萬的吊燈、國會議員的手錶要上百萬、號稱幾十億卻不存在的道路維修費,都被洗錢洗走了。而那個老女人卻站在那兒秤一顆馬鈴薯的重量,你們所謂的進步死哪去了? […]

  • […] 走進一家商店,看見蔬菜區有個老婦人正在秤東西,細看竟是一顆馬鈴薯!可憐的女店員驚呆了,我也是。老婦人說她必須支付公寓、水電、煤氣費和醫藥費,而現在只能用剩餘的錢來度日,她只能允許自己今天吃一顆馬鈴薯和四分之一塊黑麵包,我被震驚到了!很快地,我走過去並裝滿一整袋的馬鈴薯,付錢並在收銀檯前交給老婦人。她感到很尷尬,但她仍不斷地謝謝,於是我在回家的路上獨自啜泣。一袋馬鈴薯只值6格里夫尼亞(相當於0.74美元)。什麼樣的國家是如此該死?總統住所Mezhyhirya有耗資幾百萬的吊燈、國會議員的手錶要上百萬、號稱幾十億卻不存在的道路維修費,都被洗錢洗走了。而那個老女人卻站在那兒秤一顆馬鈴薯的重量,你們所謂的進步死哪去了? […]

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