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"War and theft". Who and why is seizing the agricultural lands of Ukraine?

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The price of the question is the loss of economic independence

After the Ukrainian authorities opened the land market in the spring of 2020 and at the same time prevented farmers from building up their muscles by curtailing their financial support programs, it became obvious that the state, developing agriculture, would rely on agricultural holdings according to the Latin American version. Unfortunately, it not only relies on big business and forms a new cluster of agro-oligarchs, but also gradually displaces the rural middle class from the country's economic map. In fact, it weakens rural communities, making the overwhelming majority in the country. Such an approach to solving the case is nonsense for Europe, where we are going to enter under an accelerated procedure.

In order to immediately systematize the problem, let's record three important blocks, which we actually emphasized in the conversation with the honorary president of the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine (AFPLU), Mykola Stryzhak.

Firstly, the war, which became a test, a trigger, an essence that highlighted all the details of the crisis in agriculture and state policy in this area. While agricultural holdings were busy saving their treasures abroad, it was the farmers who sowed and harvested crops under fire, essentially pulling the country out of the food crisis.

Secondly, the People's Forum of Farmers and Private Landowners was held in Ukraine for several months, in the final meeting of which almost all specialized institutions of the European Union took part and declared their support, as well as key scientists of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine. There is already a resolution with which the Forum participants appealed to the president, parliament and government with the demand to change the paradigm of agricultural development, prioritizing family farming, and suspend the sale of land during the war.

Thirdly, the executive director of the American Oakland Institute, Anuradha Mittal, wrote a letter to the heads of key global financial institutions — the IMF, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) — which is posted on the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine website. It has a link to a principled and hard-hitting report with the telling title "War and Theft: The Seizure of Ukraine's Agricultural Lands" with an emphasis on the fact that Ukraine was mistakenly/or not — under the pressure of transnational corporations that invest in Ukrainian agricultural holdings — encouraged to enter an ill-considered and unprepared land market.The price of the question is the loss of economic independence.

So, while Russia on the external front is biting off our lands by force of weapons, on the internal front they are being taken away with the help of the dollar.

Are Ukrainians dying at the front for this?

About the war, the hypocrisy of the government and own staff of agricultural holdings

— Mr. Stryzhak, at the expense of what farmers not only survived during the year of the war, but also provided food for the country? What losses were suffered, what was the communication with the authorities? Let's literally point by point.

— Before the war, 90 percent of everything that was on the table of a Ukrainian was produced by small and medium-sized businesses. We are talking about family farming and personal peasant farms (household plots). Or, as I say, middle-class people who survived the first year of the war thanks to their hard work and self-reliance. You know the condition our troops were in at the beginning of the invasion — there was no food, no clothes, nothing... However, food was taken from the cellars not only from the farming families, but also from all the peasants who lived along the line of defense. In addition, nine out of ten soldiers at the front were originally from rural areas. And it's not just defenders who took up arms. These are people armed with an idea, in their desire to protect their native land.

After the liberation of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv regions, we thought that if we sowed half of the land, it would be our great luck. And I just cried in my heart when I found out that 95 percent of the sown areas were sown. That's what he is, a Ukrainian peasant — hot-tempered, desperate, walking close to death, growing crops, not paying attention to anything. Unfortunately, there were mines, there were injuries, and there were deaths during the harvest period.

— What percentage of these 95 were sown by small and medium-sized farmers? And how many – by agricultural holdings?

— I cannot say how much the agricultural holdings sowed. I only know about small ones, because we received such information from places.

— Can you indicate the ratio of land? How much of it is in small farms, and how much in agricultural holdings?

— If we take Kyiv region, there are up to 15 percent in small businesses, in Chernihiv region —  a little more, in Sumy region, as well as in Kyiv region — up to 15%. So, 15–20 percent on average in Ukraine is farmers' land.

— Besides grain, what else was there?

— On the territory of these regions, various crops were sown: potatoes, strawberries, apples, beets, carrots, and onions. I asked a farmer: “How did you know what to plant? You have never planted vegetables, but this year you did. Why?" — "Because my nephew was taken to the Territorial Defence Forces," he answers. —  And if my nephew is at the front, then I go there and take food not only for him, but for the whole unit, and there are people from Kyiv and from Dnipro... I listen to what they still need and tell ours. Different people have different land plots of difference size, some have 0.5 ha, some have 0.1 ha, everyone sows the fields, and then puts the harvest in the cellar..."

Last year, three times more was stocked than every year. All worked together — simple peasants, farmers, agricultural trade unions, the Orthodox Ukrainian Church, associations... everyone. And they helped not only with foodstuffs. Thermal imagers were bought wherever our Ostarbeiters work, namely in Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy... This is a very large group of people.

— At the beginning of the Russian invasion and now is there any communication between farmers and large agricultural companies?

— There was and is no communication because they want to grab large plots of land for themselves. Vadaturskyi was actually an exception, he helped farmers, because he did not go anywhere and saw everything with his own eyes. Apparently, he paid for his position with his life. The position of the state and the actions of the regional military administration are important here. And in our country, it turns out, most of the heads of regional military administrations compete NABU's attention. Therefore, it is easier for the authorities to negotiate with the big ones in both private and public affairs. And the big ones were not too worried about the fate of the country at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Some of them were really robbed, but the majority came to terms with the occupiers.

ГСЧС Украины

— How exactly did they do it?

— They gave a tenth of the profit to a local or collaborator, or to a representative of the occupation authorities. And everything is okay — they were not touched. In addition, the owners of most agricultural holdings and their assets stay abroad, and here their representatives make decisions instead of them. But they speak Russian easily, and farmers speak only their native Ukrainian language.

So what result do we have? Before the war, farmers were enemies of the Ukrainian government. This actually happened after the adoption of the lobbying law that allowed selling land. Russian rascals are coming to us - again we are the main enemies, this time, for the occupation authorities. Then the Armed Forces of Ukraine liberate the right bank of the Kherson region, and what? Collusive agricultural holdings, together with our Ukrainian authorities, hinder the work of farmers, and Ukrainian farmers are again out of business. It is a paradox. However, maybe it should already be understood that it is worth relying on the one who defended and defends his land with arms in his hands, and not the one who hastily took suitcases of currency abroad in February 2022?

  Mr. Stryzhak, this is not the first time we speak, and I am well aware of your brilliant oratorical talent.However, please speak without emotions, because you are now making very serious statements.

— Inna, what emotions, only facts! We have already applauded, rejoicing that Ukraine will be admitted to the oasis of democracy, namely the European Union. Apart from that, all Ukrainians were extremely overjoyed that our country will be accepted there in advance and under an accelerated procedure. Isn't that right?

— So it's right.

— What is democracy? This is primarily the middle class. If there is 50 percent of the middle class in a country, then we can talk about democracy. Do we have it? No. Therefore, you and I are only on the way to democracy, having mastered only its election mechanisms. And the foundation, the basis of a democratic society, is made up of free and independent people, namely the middle class, which the authorities are trying to force out of the Ukrainian village by all possible means.

The government does not want disobedient and intelligent people in the village, it wants obedient, slavish people. That is why I say once again that the law on the sale of land is exclusively about the possibility of accumulating a bank of land in a few hands. Currently, people close to the government are buying up land plots for two hectares per owner, and from January 1, 2024, legal entities will enter the market, and the trend of holding at least 10,000 hectares of land in the same hands will already flourish and fully develop. He has 10,000, his wife has 10, his son has 10,000, his daughter, his son-in-law... These are already agro-baronies, and perhaps principalities will also appear.

— Let's take turns naming the main problems highlighted by the war and government policy.

— In order not to wait for 2024, the authorities decided to destroy us in small steps. Therefore, I will literally speak point by point.

Firstly, immediately after the adoption of the law on the sale of land, the parliament adopted a distorted law on cooperation. The Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine, together with scientists, was preparing its law on cooperation, but, of course, MPs accepted the option, which at that time was lobbied by Mr. Solskyi in the specialized committee. He is the co-founder of the "Ukrainian Agrarian Holding", who is now very comfortably seated in the chair of the Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine. Who, by the way, takes care of the "development" of farming, without ever meeting the president of the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine. The bill was also lobbied by notorious Mykhailo Sokolov, the deputy head of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council. Why do representatives of larger businesses need any small and medium-sized farmers united there? Therefore, in the law on cooperation, they violated the basic principle of cooperation: one member means only one vote. Everything is great, but, as they say, not everything is so unambiguous.

Secondly, the law on licensing of fuel and lubricants. Mr. Hetmantsev said that this innovation is for removing fuel and lubricant materials from the shadows. So what, friend? How many liters of fuel and lubricants were brought out of the shadows? None! And how many farmers were destroyed? Hundreds! And they continue to be destroyed. We asked: cancel it! — after all, it’s war now. A farmer buys diesel fuel to refuel his tractor for sowing, and refuels an APC going to war. And then, he is blamed because the fuel did not go as intended: "Where are you going? You sold it! You must pay the fine!" This is how very responsible tax officials, ecologists, prosecutors, and even the Security Service of Ukraine go to farmers to impose "order" with fuel and lubricants.

Thirdly, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution that agricultural machinery with a width of more than four meters should not drive on the roads. And we have it according to the standard of the Soviet period — 4.20. Why write a law that cannot be enforced? For the patrol police to live luxuriously! We start harvesting — and so do they. A harvester has not yet reached the field, and the police are already on the field worrying that the farmer, God forbid, violates traffic rules.

 Fourth, bill No. 6013, which makes farms agricultural enterprises/joint-stock companies. It pursues one goal – re-registration. But it is not a fact that you will be able to re-register easily, given dozens of new conditions. Of course, Bakhmatyuk and I, who have a staff of lawyers, economists and accountants, cannot compete. A farmer who works on the land himself does not need stockpiles of documents. This steals valuable time and hurts production. But this is exactly what the government is counting on! We have already addressed the president and the government on this issue.

Fifth, blocking tax invoices. Another attempt by Mr. Hetmantsev to allegedly remove grain from the shadow circulation. If last year we easily won the courts, dismissing the claims of the tax authorities, now the state authorities are not going to comply with the court decisions. Therefore, a farmer tries to sell grain only according to form 2, namely for money. "And why do I need your VAT if it will be blocked and then fined? And that's how you can sell grain and have money. Maybe a little less, but without any problems." Therefore, there is now a mass sale of grain in shadow circulation. This is probably what Hetmantsev wanted to achieve.

— How does it affect the price of grain? Why, in general, is our grain the cheapest in the world? My colleagues compared the prices at which our state sells grain with world prices for it. Ukrainian wheat is sold for 100 or even 75 dollars per ton, although world prices exceed 250.

— There are two components, namely external and internal. After the harvest, until September 1, the price of grain in Ukraine always falls, and then begins to rise almost until February. And in February, the harvest begins in Argentina and Brazil. The supply is increasing, and therefore the price is falling, this time, on world exchanges. From April 1, it will go up again and will be the highest in May. Such is a cycle in the world market.

— And what happens in Ukraine?

Firstly, as we have already found out, the peasants bypass VAT, drop the price and take cash. Secondly, middlemen take advantage of the hopeless situation of peasants who want to sell at least something. The farmer cannot directly sell grain to the Odesa port, so, he is helped by a grain trader. There are seven of them, the main ones, on the market. However, the grain trader himself does not buy from farmers, there are dealers who also want to make money. Grain traders takes money from Western banks and gives it to dealers who go to Ukrainian villages: here's your money, and "we don't care about you or Hetmantsev." But the grain trader sets his own conditions. This person may, for example, not buy grain for a week. And what do you think will happen to the price? Of course, it drops sharply. And this is already called "corporate conspiracy". The state does not intervene or regulate these processes. So, it can already be stated that the parliament, with the hands of lobbyists, made economic sabotage for Ukraine with this economic law.

— Were you purposefully brought into the shadows?

— Yes. Both parties are at risk with cash and VAT evasion. But no one will ever catch a grain trader by the hand. This will happen because in the field in which he works, all work schemes have long been established and his activities are covered by someone, but any farmer can be pressured. And you are very mistaken if you think that the law is so weak and Hetmantsev was wrong. Nothing of the kind. Simply, no one thought about the state, which will lose billions of VAT. They only thought about how to destroy farming for the benefit of the big agro-lobbyists.

— Do you want to say that the state does not help you at all?

— The state works very well in the information space. Officials in the marathon say that the EU helps us with seeds, herbicides, etc. However, at a meeting of the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine council, farmers who saw this ask: "Where does all this help go?" Only large agricultural holdings receive and used to receive this assistance. And the government reports say that the aid was distributed to small and medium-sized participants in agrarian business.

— But the authorities announced the creation of a partial guarantee fund for small businesses.

— Well, you yourself saw at the Forum how Deputy Minister Taras Vysotskyi spoke. He is the former general director of the "Ukrainian Agribusiness Club" Association, which is financed by all large businesses. On its basis, kind of a joint society was created, from which funds are provided for lobbyist deputies and officials. Did you hear how our lawyer asked Vysotskyi whether he would consider the interests of farmers when forming the fund's commission? He, in the presence of the European Commissioner and the press, said: "Yes!" But at night, the same inquisitive lawyer Zhenya dug into the documents and found out that, without asking anyone or reporting to anyone, the ministry had long ago appointed people it could trust to this commission, namely its close associates. And the first tranche of 200 million has already been transferred from the budget for the needs of these associates. That is, the main agrarian of the country stood and lied to people, knowing that he had already committed a crime.

— But the government adopted a very decent concept of farming development?

— Yes, it was adopted under the pressure of Europeans. I will tell you more: this concept was even included in the "Ukraine-2030" development strategy. But it doesn't change anything, because "The staff decides everything!". This saying, written on papyrus, is almost 2.5 thousand years old. And nothing has changed: we will assign you a wolf, because he knows best about sheep. So why does the Ukrainian farmer have no access to money? Because the executive pyramid, which makes decisions in the agricultural sphere, is topped by the minister, namely the representative of large agricultural holdings, as well as his deputy, adviser et cetera. And then they all travel around Europe and innocently and honestly talk about the successful implementation of the "decade of development of family farming in Ukraine", show some lists and graphs, but in fact the growth of farming has stopped. Farming is even being destroyed.


About the sale of land, feudal lords and prohibited loans

— According to the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, during the year of the war, 41,979 deals covering an area of 77,668 hectares were concluded on the land market. It is noted that a total of 137,556 land deals were concluded during the entire period of the land market. The land area reaches 350,000 hectares. Who is buying all these plots of land?

— Bandits, prosecutors, judges, civil servants and high-ranking officials — everything, as you and I predicted. The only thing they missed was that the employees of the IT industry also somehow got there. And who buys the least amount of land? It is agricultural producers who work directly on the land.

— On what basis do you claim this?

— There are statistics on who bought the land. And among them we know by name who is ours and who is not ours. If it is called a "farm", with 15 thousand hectares of land, then it is only by the name a "farm". In fact, it is a large agricultural enterprise. After all, farmers are those who live and work in the village, immediately take part in the work of the farm. And if he lives in France, and his farm works here, then it is not farming.

— The average size of the plot sold within the framework of the land market of Ukraine is slightly more than two hectares. Whereas the average plot area is about four hectares. Some experts assume that most of the land sold is two-hectare plots issued in accordance with domestic legislation for personal farming.

— When the law on the sale of land came into force, one farmer from Kyiv region wanted to buy out land. But it didn't work out: "Our turn won't come for two or three months, or even six months..." - "Why?" — "They are now legalizing what they stole!" No one buys now, they only arrange what was already leased through fake persons who take two hectares each and give them to the owners. This is a scheme.

Before the new year, two farmers bought out their land for permanent use. But many farmers complain that they cannot buy their land out. They totally reject communities that have grown up with lands between settlements after the opening of the market, in fact, violating the law.

— Why is this happening?

— Because local heads have their own priorities. At best, they negotiate with large agricultural enterprises, at worst, he authorities put pressure on the heads of local communities.

— We have decentralization, two-thirds of amalgamated territorial communities are rural. Their capacity depends on how the middle class in the countryside will develop. The head of an urban-type settlement Opishnia, Mykola Riznyk, once told me in detail about such a scheme. They put pressure on him to take away 1,000 hectares. But he fought to the end. Although, there is another well-known case of the "Servant of the People" party member, a member of the Sumy Regional Council, Oleksiy Romanko. Only in 2022, the agribusiness of this politician was replenished with more than a hundred land plots with a total area of more than 200 hectares. Do the community leaders not understand what is happening?

— Everything depends on the personal qualities of people in public positions. It is important to have good and decent employees both in ministerial chairs and in communities. Amalgamated territorial communities are obliged by law to transfer land for permanent use to farmers, but they manipulate. If the head of the community wants to become the main feudal lord, he will become one. He will give land to godfather, brother, son, daughter... Why does he need competitors? This is the first question.

However, there is also a second question. In my district, the head of the amalgamated territorial community is elected, but the very next day he "accidentally" sits at a banquet table and raises a glass at a birthday party of a local owner of 10,000 hectares. In addition, this head celebrates the birthday of the local owner together with local council members and leaders of district organizations of all parties. "After the elections, you will manage a hospital, you will manage a forest farm, and I will assign you to manage some other enterprise. Although, to be honest, I don't have a position for you yet. Well, it's okay, then you will receive a "scholarship" from me. That is, no matter which party wins the elections in the village, all the council members feed in the same fiefdom.

And it already happens. If we give 10,000 hectares of land to one owner, believe me, we are not moving towards democracy. Every person is authoritarian inside. Only the level of culture allows or does not allow revealing this "talent". Or society does not allow. Western society proved capable of developing mechanisms at the level of laws to oppose monopolies.

— But you should have gone to the banks for loans.

—We had to do it. However, the children of farmers also work in banks, and from the very beginning they said that they were advised not to bother with "small" ones, up to 300-400 hectares, over the phone. Mr. Vysotskyi said for two years that I was making this up out of thin air. But this year they broke through: Minister Solskyi issued order No. 223 of March 21, 2023, stating that farms up to 1,000 hectares are considered unpromising. Loans can be issued only to those who have more than 1,000 hectares of land or more than 50 employees.

— And how much do farmers have on average in your association?

— 95 percent – exactly less than 100 hectares. A representative of the branch of the French bank Credit Agricole recently said in an interview that they are not going to give a credit to us. EBRD does not give less than 100 million euros. And where in our country have you seen a farmer of such a scale? But I saw him. When I once went to Europe, I accidentally learned that Kosyuk and Bakhmatyuk are farmers.

For the farmers, attempted to be discredited in this way, not to be accused of soviet and communist views, I would like to remind you: we have always been and are the first to support the land market. But this market must be prepared and thought out. The land must move, but not in the hands of ten families. Under the Groysman government, when the state program was adopted, we were given 300 million a year, and then another billion, so that a small farmer could come and take a 1-2 percent loan and buy the land on which he works. He had ten years to get on his feet and repay the loan. The government placed the post of Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, as well as the finances and administration of the Ukrainian State Support Fund for Farming under the patronage of the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine. Therefore, 15,000 new farms and 6,000 personal peasant farms (household plots) were created out of one billion hryvnias. And of the 49 billion that the current government is talking about, not a single one has been created in two years. There is no official growth figure. And it won't be. Until we make a land bank and a real support fund for farmers with a transparent mechanism, and the development of farming is led by a representative of farmers.

About the resolution of the Forum, the warning of the Oakland Institute and the pressure of transnational corporations

— The Farmers' Forum, which lasted for several months in the regions and was finalized in Kyiv, is your environment’s reflection of what is happening?

— That's right.

— I listened attentively to the farmers, Mr. Deputy Minister Vysotskyi, and another speech by a representative of the president’s office with an unknown surname, as well as the position of the Europeans: the European Commissioner for Agrarian and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski, the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office in Europe and Central Asia, Raimund Jehle, the Chairman of the Council of Agriculture and Rural Areas under the President of Poland Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski and others.

The conclusion is shocking: farmers and the scientific community work with the European Union in the same field and in the same way, but the Ukrainian authorities do not. Officials work for oligarchs. On the one hand, these people, according to the law, are supposedly removed from the power structures, but at the same time, they are being replaced by close associates. At the same time, it is the government that "leads" us to the fact that our country becomes a candidate for the EU membership. It seems like some kind of absurdity. What do you expect next?

— We don't wait, we act. Our object is to suspend the land sale law until the end of the war. And after the return of our children and grandchildren from the war, sit down at the negotiating table and revise the law. The land should remain with the Ukrainian people. The resolution of the Forum, which was supported by all our international partners, included demands on the authorities to solve all the problematic issues that I told you about, including the coordination of agrarian policy with the Association of Farmers and Private Landowners of Ukraine — an association that, by law, represents the interests of the rural middle class peasants.

— That is, you demand that the state revise the approach, the strategy of the development of the industry and change it in favor of the domestic producer, who should form the middle class.

— The state should create conditions for the formation of its domestic farmer as a keeper of Ukrainian identity, creating a workplace with the right of inheritance. The resolution of the Forum was sent to the government, the parliament, a number of international institutions, as well as the President of Ukraine.

— You met with the President...

— I told Volodymyr Zelenskyy about all possible consequences even before the adoption of the law on land circulation. He promised to set the red lines agreed with us, beyond which he would not cross. However, Mr. President went far, far behind them, doing the opposite. You know, for what President Zelenskyy is doing now for the country, everything he did wrong before the war is forgiven. Although, he should not think that the peasants will forgive him if he continues to destroy farming. He knows what the people want. And he also understands how to find the right managerial personnel who will be useful to the people of Ukraine and to him. All that is needed is his desire.

— Here in front of me is a letter from the executive director of the American Oakland Institute, Anuradha Mittal, written to the heads of key global financial institutions — the IMF, the World Bank, EBRD. It has a link to a principled and hard-hitting report with the telling title "War and Theft: The Seizure of Ukraine's Agricultural Lands" with an emphasis on the fact that Ukraine was mistakenly/or not — under the pressure of transnational corporations that invest in Ukrainian agricultural holdings. Apart from that, it also states that our country was driven to an ill-conceived and unprepared land market.

The report clarifies that the largest landowners in Ukraine are a mixture of our oligarchs and various foreign interests, mainly European and North American, including the USA private equity fund and the Public Investment Fund (PIF), or the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. The report lists our (Kernel, UkrLandFarming, the PrJSC MHP, «Astarta», «Nibulon», System Capital Management) and foreign companies (NCH Capital, PIF Saudi, Arabia, SALIC and others), funds that invested in key Ukrainian players (Vanguard Group, Kopernik Global Investors, BNP and others), plus the banks (EBRD, EIB, IFC) that give them loans and therefore can influence them. Do you agree with the experts' conclusions?

— Everything is even deeper and worse. The fact is that the businesses of Verevskyi, Kosyuk, Bakhmatyuk and others were already started as part of transnational corporations. The Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine, Mr. Solskyi (he is also the ex-head of the specialized committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine) is also a part of multinational companies, only in Ukraine. And he, now working in the government of Ukraine — and the authorities entrusted him with this! — represents the interests of transnational corporations. Therefore, the corporations definitely do not need to put pressure on Solskyi, he is theirs anyway. Another question: why does the President make a strategic decision and appoint a personally interested person to the state position of minister?

— Because Ukraine is the third most indebted country in the world. Because it is really possible to put pressure on the weak, corrupt, non-self-sufficient and dependent on tranches.

— Listen, Inna, as the president of the Association, I was a participant in the Groysman government's negotiation processes with the world financial institutions, to which, in fact, the executive director of the Oakland Institute wrote his letter. What happened then? EBRD really immediately and honestly said that they are starting to invest with 100 million or more. And we don't have a single person who is ready to master 100 million. Only Bakhmatyuk and Kosyuk. Which they actually do. The IMF colleagues did not talk to us at all. But we constantly communicated with the experts of the World Bank. And we finally convinced them that the land market should be implemented, but not in 2019, as the World Bank wanted, but in 2021. Because the farmers needed time and financial support to buy the land in time. And the World Bank agreed. In addition, the management of the bank even promised to allocate money to us, and the government gave guarantees. All this was recorded in the state program of preparation for the inclusion of land sales.

— So do you think that Zelenskyy's team should have simply continued the dialogue and defended the state interest?

— Well, of course! This is not some kind of a private structure, but a state. There must be continuity of state policy. During the election process, Zelenskyy's team and I agreed everything, and the new government was fully informed. At the first stage, representatives of the Kyiv School of Economics, led by Mr. Mylovanov, communicated with us. He planned to continue the discussion with the World Bank. He knew about the sum of 360 million euros and that if we were successful, they would give another billion a year later. However, for some reason, the country's chief economist somehow unexpectedly turned into the chief advocate of the urgent opening of land sales. Everything else is insinuation.

— Experts from the Oakland Institute write that the World Bank is currently allocating 5.4 million dollars to support small farmers. Which is a small amount compared to the billions it pours into agricultural holdings, supporting Mr. Kosyuk.

—We haven't seen that money yet. But the state itself made a choice, namely opening the land market. What claims can there be to the World Bank? So the experts from the Oakland Institute had only a little left to get to the truth. But the direction was right. 

— "The West must understand: Ukraine cannot be handed over to transnational corporations," the report states. However, it has already happened. How should the community of Ukraine, which cares about the well-being of the state, build its strategy? How to convince both the authorities and international partners that the restoration of Ukraine is not only bridges, houses and roads? First of all, it is regional politics, communities, most of which are rural. And the sale of land, the destruction of the middle class in the countryside is a collapse, an end to decentralization, which, by the way, is a condition for accession to the EU.

— We do what we can, hold forums, give interviews, write letters to the authorities, work with scientists and are in constant contact with international institutions. The situation is very similar to the story with the adoption of the law on the gambling business, which was so lobbied by the government. At that time, Mr. Mylovanov was able to convince the parliament that we do not need to build infrastructure for processing agricultural products, it is better to build a casino. As a result, multibillion-dollar losses of revenues to the budget, criminal cases and recognition of the mistake predicted by experts and associations. However, big business then took its toll. Regarding the decision to open the land market, admitting mistakes will be even more difficult. After all, this is the last resource left in the state after the privatization of enterprises.

—Why then does the West, which sympathizes with us so much, continue to remain silent? International partners and ambassadors of the G7 communicate with the Ukrainian authorities rather harshly on the issues of the anti-corruption bloc, judicial reform, decentralization and post-war reconstruction. But there is a strange silence regarding the issue of land. Why so? Where are you unable to reach out to be heard? Is it all a game?

— Western experts are not silent. And you saw it on the Forum. But the official remains silent. Why is this so? And where is our stolen forest being taken? To Europe. Don't the Europeans know that this is a stolen forest? They know it well. But they use it because it is economically beneficial for them. And it is beneficial for every government to please its voters. The West is no exception. If earlier the land was conquered with a bayonet, now Europe and America say: "That's it, no more bayonets, no more war, no more bloodshed, we will crush Putin, as the last dictator who wants to conquer the land with a bayonet..." But even Putin is not needed, if it can be won with the help of dollars or euros. But they are silent about it. It is convenient for the West to pretend that it believes our government, which flatteringly presents it with a "revolutionary land reform." And in fact, it is a lie.

— While the EU states themselves are also not happy with the appetites of transnational companies, and there the struggle against their influence continues. And the US government generally began to buy back the once sold state lands.

— Yes. But, as the British used to say: "There are no eternal friends, eternal enemies, there are eternal interests." That is why every state —  big or small —  needs its own brains to regulate all these things and defend its independence.Political and economic. Both on the external and on the internal front.

In democratic countries, all this is easier, because there is a division of powers. There, the prosecutor is not subordinate to the president, and the judge does not respect any "Yermak". It is difficult and dangerous to exert pressure on journalists there. We have everything in one hand. And these processes only intensify. Noteworthy, in all spheres. And this is drama. At least because right now, when the whole world is applauding Ukraine and its President, when our people are dying every minute for it, a window of extraordinary opportunities has opened. But our time will end. That is why we not only can, but also must shape our agenda, defending independence on all fronts.

And the sooner we understand this, becoming a single whole within the country, the more chances that after the Victory we will still build, and not again break the crooked structure offered to the people by the "victorious" government. Our soldiers must have a place to return to. To sow, harvest, pass all the goods to the children and just live. And I believe that the richest peasants in Europe will live on Europe’s richest lands.

Read this article in russian and Ukrainian.

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