The Swiss international consulting company Mercer Consulting ranked Kyiv as the most dangerous city in Europe in 2016 in a recent study of quality of life among European cities. The report cited the large number of street protests, the war in the east, and a sharp rise in thefts, robberies, and vandalism in the city as the main causes. This past spring, a safety and security study conducted by the World Economic Forum ranked Ukraine as the 9th most dangerous country in the world.

While Kyiv – and Ukraine in general – do not seem to be particularly dangerous to those who live here, two respected Western auditors disagree.

What are the driving factors behind these new and alarming ratings?

Mercer Consulting’s latest study ranking Kyiv as Europe’s most dangerous city comes on the back of last month’s study on safety and security released by the World Economic Forum, which ranked Ukraine as one of the 10 most dangerous countries on earth.

In a detailed study of 136 countries around the world, WEF ranked Ukraine as the 127th safest country. Finland was ranked as the safest country, while Colombia was the most dangerous. According to the report, the WEF ranking took into account “the costliness of common crime and violence as well as terrorism, and the extent to which police services can be relied upon to provide protection from crime.”

Despite a largely “cosmetic” overhaul to Ukraine’s police services since the onset of the war, which was aimed at weeding out corruption by hiring novice recruits, the professionalism, and most importantly, experience and know-how of today’s police forces in Ukraine are all dramatically weaker than the “career” police forces which were in place before the start of the war in 2014.

Sadly, while corruption among the public-facing patrol police is less than before, corruption in the higher ranks of the police remains high and difficult to eradicate.

We also support the WEF’s view that Ukrainian police cannot be relied upon to prevent crime, and this is also a widely-held public perception in Ukraine. Most Ukrainians view the new police force as “crime report takers” who coolly saunter in after a crime has been reported to fill out largely ineffectual paperwork. In a general sense, these perceptions – and the overall weak rule of law in Ukraine – directly spur crime levels since the psychological deterrent effect of possible punishment normally present in safer countries is drastically reduced.

Other factors which in our view have also contributed to the deterioration in safety levels in Ukraine over the past year include:

1. A severely weakened economy, which is a direct result of the war in the east of the country and has fueled high unemployment levels;

2. Failed reforms to Ukraine’s police and law enforcement establishment in the last two years, which have been ineffective at reducing crime levels and eradicating corruption in the police forces;

3. The rise of extreme-right and nationalist groups, which, in the absence of effective law enforcement and genuine law & order in the country, have used brutality, violence, robbery and
vandalism under the false banner of vanguarding Ukrainian society – successfully shrouding their own vigilante-style agendas in the garb of defending civil order;

4. The so-called ‘Savchenko Law’ – the eponymous law passed by Ukraine’s parliament in December 2015 named after captured Ukrainian female Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadia Savchenko; that law,
which was repealed only last month, provided reduced jail time for thousands of hardened criminals and which even allowed for some criminals to be released onto Ukraine’s streets without
serving any sentence at all.

5. The war in the east, which has had a number of detrimental effects on Ukrainian society, most notably, the increase in small arms being smuggled out of the war zone and sold on the booming
domestic black market, and which are used in a whole slew of crimes being committed across the country at the moment (e.g. even incidents of hand grenades being used in armed robberies are
becoming more and more common), and the sharp increase in post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological trauma among returning veterans, who are generally unable to reintegrate back into Ukrainian society, and who are provided only paltry support/sub-standard treatment from Ukraine’s government;

6. The rise of organized crime and a new oligarchy of mobsters since the start of the war, which have given birth to large-scale, profit-oriented criminal activities like robberies, kidnappings,
blackmail/extortion, raiding and the illegal transfer of property titles, car thefts, drug trafficking, the construction of illegal gas stations, bootleg and counterfeit alcohol production,
contraband/smuggling, and illegal casinos – all of which are now established crime-business spheres – and each controlled by its own kingpin or oligarchic ruling class.

All of the above factors contribute to rising crime levels in Ukraine and should be noted by both local readers and security/supervisory staff. Added vigilance is advised.

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