Text: Alyona Zadorozhnaya
translation by A. for the Saker blog

By the end of 2022, Vladimir Zelensky has achieved unique and in many ways tragic results. He managed to reduce the population of Ukraine to the level of a century ago, put the country in bondage to the West and deprive fellow citizens of the elementary benefits of civilization. What other “successes” could be added to Zelensky’s track record?

In 2023, a catastrophic drop in the birth rate is expected in Ukraine. This was stated by the director of the  Ptukha Institute of Demography and Social Research, academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Ella Libanova. According to her, by 2030 the population will decrease to 35 million people, and the reduction process has been going on since 1994. At the same time, Libanova assures that 34-35 million people still live in Ukraine.

However, these figures are questionable. The number of refugees who arrived in Russia from the territory of Donbass and Ukraine has already exceeded five million people. In the summer, according to the UN, there were about 6.3 million Ukrainian citizens who left the country in all the European states. Experts are convinced that Libanova gives inflated figures – and already today there are significantly fewer people living in Ukraine than she claims..

“Even before the start of the SVO, it was difficult to understand how many people really live in Ukraine. Official figures were around 40 million people, while in reality there were approximately 33 million people, if not less,” economist Ivan Lizan told the newspaper VZGLYAD. “From 2016 to 2019, Ukrainians were leaders among those who obtained primary residence permits in Poland. Every year, up to 500 thousand people “flowed out” this way. Also, do not forget that a large number of their refugees have recently moved to Europe,” the expert emphasizes.

“Thus, there are at best 25-27 million people left in Ukraine, which is comparable to the population as of the 1920s of the last century. Mostly men remained in the country, because they were simply banned from traveling abroad,” the source notes.

“I am sure that these trends will continue in 2023. We will also observe internal migration. In those areas of the front where the situation is heating up, people will run away. As, for example, from the Kiev–controlled part of Donbass, local residents fled to Dnepropetrovsk,” the economist claims.

“A terrible situation is developing in the labor market. State employees mostly live on bare salaries. Teachers who are forced to move to other regions of Ukraine due to the proximity of hostilities have enough money only to pay for rented housing,” says Lizan.

“The most profitable job is to go to war. The APU pays 100 thousand hryvnias (189 thousand rubles or USD 2 700 /month) to those who participate in the battles, and 30 thousand hryvnias (57 thousand rubles or USD 817/month) to those who are not involved in active hostilities. Those who return home from the front begin to drink heavily and indulge in reckless spending. It gets to the point that they go into home appliance stores and, without looking at the price, ask to pack the most expensive TV,” the expert said.

“Some also actively supplement their income by looting. In Ukraine, there is a non–state post office, Nova Poshta, that has been integrated into the logistics system of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Nowadays its trucks deliver ammunition, provisions, etc. to the front line, and from there they take out and sell all the loot. This was also the case during the so–called ATO,” the interlocutor stressed. “Life is not easy for the villagers either. Back in the spring, former collective farmers were paid shares in grain, not in money, although in previous years people themselves could make a choice,” said Lizan.

“At least eight million people left Ukraine in 2022. If the population of the lost territories  is taken into account, then no more than 18-20 million inhabitants remain in the country. And because of the tough restrictions on the departure of men, it is mostly women and children who leave the state,” adds human rights activist Larisa Shesler.

“Schools are closed in most cities, formally they work remotely. Settlements, even large ones, look like ghost towns. In Nikolaev, Odessa, Zaporozhye, less than half of the buildings’ apartments are occupied, mostly it is the old people or very poor people who have no money and no chance to settle in another country who stay there,” the interlocutor describes.

“And 2023 does not give hope for an improvement in the situation. The majority of the refugees in Europe understand that they will not be able to return to Ukraine. The birth rate is falling catastrophically, and next year will be even more difficult because of the accumulated effect,” the political scientist emphasizes.

“Of those who stayed, many lost their income. Western experts and the Ukrainian authorities estimate unemployment at 30% of the active population. But a couple of months ago, the governor of Nikolaev spoke about 80% of citizens who lost their jobs. And this is more like the truth,” the expert continues. “Those who have jobs also have a difficult time. The vast majority of the employed population receives about 14 thousand hryvnias, which is equivalent to 26 thousand rubles (~USD 381/month). However, the price of goods has risen by 40-80%, so people exist on the verge of survival,” Shesler emphasized.

Against the background of the population outflow and unemployment, the entire economy of Ukraine is suffering. Despite the colossal injections of money from the West, the factories are shutting down, mining is declining, and the harvest is falling. Political scientists predicted the transformation of Ukraine into a third world country back in August. Then it was noted that the state could lose its agricultural potential. And now the forecasts are being confirmed.

Even Ukrainian oligarchs, who [usually] only get richer in difficult times, are losing their fortunes today. Thus, the total wealth of the richest citizens of Ukraine has decreased by more than $ 20 billion compared to the beginning of February 2022, Ukrainian Forbes pointed out.

The government debt is also rising (it is more than $ 100 billion now). “There are simply no adequate estimates of the level of decline in the Ukrainian economy, there is only an assumed range of data. Before the autumn Russian strikes on the electric power industry, the Ukrainian authorities talked about a drop in GDP by 30-40%. The GDP figure for 2021 was 198 billion dollars,” economist Ivan Lizan told the newspaper VZGLYAD.

“When we began to launch large-scale strikes on the energy facilities in order to destroy the enemy’s logistical capabilities, the estimates were adjusted. Kiev then said that if the attacks continue, the GDP will sink by 50%. And the strikes continued,” the source adds. “But already in December, Prime Minister Shmygal said that although there is a drop in GDP, it fluctuates around 35%.

I would not believe this statement and I am of the opinion that GDP will sink by 50% by the end of the year. This is about $100 billion”,

– the expert argues. “Zelensky’s economic adviser Rostislav Shurma also said that in the fourth quarter the industrial production fell in the range of 50 to 90%, depending on the region. At the same time, there is a pattern according to which the territories located closer to the front line have sunk most seriously,” the economist continues.

“For Ukraine, the loss of half of its GDP is even more damaging than it was in 2014-2015. A country without a normal electric power industry cannot have a normal economy. Everything is somehow tied to electricity. For example, corn can be harvested from the fields before the frost and first snow. But then it needs to be dried, and without electricity it becomes almost impossible. Subsequently, the corn harvest fell by 30%, and in general, the yield decreased by 40%,” the expert explains.

“Accordingly, if it were not for the support of the West, Ukraine would have already begun to collapse. But NATO managed to keep it afloat. This is not about the development of the country, but about stabilization of its financial system – they give money so that there is enough for the war,” the interlocutor notes. “There is a separate story with borrowing – it happens [exclusively] inside the country, because no one needs [their] bonds on the foreign market. In fact, this year Ukraine has defaulted for the second time in the last eight years. And now foreign creditors are simply shying away from the Ukrainian debt,” the economist draws attention.

“The forecast of the drop in the Ukrainian GDP is getting worse every day. Over the past month, the critical situation in the electric power industry has led to a drop in production of up to 80% in many industries. Metallurgy has practically stopped, mining and processing enterprises have sharply reduced production,” clarifies Larisa Shesler.

“Now only small enterprises and shops which run on the generators can function in the country; the banking and municipal institutions operate in a limited mode. The situation is complicated by the fact that there are no solutions to the energy crisis yet,” the interlocutor notes.

“Previously, the decline in the annual GDP in November reached 40%. In December, the situation worsened. But no figures can reflect the reality of the rapid deindustrialization of Ukraine. Almost all large factories have been stopped, construction and mining have been stopped,” the expert lists.

“Now Ukraine is losing everything that has been created on its territory for decades. It’s scary to imagine how much it will cost to resuscitate power grids and thermal power plants. It is obvious that neither Europe nor the USA are going to keep Ukraine as an industrial country, even in the form of a supplier of metallurgical raw products or an exporter of electricity from nuclear power plants,” says Shesler.

“They want to convert Ukraine into a territory overrun by paramilitary groups fighting with Russia, and [having only] agricultural land for growing cheap sunflower”,

– she emphasizes. “This year, Ukraine has received large amounts of money in the form of loans and financial tranches, unprecedented previously. And absolutely no one expects a full refund of these payments. Thus, the state becomes completely economically dependent on the Western countries,” the political scientist notes.

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