Image Credit: LA Times
Speaking via WhatsApp from a small hotel in Western Ukraine, Former Deputy Minister of Finance Yuriy Dzhygyr prepares to help his family across the border into Hungary before returning to join the resistance against Russia’s invasion. Despite these harrowing circumstances, he sounds in surprisingly good spirits.
“I think we have a chance to get stronger out of this ordeal,” he says. “The real support of those few countries who’ve truly helped in a tangible way has been of critical importance. I personally think we have quite a good and reasonable chance to tackle this situation to our advantage.”
Dzhygyr is talking about the economic sanctions, freezing of assets, and restrictions imposed by countries like the U.S., U.K., Poland, and the Czech Republic – countries he calls Ukraine’s “few true friends”.
“Poland especially, but also the Baltic nations and recently the Netherlands and Slovakia – these are countries and societies and people who have really acted to help in addition to words of support,” he explains. “They’re providing tangible and reasonable resources for us to resist.”
“It gives us hope and optimism.”
Dzhygyr gathered his family together and began to head west when the first shells of Russia’s invasion were fired. Many of his friends and colleagues are doing the same, some now sitting in traffic after delaying by only a few hours to organise themselves. Their plans are to move their families across the border (Dzhygyr’s sister is currently waiting to cross into Poland with seven children in tow – her own along with the children of friends) and then returning to Kyiv to defend their country.
“My personal situation is probably as favourable as it can be,” he says with what is surely a trademark positivity.
Dzhygyr served as Deputy Finance Minister from 2018-2020, and was supported by Palladium through a health reform project funded jointly by USAID and UK Aid. Now, the progress made by that project and others like it is being tested beyond measure.
“Any reform process requires stability,” says Palladium’s Richard Moreton. “Here you have the perfect storm of essential reform, which would face resistance even in favourable times, up against a global pandemic and now the invasion of a superpower. The demands are extraordinary, and I only hope we’ll have the chance to partner with Yuriy again soon to continue this work under better circumstances.”
When asked about the path to those better circumstances, Dzhygyr believes that the quick escalation of military support and economic sanctions have given real cause for hope.
“The only factor that will change Putin’s mind and deter Russia is the human and financial cost,” he says. “Economic sanctions have grown exponentially every day, and if we survive, tomorrow is another day. We don’t know the threshold of pain Putin is ready to accept, but every day is bringing more pain for Russia.”
“We’re resisting for a bigger goal, to give our society a chance to modernise and to change. With support, there’s hope.”