Metropol Jubilee: Russian Debt Forgiveness in Ukraine

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. (Leviticus Chapter 25).

The Russian army captured Melitopol just 2 days into the war, on February 26. The capture was easy, because nobody was fighting back. The Russian military authorities appointed a local politician named Galina Danilchenko as the new acting Mayor. Danilchenko announced some very welcome news for the inhabitants of this great city: All of their debts for communal services (gas, water, electricity) are hereby nullified effective May 1, thus everybody gets to start with a clean slate.

According to Galina, once the new authorities took over, they started looking at the lists of bills, payments, and debts to the city. “The old tariffs were ghastly,” she said. “Tariff” is the word that Russians and Ukrainians use for these types of municipal bills which they receive in the mail as unwelcome visitors.


One can see that, in such a system, it is the government’s responsibility to provide these services; and the citizens’ responsibility to pay their bills on time. Unfortunately, even long before the war, many working-class Ukrainians found the charges prohibitively high; and prices were being raised all the time. In addition to the usual governmental corruption, the Ukrainian state became increasingly burdened by international debt, with the IMF cracking the whip and demanding more and more austerity on the part of ordinary Ukrainians. This is just to put into context the situation which Danilchenko found herself faced with, as the new city leader.

Galina: “If, before 2014, gas cost 74 kopecks per cube, then by the start of 2022, one cube cost 16 hryvna 47 kopecks.” [There are 100 kopecks in a hryvna. One hryvna is worth about 3 American cents. The average annual salary in the Ukraine is 896,251 hryvna, but the mean is only 205,886. This is just to put things in perspective. Galina’s point is that the constant price rises were extremely burdensome to the region’s consumers.] Galina adds that extra fees were sometimes tacked on: “The communal fees grew colossally, people went into debt. There were some subsidies offered at first, and then they started to cut the subsidies.” Ukrainians found themselves being squeezed more and more, and forced into intolerable levels of debt.

After the Russians took over, Galina worked with them to re-connect residents who had been disconnected for not paying their electricity bills: “Everybody got reconnected, and very quickly. Then we decided to recalculate the tariffs. During the first stage we can lower the heating bills by 30%. We still haven’t decided what is a fair price to pay for gas. But the other services we think we can also lower the price by 30%.”

And in the meantime, people are starting with a clean slate, thanks to the Jubilee.



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