Drivers on Ukraine’s potholed main highways are, at last, seeing the pace of road construction picking up.
But there is one obscure side road – the one leading to President Viktor Yanukovych’s Mezhyhirya mansion – that is getting lavish attention.
It is getting repaved and lit at lightning speed. Taxpayers appear to be shelling out millions of hryvnias, but not because so many motorists travel the 8.4 kilometer-route north from Kyiv to the small village of Novi Petrivtsi.
The VIP destination is the reason. The road leads to the entrance of the well-guarded presidential estate, a luxurious residence acquired under dubious methods by Yanukovych. Through a complicated web of front companies to throw people off the trail, Yanukovych and close associates acquired the notorious multi-hectare lakeside estate at a fire sale price from its previous owners, the people of Ukraine.
Officials argue the stretch of road from Kyiv to Novi Petrivtsi is being repaired within the framework of a planned reconstruction of a part of the Kyiv-Vyshhorod-Desna road. The entire project carries a price tag of about 5 million euros.
That’s only a relatively small portion of the 1.5 billion euros set aside this year for road reconstruction, but critics say such spending on a little-traveled byway reflects misplaced priorities in government spending.
Moreover, authorities struggle to explain why a nearly two- kilometer offshoot of the road that leads only to Yanukovych’s estate has been repaved with great attention to quality and detail.
The Service for Automobile Roadways in Kyiv Oblast, a subsidiary of the state road administration Ukravtodor, did the work. Its head, Leonid Hlapiionov, begged off questions, saying he was new to the job.
Vasyl Maksymchuk, the assistant head of the Service for Automobile Roadways in Kyiv Oblast, denied that preference was given to Yanukovych.
“All the roads can be for Yanukovych, insomuch as they can be for you,” he said. “[This road] was repaired 26 years ago, and by technical rules, this needs to be done every 12-14 years.”
Maksymchuk brushed aside allegations that many of Ukraine’s more-traveled roads should have been fixed first. He did, however, confirm information that the asphalt used to put a new layer on the Yanukoyvch road is of the highest quality.
While many of Ukraine’s roads are dark at nighttime – including major highways going through villages – the sleepy road to Yanukovych’s Mezhyhirya residence is well lit with street lights.
Such street lights along portions of major highways going through villages, where children, pensioners and animals risk their lives by crossing the road as cars race by.
Serhiy Vlasenko, a lawmaker within opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc, said the Yanukovych road – plus his non-transparent method of acquiring a luxury state residence – demonstrates abuse of power, the weakness of democracy and basic rule of law in Ukraine.
“I know that Ukravtodor does not have ‘special’ funds from which costs for special renovations would be allocated,” he said. “They use the general costs that were received from the state budget for road repair. I am convinced that in the plans of Ukravtodor, the repair of this road appeared at the last moment upon orders from high up.”
The controversial road repair could become an issue ahead of the Oct. 31 local government elections, as villagers all throughout Ukraine know very well the sorry state of many of their roads.
Kyiv Post staff writer Anna Levytska can be reached at email@example.com.